Archive for September, 2012

Peak oil heat meets poet Frost

September 29, 2012

Some say we will run out of oil;

some say we’ll not.

With what I’ve seen of human toil,

I hope we do conserve our oil;

‘though it’s likely we’ll burn all we’ve got.

Now I have seen enough of greed

to know in scarcity big wars are fought,

’cause we’ll waste more than we need,

’til we have naught.

Glass Chimera

Advertisements

The Ragged and the Fine

September 24, 2012

“When I left my home and my family

I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers,

in the quiet of a railway station, running scared,

laying low, seeking out the poor quarters

where the ragged people go, looking for the places

only they would know.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKjEHfHINQ

Today in SanFran on the bus

I learned the meaning of Paul’s words

when the ragged people climbed aboard.

Yesterday I had walked up Mission and,

crossing 16th, crossing 17th,

seeing the poorer quarters

where the ragged people go–

now I know.

Forty years later, now I know.

Though

I am not one of them. I am

not one of the ragged people.

No, heaven forbid, no no.

My crowd congregates out on the Embarcadero

where the ragged tourists go

looking only for the places we are trained to know.

Meanwhile, up on the hill

and a few miles from here

there’s the Haight Ashbury

where my generation was told to go

Life mag told us to go

don’tcha know

But how’s that working out for ya now?

Here here and  now now.

My g-g-generation, so merry

went up on Haight Ashbury

where Ben&Jerry now serve raspberry.

Meanwhile back at the tranches,

over at the downtown bank branches

the makers and shakers program their chances

to do the dowjones nasdaq dances

while down below

the ragged people come and go

looking for michelangelo

or maybe just angelo,

or maybe just so and so

in the places only they would know

in San Francisco.

See Dick go. See Jane go.

Go go go

to San Francisco

and the silicon valley

ee eye ee eye oh.

It’s all good don’tcha know

as the people come and go

to San Francisco.

Glass half-Full

Communication

September 23, 2012

Use your imagination

to neutralize obfuscation.

Don’t let overload information

mislead you into info-saturation.

Refuse to allow knowledge intoxication

entice you down the path of faithless obduration.

Don’t permit double-minded speculation

to cut  you asunder with its bifurcation.

Text me if you have a desperation confrontation;

we’ll have a little mustard seed convocation.

Selah.

Redefining our Unalienable Rights

September 18, 2012

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and. . .?a regular paycheck.

Yesterday,Mother Jones magazine unveiled a recording of  Mitt Romney’s now infamous statement about the “the 47%” of us who pay no income taxes. In so doing, the magazine hath dragged into public scrutiny the bedrock issue of this presidential campaign, and indeed the fundamental issue of our time: the redefinition of our “unalienable rights.”

In the November election, if you vote for Mr. Romney and the Republicans, you are supporting a choice to leave the paycheck (what Eugene McCarthy called in the late ’60s “guaranteed income”) within the realm of private responsibility. But if you vote for Mr. Obama and the Democrats, your ballot effectually adds electoral support to the idea (and governmental program) that those unalienable rights (set forth by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776) should now be  expanded to include. . .a paycheck!

This controversy is nothing new. It has been eighty years in the making, ever since Mr. Roosevelt took office in 1933, and Lyndon Johnson later addended the Great Society to Roosevelt’s old New Deal.

Now in 2012, in spite of Mr. Romney’s alleged waffling on the issues, he does manage to, with a little help from the opposing lefties, actually identify the real question that defines our two opposing political eccentricities. He may turn out to be a good president for this reason. His centrism forces us to deal with the real issues of our age.

Thank you, Mr. Romney for raising this controversy, and thanks also to Mother Jones magazine for fulfilling their fourth estate responsibility to illuminate the issue by bringing it into the sunshine of public discourse.

As for me, I am a Republican, and will vote accordingly. I want to do everything possible to sustain personal responsibility among our citizenry, instead of government dependency.

But if this election does not turn out well for the GOP, I suppose I’ll just have to get with the program, won’t I?

Because I am a bleeding heart conservative;  and that inclusion of the “Creator” word in Mr. Jefferson’s definitive declaration means a lot to me. In my theological universe, our Creator is that One whose Son once told a young rich guy to go and sell everything he had and give to the poor.

A pretty convincing scriptural precedent.

Therefore it seems to me there is something favorable to be said for the powers that be entitling at least a minimum level of life support for all our people.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a regular paycheck. We’ll see, come November 6, what the People’s decision is on this question.

Glass half-Full

The Two-edged Sword

September 15, 2012

In the annals of human history, the invention of the sword is surely a turning point; it’s importance ranks right up at the top of the list, along with the first use of that most laudable invention of all, the wheel.

I suppose the first application of a sharpened implement was  used by prehistoric humans for gathering and preparing food. But I’m sure it wasn’t long before some irate or jealous neanderthal discovered its advantageous wielding for more nefarious purposes, such as murder or maiming.

If you’re not into the neanderthal explanation, think of this bipolar principle of homo sapiensbehavior in terms of Cain and Abel.

Love it or hate it, this sharp implement has been used for many millennia to advance the various purposes of our species, and its power has much to do with our ascendancy over the lesser species of the animal kingdom.

In human relations, the damned thing has been swung forever, by men, to inflict injury, pain, destruction, and death, on other men. On the other hand, the same weapon has long been applied by the nobler ones among us to defend the weak and the innocent against such atrocities, thus administering a thing that we call justice.

In the ascent of human ethics and society, “the sword” became, over time, something more than an implement or a weapon. It became an idea, a two-edged concept. On one edge of the sword is crime cruel atrocity; on the other is justice and defense.

Looking at history, we see undeniable evidence for the frequent use of both edges of “the sword”, the good side and the bad.

It reflects the dual nature of Man. On one side we are rotten to the core; on the other we are redeemed, and noble.

The sword has been used for thousand of years to enforce and extend various religious movements and agendas.

Very controversial in the ancient history of the Middle East is the use of the sword by Joshua and his Israeli tribes to subdue the Canaanites, on behalf of J’…h. Several thousand years later, Mohammed swept across the middle east crescent with his band of conquering Muslims, asserting righteousness with the sword in the name of Allah.

That little skirmish is still at center of all our international politics here on planet earth.

Jewish tradition proclaims that Moses gave us Law, so that men could live with each other having at least some semblance of societal order; since that strategy wasn’t exactly working out as planned, Mohammed came along thousands of years later, to enforce the correction needed to establish righteousness upon the earth.

Neither of these has worked as effectively, to quell the belligerent manipulations of mankind, as their founders might have intended.

In the midst of these two sword-swinging religious traditions, and between them historically, there came Jesus, who grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is somewhere between Damascus and Jerusalem. This Jesus, whom I regard as Messiah, and deliverer of mankind from its evil nature, did not wield the sword, as Joshua and Mohammed had done. Instead, he laid the weapon thing down and preached peace and forgiveness, which is considered foolish and naive in this present arrangement of the world. But in the kingdom of God, which is our fortunate destiny as earth-dwellers, his good news receives more favorable reception.

When his right-hand-man, Peter, drew the sword in retaliation against the oppressive, arrestive Roman sword, Jesus instructed Peter to put the thing away. Their were higher principles at work in those events than the  impetuous power of the sword could impose.

This Jesus is the one about whom I wrote a song in 1979, when the Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy and hostages in Teheran. About ten years ago, some friends of mine gathered in our hometown, Boone, North Carolina, USA, to help me in recording it. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a listen and consider the message therein.

http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/wevegotasong.mp3

Glass half-Full

Time for the fiscal cliff plunge?

September 9, 2012

Back in the 1930s,  the United Kingdom was the declining economic power of that age, as the United States is today. During those turbulent early ’30s, the Brits were having some trouble balancing their accounts, and they didn’t have enough gold reserves to back up the money demands being made on their financial system. So they forsook the gold standard as a means of backing up their currency, the pound.

About that time, as this 21st-century yeoman internet-reader (me) hath been able to ascertain, the Brit economist John Maynard Keynes figured out that, even though the currency was no longer backed up with gold, folks were still passing money around and doing business as if nothing had changed. This discovery became, by and by, the basis for all monetary activity throughout the world for the last eighty years or so.

Money is money, whether there’s a vault full of gold.gov somewhere in England or in Fort Knox or anywhere else in the monetized world. That’s the point. We’re still passing the stuff around as if it had real value, even though there’s no gold backing it up. People love spending it, and the love getting it. Perhaps they always will, even when money becomes mere electrons.

Now we are running out of money again, so the financial markets and the stock markets are obsessing about whether the Fed will bail out our money system yet again, for the third time, since the big thrill roller coaster ride of 2008.

This morning, I encountered an article online by a fellow, Joseph Stuber, who seems to actually know what he’s talking about, and can explain the current ramifications of this money dynamic better than I can:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/852831-market-euphoria-continues-as-we-get-ready-to-jump-off-the-fiscal-cliff?

Mr. Stuber mentions, right off the bat, one morsel of truth that John Maynard Keynes left behind; it is this statement:

“The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”

That’s basically what happened in ’29.

These days, the  whizzbangs who run the markets will work hard milking profits out of the system for as long as they can.

In fact, every stock trader will wheel and deal and play chicken with their suckerish counterparties right up until the time that the whole money machine runs out of fuel (imagined value), in hopes that he will be able to exit the game before the house falls and somebody else is left holding the bag of severely devalued assets.

Some of the perceived value of this market pertains to what Congress and the Fed will do, or not  do, to retain the integrity of our currency and, therefore, the value our entire economy.

Mr. Stuber offers two possible scenarios of what may happen when Congress attempts to (or pretends to) deal with the fiscal cliff that awaits us, come January. The so-called fiscal cliff is the deficit debacle that Congress shelved for a year so they wouldn’t have to contend with its difficult choices before the election.

My layman’s rendering of Mr Stuber’s two scenarios (extreme paraphrasing) goes something like this:

If Congress make a deal, like they did last year, to extend  the expiring “Bush” tax cuts, then we will muddle through the next year or two just as we have been doing. High unemployment will become the new paradigm, a semi-permanent steady state of dysfunction and financial misery for sizable segments of our population, and nothing much will change, or maybe, who knows? it will all get worse.

If Congress doesn’t make a deal, and the tax cuts expire, and the so-called “automatic” austere cuts of last year’s sequestration deal are put into effect, then the long-awaited economic correction that we’ve been forestalling since fall of ’08 will, at last, take its toll on our high-on-the-hog standards of living, and it will not be pretty, and recovery will probably not roll into effect until, say, 2017, or so, when our overvalued economy tumbles to a new (lower) foundation for true growth to get a foothold.

Someone should mention this to Mr. Romney before he makes as many vain promises as his predecessor did.

We shall what happens on Nov. 6.

And we shall  see what happens  when Congress re-convenes after the election.

In Charlotte on Labor Day, I heard Chris Matthews mention that the Dow, which was at around 8000 when President Obama took office, is now hovering around 13,000. Chris’ implication was that the President must be doing a good job, or the Wall Street crowd would have pulled their rug out.

Perhaps that is true. I think that Mr. Obama has done as well as can be expected of any Democrat, under the circumstances that were passed to him.

But the question arises: what has the level of bubblish value in our stock markets got to do with anything that is happening in the streets and factories and households of our country?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or the apartment, as the case may be,  what about you, Mr. America, Ms. America? What will you do this week to pitch in and help solve the problem?

Glass half-Full

Growth is good, or bad?

September 8, 2012

When I was a young man, I found this seed inside myself, and I wanted to plant it, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to do, so I cast my seed on the ground; I flung it all around.

Then I met my woman, and she received my seed from me and made it into something beautiful–another human being.

And this was good.

Then we made another one, and another one after that.

And these were good.

Life is good, yes?

So we discovered, my woman and I, that working and loving together, we could make the world a livelier place, by bringing new life into it, children, who would grow, and bloom like beautiful, tender flowers, and then grow up to make the world a better place.

Growth is good, yes?

And considering all the stuff we bought along the way, we did our share to contribute to GDP. And considering all the stuff our kids bought and built along the way, they did their share to contribute to GDP.

GDP is good, nest ce pas?

Now along comes my g-generation and makes an announcement to the world. My g-generation announces that, along with all that great prosperity-building GDP–all that good, coveted, economic growth that keeps everybody fat n happy,  or lean and mean as some prefer, there is something else coming out of it all–something that is bad, not good, spewing forth from every exhaust pipe and every flue and chimney, from every power plant and from every rhetorical mouth and every bipolar human heart and indeed from every anus that requires wiping on the planet:

Carbon.

Carbon, which is at the core of every living thing. Carbon, which we send up through the chimney as waste, or spread on the ground to make our roads, or put in our steel to make it stronger. Carbon, that we use to write messages to each other, or to connect our marvelous social networks together. Carbon, which, in its purest, most dazzling form, we cut into a precious gem, and place it on the ring finger to signify fidelity and fertility and creativity and all that is good in this life.

Carbon is good, nest ce pas?

It is as good as life itself.

Life is good, no?

Yes. Life is good. It is for us; how about you? Life is so good that I rejoiced at the revelation of its unique DNA identity– its miraculous beauty, when my errant seed found its destined place of fertility and joy, deep within the love of my woman.

As for the GDP thing–and how good or bad that is–that may change as more men choose to cast their miracles into dark crevices of carboniferous death.

Glass half-Full

Demo Dems and Repo Reps

September 4, 2012

Dems do.

The streets are filled with a cry of distress

and joyful shouting nonetheless,

with tribal stomps in perfect time,

and fervent movement, hiphop rhyme.

Plus The other side of this Demmie greenback:

it shows woodstock gentsia and academic hack

media egos, celebrity stars, and the freakish fringe;

their redistributionist binges make Repubos cringe.

 

Repubs don’t.

Out in the field we see a church picnic

with measured grace, and mortared  brick;

we hear careful words that divide the time

with calculated results and holy rhyme.

Plus the other side of their grand old meeting:

country club set, with scripted greeting,

credit swappers, debit daubers, practice productivity,

while Demmies make jokes about their activity.

 

Americans will.

Meanwhile back at the ranch

above the streets and below the tranche,

what’s that  I hear rising from the ground?

a suite of swelling symphonic sound?

a veritable rhapsody of virtual agreement

with taxes deducted and fiscal appeasement!

What if Washington’s cadres just crossed the cold Delaware,

while the King’s drowsy troops weren’t aware?

 

I have a dream; I know you do too.

Surely there’s resource for me, and for you.

Let’s keep our dream dreaming, but tweak it more functional,

making work our policy, and kindness more unctual;

’cause the river we’re crossing is deep and its wide,

with estuarial currents and roaring riptide.

As we stand here unsure, squinting out at the brink,

let’s bale out the flood, so our damned ship don’t sink.

Glass half-Full

Not your father’s parade, booby

September 2, 2012

Americans do love a parade. We revel gloriously, don’t we, in their ambient festivity. We get excited, turning into regular yankee doodle dandies, when we hear the brass band Sousa strains wafting on a summer breeze from the other end of Main Street.

It’s Labor Day! Surely that’s what this parade was all about today in Charlotte.

Not exactly. Absent from this Labor Day parade were the marching bands with their brass flashing in the sunshine. No Sousa phrases of Stars and Stripes Forever were floating on this uptown Charlotte breeze. We heard no clarinets proclaiming harmonies to complement their sassy trumpet cousins; we felt no sultry saxes. Gone were the young girls spinning their batons and tossing them high into the air to celebrate Americanity, as sequins sparkle and  children harken.

No. That Main Street thing was so old school. It was like, Ozzie and Harriet, for crying out loud.  I’m here to tell ya that somewhere between Ozzie and Harriet and Ozzy Osborne we got all turned around. Everything now is whoop-fizz, wooby-shooby hip-flip city, not to mention protest. Well, I just did mention it: protest.

That’s why today’s parade in Charlotte was a horse of a different color, or flag of a different color. What used to be red, white, and blue flapping on the summer breeze is now a kind of shredded rag of tattered and torn ideological fabric, flapping on the sound-bite hot air. What we got now is what the talking media heads have termed fragmentation.

Down there in Tampa you had the red stripes. Now, here in Charlotte, just before the Democrats meet, all the blue stripes have come out in full force.

But this new color-coding of political stripes is backwards. You know that don’t you? I mean, back in the day, communists were “reds,” and American patriots were true “blue.”  How did this get turned around?

If you don’t believe me, check out that old ’70s movie, Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton as a couple of yankee Soviet-sympathizers supporting the Bolsheviks when the revolutionaries killed the czar and his family in Russia in 1917.  Now them was reds, the kind of reds that the John Birchers used to dis when they grumbled, back in the ’50s, better dead than red! 

But here we are now, in 2012, in Charlotte, across the street from Bank of America corporate headquarters, for crying out loud, in this so-called (in the new newspeak) redstate because of it bein’ in the bible belt, and in this red city because of all the republican bankers, and here comes this band of rag-tag bunch of occupiers from every blue state and blue neighborhood in this here nation.

But them’s reds if I ever saw one. I mean, the first sign I saw said: Capitalism is holding back the human race.!

I fear this is not your father’s parade, booby. I’m thoroughly confused. Furthermore, the Code Pink contingent passing by has totally intensified my redwhiteandblue colors schizoshmizz.

Actually, that Capitalism is sign was the second sign I saw. The first one said: Vote now Jail bank execs Jail oil execs.

And these are definitely signs of the times. They were preceded by no traditional  drum and bugle corps. Instead we had a lone drummer at the fore. (behind the myriad of police escorts, of course.) He looked like ZZTop. They made him stop beating the drum when the ragtag Occupy Wall Street South ensemble stopped in from of Bank of America headquarters to let the world know exactly why they had come here, by making speeeches and flashing their signs and strutting their stuff.

These days,  we fragmented Americans  are like birds of a different feather, strutting the stuff. These here are  the wispy-wing’ed fringes of the blue flock. I suppose if you went to a Tea Party gathering a while back, you’d have gotten a view of what they’re calling the red flock. Tea Partiers don’t strut, however; they tend to sit in lawn chairs that they themselves brought from their back porches at home.

These Occupiers, I don’t think they have back porches, but more likely, fire escapes.

The last time I saw a parade like this was in the streets of Florence, Italy, several years ago.

There were some similarities with that Italian procession and what we see today approaching the DNC arena. You could just feel, back in the old country, that those old ideological lines had been drawn long ago. The onlookers just kind of yawn, like oh here comes another socialist parade; it must be Friday. The paraders were very organized, not like this bunch I’m looking at now. And those Europeans are more obviously labor-centered, not like here where the unions are just kind of hovering around the perimeter, waiting for their opportunity to organize the occupiers when they run out of steam.

And these fledgeling protest movements in the USA, they’re like only a hundred and twenty years old or so, still young and whippersnappin’, not like those European ones that seem so mature and classifiable and with their own political parties and stuff.

And I need to mention before I go that the ratio of protesters to police to onlookers was, from my sidewalk perch, something like 1:1:1. Not very efficient, from a banking city’s spreadsheet standpoint.

The long, steady stream of fire trucks at the end made it seem a little like the old days-style parade, with hints of orderly garnish, and an official finish, as the coffee-slurpers might say here at Starbucks where I’m now knocking this little ditty out.

And guess what, Labor Day is tomorrow, not today. What was I thinking?

 

Glass half-Full

Are you a communitarian or a communist?

September 1, 2012

Are you a

communitarian or a communist

are you a

socialite or a socialist

are you an

idealist or and ideologue

are you a

pacifist or a passivist

are you a

worrier or a warrior

Are you a

doer or a thinker, a

tinker or a tanker, a

flanker or a banker

are you a

mover or a shaker, a

butcher or a baker

are you a candlestick maker

are you a maker

or a taker

a stinker or a winker

a teetotaler or a drinker

are you a blinker

surely you’re not a stinker

maybe you a smoker

maybe you a joker

the ayes have it

the eyes have it

the ears hear it

here here

there there

everywhere

where where

are you fair

do you care

do you share

are you communitarian or

contrarian?

Neither,

or either?

Come on now. Make up your mind.

Be kind.

 

Glass Chimera