My Blog List

Friday, October 31, 2014

American Uniformity

On my way to Holbrook last night I was listening to a podcast of talk by Allan Watts, who was an Englishman living in America who brought Eastern philosophies like Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism to Western audiences and who for years had a show on the Berkeley, CA, Pacifica station, and he was pointing out that despite Americans' reputation for individuality we are quite conformist, and he demonstrated, by way of a story of an eight-year-old girl being repeatedly admonished by her mother to sit a certain way, how we are beaten into socially acceptable constraints that limit our behavior and eventually our thinking.

There are all kinds of examples of conformity in our society and there's even a fairly widely accepted belief, I think, that we've become increasingly homogenized as we've been able to move around the country more easily and as the mass media does its work.

I thought of the example of the "cowboy." Ranchers dress within a very limited range of styles. There's a uniform, an extremely limited range in cut of shirt, pants, boots, hat and coat. For Sunday go to meeting there's another uniform, and that's the limit of their wardrobe, I think. I think the same goes for cowwomen.

This all occurred to me this morning as I was backing my compact Chevrolet S-10 pickup in next to one of these monster pickup trucks they sell now. A 3/4 ton or a 1-ton pickup isn't such a big one any more. I'm seeing 2 1/2 ton and 3 1/2 ton pickups, and more and more of them.

The big pickup is the standard mode of transportation for a certain segment of the Albuquerque working class male. Having one or not affects a man's entire mode of public being and psychologically defines his persona, and the same would go for any type of accessory or uniform that demarcates class, profession, or whatever identifies one to oneself. Think biker. Jock. Lawyer. Male and female. Individuals we are not.

I wear the "old hippie who wears certain items of western style clothing" uniform, which conveniently doubles for the "certain type of old truck driver who doesn't know what else to wear" uniform. My uniform lets it be known that I'm different only in that I belong to a smaller subset than some.

I once was somewhat non conformist, but the days when I would wear one kind of shoe on one foot and another kind on the other are long gone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Invisible Hand Of The Market

I'm seeing a few nationalist-minded media outlets promoting the fact that the Capitalist private for profit spaceship that exploded last night had Russian space rocket engines. One news outfit even kept alternating back and forth between exploding Russian powered spaceships and non exploding American powered spaceships. So, these patriot news gatherers are saying, it wasn't American exceptionalism that failed but Russian inferiority.

At least one report does acknowledge that the Russian engines are leftovers from the 1970s, which the Capitalist for profit private Orbital Science company had scarfed up at bargain basement prices.

In other words, if you privatize it, the cheapskates will come. Safety will suffer.

It has to. It's necessary for safety to suffer, when profit is the driving force. The stockholders demand it. The invisible hand of the marker ensures it.

The media isn't saying any of this, so the hand of the market remains invisible. People aren't made aware of what profit and greed had to do with the rocket ship explosion.

This is all about Reaganomics. Even government oversight suffers when Reaganomics is the driving force and Democrats and Republicans compete to see who can slash the most from government budgets. Ask someone who's had a family member die from eating tainted meat.

The privatization of electoral politics is even putting democracy in jeopardy, as Jim Baca points out in his Only In New Mexico blog today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Long Live The Blockade

The United Nations General Assembly today voted 188-2 to condemn the US blockade of Cuba, with only the US and Israel voting no. This is the 23rd year in a row the UN has voted against the 54-year-old commercial, economic and financial blockade of the Socialist nation that sits off the coast of Florida.

Since the General Assembly yields no power not granted it by the UN Security Council the vote is symbolic, but it's worth noting that Palestine was cut in half and the state of Israel was formed only on the strength of a General Assembly vote. The Security Council never took up the theft of half of Palestine, and Israel is lawless from start to finish, from the massacres Zionist militia committed in 1948 to clear Palestinians off their land to this summer's massacre in Gaza.

Many commentators attribute the blockade of Cuba, which has always had and still has very harmful effects on the health and well being of ordinary Cubans, to Florida and presidential politics, that it's needed to secure the vote of the large community of Miami Cubans who are descended from Cubans who left the island.

At one time it was possible to argue that, but younger Cubam Americans, especially those with no family ties to the rich brothel owners and casino owners who the Castro brothers kicked out of Cuba when they took over, don't care about and don't vote on the basis of US-Cuba policy.

The blockade is to appease American Capitalists and old Cold Warriors who can't stand the fact that a Socialist country exists, and has existed for as long as it has, under their very noses. It's about the example Cuba sets, the one Capital fears most, that a group of people who are trying to find another way of living besides the dog eat dog, bell curve, incestuous way called Capitalism, where despite commonly held mythology the economic class you're born into is the one you'll die in, are proving that it can be done.

