Thursday, January 31, 2013


I'm feeling the burdens of life a little more heavily today than usual. I'm not by constitution a bouncy, cheery person--I married one of those, thank God--although I've always thought of myself as what I've called "a core optimist." What's happening lately, though, is a creeping suspicion that the description no longer fits me. Perhaps it's the nature of things lately that are adding to it, just the normal everyday stuff that's going on.

We've just returned from a short trip back to Louisiana--we were gone six days. We went for a couple of purposes. First, because my mom is celebrating her 92nd birthday. Wow. Seems to me that you have to show up for events like that. And mom is doing great from a physical standpoint. Mentally, she's drifty, but I have to say, coherent in short bursts. It could be a lot, lot worse with her. Which brings me to Susan's mom. Miss Sadie, as they call her at the small little care facility where she lives, is 87 and is obviously in the final few weeks of her life on this earth. And it is no life at all. She's minimally conscious most of the time, has trouble drawing the next breath, on morphine. She's been suffering with congestive heart failure for a number of years. My darling wife wants to spend as much time with her mom as possible . . . but I know it's a real struggle for her to witness what's happening. Because her mom, unlike mine, has no quality of life at all. Her care is impeccable and her caregivers loving and generous beyond imagining, but ultimately it's just a death watch. Susan wants to be with her at the end. It's the normal, natural thing. But it's so hard. This dying person, this once vital lady who raised a family of ten children and who loved life and every person who crossed the threshold of her home is but a pitiful shell of that person. It's almost unnatural that we should take leave of our life this way. What's left for MeMe but days of perhaps painful days stretching out until a merciful denouement? What's left for all who love her but to endure this indignity to her while the whole complex of their lifelong relationship swirls in their memories and hearts? While what she was and was to them is already a memory.

These are burdensome thoughts. Not unpleasant such much as just sad and heavy. There's a powerlessness in these instances that's so profound that is hangs like a heavy backpack on your shoulders. Relentless, silent, uncomfortable. Inevitable.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Socialism at the Gates!

Well, so how's this relaxed relaxed blog schedule working out for you? It's working out too good for me because now I've got the excuse for mental indolence that says: what are you worried about? You told everybody you were cutting back on the pace of your blog entries, and that's exactly what you're doing. But, comes the rejoinder from the angel on the other shoulder, you said you would be writing every three or four days, or something close to that, maybe even three or four times a week. You see, says the devil from the initial shoulder, you can't even remember what it was you said, so how can it be important?

Of course, in the larger scheme of things, it's not important at all. But then "the larger scheme of things" is itself a nebulous and slippery concept. Does it apply personally? Just to me? Or is it considerably larger, encompassing the entire country, perhaps? Or even larger than that . . . the entire globe? It matters a great deal how one thinks about "the larger scheme of things." It's pretty difficult, for example, to get concerned about guns or global warming if your larger scheme encompasses only yourself, your friends, your family, your interests. Which is what bothers me about some of the reaction to President Obama's second inaugural address yesterday. You would think the man called for the immediate seizure of all the means of production by the forces of state centralism. Innumerable pundits and assorted other observers (that would be people like me and those who chose to blog even more frequently) have observed that Obama's speech was the "most liberal" he ever gave. Well, let's not go crazy.

What we heard was an elevated defense of the role of government in the progress of the American people. (Maybe that's why it's also called a "progressive" point of view.) What was so "liberal" about what the man said? Well, let me suggest that what's got some people's briefs in a bunch is a couple of things. First, Obama's stout defense of the social programs that constitute the social safety net for this country: social security, medicare, and medicaid. As if these programs were some radical departure from what civilized societies all over the world have enacted. It's difficult to believe, but there are apparently millions of people who stand quite ready to gut these programs and the people for whom they are truly vital be damned (one presumes). As far as I'm concerned, these programs aren't even up for discussion as long as we have a military establishment that spends more than the next 20 or 30 military establishments in the world.

