Archive for February, 2011

WHO EATS, WHO STARVES?

February 12, 2011

War

Please note – the History Channel, International History channel, Military Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, and other shows currently on television are all engineered to avoid American History from 1968 to the present.  Oh, yes, there are superficial exceptions: how the army rangers felt who parachuted into Grenada, for example, but no critique of why they were there policy-wise, or how it fed into the on-going Nixon-Republican orchestrated CIA destabilization program for “socialist,” or “democratic” countries that might resist U.S. commercial domination – read: “big multi-national corporations.” JFK’s death, RFK’s death, Dr. King’s and Malcolm’s deaths took the bright vision of America from us, and left the fear-mongering, greedy bastards who may have colluded to kill them in charge of our nation.  Conspiracy theorists are maligned, but there is truth in what they have to say.

I was in Washington D.C. when Nixon was inaugurated.  It was a glum, horrible, overcast day, cold and rainy, bleak, and that’s where he took the country – into a foggy frozen limbo.  Under Nixon, Allende was assassinated in Chile for advancing the democracy and social justice that drove up the cost of doing business for the usual profiteers.  We invaded Cambodia and Laos to cleanse the place of heathen anti-capitalist Vietnamese, whom we nearly bombed and napalmed into the Stone Age, in order to defend an exploitative ruling elite that served western economic and, therefore, our own geo-political economic interests.  Nixon bugged our loyal opposition party’s campaign headquarters, cheating and lying his way not only into election, but re-election.  He set the modern pattern for Oval Office cover-ups and executive stonewalling, and turned up the paranoid distrust and oppression of the American people by its corrupted leaders.

Reagan compounded it.  Reagan reinforced and made it somehow “acceptable,” made us “comfortable” with our subversion.  Whenever possible, Reagan legalized it.  Under Reagan, Cheney and Rumsfeldt began to plan for a “shadow government” to bypass Congress and the Supreme Court, corrupt the Justice Department, and seize power from the rightful, lawful government of the United States; that is, We, the People.  Their “shadow government” serves the interests of the rich, powerful, radical right, elitist leaders of the multi-national corporations, the possessors of the great fascist slave-based capitalist fortunes that have crushed people around the world for generations.  When will we put a full stop to their greedy madness?  It is clear that they know they have to stop us – cold.  They are ruthless, and we should defend ourselves to the death, for they will kill us directly, or indirectly, if we do not.  PUBLIC ENEMIES 1 and 2

Indirectly.  They have ruined our environment.

Directly: Stolen our money. Corrupted our government. Crippled our labor movement. Ruined our economy. Attacked the Middle Class. Forced us out of our homes.

The list of their offenses – crimes they have made legal by reason of seizing the law and twisting it to their tyranny and abuse – is long and despicable.

They are the great criminals of our age. They are today’s super pirates, slave traffickers, dope kings, cutthroats, robbers, tricksters, hoodlums, and villains.  They will finally rank as the monsters that destroyed a Golden Age.  We are living at the end of Camelot.  A Dark Age is about to fall, if we allow it to happen, and they – the neocon corporationist republicans – made it happen.  REPUBLICAN INSURANCE NAZIS

If there is a god of justice, if we do want to save ourselves from the horrors of the neocon fascist creation, there must be a reckoning.  Very soon.

"He was the biggest asshole at Goldman Sachs!"

SIX GENERATIONS

Six generations are required to forget the people,

deeds and glories of the past,

The great spaces, places, faces, and

traces of the first generation, are

Inheritance of the second,

Legacy of the third,

Plaything of the fourth,

Burden of the fifth,

Disinterest of the sixth;

Six generations shall pass

When all shall be gone but

Not forgotten nor forgiven

As descendents reinvent and

then eat their

Ancestors’ ancient sins.

Immigrants called to American duty.

WALDO IN REVERY (from Common Lives, a novel)

“I cannot say for certain what began my transformation,” Waldo said.  “I only know that it occurred sometime in mid-June, probably on a Wednesday, or possibly, a Tuesday, but it was June.  In the process, I suddenly saw everything in a new perspective, as if awakening from a very deep sleep.  I saw reality with fresh eyes.  Rip Van Winkle is real, you see?  And, what did I discover? Just this:

“I was born in America, in the City of San Francisco just before mid-century.  As I grew in that storied city, I was imbued with both the Spirit of Liberty and the Phoenix – that magic bird which resurrects itself again and again from the ashes of its own destruction.  I grew up believing in Superman, Manifest Destiny, Truth, Justice and the American Way.  I was the refugee child of refugee parents, themselves the children of refugees.  We looked for a better way on alien shores as aliens among aliens.  We took our place in the legion of strangers pushing and jostling for the top – hoping to look back on poverty and want, and to feel smugly and arrogantly removed from the incessant rhythmic fear, which had started all that long march.

