Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Six feet under

Today we bury a man whose life was fully lived. Some of our strong men lift his earthly remains and lay it six feet beneath the snowy ground.
Today I wonder what ancient men and women must have thought about this death thing. Today I wonder about what the life cycle meant to them-- before there was this complex, overdeveloped modern world. When only the raw earth supported our ancestors' feet and only the luminous sky lifted their simple vision beyond its horizon, then the cold ground was simply where life sprung forth and also where it terminated-- the air above us just a vast mystery from which rain and snow and wind and light descended.

In that primeval existence, before history, before culture, before science and education, humans had no knowledge about where all this came from. We had no evidences, except those found within the earth itself, of our destiny within it. We had only a few clues nestled within the crevices of our desire; we had only a scattering of hope blown among the breezes of our vision.

Then one day, they saw a volcano erupt.
What on earth is that? they wondered.
Hell, I don't know, but I'm not hangin' around to find out.


Another day, they saw a rainbow.
What on earth is that? they wondered.
Heavens above! what a beautiful sight.


Somebody died. Where do we put him now?

Back in the earth where he came from, said one.
He didn't come from the earth; he came from the sky, said another.

Oh yeah? Well...ok then. He came from the sky.
I like that ending better, they said.

We put him in the earth; but he returns to the sky.

And they were right.

You believe that?

Jeez... I guess so.

Well...ok then. That's quite a revalation.
A revolution, in fact.

Glass half-Full

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Comfort in the Chaos?

Confounding the experience of every man or woman in this world is the unwelcome question: who cares? Does anyone give a damn about me?

Long ago, a psalmist observed , "...he looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man--neither found he any to comfort him."

Seeking relief from this lonely condition, each person finds within self a desire to love and to be loved, to know and be known, by another. In the nascent setting of life--that of childhood-- many are fortunate to have experienced the comfort of mother love, of father love and sibling love. Unwelcome accompaniments of parental discipline and sibling irritations are revealed as part of the deal too, but they provoke, as it turns out, valuable lessons in the school of life.

Oftentimes, it's when a young man or women gets out on his(her) own, as most are want to do-- then is the time of the rude awakening that: hey! nobody cares-- is laid upon them. It's every man for himself, and each woman is the queen of her own existence.

Take me, for instance. I encountered several facets of this lonely revelation: when my high school girlfriend found better things to do with her college experience than care about me, when the professors didn't bend their grading curves to suit my lax learning, when my employers didn't immediately acknowledge the immense value of my inclusion in their plans, when I sang songs and nobody listened, wrote poems and no one resonated, and generally risked demise at the peril of feeling sorry for myself.

So when I got a little closer the end of all that whiny, self-absorbed need, I found a good woman and married her, and she has helped me a lot for these last thirty years. I like to think that I helped her some too, and that, together, we helped our three kids, now grown, get a good start in this mysterious condition that we call life.

That marriage/family trip is also the path taken by the man who fathered my wife back in the days of Eisenhower and Elvis. Lately, I've been thinking about the old guy, my father in law. He has lived long and well. He's got a few rough edges, you know, and he turns a little grouchy now and then--these days more and more so as he faces the barrenness of a nursing home existence, his own infirmity, and most of all the absence of his lifelong faithful wife who passed several years ago.

He's back at that point of unwelcome discovery: who gives a damn? The wife is gone on; the kids are all doing their own thing. Who cares?

God does. I hope my father-in-law makes his peace with God before the big one comes along. He has heard all his life, and we have counseled him, that God cares. That's the message of the child born in Bethlehem--the one whose creched enshrinement was near the lighted Christmas tree all those seventy-odd years of a man's life--the One who was born of a virgin as the Savior, to rescue us from loneliness, among other things.

Jesus cares, and He lives forever, as I do because of what He did. How about you?
Written this Christmas day, 2010 A.D.

Feliz Navidad, y'all.

CR, author Glass half-Full

Thursday, December 23, 2010


The Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent Creator of the Universe divested himself of all material attributes.
He transported that non-material I AM-essence of himself from his light-years distant position (throne) somewhere in the cosmos.
He impregnated that essence as an embryo in a woman's body, which was then born as a manchild in Bethlehem, so that we could know God's character and find our identity in Him instead of the cold universe itself or any part thereof.

Merry Chrisannukwanzaa

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The bulls' stampede

On the ground,
bulked-up speculative herds run roughshod
on parched markets that once were grassroots sod,
beating derivative dust high up into a cloud.
To puff up prices makes them proud.
They're cattle driven like longhorn chevy pickups,
with beefy credit default swap hookups.
Them big bulls in a China shop--
they hop
on new deals.
Uncle Sam's New Deal's
got them lasso'd by the balls;
Uncle Ben's Neo Freeo
makes 'em forget the margin calls.
But little critters get trampled in the throng,
of high frequency traders no longer going long.

the eagles of their ancestral dreams
circle lazily above those tradin' teams
in search of scampering mortgaged prey
to seize what they might eat today.
Carry on, carrion they say,
as vultures at the fringes linger
with the pressing of an index finger
to sell short
the nation with a broken heart.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

20 questions from Phyllis about pornography

Phyllis Chesler calls herself a Second Wave feminist, whatever that is.
From that perspective, she has posed twenty questions about pornography, and asked readers to answer them.
Before answering them, let me say that I still struggle occasionally with pushing those buttons, but there are much more important things-- much more purposeful--to do while online.

Phyllis writes in her article about feminists having common cause with conservatives and Christians on these sexual issues. Well, I am a Christian--just how conservative is a laughable issue--and we shall see, as I answer her twenty questions, just how much commonality we uncover.
Western civilization, in the context of Judeo-Christian heritage, has had a history of conflict on these problems. Basically, it always comes down to disagreements between propriety and permissiveness. These days, the argument has shifted to a worldwide scope, encompassing the controversial rigidity of Islam prurience.

As a Christian, I must say--thank God for the Muslims. We need some of their propriety. But of course it's not really that simple; they've got some seriously questionable baggage packed in their sharia.
I won't grind that axe now, though. Let's get on to Phyllis' questions:
1. Is pornography “work” or is it a violent crime? It is not work, nor is crime. But its influence can lead to crime, sometimes violent.
2. Is pornography “free speech” in action or is it a violent, often murderous crime? It is free speech. Sometimes its influence can lead to murderous crime, just as hate-speech can lead to pogroms.
3. Is pornography really a “victimless” crime? There are some victims.
4. Are pimps, johns, traffickers, and landlords being victimized? If so, why are they not complaining? They are victims, primarily, of their own sin; secondarily, of the the sins of other. You see my antiquarian Christian context coming through here. Those "victims" are not complaining because sin is fun for awhile until its grip on you becomes lethal. Then radical deliverance is required, but it cannot come through human law.
5. Are the people, mainly men, who buy and watch pornography being victimized? If so, why are they not complaining? Is anyone forcing them to consume pornography? No one is forcing them. They are making poor choices, manipulated by insidious servitude to corrupt popular culture.
6. Are the seductive, taunting, smiling, naked girls and women who are being paid “good” money–victims? If so, why don’t they complain, leave, find some other job? That's an appropriate question, but I don't know the answer. Go ask them, and tell them to fill out a resume while you're at it. Good luck with that project.
7. Isn’t working in pornography a job just like any other job–like any other acting job? No.
8. Aren’t pornography actors there of their own free will—for the easy money, the attention, the “stardom?” Probably.
9. Isn’t our right to see and read whatever interests us essential to our fundamental liberty? Yes.
10. Doesn’t the First Amendment guarantee us this right? If we criminalize one kind of “free speech,” where will it end? Who will decide what information or images we are allowed to see? Won’t state or religious censorship chill our rights, even our very thoughts? Censorship should be personal, or parental. If it is guided by moral sensitivity, then it is beneficial for society as a whole.
11. On behalf of “free speech,” and privacy rights, didn’t Second Wave feminists avidly collaborate with pornographers to ensure that pornography remained a civil right? I don't know, but if they did, this demonstrates the problem of unintended consequences which renders much of human law ineffectual.
12. Didn’t Second Wave feminists launch the battle against violence against women, which included sexual harassment, rape, incest, domestic battering—as well as the most serious battle against pornography and prostitution? Weren’t they vilified for collaborating with Christians and conservatives on the issue of pornography and prostitution? I don't know, but I'm willing to learn more about whatever happened.
13. How many women from wealthy and prominent families, or with advanced educations, “choose” to work in pornography or as prostitutes? You tell me.
14. Did you know that, by definition, pornography is that which has to do with “prostitutes.” “Porne” in Greek is a “prostitute.” The so-called actresses in pornography are treated as if they are–and usually soon are–also “working” as prostitutes. I didn't know that, but it seems, generally, like an accurate assessment to me.
15. How different is being a prostitute from being a stripper, massage therapist, or a nurse? I wasted many a beerish hour watching strippers in my youth. My wife of thirty years is a nurse. I can tell you there is a huge difference. As Dean Martin once sang, he wishes that "every boy could find what I found in your heart." What we all seek ultimately is true love, whether we ever realize that dream or not. Thank God we did.
16. How many prostituted girls and women are actually free to leave, walk out, give it all up? Under the influence of God's message of salvation to all humankind, many prostitutes will be free to leave it behind. See John, chapter 8. I suppose there are other motivations too, by which those bondages can be overcome in a woman's life. More power to them if they can make the transition. The search for true love is the main compulsion of human existence.
17. Where might they go? Where might they call “home?” Who will help them get off drugs and alcohol, restore their ravaged health, support them as they deal with the sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, with which johns have infected them? This is what churches are intended to do. Certainly, we Christians are lax in this, and guilty of neglect and insensitivity. But we do have problems of our own to deal with in this life, and there is only so much time and energy. That's why we're advocates of grace instead of law.
18. Do you have any idea of what the average age of a pornography actress/prostitute is? 27?
19. How long a shelf-life does a “working girl” (prostitute, pornography actress) actually have? We all have less time than we think we do.
20. Why does pornography “turn” people on? Pornography is a demonically-inspired counterfeit of a natural, God-ordained human urge to love and procreate. The chemistry between man and woman is as essential for life as that between hydrogen and oxygen. Porn is on a shoddy synthetic of a natural compound.

