Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’

SNEAKY PEOPLE

May 11, 2011
The Poet Dines Alone
The Poet Dines Alone

Excerpt: SNEAKY PEOPLE, unpublished novella.

Okay, this is a story about me.  It’s my diary, so I can write about anything I want – even things I wouldn’t tell other people (especially other men).  I’m a sneaky person.  I come from a long line of sneaky people – really sneaky people.  We’re part of the anonymous swarm that comes out like rats – day or night – picking off top or bottom of the midden heap (depending upon status in the pack) – seeking sustenance while awaiting the ever-approaching End of the World.

Which is pretty much occurring every day.  The End of the World is both cumulative and individual specific.  On the upper end of the End of the World Scale is Climate Change, which promises wholesale extinction (and, some bitch winters and summers between now and then); and, on the other is the latest starving Somali, homeless person, or helpless geriatric.  Somebody’s pretty much meeting the End of the World every single second.

I was born in San Francisco a bit before the mid-point of the Twentieth Century.  My parents were apprehensive about the spreading World War of that time and, I believe, my arrival was an oasis of joy for them – odd as that seems to me now.  My birth was an opportunity for them to hold the rest of the insane world temporarily at bay, basking in the momentary glow of life’s continuity.  Like all young people, they huddled secretly under the covers with their arms around each other, whispering about futures and possibilities – hopes.

My presence – miniscule and infantile – was accepted as God’s reassurance that all of us – each one: Dad, Mom, and Jr. – would come out all right.  In the end, the enemy would be defeated and the world brought majestically into the bright, painless peace of Forever After and the New Deal (which sounds like a rock group and if someone cops the name, I’ll sue).

However, my parents honestly felt that they were finishing the “undone business of World War I” – there were still German vermin to exterminate and, unexpectedly, the sudden need to fumigate Italy and delouse Japan.

Shortly after I was born, father was sent to the war by our beleaguered government and mother moved in with his mother – grandma – and three maiden aunts who were all destined to have affairs with transient servicemen who “might be killed in a matter of weeks,” and were.  None of my aunts’ fellahs made it back.  One aunt went bonkers, one married a dull-witted postman, and the third wed a fat automobile dealer and got a divorce from the rest of us.

Anyway, we waited at grandma’s for dad to come home.

He arrived late at night three years later.  He was flown into San Francisco International and taxied seventeen miles to his mother’s Oceanside home – to his wife and growing son.  I looked up at him as he stood over my bed.

“Did you fly home?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said with a pleased laugh.  “Do you remember me?”

“I have your picture,” I replied, pointing to his image on my dresser.

He looked at himself in the photograph for a long time, silent and withdrawn.  The day the photo had been taken, he had been a young soldier, vibrant, self-assured, and alive.  His face now was subtly different from the one in the photograph mounted between fifty-caliber machinegun rounds.  In the picture he was young and proud with new sergeant’s stripes on his Eighth Army Air Force uniform.  Standing there looking at himself, he was weary and grim.  A trace of the young man remained – a hint of optimism, which fired his eyes.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said at last, hardly believing that this would and could be so, that the bombs were left far behind, and gratefully forgetful that half the world’s population was still awakening in a world of ruins – picking hungrily through the rubble, hunting rats for nourishment.

I learned that he’d been in photo reconnaissance.  I liked the sound.  The French word “reconnaissance” had a lean mean underground battlefield resonance.  I was a romantic kid.  (That drove Dad nuts – among other things).  I learned, too, one evening when he was drinking, something he did more and more, that he had helped empty a rocket-hit orphanage one night in downtown London, carrying out its dead and dying children and their bloody parts.

He saw and lived with death as a routine for three years.  His photograph war souvenir album had pictures of massive bombers dumping lethal rain on Dresden, Berlin, German gun emplacements in Normandy, French coastal towns, war ships and hospitals, trains, cars, horses, wagons, canals and villages.  Now, home, he attacked normal civilian life as if it was the new enemy.  He had lost time to make up, things to do, family to feed and a top to possibly find.

In his free time, he watched boxing on the new-fangled television, tense with pleasure waiting for the knockouts, heavy K. O. punches, and T. K. O. s swimming in blood.  He watched the gymnastic exhibitions of professional wrestling until he realized that the mayhem wasn’t real.  He watched John Wayne repeatedly and successfully storm Iwo Jima.  He saw Errol Flynn shoot his way single-handedly through the entire Japanese Army in Burma.  He observed as Jeff Chandler really died of pleurisy while filming a mediocre account of Merrill’s Marauders on location in Imperial Indochina.  Pa’s latent violence had to translate into real life.

He punched Ma.  He punched me.  He drank himself finally and completely to death.  In his scarred wake, he left two sons, one daughter, and his frightened, yet indefatigable wife.  He also left behind the lingering echoes of Henry David Thoreau, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Father was a desperate man.

I’ve thought since that he was born in belief, raised in faith, condemned to hell, pardoned to purgatory, and eventually dispatched to…wherever he went.

