Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monica and I opened a bottle of very excellent wine from the Napa Valley and chatted with Clara in Costa Rica via skype.  Afterward, we shared a dinner of salmon and baked garden potatoes and butternut squash.  Porter and Nico left the table, and ticked away in their computer-verse of Minecraft, building something or other with their friends.    The wine evolved with each glass.  None of us will stay up until midnight.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It's common knowledge that the Republican slate of presidential candidates is shockingly weak, with a set of deeply flawed and even ridiculous men and women.  At first glance, this seems strange given the powerful interests that prefer the typical Republican program of regressive taxation, lax regulation,  and a trillion dollar torrent of corporate welfare to keep crony capitalism flush.  

I have a theory about the apparent indifference to the candidate fail parade, however.  Two things are going on.  

First, the presidency is likely to be a poisoned chalice this time around.  Tough times are coming, the government, the media and the public discourse are dysfunctional, and the nation is in no shape to face the oncoming challenges.  If anyone is going to be blamed for the coming debacles, why not the Democrats - especially if most of the country can be convinced that progressive, even socialistic policies are to blame?  

Second, and equally important, they already have a moderate Republican president in Barack Obama.   He's presiding over a set of economic and regulatory policies - imposed on him to some extent - that would thrill any Republican of an earlier age, and he's making little if any effort to change that.  

His signature progressive legislative accomplishment remains a (Republican designed) health care reform whose essential logic is to force people to buy health insurance policies from huge, profit-making corporations.  This week, the USDA and FDA shamefully chose not to regulate the abuse of human antibiotics in meat production -  instead choosing to sacrifice the public's health on the balance sheets of Big Ag and Big Pharma.  Last week, pundits seemed to consider it a great victory that Obama and the Democratic Senate maneuvered the Republicans into extending a tax cut.  

This is what a Democratic victory looks like nowadays?  convincing Republicans to lower taxes in an election year?

Personally, I still see plenty of reasons to prefer an Obama to a Romney, but I don't think the people and corporations that fund elections care that much whether it's a wounded Obama or the Mormon guy who takes this chalice.  The money flows their way in either case.

UPDATE:  Matt Taibbi gives a similar verdict over at Rolling Stone, The Meaningless Sideshow Begins.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It was an excellent, relaxing holiday. We had all of those things that you are supposed to have (except maybe for snow): family, food, children, gifts exchanged, carols sung, conversations, naps and small expeditions. An excellent, relaxing holiday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The days have not been cold - but short and damp and drear

In slippery embrace, planets and moons and rubble-rings have whirled and wobbled

A rocky clockwork turned
and a solstice sun rose up, crisp and white and promise-ful.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Watching the collection of fools and grifters that are competing for the Republican presidential nomination this time around, I couldn't help but think of Slovaj Žižek's trilemma of communism.

There's a pattern that can be found in powerful institutions whose daily rhetoric and legitimacy rest dishonestly on a bankrupt and abandoned ideology.  Žižek described the kinds of people who were drawn to the Communist regime: 
Of the three features – personal honesty, sincere support of the regime and intelligence – it was possible to combine only two, never all three. If one was honest and supportive, one was not very bright; if one was bright and supportive, one was not honest; if one was honest and bright, one was not supportive. 
To the extent that these institutions are powerful and wealthy, they draw to themselves clever (but immoral) careerists -- and to the extent they still keep talking like they care about their ideals they draw in (honest) fools.  But all of those who are both clear-sighted and honest are repelled or dismissive. 

The modern Republican Party is exactly such an institution.  Conservative stalwarts stridently enforce the pretense that they are the party for small government, the patriotic nation, and the common man - even as every policy they enact operates in direct contradiction to those stated goals.  Their power and influence has become ever more solidly welded to serving the needs of a multinational plutocracy who's rapaciousness shows every indication of killing off the nation it has parasitized.   Yet the party's electoral viability still requires that millions of voters remain oblivious to this fact that the Republican Party works directly against their interests.

When the hypocrisy and lying becomes too obvious for a normal, even inattentive person to ignore (as it did in the latter days of Communism and as it has in these days of the dysfunctional GOP) you are left with this awkward alliance between the most shameless of the grifters and the most stubborn of the useful idiots.  And so we have this slate of con artists and fools - one of whom might stumble into the White House if Obama continues to fade.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Words spoken at a guinea pig's funeral:

"Maybe on some other plane you're grazing with your brother, Chino, and can tell him all about the life you led after he left.  But for sure, your molecules and your energies go back to the earth and slip back into the cycle of life."