Thank you, Phyllis, for posing these timely, important questions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Warmth

Recently it was brought to my attention that humans have resorted to busting up the substrata of earth's rocky crust to find gas and oil.
In a process called hydraulic fracturing, petrochemical companies mix up a brew of chemicals and pump it deep into the ground.The resultant pressure cracks the mantle of rock that supports our landscape. Oil and gas are released in the process, which the companies then recover and sell to us frigid consumers.

It is a tragedy and a damned shame that we humans have gone this far in destroying our earth's surface just to get fuel, because the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing are seriously pollutive. They poison groundwater.
I had heard about this a while back. But a few days ago, I got an email about a documentary video that describes this process and its destructive effects. I watched the video trailer about this "fracking," and it troubled me greatly.
But that little piece of communication came to me in the morning hours of a day that dawned here in the Blue Ridge with a temperature of 7 degrees fahrenheit and a blowing blizzard.

Now I have to tell you that we have recently purchased a fancy Vermont Castings gas stove, and we have been very pleased with the serious heat that it provides in the form of instant flames (that look like a wood fire) at the turn of a thermostat.
The stove was acquired after Pat had done extensive research to inform our decision about which gas appliance would be the best to meet our needs. We paid some serious bucks to acquire the thing and have it installed this fall, after thirty years of busting and splitting firewood, and suffering through super-dry electric baseboard heat to survive these sometimes fierce Appalachian winters.
So when we got this intense heat at the push of a button, we were quite impressed with our progress. We have worked hard for it.

The stove burns propane, and I regretted that I had to spend a bunch of money on it instead of investing in a solar system on the roof. Such a venture would have familiarized me with a more sustainable technology. But at age 59, I just feel worn-out with all those years of dealing with the heat thing every winter--hauling the wood, building the fires, so labor-intensive, and having my respiratory tract chronically irritated with the dry heat. At my stage of life, it seemed necessary to have a heat source that is predictable and proven.

So when I saw, a few days ago, this video about hydraulic fracturing, I wondered it this destructive practice had been a part in the chain of services that had delivered my propane. I do not know. But I was thinking about this, and feeling somewhat hopeless about the prospect of sustainability and hydrocarbon abuse and pollution.
But I am warm, and it was seven degrees outside, with a blizzard howling at my windows, and I give up. Its a damned shame that it has come to this.
And most of America is, I fear, in the same predicament.

Maybe next spring we can discuss what should be done about fracking, just like next year we can debate what should be done about our national debt.
Good luck with that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Abyss of Desire and the Mountain of Age

Every teenager discovers the abyss of desire, but during the first years of that lifelong encounter, he/she does not understand the insatiable nature of it. Desire, in all its worldly forms, especially the impetuous sexual kind, is a bottomless pit. While it does lead to intense pleasure and a lot of fun, desire does not lead directly to lasting fulfillment.

As a person travels, through this life, deeper into the bottomless pit of desire, he/she will experience momentary satisfactions, but they are always short-lived, sometimes only instantaneous. Periods of yearning or striving between sexual release can be very frustrating.

True love, on the other hand, bears a sumptuous fruit called deep fulfillment. Our experience has shown that faithful lifetime union with one sexual partner provides the deepest expression of this fulfillment.

That spouse becomes, in fact, much more than a regular sexual partner. That person becomes, as life is lived, an invaluable partner in every avenue of life, not just the sexual one. In fact, the sexual union becomes, when healthily and regularly expressed, secondary in importance as the couple grows old together.

The sojourn of life, taken as a whole, is something like climbing up a mountain, and away from the abyss. When you are young, just starting out, you may be in a forest or some such occluded position, unable to determine your position in relation to everything else around. You are clueless and you don’t know where the hell you are.

Our experience shows that if you can find a life partner, the journey is much easier, and more meaningful, because you can share your thoughts and feelings along the way. Sharing burdens makes them easier to bear. The sharing itself is easier to accomplish if your partner is intimately familiar.

This climb up life’s mountain is strenuous; by the time you get to the top, you’re plumb worn-out. But guess what, when you reach that incredible height—with the life long lived in the distant environs behind you—the perspective is a broader panorama. You can see clearly where you’ve been and where you are; you can more accurately determine your location in relation to everything else around, and the wide world.

This is called wisdom; it is something you accrue as you ascend the mountain of this existence.

What about when you get to the top? I call that arrival maturity, or old age, or maybe, in some contexts, retirement. But guess what. You can’t stay up there forever; there’s not much to eat up there, and the only water is what falls from the sky, and it gets cold. So you have to walk back down. But hey, as you descend that mountain of life, you find the traveling to be less strenuous than the climb up was, and easier to manage because you know where you’ve been and you know where you’re going, and of course you have gravity working with you instead of against you. It’s all downhill from here.

That cliché could have a double meaning of course: it’s all downhill from here. The descent is not as demanding as the climb up, but it is degenerative, insofar as you discover that the old body, having ascended to the heights, ain’t what it used to be. In fact, it might be downright falling apart. So you need to take it slow and easy going down. Don’t get in a big hurry. Speed is for young bucks. Old folks can just enjoy a stoll.

Along the way, the abyss of desire has always beckoned, but together you’ve handled it well. If you haven’t handled it well—well, life goes on anyway, and you’re still kicking.

Our experience shows that having a community of support in the life expedition is quite helpful. But that help should be authentic, which means trustworthy, and consistent with our individual purposes, not diverting us from our chosen mission. In regards to the abyss of desire, that troupe of people with whom you’re sojourning must strengthen and encourage the faithful bond that further unites a man with his wife. The truly precious community honors the marriage bed and does not intrude upon the hard-earned bond.

That is very different than, say, other groups or entities (such as show business) in this world whose intent may be to titillate or distract faithful couples from their fruitful union. You know what I’m talking about—forces like tv or the internet or sketchy work situations.

Take Twitter for instance. It can be a fun little ditty; it can be a useful communication tool. But when an old fart like me get tweets from unknown women accompanied by suggestive pictures, it is a useless diversion; in fact, it’s damned dangerous, because it beckons me, deceptively, to answer the death call of the abyss instead of the faithful union that I and my wife have worked so hard to achieve. You may think, Freudian-like, that I’m repressing some legitimate desire to have sex with other women.


I’m not suppressing any good thing; I am resisting, to use an old-fashioned term, the evil so that the good can continue to flourish. I don’t care what Janis sang before she od’d. You don’t necessarily do a thing because it feels good. The deceptive allure of those online women, or live ones for that matter, is as hollow and misleading as an empty wine bottle, as short-lived as Eve’s apple which disappears in the eating of it or is cast aside to rot after a few bites.

Sexual fidelity in this life yields what we Christians call the fruits of righteousness. They are delicious, nutritious, and very satisfying. Couples who learn to truly love one another, learn also how to utilize the sexual union in a way that intensifies and simplifies their life purpose together.

Here’s one last thought about that downhill walk from life’s mountaintop. These days, we have a multitude of man-made medical procedures and pharmaceutical extenders to keep us propped-up so we can keep the journey going, instead of terminating at a point that it might have ended in earlier periods of history. So with stuff like blood pressure medicine and Viagra and whatnot around, the experience of aging on that downhill stroll is in a kind of uncharted territory. Be careful how you handle surgeries and chemical substances. Don’t eat the green acid or whatever.

And keep your sights set—not so much on yourself--but on the one for whom you have cared, and who has cared for you. Consider also those others whom you hold dear, and you’ll not stray too terribly far from the favorable course. Then lo and behold you encounter at the bottom of the mountain a valley of death that takes you, whether you like it or not, into the abyss that you were able to elude for so long.

You need fear no evil, but defeat it. Christ can help you with this.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Carbon contrition

The big guys
they got together
to repent of their carbonous sin
to change their wiki ways
no more emissions
and btw
you little guys
you cant do waht we did
hundred years ago
cuz our planet cant afford it.
All this slash and burn
all this turn and earn
its got to go.
So here's the deal:
we will buy some carbon credits
send you some sustainable debits
so we can keep on burnin
same way we been churnin
while your forests soak up
our emissions
our contritions
but dont you be burnin no wood
down there
dont be diggin no mines
like we did hundred years ago.
(you be screwed.)

How fair is that?
A man gets tied up to the ground
he gives the world
its saddest sound
its saddest sound.

Those thirdworld crocodiles must cry
while our jets fly.

All those little indigenous guys--
we nominate them
for the Confucius prize.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

God bless America.

I'm glad we have a President who is not willing to hold the American people hostage to the political warfare in Washington, DC. We are fortunate that he takes his job seriously, does what he has to do to make the overburdened system of government work, in spite of itself. God bless Barack Obama, and God bless America.