“I grew up in suburbs, being numbered among the handful raised in blessed innocence, free from teeming, toiling city masses.  We learned the horror of crabgrass; we observed neighbors piling bricks up to build barbecues.  We found pleasure in the smallest things in a mundane world, taking solace in rigid normalcy, created by following rigid rules.  We aspired to concrete patios, toured on weekends through farmlands in noisy, fuel-inefficient machines which ultimately doomed the very orchards we’d come to see; or took slow rolls through upper class neighborhoods to see where we thought we were going.

“Those high neighborhoods were always sheltered by sculpted trees, surrounded by acres of immaculate lawn – no sign of crabgrass anywhere!  They had Japanese, or Mexican gardeners, bright flowerbeds, eagle-crested double car garages, and gated drives a city-street wide.  Those drives were stainless, absolutely unblemished.  I can only assume that they were scrubbed  daily by Irish washerwomen .

“To make a long story short, I was sent to college – the first of all my tribe.  Set on the course of upward mobility, professionalism, immaculate lawns and sanitized driveways,  I married and committed to a career.  Never well paid, always overworked, I eventually examined my circumstances and decided that I was part of a large system that demanded more expenditure of my time and attention than I usually made back from it.  Further, it demanded that I dedicate whole sections of my future to it, regardless of my personal motives or aspirations!  I was compelled socially, economically and culturally to serve that damned system as a blind, following member – no better than mindless serving ants plugging themselves genetically in and out of nests, mindlessly serving a queen, whose sole purpose is to mindlessly push out eggs to ensure continuation of that self-same mindless estate.  Well, to put it mildly, I was pissed!

“Glancing about, I noticed that a good two-thirds of the world was starving.  While those people were dying, I was being paid to help perpetuate an all-consuming ethos that dooms the majority of humankind to war, famine, pestilence, murder and screaming neglect.  I’m the son of refugees!  How can I eat well and consider the world well ordered with those millions of others – the mirrors of my own ancestral impetus – still awash in the chaos, which my forebears had so intelligently fled?  I could not.

“I, therefore, divested myself of every vestige of my former reality: wife, family, friends, career.  I ran off to find myself, wondering all the while why the price of that journey should be so painfully high.  I lost myself in drugs, booze, sex and cheap thrills.  I walked ocean beaches, hiked mountain trails, re-observed city streets, and wrote and wrote and wrote, trying through the recording of all those sights, sounds and experiences to find some common thread among them, and in me, so that I would not forever remain an outsider.  In this fashion, find my way back in some improbably acquiescent present, imagined in a perfect future, to my imperfect, misunderstood, but now clearly missed past.

‘You know you can come back in,’ The ex-wife said. ‘We’ve all wished for freedom and creative individuality. Your friends will understand why you failed and admire you for trying.’

“As I mentioned, on a Wednesday in mid-June, approximately three years into my odyssey, I suddenly saw everything in a new perspective.  The remnants of dream were washed from my mind, and I confronted stark reality.

“Until the moment when the mists cleared, I was as the others.  I walked, I talked, and I carried on the day’s business without hesitation.  I went home in the evenings, packed into cattle cars with my fellows.  I sank down onto my isolated bed at night, alone in my isolated cell, conserving energy for the effort of that forever approaching ‘Next Day.’  All remained the same when I awoke, but now I saw it clearly for what it was, and the questions came faster and with greater force.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  What has come to pass?

“Each day, I observed crowds spilling out of vehicles and doorways into the early morning city air.  Each day, I watched them queue for bread, for work, for a drink, for love.  They eddied and swayed in great mass, afloat in the polluted ether of overcrowded, urban life, elbowing for position, shouting for attention, separate yet fixed within the same stream (as oil in water, a colloidal ambient suspension, a physical chemical reaction like any other).  What is this? I demanded to know.  What is happening?  Why is this all so?  Clearly these others among whom I accomplished my time were not all the same.  No two were alike as peas in a pod.  No one the mirror of another.  (Oh, yes, we behave in generally predictable fashion – the degree of response varies from individual to individual, but a tack in the shoe usually causes the wearer to react.  However, there are differences and they must be there for some reason, although we spend most of our time trying to deny or destroy them, for generally irrational cause).

