Saturday, September 29, 2007

Emily, Emily, Emily

In my little kitchen, a fly Buzzes by as I'm reading Dickinson, and I'm thinking about those butterflies leaping off Banks of Noon, swimming away, as the Bird on the Walk glances with those rapid eyes, that Angleworm in his beak, my house, how my windows are the doors of possibility, about that corner where stands my life, a loaded gun, about that slant of light, about how kind and courteous death might be, about how a formal feeling came after great pain and will come again. And until the moss reaches my lips until my windows fail and I cannot see to see, I will tend my fences so they do not flee and hopefully those horses, for me, will also head toward Eternity.

Thanks, Emily.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The U.S. state of free press

A mouthful of a quote and interesting if not also a bullseye slam from William Rivers Pitt:

American democracy ceases to function when people blither their votes into ballot boxes on the basis of opinions and ideologies that are swaddled in the beggar-rags of ubiquitous disinformation and bewilderingly muddled cant, but such is now and has long been this nation's common plight. Today's "free press," however, bears little resemblance to the conceived constitutional bulwark cherished by the Founders."

How do we criticize the religious Islamic regimes who censure free press when we ourselves are blighted by this bug?

He continues:

"The ordinary common sense and sound judgment of the American people was systematically attacked and debased, the psyche of the entire population was ceaselessly pummeled by a paranoid muddle of murky suspicions and nebulous fears, in order to create a population of permanently frightened and thus easily led dupes. The grisly reports of inhuman acts of torture by Americans, the undermining of the Constitution and our rights, the program of domestic surveillance, all this and so much besides, fell by the wayside because Americans became programmed by the news media to accept the unacceptable, lest they be branded as traitors or killed outright by swarming hordes of al-Qaeda/insurgent/shoe-bombers."

I enter: Just because the propaganda machine has taken over, doesn't mean Americans who were fooled should be forgiven. Even a modicum of education should enable the average person to suspect fear-mongering and lies in order to win more power for the power-hungry. The average American continues to dismiss his/her own intellectuals in replace of political perversions of truth.

The beginning of the answer? Go back to literature. Read! Turn off the tube. Name your intellectuals. Why are they thus called? I say because they are not in bed with corporations who profit from their thinking. Because they challenge power structures.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Emmanuel on intimacy:

The need for intimacy springs from that portion of you that has been cast from Oneness. It remembers what Oneness feels like and is trying to find its way Home.

If you are living in the past, you are not present.
If you are living in the future, you are not present.
If you are not present, who is?
Without you, there is no intimacy.

Reading Emmanuel

Sometimes, I open a book, and the words that fall out are too serendipitous. Here's some advice on relationships that Emmanuel gives:

"Do not single out for special attention one human being whom you would then burden with responsibility for your growth. Relationship is not mutual responsibility. It is mutual love and self-discovery. When two people are bound beyond that, there is servitude and false authority. That is the destruction of relationship.

"What can another give you that you, in your essence, do not have? As you look into the eyes of another, your question is really 'Tell me who I am, for I have become so embedded in being the perceived that I need you to be the perceiver.'

"Ask yourself, 'Why do I place self-definition outside myself? Where am I awaiting approval? Where have I given over my authority?' Walk gently, lightly, and joyfully in this life you have chosen--and walk freely."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Poetry by Ruth L. Schwartz

Highway Five Love Poem
for Anna

This is a love poem for all the tomatoes
spread out in the fields along Highway Five,
their gleaming green and ruddy faces like a thousand
moons prostrate in praise of sun.
And for every curd of cloud,
clotted cream of cloud spooned briskly
by an unseen hand into the great blue bowl,
then out again, into a greedy mouth.
Cotton baled up beside the road,
altars to the patron saint of dryer lint.
Moist fudge of freshly-planted dirt.
Shaggy neglected savage grasses
bent into the wind's designs.
Sheep scattered over the landscape like fuzzy confetti,
or herded into stubbled funnels, moving like rough water
toward its secret source.
Egrets praying in the fields like
white-cloaked priests.
A dozen wise and ponderous cows
suddenly spurred to run, to gallop, even,
down a flank of hill.
Horses for sale, goats for sale, nopales for sale, orange groves for sale,
topless trailers carrying horses,
manes as loose and lovely as tomorrow in our mouths,
and now a giant pig, jostling majestic in the open
bed of a red pickup.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate


All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blowout the lights, and come at last to bed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine

An in-depth analysis by Jane Smiley synthesizes Klein's book more than Klein herself does of 20th century Friedman capitalism. Here's Smiley from her post today, 9/14/07. The whole thing is interesting but this is the highlight: "As Karl Marx pointed out, history and politics are not only psychological, they are also material. This week, the Guardian is running not only four excerpts from Klein's book, but also several commentaries both disagreeing and agreeing with her thesis. Her thesis is this (and if I am slightly inaccurate, blame me, not Naomi): In the fifties and sixties in the US, at least two lines of thought converged. One was about how to change people's minds without leaving marks and the other was about what was the best way of organizing a given economy. The first grew out of experiments in psychological torture (whoops, I mean electrocshock therapy) run by Ewen Cameron in the late 1940s. The theory was that patients could be rid of mental illnesses by "regressing" them to an infantile state, attaining a "clean slate" upon which new patterns of behavior and thought would be etched. Cameron used both electroshock and powerful drugs to attain his clean slate, having no actual knowledge of the chemistry of the brain or how it works -- in other words, he was operating in accordance with a metaphor. The result of Cameron's experiments, for the patients, was often considerable loss of short term and even long term memory and a subsequent lifelong feeling of "blankness" on the part of the patients (apparently, later refinements of electroshock techniques have mitigated these effects). In the 1950s, the CIA redirected these techniques toward torture of political opponents, allegedly to find out information, but really to test the techniques themselves (hello, Jose Padilla!).

"At the same time, Milton Friedman was coming up with the idea that if only an economy could be purified of any kind of restraints on the free market (for example labor unions or socialized medicine or history), then the free market would be able to perfectly gauge the value of any type of good or service, and therefore an economy would balance itself, and, most importantly, inflation would be controlled (also, as you can see, a metaphor, or, perhaps, an extended analogy).

"According to Klein, it soon became apparent that all powerful shocks to a system had a similar effect, whether the system was a human body or a national body, and this was to temporarily disable the system's defenses. The US government, the CIA, and the free market economists began to act on this insight, to collude in larger experiments. The first of these was the right wing coup, in Chile, led by Augusto Pinochet, in 1973. At the time, Chile had a functioning leftish government and economy, and the voters had already rejected Friedman's pure free market troika: privatization of government functions, an end to social spending, and deregulation.The new economy was dependent upon outside investors and highly profitable to them -- let's call that the allure of globalization. Pinochet set about instilling terror in the population (that's the shock therapy) using death squads, exemplary killings, and torture. Taking advantage of this, the economists installed the new free market way of doing things within days of the coup. But Friedman's ideas did not work -- inflation rose. In the eighties, the Chilean government tried again, this time by inducing a profound economic crash -- essentially impoverishing the populace in order to bring them to heel. Ultimately, the Chilean "miracle" (Friedman's term) did nothing for the population, but it did enrich the top ten per cent and put 45% below the poverty line. It turns out that as far as the economists were concerned, this was a good thing.

"The Shock Doctrine traces what the US, the CIA, the economists, the Neocons, and the multinational corporations learned from the Chilean experiment and subsequent ones (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Poland, Russia, China, England) and finally makes its way to Iraq (this is a 590 page book, and the print is small). Essentially, they learned that a small economy is easier to "regress" than a large one, that the shock has to be brutal, and that the free market doesn't work as Friedman said it would (automatically assigning appropriate value), but that it sure does make a few people rich beyond their wildest dreams, and that these people were Friedman's (and his students') benefactors and paymasters. They also learned to lie lie lie in order to sell what amounts to a program of inhuman greed to voters who have other needs, wishes, and ideas.

"For our purposes, the more interesting section of Klein's book is about Iraq, where she traveled in the first year after the invasion, and this section forms part of her series of posts at the Guardian. She believes that the Iraq War was intended to not only steal Iraqi oil, but also to impose a radical free market on an unwilling populace, and that that was what was behind the installation of Bremer as the capo of Iraqi reconstruction. She believes that, thanks to the resistance of the Iraqis and their deep resentment at being used and exploited by the Americans, this effort has failed. However, a parallel effort, to shock the US economy into absolute deregulation, privatization, and an end to social spending, has been and is succeeding. What this amounts to is the fleecing of the American taxpayer in order to enrich the war making industries. The byproduct, as in Chile, is the gutting of the rule of law and the American political system as we have known it. Why did Bush and Cheney go to war? Well, where do they get their fortunes? The Shock Doctrine works perfectly for them. As for that 45% below the poverty line, well, once the globalizing manufacturers exported the well-paying US jobs, then the globalizing financiers moved in and sold the newly impoverished working class a few sub-prime mortgages guaranteed to take whatever else they had. Then the financiers screamed for a bailout, and Bernanke gave it to them. The free market, you might say, is working perfectly now, at least according to its shock principles." Jane Smiley, The Huffington Post, September 14, 2007.