Viva Cuba.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gary King To Working New Mexicans: You'll Settle For What I Tell You To Settle For

Yet another New Mexico Democrat has demonstrated his disdain for working New Mexicans by letting them know he won't risk a thing so they can have a better life. This time it's Gary King, Democratic candidate for governor, who is letting it be known he has nothing to do with unions.

Unions, as you'll recall, which in the post World War II decades bid up the price of labor in this country so as to give Americans the highest standard of living of any working class in history, and made us the envy of the world, have been under attack since Ronald Reagan was elected president, and following the example of Margaret Thatcher, who had declared war on Britain's strongest union the Mine Workers, and broke them, one of Reagan's first acts as president was to declare war on striking air traffic controllers. He broke them, too, signaling that open war on unions was underway and that government had taken the side of business in class struggle.

As a result, union membership is less than one-third what it was when Reagan took office, and Americans' living standards have declined in direct proportion.

Conservatism during this time has issued a steady stream of union-demonizing propaganda -- while Democrats stood mute. And just as no New Mexico Democrat ever utters the word "union" in public, Gary King is putting out literature that describes one of the most famous union  leaders in the world, the co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, Dolores Huerta, whose very name -- like that of the UFW's other co-founder Cesar Chavez -- is synonymous with the United Farmworkers and unions and class struggle, as a "human rights activist."

No mention of the UFW. The word "union" does not appear. A human rights activist, indeed.

Only recently Michelle Grisham, the 1st District US congresswoman, described Senator Elizabeth Warren, the only prominent Democrat to call out the political elite for pandering to corporations and the wealthy and for bailing out the banks and Wall Street while letting underwater homeowners rot in foreclosure hell, as a "consumer advocate."

What Grisham and King are doing -- calling Huerta a "human rights activist" and Warren a "consumer advocate," is like saying Hitler was a political leader. It's like describing Hank Aaron as some guy who played sports.

There's no mistaking the intent of New Mexico Democrats. They're not doing this in the hope of getting a few Republicans to vote for them. They'd get many more votes if they ran as Democrats and as people who actually represent the economic interests of the vast majority of New Mexicans, which they do not.

This is being done to let corporations and the wealthy, where they get the vast majority of their campaign money, by the way, that they are solidly on their side. This is a wink and nod to the ruling class that Democrats are on board with Reaganomics, and they will round up the social liberals, and the pathetic union leaders who trot out their endorsements for Democrats, and keep them in line for them.

Grisham, King, Martin Heinrich, Ben Lujan, all of them are a disgrace. None of them ever do a thing to counter Conservatism, either in what they say or in what they do or in what votes they take. Grisham, Heinrich and Lujan all have voted to cut Social Security, Medicare, Head Start, veteran's benefits and federal employee retirement benefits.

That's what they stand for. Publicly, none of them stand for anything. All they ever do is mouth meaningless bile, such as that they are fighting hard to save the middle class, while doing exactly the opposite.

When Democrats behave like that and use the kind of language they use nowadays, when they bring in outsiders -- who Leftist and Progressive New Mexican know very well -- for the simple reason of pandering to their base, while letting it be known with language like Grisham and King and all the rest of them use that they are not with these Liberal and left-leaning outsiders, they don't support what they do, that they are solidly on the side of corporations and the wealthy, then there is no reason whatsoever to vote for any of them, and I will not.

Note: To give you an idea of who Dolores Huerta is and what she is known for here is a screen shot of the first few lines of a simple internet search for "Dolores Huerta."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Revolution In You

I had to put new numbers on Truck 131, the International, because it has a new hood, grill and other front end parts, owing to a young driver creaming my front end at the TA truck stop. I put the hand applied custom Home Depot numbers on while I was getting loaded the other night on Chappell Street, or Chappel Street depending on which street sign you're looking at. I'd picked up the truck that morning after work, slept and only had time during loading. You want those numbers on there when you go through the weigh station.

The kid who hit me wasn't watching his trailer as he swung around me. He tried to take off and I had to run him down and cut him off on the other side of the parking lot.

He works for one of the big carriers. It was kind of hard to make him go through it because I know what it will mean. I know the impulse to take off, believe me. In my first few months of truck driving I knocked down a stop light pole and kept going, but hitting someone's truck or car seems different and when I did that, I did stop and made it right. He probably didn't know what it would have meant to me. The bill was $11k. I paid $2,500 but should get that back from his insurance company.

