Friday, October 31, 2008

Coping with the Crash

Today’s consensus seems to be that Obama will eke out some kind of victory, perhaps a substantial one. Being a skeptic, I’m assuming the Republicans will manage to steal the election somehow. As with global warming and the march of fascism, I’d love to be wrong about this. We’ll find out soon enough.

I want to put down some thoughts about the economic crash, and what -- if anything -- we can do about it. An edited version of this and subsequent spews will, hopefully, be my next Grassroots Press article.

I have always been a primitive at heart, which is why I chose this “back to nature” lifestyle in the first place. My understanding of economics has always been immediate and direct: How thick is my wad of $20 bills? Is my honey house full of honey? Is the garden doing well? How big is my pile of firewood? I’ve always been suspicious of the fancy stuff such as mortgages and playing the stock market.

Over the years I’ve developed a couple of basic principles. One of them is: DEBT IS NOT WEALTH. Being a cheapskate, I’ve always avoided paying interest. Paying interest, to me, seems like an excellent way to piss away my hard-earned money. Compared to my contemporaries, I have avoided paying several hundred thousand dollars in interest over the years, which has given me many options. Including, most importantly, the option of not having to make so damned much money in the first place.

My philosophy has always been, “pay as you go.” Thus, rather than buying a house and signing up for the typical 30-year mortgage, I bought a piece of raw land in 1973 and built my house over the years, one room at a time. We started out with a 10x20-foot room that my wife, daughter and I lived in. I’ll never forget when a friend came over and said, “What a nice shelter!” Not, “What a nice home!” but “What a nice shelter!” This sums it up right there. “Funky” is my middle name.

People get dazzled by “instant money” without really thinking about the ramifications of paying for it, and how being saddled with debt payments will limit their future options. I realize that for mainstream people, if they’ve got a good job, taking on a reasonable amount of debt is a no-brainer. It’s a financial tool that they are perfectly capable of handling, if they don’t mind paying the interest. But this presupposes stability into the future. For me, being a skeptic, I’ve always asked questions like, “But what if the economy crashes?” At long last, it’s looking like my skepticism is finally becoming common sense, and not just paranoia.

The other basic principle is: STUFF IS MORE VALUABLE THAN MONEY. This is especially true today, as the dollar is being systematically degraded. Originally, money started out as a very clever concept. For one, it’s a convenient medium of exchange. Rather than swapping jars of honey for bales of hay (which I might very well end up doing before long), I sell my honey to somebody else, and then use this money to pay the alfalfa farmer, who might very well prefer money to honey. Slick and convenient all around.

But there’s another function of money, and that is to serve as a more permanent depository of wealth. Consider a bag of wheat. This is real wealth, beyond a doubt. You can eat it, feed it to your livestock, or plant it to grow even more wheat. But the bag of wheat is vulnerable. Mice or weevils can get into it. Your storehouse might flood or burn down. If, instead of buying wheat you put your money in the bank, then theoretically you can withdraw this money in the future and buy wheat whenever you need it. You have, at least in principle, bypassed the risks of storing the wheat yourself.

There’s a social contract involved here. Everybody assumes that the money they deposit will retain its value over time, and in fact might actually gain a little value (i.e., earn interest). But unfortunately, what traditionally happens is, the bankers and other deal-makers take your money and speculate with it. Ideally, storing your money should be considered a sacred trust, but in actuality the bankers can’t resist dipping their fingers into the till. Throughout history, the economy has periodically crashed, and people have lost their savings. It’s a pity there has never been a banking system you can really depend on, because the “depository of wealth” function of money is really convenient compared to, say, burying a bag of gold in your back yard.

Our social contract is being methodically destroyed; which is to say, the treasury is being systematically looted. I’m skeptical that the American people have the gumption to do much about this. We can expect bailout after bailout. The economy will continue to limp along... and then, somewhere down the line, there will be a series of major discontinuities. I have no idea how bad these discontinuities will be. If they’re so severe that law and order breaks down, then this whole discussion is moot. Because my little lifetime plan (or anybody’s) can be ended by a single bullet. Civilization is a fragile thing compared to the raging beast lurking inside all of us.

At any rate, it looks to me like the dollar is going to tank somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Sooner or later, you’ll take your $100 bill to Farmer’s Market to buy a bundle of beets and the farmer will smile and say, “Do you have anything of value to offer me?” So it seems expedient to convert at least a portion of your savings (if any) into stuff that might prove useful in the future. This might be food, solar panels, water catchment tanks, garden tools, an assault rifle... whatever might serve your anticipated needs.

I started doing this in the early 90s, after Laura and I achieved successful DNA transfer and produced a spawn unit. I thought it would be nice to have a little orchard, so I cleared the land with my chainsaw, hired a guy with a front-end loader to scoop out sandbar sand from the river and deposit it onto the orchard site to raise the ground level a little, bought hundreds of trees, set up an irrigation system... and now, 15 years later, I have a mature orchard producing fruits and nuts. It cost me about $10,000 to do this, and has always seemed like a worthy investment.

What I’m doing now is starting to tackle all the jobs I’ve been putting off – pumping out the septic tank, installing a new pressure tank for the well, digging out the pond, spreading gravel on the beeyard driveway so I don’t get stuck in the sand, enlarging the flood control berms along my arroyos, on and on. The point being: I’m not wasting any of this money; I’m not spending it in any new and unexpected way; I’m just getting a lot of necessary work done while my money still has the value I’ve always assumed it had. Because sooner or later, that $100 bill won’t buy very much. And you can’t say you weren’t warned.

The most important thing most people could do is pay off their mortgage, but this is impossible in most cases. Some people could probably double up on their mortgage payments, but it would still take considerable time to pay the thing off. And we’ve pretty much run out of time by now.

I don’t know if mainstream Americans have what it takes to organize themselves into a political fighting unit with actual power. If they do, then it seems obvious that they need to wrest control from the cold, dead fingers of the ruling class. In other words, revolution. But a real revolution this time. (The much-hyped American Revolution of 1776 was essentially a transfer of ruling classes – we exchanged a British elite for an American one.) Otherwise, the American Rabble will become serfs. (Though, since most of them are wage slaves, it could be argued that they already are.)

I’m skeptical that Americans can fundamentally change their trajectory. We are so well programmed, so distracted, so atomized and unable to cooperate in a deep and sustained way. We are, each of us, the prima donna of our own personal drama, guarding our own private stash of loot. “Community,” in modern parlance, really means, “people to have pleasant conversations with.” It’s great -- and a spiritual necessity -- to have people to care about, to have people to care about us, but we remain isolated and powerless individuals and family units, at the mercy of the powers-that-be. I have my antennae turned up full blast (or so it seems), and am still not seeing any evidence that the fundamental socioeconomic reality is changing. We remain, up to now, hunkered down, hoping that all this will somehow blow over. For example, pundits now blithely talk about cargo ships sailing directly over the North Pole after the icecap melts and shaving thousands of miles off of their journey... without acknowledging that a melting Arctic means the liberation of countless gigatons of methane into the atmosphere, which will result in a runaway greenhouse effect. Welcome to Venus! Delusion still rules.

On that hopeful note, I think I’ll move right along now. Have a nice day!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Letter to the Editor

I just sent this letter to the Las Cruces Bulletin:

14250 N Valley Dr
Las Cruces, NM 88007
Oct. 30, 2008

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed your Oct. 24 editorial, “What I don’t like.” As a blogger myself (, I especially enjoyed your comments about blogs.

As a blogger and blog reader, I appreciate the fact that bloggers can communicate directly with their readers, without some pesky editor standing in the way. This has helped to break the stranglehold of the corporate media on our national discourse. All too often, the corporate media serve as propaganda channels for the powers-that-be. Bloggers, and the Internet in general, have provided a much-needed alternative source of information.

By the way, your editorial would have made a great blog post! The Internet is full of every Tom, Dick and Harry spouting their opinions, and your editorial would have fit right in. Unedited spew is the name of the game. After all, who edits the editor?

Sincerely yours,

Gordon Solberg

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Last week Laura and I went to Santa Fe for a couple of days so we could get all touristy together and unwind a little bit. In our wanderings around downtown, we found ourselves in the State Capitol.

The State Capitol building is circular, and is, in fact, a huge mandala. You can go inside, stand in the rotunda, and find the exact spot at the very center that will cure your headache or sharpen dull razorblades. Unfortunately -- or fortunately, actually -- I didn’t have a headache that day, and I had left all my dull razorblades at home. But there was still a nice buzz to be had if you knew what to look for.

The corridors of the State Capitol are lined with paintings. It’s a huge art gallery, and it’s free. And since the State Capitol serves a function other than art, it avoids that sterile art gallery atmosphere. Most of the paintings are contemporary (within the last 20 years), and many of them are impressive. There’s some powerful stuff there. What a fine bunch of artists we have living in our state! I would imagine having your work hanging in the State Capitol would be a high honor if you’re into that kind of thing.

Later we wound up at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum, which is now one of Santa Fe’s leading tourist attractions. State residents get in for half price, which ain’t bad. It’s rather like entering a temple. People speak in hushed tones, and the officious guards will definitely kick ass if you break decorum. (On my first trip there, I gestured at a painting with my museum brochure while talking to Laura, and a guard came right over and told me that was a no-no. Not only do you have to stand behind the line on the floor, but no part of your body can get any closer than the mandatory deference distance.) I think Georgia would get a chuckle at the reverence shown the sacred relics, I mean, paintings... but then again, the kowtowing of the masses was exactly what she had spent her lifetime trying to accomplish. She succeeded quite well. In fact, she became one of a handful of artists who achieved iconic status, and are known by their last names. A few that come to mind are Picasso, Dali, and Warhol. And O’Keeffe, of course.

The exhibit this time was a combination of her paintings and a selection of the numerous photographs taken of her during her lifetime. When she was a fledgling artist, she hooked up with the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, 24 years her senior, who launched her career while enhancing his own. She maintained this mutually beneficial relationship with photographers her entire life.

She was an attractive young woman, radiating a serene self-possession. Her face had an “old” quality even when young. So her face matured more than aged as she got older. But it was her body, more than her face, that made her famous. Posing nude for Stieglitz was a risky move, a risqué move which could have turned her into a mere curiosity, the plaything of a famous photographer. But the combination of a young woman with a great bod, who was also a decent artist, photographed in a controversial yet tasteful way by the great Stieglitz, proved to be the magic key to a lifelong career and her eventual enshrinement as America’s most famous artist (many people would not consider Warhol a “real” artist).

The exhibit didn’t include any of the nude photos, except for a couple of close-ups of her hands. (She had great hands.) Most of the photos were chosen to trace the evolution of her chosen image: “Georgia O’Keeffe, wise old crone of New Mexico.” She was always photographed wearing dark colors, with a somber expression on her face, posed in front of elemental New Mexico backgrounds – mountains, doorways, adobe walls.

Interestingly, the older she got, the deeper she got into this image, and the photographers were only too happy to oblige. They knew how to pose her just so, and get the lighting just right. She played it straight... no irony... just the wise old crone growing older each year. This is in contrast to a later generation – the 60s rock gods – who no longer feel the need to wear the rock god mask, and now allow themselves to be photographed as they really are – aging millionaires on the tail end of a lifetime of self-indulgence. But O’Keeffe lived in an earlier era, when being a celebrity – and especially a celebrity artist -- was evidently serious business, not to be taken lightly.

Abstract art doesn’t do much for me, but I have always liked her paintings of flowers, and especially flowers and skulls together. I call this “haiku with objects” – the utilization of powerful archetypes in juxtaposition. Thus, the ephemeral, fragile beauty of a flower, in association with the hard permanence of a skull... with the skull itself implying the fragility and impermanence of the animal it was once associated with. You can tell quite a story with a rose and a skull, and all without words, no less.

She did some very nice little watercolors before she got famous. And like I said, some of her paintings of flowers, bones, and skulls were excellent. But for the most part, if her paintings had been hanging in the State Capitol, I would have walked right past them without a second glance.

Downtown Santa Fe is a remarkable place, one of the few locations in the state with actual pedestrian traffic. It’s one big tourist trap. There’s the Plaza, the Palace of the Governors, various art museums, and St. Francis Cathedral, to name a few attractions. Without exception, every store is either an art gallery, a gift shop, or a restaurant. The amount of money changing hands there is staggering. Multiply that by all the other art destinations in this country, and we can trace the outlines of a huge art industry which has been fed, up to now, by the building boom and the gigantic transfer of wealth from the rabble to the elite.

Art, as defined in Late Empire America, is essentially home decor for the upper middle class and downright wealthy. People now spend an exorbitant amount of money on their homes, and home decor is a significant expense. This is why there is such a huge amount of money to be made in art, and why there are so many art galleries. Every little podunk town has its art gallery. Music, on the other hand is mere entertainment or background noise. And writing... well, you’ve got to actually read the stuff, which is a limiting factor right there. But art – specifically, paint on canvas – is a huge industry in our post-baroque era.

There’s an unprecedented renaissance in “the arts” in general going on right now. The wealthier the upper classes become, the more art they buy. But this is a frivolous era. For a couple of generations now, we have ignored our essential infrastructure – including the planet itself -- in favor of whatever today’s little trinket might be. In fifty years or less, will people look back and admire what an artistically creative culture we had, or will they remember us as the generation that destroyed the planet when we had the opportunity to save it? This is a rhetorical question, of course.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

John McCain: Minor Candidate

I just got back from a short vacation, and was shocked to learn that John McCain is going to be speaking in the Mesilla Plaza.

Now, the Mesilla Plaza is a great place, but it’s a minor venue. It’s a place for minor presidential wannabees, such as Dennis Kucinich and Wesley Clark. Joe Biden just spoke there, which is fine for a relatively low-profile vice-presidential candidate. But McCain? The big kahuna of All That’s Right? The fact that he’s speaking in the Mesilla Plaza shows just how pitiful his campaign really is. The McCain campaign chose Mesilla Plaza because it’s free, and because they just might fill it. (Psychologically speaking, it’s better to fill a small venue than to have 5000 people rattling around the PanAm Center, wondering where everybody else is.)

If Obama came to Las Cruces – which he won’t – he would fill the PanAm Center or Aggie Memorial Stadium. The enthusiasm gap between the two candidates is astounding.

As the campaign enters the home stretch, the McCain campaign is slinging mud in all directions, hoping some of it will stick. Take the whole “socialism” schtick. I mean, tax cuts for the wealthy isn’t socialism? Bailing out Wall Street with $700 billion isn’t socialism? Nationalizing the banks isn’t socialism? But giving Joe Consumer a little tax relief is socialism, evil incarnate, the ultimate no-no? Thanks for explaining this to me, John and Sarah! (And Sarah... I just adored your rap routine and cute red $5000 outfit on Saturday Night Live! You go, girl!)

I honestly don’t know anymore how intelligent Joe Consumer really is. It’s been a wild 28 years since Reagan took office, and it sure looks to me that Joe lost his marbles somewhere along the way. That’s why – despite everything – McCain continues to poll so well.

I’ll be voting next week, will make a final donation to Obama, and then I plan to curl up in the fetal position and hold my breath until after the election. What a spectacle this campaign has become! What a strange country America now is!

UPDATE Oct. 26
As it turned out, McCain drew 4000 people to his Mesilla rally. In head-to-head matchups in Albuquerque on Saturday, McCain drew 1000 people, and Obama drew 45,000. If the enthusiasm gap translates into votes, Obama should have no trouble carrying New Mexico.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Stand outside on a cold winter night and take a close look at Orion—the belt, the sword, Betelgeuse and Rigel—stars serenely beaming their light across the light years, through our fragile atmosphere and into our eyes.

Consider how old those stars are—thermonuclear fires burning eon after eon, time beyond human comprehension. When our ancestors were jumping from branch to branch eating insects and fruit, Orion shone down upon them.

Then consider—Earth’s rainforests are older than Orion! When Orion’s stars were mere clouds of contracting gas, the rainforest was already there—a teeming, buzzing, crawling cacophony of life—species upon species—growing, dying, rotting, evolving, ebbing and flowing, surging up and down the mountainsides in time to the ice ages. Orion, where were you when the first tree grew its first leaf? Where were you when the first spider spun its first web? Where were you when the first slime mold sent its first spores into the air and across the Earth? And where will you be when the final chapter of this tale is finally told?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Humans have always had a special relationship with trees. Trees are, after all, our ancient ancestral home, and even today, after several million years of adaptation to walking on the ground, we can scurry up a tree faster than you can say, “Look at the juicy ripe peach at the end of that branch!”

Most people like trees. It’s the rare house that doesn’t have a tree planted in the yard. Many people commune with trees. Others worship them. Oaks are sacred to the Druids. Visiting the California redwoods can be a religious experience. The first time I saw a redwood, I cried.

Trees talk. Their leaves chatter and murmur together. The wind blows through their branches and they sing or sigh or moan.

But even when trees are quiet, they give off air. Stand under a tree and you can smell the air. Pine air smells different than oak air, which smells different from willow air. We can never get enough of this air. Without it, we would die.

Trees are punctuation marks upon the horizon. Lombardy poplars and Italian cypress are the exclamation points. Fat round junipers are the periods. Once I saw a gnarled old hackberry tree that looked like a question mark, but I could never figure out what the question was.

Trees are colorful. Red leaves in the fall, black branches during the winter, the lightest of greens in the spring. Cottonwood and aspen leaves shimmer and flash silver as they tremble and dance in the wind.

Trees feed us. Apples, walnuts, pecans, mangoes, peaches, cherries, this list can fill a page. Trees also feed our souls. Trees are much older than we are, and have much to teach us if we would but listen.

Too many people have developed a pathological relationship with trees. This is too bad. People chainsaw them, bulldoze them, chop them with axes, slash them and burn them. But the trees are very patient. They will grow back in time, and will still be willing to teach us if we survive that long.

There are people who want to save the trees. They chain themselves to trees, write songs and poems about trees, and plant trees by the millions. We can never have too many trees, or too many people planting trees. Planting trees is a holy task, and is perhaps the most important thing a human being is capable of.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Imaging the Milky Way

Imaging, or “applied imagination,” is usually directed inward (“creative visualization” or whatever), but in this application is directed outward—in this case, onto the Milky Way. The goal here is to experience our galaxy as it actually is, rather than merely as a blobby haze of light up there in the sky. This is done by programming the relevant information into the brain, and then going out and looking at the Milky Way with this information in mind. It’s a deceptively simple technique, actually.

Our galaxy is a 12-billion-year-old collection of stars spinning around in intergalactic space like a gigantic pinwheel 100,000 light years in diameter. (A light year is how far a beam of light can travel in a year. Light travels pretty fast—7 times around the Earth in one second—but even at this tremendous speed, it would take a ray of light 100,000 years to cross our galaxy.)

Our solar system is located 30,000 light years from the galactic center. We’re located in a comfortable middle-class neighborhood, all things considered—nowhere near “downtown,” but not stuck way out in the boonies, either.

The best time to watch the Milky Way is during the summer, when the brightest star clouds are visible during the evening hours. The best place to watch the Milky Way is anywhere far from city lights with an unobstructed horizon, particularly a clear southern horizon. An isolated mountaintop or wide mesa is ideal.

When imaging onto the Milky Way, just remember a few key facts, and imagine that these are so while looking at the galaxy. That’s all there is to it.

•All of the thousands of stars we see in the foreground are our galactic neighbors—most of them are mere dozens or hundreds of light years away. The hazy Milky Way itself, a luminous band of star clouds stretching all the way across the sky, is the main body of the galaxy looming in the distance, about 10,000 light years away. When this light we are now seeing began its journey, humans were just beginning to develop agriculture.

•The center of the Milky Way is located between Sagittarius the teapot and Scorpius the scorpion, but is hidden behind the bright star clouds in the foreground.

•The galaxy is rotating in the direction of Cygnus. One revolution takes 230 million years. One galactic revolution ago, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. One galactic revolution from now, who knows if Earth will still be a living planet?

The distances involved are so vast, and the time scales are so long, that it is difficult for us to encompass the reality of what we are actually experiencing as we stand outside looking into the heart of our galaxy. Despite the technology that has become our de facto God, and despite the superstitious faith that so many people maintain, we remain mere animals, with all the limitations that implies. Our basic unit of time is the day, and our basic unit of distance is probably how far we can throw a rock. Being caught in the whirlpool of arrogance that calls itself Modern Civilization, it is easy for us to lose track of our truly insignificant place in the grander scheme of things. So it can be a very beneficial antidote to go outside on a dark night and immerse ourselves in the incomprehensible and healing vastness of outer space.

And where does this outer space really begin? Well, it’s closer than you might think—the sky starts, after all, at our own feet. We are already standing in the sky. We are already skywalkers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What is Wrong with this Country?

I’m greatly relieved that the election, at this point, looks like a blowout for Obama. I find the enthusiasm for Obama to be a heartwarming spectacle.

I’m guessing that a blowout in this case would be, in terms of popular vote, a 10% victory for Obama. This would mean a vote tally of 55% for Obama, 45% for McCain.

What this means is, that after 8 years of the most unpopular president in history (who, like McCain, is a Republican), who got us into needless war, who wrecked the economy, who condoned torture, who spies on his own citizenry, who turned his own country into an embarrassment for anybody more intelligent than a loaf of bread, and then you take the most lame-ass ticket in recent memory (a mentally unstable sleazepuppy whose mental powers are rapidly fading, and his running mate, the Den Mother from Hell), and still, despite all that, fully 45% of the country is going to vote for McCain! This is cause for drop-jaw amazement!

But then again, not really... the right-wing propaganda machine has done its work very well for several generations now. And there is another factor which I never see mentioned – the systematic abandonment of “meat and potatoes” America by the cultural creatives – those of us who are more intelligent and creative than average. The years since World War II offered unprecedented opportunities for self-actualization, which often meant leaving the traditional culture behind. How stifling to remain trapped within a culture in which people aren’t even capable of recognizing you for who you are, when an entire galaxy of opportunities awaits the more adventurous! That was certainly true in my case, and I’m sure many of you could share your own stories of questing into the unknown while leaving the old ways behind.

The upshot is America as we see it today – an amazingly creative liberal minority, and another minority, substantially larger, that is actually moving backwards into racism, fear, and hatred.

Forty years ago – 1968 – was probably the most turbulent year in recent American history. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The Vietnam War was spiraling out of control. Our cities were burning from coast to coast. Like many Baby Boomers my age, 1968 was a watershed year in my life. But despite all the problems, I was confident that -- at the very least -- we idealistic young people could create a vibrant counterculture that could, in time, turn the whole thing around.

Now, standing on the cusp of old age, surveying the wreckage of my idealistic dreams, I find myself scratching my head in wonderment and asking, what in the hell happened to this freaking country? We could have had a really good thing going – I certainly gave it my best shot -- and now look! Shiva the Destroyer has proven to be a worthy adversary.

But once again, Hope springs eternal... this time in the guise of a skinny black dude, friendly and well-spoken, the epitome of cool. I’ll be voting for Obama not so much for Obama himself (though he is as worthy a candidate as America will allow), but to show solidarity with his millions of enthusiastic followers. I hope they win, I hope they win big, and I hope they can turn this thing around. But I have absolutely no doubt that an Obama presidency will prove to be a very sobering experience for all of us. But be that as it may, I will always honor idealism and enthusiasm whenever I see it... because ultimately, that’s all we have.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Few Preliminary Words About Christianity

Since Christianity continues to have such a profound effect on our social and political process, I want to share my perspectives on this fascinating religion. It will take a lot of blog posts to cover this subject, that’s for sure.

I have a unique perspective on Christianity, especially for a liberal. I was raised a Southern Baptist. We went to church and Sunday School almost every Sunday. In fact, I earned my little Sunday School perfect attendance pin, which I proudly wore on the lapel of my suit, where politicians now wear their flag pins. The super hardcore Baptists also went to the evening service on Sunday, as well as the Wednesday evening prayer meeting. We didn’t do that, fortunately. Being a science nerd, I started to view Christianity with a skeptical eye during high school, and attended my last service my first week of college. I turned my back on them and never returned. Starting in the late 60s and continuing through the 70s and the first half of the 80s, I considered myself an Earth Pagan with an interest in spirituality and shamanism.

In 1985 I fully participated with the fundamentalist, “Full Gospel” Christians for a couple of months. Full Gospel Christians believe in healing, speaking in tongues, and other “gifts of the spirit,” such as prophecy, that mainstream Christians tend to ignore. Hence the name “Full” Gospel – the full, unedited version. During this time I ended up being baptized in an irrigation ditch. I was also “baptized in the Holy Spirit” as they call it, which includes the gift of speaking in tongues (which I haven’t done since 1985). (I left them after two months because not only couldn’t I buy their ideology, their worldview rendered my creative spirit (my Muse) irrelevant. I would rather pull a Prometheus routine, and be chained to a rock and have my liver eaten out every day for all eternity, than submit to Zeus. I’m sorry, but I simply cannot compromise my Muse.)

Liberals almost always ridicule this stuff; it’s easy to ridicule what you don’t understand. But having been there done that, I can assure you that (at least for me) it was real, and incomprehensible at any level of intellect. It’s a form of shamanism, obviously.

One flaw of modern science (as a culture, not as a technique) is their limited worldview. Scientists like to perform experiments that are repeatable, and tend to ignore anything that doesn’t fit into their little box. But real life (here and now) is not repeatable; each moment is unique. All you can do is be an honest witness while it’s happening, and later, if possible, draw whatever conclusions you can. In my life I’ve accumulated a file folder full of incomprehensible experiences, which just sit there and grin inexplicably at me.

There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence about shamanism, healing, miracles, “answered prayer,” etc... too much evidence to be ignored. One thing they all have in common: they are low-probability events, and they aren’t repeatable. In other words, life proceeds as “normal” most of the time, and occasionally – wham! – a miracle can happen. (The space/time manifold is more fluid than is commonly supposed.) Miracles are, by definition, low-probability events. If they weren’t, we would take them for granted, like we do everyday miracles like photosynthesis and the beating of our own hearts.

For the purposes of this discussion I’ll assume that Jesus really existed, and that the Bible is at least reasonably accurate about his life. One thing I noticed back in 1985 when I started reading the Bible again after a lapse of 20 years, was that I was reading it with the eyes of an adult, an adult who had already read of lot of spiritual literature, and had already accumulated a number of incomprehensible experiences during my hippie-pagan days. Not only was I able to separate the wheat from the chaff (or so it seemed to me)(unfortunately, the Bible contains a lot of chaff), but the mystical meaning of Christianity fairly leapt off the page at me.

I have no philosophical objection to Jesus’ miracles – the healings, walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. – but as a scientist I’d have to see it to actually believe it. But I witnessed and experienced enough Christian shamanism during my brief Full Gospel sojourn to be very open-minded about this kind of stuff.

What I do have a problem with is his followers forming a cult around Jesus after he had died and was no longer able to ride herd over his motley crew of disciples. This is a cult that definitely got out of hand! The disciples formed a status hierarchy, as males always do, with the ones who had been closest to Jesus being at the top. It evidently enhanced their own power to make Jesus out to be the Son of God (which is to say, different from you and me). And from this error has come a whole world of hurt.

Because in truth, we are all Sons and Daughters of God. In fact our consciousness, which is to say, Consciousness Itself, IS God, for crying out loud! Jesus came right out and told his disciples, “everything I have done, you will do... and more.” So he wasn’t laying out any kind of uniqueness trip.

It would be more accurate to call Jesus “An Awakened One”. “Son of God” implies that God exists “out there” somewhere, and that God magically impregnated Mary, who gave birth in a stable, etc. etc. The whole thing is just too much “Son of Frankenstein” for my taste. Christians have always taken the Bible way too literally, as historical truth, when in actuality Reality is beyond words and thoughts. A lot of the Bible is metaphorical. Like the Zen analogy, all you can do is point at the moon... and people get hung up on the person doing the pointing. “Look he’s pointing with one finger!” “My guru points with two fingers!” “My guru’s right!” “No, mine is!” And so it goes, when the Truth is right here at the center of our existence at along.

Like the Hindu gurus you read about, Jesus was able to bestow enlightenment (or at least a measure of healing power) onto his disciples, who walked the countryside performing miracles of their own. Now, I realize that modern-day Awakened Ones tend to dismiss miracles as trivial diversions from the true task of Awakening, but hey, I’m a primitive, you know? Show me a miracle! Even a little one! Jolt me from my complacency!

The earliest Christians lived communally, sharing their possessions, and sincerely tried to live a holy life. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. Paul, who never met Jesus, was blinded on the road to Damascus and was never the same thereafter. For one, he could perform miracles. Like he told the Corinthians when he got exasperated at them, “The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience.” (2 Cor. 12:12)

I have always wanted to write a long essay about Christianity, quoting Scripture and the whole nine yards. But it’s low on my priority list. If I ever write it, I’ll post it here. In the meantime I’ll no doubt have more to say about Christianity as time goes on. There are many false prophets out there who call themselves “Christian” because there’s always a reservoir of would-be followers waiting to be fleeced.

This is a shame because Christianity started out as pure mysticism, and got subverted into “the only Son of God” routine and “the only true religion” routine. There is so much chaff mixed with the wheat. In rejecting the mega-churches with their insufferably Republican pastors, it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are so many mystical gems in the New Testament, such as “To enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must become as a little child.” Such statements abound. I hope to someday spend a little time with my Bible and gather up the nuggets, and write a post about them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In Search of Accurate Information

Over the years I have learned not to trust the professional information-mongers. The corporate media, for example, reflects the interests of their nihilistic corporate masters, for whom destruction of the planet is merely business as usual. Even people on “our side,” such as professional environmentalists or environmental organizations, give slanted or incomplete information.

Let’s consider three of my favorite eco-dudes: James Howard Kunstler concentrates on peak oil and the financial meltdown, while downplaying global warming. Bill McKibben addresses global warming, but downplays its inevitable impact. Al Gore promotes the conversion of the American energy infrastructure to renewable energy with low CO2 output, while ignoring the glaringly obvious fact that American culture is utterly incapable of making it happen. In all three cases, they have built a career around the information they are promoting. Going beyond their self-imposed information boundaries would prove irrelevant -- and in fact destructive -- to their careers.

Even scientists tend to be very conservative in their projections for the future. Nobody wants to be too far out in front, and risk being saddled with the title, “Doctor Doom.” So they tend to hold back, remaining safely within the herd. But scientists are reality-oriented at heart, and are capable of revising their hypotheses as new data come in. This is why their newest projections have the total Arctic melt-off happening sooner than predicted only a couple of years ago. And next year’s predictions will reveal a situation even more dire, and so on.

Regarding the environmental crisis in general, I find the website Common Dreams ( covers it all. I’m particularly interested in the comments to each article. People who post comments on Common Dreams are left-leaning (moreso than Daily Kos), and not shy about expressing their opinions. These people have no writing careers to protect, so they don’t have to edit what they say. They just blurt it out, nasty and raw. Their prognosis? We’re screwed. Which is exactly what I said in my post, “The End of the Biosphere as We Knew It.”

When attempting to predict the future, we most commonly take present trends and project them into the future. This is accurate to the extent that we have good information about present realities, and becomes less reliable the farther into the future we go. But we can also assume a future event (for example, the massive Methane Fart which has already begun) and work backwards. Working both forwards and backwards can give us a more accurate fix on what to expect.

What we can expect is the rapidly-approaching denouement of what can be called the Tragedy of Civilization. According to this hypothesis, we took the wrong fork in the road 10,000 or more years ago. Theoretically, at least, we could have utilized our new, enhanced intelligence capabilities and followed what could be called the Path of Magic, where we would live within the Kingdom of Heaven, where moth and rust don’t corrupt, where like the lilies of the field we neither sow nor reap. In other words, to become cutting-edge, shamanic hunter-gatherers.

Instead, we took the Path of Civilization, with its emphasis on agriculture, technology, and war, all of which are based on the illusion that the ego is separate from Reality. This, by the way, is the true meaning of Satan. Satan, as you recall, is the dude who fancied himself God’s equal, and got cast out of Heaven for his presumption. He now lives in Hell, poor guy. All this kind of stuff is symbolic of the everyday reality we humans find ourselves in. God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, sin and redemption, are all right here, right now. Except that the religionists, as one would expect, have gotten it all wrong... either subtly wrong, or spectacularly wrong, depending on the religionist.

This blog is starting to get interesting... at least to me. At this rate, will I ever write that orcharding article?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lynch Mob Mentality

In my Oct. 5 post, “Obama vs. McCain: A Votebot Perspective,” I spoke about the delegitimization of Obama if he wins: “No matter how conciliatory Obama may be, the corporate media and right-wing noise machine will eat him alive (they already are). They’ll be fully ramped up in ballistic hyperdrive attack mode from the moment the election returns come in. The hue and cry from the right will be shrill and unrelenting.”

Well, they’ve already started. Since Obama has such a commanding lead, and McCain/Palin are such sucky candidates, why wait till the election? The McPalin campaign is already ramping up the attacks on Obama from day to day, and by the time the election rolls around, that’s all we’ll hear. The Republicans have created a lynch mob mentality – which, in addition to war, looting and corruption, is one of the things they do best.

Their attacks work best with what pundits delicately call “low-information voters.” H.L. Mencken called them the “boobs.” More colorful commentators call them the “knuckle draggers.” (There are far more people with IQs below 80 than there are with Obama’s intelligence.) These people, if not programmed right, can easily be made to resent and fear intelligent people.

The right wing strategy remains the same from decade to decade. Whenever the Republicans are in control, they literally break the bank. When the Cavers finally take power and try to clean up the mess, the Republicans, with their superior noise machine, obstruct the Cavers’ every effort to set things right. Then, when the Cavers have failed yet again to create a more enlightened nation, the Republicans take power once more, for another round of looting.

However, we’re rapidly approaching the End Times now – we’ve pissed away our wealth and energy resources (which will severely limit our options when we need them the most). The Earth is preparing to cut a big hot methane fart into our collective faces, and I don’t blame her one bit. Before long, the traditional political strategies will no longer work, and the ruling class will have to depend on naked power. Our new reality will be exciting indeed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Gardening Realities

Many Americans put out a lot of brave talk about gardening, but the reality is, most Americans simply don’t do physical labor. Physical labor is the lowest-status work there is. Sweating out there like some kind of draft animal, get real! Compared to sturdy peasant people from much of the world, Americans are lazy and soft. But this will all change soon enough, and many Americans will be pleased with their new-found ability to cope with the challenges they are presented with. (Our upcoming new reality, though challenging in many respects, has the potential to be exciting, creative, and deeply fulfilling. Our present era of terminal glut will be seen, in retrospect, as a frivolous time which left most of us paralyzed -- much as a glutton has to sleep off a heavy meal.)

Pretty much everything in present-day American culture depends on unlimited, cheap energy. This is particularly true with agriculture, which depends not only on fuel to power the machinery, but fertilizer made from fossil fuels. American culture has given no evidence of being able to act intelligently; however, when peak oil really hits (which it hasn’t yet), gasoline and diesel fuel will have to be strictly allocated. The military and law enforcement will no doubt seize their share first. Then, transportation and industrial agriculture will have to slug it out. The rabble (that’s you and me) will get what’s left.

The point is, industrial agriculture will have much less fossil fuel to play with. Biofuels are a scam. So what to do?

If they were able to act intelligently (which they aren’t), they could start by doing two things: 1) cut way back on meat production, which is extremely wasteful, and 2) concentrate on growing high-protein human foods – grains and legumes. (Feeding grains and legumes to people rather than livestock means that less land would have to be farmed, less energy would be required to farm it, and much of our present farmland, which is subject to erosion, could be returned to pasture and forest.) Veggies are best grown locally -- either in backyards, or in large market gardens for local sale.

The most important benefits of a backyard garden are 1) the benefits to your health from eating freshly-picked, high-quality veggies, 2) the spiritual benefits of participating in the ancient interaction of sunlight and photosynthesis, and 3) the physical benefits of actually getting out there and performing some physical labor.

I took on a labor-intensive lifestyle back in 1970, and my attitude has always been, “People pay good money to work out at the gym. I’m getting my exercise and feeding myself, all for free. Such a deal!”

By and large, the foods a garden can provide are low in calories, high in water content, but nevertheless extremely healthful. The ideal diet would be mostly fruits and vegetables (many of them raw), with a moderate amount of concentrates (grains and legumes), with animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) used as a garnish. As an ex-vegan, I find that a modest amount of animal products allow my body to function most optimally. But everybody needs to experiment for themself.

(Parenthetically I should add at this point that the name of my blog, “New Earth Times,” should actually be, “New Multiverse Times.” (There are almost certainly an infinite number of physical universes, of which ours is but one.) Be that as it may, I am physically located at an elevation of 4000 feet in southern New Mexico, with a long growing season, lots of sun, and alkaline soil. So my specific gardening advice is focused on that physical reality, though much gardening information is relevant anywhere.)

It looks like today’s session is winding down. I like the way these 500-word segments can add together over a period of time into something significant. I will no doubt be uploading a lot more gardening info as time goes on. I also want to talk about orcharding -- a subject that tends to get neglected, probably because an orchard presupposes that people will remain in one spot for a period of time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

That Was Quick!

It’s amazing how fast the crash is proceeding day-to-day. I hope they can cobble something together so that things fall apart gradually rather than all at once. I’ve got a lot of intelligent spending to do, and it takes time! Being an economic primitive, I never believed in IRAs and all that fancy stuff. My version of wealth is seeing how thick my wad of $20 bills is. So I’m anxious to spend my wad on useful stuff while it still has some value. People who have more sophisticated investment instruments will doubtless feel the same way, as they watch the money they thought they had evaporating before their eyes.

I feel frustrated that I don’t have much time for this blog right now, because as a beekeeper, the tail-end of the honey season is a demanding time – harvesting the last of the honey crop, medicating the hives (which involves opening each hive 3 times over a 3-week interval), bottling honey every day (sales are at an unprecedented level), getting ready for the local Renaissance Faire (we’re the honey-selling gypsies), and then, in my spare time, making the plethora of last-minute improvements to my microfarm that I’ve been putting off for years. So... first thing each morning except Saturday (Farmer’s Market day), I have determined to squeeze in the time to write a few hundred words of useful information, and so far today I haven’t written anything useful!

First, a few quick words about my background: I started out as a Planetary Astronomer, specializing on weather patterns on the planet Jupiter, but I got caught up in the 60s, got fired from my astronomy job, and went “back to the land” in 1970. (This story is available at (I'm sorry, it's been years since I tried to use Blogger, and don't have time right now to learn how to add links.) (My thoughts on a land-based lifestyle, community, etc. are found at So I have 38 years of hardcore homesteading experience to offer. Also, during this time I put out a couple of magazines about sustainable living – Dry Country News and Earth Quarterly. And, I wrote about 20 articles for Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News back in the day. So, I consider myself a seasoned old warhorse of an information-monger, and I intend for this blog to be the mother of all info-dumps.

The key element to a sustainable lifestyle, in my opinion, is to actually own your domicile – your home and the land it sits on. Why pay somebody else to occupy space on this magical planet? We were born here, we evolved here, so why should we have to pay to live here? In this culture, when people say, “I own my home” they actually mean, “I own a mortgage on my home.” Only when you pay off the mortgage, and own your home free and clear, can you actually say you own your home. This is a critical distinction in a time of economic turmoil. In my case (the example I know best), my property taxes are about $200 a year and that’s the ONLY obligatory expense I have. Sure, I have to buy food, gasoline, electricity, clothing, etc. etc., but nobody is going to take my home away from me if I don’t buy these items. Since I don’t have to pay a mortgage, the government is the only agency capable of taking my land away from me, and paying my property tax every year is a small price to pay.

I don’t believe in debt. Laura and I use our credit cards as a way of ordering things online and having them shipped instantly, but we always pay our credit card bill every month. Interest is money wasted. Debt is not wealth – a fact that mainstream America has lost sight of. Stuff is more valuable than money – especially in our new era when money is in the process of losing some or all of its value. And the most important “stuff” of all is a piece of land on which you can live, grow food, and be more in tune with our planet. The poet Gary Snyder wrote an essay called “Reinhabitation” about 30 years ago, in which he said that a sustainable lifestyle is “Living on the sun and green of one spot.” This phrase always stuck with me, because it encapsulates what this way of life really involves. I’ll do a Google search and see if I can find the essay and pass on the gist of it.

By the way, I’m performing this as a public service. I enjoy writing, needless to say, and your comments feed my soul. I’m making plenty of money as a beekeeper, so I’m glad to give this information away. I hope to zero in on the important stuff.

There are a myriad of details, but the concept of owning your own domicile free and clear is key. I don’t know what mortgage holders can expect. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, and he pointed out that during the Great Depression, laws were passed to reorganize the mortgage industry so that people wouldn’t lose their homes. No doubt the same thing will happen now. But it’s far more elegant to just own your domicile free and clear so you can be free from the mortgage industry altogether. (And be free of mortgage payments!) For people watching their investments evaporating in front of their eyes, it seems logical to turn your remaining horde (or at least part of it) into a place to live.

Speaking of which, there are two places for sale just down the road from me; both have Rio Grande frontage, which means bottomland for gardening and plenty of water. Both are wildly overpriced, as one would expect. I suspect there will be a time window in which property values will drop, but the dollar will still have value. That’s the time to strike! Send me an email at if you want more info. We are always interested in creating “intentional neighborhood” around these parts!

The day is dawning, life beckons, so until later... I hope I’ve said something useful this time!

p.s. The title for this post “That Was Quick!” also refers to the email I just received from Hannah at the blog “Safely Gathered In,” which is devoted to food storage. She wrote in response to yesterday’s “Grocery Shopping” post. What a wonderful blog they have! Each post covers a different aspect of food storage, and features dozens of color photos with helpful captions, that lead you step-by-step through whatever process they are describing. If you’re interested in food storage (and we all should be), I highly recommend their blog.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Grocery Shopping

I’ve been waiting for the crash for the past 35 years, so I should be ready for it if anybody is. But I find myself bargaining with reality: "Give me 6 more months to get ready!" "Or better yet, give me another couple of years!"

I think we have all been given ample warning this time. The real crash hasn’t happened yet, but it surely will. It’s not a matter of if, but when. So what do we do in the meantime? Do we stand here like deer in the headlights, or do we get off our butts and do something? Which is to say, do we spend our money intelligently now (or very soon), or do we wait until it loses most or all of its value?

So yesterday, Laura and I did some serious grocery shopping. We bought $200 worth of staples – mostly beans, rice, and whole-grain pasta. Next we’ll go to the feed store and buy a couple of bags of wheat – a very inexpensive food source. Then we’ll go to the food co-op and order some staples from their wholesale catalog. We’ll probably spend over $500 before we’re through.

Ironically, most of this is food we seldom eat in everyday life. Our priority right now is food that will store for several years. This leaves out nuts (one of our favorite foods), because they go rancid fairly quickly due to their high oil content. Not only do the foods we’re buying store well, they combine well with foods we can grow in our garden.

In my 40 years of gardening experience, I’ve learned that gardens in the high desert are very good at providing greens and root crops during the winter, and a plethora of veggies during the summer. The one thing it’s hard to grow enough of are the concentrated protein foods – beans and grains. So that’s what we’re concentrating on with our food storage program.

I’ve got a lot to say, but not enough time to say it in. So I’ll try to write a few hundred words as frequently as possible, and eventually it will add up to quite a little archive. I think the coming era has the potential to be a creative, exciting, and liberating time if we keep our act together. It behooves us to be as prepared as possible, to remain upbeat and positive, and to be prepared to work harder than we ever have in our lives. Fortunately, we will no longer be paralyzed by the Earth-destroying glut and the mind-numbing dumbness of mass American culture. Imagine waking up each morning, excited by what the day will bring. Wow... reminds me of today!

More to come...

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Shock Doctrine in Action

The Shock Doctrine, as outlined by writer Naomi Klein, is a diabolically simple two-step process:

1) Create a crisis, and

2) "rescue" people from the crisis by fucking them over.

The Shock Doctrine is a neocon’s ultimate wet dream -- the more crises you create, the more powerful you become!

The $700 billion "bailout" recently passed by Congress is a classic example of the Shock Doctrine in action – first you create a crisis, and then you reward the perpetrators by fucking over the taxpayers. (Whenever you see Republicans and Cavers voting in unison, you can be sure that the Empire -- which is to say, the ruling class – needs defending in some fundamental way.) There were many alternative -- and much more intelligent -- plans put forth in the days after the Bush administration’s bailout was proposed, but as usual, Congress ignored the alternatives and chose the neocon version, liberally larded with pork to make it more palatable.

The purpose of the bailout is not to "fix" the economy. (The neocons have known about the economic crisis for months (Grassroots Press has been alerting its readers about the crisis for years), but chose this politically advantageous time – right before the election – to spring a little Shock Doctrine Surprise on us.) The real purpose of the bailout is to transfer another $700 billion dollars from the rabble to the aristocracy; it’s that simple.

In fact, the bailout is specifically designed to make the economic crisis worse. This way, there will be more meltdowns, and more bailouts, ad infinitum. Ultimately the real economic crisis will hit. (Clue: our savings and retirement accounts will – voila! – disappear.) Then, we will find that -- surprise! -- the coffers are stone empty. Sucked dry. (At which time we will either become serfs, or we’ll be forced to rise up and confiscate the ill-gotten wealth from the plutocrats after we throw them all in jail. But that’s the subject for a later essay. Events need to ripen for a couple of years first.)

Since the day they stole the 2000 election, the Bush administration’s attitude has been, "stop us if you can." So far, we haven’t had much success stopping them. We’ve tried electing Cavers to Congress, to little effect. We are now looking at the final breakdown of representative self-government. The neocon plan: no-nonsense autocracy, Chinese-style.

I realize we’re supposed to be all excited about Obama, and I am, sort of. But Obama would never have gotten this far if he hadn’t been an agent of the Empire all along. He will certainly be vastly better than the senile playboy McCain, but under an Obama Administration we can expect more "necessary" bailouts and not nearly enough funding for necessities like healthcare and alternative energy. The necessary fundamental changes to our socio-economic system will simply not be on the table.

When referring to the Iraq War, liberals like to quote the definition of insanity as "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." With that in mind, isn’t it insane to keep electing Cavers and expecting them to magically grow spines? Their behavior seems irredeemably pre-programmed. Without strong representation, our powerlessness became embarrassing long ago. But what are we supposed to do, stop shopping or something? Electing Cavers doesn’t seem to accomplish much. Frankly, I don’t see any obvious solutions at this point. All we can do for now is enjoy what now looks like a substantial victory for Obama and the Cavers. Because compared to McCain and his neocon cohorts, Obama and the Cavers are by far the lesser of two evils.

Cross-posted to the Grassroots Press website, . I’m now updating my blog after a 2½ year break. The economic crash is guaranteed to get much worse, but this can be an exciting, creative, and liberating time if we handle it right. As the crash progresses, I plan to share my observations, rants, and handy hints. I always appreciate your comments.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Neocon New Age: Some Contributing Factors

Oct/Nov 08 Grassroots Press column:

Presidential elections offer a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the American psyche. Since we’re all so good at wearing the happy face, it can be disconcerting to see what lies beneath the surface. I’m particularly fascinated at how John "Four More Years" McCain and Sarah "One Heartbeat Away" Palin are marketing themselves as agents of change. Their audacity is breathtaking. What’s really fascinating is, it just might work. Imagine, a president worse than Bush! Only in America...

There are dozens of intertwined factors which contribute to the political spectacle we are now witnessing. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:

● DEMOGRAPHICS. There have never been enough liberals/progressives to go around. Since people prefer to associate with others who share their values and interests, liberals/progressives tend to gather together in enclaves where there are good jobs and a supportive environment. Every state has at least one – Austin, TX; Missoula, MT; Ann Arbor, MI; San Francisco, Portland, Seattle; on and on. Only within these enclaves are liberals/progressives a critical mass, and able to influence the culture at large. The hinterlands have been essentially abandoned. There are plenty of liberals/progressives out there in the boonies, but they are too few to have much local impact. Much of the country is hardcore redneck; thus we have vast areas of red on the electoral map. Due to the archaic electoral college system, red states are more influential than their small populations justify.

● LACK OF A LIBERAL MESSAGE MACHINE. The Internet has far more influence than it used to, but it has one huge disadvantage – you have to be able to read. The mass of Americans live in an increasingly non-literate culture. They believe what they are told by a human voice more than printed words. Corporate television, churches, and right-wing radio dominate. Liberals do make effective use of the Internet, but otherwise, the right wing has been very sophisticated in utilizing high technology to spread the most retrograde of messages. Liberals have been lackadaisical in creating an effective message machine -- which means satellite TV 24/7/365, nothing less. Sorry, but small-circulation print media isn’t nearly enough. Spending millions on advertising once every four years isn’t enough. Having made so little effort to prepare the soil, liberals shouldn’t be surprised when their seeds don’t grow as well as expected.

● WORSHIP OF THE MILITARY. The masses of people have been programmed to worship all things military. That’s why McCain’s "All POW all the time" strategy works so well. This country has always been militaristic, but World War Two kicked the pro-military bias into permanent overdrive, and we’re living with the consequences.

● WHITE RESENTMENT. It’s a slick trick by the neocons – outsource peoples’ jobs, destroy their livelihoods, then focus their anger at convenient scapegoats like liberals and blacks. Barack and Michelle Obama are positive, upbeat people who have made something of themselves. Worse, they’re black. This causes resentment not only among white racists in general, but within a key Republican demographic: what could be called the white loser class. Ideally, there would be no losers; we would all have something of value to offer society. But that’s not how competitive capitalism works. Increasing numbers of people have become superfluous. This makes them insecure, fearful, and angry. Karl Rove is all about manipulating the reptilian brain, and the most effective method is to utilize fear by focusing anger onto an "enemy." The enemy, as they define it, happens to be us... and terrorists, of course. Terrorists are the Communists of the 21st Century, and liberals are their enablers, so they say.

● CHRISTIANITY. There are many sincerely spiritual Christians, but wolves in sheep’s clothing abound, fleecing their flocks and spreading lies. There are two kinds of Christians: 1) the New Testament, Jesus-oriented, Sermon-on-the-Mount-type "spiritual Christians," and 2) the Old Testament, Jehovah-oriented, fear-of-hell-type "war Christians." The second category have been Bush’s most loyal followers, and are the reason fundamentalist Palin was added to McCain’s ticket. The War Christians support war (naturally enough), have no problem with torture, and would lord over us with absolute dominion if they could. What a Hell they could create for us all! Christianity in general is hierarchical (an absolute division between God and the universe; between pastor and flock) and monolithic (they have the absolute truth, and no disagreement is allowed). Diversity/democracy and Christianity are on opposite ends of the see-saw -- keeping the proper balance is critically important.

● INFORMATION OVERLOAD. The amount of information pumped out globally every second would probably take lifetimes for a single individual to assimilate. Most of this information is trivial. Americans are appallingly ill-informed by the McMedia. The most important issues are the ones guaranteed not to be discussed in our so-called national "discourse." People are intentionally left distracted, confused, and helpless.

● POISONING THE WELL. Four years ago I referred to "poisoning the well": "Information need not be accurate -- the goal is simply to sow doubt and confusion. Sling enough mud, and some of it is bound to stick. Poisoning the well is easy and effective, but unfortunately bad information drives out the good, and Americans are reduced to a Soviet-style helpless cynicism. There is no longer any standard of truth, since even the most accurate information can and will be countered by lies -- and all but the most intelligent Americans end up hopelessly confused." Since then, unfortunately, the poison has spread from the well to the entire aquifer. The poisoning of our public discourse reminds me of the Romans plowing salt into the ashes of Carthage so that nothing would ever grow there again. We are dealing with a take-no-prisoners adversary who are destroying civilization and the entire planet in their quest for power. Even though they themselves will be destroyed as well, they simply don’t care. The more they destroy, the more frantic their destruction becomes. They are, in a word, nihilists:

● NEOCON NIHILISM. Nihilism isn’t something I think about very often, so I went to to refresh my memory. Here’s what I found:
1. Total rejection of established laws and institutions.
3. Total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large...
4. Philosophy.
a. the denial of... the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
Does this remind you of anybody?
You know, to the extent I thought about them at all, I thought of nihilists as loser bohemian intellectuals, dressed in black, drinking coffee in depressing little dives, having dark discussions about the meaninglessness of nothingness. It’s mind-boggling to realize that nihilism has taken over both the American corporate elite and the United States Government.

● THE CONSUMERIST DELUSION. American society is based upon unlimited, cheap energy, and a relatively stable climate not conducive to famine. All this is changing before our eyes. The most intelligent Americans are now, finally, beginning to pay lip service to the concept that we really need to get serious about thinking about, you know, maybe doing things a bit differently (but not enough to make us uncomfortable). So far, they aren’t actually doing very much, because deep down inside, they’re still hoping our problems will magically go away. Thoreau said, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Looking around me I see a lot of delusion, a little bit of lip service, and so many castles, I can barely see the sky.

To summarize: for whatever reasons (a few of which I have outlined above), a critical mass of Americans live within a subjective reality that might as well be another planet, which we can call Bizarro Earth. On Bizarro Earth, there’s no need for facts or logic or any of that old fashioned crap; just make it up as you go along! Create your own reality by thinking it into existence! It’s the nihilist neocon fundie version of the New Age, with the guaranteed destruction of Earth as their backdrop. Will the critical mass of Americans who live on Bizarro Earth be enough to swing the election? The Republicans are counting on it.

I’m sure the Obama people know what they’re up against. Obama is running as intelligent a campaign, within the straitjacket of 2008 America, as anybody in history. I highly recommend Daily Kos if you want to see why Obama will win, or so they say. Personally, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he does. Like 2000 and 2004, the neocons are running a negative campaign, slinging mud, playing to the base, feeding them plenty of red meat to keep them suitably rabid, and counting on keeping the election close enough to steal. They’re also trying to sell themselves as agents of change, which proves that Karl Rove really does have a sense of humor. Obama has a sophisticated ground game to get out the vote; his strategy is to draw in enough new voters to overwhelm the fundie vote. Considering all the Diebold machines still out there, he’ll need a substantial win to keep the election from being stolen. I’m rooting for him. Despite our policy differences, I know a quality person when I see one. I’m curious to see how much impact he’ll attempt to have as president, and whether he’ll be Kennedy-ized for it. I have no curiosity whatsoever about what a McCain presidency would look like.

I also have a personal stake in this election – I don’t want my son to get drafted, or more likely, to be crushed by the Machine when he resists the draft. The neocons successfully sold us a war based on lies in 2003. Now they’re trying to sell us a mentally unstable, vindictive, not-too-bright military has-been as President. If they can do that, they should have no problem selling us a draft to go along with the police state that is busily locking itself around us as we speak. I’d rather not flaunt the probabilities.


p.s. By the time this article is printed, the big news might well be the continuing financial meltdown which has been ongoing for the past year or so. Politically, the big question will be: can the Republicans, even though they made it happen, successfully blame the Democrats? Will the voters ask themselves why they put all their faith in the funny-money economy? Presumably, the powers-that-be will manage to fix the economy with duct tape and everything will be just fine.

Obama vs. McCain: A Votebot Perspective

Aug/Sept 08 Grassroots Press column:

This time I’d like to share some observations from my vantage point high in the left field bleachers. The air is thin up here, but we have a perfect view of the all-too-predicable game being played on the field below.

Let’s start with this year’s presidential election. Those of us who paid attention in the years after Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention learned not to expect too much from him. To be sure, he’s a brilliant politician, and as charismatic as they come. There’s a lot to like about him – he can speak in complete paragraphs, for example, unlike certain brain-challenged politicians who would best be left unmentioned. But he’s also very cautious, very corporate, and very safe... which is why he’s electable at all. Unfortunately, our corrupt and sclerotic political system is designed to prevent the election of the bold, decisive leadership we desperately need.

Since my last full report over a year ago, the Big Four clusterfucks (global warming, peak oil, the economic meltdown, and the authoritarian takeover) are all considerably worse – which is not surprising, given the fact that we are prevented from taking decisive action by the powers-that-be. Clearly, our ruling class is bent on creating a major opportunity for them to try out the Shock Doctrine on us. What they envision is a crisis so severe that Americans will give up just about everything in exchange for a little perceived "security." A gas shortage will do it. Or a terrorist attack. There are many possible "triggers." When the Shock Doctrine is applied, the zillionaires will get even richer and more powerful, while everybody else will have to sacrifice their freedom and fortune "for the good of all." Unless a mass personality transplant takes place before then, the passive and compliant American people will probably accept whatever fate is imposed upon them.

Why, then, bother to vote at all? This is a good question. I can only speak for myself, and my excuse, I blush to say, is...... I’m a votebot. (There! I finally said it! What a relief! Hallelujah, I’m out of the closet at last!) Yes, I’m a votebot. I make no excuses: I’m an automaton. I can’t help myself. I’m programmed to always vote for the lesser of two evils. I’m absolutely dependable: I’ll always vote, and I’ll always vote for the lesser evil. In this case, it took my internal programming less than a millisecond to tell me that I’m going to vote for Obama in November. Because no matter how badly Obama might betray my left-field-bleacher values, McCain is unspeakably worse.

The corporate media will always give McCain a pass on just about everything, while holding Obama to an impossibly high standard. (You have probably noticed that the high-profile television pundits and newscasters, almost without exception, are insufferable, self-absorbed morons. This is not an accident. Being a self-absorbed moron is a job requirement for working in the higher echelons of corporate television. Their motto is, "Under our watch, the boat will not be rocked!" ) Corporate television has decreed that McCain’s captivity and torture are sacred, and will be sucked up to at all times. Well, the truth is (and this is why people like me will never be on TV): We shouldn’t have been bombing Vietnam in the first place. McCain should never have been put in a position to be shot down, imprisoned, and tortured. It’s a tragedy that he was forced to spend a critical chunk of his young adulthood locked up in a hellhole like that, but what about all the innocent Vietnamese he killed with his bombs? Why are the murdered Vietnamese never mentioned? Obviously, we will never hear this point of view on TV. Why do we see the usual gang of idiots day after day, but seldom anybody as intelligent and articulate as, say, Michael Moore? How can they call it a "free press" when points of view not authorized by the ruling class are systematically excluded? It looks like tyranny to me. The ruling class retains its death grip on what passes for public discourse in this country, the authorized message remains tightly controlled, and so far the Internet has been unable to match corporate television’s propaganda power.

The ruling class is not to be trifled with. For those of us with long memories, it’s instructive to remember what happened to John Edwards earlier this year. Though a flawed candidate, Edwards was the choice of myself and most of my cohort, because he spoke truth to power a little bit. For this reason, the corporate media brought him down. It was trivially simple: they simply ignored his ass, and before long his funding dried up and he had to drop out. Even the pollsters ignored him, turning the campaign into a race between the two corporate candidates, Hillary and Obama. And there wasn’t a damn thing Edwards could do about it.

From the corporate point of view, Obama has always been a safe candidate, else he would never have gotten this far. His hard right turn after finally defeating Hillary was totally predictable. This has tended to deflate the enthusiasm from the left flank, but as a votebot I’ll vote for him anyway. I’ll even send him money and put up a yard sign – McCain is that bad. (As with Bush, it would be an insult to my very existence to have McCain as president.) And frankly, I’m curious to see what an Obama presidency would look like. Obviously, he has to do whatever he deems necessary to get elected. First things first, and all that. Then, perhaps – you never know – he could become the Roosevelt of our era; our desperate situation certainly cries for it. His presidency will be a struggle, that’s for sure. No matter how conciliatory Obama may be, the corporate media and right-wing noise machine will eat him alive (they already are). They’ll be fully ramped up in ballistic hyperdrive attack mode from the moment the election returns come in. The hue and cry from the right will be shrill and unrelenting. Obama and his fellow Spelunkers (they always cave) will find it difficult to accomplish what they want. And in the meantime, our planet is rapidly going down the tubes.

Which brings us, once again, to global warming and environmental destruction in general. The following situation sums it all up for me: For years now we have been asked to (if it’s not too much trouble) please consider the possibility of perhaps someday, if convenient, contemplating the concept of maybe installing a compact fluorescent bulb or two, that is, if it doesn’t inconvenience us too much. In the meantime, last I heard, the Chinese are still building a new coal-fired power plant every week. The imbalance here is staggering. Our efforts at sustainability remain pitiful after all these decades -- not only because most Americans have been asleep, but because the ruling class won’t allow significant change to happen. We have been trained to be satisfied with baubles and trinkets.

On a more local level, every time I pass one of the shiny new housing developments now ringing Las Cruces, I wonder how the mortgage owners intend to pay off their mortgages when the economy finally tanks. (Remedial Economics 101: You own your home after you have paid off the mortgage. Until then, you are a mere mortgage owner, as the multitudes of foreclosed-upon are learning to their dismay.) Few Americans have yet woken up to the fact that pretty much everything in our modern consumer world is predicated on a future that no longer exists. The days of unlimited energy are over, and the economy has already been gutted by the ruling class. Even white guys in suits are sounding the alarm, and in America, nobody’s got higher credibility than white guys in suits. The good news is: the inevitable financial collapse, if it happens soon enough, might be the last-gasp opportunity to save the planet we once knew. People will not voluntarily slow down; it will have to be imposed upon them. A massive financial meltdown might put enough of a damper on our frantic destruction to allow an eventual return to some degree of normalcy.

If the situation is so unsatisfactory, then why bother to speak at all? I ask myself this question all the time. After all, goes the conventional wisdom, if you can’t say anything positive, then don’t say anything at all. But saying nothing cedes the field to the deluded and the snake oil salesmen, as well as to the very nice people who shrink from the harshness of our predicament. The truth may be ugly, but as supposedly rational beings, accurate information must remain our starting point for any kind of meaningful action... though there’s an excellent chance that our opportunity for meaningful action has already passed. In which case I would rather be a clear and honest witness, using every shred of my consciousness and intelligence, than to be blinded by wishful thinking.

In the greater scheme of things, is the death of a planet really all that important? Everything within our space-time continuum – in other words, the universe itself – is temporary. As individuals, part of our spiritual growth – especially as we get older – is to come to terms with death. The death of ourselves, the death of our civilization, the death of our planet, the death of our universe – life and death are the irreducible yin and yang of our existence. It looks like I’m starting to get all mystical again. Next issue I’ll muck about within this realm and see if there are any conclusions to be drawn.

("It’s summertime and the livin’s still easy," says our author, who is still hugging his trees and milking his bees on the bank of the Rio Grande near Radium Springs. And just between you and me -- don’t let him know I told you -- he still hopes there’s hope.)

Deciphering the Dog Whistle: What Are Conservatives Really Saying?

Apr/May 08 Grassroots Press column:

The political Silly Season began over a year ago, so I thought I’d finally dive in and write about politics. The source material for this essay is Todd G. Dickson’s article in the Feb. 29 Las Cruces Bulletin, entitled "Marquardt touts legislative experience in Congressional bid." Conservative Terry Marquardt of Alamogordo is running in the Republican primary for the Congressional seat vacated by Steve Pearce, who is making a run for U.S. Senate. Marquardt says he is the most conservative candidate, in the mold of Pearce and the late Joe Skeen.

Judging from the article, Marquardt has nothing original to say, but why should he? The 1980 Reagan playbook has stood the test of time very well... not because of a superior philosophy, but because progressives have been unable to successfully articulate a compelling vision. A rabid Republican base, a corporate-controlled press, and a spineless Democratic Party have proven an unbeatable combination in recent decades. But this year just might be different.

Bloggers use the term "dog whistle" to describe Republican discourse. Conservative politicians speak in a code calculated to stir up their base, while leaving liberals relatively clueless. Just as only dogs can hear a dog whistle, only fellow conservatives truly understand the coded message. (Liberals become bored and restless whenever conservatives start to speak, and quickly tune them out. This is a big mistake.) One classic example of "dog whistle" is the Republicans’ use of the term "state’s rights" in the 70s, which was code for "keeping blacks in their place."

As a public service, I will translate Marquardt’s conservativese into plain English, in the hope that non-conservatives might better understand what he’s really saying.

According to the article, Marquardt says that "people are willing to spend money for national defense, but are upset by wasteful spending." Marquardt "supports... a federal balanced budget and ending ‘earmark’ spending." Translation: He supports unlimited military spending; but to balance the budget, social programs like Social Security and Medicaid will have to be cut.

Marquardt opposes universal health care. He is quoted as saying, "Universal health care will take away from that important doctor-patient relationship." Translation: Universal health care will take away from that important relationship between insurance companies and politicians.

The article continues: "As for the economy, Marquardt supports tax reductions for capital gains and dividends." Translation: Yet more tax cuts for the rich. Imagine that!

He is quoted as saying "I’m for individual liberty, free-market solutions, less taxes and less government interference." This doesn’t lend itself to a quick translation, so let’s look at these points individually:

"Individual liberty," well, who doesn’t believe in this? However, to conservative politicians, by far the most important "individuals" are corporations. Constitutional safeguards for genuine, human individuals are to be ignored whenever possible, and permanently trashed whenever expedient.

"Free-market solutions" means, among other things, privatizing what used to be government functions, such as the military. Privatization is an important part of the conservative philosophy because behind most corporations stands at least one Republican-donating millionaire. Why support government bureaucrats when you could be supporting millionaires instead?

"Less taxes," as we all know by now, really means "less taxes for the wealthy." Sure, you can throw the occasional rebate to the masses from time to time, but conservative politicians never forget where their true loyalty lies... with "the haves and the have-mores."

"Less government interference," you’ve got to be kidding! We now have the most corrupt, intrusive, lying, spying, torturing, Constitution-bashing administration in history, and we’re supposed to believe that electing a Republican will result in "less government interference?" Give me a break! What he really means, of course, is "less government interference in corporate affairs." The rabble, on the other hand, are potentially dangerous, and must be strictly programmed and controlled at all times.

That pretty well covers the translation aspect of this article. In summary, it is obvious that the conservative philosophy has not kept up with changing times. In short, conservatives have become irrelevant. It is the task of the Democrats to sell a more realistic vision that addresses our rapidly-worsening situation.

I hope Marquardt is the Republican nominee, because the voters deserve a stark choice. For the Democrats, I prefer Bill McCamley. I think his promotion of the spaceport hype was a big mistake, but policy-wise he's an infinite improvement over Steve Pearce. McCamley comes across as a sharp guy who articulates well. I think he has the best chance of any Democratic candidate in recent memory. Whoever the Democratic candidate may be, he will have to run a creative, mistake-free, and well-funded campaign to have any kind of chance. This is, after all, the notoriously conservative 2nd Congressional District, but this year the stars are as well-aligned as they’ll ever be.

Turning to the rest of the state, we find that Heather Wilson’s congressional seat is a very feasible Democratic pick-up, and Tom Udall’s seat in congress is traditionally a safe Democratic stronghold. Udall is polling very well so far in his Senate race, and I sure am enjoying watching Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson tear each other to shreds. Just think – one of them will lose in June, and the other will lose in November!

This is a unique opportunity for a major Democratic sweep in November. We could end up with our entire Congressional delegation Democratic.

Unfortunately, politics as now practiced is irredeemably trivial and corrupt. Our political system is unable to confront the fundamental problems – global warming, peak oil, economic meltdown, galloping authoritarianism -- we are faced with. Despite everything, I continue to hope there’s hope... what else do we really have? Pardon my skepticism, but I assume that Obama is using "hope" as a ploy to gain power, and that he will prove to be yet another agent of the status quo system that is destroying our planet. Hopefully he will prove me wrong; the other candidates are much worse.

Turning to more interesting topics, I always thought the so-called "transformation of consciousness" on this planet was a great concept, but saw little evidence that a critical mass could be formed quickly enough to do much good. But now, for the first time, thanks to the combination of Eckart Tolle’s commonsense mysticism and Oprah Winfrey’s media savvy and star power, I am acknowledging that -- just maybe – truly meaningful change might be possible. Contact for details about her ongoing "New Earth" web event.

Astronomers are making exciting breakthroughs into understanding the nature of our universe. (Notice I said "our" universe, not "the" universe.) From the Sky and Telescope website: "Researchers have confirmed some key predictions of the ‘inflationary universe’ theory of how the Big Bang itself erupted from a much larger, underlying pre-existence, which could be producing inconceivable numbers of other, separate big-bang universes all the time." Hmmm. Combine this "underlying pre-existence" concept with the fact that our universe consists of only 4.6% "ordinary" matter (the other 95.4% is dark energy and dark matter which humans are unable to perceive directly), and we find that what we usually take to be "reality" is but the thinnest sliver of something inconceivably vast and incomprehensible from which words and thoughts must, of necessity, turn back. Which is what the mystics have been saying all along. I’ll chew on these topics and see if anything interesting presents itself. Stay tuned.

(Gordon Solberg spends most of his time hugging trees at his micro-farm, Soarbird Ranch, near Radium Springs.)

The End of the Biosphere as We Knew It

Apr/May 07 Grassroots Press column:

If we reduced the Earth to the size of a large onion, the atmosphere would be about half the thickness of the onion’s papery outer skin. Life on our planet is confined to this thin layer; we call it the biosphere. People have no clue how fragile the biosphere really is. Or was.

From now on, we can refer to the biosphere in the past tense since it is continually degrading; there is no longer any stable point of reference. We can no longer say, "this is what the biosphere is;" we can only say, "this is what the biosphere was." By the time you read this sentence, the biosphere is already measurably degraded compared to its condition when you started reading this article. Every second, another acre of rainforest is destroyed. Every second, uncounted kilotons of ice melt, never to refreeze. Every second, another four human babies are born, which works out to 96,000,000 each year. And so forth. We have finally managed to destroy Earth’s equilibrium, and still our human madness continues... only faster. We are insisting on accelerating into the brick wall. We are the generation that will leave a ruined planet as our legacy.

Back in the 60s, I started out my professional life as a planetary astronomer, specializing in weather patterns on the planet Jupiter. Instead of pursuing this career, I decided to live more in harmony with the Earth, so I dropped out and went back to the land (where I still remain). I have always viewed Earth in planetary terms, and keeping track of our planet has long been a hobby of mine. I have spent decades waiting in vain for any evidence that our species is capable of reversing its deadly trajectory.

It is my considered opinion, based on decades of reading and pondering, that our planet will eventually experience a massive dieoff -- not only of humans, but of many (or most) other species as well. It is impossible to say when this will actually happen, but a destroyed planet is all but guaranteed. This should come as no surprise to people aware of the enormity of the environmental crisis we have unleashed.

I have always been a liberal tree hugger; I wear the insignia proudly on my sleeve; I support Al Gore and all the rest. But the evidence is so overwhelming, so compelling, that as a scientist I have no choice but to draw the logical conclusion: massive dieoff relatively soon. The essence of science is to (a) make accurate observations, and (b) to draw the logical conclusions from these observations. As time goes on, and we accumulate more information, our conclusions might change. Unlike the faith-based elements of our society, scientists always reserve the right to change our minds. But at this point in time, the logical conclusion – a massive dieoff – is inescapable. Whether or not humans manage to pull off a last-second reprieve remains to be seen.

One factor worth watching is the melting permafrost in Siberia. When temperatures increase a bit more, and the permafrost starts to melt in a serious way, enormous quantities of CO2 and methane will be released, which will double the percentage of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This will cause temperatures to rise even faster, which will release even more greenhouse gases, and so on. Needless to say, the climatologists are keeping a close eye on this situation.

It is commonly said that we have ten years in which to start reducing the CO2 level in our atmosphere. After that time, it is said, the point of no return will have been passed, and out-of-control global warming will be inevitable. But I see no particular reason to believe this rosy scenario, and consider it a typical exercise in feel-good nonsense. (Americans prefer their reality filtered through a thick layer of sugar and spice.) I think a case can just as well be made that the point of no return was passed a decade or more ago.

Regarding sustainability, America in 2007 is marked by an astounding level of inaction. Sure, there’s lots of talk, lots of bravado and wishful thinking, but what we need is meaningful, tangible action – LOTS of meaningful, tangible action -- such as reducing the CO2 level in our atmosphere, pronto. But the reality is, the human population is still growing, CO2 emissions are still increasing, and Americans are still hypnotized into believing "there are no limits." Life goes on as usual.

Politicians talk about reducing emissions by 15% by 2015. This is pitifully inadequate, but in their bubble world, they congratulate themselves for their bold initiatives. What a crock. Instead of bold politicians leading the way, what we actually have is a classic case of too little, too late.

Americans will remain paralyzed as long as the status quo socio-economic system remains in power. Perversely, the status quo system is becoming more powerful all the time, even as it approaches its inevitable collapse. Not only are Americans physically dependent on the system for every iota of their sustenance, but their very identities and innermost thoughts and fears are skillfully manipulated by the system. As long as America remains a totally-owned subsidiary of the Military-Industrial Complex, and as long as our economy is based upon exploitation, constant growth, and debt speculation, our creativity will remain strangled and ineffective. By the time we run out of the oil that makes the status-quo economy possible, we will wish that we had been more proactive -- because we will find, once the clusterfuck starts, that we have run out of time.

Please view all this as a hypothesis. Nobody knows the future; all we can do is project present trends. As we accumulate new information, we modify our hypothesis, and after being refined as often as necessary, the hypothesis becomes an accurate predictor of future events. In my opinion, my hypothesis (massive dieoff) is already an accurate predictor of future events. The skeptics will require more convincing, and the die-hard faithists will never believe anything their leaders don’t want them to. I think that within a decade or three (or possibly much sooner), we will have an all-too-accurate picture of what is really coming down.

Onward, Ever Onward, to the Latest Endless War

Looks like I haven't updated my blog for awhile! This is my Feb/Mar 07 Grassroots Press column:

One primary reason for the invasion of Iraq was to gain unlimited political power for the neocons. The war was intended to kick off their planned Thousand Year Reich (otherwise known as the permanent Republican majority). The neocons knew that Americans – especially the all-important Joe Sixpack Nascar Dads – love war... as long as they don’t have to fight it themselves. The best wars, from the neocon perspective, are fought against weaker enemies, which allows America to kick righteous ass without suffering too many casualties ourselves. It seemed like a brilliant plan at the time -- permanent war, permanent victory against lesser adversaries, and permanent neocon power.

Oil, of course, was also an important factor in the neocons’ decision to take us to war, but I think political power was the more important rationale. After all, the neocons’ main enemy isn’t terrorists, but liberals.

Since the neocons possess huge amounts of money, they have the resources to focus-test every element of their strategy to find out how to best market it to the American people. Obviously, in 2003 the neocons discovered that their real reasons – political power and oil – didn’t go over too well with their intended audience. Fortunately for them, they were able to play the 9-11 fear card... after all, we just never knew when Saddam was going to nuke New York City, did we? Following the simple chant of "WMD! WMD! USA! USA!" the great American mainstream, played for suckers yet again, soon found themselves embroiled in their first endless war.

Fast forward to the present, and it sure looks like the neocons don’t know squat about actually running a war. Those darned towelheads haven’t cooperated like they were supposed to – they fight back, for one thing. Despite the best efforts of the corporate press and the Republican propaganda machine, even the compliant American people are no longer supporting the war like they once did. This turn of events is unacceptable to our military-industrial rulers.

So it’s time to bring out the new strategy, which is... cut off the oil supply! (You can tell the neocons are getting desperate, since shutting off the oil will cut oil company profits, at least temporarily.) But the potential long-term benefits for the oil companies and the entire military-industrial complex are enormous. Maybe the neocon Thousand Year Reich will be possible after all (until global warming destroys the biosphere as we know it, but that’s another story).

Here’s the deal: unlike our tough ancestors, Americans of the imperial era are soft, complacent, and possessed of a lethal sense of entitlement. (No wonder we have a spoiled frat boy as president!) Bear in mind that until now, the power structure has worked to maximize corporate profits, and they have done a splendid job of this. The key has been to keep the oil and gasoline flowing. Even though gasoline prices have dropped in recent months, the long-term trend has been upward. Gas prices have gone up enough to raise oil company profits to obscene levels, but not enough to slow down the economy. The rich have never had it so good.

But unfortunately, the rabble have been getting a bit rowdy lately – not even voting correctly! -- so it’s time to crack the whip. Unlike the oil crises of the 70s, there haven’t been any actual gasoline shortages yet. When shortages finally occur, Americans will panic. Being totally dependent on our automobiles for just about everything, we will flat freak out, and will beg, nay, DEMAND that our gasoline supply be restored. We will do anything, make any devil’s bargain – including sending our children to war – if we can only get our non-negotiable lifestyle back.

Looking at it this way, war with Iran makes a lot of sense from the neocon point of view. Even if the entire Mideast is thrown into anarchy, and the Saudi oil is cut off, it will be good discipline for the rabble. There will always be plenty of oil for the military, but as for the rabble, let them walk. "Sacrifice" will become the new byword as the draft is reinstituted and taxes on the middle class are raised to pay for, shall we say, an "augmented" military. Americans will, once again, become tough and disciplined in the service of our leaders. This is all batshit swinging-from-the-chandeliers insane, of course, but that’s all we can expect from our neocons. They do have one important factor in their favor: we, the rabble, are far more helpless than we ever like to admit.

I wonder if any of this will actually happen? On a bad day it seems plausible, but on good days I wonder (without much evidence to back it up) if we are capable of the revolution we so desperately need. With real life, you never really know. Which no doubt is all for the best.

Next issue: the end of the biosphere as we once knew it. Till then, happy motoring!

(Gordon Solberg is still dechaosifying his microfarm, Submarine Ranch, located north of Radium Springs, next to (and sometimes underneath) the Rio Grande.)