Mother always said, “The War changed him.”  This is certainly so – I’ve seen other young men come back from Korea and Viet Nam.  They all have Dad’s eyes.  The men who fought at Salamis probably looked that way too.  Bloody fields and death process slowly.

Because of all this, justifications of violence appall me.  Its price is too high.  Brought home in the eyes of our young men, violence compounds as it seeks its vent.  Within the peacetime marketplace it ripples out on a high, spreading across the schoolyards, streaming into ghetto back alleys, finding its way into the boardroom.  Man against man, clan against clan.  So it goes, as Vonnegut says, and I?  I go on, watching to left and right, mindful of the dangers on the street, wary in my sleep – as restless as I was at the mouth of my cave one million years ago.

The history of mankind is a dry narration of famous battles, famous generals and famous kings, interspersed with profiles of failed political, social, economic and religious systems, which all rose and fell on the profit line.  The chronicle of anything else is incidental, a coffee table book.  Art, music, literature, dance, theater, magic are a sideshow to the main show.  Those things are the province of dreamers, romantics and fools.  For, if anyone is able to live a placid life, outside the maniacal slashing and hacking of whole peoples intent on the obliteration of other whole peoples, then one is, indeed, fortunate.

Life is a series of accidents.  Chance, not choice, governs (although, why we are in one spot at a particular time and not in another may be divinely inspired).  However, I doubt there is a Master Plan.  Master plans and master crimes require cumbersome plotting.  One can, or should be able to see their patterns, but impulse fires most of us.  We deal with consequences afterward, which is when they should properly be dealt with, I guess.

I’d like to do something to help my fellow human beings, but I don’t know what.  Everybody’s fighting and clawing, biting and scratching.  I’m hiding.  Scared to death.  Who wants to attract attention?  The threat to life may be worldwide conflagration, or in the mouth of some filthy city alley, with a knife wielding, coked-up assailant standing over one’s punctured corpse.  “Neither a peacekeeper, nor a lender be.” It’s too painful, too expensive, and too dangerous.  Experience is a great teacher; if we survive the lesson, but we’re still not gonna get out of this alive.

I wish I could stop the clock.  Turn back time until I’m just short of the primordial ooze – watch by degrees the slow progression of life.  See just how long it takes to make a human being out of all that gloop.  Think about just how quickly that complex organism can cancel itself out with a single bullet.

The universe is infinite.  I don’t really understand what that means, and it’s expanding, but into what?  It’s cosmic and vast and when you think about it, without the artificial augmentation of religious zealotry, perhaps meaningless.  Even so, this ship was pilotless before we knew that it had no pilot and continues so and nothing changes that.  Either way, I don’t expect the Creator to wash my dirty laundry or lift my heavy load.  It’s clear I gotta hoe my own corn.

I am alive, well, and living past the immoral end of the Twentieth Century and on the ignorant cusp of the early Twenty-first – unhappily still under threat of the nuclear-bomb, dismayed by Russians and Chinese, the System and the decay of the World, as ever.  “Is it just for the moment we live?”  You betcha.  What’s it all about, Alfie?  The End of the World is only a heartbeat away.  Whether one is one of a half million blown away at Hiroshima, drowning alone in the pool of a cliffside villa in Monterey, or choking in the arms of a lover on a sunny Egyptian Sunday.

Well, Diary, that’s my Summer Vacation.  I’m going home now.  Wonder what I’ll find?  It’s still the End of the World and Sissy Wagner doesn’t love me anymore.  Who’s going to do my laundry?

— JL:PDX, 8-09

Little Brown Bat with White-nose disease.

IMPORTANT LINK: Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds.

Bats are on a clear trajectory toward oblivion.  The Center for Biological Diversity has warned that the bat crisis is dire while calling for more funding to try to determine what, exactly, is killing America’s bats — and how the disease can be stopped.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/bat_crisis_the_white-nose_syndrome/index.html

Little Brown Bat with White-nose disease.

Advertisements

HARD LABOR II

February 26, 2010
 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spends at least $180 billion per year on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1500 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, as of September 2012, 47.7 million Americans were receiving on average $134.29 per month in food assistance, or $6.4 billion total.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

Donna Edwards’ No Corporate Monopoly of Elections Amendment by John Nichols February 4, 2010 by The Nation

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.

Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.

“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision,” Edwards said Tuesday. “A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”

Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video

Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman’s proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.

Here is the text of the legislation proposed by Edwards and Conyers:

JOINT RESOLUTION:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

‘‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

Edwards and Conyers may soon have a Senate sponsor for their amendment proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared: “As legislators, we have a duty to carefully consider the constitutional questions raised by legislation.  I urge you to do your duty but not be dissuaded from acting by fear of the Court. This terrible decision deserves as robust a response as possible. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/04 

“He was the biggest asshole at Goldman Sachs!”

HARD LABOR

September 29, 2009
Hard Labor 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spent $167 billion in 1994 on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1400 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, the total price tag for Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps and public housing came to $50 billion, or $400 per taxpayer.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'