Now, you citizens of a great nation, get to work. Look around you and identify something in your city or community that needs to be done. Then, instead of complaining about it, get busy helping to solve the problem. Lend your assistance or leadership to the project. Just do it, and forget all this talk about class warfare, because:

You control your own destiny. If you prefer to believe otherwise, then that will be your problem, but it will also become a burden for the rest of us. Don't permit some uncaring "class" of people's selfishness, or another "class" of people's laziness to become your life's defeat.

Think, pray, act. learn.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Retain the Tester amendment

BEFORE the United States of America became a great producer of modern goods and services, our ancestors were farmers. This growing nation of innovators and organizers was fed by a westwardly-migrating population of planters and tillers.

A billowing spirit of agrarian productivity grabbed our nascent nation by the scruff of the neck; it thrust our great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers out upon fertile prairies and verdant valleys with rakes and a hoes and a teams of grunting oxen and mules. Even from the start, we were a mobile nation, yearning to be free, and aiming to busy ourselves with gainful agriculture.

Along the road, we organized, we mechanized, transportized our ways and means of producing food on a massive scale, over two centuries of intensely fruitful labor. We produced, with much toil and sweat, the vast system of food production and distribution that we have today.

We clueless Americans--each one of us--need to take a studious walk up and down the aisles of our nearby grocery stores. We need to consider the vast array of foodstuffs available at our fingertips. We must understand that all of this didn't just happen for us while we were adolescents sipping fizzy sodapop, looking for some kind of excitement while mommy and daddy were at work so we'd have dinner on the table.
Two centuries of developing industry and agricultural innovation made our supermarkets what they are today. This was no small feat. It turns upon a vast system of food distribution that is, guess what, slowly becoming, from a planetary standpoint, too expensive, and ultimately unsustainable.

In the decades ahead, we must get back, at least partially, to local food production; it's the only way out of our present breakdown. Agriculture requires land, water, and work. What are more and more folks needing these days that they don't have? Work. What else do those unemployed cadres need every day? Food.

Put the two concepts together, y'all. Now is the time for all good men and women to get off their twinkie obesities and find something to do besides the same-old-same-old whatever's available down at the state unemployment office. Read 'em and weep, America. Times are hard, and will not get better until we fundamentally change they way we do things. What can YOU do today to sustain life for yourself and those whom you love? Take another disappointing trip down to the employment office?

If we'll look around, we'll see that between the parking lots and driveways and big boxes we still have some earth beneath all that pavement. Maybe it's time we start using those spaces for something besides collecting rubbish and growing weeds. Even grass--what good is it compared to alfalfa?

Now we stand upon the precipice of an obsolete, collapsing monetary-industrial system. We will never again produce, on a massive scale, the wheels and widgets and whatnots that drove our pride and our paychecks empowering us to glide through those cornucopious A&P aisles.

Many of us have already figured this out, and are doing something about it. Have you been to a local farmer's market lately? There may be someone there with whom you can barter or trade for food so you won't have to be spending so much of your hard-earned $$ just to keep dinner on the table. Not only that, but what about your carbon footprint? Oh, but that's another compost pile of worms...

Anyway, here's what actually what got me going on this rant this snowy Saturday morning. When the US House of Representatives takes up the food safety bill that the Senate (SB 510) has passed, don't let our lawmakers strangle local farmers with burdensome regulations that are appropriate only for mega-producers. We don't need the feds interfering with grassroots commerce. Let the citizens of our townships and cities decide for themselves what locally-grown produce and food they are willing to take a chance on eating.

Don't let the Reps weed out the Tester amendment. If you don't know what that is, google it. It's time you found out what's going on with the food.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rage against the Machine

Is it a function of getting old that one becomes increasingly alienated by the decline of morality and culture? Or is it that the age we live in especially decadent?

Recently it was brought to my attention that Katy Perry had some genius crew doing pr and songs and videos for her. So I, the pushing-60, stick in the mud, party-poopin dinosaur, checked out Katy's hot video online, Teenage wetDream, or something like that.

This dynamite little idol will definitely get your juices flowing; it's so much more potent than the playboy stuff we used to tear into when I was a teenager. So here's the pop diva herself looking like a million bucks although she's probably worth a billion to her handlers, riding in a hot convertible with her GQ model fako chauffer/boyfriendpimp and they go and get it on in a hotel room. He pulls her panties down and the guys in the next convertible and all the thousands of frothing voyeurs online are getting excited and then the damned thing ends with her being sad and lonely as she watches MrCool-squeeze taking out his rage on a punching bag.

And I'm wondering, what's he so mad about if he just had a piece of Katy Perry?
Then, a few clicks later, and along comes a bunch of glees doing the gay version video of the same song as if that were every post-adolescent boy's dream.

What a nightmare.

So once again I ask:
Is it a function of getting old that one becomes increasingly alienated by the decline of morality and culture? Or is it that the age we live in is especially decadent?
Is this the liberty (libertine) American culture that we're exporting with our gay troops a la lady gaga to the Muslim countries we occupy? It's no wonder they're terrorizing the hell out of us.

Maybe burqas are better than the in-your-face high-tech hurly-burly burlesque that buries us with bullshit bikini bimbos and their clueless jigolo jerks.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Have you eaten your unemployment check yet?

BEFORE the United States of America became a great producer of modern goods and services, our ancestors were farmers. This growing nation of innovators and organizers was fed by a westwardly-migrating population of planters and tillers.

A billowing spirit of agrarian productivity grabbed our nascent nation by the scruff of the neck; it thrust our great-great-great grandfathers and grandmothers out upon fertile prairies and verdant valleys with rakes and a hoes and a teams of grunting oxen and mules. Even from the start, we were a mobile nation, yearning to be free, and aiming to busy ourselves with gainful agriculture.

Along the road, we organized, we mechanized, transportized our ways and means of producing food on a massive scale, over two centuries of intensely fruitful labor. We produced, with much toil and sweat, the vast system of food production and distribution that we have today.

We clueless Americans--each one of us--need to take a studious walk up and down the aisles of our nearby grocery stores. We need to consider the vast array of foodstuffs available at our fingertips. We must understand that all of this didn't just happen for us while we were adolescents sipping fizzy sodapop, looking for some kind of excitement while mommy and daddy were at work so we'd have dinner on the table.
Two centuries of developing industry and agricultural innovation made our supermarkets what they are today. This was no small feat. It turns upon a vast system of food distribution that is, guess what, slowly becoming, from a planetary standpoint, too expensive, and ultimately unsustainable.

In the decades ahead, we must get back, at least partially, to local food production; it's the only way out of our present breakdown. Agriculture requires land, water, and work. What are more and more folks needing these days that they don't have? Work. What else do those unemployed cadres need every day? Food.

Put the two concepts together, y'all. Now is the time for all good men and women to get off their twinkie obesities and find something to do besides the same-old-same-old whatever's available down at the state unemployment office. Read 'em and weep, America. Times are hard, and will not get better until we fundamentally change they way we do things. What can YOU do today to sustain life for yourself and those whom you love? Take another disappointing trip down to the employment office?

If we'll look around, we'll see that between the parking lots and driveways and big boxes we still have some earth beneath all that pavement. Maybe it's time we start using those spaces for something besides collecting rubbish and growing weeds. Even grass--what good is it compared to alfalfa?

Now we stand upon the precipice of an obsolete, collapsing monetary-industrial system. We will never again produce, on a massive scale, the wheels and widgets and whatnots that drove our pride and our paychecks empowering us to glide through those cornucopious A&P aisles.

Many of us have already figured this out, and are doing something about it. Have you been to a local farmer's market lately? There may be someone there with whom you can barter or trade for food so you won't have to be spending so much of your hard-earned $$ just to keep dinner on the table. Not only that, but what about your carbon footprint? Oh, but that's another compost pile of worms...

Anyway, here's what actually what got me going on this rant this snowy Saturday morning. When the US House of Representatives takes up the food safety bill that the Senate (SB 510) has passed, don't let our lawmakers strangle local farmers with burdensome regulations that are appropriate only for mega-producers. We don't need the feds interfering with grassroots commerce. Let the citizens of our townships and cities decide for themselves what locally-grown produce and food they are willing to take a chance on eating.

Don't let the Reps weed out the Tester amendment. If you don't know what that is, google it. It's time you found out what's going on with the food.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oyl and Dreidel

Zechariah described this vision, or event, about 2500 years ago:
Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from sleep.
He said to me, 'What do you see?' And I said, 'I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on top of it. Also, two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.'
Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, 'What are these, my lord?'
So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, 'Do you not know what these are?' And I said, 'No, my lord.'
Then he said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts.

'What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!'"

Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.'
'For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These are the eyes of Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.'

Then I said to him, 'What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on the left?'
And I answered the second time and said to him, 'What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?'
So he answered me, saying, 'Do you not know what these are?' And I said, 'No, my lord.'
Then he said, 'These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.'

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can't you hear Jerusalem moan?

The people of Israel have cultivated a heritage of literacy for thousands of years; it's one reason they are, as an ethnic group, so comfortable and proficient with the communicative arts. Hebrews have been talking, reading, and writing for a long time. Beginning with Moses, Solomon, and other biblical documentarians, their meticulous oral and written histories constructed a potent cultural tradition that has matured like a fine vintage over time. The Jewish religion has also spun off two other major peoples-of-the-book--Christianity and Islam.
Hey, like it or not, Moshe, it's what happened. Read 'em an weep. We're all riders on this bumpy monotheistic bus.