“That common denominator I had been seeking seemed finally within reach.  I began to observe my fellows and fellowesses more closely.  Since we were all involved in the same great system into which we fed our energies – each of us without marked mental consideration – there must be something to it.  The alternative, which I’d most recently been pursuing, was a form of outlawry or exile.  Yet, outlaws and exiles depend in whole or in part on the system as well, if simply by preying upon it.  Even survivalists come down from the hills for a gallon of gas to make themselves ‘independent’ of the rest of us.  (Incidentally, if nothing cataclysmic happens, those survivalists are going to look pretty silly.  Still, the current state of the cosmos appears to be bearing them out).  In any event, the outlaws and the exiles are a minute fraction of the whole.  I hence turned my full attention upon the majority.

“You see, from channeling my interest on a narrower and narrower track, transmuting my initial preoccupation with the cosmic to contemplation of my own navel, I have at last looked up from that infinitesimal focus of anatomy to perceive my individual smallness in the scheme of things.  I see my relative impotence in the face of the world’s great consortiums of nations, corporations, religions and other power groupings.  Yet, I am not frustrated by my size.  I see the power of my personal vision.  Because it is so personal, it is overwhelmingly intense, and that is the precisely directed laser, I as the surgeon will use to help erode the deadly cancerous tumor, which presently corrupts the body, mind and spirit of humankind!”

“Not all at once, of course.

“Reality is the key,” Waldo continued, “not dream, not fantasy, not wanting, nor wishing.  Reality rules.  In order to live a proper, that is, a real life we must take what comes as it comes.  There is no formula, no magic spell, and no special prayer – which facts protect us from charlatans.  We are all lost at sea, and all coping – president, priest, or peasant.  That’s just the way it is.

“So, where do we go from here?  Wherever we want.  We are not bound to one reality, to one anything.  We make gods a dime a dozen.  We are the dreamers.  Ursula LeGuin is right (marvelous mind, great poet and story teller.  Don’t know her?  You probably should).”

Vegetables for Victory!

VERY IMPORTANT – WORTH YOUR NOTICE:

Now more than ever, Oregon teachers are digging into their own pockets for back to school supplies. When teachers can dig no deeper, students go without.

Join fellow citizens in America’s Back to School Challenge. Together, we can be a positive force not just for Oregon, but all of America’s public school children.

Just say, "Yes!"

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RONALD REAGAN WRECKED US

February 8, 2011

Bedtime for Bonzo 1951

 ABSTRACT: Ronald Reagan’s 30-Year Time Bombs By Robert Parry 1-28-2011

Why did it take three-decades to nail Ronald Reagan for starting the nation on the path to disaster? Because almost everyone shies from blaming him for anything. It’s Washington wisdom that it’s political suicide to criticize him. It’s safer to accept him like MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews as “one of the all-time greats.”

His reputation rests on the Republican propaganda machine, timid Democrats and media, rather than actual accomplishment. Many of the worst national and international problems can be traced to Reagan-era misjudgments and malfeasance: swelling national debt; out-of-control banks; decline of the U.S. middle class; inaction on energy independence; the rise of Islamic fundamentalism; and, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The most insidious residue is manipulating information – what Reagan officials called “perception management” – as a means of societal control. Reagan’s team aimed at control of two key information entities: CIA’s analytical division and Washington press corps to manage the Washington insider community and the American public.

Reagan exaggerated the threat posed by the Soviet Union (after his CIA chief William Casey and deputy Robert Gates purged CIA analysts who reported a decaying empire eager to live with the West). Well-financed right-wing operatives and the administration marginalized mainstream journalists (“liberal press”) who raised questions about Reagan domestic and foreign policies. The strategy was deadly when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney coerced CIA “analysis” on Iraqi WMD and manipulated the Washington press corps to go to war. The “Reagan narrative,” demonizing government, limits President Obama’s problem solving options. [See “Obama’s Fear of the Reagan Narrative.”]

A Central Narrative

Reagan’s Legacy is the Republican/Tea Party narrative: to solve domestic problems cut taxes, slash government regulations and trust the private sector; to fix international threat talk tough and take down governments that won’t obey. Republicans force all issues into Reagan Orthodoxy; rightwing media generates hostility to alternatives. Progressives lack media to counter the narrative and Democratic politicians risk retaliation for a challenge. Rather than admit his responsibility, Reagan is sainted.