And then he uttered those utterly shocking sentiments about global warming. To the effect that he was going to address the problem despite those who disputed the "overwhelming" opinion of science. One has to wonder what it is going to take before people come to the realization that this problem is real and that we simply cannot mess around with it anymore. I've already read and heard scientists opine that it's already too late for us, that in our folly we've set ourselves on the path to extinction by our refusal to take seriously the warning signs the earth has been giving us for decades. And what the wise among us have been warning about.

So I suppose we're all about to be inundated by a tidal wave of liberalism. Really? Don't make me laugh. Obama is still committed to endless American military interventions abroad; he is going to do nothing about the banking mafia. Exploitative capitalism is still quite safe, thank you.

But how they hate him. And how they hate the idea that they must endure four more years of him. Even though they have nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bang, Bang, Shoot, Shoot

So today the president rolled out his initiative on curbing gun violence. I have to say at the outset that this, of course, is a good thing. He's going to do everything he can via executive order--I think there are 23 of them total that in general stiffen the gun laws that already are on the books. But he needs congressional action to do the really heavy lifting: expansion of background check requirement to purchase guns, reinstatement of the ban on assault rifles, a limitation on the size of ammo magazines, prohibition of the sale of armor-piercing bullets, and more.

Rachel Maddow went on and on about how comprehensive this package is and how bold of the president to be pushing this. It was the same refrain all over the liberal network MSNBC. Well, time out for just a minute. Let me again emphasize that I want every single one of these proposals to pass. I want the whole Obama package to pass, but let's not lose our heads over this. For one thing, have you caught the label being applied to these measures? These are "common sense" proposals, right? As if anything beyond them would violate common sense. And then there's this: during the course of his remarks, Mr. Obama said that he believes that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. What!? We are now going endorse the reading of the amendment by the Roberts Supreme Court and so dear to the hearts of the gun nuts and the NRA? Since when does any self-respecting progressive thinker buy that? I'm sorry, that gets me off on the wrong foot with this. And it leads me to my main point.

Newtown is what's galvanized Obama. He's had his nose in the political wind on this gun issue since he's been in public office and only now did he catch a whiff of favorable scent. Before now he has not had the balls to do anything about guns other than do what all the other spineless politicians do when a bunch of innocent people get blown away, either in an Arizona parking lot, a high school west of Denver, a Sikh temple in Michigan, or a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado--wring their hands and mouth the standard laments. Obama has never proposed to do anything about guns until this tragedy in Connecticut. He's not being bold. He's not being anything but expedient. Politicians in this country are so paralyzed and bamboozled by the NRA and gun lobby, that there is nothing, no amount of bloodshed whatever that is going to get them to do anything to control guns. Fact of the matter is, folks, this issue, this stuff about guns, has gotten so far from the purview of rational discussion that we just ought to concede to the gun nuts when these milquetoast proposals can be construed into doing something bold and comprehensive against the madness, the utter insanity, that prevails in our country on this subject.

You want something bold and comprehensive about guns? How about a ban on the possession and ownership of not only automatic and semi-automatic weapons, but handguns? The president ought to be working towards this end and at the same time praying for the opportunity to appoint at least a couple of Supreme Court justices who will favor overturning both the 2nd Amendment decision on individual gun ownership and the Citizens United decision. Alas, it looks like I've tipped my hand . . . I'm just a demented old man who has fantasies about what kind of thinking constitutes common sense.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why We're Broke in Washington

Amusing . . . and a perfect illustration of why we're broke in Washington
The guy that sent me this said he would add "knee to the nuts" as another thing he likes better than Congress. It takes no genius to realize that when a populace feels like this about the people who govern them, the society is on shaky ground. Already there 's substantial chatter about the next looming disaster we face: the debt ceiling debate. Let me point out something that you know, but probably tend to forget amidst all the hand-wringing and hoopla going on--and oh, how the lamestream media love it! Another contest! Another game of winners and losers! Another thing to distract them from any serious discussion of the real issues--anyway, you're apt to forget that these so-called "crises" we're facing are completely self-imposed by the very idiots we elect to make sure stuff like this doesn't happen. Self-imposed. Boehner cannot keep his Tea Party crazies on the reservation, so we've all got a problem. Congress passed legislation creating the so-called "fiscal cliff" and we've all got the problem. What's wrong with this picture, folks? Why do we keep putting these same clowns back in office?