The Torah/Bible documents how that deep heritage manifested as an ancient kingdom. But Israel was, as kingdoms go, relatively short-lived. Right off the bat, after three kings, the country split, and it never regained that golden age magnificence of Solomon's forty-year flash in the pan. Israel and Judah hobbled along for a few centuries until the Greeks humiliated them and the Romans subjugated them.
In 70 AD the army of the Roman empire dispersed Jewish nationalism to the four winds. For nineteen centuries after that forced diaspora, faithuful Jewish passover observers spoke of celebrating their feasts "next year in Jerusalem."

Jewish identity went under-canopy, and into a kind of fervently prolific survival mode. Beneath diverse banners of other empires and nations, Jewish culture managed to proliferate and mature in a richly productive way, even without the benefit of native soil and eretz. In spite of the odds stacked against them, Jewish people even managed to prosper beneath the adverse radar of alien hegemonies. There's a lot to be said, I tell ya, for having a strong tradition of literacy, and a God to inspire it.

Along the way, though, some other peoples got jealous of the inexplicably improbable Jewish well-being. Adolf Hitler and his band of Nazi thugs scapegoated the Jews in a fiercely destructive milatarism; but it backfired on them, and it was the feuhrer's lying face that was found lieing in the ashes of a formerly noble German heartland in 1945.

Then, lo and behold, miracle of miracles, it came to pass that, in its darkest hour, Jewish culture, in its severally metamorphosed forms--from the Hassidic to the Socialistic--resurfaced as a nation-state.
We know they made a lot of people mad in that nascent process, most notably the Palestinians, but that was an old argument. It wasn't any walk in the park, you know, when the Jews and Philistines were going at it for the same real estate way back in times of old. Yeah, yeah, aw go on, tell me about it. Some things never change.

But here's where the contemporary shi'ite hits the fan. That ancient Jewish tradition is based, let's face it, on religion and racial identity. It dropped back into the modern world like a square peg from a round-hole universe. In today's terms, it's politically incorrect. I mean, think about it--is anybody even allowed any more to found a society based on race and religion? Democracy, equality, and multicultural tolerance is the going thing, the world-approved plan, these days.

When extremist Jewish groups insist on forcing their settlements upon a wannabe Palestinian west-bank state, and when an Israeli government slowly but surely corners a whole group of indiginous people into second-class citizenship, the world brands the Israelis as racist, religious bigots. The people of Israel are going to have to decide if they want to remain a cultural entity that has successfully navigated through perilous environs for thousands of years--or are they going to actually take a chance on this nation-state democracy thing?

It's a very risky proposition, because the Palestinians will most likely, over time, outnumber the Jews in Israel and, given half a democratic chance, vote them out of power. And the Israelis know this. So political correctness is ultimately a losing strategy, and democracy will not fly in east and west Jerusalem. You might as well cast the notions of equality and brotherhood out to Gahenna.

I think they should just go back to the God thing. That's what their stubborn cousins, the Muslims, are doing. Mosaic Law and Shari'a will promulgate each other to death, until the grace of God doth move upon their holy blood-stained mountain.
Disclosure: My God is a Jewish carpenter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Robby's dream

From chapter 25 of Glass Chimera:

" Robby had a dream.

It was the hammer and sickle thing. Freedom verses Slavery: Embryos crying out for personhood, but being herded instead into chimeric concentration camps under glass, their chromatic hammers swinging with molecular blacksmithery, forging the plasmidic implements of a bogus new world.

Eggs of Women crying out for fertility and progeny, but instead being scythed into Auschwitzian abyss.

And he heard their singing:

Hmphh .. . Ah .. .Hmphh .. . Ah .. .

That’s the sound of the men working on the chain


That’s the sound of the men working on the chain


And he knew the grunts of thousands of men a-groanin’; he heard the songs of millions of women a-moanin’, giving birth. He heard the cries of their wounds, the pangs of their wombs. Slaves, they were. He heard them singing. Don’t ya hear Jerusalem moan? Don’t ya hear Jerusalem moan? No, it weren’t all voluntary. No, Virginia, it weren’t all voluntary. Hmphh .. . Ah .. . Hmphh .. . Ah .. . Pull that barge. Tote that bale. He saw the burlap cotton sacks dragged upon the ground. Hmphh .. . Ah .. . Hmphh .. . Ah .. . He heard Moses demanding of the pharaoh, Let my people go. He heard Moses demanding of the pharaoh, Let my people go. He heard America singing, follow the drinking gourd, follow the drinking gourd.

He saw the strong brown arm of Washington Jones pull his great grandfather from the flood that swirled about a faltering riverboat. He felt the loss of footing as the boat careened upon raging waters, felt the lurch as the boat hit the mama oak and came to a sloshing, creaking crashing halt.

He saw, beyond the torrential horizon, the sod ripped from prairies by oxen teams, and he heard their bellowing, the cracking of the whips as Herculean animals strained and primordial prairie grasses became torn, the black earth turning up its wormy, smarmy loam to be kissed by the sun and drenched by the spring rains, the winter snows, the corn’s roots, the wheat’s shoots. He heard America singing, strains of music born of the resolve of freedmen, homesteaders, pioneers, farmers, Scandinavians, Scotch, Irish, African, indentured to the soil, and to their hopes for promised land.

Oklahoma! He heard Oklahoma, thousands of homesteaders spread in expectation across the dawning prairie horizon, buckboard wagons, horses, mules in anticipation of that great sounding signal from Uncle Sam, brought forth beneath the billowing skirts of fertile farming women, freckle-faced children in the shaded wagons, oxen in the sun, horses on the run.

Freedom? Yes, some were free, but ‘t’weren’t all that sweat dripping into from free brows, Virginia. Much of it had come slitherin’ in wet slavery drops of toil and blood and tears.

He heard low, slow, insidious munching of the dreaded boll weevil, chomping into oblivion acres upon millions of acres of lily-white wads of forced servitude.

He heard, like God, innocent blood crying out from the ground.

He heard the clanking of chains, the clashing of cultures and civilizations. Can you hear the Cherokee moan? Can you hear the Chickasaw moan?. He felt the tearing of their platted cords, the stomping of their ancestral hordes. It was a mournful cry heard round the world.

He heard the low, slow voice of Willie’s embryonic call, Freedom!

He heard the high, spry response of Bo’s ironic refrain, Freedom! blasting forth in totipotent nuclear song. The strains were there, ringing in his dream, clear as a splitting bell, bringing forth the clarion knell. He knew he heard the song; then it was gone.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reggie, king of the Seattle saw

Daughter Katie was out in Seattle a few days ago, prowling around with her video camera. I was tagging along. We tapped into the mother lode of our world's most unique people when we met Reggie, king of the Seattle Saw.

Many years ago when the seasoned, dobro-playin' blues man first slid into his niche as a saw-singer, he had not yet attained the level of virtuosity that he has today. But in those early days he was excited about the saw and its unusual musical possibilities, so he got out on the street playing one anyway. He just couldn't wait. I know that feeling. I'm a little like Reggie in that regard--throwing my novels out at the marketplace kinda half-baked. I like his approach, anyway...

Reggie Miles has mastered the musical saw since those first days of inspired learning. You can see and hear for yourself the exquisite tenderness with which he draws the bow across his blade.

Two days ago, November 22, sitting in a quiet spot at Pike's Place Market, Reggie told us a few tales about his musical adventures. Back in those early days of learning the instrument, when he was playing on the street and still making a lot of "mistakes," he found himself lol whenever he'd hit a .wrong note. As it turned out, his good natured, roll-with-the-crosscuts demeanor prompted some listeners to laugh with him. He said they often had a "laughfest."

What a great attitude about life. We need more folks like him in America if we're gon' turn this ole wreck around.
"Saw ya later," said Reggie as we parted ways after a few fascinating hours with this unique artist of the springy steel.

Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I do cut off my ear, sir.

In a wintry afternoon on a busy Seattle street corner, the societal rules of conformity and how we collectively impose them are played out for all to see. You know the scene: Busy, bundled pedestrians scurry back and forth and all around. The steady grind of cars and buses goes and goes. It's late November.

Now here's one lonely man who decides to make his presence known. Casting his sudden voice outward with some obscure announcement, the man talks loudly to himself, but really you know he's addressing the world.

But guess what.
People hurry by and lower their eyes, or stare straight ahead. Don't make eye contact. We''ll have no exuberance here is what their silent stubborn plodding says to him. We'll permit no self-expressive outbursts here. We've got places to go, obviously, and people to see, but not to see, you know...thee. Let's just keep things as they are; we need to move along here.
And we all agree, you know--we, here on this corner: just shut up and let us stick to the plan here.
Still he persists; he erupts, seeks to disrupt.
What the guy is saying is not clear, but it seems to be something like: I am here! Do you hear me? Do you see me?
That is all he's really trying to say, don'tcha know.
The world wags on. Who cares? Not me, not thee, as we can see. It's half-past three.

Three miles from here in a birthing room, one little baby forces his way out of mommy's hips and plops into the world; Right out of the tunnel he's raising the waawaa voice so everyone can hear: I am here! Do you hear me? Do you see me? is all he's really trying to say. Who cares?

Well, I do. Lets give the kid a chance. Maybe he'll do better in this life than the fool on the hill, er...the corner. Maybe he'll learn how to make his own way, how to be responsible, and be pretty much like everyone else.
A big honkin' suv trundles by.
Or maybe he'll be, like, a Vincent van Go or something.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

on Death

Here in Seattle today, I heard the most potent gospel message within my memory.

Eugene Cho spoke of his first real encounter with death. It happened many years ago as he visited a dying person and that person's family in a hospital room. Finding himself suddenly seized with treacherous doubt--a moment in which he thought that this present existence might just be the very end of it all, he chose instead to believe Jesus' message of eternal life.

