Monday, October 20, 2008

FAREWELL – One Last Blog

Regular readers will know that I have been absent from this space for about two weeks. There have been many and varied reasons for that absence, but the latest was the best.

I just got back last night from a four day soul-feast on the autumnal beauty of our Ozark streams. It was a constant reverie; a spirit lifting sip of nature’s nectar; and an exercise in cooperative effort that was as beautiful to behold as the grandeur of the surroundings.

We were an unusual group in many ways – a core group of three who work together appended a fourth who volunteers at their workplace, and by a fifth, known to one of the core through his church. The six and seventh members of our group are related to one of the core by marriage. The point being that many of us were new to one another – not a guaranteed formula for serendipity.

Another unlikely piece of the formula was our ages. We ranged in age from 15 to 65 with the ages 19, 25, 27, 28 and 42 spanning the middle. We also varied widely in our religious preferences – from devout fundamentalist to dedicated agnostic. And yet the central focus of this story is the way we meshed rather than conflicted.

Those who have spent some time camping and floating will know that trips like this can be completely undone by conflicts – no matter the cause. But this group allowed no possibility of such a thing happening. The nineteen year old was there because his little brother really wanted to go, but was obligated to play through the semi-finals of a basketball tournament that didn’t end until late the first night of the trip. Instead of letting his brother miss the trip, Ben left college, then drove an hour to pick Tommy up and bring him to the campsite. They arrived around midnight, bringing with them the spirit of giving and sacrifice that characterized the trip.

It was two days of boys being men and the men being boys. It was caring spirits at play. When it came time to fish, those in their twenties were in the water first, fly-rods swinging in the rhythm of the stream, catching and always releasing the beautiful trout they landed one after another after another; shouting back in forth with gleeful voices filled with awe for the beauty and wonder of their natural surroundings.

The boys weren’t as well equipped for fishing, but there was no sullen pouting. They spent most of their time together exploring the caves, bluffs and gravel bars along the way. At one point I spotted Ben casting from their canoe enabled by Tommy sitting on a large rock holding the canoe’s painter so that the boat was in an ideal fishing position. Earlier, Mike and Kyle had collaborated on a method of teaching this old man a couple of new tricks on line control and before that I had spent a little time with Pete helping him to understand how current carries food and why trout lie where they do. Meanwhile, Matt was quietly observing and enjoying and doing many small things to support the pleasure and well-being of the entire group.

It was people – in love with their surroundings and ultimately with one another -- each making sure that all were comfortable, all were enjoying themselves and each received some recognition and thanks for his contribution. It was men – unafraid of showing caring feelings for nature and for each other. It was boys – no matter whether 15 or 65 years old – at play in the midst of nature’s abundance.

The camp chores were shared – not by dint of lists of who’s responsible for what – but by the fact that whenever a need for something became apparent someone – anyone – would step up and take care of it. The evening meal, for instance, was a fine repast featuring fried river-caught catfish, grilled burgers, hush puppies, and cinnamon rolls hot from the dutch oven all cooked over the coals of an open wood campfire. Afterward, when you’d expect to see a couple boys lolling around in a sated stupor, the first thing I noticed was a fifteen year old washing dishes. No one had told him to do it. No one had even asked who was going to do it. He just did it.

In the heat of the afternoon, when we took a break from fishing (Kyle had slipped down to the riffle below camp and caught 20 to 30 fish single-handedly!), we gathered on the gravel bar to sit in the shade, sip a cold drink, weave cordage from some dogbane Kyle had brought along, and tell fish stories. We had a few less chairs than people, but I noticed that no matter what the activity there always seemed to be a vacant chair so that the old man could have one whenever he wanted it. Again, nobody said anything, but it was apparent that this caring sharing was a part of the group’s unspoken protocol.