And then there's the Senate. This bunch is so hidebound by their rules that they've been willing partners with that collection of clowns in the House. Since when did a "majority" of 100 people get to be defined as 60 people and not 51 people. Why when the Senate decided that a filibuster, which can only be shut down by a cloture vote--and that's two-thirds of a hundred--no longer has to actually be a filibuster. Now it can be a cell phone call by some senator saying he or she is going to filibuster a bill. That's all it takes. Guy doesn't have to get up and talk anymore.

I got the following in email from one Colin Holtz of Rebuild the Dream Innovation Fund. It's instructive. And it's why the Senate is paralyzed to do anything except give TV interviews. I tell you, brothers and sisters, we're the idiots to put up with this stuff.

Nine Reasons the Filibuster Is Completely Broken and We Should Fix it

9. Because nothing says democracy like one dude blocking progress for 315 million people.

8. A modern-day "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" remake would be about 15 minutes long, and feature the senator placing a silent filibuster and then skipping town.

7. Requiring a super-majority to pass anything at all is really just a terrible, horrible, no good very bad way to run a country.

6. Lyndon "Master of the Senate" Johnson wouldn't have had such a cool nickname if he'd had to overcome 386 filibusters. Harry Reid's faced 386 filibusters. How many filibusters did LBJ face? One.

5. It allows far-right senators to stonewall any bills or nominations that they object to. Or which mildly annoy them. Or just because they feel like it. This is stupid.

4. If government never does anything to help (because of a messed up Senate rule) people start thinking the government CAN'T do anything to help. Which hurts everyone.

3. Fixing the filibuster only requires a majority vote. Kinda ironic, right?

2. If you singlehandedly block proposals that would help millions of people including your own constituents, is it really too much to ask for you to stand up and explain yourself?

1. Because undocumented youth who have never done anything wrong should have a shot at citizenship, women should make the same amount as their male peers, stronger unions would mean a stronger middle class, & there's too much money in our politics... but bills tackling all of these problems passed the House but were killed by silent filibuster in the Senate.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Myriad Dark Lies

I was going to call it some play on "Zero Dark Thirty," because my original intent was to discuss this flick which apparently has the critics swooning from coast to to coast. I had read a long critique of the movie by Glenn Greenwald, which I forwarded to several people. But then I read this piece by Matt Taibbi about the great bailout of 2008 and realized I could not confine my remarks to simply one set of government lies. Hence the rather clunky title which still attempts to play on the movie title, but only not so well.

So the subject is government falsehoods. Plural. Because they never cease. They are the currency of government.Without them, the government doesn't function. And for certain the military/industrial/intelligence nexus breaks down completely. Greenwald makes two main points his piece. First, the movie depicts torture as being instrumental in the discovery of the courier who in turn led the CIA to bin Laden. This is totally incorrect. Which is not to say the CIA doesn't use torture. Oh, no, that's not the point. It's just that they didn't use torture in this particular case to achieve their objectives. So Greenwald objects to the inclusion of torture in the movie. All of the explanations by the movie people, including the celebrated female director, boil down basically to: hey, it's a movie, not a documentary. Greenwald's second point is more telling from my point of view. He indicates the extraordinary level of cooperation the movie makers got from the US government. The point being: "all the better to foist the flag-waving propaganda on the people." Who, like the vast majority of the critics, are going to just swoon in patriotic abandon at this depiction of bare-chested, bare-knuckled American get-um. Only the movie-going public is far less informed and sophisticated than the writers. Which is also something the Pentagon and CIA know . . . This movie is going to seal in people's minds a false accounting of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and they are going to be perfectly fine with it, in fact gloriously happy that we killed the guy by doing whatever was necessary. Greenwald senses great danger in the smooching and petting going on between the CIA and Hollywood. It's every bit as insidious and dangerous as embedding journalists with military units as a way of controlling news. Probably even worse. But nobody cares.