The power of that decisive moment in Cho's life, and his subsequent work to establish Quest, made a joyous impact on me today, and I thank God that my son Micah took me there to hear about it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Conserving $$

As a citizen of the USA, I try to stay informed on the issues of our day. Its part of the responsibility that we share for maintaining a democratic republic. Thomas Jefferson wrote long ago that an informed citizenry is essential to a functional democracy.

Now that the election dust has settled a bit, the Repubs are wanting to whip our Congress into some fiscal responsibility, and that is a good thing, within reason. The President had earlier set the groundwork for such a project, by appointing Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson to chair a commission to study possible strategies for balancing the budget, or at least getting the cumbersome wheels of congressional machinations turning in that direction.

I have been quite impressed with the Bowles/Simpson plan. I hope that the reps and senators can find a way to use it for our collective improvement. Their recommendations can be a good starting point for moving us toward timely austerity, which is important for the continuing health and functionality of our nation.

Now we hear of another plan that is set forth by Mr. Domenici and Ms. Rivlin, and it seems to have some promise, too. I'll not get into the details; I'll leave them for analysts more qualified than I to parse out the provisions therein.

But I couldn't help noticing right off the bat, this phrase "national sales tax."

Any sales tax is, of course, bad for business; so, on the face of it its the last thing we need in the present economic devolution. The repubs will not like it for that reason; the dems probably will disdain it because it hits the little guy, the everyman right in pocket every day.

On the other hand, that may be the optimum feature of a unversal sales tax: bearing the cost of fiscal responsibility is placed across the board, on everybody, every citizen. Maybe that's the way it should be, and its definitely something to consider. We're all in this democracy experiment together, and our way of governing freely is worth the sacrifice. I think what we have is better than, say, shari'a law or any other governmental alternative.

We can't put the hard medicine off forever, you know. We've got to settle on something, and do it.

Dems will complain that its the "the rich" who are at fault, and question why we should bale them out with our collective pocket change. Repubs will grouse about Barney Frank's culpability and Fannie Mae and all that old stuff.

But the time for pointing fingers is past. We, the citizens of the United States of America, as represented by our congressmen and our senators, need to act.

Whatever it takes to get this mess straightened out, let us-- as President Ford said 35 years ago--"bite the bullet," and get on with it.

I'm ready to do my part to get our financial house in order. Are you?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When I met Mr. Buckley

'T'was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea, that Cat Stevens sang "...I know that it's not easy, taking time...when you know something's going on..."
That's the way I feel right now. There is so much going on out there in the world--the real world, and the world of ideas, I hardly know where to start. I'm playing catch-up ball trying to figure it out.
For instance, I just found about Hayek. That's Friedrich Hayek, the fellow who was, during the 1930's, trying to divert the pump-priming impulses of John Maynard Keynes.
I still haven't read any of Mr. Hayek's work yet, but I have caught wind of it through an old aquaintance of mine, William F. Buckley. Thus have I found that there is an alternative way of viewing macroconomics out there, something that is a far cry from Keynesianism.

What if there were a million small pumps turning instead of one big one? That's the something that is "going on" that's got my valves lifting. But it is hard to do when you're holding down a 40-hour gig.

You see, in this free society we have a tendency to transfer the (as Mr. Buckley called them) heavy responsibilities of freedom to the government, instead of cherishing, and developing, those obligations among ourselves. We assign (as Mr. Hayek had earlier termed them) vague, extralawful mandates to people of political authority.
Mandates like, presumably, making sure everyone is fed and employed. But the state cannot effectively handle such grand philanthropies. Or--put it this way-- if the state (government) does try to handle all these responsibilities that free people should be willing to accept, the state ends up, over the long haul, robbing us of our freedoms in the process. Slowly they fall, one by one, to the wayside.

Think about this: which do you prefer? Freedom, or Security? Guess what. They cancel each other out. Well, maybe not totally; that's a long story and its a can of worms to boot. It does seem, though--and this is what I now discover has been "going on"--that Keynes and this guy Hayek were having this debate back in the '30s when all the detritus from the first great depression (as differentiated from the second great depression which we are now entering) hit the fan.

I was online listening, yesterday (Nov 12, 2010), to Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution interview Gary Becker, who was, I think, a founder along with Milton Friedman, of the "Chicago School" of economics, to which most of the elite media these days pay lip service but effectively disdain in their subliminal biases.
Mr. Robinson mentioned, as he spoke to Mr. Becker, Mr. Buckley's first book, God and Man at Yale. Mr. Robinson said that he had found therein that (something going on here) Buckley identifies the postwar economics faculty at Yale as the source of our indecipherable but constrictive drift toward erecting statist solutions against every societal problem instead of handling them ourselves as responsible citizens.

Well, when Peter Robinson mentioned William F. Buckley, that set me off on a trip down memory lane.
When I was a sophomore at Louisiana State University, I somehow managed to serve as chairperson for our student union National Speakers committee. My student boss, so to speak, was Tom Levitan, a fellow light years ahead of me in familiarity with the issues of our time, which was 1970-71. Tom served as Lyceum area coordinator. He used to toss around names like "Buckminster Fuller" and "Leonard Weinglass" as if they lived just down the hall in the dorm. I learned a lot from Tom that year.

One of the things Tom helped to do was recruit speakers during that school year. We brought in Dr. Spock and Dick Gregory. Even though I was relatively uninformed about everything that was "going on" at the time, I nevertheless introduced those two well-voiced gentlemen to the students and faculty who were present--maybe 1200 or so people in each case.
I remember Dr. Spock telling someone in a post-speech conversation that he had been recently heckled by some "Maoist girls," and laughing about it.
Funny what memories stick with you. And Dick Gregory wanted a bowl of fruit instead of a big meal. And of course, he, being a comedian before he was a serious voice in the cause of justice, made th audience laugh. In fact, he made a joke about me--probably something about how I obviously didn't know what the hell I was talking about when I introduced him. Anyway...

The Young Republicans, God bless 'em, started making noise afterward. They were protesting we had weighted our speaker selections totally toward the left. They were right (haha) or course. So I, being the Speakers chairman, told them that if they could get William F. Buckley on campus for us, we'd put him on. They retorted that they could, and so they did.
But I challenged them further than that. I had too. I had to tell them that we had (wouldn't ya know it) just about blown the budget on the liberal speakers, and if they wanted us to pay Mr. Buckley his usual, quite princely, fee, they'd have to come up with half the money.
They did and we did.
I'll have to say this about those Young Republicans, and their chapter President, Mike Connally. They were firm believers in their cause. Which is admirable, and quite different from the reaction that liberals would likely have shown; methinks they would have demanded more university money on the basis of unfair treatment.

So that's how I met Mr. William F. Buckley. Yet I was clueless at the time about the immense significance of his project to propel and redefine American conservatism. We got him at the airport. I remember talking to him in his hotel room as he tied a skinny tie around his neck. He was smiling, obviously very happy about the work he was doing.

And what he was doing--he was very good at it. Clueless as I was, I neverthless introduced him to the packed house. I remember he made the people laugh a lot, while delivering a very serious message about the power of the individual to make changes in him/her self and thus make changes in society.

One last thing: Now I'm trying to figure out how my intuitive conservatism squares with our emerging awareness of the need to save our fragile earth from destruction by us humans. I really think it has much to do with each person taking responsibility for whatever piece of it (large or small) is given to him/her. It hinges more on that, I believe, than what the EPA or the UN mandates about such things.

One more last thing: I offer a phrase from an old song, not the Cat Stevens one I mentioned in the first line above, but a line from a favorite singer who is, like me, originally a Baton Rouge boy, Stephen Stills, who had sung in 1967..."There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear..."
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quantitative Slipping to Monetizing Sliding

I just read a very lucid explanation of what's going on with the money.
Chris Martenson, posting on Seeking, explains clearly how the Federal Reserve's QE2 maneuver amounts to printing money to pay off our accumulated financial obligations.It's what economists call "monetizing the debt." He distinguishes between QE1, that was designed to bring the banks back to functionality, and this new QE2, which will be funneled mostly "to the government."

He points out there is a difference between our Fed's strategy for handling this problem and the strategy that the UK has adopted. The Brits have chosen fiscal austerity, while we have opted for monetizing, or printing money, that can then be passed around as if it had value. Maybe it does have value, but for how long?
It seems our English allies across the pond have chosen to begin facing the consequences of their credit binge, while we continue to roll ours over to next month's charge. Furthermore, Mr. Sarcozy, in France, has also figured out that you can't put off public debt obligations forever, and he is willing to pay the political price for his belt-tightening policies. Its too bad if our government, both executive and legislative, doesn't move in a similarly responsible direction. Maybe with these new recommendations from Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson, we will. Ha! We shall keep an eye on them.
Meanwhile, across the globe the response from other G-20 governments, most notably Germany, Brazil and China, is decidedly negative and critical about this second phase of quantitative easing. Understandably so. We're refusing to play by the common rules that mankinds has established.On th other hand, the nation of India, God bless ' em, doesn't seem to mind what we're doing. I guess its helpful to have at least one friend who is willing to look the other way while we further leverage our irresponsible lifestyle into the stratosphere of unprecedented deficiting.

Mr. Chris Martenson, mentioned above, whose explanation of these developments is readily understandable to this regular guy (me), had predicted three years ago that something like this would happen. He says that he has made prior provision for the dire circumstance by investing in gold and silver. And yes, we've heard in these last few months that many others are doing the same, looking for a safe place to park their assets in this peculiarly precarious era of pecuniary peril. Meanwhile, the Krugman crowd wonders what these doomsday hedgers appreciate about gold. They will learn that inconvenient lesson soon enough.