For him, it goes on a record the US DOT keeps of you and goes on as an accident, and you don't want that. I've paid off a couple of truck drivers whose trucks I sideswiped on the spot out of my own pocket. One was a scratched mirror and one was a scratched chrome front bumper so I was lucky.

I think I gave the one $50 and the other $200 but it was money well spent. When times get hard, as they have during the recession, it's hard to get hired with an accident, or with more than one ticket on your record. Having two tickets on my record is how I ended up where I am. I had to take a job with a fly by night oil field company and then a fly by night distribution company and it eventually became this, owning two trucks, when the last job was contracted out and I bid on it because I knew I'd have trouble finding another job.

I was talking a few posts ago about getting out. This truck and the Freightliner had both been run into, both at the TA Truck Stop on University where I was parking the trucks at the time, both within a month, and that was on the heels of both trucks needing major work done in succession - a new turbocharger for the International and on the Freightliner a new power divider, which on those trucks is the splitter, i.e., the high-low range transmission, and the front differential in one unit. An extended warranty helped with one of them but I had to pay out several thousand for both, and on the body shop repairs I've had to pay the $2,500 deductible twice, although I could well get all that back.

The worst of it is, though, as far as I'm concerned, is that when one truck is in the shop I only have one truck and they're both older and breakdown prone and it's very nerve racking.

And there's the constant dealing with shysters at every point along the way, and the realization that if I keep going and keep buying trucks it won't get easier but likely harder. On the other hand, with both trucks running now and having survived the economic onslaught I'm likely to keep going, simply because it's easier that way, and if I'm feeling good about things when another opportunity presents itself I'm likely to go for it.

It's always been this way, carried along by currents I don't control. It's what I have to work with. I'm not alone in that. There was a time, as they say, when I couldn't support myself, couldn't make anything happen in my life.

This, of course, what I'm dealing with now, is "business." It's life. Everyone has their own version of the same struggle, but I seldom think about it that way. Perhaps no one else does, either. We're consumed by our own struggle.

People are apt to keep that aspect of their life out of public view, I think, because that's part of our natural defense mechanism. We can't show weakness if no one else is and if we do, someone will try to take advantage. And it's tied up with that primary agent of our self defense, our ego. Our ego likes to protect the idealized image we have of ourselves, to make us think that the self we put forth for the world to see is the way others actually see us.

That's a funny thing about human nature, and the ego. If we think people are buying what we put out there, it's the same, in terms of our own personal psychology, as if they're buying it. It's the same as when someone is blatantly lying to you and you, for whatever reason, let it go. It's the same thing, to them, in terms of their own psychology, as if they convinced you. If people can make it through a conversation with their bullshit uncalled out, they have not only survived but they have survived with their ideal image of themselves intact. The world, they think, bought their bullshit, and so did their ego. It's satisfied.

The significance of it all is this. People who wish for a better world and who don't think about it at the level of personal psychology are most likely wasting their time, I believe. Capitalism perpetuates itself generation after because because its success is because it's the best system that's come along for managing the kind of species we are, that is, Capitalism closely corresponds with the psychology of the human species. If we've got the new car, the new house, the nice clothes, then we're projecting the kind of image our ego is satisfied with. If we're a CEO and the salary and the profits and laudatory comments and articles are all there, it doesn't matter what you had to go through to get those. The ego doesn't really care. It only cares what others think.

Marx knew all this. He said that anyone who was put in the place of a Capitalist would behave the exact same way. He and others like him, however, thought that it was the Capitalist system that formed our personal psychologies and not the other way around. It's the old nature/nurture question. Are we genetically hard wired to be like we are, or are we the products of our environment? Marx thought it was the latter, that another kind of system would produce a different kind of person.

So far the alternative systems people have tried haven't produced the desired results, and Capitalism has made sure that no one's attempt to try anything else has been allowed to play out except under conditions of severe stress because of the constant harassment and continual efforts to undermine it.

That's why the Revolution, really, is inside of us. It's the only place no one else can know about and get to. We are who we are, and if we try to live any other way than inside a Capitalist system we'll have to make it work with who we are until it has a chance to affect human behavior. It's not even known if that will work, but we have to try. It's in our nature to try.

So keep struggling. Try to resolve the contradiction, when you can, between who you are and who you'd like people to think you are and thereby free up a little space for someone else to do the same. When you can't do that, which will be most of the time, keep the faith. Never give up.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Mexico Democrats Hope To Turn Out Their Base By Bringing In Politicians Their Base Doesn't Hate

Last week it was Elizabeth Warren. This week it's Joaquin Castro.