Reevaluation of Reagan starts with reassessment of “failed” 1970s presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, who addressed systemic challenges from oil dependence, environmental degradation, arms race, and nuclear proliferation – issues Reagan ignored that now threaten life. Confronting rebellion from Reagan’s Republican Right in 1976, Ford abandoned “détente,” and let hard-line Cold Warriors (and a first wave of young intellectual neoconservatives) pressure the CIA’s analytical division (the “Team-B Experiment”), and brought in a new generation of hard-liners, including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Powerful vested domestic and foreign interests sabotaged progress. By 1980, Reagan was Pied Piper luring Americans away from tough choices that Nixon, Ford and Carter defined. [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Sunny Disposition

With a superficial sunny disposition and a ruthless political strategy of exploiting white-male resentments, Reagan convinced millions that the threats they faced were: African-American welfare queens, Central American leftists, a rapidly expanding Evil Empire based in Moscow, and the do-good federal government. In his First Inaugural in 1981, Reagan declared, “Government is the problem.”

When it came to cutting energy use, Reagan signaled auto industry to make gas-guzzlers. He intentionally staffed Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department with officials hostile to environmental protection regulation. He pushed deregulation of industry, including banking; slashed income taxes for the wealthiest in a “supply side” economics experiment, lying that cutting rates for the rich would increase revenues and eliminate the federal deficit. Over the years, “supply side” evolved into a rightwing secular religion, but Reagan’s budget director David Stockman said it led to red ink “as far as the eye could see.” Conceding that some Reagan economic plans did not work, his defenders hail him as a great President because he “won the Cold War.”

Well before Reagan, the U.S. intelligence community believed the Cold War was winding down in the 1970s; the Soviet economic model had lost the technological race. Top CIA reported the USSR headed toward collapse, not surging to world supremacy, as Reagan and his foreign policy team insisted in the 1980s.

CIA analysis spurred détente by Nixon and Ford, seeking negotiated solution to the most dangerous remaining aspects of Cold War. In that view, Soviet military operations in Afghanistan were defensive, supporting a secular pro-communist government working to modernize a country beset by Islamic fundamentalists with covert support from the U.S. (originated by Carter’s national security adviser Brzezinski, but really ramped up by Reagan and CIA Director Casey, who traded U.S. acceptance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms program for help shipping weapons to Afghan jihadists (including a young Saudi, Osama bin Laden). [See “Reagan’s Bargain/Charlie Wilson’s War.”]

Making Matters Worse

Reaganites cite Soviet defeat in Afghanistan as key to “winning the Cold War.” It may have sped final Soviet collapse, but Reagan’s over-reaction to the Soviets in Afghanistan created worse long-term threats to U.S. national security: the rise of al-Qaeda terrorism and the nuclear bomb in unstable Islamic Pakistan.. He did not “win the Cold War,” he extended it unnecessarily – at great cost in lives and money.

Reagan damaged long-term worldwide U.S. interests. In Latin America, his brutal arming of right-wing militaries to crush peasant, student and labor uprisings created anti-Americanism that surfaced in new populist leftist governments. Hostility to Washington is now the rule, benefiting China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and other American rivals.

Reagan established a young generation of neocon intellectuals who pioneered “perception management” to shape how Americans saw, understood and were frightened by threats from abroad. To marginalize dissent, anger was fueled against challenges to feel-good optimism. Critics were un-American defeatists. A right-wing infrastructure took shape, linking media with well-financed think tanks churning out op-eds. Attack groups went after mainstream journalists who dared to poke holes in Reagan’s propaganda.

Reagan’s team created faux reality for the American public: civil wars in Central America between poor peasants and rich overlords became East-West showdowns; U.S.-backed insurgents in Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan were transformed from corrupt, brutal (often drug-tainted) thugs into noble “freedom-fighters.” Reagan’s Iran-Contra revived Richard Nixon’s imperial presidency to ignore the nation’s laws and evade accountability through criminal cover-ups. It reared its ugly head again in the war crimes of George W. Bush. [see: Robert Parry’s Lost History and Secrecy & Privilege.]