But what about me? What strategy do I, the little guy, the average citizen, employ to protect my minimal nestegg against the ravages of fiscal meltdown that lie ahead?
Jesus loves me, this I know.

You think I'm naive?
I survey our contemporary culture of criticism and surmise that the really smart people of our evolved society wonder why so many of us "working class" folks insist in believing in God when its been proven several times over that he doesn't exist.
Well, for one thing: we have no choice. In the end, God is all we have as our hedge against Social Security insolvency or some such calamity, which could include another economic meltdown, or it could be, simply enough, death itself. The big one will catch up with every one of us sooner or later.
But hey, I'm making a few provisions too. They aint in gold, though, because I cant swing the $1400 per ounce. Well, that's not the only reason; I could probably come up with the one and half grand if I had to.
My measures started thirty years ago when we drove stakes in the ground and settled our family in this small city of Appalachia. Its here, on a north slope, two miles from town, we'll be leaning on the productivity and goodwill of those old friends and and neighbors with whom we now find ourselves ensconced in the golden years of life. So that's our gold. What's yours?

Oh, btw, one parting thrust of (probably) futile protest. For our Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner, to accuse the Chinese of currency manipulation while we continue to kite rubber checks around the world is blatant hypocrisy. Furthermore, for our Congress to prove its impotence by failing to at least address the problem is courting disaster. We've devolved from having the best government money can buy to having the worst.
And another thing. (OK, maybe this is two parting shots:) If Congress is unable to act decisively upon the recommendations offered by Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson, then the time has finally come to stuff some of those Federal Reserve notes in the old mattress, like great grampa and granma did back in the former times. Stash those greenbacks for January when we might need a fire or two in the wood stove.

But just for the record, I'm still willing, as a citizen of the United States of America, to ante up a little of whatever it takes to get us out of this predicament. Are you?
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No quick fixes for us

If our crisis is really, as most folks are saying, about jobs, then we are destined, I hates to tell ya Buckwheat, for yet another rude awakening. Over the next two years we'll come face to face with the rude discovery that Repubs are just as clueless about quick-fixes for employment as the Dems have turned out to be.

The tea party crowd is strong on individual liberty and empowering the people to control their government instead of the other way around. That's good. But their policies of dispersed government and free enterprise will take years to produce benefits under the present conditions of catastrophic economic rearrangement. Capitalism, having been usurped by derivative-wielding uber-speculators, has crashed. It will have to be reinvented at the grassroots level by We the People to reflect the enterprising improvisations of a desperate populace who would otherwise find themselves tyrranized by a very strong current toward 21st-century statism.

Democrats are now dazed with deer in the headlights shock over the sudden dissolution of their overzealous progressive mandate; they are being herded, temporarily, into a dunce corner until we collectively discover that the Repubs don't have any effective quick-fixes for putting folks back to work either.

A year or two from now when the Repubs are shown to be equally clueless at blood-from-a-turnip employment schemes, maybe we'll begin to face our real economic problem.

Which is?...

We're not manufacturing much stuff any more, because folks in the developing world can make everything so much cheaper. Like it or not, that's what has happened, and will be happening for the next century or so, if our planet sustains us for that long.

Consequently, we are going to have find something else to do in America to keep ourselves busy, housed and fed.

And what might that busyness be?

We could start by cultivating food again, locally. That's what we started out doing several hundred years ago. And we were pretty dam good at it too. Production of healthy food needs to be our once-and-future emerging industry; at least that way most folks will have something to eat while they renegotiate their mortgages. Those expansive suburban backyards will have to take on a decidedly agricultural character, instead of the keep up with the Joneses lawn-yawn vanity that has castrated their productive use for the last sixty years.

It's hard work, though. Ask the Mexicans who've been doing that gathersome labor for us for the last few decades. Maybe we'll sweat off a few obese pounds, though, as we learn once again about the true meaning of the phrase "back to work."

When we get too pooped with farming in the back .40, we can take a break, head for the garage, and tinker for a while with solar collectors, windmills and battery-powered soapbox derby cruisers. That's the true meaning of power to the people in this era of peak oil perkitude.
You think I'm kiddin'? Well, maybe a little bit.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Work together.

Ask not what you can do for your party, but what, together, can we do for the people of these States United.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Musings on Natural Capital

Have you noticed this truth about life? We live in a hostile world.

From our studies of history, and from our common experience, we discover a truth that is quite unwelcome: we live constantly and seemingly forever in enmity with each other and with the earth.

In ancient times, homo sapiens encountered natural enemies that had evolved in the planetary ecosystem. Poisonous snakes slithered beneath our feet, requiring us to look down, even as predatory carnivores stalked us from above. Furthermore, even if such an environment were not perilous enough to keep the hair on the back of our necks regularly raised with alarm, we encountered craftier dangers from our fellow humans. Something about the species itself seems to have encoded enmity among men.

Some men/women managed to band together in tribes or bands in order to collectively resist the numerous threats presented by existence on this earth. By collaborating, people could gather more life-sustaining resources, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Also by working in community, folks could more effectively overcome those beastly enemies lurking in the jungle, and those tribal ones in the next valley.

Your worldview may be defined by a revelation of Edenic origins, or maybe it is constructed around a principle of biologic evolution. I do not consider those two philosophies as necessarily contradictory. What some folks call irrationality, and some folks call heresy, I may call cognitive dissonance. Life is full of contradictions, and I can’t comprehend them all, so I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, even if I don’t agree with it.

Nevertheless, there has to be some basis of agreement, n’est ce pas? Otherwise we have no foundation for civilization itself. Folks have to agree on something, otherwise the tiger creeps from behind while we are trying to decide what to do, and he’ll pounce on us before we can say strategy—or if not the tiger, the lion or the dragon.

Or the tsunami, or the hurricane, or the toxic oilspill, or the toxic assets. Danger is all over the damned place. No way around it, no matter how much we civilize ourselves.

I suspect that in former times, people did a lot more acting than they did thinking, and that’s how they managed to get so much work done.

Or is it the other way around?

Oh, but I digress toward indeterminable speculations on the origins of our species, and the descent of man to whatever this is that we have on planet earth today. What I really want to write about is this phrase I heard a couple days ago: natural capital.

Our post-industrial revelation, or deduction--whatever you want to call it-- brings us to a juncture where we discover the absolute necessity of conserving the earth itself . (Call me a conservative if you like; I don’t care.) Even as we gathered its produce in the earliest times in order to sustain life and initiate civilization, we were being conservationists. Now, the global challenge of modern existence requires to get off our financial assets and start considering the earth itself as our most valuable capital--flora and fauna and elements and all of it.

The continuance of civilization itself will require conservancy (to use an appropriately contemporary word) and stewardship (the biblical word).

Can we rise to the task?

Yes, we can, if the North Koreans don’t nuke us to death, or the Iranians don’t jihad us to death, or the Israelis don’t irk us to death, or the Chinese don’t pollute us to death, or the Russians don’t vodka us to death, or Hugo doesn’t talk us to death, or rolling stone doesn’t amoralize us to death or tv doesn’t opiate us to death or the Americans don’t drone us to death.

Yes, we can!

Yes, I have my hand up. And I’d just like to say, Nuala, that the beginnings of civilization originate, parabolically speaking, in families—Adam, Eve, etc., when he looked at her and said woohoo! and nine months later out slithered little Cain. Later on Abel popped out, and there you have all in one family what you need to know about the origins of human bondage.

Oh there was a poisonous snake involved too.

Human experience has always been that way, always will. Many may say that concepts or ideologies of ethnic identity, nationhood, or the hope of world peace (it takes a village, you know) can supplant the family urge. But our DNA is strong and stubborn and built solidly upon the double helix of family procreation, and I like it that way.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Axworthy facts about Iran

Here a just a few knowledge points gathered from reading Michael Axworthy's A History of Iran (2008, Basic/Perseus):
~One hundred and four years ago this month, the first national assembly of Iran, the Majles, convened in Teheran with 156 members.
~The Majles was representing the Iranian people amidst conflicting British and Russian hegemonies in the Iranian/Turkish region.
~The Majles assembly adopted a constitution, the first such document to be successfully adopted and implemented (after an meager Turkish attempt)by any middle eastern country.
~Reza Khan,a young military commander of humble origins, emerged between British military oversight and growing Iranian populism, as commander of the Iranian army.
~The government of the reigning monarch Ahmad Shah had bungled an unpopular deal with the British. Commander Reza Khan, with the Iranian army and the Majles assembly, wrested control of government from Ahmad Shah in 1921, ending two millenia of royal Persian dynasties.
~Reza Khan took the name Pahlavi, an ancient Persian language of pre-Islamic times. The Majles crowned him as the new Shah of Iran in 1926.
~In the late 1920's Sha Reza Pahlavi negotitated a deal with the British for development of Iranian oil resources. The agreement provided that Iran would receive 16% of the oil profits.
~By popular demand, the Shah renegotiated the deal with the Brits a decade or so later. The Iranian share of profits was raised to 20%.
~After World War II, the Shah brandished his expanding authoritarian rule toward his people and his growing appetite for oil revenue. A newly-negotiated resolution of oil interests with the Brits produced a 50% deal for the Iranians.
~In 1954, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company changed its name to British Petroleum.