He was wrapped in the paper he used to love to hide within and buried by the forsythia bush.

* * * *

(comic relief from the night before, when a guest was stopping by)  

"Can you imagine if he comes in and he looks in the cage and he's like, 'Oh, a guinea pig, how nice!' and we have to say, 'Um . . . he's dead.'  And he's like, 'Um, why do you have a dead guinea pig?' and we'd be like, 'Well, he hasn't been dead very long.'  And then we'd change the subject."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Porter's voice changed over the summer, but he's been finding it again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It was Nico's tenth birthday,

So we ambushed him with a surprise party
at Señor Flaco's.

Instead of cake there was "dirt" complete with gummi worms and critters.

Happy Birthday Nico!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This morning, the kittens were murdering a jumping mouse that they caught. 
As Nico said, "It's hilarious, yet horrible."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Clearing the basketball court
of half a winter's

Friday, December 9, 2011

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Upton Sinclar, The Jungle

The parts of the blogosphere given to intellectual doominess, have been talking a fair amount about the inevitable End of (Economic) Growth.  The Peak Oil folks see their pet hard constraints finally raising their oft-prophesied heads.  The Climate Change cognoscenti are noticing that economic growth and climate stability may have become mutually exclusive in these late days of procrastination.  Iconoclast economists have pointed out that most of our "wealth" is nothing more than an ornamental patina spread upon concatenations of debt -- (and just because an end to growth brings the system crashing down -- doesn't mean growth can't stall).  And everyone remarks how the topic itself is taboo in politics and mass media.

The best environmentalists have always known that infinite growth on a finite planet was only happening in the fevered imaginations of economists and the politicians who loved them.  And the spiritually minded have insisted that some level of material enough-ness was wise and an endless pursuit of more plus more was not.

Of course, the environmentalists and the seers have been right all along, being -- ironically enough -- more in touch with reality than the delusional realists who've tried to build our global society into a vast juggernaut with no steering and no brakes; a machine powered by everything and everyone that can give it a moment's extra impetus, even if it meant devouring the generative foundations that life depends on - the soil, waters, climate, cultures, and the webwork of living things.

The optimists of doom -- and I guess I would count myself among them -- hope that the globalized economic system proves fragile enough to crash apart before it can finish destroying these foundations entirely.  This is a hope hobbled by ambivalence, naturally, since the machine builders have made certain we are not only well-paid to avert our eyes, but are also strapped in and bound, willing or not, to its fate.  And so I find myself angry that I'm required to play a role as tiny gear-tooth in an idiot machine of destruction; embarrassed that I haven't extricated myself with incautious and inconvenient courage; oppressed by uncertainties and visions of futures I don't want; and wearied by the dissonance of rooting against a system that supplies me with so many of the things that I value and rely upon.

For 200,000 years humans survived and even thrived on a planet that was profoundly indifferent, if not hostile, to their fate, and presumably humans will do so again -- once this clumsy effort to re-make the world on our own terms has more thoroughly unraveled.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sometimes at bedtime, when the boys were younger I used to sing that old Cat Stevens song, Moonshadow.

"I'm being followed by a moonshadow -- moonshadow, moonshadow
Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow -- moonshadow, moonshadow

If I ever lose my eyes, if my colors all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes I won't have to cry no more."

And over time we made up our own verses of the song:

"If I ever lose my ears, the words and music I just can't hear,
Yes if I ever lose my ears I won't have to listen no more.

If I ever lose my tongue, my words and music go unsung,
Yes if I ever lose my tongue I won't have to yell no more

I'm being followed by a moonshadow . . . 

And if I ever lose my nose, can't smell compost, can't smell a rose,
Yes if I ever lose my nose I won't have to sneeze no more.

If I ever lose my belly, can't eat peanut butter, can't eat jelly,
Yes, if I ever lose my belly, I won't have to eat no more.

I'm being followed by a moonshadow . . . 

If I ever lose my mind, lost in space and lost in time,
Yes if I ever lose my mind I won't have to think no more

If I ever lose my way, where I'm bound I just can't say,
Yes if I ever lose my way I won't have to plan no more."

Sunday, December 4, 2011