Wall Street Greed

The American Dream dimmed during Reagan’s tenure. He played the role of kindly grandfather, but his operatives divided people with “wedge issues” to deepen grievances especially of white men urged to see themselves as victims of “reverse discrimination” and “political correctness.” Even as working-class white men rallied to the Republicans (so-called “Reagan Democrats”), their economic interests were savaged. Unions were broken and marginalized; “free trade” policies shipped manufacturing jobs abroad; old neighborhoods decayed; youthful drug use soared. Unprecedented greed was unleashed on Wall Street, wrecking old bonds between owners and employees. Before Reagan, corporate CEOs earned 50 times an average worker salary. By the end of Reagan-Bush-I in 1993, it was 100 times more. At the end of Bush-II in 2000, it was 250 times more.

Other Reagan trends corrode U.S. political process. After 9/11, neocons reemerged dominant, using “perception management” to make “war on terror” a terrifying conflict between good and evil. Hyped Islamic threat mirrored the neocons’ hyped 1980s Soviet menace. Many Americans let emotions run wild, burning to invade Iraq for revenge.

Descent into this dark fantasyland that Ronald Reagan began reached nadir in the flag-waving early days of the Iraq War. Gradually, reality rose as the death toll mounted, and Katrina reminded Americans why we need effective government.

Other disasters set in motion by Reagan: G. W. Bush’s Reagan-esque tax cuts for the rich blew another huge hole in the federal budget; Reagan-esque anti-regulatory fervor led to massive financial meltdown throwing the nation into economic chaos. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission majority blamed the banking crisis, in part, on “30 years of deregulation and self-regulation;” (the four commission Republicans refused to sign, blaming government policies encouraging home ownership.)

GOP Icon

Republicans see Reagan as untouchable icon; memory and policies to be revered. With GOP control of Congress in 1994, the party rushed to name public sites after their hero to elevate him to the stature of martyred leaders John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Democrats honored him as an easy gesture of bipartisanship, unaware of, or unwilling to contest the larger GOP strategy to sanctify Reaganism as much as Reagan. Early in Campaign 2008, Barack Obama positioned himself as a bipartisan figure who could appeal to Republicans, bowing to Reagan mystique, hailing him as a leader who “changed the trajectory of America,” justifying his correction because of “all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s, and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability.” Obama later clarified that he didn’t mean to endorse Reagan’s conservative policies, but seemed to suggest that Reagan administered a needed dose of accountability when he actually did the opposite. Reagan’s presidency represented a dangerous escape from accountability – and reality. [“Obama’s Dubious Praise for Reagan.”] Obama and congressional Democrats continue to pander to the Reagan myth. In 2009, President Obama hailed Reagan and created a panel to honor his 100th birthday.

It may take years before a mainstream politician or journalist dares speak truthfully about the grievous harm Reagan inflicted on the American Republic and people of Planet Earth.

[For more, see Robert Parry’s Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available.

El Amigo del Pobre

SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

February 1, 2011

Ant Farm

EXCERPT from Common Lives, a novel

This piece recently won 98th place in the 80th Writer’s Digest Annual Awards literature and mainstream fiction category – in competition with 11,800 others. 98th! I’m 98th! LOL.

“In the Beginning”

Lost in the formless void of space, an electron came spinning out of nowhere to collide foolishly, randomly and willy-nilly with some microscopic other thing and a large explosion resulted. When the debris settled and the dust cleared, when the incredible multitude of subsequently tossed, collided and bumped other things slowed their rate of reaction, space became again a relatively calm place – although, it was now decidedly more cluttered, larger things having been mashed together from the smaller ones. As one can well imagine, that lone electron must have been in an incredible hurry, and the resulting accident at Lexington and Forty-First was a big one, with traffic backed up in all directions, clear to the edges of the city. It was later inferred by a philosopher-scientist in an ermine robe while speculating before his medieval books of alchemy that the electron may have been drinking.

For Eugene R. Formsby, the amazing thing about the Universe was its consistency; it had a beginning, middle and an end. Some scientist in Cleveland, staring through a telescope in order to bring the macroscopic down to earthly size, suggested that the whole thing was a sort of gigantic bubble of slowly expanding gas, which would eventually collapse, as bubbles always do. Eugene had once seen a bubble-blowing magician on television impregnate a soap shell with cigarette smoke. Eugene thought the end of the Universe would be as fleetingly unspectacular as watching the magician pierce the soap shell to allow the cigarette smoke to escape in a dirty, gray-white rush, to dissipate in the broader air. The soap shell itself collapsed with a wet spurt; all very satisfying as a television show, but lame as a proper end to the Universe.

Eugene felt a little disappointed with the magician. There were just so many things one could do with soap shells: spin them, encase one inside of another – rings of air, worlds of air, nested like wooden, brightly-painted Russian dolls – tie them together like balloon puppets, or whatever, the bubbles always vanished with the same, wet spurt.