The pigs are definitely winning
 Nor do they give much of a crap about the torrent of lies pouring out of Washington about the bank bailout. And that have been pouring out since the program was established four years ago. You thought that was old news, eh? Well, Matt Taibbi's piece in Rolling Stone eill disabuse you of the notion that the bailout worked, that it was conducted smartly by the government, that we were told the truth about any of it, that it fixed anything at all, that it was in the slightest way putative on the big banks, and probably most important of all, that everything is going to be fine. In fact, the country now stands at great risk than before of some sort of disastrous financial cataclysm for the very same reason as before: to wit, staggeringly risky investments by the too-big-to-fail banks.

Both of these articles are fairly lengthy, but this in no way detracts from their importance and timeliness. Neither of them is going to make you happy. Both are likely to do just the opposite, plus make you mad. But read 'em anyway. You owe it to yourself to find out about what's really going on. Not being duped and used by the forces of darkness is its own reward. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's a New Year

. . . and a new day for What Powderfinger Said. My faithful readers, all half dozen of you, have doubtless noticed the absence of posts for the past couple of weeks. It was no accident. I just stopped doing blog posts while my two boys were in town for the holidays. I am now resuming the blog, but I'll employ a different approach going forward into 2013 and beyond, God willing. More on that in a few minutes.

I trust you didn't think there was anything wrong with me. Don't worry about the health of the blogmaster. He's fine (although he did experience a bout with the 24-hour bug, as did half his family, including grandchildren and son, who was cursed with the affliction on the airplane flight home to Florida.) No, I am fine for an old, overweight guy. No permanent health problems besiege me as I enter the new year. In one of the world's great marvels, my wife still loves me and consents to share my bed and roof. I am happily engaged--for pay even!--in doing work that I love: writing and editing history. All of my kids are doing well, and my grandkids continue to grow daily in smarts, good looks, and promise. I've found some measure of spiritual peace with the little church I attend now, a congregation of progressive Christians who love peace and justice and believe that God is still speaking to us today in myriad ways.

So on the personal level, everything's more than cool. (Or maybe that depends on who you ask.) Of course, on levels beyond that, there's a hell of a lot that's messed up. I cannot believe the continued idiocy of the people we've sent to Washington to govern us. If you're paying attention, you know that we just dodged one potential lethal bullet with the "cliff" business, and now we're locked and loaded for another vicious fight over extension of the debt limit, which, if you can remember back just three or four years ago was about as controversial as getting in out of the rain.

Of course war and killing still dominate the planet. Humankind has yet to figure out after almost countless millenia that war and killing never solve anything. What war and killing does is engender more of the same for the following generations. And of course with their innate and sluggish stupidity, humankind continues to fall for the same old lies about why war and killing is inevitable and necessary. 

It just makes one want to escape, which is easy for me since I have so many avenues: chess, music, my books, poetry. Hell, even blogging and TV, if it comes to that. But I can never really escape, because I cannot purge my mind of all the imbecility that seems to reign--outside my brain, I should add, but I cannot rule out the other possibility.

I haven't even gotten around to what I meant to say earlier about Powderfinger and where it's going. Well, it's not going anywhere is the bottom line. But unlike my friend Paul over at his excellent and brainy blog, I cannot maintain the daily pace anymore. It's too toxic for my mental peace because I cannot stop beating myself up if I miss a post. So, the sensible move is to scale back. Which is what I'm going to do. Look for Powderfinger 2-3 times a week from now on. Rest assured I'll be as feisty and insufferable as ever . . . and likely more long-winded. But I may even be more interesting since presumably I won't be scraping the basement of my brain for ideas so as to meet the daily grind.

So here's to the new year! May it witness the dawn of universal peace and justice. And if not, may God help me to inch both a little bit further along by calming my spirit and letting go of what I can.