~After 54 years of increasingly opulent and oppressive rule by the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Shah's son Mohammed Reza Shah was overthrown in the Islamic revolution of 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini focused seething Shi'a discontent against the Shah's westernizing secularism and moral decadence. Under his remote leadership, the mullahs established a republic based on Islam and sharia law, instead of European/American machinations of governance, exploitation, and moral devolution. They ran the Brits and Americans out.

So I'm thinking that now the Iranians get, presumably, 100% of the profits from their oil production, along with the legalistic priveleges of living in an allahcracy. I think their ulemic leaders are convinced that the rest of the Muslim world should awaken to the superior wisdom of Shi'a leadership, along with Persian administration of precious hydrocarbon resources that should be kept out of infidel hands.
Imam Hosein, in his grave since 680 c.e., would be pleased, and may roll over with joyful anticipation of what is to happen next.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Well, what needs to be done?
Take a look around.
You may be living in a house.
What needs to be done?
Perhaps you're in an apartment.
What needs to be done?
Or maybe you live in a cardboard box.
What needs to be done?
Your residence could be in a city,
or your domicile in a town.
You might be dwelling a village, in a hamlet, or a home.
What needs to be done?
Do it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thanks for tryin', Juan

Thanks to Juan Williams for attempting to stand in the gap for our nation. I appreciate your representing the left to right and the right to the left. It’s souls like you that Willie and Waylon were singing about when they belted out the old tune, Angels, flying too close the ground.
In this case it was truthspeaker, commenting too close to the disappearing middle ground. I will miss your voice, Juan, on NPR, and don’t know when I’ll ever hear it again, since I don’t have a tv. God bless you in whatever step you take next.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

God's two-party system

Most folks who found their faith in the Good Book don't realize that David, the second king of ancient Israel, lived and fought with the Philistines for a year and four months.

Saul, the first king, had started his reign pretty well, but had become quite obstinate and paranoid as time passed. Samuel the prophet,who had anointed him as Israelite leader, ultimately regretted that he had ever done so. Saul had failed to understand what was his true role as king.

Furthermore, the defeat of superbad dude Goliath by the young buck David ensured, in the people's eyes, the shepherd's destiny as future king. David's bold public beheading of the giant and subsequent enabling of Israelite victory had been accomplished through God's appointment. Samuel had already anointed him. Of course, David's own skill with a sling--that he had perfected while herding sheep and minding his own business--had something to do with that victorious event too.

So that's a chicken-or-egg conundrum that no one can fathom, although you can try to if you want to read about it in the book of 1Samuel. Israel had two anointed kings at the same time. Go figure that one out. We believers in the Bible know that "God knows what he's doing." And so he does. Could this situation have been a foreshadowing of the two-party system?, the advantages from which we now benefit?. Not like the current Chinese model with only one party calling all the shots.

Our lesson from biblical history is that God does not approve absolute authority among men. Saul's problems began, appropriately, when he had failed to acknowledge the limits of his own power; he had usurped the priestly (Samuel's) function when he should have stuck to politics and military affairs. So God raised up another leader--one who was more responsive to the people's needs. For years, Saul and David were contending with each other, even as they spoke in politically correct platitudes toward one another. Ultimately, David's unselfish humility won out.

Even after the whole Saul/David/Soloman era had passed, the Israelites ending up with feuding factions led by Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

Many folks of our religious persuasion these days support the Israeli regime unquestionably--"Israel, right or wrong." It's not unlike supporting the US in all its worldly ventures with claims of "my country, right or wrong." They should read their Bible a little more closely. If Saul's obstinate jealousy had driven David out of the Israelite camp, forcing him to side with the Philistines (Palestinians), then what does it mean that Israel's greatest king had to spend almost a year and a half in hiding? And hanging out with the other side, for God's sake!

In today's scenario, could those pacifist elements of Israeli society be forming, during their season as minority party, a future effective reconciliation with Palestinians while the old Likud warhorses grind their axes of apartheid, checkpoint-monitored, wall-building westbank/Gaza oppression?

We shall see. There's a lot to be said for this minority party/majority party setup that we adopted a couple centuries ago. We've been doing it here in the USA for about 230 years now, and it works. Or, it has until now anyway. I hope our system of built-in political cleansing is not degenerating into partisan bickery that ultimately lands us in a pile of fiscal shit.

And I hope the Israelis can work out their differences with the Palestinians whose ancestors had provided their real estate.

Shalom, y'all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mr. Mondale, Roosevelt and Reagan

Walter Mondale tells a story about FDR’s funeral that sharpens our understanding of what it means to be a liberal:
In the spring of 1945, President Roosevelt’s body was being taken from Georgia to Washington on a train. Thousands of Americans cherished the President’s legacy with expressions of respect and mourning as they stood in memoriam near the train tracks and in stations along the way.
Former Vice-president Mondale tells Diane that one such man was asked if he had known the deceased President. The man replied that no, he did not know Mr. Roosevelt, but, the man volunteered: “He knew me.”
A characteristic of great leadership is surely that those who are governed feel a respectful affection along with political and patriotic identification with the leader. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had served Americans in the oval office for twelve years, through a long economic depression and a world war. Americans’ love and fond recall of him were, no doubt, deeply heartfelt on a national magnitude, most acutely on that mournful day in 1945.
Mr. Mondale mentioned the mourner’s response to FDR’s last solemn journey to our capital city. Then he added an eloquent statement that Americans need to know that their President is looking out for them, and holding their best interests at the forefront of his mind, his actions and policies.

Therein, we catch a glimpse of the difference between a liberal and a conservative. Conservatives don’t generally have that need,
or they do not cultivate it, to view the President as some benevolent provider; they would rather do things on their own without the government’s meddling, thank you.
Most conservatives these days will tell you that the President’s job is to keep the government out of the way, so that enterprising, self-sufficient folks can exercise their freedoms without regulatory interference. It’s not the President’s job–not his government’s job either– to give us the warm fuzzies or make sure we are all well cared for. We have dads for that, and God, thank you very much.

So there you have the main difference between conservatives and liberals, aka Democrats and Republicans.
Nevertheless, I must disclose that this Republican would more likely be moved to tears at Mr. Roosevelt’s immense contribution toward our national well-being, than, say, anything that Mr. Reagan did.
Except when he told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down that wall.
That tearing down the wall thing really tears me up.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

RNA developments

Back in 1953, scientists James Watson and Francis Crick figured out that the DNA molecule was composed of millions of little paired chemical connections called nucleotides. The nucleotides were like rungs of a ladder that held together two vastly long strands of phosphate-sugar.
But the ladder of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is not straight and rigid like you would think of a ladder. It's a twisty, floppy thing that spirals ever onward as it develops. It's a kind of spiral staircase upon which life has ascended from one phase to another over the last few millions or billions of years.
As the DNA double-helix molecule evolves, it keeps flopping over on itself, like a pile of spaghetti, because that's the only thing it can do in its confined little nucleus world.
But I'm not here to tell you about a can of worms or a pile of spaghetti. What fascinates me at this moment is the article I just read in The Scientist magazine by Dr.Anna Maria Pyle.

Dr. Pyle wrote about RNA in the September issue. RNA is a complex molecule similar to DNA. It's only half as wide, so to speak, being a single strand instead of double. It lollygags around the nucleus and unzips DNA down the middle, to assist the DNA in its replication and its mutagenic experiments . So thanks to RNA, life goes on, and it keeps changing as it goes.
Or at least that's my understanding of it so far. Of course the whole dam thing is much more complicated than that. Like I said, it's a can of worms, or a pile of spaghetti.
Dr. Pyle, though, along with other chemists, microbiologists and God-knows-what-all-ists across the world, are conducting work beneath their electron microscopes to unravel those piles of nucleic material and make some sense of their workings. I say "make some sense," meaning that they seek to explain the intricate processes of life that take place within the genomes. The DNAs and RNAs already make sense, being endowed as they are by their creator with certain inalienable characteristics, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of chromosomes.

Her September report expands our understanding of how RNA (ribonucleic acid) folds, and how it serves as a scaffold and facilitator in the cell environment. Dr. Pyle writes: "...there is a time in the life of every cell when even the most important RNA has to be refolded, disassembled or recycled so that something new can happen."

So, its somewhat like human politics. In the microcosm and the microcosm, pretty much the same thing is going on everywhere.
But I digress. Getting back to the nuclear heart of the matter, Watson and Crick had discovered that DNA strands were held together by paired nucleotides, those rungs of the ladder I mentioned earlier. What scientists are finding now is that there are other ways (besides the G,A,T, and C ladder-rung links) that the DNAs and RNAs can hook up in new combinations; they can connect by crossings with the long vertical (sugar-phosphate) strands as well.

Dr. Pyle writes in her September report about "genetic elements that jump around, copying and inserting themselves into new genomic locations and new hosts. Through this process, they bring new genes with them, or they chop up long genes into multiple pieces that can be used in various combinations, potentially leading to great diversity of expressed protein types..."

A very expressive chain of events, is this thing we call Life.

In other news, I have been wondering for a while now about the so-called "junk DNA" that constitutes most of our human genome. Its all the genetic material that they haven't figured out yet what it does. Although Dr. Anna Maria Pyle does not mention junk DNA, she does make this curious statement at the end of her article:

"We now know from the human genome project and from studies of the "transcriptome" that the vast majority of our DNA does not encode proteins at all; rather, it encodes RNA. RNA is far more important in biology than any of us imagined even five years ago."