Udall dons cowboy hat, Grisham and Lujan fold their arms
New Mexico progressives have no reason to vote for any Democrat up for re-election on the national ticket, Tom Udall in the senate or Michelle Grisham and Ben Lujan in the house, so Udall, Grisham and Lujan have resorted to bringing in popular politicians New Mexicans would vote for if they had the chance; last week it was classic Northeast Liberal Elizabeth Warren and this week it's nationally known Mexican-American politician and US Rep. Joaquin Castro from San Antonio, TX.

Warren, a freshman senator from Massachusetts, is popular with progressives for calling openly for re-regulating banking and finance capital (Wall Street), an idea Democrats like President Obama, Udall, Grisham and Lujan abhor because it would slow the river of campaign money they receive from those industries. Warren has openly criticized the Obama Administration for bailing out big banks while doing nothing to help the millions of working class homeowners who lost their homes during the recession, and also has called for taxing Wall Street transactions and using the money to subsidize public higher education.

Media: Elizabeth Warren drew the crowd for Udall - photo
No New Mexico Democrat favors anything like anything Warren is for, as evidenced by their never having advocated for any of it or campaigned on any of it. Udall, Grisham and Lujan all are solidly in line with the Reaganomics economics policies adopted by the national Democratic Party, as evidenced by their many votes to cut taxes on the wealthy and cut programs like Social Security, Medicare, Head Start, veteran's benefits and federal employees' retirement benefits to name but a few.

Castro, a former Texas state representative elected in 2012 to a newly created gerrymandered district that lies north and south of San Antonio, is a "Ready For Hillary" Democrat whose twin brother Julián Castro is San Antonio's mayor. The brothers are mainstream Democrats who have embraced their roles as nationally visible Latino Democrats as the party seeks to placate Latino voters and still sell them out on most matters that affect or interest them such as immigration reform or their economic well being.

Joaquin Castro is often mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate should Republicans put up a Hispanic presidential or vice presidential nominee.

US Germ Warfare Lab In Sierra Leone Probable Source Of Ebola Outbreak

International law professor Francis Boyle, author of the book Biowarfare and Terrorism and the man who drafted the 1989 US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed unanimously by congress, thinks the current, especially virulent strain of Ebola causing panic in the media came from a US germ warfare lab near the viruses' center in West Africa.

The current virus is centered in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, but the most common Ebola virus comes from an area 2,200 miles away in eastern Africa, Boyle tells Dave Lindorff, and is currently dormant, so media speculation that the virus came to life and jumped across the continent, carried by fruit bats, doesn't hold water.

The US also happens to have germ warfare labs in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The current outbreak probably came from the one in Kenema, Sierra Leone, which has led the government of that country to shut down the lab, Boyle says.

An Oct. 15 article in Huffington Post, The Two Ebola Outbreaks In Africa Have Different Sources, perhaps unintentionally supports Boyle's claim. 

The US government at its covert germ warfare labs, which are often placed in countries that aren't signatories to the Biological Weapons Geneva Convention banning germ warfare, is using gene modification and gene splicing techniques that make viruses much more difficult to combat, Boyle says.

Read Lindorff's piece here. Lindorff is a member of the journalism collective This Can't Be Happening,  which consists of seasoned Philadelphia area reporters Lindorff, John Grant, Linn Washington and Charles M. Young and which, by the way, is the only media outlet to have been labeled a threat to national security by the Department of Homeland Security.

US Army's Germ Warfare Headquarters at Fort Derick, Maryland

Note: Government and media accounts of US biological warfare labs portray our government's germ warfare research as being done solely to defend us against biological attacks from others, and it's probably more reassuring to most people to believe that.

Just as it's more reassuring to believe that the now-continuous imperial wars the US wages around the globe, the flaming Middle East, the coup in Ukraine, the ongoing undercover operations against Socialist and Left leaning governments in Latin America, the ongoing encirclement of Russia with missile batteries by way of the ongoing expansion of NATO into eastern European countries, the encirclement of China, which has no military to speak of, by the armies and navies of the US that's euphemistically referred to as Obama's "Pivot to the East," are all defensive measures, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The State Of Voting Rights In The US From The UK

The Guardian has an article comparing access to voting in the various US states with a different kind of interactive map. At the bottom of the article are links to related articles they've done about voting in the US.

You won't see this kind of coverage in the US media, with its conservative bias. It ducks responsibility for telling the truth by taking the "he said she said" stance, putting misinformation and information on the same footing.

