Saturday, January 28, 2012


Our kitty made her way through our woods when she was about 5 or so months old, from somewhere, and ended up hiding in a drainpipe near the stone kitchen stoop where we fed our cat, and sneaking out to grab a few bites of food when she could. She was fast. I spotted her accidentally after putting some food out. When I saw her several more times I decided I'd better make friends, and she was most willing to come inside and consider the situation, although Mittens, the big grey cat whose food she was eating, didn't much like the idea. Eventually, when we decided to go live on Ocracoke for the summer of '95, Yoey came along. I didn't stay on the island all the time, and we had a house sitter up here in Chatham County, so Mittens was still taken care of ok.

Turned out Libby and I shared Yoey's life and spirit for quite a spell--from winter '94 until yesterday, January 27, 1012, when she died of old age and it's various infirmities while Libby brushed her, something she always loved from start to finish. We had known she was going to leave for a few weeks, and most particularly when she started refusing all food about ten days before she died. She'd still drink a little broth, but we felt that she was just wearing out--we'd already done quite a lot of vetting, and many of our efforts had brought her back to some health several times. This was just the end. As it comes to all of us of course.

We travelled a lot during the Yoey years, and she came along on many trips. She should have put state stickers on her carrier. She stayed in various motels, with various folks who put us up for the night or weekend while we played gigs. Sometimes we'd have to barracade the room she was in to keep the house dog or cat away, and now and then a house cat would hang around outside Yoey's door and if possible even stick a paw under it, knowing something was up. Yoey was usually undaunted, growling from the other side of the door. She had a survivor spirit. She'd lived in a drain pipe! My favorite travel moment, which happened a lot, was when she'd decide to ride on top of the carrier in the back seat so she could look out the window at traffic and the world. And now and then, when she didn't particularly want to go--this happened on Ocracoke once or twice--she'd find some hiding place and we'd miss the ferry. Like I say, she'd lived in a drain pipe. Hiding places probably beckoned to her from every corner of her world.

So, now she's gone. As she was my main alarm clock, I'll have to resort to the radio now. And when we come in at night, it'll be too quiet, and there'll be no little head popping up from the bed or couch to greet us. We won't have to be sure the door's shut either, when we're bringing a lot of stuff in at night. She won't be going out into the night to explore. I'll miss all sorts of little things--the "tail game" and the "other tail game." Her purrs when you petted or brushed her. Even just feeding her, or--later, when she was old--taking her out to the garden and sitting with her while she ate some grass or rubbed her cheek in the catnip, then lead us back to the house when she decided she'd had enough nature.

It was hard to just endure the last week--we kept asking each other if we should just take her in to be put down. There's no ultimate answer to that question, and in my book, the pet has to have a say in it too. I figured Yoey was still happy to be alive up till the very end--she liked to sleep by the door with the light on her, she purred when we'd hug her, and wanted to climb up on the couch to be beside us. Libby said she wanted to come upstairs to the bedroom, and as I said, she died while being brushed, something she loved. So I think we did her right--let her have every second of life. That's just us and Yoey. Thank god she didn't get into a corner of pain, thank god she was never unable to walk. We tried just to stay in the moment, to perceive was was happening. We were ready to take her in, even to make an emergency call if that's what the circumstances required. And thank god she died in Libby's arms.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pay No Attention To...

Just a couple of comments on the week's political flow:

1. According to a CBS Poll, 91% of Americans approved of Obama's speech Tuesday night, while 8% disapproved.

2. Last night the Rev. Al tried to discuss with some Republican Congressman from Kansas whether they could at least agree that the so-called "Buffett Rule" (asserting that millionaires should pay more taxes than their secretaries) addressed a question of "fairness." While Al wasn't entirely prepared for the Congressman's response: a retort that it's not fair that millions of Americans pay no taxes, it remained remarkable that the Congressman would never directly address a clear question, eventually looking like a 3-year-old just saying "no" over and over again. Surely any reasonable person can evaluate what amounts to a hypothetical and come up with a direct response. I wish Al had dealt with the canned response though. He might have pointed out that most of those millions of Americans don't pay taxes because they don't make enough money to qualify for taxes, since presumably the Congressman wasn't talking about millionaires who find enough loopholes not to pay anything, versus those who simply find enough loopholes to pay less than their secretaries. The whole conversation was instructive, nonetheless.

3. Mr. Daniels' response to the Obama speech featured an important if pernicious suggestion--that the government means-test social security. Should this idea gain legal status, it would be the book-end to Reagan's pernicious law capping social security taxes, which also serves to define social security as in some sense "welfare" for those who didn't manage to climb atop the bloody pile of scrabblers in life's game of business success and failure. Mr. Daniels proposition seems oh so reasonable--rich folk don't "need" social security. So let's let rich folk decide who does need social security. And while they're at it, let's let rich folk decide how much the check will be. Social security was designed to be a program which reflected the fact that we're all Americans. It bound us together. Everyone paid in, and everyone got a pay-out. This has galled the Right from the get-go, and they've worked a long term strategy to destroy the program, and they continue on this path.

4. Chris Matthews made one prescient remark, prior to the speech. The Republicans have not been the "loyal opposition" during Obama's term. It was clear that this remains true. Apparently a good majority of Americans at least for the moment realize this--judging by that CBS poll. It will be the Democratic Party's job to keep reminding Americans about this, which will mean keeping the racist dog whistles emitting from the Gingrich camp at bay, not to mention the endless other prevarications and dissemulates. This job, unfortunately, is akin to the little Dutch Boy's. See, e.g.:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt's Theme

According to a little historical blurb accompanying the video at Youtube, Ms Simon is perported to be singing about Mick Jaggar in the song, but has never said if that presumption is true. Obviously, the song is a perfect ode to vanity. Jagger has a wonderful sense of humor--I'm surprised he hasn't covered the song by now if it is "about" him, and his "Some Girls" (see the Shine a Light movie) is close to being an ironic comment on the same territory as Carly's masterpiece.

Newt, on the other hand. If the press just covers him, he should win the marble on the GOP side. After all, he expresses all the GOP themes, and with gusto. If they keep having debates, he should blow Romney right off the stage, and Santorum as well. Then we'll see just how deep and wide the dark, bigoted underside of America and American history really runs. Newt as candidate is George Wallace and Rush Limbaugh, with just enough fey to bring in the Log Cabin Republicans one more time. And Newt will have Hannity, Limbaugh and all the rest as a free advertising campaign, 24-7.

This, then, will be the cholce:

Driftglass, who creates genius images like this nearly every day, will have much more articulate things to say about this particular banality of evil in the coming months. Be sure to check his site often. It's an easy address.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Romney Stare

[photo from New York Daily News]

Who knows, if they work the machinery with such awkward transparency, at some point in the distant future our electorate may begin to perceive their own emotional manipulation and have some reaction tending back towards rationality and clarity. It's possible. Hell, several hundred years before Jesus's time on the planet, a guy in Greece realized that we live mostly in illusion, and even taught a small group of students that we could actually turn around, away from the back of the cave wall, and look out at the sun.

Of course it's true that his contemporaries made Socrates kill himself, and Jesus was not only dispatched, but his teachings were then pretty much reversed into a death cult. It ain't easy being true.

Still. On the one hand, Ms Maddow last night offered a most wonderful analysis of the silly question which Mr. Gingrich hit out of the park to the delight of his attending base (and Mr. Hannity yesterday, on my drive home), noting that the John King question was pathetically ill-formed and allowed Gingrich to attack the questioner will a clearly rehersed retort which deftly sidestepped the obvious--that Gingrich was the guy who drove the impeachment proceedings of President Clinton, the man who literally personified his very complaint that personal attacks are allegedly driving the best away from politics.

Well yes, Mr. G. And one can see the next ratchet cog before the handle reaches it--when character of quality leaves the field, nature still abhors a vacuum, and what rushes in is--viola--Gingrich! It's a virtual personification of the general Republican pirouette, which has been executed so many times there must be a hole on the dance floor by now: Gubment is incompetent. Elect us and we'll prove it again and again. Because we believe gubmet is incompetent.

At this point you can see it at the personal and at the macro level--the great Tea Party Revolution of 2010 accomplished what? And Gingrich now leads in the Gamecock state, the place where the ancestors of these voters decided some 150 years ago that it was a good idea to ignite the Civil War, shelling a little island garrison in Charleston Harbor. We may recall how that turned out: Mr. Davis fleeing with the remains of the treasury, on the night train to Georgia, and the tragic retreat from Richmond to Appomattox finally ending with more rational leaders admitting that further slaughter was pointless, i.e., walking at last to the Cave entrance and checking out the sunrise.

Meanwhile, there's the hilarious Mr. Romney, who has developed a deer in the headlights stare. Romney's base knows that stare, they recognize it. Some of 'em spot light deer themselves, of an evening. I asked Libby last night, "didn't Romney know going into this that he had tax issues?" He's starting to look as foolish as our own John Edwards, who embarked on a Presidential Run with a bun in the oven.

How the nation averted that disaster I don't know. We'd have been living in the McCain Presidency today had Edwards won the nomination in 2008, with Ms. Palin offering her views on Turkey from the balcony rather than from a bus book tour in Indiana.

The folks in the know still say Romney will carry the GOP banner in the fall. I sure hope so. With Gingrich we'll get to replay George Wallace in '68, and with a black opponent no less. Then we'll have an actual measure of the level of racism that still exists in the United States. No sane person wants to directly calculate that measure.

But that racism exists in ample measure is certainly not in doubt. In the very safe reaches of television, we have Gingrich just this week "putting Juan Williams in his place" when the former NPR reporter who now plays Alan Colmes on Fox News asked a slightly better phrased question of Mr. Gingrich than John King's pitiful effort on Thursday. In the very unsafe reaches of Arizona, meanwhile, this travesty is going on:

What a tragedy, and in beautiful Tucson, where Libby and I have played dances and wandered the sunny streets looking for treasures in junk stores. I'd hoped Tucson was immune from the Phoenix racism, that somehow that was one of those big-city things. Tucson's not so big, not so classically urban, and so much closer to the border, you'd think folks there would have a much easier time with the complexities of interwoven border life. Moreover, it's really crappy when adults are just assholes inflicting injustice on kids who don't have much power to respond. What we're seeing in Tuscon is modern segregation--what the Warren Court directly ruled, back in '54, was inherently harmful to American children. It still is. And harming children is still one of the very worst things people can do. There's not much difference, really, between Mr. Sandusky and this unnamed school official in Tuscon. Of course the GOP Presidential Hopefuls remain silent.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Contrast and Compare; or This Guy? 1.1

From an essay on breasts implants:

"...I assert that even adult women who ostensibly agree to breast mutilation cannot have arrived at that choice from a position of full human agency. I assert this because no woman anywhere enjoys full human agency."

From an essay on Mormonism by a resident of Salt Lake City:

"... Mormonism is a successful religion precisely because it's a business that requires total belief in a paternalistic dogma. Big Daddies are at the top. Mommies are in the kitchen popping out babies and children fall in line to do their share based on their gender. Chores are gender specific and so are rewards at home and in the Church. As it is on earth so it is in Heaven. Heaven is as hierarchical as the Church."

Curiously, what one might term "gender issues" are not even in the primary discussion of our Presidential conversation this time around. They're buried, way down the page, or amount to a footnote. We'll probably be killing Iranian children before the question surfaces. And that's no matter who's elected in November.

Last week at work someone called to asked whether we took today off for "Martin Luther Day." Plus, they even messed up the quote on his statue in D.C. I said, "No, we're gonna do Martin Buber Day this year."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


[still from "The Wild Bunch", (c)Warner Brothers/Seven Arts]

This terrific elegy on the end of commercial 35mm film presentation includes some great paragraphs about Sam Pekinpah's "Ride the High Country." I agree with the author, and am delighted to find someone else who keeps finding new facets to Peckinpah's great work. I happened to watch "The Get Away" a few weeks back, probably for the first time since it came out in the mid-'70s. While it isn't "The Wild Bunch," or "High Country," it's a brilliant movie, and with a romantic ending no less! Maybe we should all watch it this year, as it suggests that there might be a possible, if improbable happy ending out there for America. Of course one could also wonder if the rosy mist into which McQueen and McGraw disappear at the end of "Get Away" doesn't dissolve, eventually, into "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." At any rate, a nice double bill, and surely such a showing would be true to Peckinpah's deeper belief that romance isn't to be trusted. (Which of course is the lesson Hartley learns too well in "Ride the High Country," to end where we began.)

Peckinpah can be considered on many levels. He's like war that way. No matter what you think of "The Wild Bunch," look up the bridge scene sometime. It's not something they did on a computer. They lived that drop into the river, and nobody got killed either.

(but not about Peckinpah)--last night on MSNBC every program mentioned the Romney dog-on-car thing. I can't claim I scooped them by a week. All I did was read about it in James Wolcott's blog in Vanity Fair. Congrats to Mr. Wolcott.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oil--You Have to Pay For It


Nothing particularly amazing about the link, it's just one of a million random samples of the reality that being an oil-based economy has implications for the knee-jerk "wahl I thank we orta just kick some ass" boys down at the Texaco. Of course they'll still vote for Romney, still nod that he's durn tootin' when he opines that our current President has a weak foreign policy when it comes to Iran and the Middle East, running around apologizing and all.

The fact is, President Jimmy Carter, who knew a thing or two about putting peanuts in a Pepsi bottle, was absolutely right back in '77 when he said we needed to get unhooked from oil, and particularly from Middle East oil. The GOP of course harrumpfed, and Reagan ripped those solar panels right offen the White House roof as his first official act. And there's surely nothing but coincidence in the strange fact that Iran was in Reagan's corner in the election of '79, releasing the hostages which helped to sink Carter only after Reagan was absolutely and certainly elected and in office.

So here we are. Looking back, at the days when gas was 50 cents a gallon and the original Red Clay Ramblers, my self included, made a sort of living riding around the country in a gas guzzling Dodge van and playing bar gigs and festivals for more of Carter's peanuts, it's easier to see that if we'd just made a concerted effort, back then, to find a solution to a dependence on a fuel supply which came with being leveraged by people who didn't care to go along with our American solutions to life elsewhere, well by now we might have plumb avoided two or three nasty, costly wars, and for that matter, might even still be riding the elevators to the top of the World Trade Centers if we cared to.

Instead, we're pretty much still in the same place, and we still haven't figured out that using oil as a club tends to wack us as much as the club's intended addressee. As someone pointed out recently, if we manage to reduce the world's oil supply due to embargoing Iranian oil, a consequence will be rising fuel prices. And that will make money for oil producers, probably including Iran, and certainly including the other oil producing countries.

Oh, and yeah, the Oil Companies too. This, by the way, is how it also works for a guy like Romney, who has so much money that some of the green always flows his way.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

This Guy?

Then Mitt put his sons on notice: there would be pre-determined stops for gas, and that was it. Tagg was commandeering the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, when he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. “Dad!” he yelled. “Gross!” A brown liquid was dripping down the rear window, payback from an Irish setter who’d been riding on the roof in the wind for hours. As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Mitt coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the road with the dog still on the roof. It was a preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management. But the story would trail him years later on the national political stage, where the name Seamus would become shorthand for Romney’s coldly clinical approach to problem solving. (From The Real Romney by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, as quoted in Vanity Fair)

Dear God. This is the so-called moderate candidate, the alternative to the moderate President we now enjoy, a guy who has pulled the country back from a depression engendered by full-on Republicanism for eight years, a man who entered office during a job-loss event in full swing, and who has had about .001 support from the Republicans who were elected to help govern the country, not stymie every presidential initiative, act or suggestion from the get-go. Watching Romney's preening "acceptance" speech after his Iowa landslide of 8 votes, I told Libby it was like seeing George Bush over again--the arrogant frat-boy rich guy, so glib with his "failed President" talking phrase, so certain that he can roll over any and all opposition, hitting yet another of his life's grand slams from the perfect spot to be born standing--ten feet off third base towards home. Nice work if you can get it. I guess.

And Chris Matthews praises Romney because, unlike his most dangerous challenger, Rick Santorum, Romney isn't quite putting all out war with Iran right into his platform, but only hints at it with a wink and a nod, and perhaps with the nudge to the reluctant that, after all, the Romney is basically "speaking to the base" right now and all his turns of phrase must be taken with some digestively helpful sea salt by those in the non-base who are, for whatever reason, just bored with the guy who turned out not to be up to changing everything but the tide schedule, no matter what he promised in 2008.

After all, as far as we now know, Mr. Romney did not blow up frogs with firecrackers, like young Master Bush. I'll keep saying it here, from time to time. We just get the limited either/or choice in this here land of Liberty. There's the D. There's the R. If you don't turn out, that doesn't mean you can say it ain't your problem. And meanwhile, the selling and framing goes on at every level, all the live-long day, and don't you forget it. While Mitt will use the phrase "failed Presidency" so frequently that by the end of next week, if you watch enough teevee, you're going to be thinking maybe you don't really want to vote for a failure even if he does seem to be a nice Negro with a beautiful family and a great vocabulary, at the same moment you are also being sold quite a few other things. Who can pay conscious attention to all of it? Mostly, it all just goes to shape a point of view that feels entirely "objective", an ordinary 4-square picture of just what's "out there." Consider, for example:

As usual, the deconstruction is brilliant, and even more so because we never even noticed it was there to deconstruct. So, I ask you, is there still a debt crisis? Do you actually want Chevy Chase for President?