I thought so too.
I have fictionalized, and personified, some of these adventurous RNA expeditions in my new novel, Glass Chimera, a story that includes a subnucleic tale about Cap'n Dean Gene and his crew of amino-angling sailors aboard the HMS RuNAbout. In my episode, Cap'n Dean takes on a cocky new recruit named Henry Globin, as they're cruising around inside the antagonist's (a guy named Mick) body. Imagine that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Liu Xiaobo, a great man

I'm hoping and praying that the Nobel committee will award this year's peace prize to Liu Xiaobo.

Born in 1955 in China, he is a man whose childhood fell within those tumultuous years now referred to, simplistically, as the Cultural Revolution.
In this very informative interview, he describes how Mao's intensely ideological manipulation of Chinese society had resulted, by the mid-70s, in a nation of hard-working people who were exhausted, and battle-weary of the decades-long, cadre-imposed struggle for equality. Not only that, but far too many folks were, by the time of that crossroads in CCP experimentation, pretty damn hungry.

Mao Zedong, with his cadres of revolutionary peasant devotees, had imposed a huge, bloody, traumatic Marxist rearrangement of the Middle Kingdom of Asia. His zealous communists had violently wrested the empire from a chaotic, prolonged civil war that had followed the downfall of the Qing dynasty in 1911. After the 1949 Revolution's first eighteen years of changes had been wrought, Mao the peasant-genius architect of the whole damn thing passed from this world.

In 1976, a master politician/statesman named Deng Xiaoping managed to get hold of the reins of power that the deceased revolutionary dictator had previously held. Deng was able to redirect the energy and resourcefulness of the Chinese people away from the logistical dead-ends upon which fanatical communist ideology had dropped them. He initiated reforms that have since lead to China's becoming the economic powerhouse that we see on the world stage today. China's painful nationwide imposition of communism had been revolutionary and violent. But from the time of Deng's reforms in the l970s, "gradualism," (a term used by Mr. Liu) has been the order of the day. The people of China needed a break from perpetual revolution. Deng lead them along a kinder, gentler path of prosperity-seeking.

Several years ago, we had a young Chinese student dining at our kitchen table. He told me "Deng Xiaoping was a great man." At the time I did not understand what he meant. How could any communist be great? But the impact of any man's life on his people and the wide world must be evaluated in the context of the society in which he was born and to which he devoted his life. My conclusion since that conversation has been that, yes, Deng Xiaoping was a great man. If it were not for him, China would not be in the position of strength, and greater freedom, that she enjoys today.

Now we see another great man of China on the world stage, Liu Xiaobo. He is also a reformer; he has taken on, along with many comrades, the next agenda item for Chinese improvement. It is a weighty burden--the injustices of one-party oligarchy and disregard for human rights. In that capacity, he is a co-author and signer of the Charter 08 manifesto, for which he was arrested, and is still imprisoned.

May the Nobel Committee have the courage to reward his life's work.
Invest some time in the cause of liberty by reading this transcript, provided by New River Media in 2005, of a Columbia University interviewer's discussion with Liu Xiaobo. You will gain, as I did, some fuller comprehension of those momentous, though quite tragic, events in the China of our lifetime.

Finally, I'm posing our Mystery Question of the Day: What was the "family contract plan, or family responsibility plan," which brought greater productivity to the Chinese enforced agricultural collectives of the late l950s-early '60s?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

the China Syndrome, 2010 version

I encountered Today's Mystery Question in a comment by Ken E. Zen, following the Economist's analysis and discussion of Paul Krugman's call for trade protectionism.

The Mystery Question is:

"How much of our Sovereign debt is being bought by China or simply reprocessed through the Federal Reserve?"

I must mention, though, that the runner up for Mystery profundity was signalled by an earlier commenter, rewt66, when he brought up the ages-old tragi-comic conundrum of human activity: Unintended Consequences?.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today's Mystery Question

Today's Mystery Question is:
Do you know what this is?

"basehitz" says:

"Signs of manipulation are everywhere.
"Example: My live trading screen provides 1 second resolution. Monitoring with volume is the key. When I’m looking for what the puppet masters “want” the market to do, I watch SPY. I have repeatedly observed this sequence:
• Bad economic data is released.
• Market plunges 1%+.
• Some minutes pass.
• If the fall pauses, an unusually high spike in SPY begins the reverse. The volume spike might be 250,000+ shares. That’s $25M spent in < 1 sec.
• A few minutes passes, another jolt follows.
• This process is repeated until the move back up starts. The algo-ramp bots are then in control and day traders chase it.
• Subsequent retracements are “allowed”, but not enough to disrupt the trend. More buy orders jolt the index higher again. In some cases, repeated jolts are fired.
• You can almost watch them “engineer” the turnaround and ramp."



The Prez and Mr. Wen

I can just imagine what our President must have been saying, in advance apologeia, to the Chinese premier last week:

S0 sorry, Mr. Wen. Our unruly House of Representatives is liable to do anything in these present dire circumstances. They're like a herd of wounded buffalo that's been cornered in a canyon by a bunch of emerging nation cowboys. No tellin' what they'll do. We're a democracy, you know. The reps are sensitive to their constituents, we the people and all that. We're not like you guys in China, with your micromanaging number-crunchin' CCP bureaucrats who get everything figured out and then tweak the economic engines with a spurt here and a spot-check there.

No, we're a wild bunch, especially those guys and gals in the house. They're liable to do any desperado thing to save their asses in this election year.
I understand what you guys are going through over there. Hey, we were doin' the same thing a hundred years ago, expanding like crazy. Hell, I've heard about Pudong in the last twenty years or so, like our Los Angeles was back in the heyday...

Our folks are runnin' scared; they need to figure out how to start making stuff again and selling it to each other instead of buying so much from you guys, but try to tell 'em that when they're down at walmart looking to save a buck...a devalued buck. Hey, speaking of devaluation, you might want to think about propping up your yuan a little bit to give us a fightin' chance before this thing blows up in our faces.
I mean, you guys can do a turnaround, right? Look at what Deng did back in the 80s after the big guy kicked the bucket.
Bottom line, Mr. Wen, is give us a break, will ya?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Now our last day's just begun,

our revolution's surely won,

no need for knife or gun,

'cause the ancient anointed one

hath finished work that's long been done.


Oh you daughter and you son,

for our time is just begun,

and our race already won,

though yet we run.

Is it fun?

A ton.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

From ridiculous genetics to the sublime

Yesterday, I was repairing someone's front door. While cutting a piece of wood, I realized for the nteenth time just how close we are to the cutting edge of genetic engineering that will ultimately rearrange our living world. This particular flash of insight lit up my neurons as I was listening to Paul Raeburn while he interviewed Dr. Leonard Fleck on NPR's Science Friday

Dr. Fleck was filling us in on personalized medical treatments, which will be a large part of standard health care practice in our future world. But there are some problems associated with this genetic-research-enabled strategy, don't ya know, and if its anything like the practice of medicine generally its as complex as a can of microbial worms.

He was talking about cost-effective treatments, and how genetic identifications can improve our chances of customizing specific treatments for specific patients based on their DNA. In that connection, he was explaining cost-effective numbers, which are evaluations of dollars spent to extend life and/or improve quality of life for sick people. In some ways, this new technology will narrow treatment choices for some patients while broadening them for others. It will solve some problems while presenting more difficult decisions for health professionals and families whose financial resources are, your guessed it, quite limited.

So here's Dr. Fleck talking on the radio, educating us about hard treatment decisions that will have to be made by governmental and insurance evaluators. Some politicians have called such committees, erroneously, "death panels."
These are teams of medical personnel who have to decide what is the best use of public money, or insurance funds. They'll be dealing with questions, all day long every day of the year, like: Should we turn loose this $80,000 so Joe Blow can live for another ten years, or should we send it to John Doe's account so he can can live another ten months? Thorny stuff like that. Not easy appropriations to disburse, but there is only so much much money to go around.

Nevertheless, scientific exploration of the human genome is, these days, unwinding a path of data that will enable medical professionals to make better informed decisions about these investments in ongoing life.

But yesterday, while I was installing a door, and listening to this discussion on the radio... from the ridiculous to the sublime--that's what I was experiencing, because, you see, before guest host Paul Raeburn interviewed Dr. Fleck about these life and death matters, which was in the second hour of the broadcast, he had been talking to Jon Cohen in the first half of the show about genetic research of a different stripe--mating humans with chimpanzees.

I'm serious as a monkey with a crescent wrench, y'all. The first hour of the program had featured a discussion about the genomic differences between humans and chimpanzees. Genetically speaking, the differences are quite insignificant, according to Jon Cohen. He did mention, though, that "there's something really different about us...(humans). Something much more profound than the 1% difference in genes, is what I say. Call me a neanderthal; I don't care.

Anyway, part of their discussion touched, bizarrely, on insemination experiments that were made in 1929 by a Russian biologist named Ilya Ivanovich Ivanaov, who tried to impregnate three female chimps with human sperm. (whose?)
I was relieved to hear that Ivanov's early venture into in vitro fertilization did not work; none of the humans sperms found their fertility-seeking bliss in the ape ova. Thank God it didn't work. Or at least, we haven't seen any evidence of such a creature being yet born into the world, except maybe the president of Persia. Just kidding.

Suffice it to say that if Ivanov's seminal experiments 81 years ago had worked, and a humanzee had been brought into the world, it would have been one small step backwards for man, one giant regressive leap (from one branch of human descent to another) for mankind...and most assuredly a dumbing down of our homo sapiens gene pool.
thank God we've come a long way in genetic research since those first days of darkly experimental laboratory shenanigans, or at least I hope we have. We shall see; the proof is in the (gene) pooling.