Which is it? The media's job is to find out and tell us.

I read the article on my iPhone. I've tried various news aggregator "apps" and haven't come across one I truly liked. This one is called News Free. It's not bad. At least it doesn't crash a lot.

I'm getting loaded on Chappell Street, or Chappel Street, depending on which street sign you refer to, and enjoying a pleasant Autumn evening in Albuquerque.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola And The End Of Life On Earth

Major news organizations are now referring to the Ebola scare as the "Ebola Crisis".

There's some speculation going around about why, in a nation of 330 million where one person has died and two are infected with a very rare albeit very dangerous disease, it's being talked about as a crisis and talked about so much.

The obvious reason is that it's good for ratings. It's Capitalism. When you dissect that, however, and lump this story in with some of the other frivolous things the media has herd-reported on like the latest missing white women stories or supposed rampaging dark skinned people stories, the ill effects this kind of reporting has on society come to the surface.

On the Stephanie Miller radio program this morning they were lumping the Ebola story in with what has become standard coverage for big stories by the American media, which is to immediately couch everything in terms of how it demonstrates the failed Obama presidency or his lack of leadership, as in stories like Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In essence, the Stephanie Miller Show hosts were saying, the conservative media reflexively adopts a Republican talking points line on every story.

Left out of what have now been thousands of  Ebola stories are the effects 30 years of Reaganomics have had on business practices -- like at the private hospital in Dallas where the single Ebola death occurred and by the private company it contracts out its emergency room services to -- and the effects emasculating government has had on the general welfare, as Only In New Mexico blogger Jim Baca has pointed out.

Polls have found that Americans know virtually nothing about Ebola. They are being thrown into a panic by a media that also knows little about it, and knows little about or doesn't care about the ethics of Journalism.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Texas Ebola Hospital Privately Owned; Emergency Room That Sent Away Nigerian Ebola Patient Is Contracted Out. CEO Of Hospital Chain Asks That We Pray.

Liberal talk radio personality Tom Hartman mentioned the other day that no one has questioned the CEO of the corporation that owns the hospital where the Texas Ebola outbreak is taking place.

Barclay Berdan - Ebola hospital CEO
That would be Barclay Berdan, who took over as CEO of Texas Health Resources on Sept 1.

Arlington, TX, based Texas Health Resources is a "non-profit" corporation that somehow managed a $40 million profit last year. The hospital  called "Presbyterian" where the outbreak is taking place -- one has died, two nurses are infected and dozens of others are being watched in quarantine -- is one of 25 owned by Texas Health Resources, which, like the private company that it contracts its emergency room services to, Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd., which sent the Ebola patient away, has consistently scored below average on all kinds of performance measures.

Emergency room services at Texas Health Resources are contracted out to Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd., which first looked at the Ebola patient, said he had sinus problems, gave him some antibiotics and sent him on his way. Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd isn't responding to press inquiries and is referring questions to Texas Health Resources, which has hired "public-relations giant Burson-Marsteller" which is better equipped to deal with disasters of such magnitude, or had better be. But it was apparently when the Ebola patient returned and was admitted to a Texas Health Resources room that hospital employees were infected, which prompted "public relations giant Burson-Marsteller" to tell Texas Health Resources to issue a full page apology in the Dallas paper.

I couldn't immediately find out what Berdan's salary is. His predecessor was paid $5.71 million a year at a time Berdan was making $1.17 million as a vice president at Texas Health Resources. All the stories about him taking over the corporation, that I came across, are butt-kissing hagiographies whose authors are no doubt desperately begging for vacation leave, and make no mention of his salary or the hospital's troubles, although the Dallas Morning News has now come out with a semi hard look at Texas Health Resources, its practices, its ratings, and its behavior during the Ebola scare.

A couple days ago the first Texas Health Resources nurse who contracted Ebola issued a brief statement, which was widely reported, saying “I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers.” But it wasn't actually her statement. It was a press release from Texas Health Resources -- or rather "public relations giant Burson-Marsteller" -- that goes on to quote the nurse as saying she's "blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.”

Buried at the bottom of the press release and not reported as far as I can tell is this brief statement from Berdan:

“The hearts and prayers of everyone at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas are with Nina Pham, and we are working tirelessly to help her in this courageous fight. The doctors and nurses involved with her treatment remain hopeful, and we ask for the prayers of the entire country.”

With staff morale in the dumpster, an army of TV crews stationed outside the hospital around the clock and patients fleeing the hospital in droves, Barlay Berdan is going to need them.