Which made Eugene think about beginnings. He, Eugene, was the product of a minute, wet spurt, which – reacting, colliding – forced masses of other inert (or nearly so) materials to react and collide with…an endless series of seemingly chaotic, entirely trivial and absolutely fascinating mini-events, resulting in one Eugene R. (for “Robert”) Formsby. Life, Eugene decided, was funny that way: there was no accounting for it. Multiplied by all of the other minute, wet spurts, amid the howling, moaning, grunting and groaning cacophony of all the copulating creatures since the dawn of auditory, vocalizing creaturedom, Eugene felt quite insignificant and more than occasionally like a supernumerary.

Still, Eugene tried to please everybody, tried to appear like a superstar (which he was not), cleaned his supper plate assiduously – hearing the voice of his long-dead Mother chanting, “Starving children and half-mad dogs. The world’s a savage place, Eugene. Watch your step and don’t lose your way. Be careful crossing streets, Eugene, and always eat your peas.”  Eugene always ate his peas. He ate them first, to get that little chore out of the way.

“Eugene,” his mother would say. “Eu-gene,” she would whine. Eugene was a name made for being whined; a name one could get one’s nose tightly involved with. It was possible to draw the “Ewe” up and the “geene” out, so that the name was at one and the same time, an attention-grabber and an accusation, laden with extreme, resigned disappointment. The way his mother often said it sounded like, “You jean” – as if a jean was a poor thing to be, fit only for covering up assholes and crotches when skinning down trees and mud banks, and ending up dirty (which Eugene often was, being a relatively normal child.

Non-human creation fascinated Eugene early on, being less harmful and generally more peaceful than the World of Men. He identified with Kipling’s hero Mowgli in the Jungle Book, delighted in the savage tales of Tarzan, who defeated evil by breaking its back, or by stabbing it in the chest with his “mighty tooth” – which was really a knife, only being raised by apes, Tarzan didn’t know any better. Years later, Eugene equated the knife with something Sigmund Freud speculated about – but, as a boy, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Conqueror (“eventually over-muscled by Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said), and Tarzan of the Apes (“bloatedly defiled by a decaying Johnny Weismuller,” he lamented, “and prematurely denatured by Bo Derek and her cynical, self-styled Svengali of a husband”) stood for all that was wholesome, romantic and achievable. The orphan of the apes grew up to move freely, though begrudgingly, in society’s upper circles; Conan became King of Aquilonia; and Johnny Weismuller apologized for the racial stereotypes populating his naive, little films.

From such stuff, and its subsequent manipulation against real life, Eugene gradually formed the notion that under every rock, there was apt to be a disgustingly formed grub.

Nonetheless, Eugene loved nature and spent hours happily hiking woods, warmed by nature shows aired by public television, or sitting on a rock observing ants busily dismembering butterfly carcasses. He found fascination in small things, from which he extrapolated theories about the governance and overall uniformity of large things. Things became ever more complex as their size increased. Just as corporate machinery had to expand the secretary-typist’s pool to encompass and accommodate modern computerized word processing, so too, extra parts were required to adapt the feeding apparatus of an amoeba into the mouth of a moose. Yet, regardless of scale, the end purpose remained the same: one to reproduce words in frozen lines of print; the other, to feed the living organism, so that it might go on to multiply and/or divide, before ultimately subtracting itself altogether from the Universe as this specific amoeba, or that unique moose.

Uniqueness was a particularly troubling theme to Eugene, for he felt that each entity was unique, never-before-assembled, yet so integrally related to the Whole that, it was difficult to tell where something ceased to be a part of something else, and where it became, separately, all there was to one sort of thing alone. Within his own body, he knew that there were entire colonies of contributing members, which scurried about tending and maintaining him, so that he, the amalgamated Eugene, could continue to function and so maintain them – a fact which made Eugene sometimes wonder if he was really self-motivating when left to his own devices, or simply the end product of a committee decision, which predicated that Entity Twenty-one-billion-and-eight should be entitled Eugene R. Formsby, Consolidated Research Unit, Model X-4-D, and should now, by unanimous consent of the governing board members, sit down and eat.

“What do you think about life so far?” Father Randolph “Teeth and Tongue” Nornocker once asked Eugene as the two sat in the pastor’s study. Eugene was at that time a somewhat precocious eleven and expected by his elders to be able to philosophize to a limited extent. Father Nornocker was, appropriately enough, a big, knock-kneed man with a virtual awning of overbite, a high starched collar and dirty fingernails. Even as a child, Nornocker’s nails gave Eugene pause. As far as Eugene knew, Nornocker did no real work – a gardener tended the parish grounds; a handyman did the repairs; a housekeeper cleaned and cooked – but the pastor consistently had dirty nails. Eugene attributed it to lint in the padre’s pockets.

“About life?” Eugene asked blankly.

“Yes,” Nornocker said, nodding, threatening to bite himself in the neck to Eugene’s fascinated gaze. “Life,” said Nornocker, “the Universe, God.”

“I like God,” Eugene said innocently.

“Very good.” Nornocker smiled, audience ended.

Eugene’s conversations (if they could be called that) with Nornocker always ended anti-climactically. Nornocker gave no direct advice for daily living, except from the pulpit (“Repent or you are damned!”), or in formal counseling sessions held particularly for about-to-be-marrieds (“Are you on birth control, dear? Ah, yes, I see. You do know that’s a mortal sin?  See me for confession, dear.  We can handle it.  Don’t worry.  God is understanding. Do you, Jim, know the real meaning of the words, ‘husband’ and ‘father?’  Ah, good. Rehearsal’s at eight – sharp.  I don’t like latecomers, so don’t be tardy, we lock the doors!“). Eugene thought being locked out of one’s own wedding might possibly be a blessing in disguise.

Marriage appeared to him to be a particularly militant institution, populated by unwilling combatants who had taken an oath of service while under emotional duress – amounting to temporary insanity as fired by engorged genitalia. While Eugene’s own parents rarely fought, rarely spoke, rarely looked at one another, they were nonetheless at war. During momentary fits of lust, however, they apparently copulated – well after dark, when the children were sleeping, the doors were all locked, and neither partner had to directly see the other’s naked, flaccid body. Eugene had a rather bizarre childhood view of sex as a result, believing that the female navel somehow accepted the male organ; hence, he believed, his mother’s dismay over baby sister’s extruded umbilical orifice, referred to as an “outy,” and known to be cause for a tragic lifetime with no release from one-piece bathing suits. Boys might have an outy without undue comment, since no one was ever going to stick anything into it – unless, of course, they were trapped in, or naturally inclined toward the restrooms in Greyhound bus stations.

This set of views, as well as others, gradually led Eugene to believe that certain kinds of information were “wrong,” “prejudiced,” or “totally unreliable.” Unfortunately, he couldn’t easily tell which was which, and so left the whole affair to chance, operating on the best of what was currently available, while guarding his rear against yapping dogs and angry, leathershod feet.

Eugene was again the small boy who stood on the steps of the great cathedral, awed by its spires and turrets, its filigrees and gargoyles, its stained glass windows and golden crosses. Inside was the dark perfumed lair of the Lord God, with its high altar overhung by the bloody plaster body of Jesus Christ, His only begotten son. The outer aisles containing the sea of pews were marked by the boxed dioramas of the Stations of the Cross, which led to the place where the Son died. Old ladies in pillbox hats with veils sat on age-oiled mahogany seats beside straight old men with stiff collars and rose-oiled hair. The air was rich with incense, cologne and perfume. Altar boys ringing bells and flame-tipped candles filled the imagination with flickering images of high holiness, augmented by the mysterious repeated chanting, the rigorous standing, kneeling and sitting – all of which confused his small, earthbound brain and threatened rather than uplifted him. He knew nothing of the acts being performed, wished fervently to leave that enchanted, terrifying palace of extraterrestrial power for some richly-grassed sunlit park, where birds sang sweetly and he could hear the speakers from the ball grounds, buy a hot-dog and a cold drink, watch a butterfly investigate the flowers and close his eyes and dream with the sun’s warmth full on his face.

Eugene often dreamed. In dreaming there was escape and in escape there was peace. For a time, he did not have to do what all of those others wanted – the “big people” who ordered him this way and that, preparing him for “responsibility” and “correctness” and a “grand sense of the indomitable self” unsupported by the frailness of his small body or the muddle of his pliable mind. The world was so confusing, so mixed up with “thisses” and “thats,” propounded by robed men, collared men, high-hatted women, women in scarves, ermines, overalls and nothing at all. There had been a time when nylons had confused him and girls’ underpants had almost consumed him. He could not possibly enter a church when the solitude of confession alone nearly reduced him to paralytic fear and terrible, self-accusatory embarrassment.

But the small boy’s mother stretched out her hand and drew the child up the steps of the cathedral, toward the towering open doors and through the yawning mouth of the massive portal, into the secret, dark sanctuary of the blooded God within.

The Beatniks were fading out, bearing Kerouac’s limp body with them, and the Hippies were coming in, bearing narcotics and flowers, when he first attained political consciousness. One group was too old for him to be a peer; the other was too young to see him as anything except suspicious. He was fascinated and excited by both, but became a member of neither, remaining that impossibility: a non-conforming non-conformist. Left to his own devices, he became one of the first generation of television addicts. He grew up living the lip service on so many lips. As a goal, as a model, the myth reeked of individual power, but the first Superman he ever knew, George Reeves, blew his brains out. How could Superman put a bullet in his head? He wondered. Wouldn’t it just bounce off? The myth, in practiced fact, was a conditioner: a view of the world in carefully molded packaging. Careful, my son, don’t remove the plastic wrap if you don’t want the contents to lose value. Use caution, my son, when stealing peeks into Pandora’s box.

Later, he read the Book of Daniel and the Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, refreshed himself on the case of Saco and Vanzetti, the lunacies of Attorney General Palmer’s Great Red Scare, Joe McCarthy’s witch hunts, and narrowed the glass to Ronald Reagan, the CIA, both Bushes, an Ashcroft, a Gonzales, and the “Moral” Majority. Rambo bulged out of the silver screen in living blood and the whole, mad, delirious killing frenzy danced on, with kids carrying submachine squirt guns and rubber knives the size of Route 66. The myth versus the reality: it echoed. Properly connected, with the correct measure of rising and falling sounds, clicks and “syllabalings,” words conjured up any sort of world. Once believed, the words structured reality and even reinforced the impulse to self-destruction.

Sadness to relate, Lamentation Number 4-billion-and-something: the scientific humanists have turned us into mechanical appliances. The corporate boardroom bastards have turned us into assembly line spare parts. And, the religionists have turned us into dependent, frightened moral bankrupts.

Why did I have to awaken? He wondered. Why couldn’t I have remained as mindlessly narcotized as my peers, skipping to the top, mesmerized by depilated crotch in designer bathing suits. The clever little ripper on his way to a semi-lifetime in the pen, darts in and out of the Square John crowd, putting time and distance between himself and the scene of his most recent petty crime. Xerox sells obsolete product two weeks before new product release, saying nothing to the client. The fossil-fuel barons, the Koch brothers, are poisoning the planet and opposed to all life-affirming change. Are they all the Devil’s helpers?

Q: What’s the fastest animal in the world?

A: A chicken crossing Darfur.

NEW BOOK: 

The COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist by John Patrick Legry (Oct 20, 2010)

NEW NOVEL at Amazon.com, etc.

THE COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist, begins with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and a simple opportunistic bank robbery, plunging John Law Copper, accidental thief, and Frederick W. Handles, the pursuing policeman, into the greater game of big money power politics and civic corruption on the Ragtime U. S. Pacific Coast. The chase takes them through the vanished garden world of northern California to the dangerous shanghai town of Portland, Oregon. 50 b&w line drawings and two maps.

From reviews:

“FARGO meets LES MISERABLES meets LONESOME DOVE”

“John Legry’s novel “The Copper-Handles Affair” will especially delight lovers of history as well as those who enjoy a good cops-and-robbers story. Set at the time of the San Francisco earthquake, the reader follows two men: a thief, John Law Copper who stumbles across $400,000 in bank money during the aftermath of the quake; and Frederick W. Handles, a detective bent upon bringing Copper to justice.
The chase between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon exposes both characters to a variety of angels and villains and so the story’s pace never slackens. One twist follows another until the conclusion which surprises with a laugh.
The settings are authentic, the characters believeable and the writer’s drawings are beautiful renderings of the period. I can think of no more pleasant way to experience a bit of history while having a good read.”

“A great fast paced read. …hard to put down.  …characters are fully developed and believable. …the literary style of switching back and forth from Copper’s escape to Handles pursuit kept the adventure moving… Many of the “switches” ended in a cliffhanger that compelled the reader…on. Besides being a good read, this book takes you on a geographical and historical tour of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.”

Click on images below to sample the flavor of the story:

Leaving Red Bluff

Thugs in the Parlor

Quarantine

The COPPER-HANDLES AFFAIR: The Great San Francisco Earthquake, Fire and Bank Heist by John Patrick Legry