There were plenty of occasions to laugh. We laughed at each other’s gaffes. We poked fun at one another. We laughed at each other’s stories, and, most and best of all, we laughed together. We laughed mightily over my fall into the North Fork River two days before this trip began. When I lost my balance again over the campfire on the Eleven Point River gravel bar that was our final home on the journey, we laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks. The guy that laughed longest and most in concert with me that time was fifteen year old Tommy.

We laughed at one fellow’s flatulence; we laughed at another’s fastidiousness; and we laughed just with the joy of our surroundings and the pleasure of one another’s company.

We shared solemn moments, too – stories of past trips and old friends now gone. It was a group who listened raptly to quoted verses of song or poetry and nodded in serious contemplation in response to one another’s deeper thoughts. We shared songs. We shared stories. We shared a deep feeling of well-being, and we definitely shared a love and heart-felt respect for the woods, streams and wildlife which we had come to visit.

And, ultimately we shared individually in one-on-one moments and collectively as a group, a feeling that no matter what happened we could count on one another. That as long as everything was going well we could laugh, but that the moment a more serious need arose, someone would be there to meet it. We looked at one another across that campfire and bonded in the way, I suppose, that people have done since the first caveman figured out how to make a fire, and we realized that our fire was warming more than our bodies; that our hearts and spirits were being warmed, too, by the heat of the fire and by the warm glow of our companionship.

Ultimately, it led me to conclude that for the past few years, while I have been putting so much energy into my anti-war and anti-governmental degradation campaigns, I have been focused too strongly on negativity. And so I am writing this by way of notice that I am going to give myself over to more positive pursuits.

My career as a political blogger is over. I will no longer start my day – every day – finding something to write about in the political sphere. I will let those little people with their huge egos and their bulging bank accounts run this country into the ground as best they can without a comment, a whimper or an essay from this corner.

I will read the news and moan and groan and laugh with my dear Roberta every morning about it, but I will no longer spend an hour or so every day writing about it in this space.

So, my friends, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart if you have been following my thoughts here over the past couple of years and I want to reassure you that I will continue to care as deeply as I always have about your well-being and that of our society. But one of the great realizations I came to during the last four days was that experiences like that trip are of much greater importance to me than the bloviations of world “leaders” and that I, having so far used up more than six decades of my allotted years, would do better to seek out more of what last week-end’s respite from the world of politics offered than to delve into more what the "news" world offers.

I only have one more decade or at best two in which to enjoy the fruits of the natural world so in the future if you want my opinion on what the government is up to, you may have to come outdoors and find me. And whether I will have heard “the news” or not will be an iffy matter. But I’ll be able to tell you what the fish are biting on or, more likely, what they aren’t biting on, and whether or not we are able to solve any of the world’s problems, I guarantee we’ll have a good time, and when the sun goes down, we’ll be thankful.

May the rain fall soft upon your fields and the road rise to meet you and may your god hold you always in the palm of his (or her) hand.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Friday, October 3, 2008


We don't need to save Wall Street. We need to save the people of the United States from Wall Street's greed.

I hope you are doing your part to get that message across to Congress.

Immediately below, is the message I sent to Congressman Roy Blunt this morning.

We don't need a "Save Wall Street" bill. We need a "Save the Citizens" bill. Essential inclusions in a "save the citizens" bill are:
1. Initial rate mortgages available to families in trouble due to escalating interest rates.
2. No potential for brokerage executives to gain from bailout.
3. Possession of real assets (i.e. not CDSs or MBSs)in return for investment.
4. Timetable for or scheduled committee hearings for re-establishing appropriate regulatory controls over banks and brokerages.

There is also a petition available through which you can support a petition by Congressman DeFazio for a No Bailout Bill. You can sign it by going to:

You can notify Roy Blunt of your position by going to:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Last night the Senate passed its version of the bailout bill. This situation is so convoluted, that even those of us who are basically against the bailout must ultimately support it in order to avoid immediate self-destruction. Senator Claire McCaskill - D. MO said it best when she declared that she would hold her nose and vote for it.

I suppose that we all must hold our noses and try not to vomit as we watch the Congress do the same tomorrow. Ultimately, the only hope is that a new Congress and a new President will go to work immediately next year to install some regulatory control over the bandits that got us here.

Driving home from a tennis match last night I ran into another form of our national insanity while trying to find a radio station that was broadcasting the National League play-offs. In lieu of that I found a FOX radio station broadcasting Michael Savage’s talk show. This guy announced that within one year of Obama’s election to the presidency, the Democrats would take everyone’s guns away from them and within two years the United States of America would cease to exist. His solution to our current political mess is to throw all the Republicans out of office because there’s no way to control the Democrats anyway. Good god, what rock did this guy crawl out from under?

Then the news came on and I heard the last bit of lunacy for the day. The Senate dropped restrictions against selling nuclear materials to India so that BushCo can go ahead with its plan to supply the materials. Of course, India will not be required to sign the non-proliferation treaty. That way they can sell nuclear materials to anyone they like. Not only does this fly in the face of any hope for nuclear arms reduction, it fuels the race.

In a time when we are saber rattling at both Iran and Russia and our presidential and vice-presidential candidates are doing everything they can to anger Pakistan, our brilliant Senate joins BushCo in adding fuel to both fires. Do they think Pakistan will be mollified by our handing increased nuclear capability to its enemy neighbor? Do they think that India won’t be tempted to sell nuclear materials and capabilities to Iran? Or that someone within India won’t find a way to do it even if the government of India decides not to? Do they think that Iranians will decide that it’s quite all right for America to arm Israel and India and decide that they will deep six their nuclear program (if there is one) out of the gentle goodness of their hearts?

What chance do we have for stability on any front? If destroying our economy while increasing the chances for nuclear arms development and quietly doing our best to piss Russia off to the max isn’t setting America up for a downfall I don’t know what is. Maybe we should just turn it all over to Michael Savage, speed up the process, and get it over with.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Yesterday’s vote on the Paulson Bailout (Rescue my Ass) plan was a surprise that was both pleasing and disappointing. I’ve pondered the whys of the DemoRats supporting the administration’s plan as though it was the only possible option and lauded the Republicans who stuck to their conservative guns in refusing to support the use of tax payers’ equity to nationalize Wall Street’s risk.
My first reaction was to write up a list of reasons why anyone who voted for the proposal ought to get a swift kick in the britches, then ran into this blog by David Sirota. I think he did it so well that I’m just turning it over to him. The blog is a bit long, but well worth the read. (There are several great links that I didn't include here.) Here are some excerpts:
In the face of this bipartisan opposition from objective experts, why should a lawmaker instead believe the same Bush officials who helped create this crisis with their deregulation, the same Bush officials who just months ago said everything was AOK? Shouldn't there be almost complete unanimity among both objective and partisan observers before spending 5 percent of our entire economy after just one harried week of White House demands? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It's time, as The Who said, that we "don't get fooled again."

The mantra throughout the week has been that America has "no choice" but to pass Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion giveaway - that, in effect, there are no alternatives. But that's an out-and-out lie - one with a motive: Making it seem as if the only thing we can do is hand the keys to the federal treasury over to both parties' corporate campaign contributors.

The truth is, there are a number of alternatives. Here are just a few:

In the Washington Post last week, Galbraith outlined a multi-pronged plan shoring up and expanding the FDIC, creating a Home Owners Loan Corporation, resurrecting Nixon's federal revenue sharing, and taxing stock transactions (a tax that would fall mostly on speculators) to finance the whole deal.

The Service Employees International Union has drafted a plan based around a massive investment in public services and national health care, and regulatory reforms preventing foreclosures and forcing banks to renegotiate the predatory terms of their bad mortgages.

For those in the mindless, zombie-ish "someone has to do something, so we have to do what the White House says!" camp, consider the possibility that you are under the spell of the same kind of White House fear that led us to invade Iraq because of Saddam's supposed WMD. Consider, perhaps, that there may not even be a compelling basis for doing anything just yet (or at least not anything nearly so huge), and that the whole reason there is this urgent push right now has nothing to do with the financial situation, and everything to do with creating the political dynamic to pass a wasteful giveaway - one that couldn't be passed otherwise without a sense of emergency. And ask yourself why you would listen to this White House instead of listening to those experts who have been predicting this crisis and are now advising against this bailout - experts like CEPR's Baker. In two separate posts (here and here), he says that letting the problem play out could be the best path, because Treasury and the Fed may already have the tools they need. Following this path, the worst thing that happens is "The Fed and Treasury will have to step in and take over the banks [which] is exactly what many economists argue should happen anyhow," Baker writes. "So the outcome of the worst case scenario is a really frightening day in which the whole world financial system is shaken to its core, followed by a government takeover of the banks. Eventually the government straightens out the books and sells them off again. But the real threat here is not to the economy, it is to the banks."

Then there is the idea of simply taking the $700 billion and simply give it to struggling homeowners to help them pay off part of their mortgages. This hasn't even been discussed but the thought experiment it involves is important to understanding why there is, indeed, an alternative to the Paulson plan. If the root of this problem is people not being able to pay off their mortgages, and those defaults then devaluing banks' mortgage-backed assets, then simply helping people pay their mortgages would preserve the value of the mortgage-backed assets and recharge the market with liquidity. That would be a bottom-up solution helping the mass public, rather than a top-down move helping only financial industry executives.

On this latter proposal, some may argue that giving any relief to homeowners is "unfair" in that those homeowners created their problems, so why should taxpayers have to help them? But then, is helping homeowners any less fair than simply giving all the money away to Wall Street, no strings attached? I'd say no - and helping homeowners also serves a second purpose: namely, keeping people in their homes, which not only helps them, but helps an entire neighborhood (as any homeowner knows, nearby properties can be devalued when foreclosures hit).

The amount of brazen corruption and conflicts of interest swirling around this deal is odious, even by Washington's standards - and polls suggest the public inherently understands that. Consider these choice nuggets:
Warren Buffett is simultaneously advising Obama to support the deal, while he himself is investing in the company that stands to make the most off the deal.
McCain's campaign is run by lobbyists from the companies that stand to make a killing off a no-strings government bailout.
The New York Times reports that the person advising Paulson and Bernanke on the AIG bailout was the CEO of Goldman Sachs - a company with a $20 billion stake in AIG.
The Obama campaign's top spokesman pushing this deal is none other than Roger Altman, who Bloomberg News reports is simultaneously "advising a group of investors who are trying to prevent their shares from being diluted in the U.S. takeover of American International Group Inc." - that is, who have a direct financial interest in the current iteration of the bailout.
Add to this the fact that the negotiations over this bill have been largely conducted in secret, and you have one of the most sleazy heists in American history.

If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America. That - and that alone - would be the only thing an objective observer could take away from the whole thing.

Money will have compelled politicians to not only vote for substantively dangerous policy, but vote for that policy even at their own clear electoral peril. Such a vote will confirm that the only people these politicians believe they are responsible for representing are the fat-cat recipients of the $700 billion - the same fat cats who underwrite their political campaigns, the same fat-cats who engineered this crisis, and want to keep profiteering off it. Any lawmaker who takes that position is selling out the country, as is any issue-based political non-profit group - liberal or conservative - that uses its resources to defend a "yes" vote rather than demand a "no" vote. This is a bill that forces taxpayers to absorb all of the pain, and Wall Street executives to reap all of the gain. It doesn't even force the corporate executives (much less the government leaders) culpable in this free fall to step down - it lets them stay fat and happy in their corner office suites in Manhattan.

Even if they believe that something must be done right now, lawmakers should still vote no on this specific bill, and force one of the very prudent alternatives to the forefront. They shouldn't just vote no on Paulson's proposal - they should vote hell no. Our economy's future depends on it.
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR