Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cone 5

Christmas of course continues its approach, possibly at its petty pace, or possibly with the velocity of a Japanese bullet train. As Einstein proved, these things are most definitely relative (and Einstein even used the metaphor of a train I believe--what rarified company I travel). This morning the sky is turning milky. Yesterday it was a blue often encountered (as Libby noted) just after a snow storm. There is not much chance of snow on Christmas day around these parts, and I hope it stays thataways.

This morning, perhaps due to the crispness in the cabin, seeping in from outside, the Houdanhenians were racing around at pretty much the speed of the bullet train Christmas, and now and then would leap four paws on us snug in our bed, then off again down the stairs, or out on the window ledge over the stone floor. The idea was for me to get the hell up and into the kitchen, rip open those food packets, make 'em some breakfast dammit. Which of course I eventually did, and pretty quickly, to keep them from waking Libby up too. Momma was out on the porch too, and the yaller Tom peeking out from under the cabin. I got the boys eating on one side of the room, took food out to the outside cats, bits for the Tom so's he wouldn't so quickly try to bums rush Momma out of her food. I had to walk back around through the slider because coming back through the kitchen door scares Momma off the porch and away from her bowl, when then offers an opening for Tom, which is exactly how it works in the NFL for that matter, the pulling guard takes out the inside linebacker and voila there's a nice hole for a good runner to scoot through.

In short, while we work towards some rendezvous with Xmas Destiny in a couple of days, in the universe of the Houdahenians things circle more simply around eat, sleep, poop, play, catch stuff to eat or play with, eat some more, and when tired out, find a nice human lap because the boys did learn as kittens, at just the right moment, that people actually like cats. We might get them another bed for Christmas, as they're also finding out about how nice it is back behind the wood stove. Cats worship wood stoves, allus have, allus will.

Here in our world, we've let skilled rhetoricians working in the employ of businesses with profitable but dangerous products to ply hypnotize us into a dream state where chimeras lurk around every shadow, and illusions protect us from nothing, real or imagined. This business of hypnotism has gone on so long that possibly a majority in even our legislative bodies, state and federal suffer from a profound loss of simple common sense. Thus, to give but one sad example, the gun-good-guy v gun-bad-guy deal is asymmetric. This means, as any simple Houdahenian surely knows, that, e.g., the gun-bad-guy has any target, while the gun-good-guy has only one. We met the idea of "friendly fire" long, long ago, probably during the Trojan War if truth be known. Jesus, People!

But meanwhile, the cone moved to it's next resting place, out past the slider where I'm working on a space to build a free-standing deck, which I'm hoping the cone itself will one day decorate, and which now stands as a harbinger of the coming 2013, a New Year with hopefully more music and joy. And comfort.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

LaPierre, The Dick

I'm disappointed that the press assembled for Mr. LaPierre's "conference" didn't walk out when they were told that no questions would be allowed. Instead, Mr. LaPierre--and the NRA as represented by him--insulted not only the victims and grieving relatives and survivors of the massacre at Newtown, but all Americans, and particularly the allegedly professional press corps.

It's not surprising, when you consider what Mr. LaPierre's name means. Mr. Dick has indeed been a Dick from the get-go, and has made a fortune on the endless blood-soaked tragedies his efforts to make an archaic constitutional amendment into the foundation of the American Religion of Baal have and will continue to generate.

Lawrence O'Donnell, last night on his show, made the only adequate response to LaPierre's NRA I've yet to hear on the teevee. It's worth a watch:

Meanwhile one's mind--if one is rational and possessing some empathy--runs to all the obvious refutations of Mr. Dick's simpleminded thesis--that it takes good guys with guns to defend us against bad guys with guns. Is there even any point in argument against patent absurdity? Who knows. Two of the best short returns I've happened to hear:

1. There were plenty of guns at Fort Hood.

2. There was an armed guard at Columbine.

Mr. Dick should be laughed out of the discussion, forever. If Mr. Obama dares to even invite him to participate in the coming conversation on some congressional effort to make things somewhat harder on those who want to own or buy guns, he's already lost the game. And Mr. Obama should make Mr. Dick's ostracism a matter of policy for those with whom he cares to dialog on the subject of America's insane Religion of Guns. We had a moment of silence at work yesterday. What they really should do is cancel Christmas.

Update: Sunday's appearance by Mr. Dick on the David Gregory Show was a great illustration of how a propaganda master works when confronted with a rube. Mr. Gregory had Friday's O'Donnell analysis to study, but study he did not, instead simply talking earnestly with The Dick, which of course awarded Dick with the mantle of Expert and Serious Person. Expert Serious Dick gave not an inch. Watching every moment of this travesty was too much to bear. Apparently Mr. Dick will be a Standing Member of the Committee to Try To Figure Out the Gun Problem. Since he will operate in a democratic context, there will be no solution. This is of course exactly his goal. We really deserve better from our main stream media.

Here's a simple hypothetical Mr. Gregory might have addressed to Mr. Dick, given that he had Mr. Dick's undivided attention for most of the whole program: "What if, sir, a man devoted his whole adult life to creating a "situation" which turned out to have absolutely dreadful human implications, and what if that man couldn't then fashion--for all his obvious brilliance--any helpful mitigation to these dreadful human implications. Should that hypothetical man, sir, just continue plowing the same furrow, deeper and deeper, while calling it a "solution" to the various passerby who ask what in the hell he thinks he's doing. Or should he, possibly, put the reins down, take the old nag in for a drink of water and some oats, and then sit by the hearth and reflect on how little he truly knows?"

Now that'd be some news. Mr. Dick, I believe, knows full well the moral implications of his life's work. His problem is his class A skill at lying to everyone, and most particularly himself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Easy First Step (Cone, Part 4)

Back during the Bush years, Congress passed a law banning suits against arms manufacturers for liability due to the actions of people who use their weapons to commit crimes. You may be aware that, for example, bars are liable when their customers leave their premises drunk and have wrecks. Also, tobacco companies have been found liable for the diseases caused by their products. No doubt this is why the Bush administration--an administration by and for free enterprise, not free people--simply made such liability impossible by legal fiat.

Here's the lede:

Congress Passes New Legal Shield for Gun Industry


WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - The Republican-controlled Congress delivered a long-sought victory to the gun industry on Thursday when the House voted to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. The bill now goes to President Bush, who has promised to sign it.

The gun liability bill has for years been the No. 1 legislative priority of the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied lawmakers intensely for it. Its final passage, by a vote of 283 to 144, with considerable Democratic support, reflected the changing politics of gun control, an issue many Democrats began shying away from after Al Gore, who promoted it, was defeated in the 2000 presidential race.

"It's a historic piece of legislation," said Wayne LaPierre, the association's chief executive, who said the bill was the most significant victory for the gun lobby since Congress rewrote the federal gun control law in 1986. "As of Oct. 20, the Second Amendment is probably in the best shape in this country that it's been in decades."

The bill, which is identical to one approved in July by the Senate, is aimed at ending a spate of lawsuits by individuals and municipalities, including New York City, seeking to hold gun manufacturers and dealers liable for negligence when their weapons are used in crimes.

While it bars such suits, the measure contains an exception allowing certain cases involving defective weapons or criminal behavior by a gun maker or dealer, such as knowingly selling a weapon to someone who has failed a criminal background check.

President Bush said in a statement that he looked forward to signing the bill, which he said would "further our efforts to stem frivolous lawsuits, which cause a logjam in America's courts, harm America's small businesses, and benefit a handful of lawyers at the expense of victims and consumers."

Backers of the measure say it is necessary to keep the American arms industry in business, while opponents say the law would deprive gun violence victims of a legitimate right to sue. Dispirited gun-safety advocates said they now expected attempts to dismiss nearly a dozen lawsuits around the country, and they vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the bill in court.
(c) New York Times, October 20, 2005

While fashioning complex new weapons legislation will of necessity take time--although such a job is obviously necessary and hopefully is being undertaken with all seriousness even as we speak--it would be easy for Congress to act even before Christmas on a simple and partial solution--repeal this absurd law.

One might note that they still make booze and cigarettes, and the bars are still open. One might also note that whatever Mr. LaPierre says this coming Friday in his no doubt highly crafted NRA response statement, it was Mr. LaPierre who fashioned this law in the first place, and who was earlier this month demanding the head of Bob Costas for simply expressing disgust at the general gun culture insanity which now exists in America.

As with tobacco and bourbon, liability has a way of focusing the mind.


Friday Update. From the Rude Pundit today, coverage of the much awaited LaPierre press conference:

In Brief: Four Lines from Wayne LaPierre's "News Conference" That Apply to Wayne LaPierre and the NRA:
1. "[O]ur society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them."

2. "How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave."

3. "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."

4. "Isn't fantasizing about killing people as away to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

Yeah, that batshit insane, divorced-from-reality, humanity-debasing speech happened. If NRA members don't quit en masse, they deserve all the condemnation and scorn the sane majority can heap on them.

In North Carolina a pro-gun group in Raleigh has joined the chorus of those who imagine that arming teachers and others in schools is some sort of "answer" to this sickening problem of gun violence in America.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cone, 3

As predicted, Saturday was warmer. The cone warmed in the morning sun, and the condensation on its cold steel surface evaporated. I liked looking at the geometry of it, against the field and the woods. In the morning we watched the ongoing Connecticut story unfolding. The mother was not a teacher at all, but perhaps a shooting enthusiast. Her younger son came to the range with her, and was reclusive but very smart. Her husband and their older son had moved out a few years back. She would go to a local bar of an evening and have a drink. The boy had tried to buy his own rifle and been turned down by the store. Teachers performed acts of remarkable heroism. The principal died heroically, as did the school psychologist. Newtown was described as the safest place in America. Some jerk "preacher" from Alabama said this is what happens when "god is not wanted" in a school, while his very words illustrated what happens when God is not welcomed in a heart.

In the early afternoon the cone was ready.

There is possibly some Christmas about this, and something older.

The Anasazi dreams remain, a great wind behind a red-rock canyon wall.


There is a great deal of thoughtful writing at Digby's joint right now. The following link is outstanding:

The deeply muddled American comprehension of its place in the world is reflected in the facts reported by Juan Cole:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cone, 2

Yesterday morning there was frost on the cone. You might can see some exhaust mist too, and some frost on the ground. Believe it or not, it sometimes looked like this in early October back when I was driving my daughter to middle school, in the mid-'80s. Yesterday was December 14. Tomorrow it's predicted to be in the mid'60s here in Piedmont NC. Just sayin'. Our Rawleigh TV station reported that 4 out of 5 "NC Climate Change Doubters" (whatever that really means)now actually "believe" that there is "climate change." One can of course put "whatever that means" besides each word in quote marks. The goals of the energy industry have been met. Political efforts to some how some way respond to a global catastrophe have been pretty much stymied. Anyways, one of the other catastrophes has currently pushed the implications of Hurricane Sandy out of public consciousness.

Driftglass has a terrific post on the issue:

I'll quote the money shot here:

When then the day comes that being a member of the NRA triggers the same public gag reflex as being a member of the Klan, things will change.

That sounds harsh I know. On the other hand, one could reasonably ask whether being a member of the Klan matters much to one of our political parties--the so called moderates of whom just finagled a highly qualified public servant out of being able to serve our foreign policy at her most effective level--for all of us--for reasons so absurd that the fact of her blackness looms as the "real" reason behind all their absurd posturing. That and, of course, the blackness of our President.

There is certainly no logic to any of the arguments against some rational efforts to rein in the ocean of weapons in which our citizenry is awash. Indeed, the mixed metaphor is perhaps accurate--for who can rein in the tide. One must wonder why Mr. Lanza's mother bought those weapons. A kindergarden teacher? Was she afraid of her son? Was the endless rant all of us are subject to if we merely listen to the news or the radio driving to work each day enough to scare Mrs. Lanza into going to the gun store and stocking up.

As our Republican legislative leader said this week, when he spearheaded the successful override of our Democratic, outgoing Governor's veto of the repeal of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act, "we don't trust statisticians, we trust the district attorneys. Justice is individual."

Indeed. As are hurricanes, including ones that come on Christmas Day. As are maniacal young adult sons who for whatever "reasons" choose to murder the children their mother teaches, after first murdering her with her own machine pistol.

The frost was palpable on the cone. The cone did not shiver.

Also very good:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cone, Part One

Here at the ranch things were pretty quiet. The boys were stacking firewood, and eating. The dogies had plenty of hay. There were rumors of coyotes, but none had been spotted. It was so warm that in the mornings there was fog, and the roads were shiny.

One morning the cone arrived.


Link of the day:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dix Hill & Jesse Helms, Zombie

I grew up in Rawleigh. When I lived there, "Dix Hill" was a shorthand for "crazy." That's because over on the southwest side of Raleigh, not so far from the massive institution that is North Carolina Central Prison, was a grand state institution for the mentally ill called "Dix Hill," after the rise on which it was located and the activist who argued, in the 1880s, for the need of such institutions. ("Dorothea Lynde Dix was an American activist on behalf of the indigent insane who, through a vigorous program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress, created the first generation of American mental asylums", Wikipedia.) I think the real name for the place was something like The Dorothea Dix Institution for the Mentally Ill or some such. It was so big today's Republican Party could probably all fit inside, with some room to spare for a smattering of Libertarians.

As you probably know, big state mental institutions are phasing out. This is probably in some measure a tragedy, and in some measure a blessing. If you want a sense of how things were in such places, watch "Suddenly Last Summer." It was filmed in a real institution. Anyways, these days the mentally ill remain with us, but are scattered about, and in Rawleigh there's this big parcel of valuable real estate which has been sitting there, pretty much empty, for some decades.

Our fine retiring Governor, Beverly Perdue, offered a plan for the property--suggesting that it be used to consolidate a good number of state offices, with perhaps other bits being ceded to N.C. State University, which also resides fairly close by. Real estate being, well--REAL--and this piece being, well, IN Rawleigh and all, seems pretty sensible. But not, of course, to North Carolina's own Koch Brother, Mr. Art Pope, owner and operator of an entity called with the usual misleading nomenclature of the Right (see, e.g., "Right to Life," and "Right to Work"), Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Pope's spokesman says this is a big money grab by the "Rawleigh elites." And since we just elected Mr. Pat "Frack You" McCrory as our new Republican Governor, who color coordinates nicely with our Republican Legislature, most likely Ms. Perdue's sensible plan will be quashed, and the value of this property will either continue to be frozen in amber while the physical institution continues to crumble, as empty institutions and properties do. Or, just possibly, private real estate entities will end up slicing and dicing a big chunk of what amounts to raw urban land into more of your basic cityscape--subdivisions, malls, whatever. And of course money will certainly be made, including possibly some new money for Mr. Pope, who knows?

Meanwhile, deep in the heart of downtown Rawleigh, the first federal building constructed in the South after the end of the Civil War, is going to be renamed "The Jesse Helms Federal Courthouse," if our congress person Renee Elmers has her darn way about it. The irony is rather palpable, given that Mr. Helms spent his life battling progress on all fronts, and was an early advocate of the destruction of the Federal Government now pretty much espoused by the entire Republican Party. Odd, then, that he ends up with a Federal Courthouse Building. But on the other hand, it's a poke in the eye of all minority North Carolina citizens and any other folks who stand with them--a kind of more subtle Confederate Flag in the state flag deal favored by some of our blighted sisters to the south.

At any event, Mr. Helms lives on, thanks to Ms Elmers. Makes me feel a little like I'm in a boat riding backwards down the river to the rapids, while up on the receding bank, the rest of the country managed to avert the disaster that a Republican Presidential victory would have entailed. As you know, I like to take pictures, but there's one I didn't manage to snap. This was back in '63. I was sitting on a bench on the old state capitol grounds, on a bright December afternoon, when around the sidewalk bend comes a Klan Rally in full regalia sans burning crosses or actual lynched "nigras."

[Old N.C. Capitol Building, sans Klan march--but I think that's a Confederate soldier statue]

It was sure a sight. I can see it as clearly now as if it were happening. If I had a photo, though, I could post it on here for you to see too. Kennedy had just been assassinated, not a month earlier, and Jesse Helms was on WRAL-TV, every night, snarling about the communists in Chapel Hill, Martin Luther King,Jr., and Joan Baez. He was of course working for one Rawleigh elite, the Fletchers, who owned WRAL (still do). Perhaps Mr. Pope didn't get the message. For that matter, Mr. Pope is himself a "Rawleigh elite." I guess this is yet another example of Orwell-speak on Pope's part--when he says "elite," he means people who need parks (another feature of Perdue's Dix Hill plan: some urban park land), and "our" government.

After the election the other week, someone threw a brick through the Democratic Headquarters building in downtown Siler City. I saw yesterday they've put the glass back in, and reposted their sign. Seems like it's always going to be a close call here in North Carolina.

Update: there's a petition to Congress asking that this building not be named after North Carolina's most famous racist, jingoist, male-chauvinist deceased Senator. Might be a good idea to sign it before it's too late. It can be found at:

Wednesday Update: Good news!. On the Dix Hill front, the few remaining reasonable state leaders adopted Gov. Perdue's plan yesterday in a Council of State meeting. Republicans of course voted no and vow to mess things up once Frack You McCrory comes into power in January, '13. We'll see I guess. Here's the story: