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Friday, July 8, 2016

Those Good Ole Days

I was born in 1952…, so when I try to sum up my life in as few words as possible…, I say that I was born in the 50’s…., grew up in the 60’s…, came of age in the 70’s…, somehow survived the 80’s…, built a nest in the 90’s…, tried to feather the nest in in the 00’s…, and am sometimes wondering why in these 10’s?

Sometime in those 80’s I tried to pen the lyrics to a song about those 70’s…, a time that those of us around my age were trying to recreate the magic of the psychedelic 60’s that we were a little too young to experience firsthand.  Why couldn’t we have our own Woodstock?  We tried.

Those Good Ole Days
Been tunin’ up all day,
Now we’re feelin’ right.
Gonna head out for Tacoma,
In the middle of the night.
Jerry’s passed out in the backseat,
Got Bruce behind the wheel.
Goin’ mostly for the party,
But just might make a deal.

I still remember those good ole days,
Like they were yesterday.
I think about ‘em often,
But don’t have much to say.
You lit a fire in me girl,
That still smolders…, sometimes burns.
But somewhere along the road,
We took our separate turns.

Rock and roll all day long,
And halfway through the night.
There was no way baby,
I could let you out of sight.
That summer passed before us,
Just like a shooting star.
Just along for the ride,
We weren’t goin’ all that far.

I still remember those good ole days,
Like they were yesterday.
I think about ‘em often,
But don’t have much to say.
You lit a fire in me girl,
That still smolders…, sometimes burns.
But somewhere along the road,
We took our separate turns.

I wish all of the memories,
Were as sweet as those.
I can’t explain the reason,
We chose those separate roads.
But sometimes I still wake up,
In the middle of the night.
And wonder where we’d be right now,
If things had turned out right.

I still remember those good ole days,
Like they were yesterday.
I think about ‘em often,
But don’t have much to say.
You lit a fire in me girl,
That still smolders…, sometimes burns.
But somewhere along the road,
We took our separate turns.


There were a few things that brought that one back to mind.  I have read Ron Jacobs, “Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies” three times now.  Yeah…, having a Kindle is like carrying around a library in your pocket.  And nobody on the bus can tell that you are reading the same book for the third time.  Jacobs tracks the decade through the music mostly…, and that’s the hook for me…, but the political commentary and analysis isn’t overbearing.  He was also a big Greatful Dead fan…, but they just never caught on with me.  But Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne had heavy influence and are a couple of my heavyweights…, “Daydream Sunset” isn’t far from a fourth reading.  Here is the Amazon description of the book:

The 1960s are remembered for radical politics, explorations of sexuality, drug experimentation and rock and roll. All of these elements composed the 60s counterculture. Then things changed. Richard Nixon got elected president, and together with Congress, made the war on drugs a cultural and political crusade replete with lots of cops, guns and constitutional violations. Youthful protesters were murdered by authorities in Berkeley, Kent State and Jackson State. Divisions over tactics and politics combined with police repression to splinter and dissipate the left political movement. The Vietnam war finally ended and Abbie Hoffman went underground after a cocaine bust. Meanwhile, in one of its most manipulative moments, corporate America was quickly figuring out how to put sex, drugs and rock and roll up for sale. Hippies became freaks; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Pigpen died untimely deaths, but the rock show went on. The 1970s were the decade the Sixties spirit struggled to survive while becoming a shadow of its dreams. Daydream Sunset is the story Ron Jacobs tells in his colorful history of the 1970s. From the Fillmore East to Oakland Coliseum; from Berkeley's Telegraph Ave to the streets of Europe, this alternative history of this fraught time will make you feel like dancing in your seats and wondering what might have been. One part reminiscence and several parts cultural history, Jacobs has crafted a thrilling and intimate narrative that takes the reader on a trip through a crazy history some people don't remember and others want us to forget.

I really need to show some initiative and write a customer review on Amazon and email Jacobs and let him know how much I enjoyed his book…, but us Old Hippies are not that easy to get motivated.

Jacobs is a couple years younger than I was…, and one of the other nudges came from a writer a couple years older.  I ran across John Eskow’s, My Generation: One Last Scream on the Way Out on the CounterPunch Blog the other day.  It begins:

I was born the same year as Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Bridges, Pam Grier, and Bruce Springsteen—which, unless all the calendars have somehow been altered, makes us 66 years old.   And if the actuarial tables remain consistent, that means that all of us—good and bad, kindhearted and creepy, George Foreman and Gene Simmons alike—we’re all due to be bundled up pretty soon and dropped off into that Great Recycling Bin of the Cosmos.
It’s a curious bunch. Hank Williams Jr—with whom, as a fledgling journalist, I stood in an Alabama field, firing rifles, machine-guns and his prize bazooka—unforgettable detonations! Even then, Hank Jr—with his deep bass voice and Oedipal backstory, his face scarred up from a terrible fall down a mountainside—seemed much older than me. “Well, Jawn,” he allowed, “I’ve just had a few more oil changes than you.” Great line. And the truly magical Phillipe Petit, with whom I used to play badminton inside a poet’s Soho loft–back in the ‘70s, when Soho lofts were dirt-cheap, because no one wanted to live there. Ann Romney, George’s wife, with whom I never did anything. Jessica Lange, still a major crush—though not as big a crush as Pam Grier; one kiss from Pam Grier could still power entire cities. Cool Sissy Spacek and sleazy Don Johnson. The always-underestimated Larry Holmes. Twiggy. Caitlyn Jenner, world-famous for being a creep in two different genders. Jeremy Corbyn. Rick Springfield.
The mulch-pit awaits us all. What traces will we leave behind?

And he sums it up:

Chelsea Clinton’s wedding cost $3,000,000– while the single mothers whose pitiful lifeline was cut off by Bill Clinton turn tricks behind dumpsters to feed their kids.
They say one good thing about getting old is you can speak your mind more freely. I really hope that’s true, because my generation still has a right, and a duty to speak—no, to scream. Now more than ever. Now louder than ever.
And by the way: I still haven’t given up completely on Pam Grier.


Oh…, that last little nudge was more like a kick in the butt…, I leave you with The Who and “My Generation”.

Friday, June 10, 2016

What Do You Call It?



Irony?  I once wrote that I may not be able to define irony for you…, but I know it when it slaps me upside the head.  The dictionary says, “… a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects…”.  Or maybe you should call it disrespect…, or insulting?

I am sure it was merely coincidence that the five part-eight hour documentary “OJ: Made in America” was scheduled for TV release on June 11, 2016…, just a week after the passing of Muhammad Ali.  OJ and Ali were both great athletes…, but only one was a great man…, The Greatest.  If there is any doubt in your mind about which one that is…, don’t bother reading any further.

I am also sure that the release of the OJ film was scheduled for release long ago…, it has already made the rounds at film festivals…, but I am not sure why that TV release could not…, and should not have been rescheduled.  There is little doubt that it was some sort of monetary consideration and contract obligations.  Both men had diametrically opposed views on money and obligations.  Ali gave up his heavyweight championship, millions of dollars, and several years of his prime athletic life for his principles, his “people”, and his religion…, by refusing to be inducted into the US Army.  About that same time OJ was winning a Heisman Trophy and already counting the millions he was going to demand from the NFL team the drafted him.  He held out until he got it too.  He once remarked that, “I’m not black…, I’m OJ.”  If he ever did anything for anyone but OJ…, it was just for the good publicity it would get him…, and the money that would follow.

I was still in high school when Ali refused the draft in 67 and OJ won the Heisman in 68.  I had different opinions of them back then.  I thought Ali was a loud mouth, uppity nigger who feigned religion and was a coward and a draft dodger…, he deserved whatever he got.  OJ was a tremendous athlete who knew his place…, and deserved whatever he got.  Fifty years can change a man’s view, his attitudes…, and philosophy of life.  It didn’t happen overnight…, getting drafted myself…, serving in the South in the early 70’s had quite an impact on me.  I began to realize that Ali was right about the war…, and a lot more…, and was probably the greatest boxer ever.  OJ on the other hand was a media made star.  He was fast…, but not a great runner.  He would go a whole game with nothing but two, three or four yards a carry…, until the one big hole opened up and he burst through for an eighty yard run.  The year he set the rushing record with over 2000 years in a season wasn’t because he had such a great year…, it was because it was set up to be his big season…, OJ was the offense.  All those carries probably took a few years off his career…, but he was eying Hollywood anyway.  He never led his pro team to a championship.

The movie is getting rave reviews…, “essential and momentous”…, “has grandeur and authority”…, “thought-provoking, astonishing, sobering, hilarious, tragic”…, “Historically meticulous, thematically compelling and deeply human… a masterwork of scholarship, journalism and cinematic art.”  

I won’t be watching it.  I have no respect for OJ and what he did.  One review states, “… should be a conversation-starter, a way to discuss what happened in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s in terms of race and celebrity and what it says about today.”  No…, I don’t buy that.  Ali and OJ grew up in the same era and I would say that Ali faced far more racism, hatred, and prejudice in Louisville than OJ did in San Francisco.  Ali stood up to it and backed it down.  OJ bowed down to it.  They were both big celebrities…, Ali accepted it and lived with it…, OJ spent his life trying to exploit it. 

No…, if I want to learn something about life…, give me The Ali story.  Don’t slap me upside the head.

Rest In Peace Champ…, it was just a sad coincidence.




Friday, June 3, 2016

There's A Double Trouble Bubble Brewing

We’ve seen and survived some pretty nasty bubbles in the past.  The Tulip Bubble, The South Sea Company Bubble, The Florida Real Estate Bubble, The 1929 Stock Market Bubble, The Japanese Asset Price Bubble, The Dot- Com Bubble, The Housing Bubble(s), The Subprime Bubble, The Debt Bubble, The Financial Bubble…, and no one saw this one coming either.  But we may have a chance to turn it around before this Bubble Bursts.  And by “us”…, I mean the working man or woman, common folks, debt serfs…, beer drinkers.  I doubt that we will have much help from the plutocrats and oligarchs or the politicians or CEO’s or other scum of the earth.  They aren’t beer drinkers and wouldn’t stoop to buying a beer for a working man…, if they ever got close enough to one to do so.
Say what?  I am speaking of The Beer Bubble.  Haven’t heard of it?  I told you already that no one saw it coming…, but here it is…, World Domination - the Chinese Now Drink More Beer Than Anyone  .  And the Double Bubble I referred to?  Here it is…, Corprate Overlords Will Soon Own 1 Out of Every 3 Beers Made On Earth.

Yeah…, we know what too much money in too few hands can produce…, but that pales in comparison to what too much beer in too few hands looks like.  I have seen it first hand and a little too close up and personal a time or two…, on a small scale anyway.  I can guarantee you that you don’t want to even view the pictures of what a mess a Bursting Beer Bubble would produce on a planetary scale.  The corporate conglomerates have consolidated and monopolized everything from media to airlines to banks…, it shouldn’t surprise us that they are coming for our beer now.  They want to make sure that they are too big to fail.  Some foreign outfit has captured Budweiser…, that iconic red, white and blue can will now be emblazoned with “America” on it…, until after the elections I hear.  That’s just in the US…, I don’t think it would go over so well in other than a very few nations left on Earth that have any respect…, let alone love…, for America these days.  I am not sure just how to battle a behemoth like that…, the thought of a beer boycott leaves me with cotton mouth…, and the shakes.

But regarding that first Bubble Trouble mentioned…, we can make damn sure those Chinese don’t out drink us!  I mean the gall…, what do they think…, that they built our railroads or something?  This calls for action of the two fisted kind…, yeah…, a beer in each hand.  Whatever it takes.  We all know how those aforementioned Bubbles played out…, and we can’t allow something like that to happen to such a vital and essential area of our economy and mainstay of our very existence.  We can’t let this Brew Bubble Burst…, we have to keep pouring it on to keep that from happening.  What the hell…, if we double down on our beer consumption we might be able to wipe out the deficit in the bargain.  I mean…, the sin taxes alone on beer are enormous.  Think of the revenue the government will reap.  And look how much more malt, grain, barley, hops, yeast, water, aluminum and glass will need to be produced…, not to mention the brewers, truck drivers, stock and checkout clerks, bartenders and waitresses.., we are talking a major jobs program here folks…, and it won’t cost the government any money and the Republicans won’t be able to block it…, because there will be no vote.  Do you suppose the Repugs will suggest cutting the beer tax?  Dream on.  Tax cuts for billionaires are a religious necessity for them…, but a tax cut for the working man or woman beer drinker…, forgetaboutit.  This could be the stimulus, the jump-start, the turnaround…, that the economy has been searching in vain for since 2009.

When the Great Recession burst on the scene along with Housing Bubble and the stock market crashed…, everything but beer bottles were thrown at the problem.  $700 million in TARP funds…, to the Banksteers that caused the problem…, and an $800 million dollar stimulus package that pretty much ended up in those same Banksteer pockets.  The idea was that the Banksteers would lend out that money for investment in productive industry and create jobs and an economic recovery.  Trouble was that no one wanted to borrow any money…, at least not the working man or woman who were already well over their eyeballs in debt…, because inflation adjusted incomes were still stuck in the 70’s.  And with no consumer spending to speak of…, the giant corporations had no incentive to invest in increased production of any consumer products.  Though the CEO’s and stockholders were happy to borrow that low interest money and buy back their own shares…, which lined their pockets…, and little else.  Then there was Quantitative Easing…, I…, II…, and III.  Some say that all these efforts produced another stock market bubble that’s bound to burst…., but it hasn’t…, yet.

There is another option of course…, the lesson from the Euro Zone and the IMF…, austerity.  Not just no…, HELL NO !!!  There is no way that any self-respecting beer drinker would set foot on that Greecey slope.  That would result in nothing but a not so slow slide to the bottom of the barrel…, and there to remain.

So…, there is a lesson here for us beer drinkers…, we can learn from history.  We need to Bailout the Banksteers if we are going to save our Beer Bubble.  They got all that low (nearly no) interest rate money to lead out to us at 29% on our credit cards.  Hell…, they may be getting some of those negative interest rate loans soon…, and can therefore jack up the interest rates they charge us on our cards.  Speaking of those negative interest rates that are all the rage in Europe and Japan…, I asked our local banksteer for a negative interest rate loan to buy yet another Toyota…, she didn’t think it was as funny as I hope you do.  Anyway…, we have to buy up as much beer as possible…, on credit of course…, and drink it up.  We can’t just throw a tarp over it and save it for the hotter days coming our way soon.  No…, that would just delay the Bursting of the Beer Bubble until a later date…, pulling demand forward is the technical term…, and it only works for a short while.   We have to keep turning that beer and the money printing machine over and over in a sustainable manner if we want to keep the flow going.  It’s tough duty…, I know.  But someone has to do it.

Obama will probably back us up.  He already earned a Nobel Peace Prize for averting a major conflagration between a couple of beer drinkers…, by sitting down and downing a couple beers with the parties in question.  Well…, at least that is the only thing I can think of that he did to deserve the Nobel medal…, and money.  He hasn’t stopped any wars since he took office and he continues to bomb and drone and kill in some seven countries…, that we know of.

If it doesn’t happen on Obama’s watch…, I doubt that President Trump will be any help.  He will of course, want to “Make America Great Again”…, and probably suggest building a wall across the Pacific Ocean…, using the Great Wall of China for material…, hire Chinese laborers to build it for pennies an hour…, then bring those jobs back home when they are done.  But that is all just talk…, The Donald probably never drank a beer…, nothing but Dom PĂ©rignon Champaign at $200 a bottle for him.  He may pander to us beer drinkers and try to impress us with his tough talk (it seems to work with a significant number of us)…, but I don’t believe that he is even close to being a real working man (or woman?)…, or near as tough as he thinks he is.  That’s all just talk too.  He’s the kind of guy that I would like to punch in the nose when he talks like that.

President Hillary will go on the attack immediately…, bombs on the beaches and bayonets up the butt (hee hee hee she says) are her style of doing business.  And while we are busy and bloody and distracted in the Asian pivot…, she will be handing over the Social Security Trust Fund to Goldman Sachs.  You don’t really think that they invited her back twice at $200,000 a pop to hear her tell them how she would clamp down on their blood funnel tactics, insider trading, high frequency trading, shoddy securitization, interest rate rigging, etc…, yeah…, over $100 billion in fines paid already to keep from being prosecuted and Hillary tells them, “You ain’t seen nothing yet…, just wait till I take office.”  Please come back and tell us again…, and again Hillary?  No wonder she won’t release the transcripts.  We have a lot more to worry about than a Bursting Beer Bubble if that Queen is Crowned.

Bernie seems like a beer guy to me.  That’s not why I supported him…, I like his policies.  It’s looking now like my campaign donations may have been more wisely spent on beer…, but it ain’t over until the Fat Queen Sings.  I am sure that Bernie would not like the idea of the Chinese taking our beer drinking jobs.  We need to keep our beer here in America…, and drink it ourselves.  Now, I don’t mind so much if the Chinese take our dirty, polluting, and all round nasty jobs…, we don’t really need polluted rivers on fire or acid rain or brown outs or brown lung…, the Chinese are choking and dying on those jobs over there now…, but taking our good clean beer drinking jobs…, even if they don’t pay all that well…, is a red line in the sand that shall not be crossed.  I believe that Bernie would help build a bridge and lead us through this Beer Bubble to that banquet on the other side.  And I am sure it would be a lot better bridge than the one that the last Clinton to run for President promised to help us build to the 21st Century…, and failed to deliver on.

But that new President taking office is still over seven months away…, and we dare not wait that long.  So…, beer drinkers unite and rally in the streets…, roll up your sleeves, get thirsty…, it’s time to boot up and get those Tony Lama’s out on the ground (not behind the wheel now)…, and help keep this Brewing Bubble from Bursting.


Double Cheers Squared



Postscript - Here's that bridge to the 21st Century that we had to build ourselves...



Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Drive

Along about April or May of every year when the high county around Hemlock Butte and Rocky Ridge Lake were still socked in and buried in perhaps 10 feet or more of frozen snow at over 5,600 feet in elevation…, Lewiston, ID at barely 700 feet above sea level…, had been snow free for many months and the flower and vegetable gardeners weren’t much worried about any killing frosts.  As we would head east up US 12 along the Clearwater River toward Weippe and home in our old car, my Dad would look across the river at that giant, smoke belching, rotten-egg smelling, Potlatch Forests, Inc. pulp mill and say, “Well…, looks like they are getting mighty short of logs…, guess I better sign on for The Drive this year.”  He never did sign on when I knew him though.  He had been on a couple, or maybe a few, before I was born, or when I was too young to remember.  Strange how those little details never seem to matter…, until it is too late to sort them out.



The Clearwater River Log Drive was an ever present piece of that logging aura and mystic that was as much a part of my life growing up as such legends like Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  But I will never forget being in the fourth or fifth grade when our teacher brought to class a July 1951 issue of National Geographic Magazine.  There was a feature in it about the 1950 Clearwater Log Drive titled “Idaho Loggers Battle a River”.  I was just trying to be funny when I quipped, “I’ll show you guys a picture of my Dad in here!”  The boast got way more scoffs than laughs, but no one was more shocked or surprised than I was…, to see him there on page 120 and 129.
Second guy on the right is That Good Lookin' Al Spence
The guy on the left.




































This year of 2016 will mark the 45year anniversary of the last Clearwater River Log Drive.  In 1971, it was most likely the last major white-water sawlog river drive in the United States.  I doubt that the practice would have survived much longer, even if the huge concrete plug…, known as the Dwoarshak Dam…, hadn’t choked off the North Fork branch of the Clearwater.  It was boom time in American back then, it was, build bigger and better roads, bigger and faster trucks to haul those logs, and with the fuel for them measured in pennies to the gallon, The Drive wouldn’t have survived much longer even without the dam.  With diesel fuel over $4.00 per gallon at times these days and environmentalists calling for breaching dams to allow historic salmon and steelhead fish runs to resume…, one wonders if there might not be another Clearwater River Log Drive in the future? 


My days as a working logger are long gone…, with few regrets that those back breaking days are behind me now at age 64.  But I would sign on without hesitation for a future Drive as a camp “flunky”…, swamping out the floating bunkhouses and serving food to those working loggers in the cookhouse portion of the floating camp called the “wannigan”.  Oh yeah…, I’d sign on for whatever menial, low-down, dirty,  job that I had to …, to take part in The Drive.  A two or three week whitewater rafting and boating  vacation, three all-you can eat hot meals a day, being rocked to sleep at night in warm and dry bunk on the water…, and getting paid to do it.  Hell…, I’d do it for free if I ever get the chance.  Oh…, there was some hard and dangerous work involved, but all aspects of logging are that way.


In the early 1950’s, the wanigan was fitted with full swing motormounts and outboard motors instead of just the sweeps. It progressedfrom log rafts to three sections of Army engineered bridge pontoonsmade out of synthetic rubber with air in numerous air compartments.  This wanigan would house the 34-man crew along with a cook, cookhouse, and two bunkhouses, one on each end of the cookhouse. The wanigan was over 117 feet long and 26 feet wide. This photo was taken in 1951 about 3 miles north of Ahsahka.














Working in a space smaller than the average home kitchen, chief cook Harvey Spears prepares more than 100 hot meals daily to satisfy the hearty appetites of the Potlatch rearing crews.








From 1928 to 1971 there were 40 log drives, they generally started 50 miles up the North Fork of the Clearwater River from Isabella Landing.  50 miles of wild, untamed river that ran through a wilderness of nearly uninhabited country.  The few access roads available were there to get the timber to the water.   At the mouth of the North Fork, the logs and their drivers merged with the Middle Fork, and from there rode the main Clearwater River another 40 miles down to Lewiston and the mill pond.  In the early years a series of flumes were used to get the logs into the river.  A flume was like a theme park water slide for logs…, and I’ve been told that some of the poorly designed flumes gave those logs quite a ride. 

In the early years of the drive, flumes transported logs from the woods to the bank of the river throughout the logging season. Tree lengths were skidded to this flume landing and then “bucked” by sawyers into saw logs about sixteen and a half feet in length. Peavy men then rolled the logs into the flume.Water would be released from flume dams as needed to float the logs to the river. There would be severallog landings along a flume depending on different logging sites and available water sources. Each flume design was unique to particular
terrain and water sources. The original length of this particular flume was about eight miles. It entered the river below the Little North Fork, on the opposite side, fed by the waters of Elkberry Creek.  From the late 1920’s to the mid-1950’s, flumes were the cheapest and the most efficient way to handle the logs. Heavy machinery was not yet available to build the roads, handle the logs, or haul them great distances. Water did the work. Flumes varied from one mile to several miles in length and created a capillary system that fed logs into the river. Over two dozen flumes and fluming camps were constructed along the North Fork.

Also in the old days the boats were man-powered and it took a lot of skill to avoid a lot of extra hard work.  The advent of first…, outboard motors…, and later…, jet boats made things a lot easier and safer for all the crew members.
  


“Head’s Up, she’s a pullin’.” The bateaux crew pulling a small center jam in the North Fork of the Clearwater River. The men in the picture are leaping to the safety of the bateaux as everything is moving and the jam is breaking up.












Boat crews are working the slack water at the lower end of the Clearwater River, close to the Lewiston mill.








In those days it wasn’t so much a drive, as it was a round-up.  The logs were allowed to just float to the mill at their leisure and once a year, or when the logs stopped showing up at the mill, a crew went down to help along the ones that got stranded in shallow riffles, or eddies, or got hung up on islands.  But a couple of huge log jams that blocked the entire width of the river and extended for miles up stream ended that practice.  When a big jam like that cuts loose in mass…, things like bridges are in no small peril. 


So the practice of decking the logs up along the river at various “camp” sites throughout the season and making a controlled drive once a year was established.  Timing was of critical importance.  If the water was rising, the logs would tend to float in the center of the river, if the water was falling the logs would tend to float toward the banks of the river were they were more likely to get hung up.  With a huge snowpack still stashed away in the high country, it was that melting snow that would determine the flow of the river.  Start too early and the snow up high stays frozen, start too late and you are liable to get caught at flood stage, which presents a whole set of new problems.  That happened one year before there were dams built that helped with flood control…, the logs burst through the log boom that was stretched across the river to corral them in the log pond at Lewiston…, and high-tailed it on down the Snake River.  On down the Columbia River.  All the way to Longview, WA before they were recaptured…, by another logging company.  So the decision of when to start The Drive was not taken lightly or left in the hands of just anyone.

  
Bull O’ The Woods! Potlatch log drive foreman Charles “Red” McCollister sizes up the river before sending his rearing crews onto the frigid Clearwater River.

He worked the drive from 1950 to 1971 and
was foreman for its last 17 years. 


The fellow that made that call for the last 17 years of The Drive, was Charles “Red” McCollister.  “Charlie Red” we called him when I worked for him a few years after The Drive was history.  I wish I could have worked for him on one of them.  I gave it some thought, I was 18 in 1971, but I wasn’t even working for Potlatch at the time.  There wouldn’t have been any chance of me getting on anyway.  I am sure the list was a long one for that Last Drive. I wonder how Charlie Red decided who got the privilege to participate in it?  He said in a 1964 article in The Idaho Forester, “New recruits were chosen carefully from young men with as much consideration given to their safety attitude and individual judgment as to their physical ability.”  With only 34 positions to fill the crew, I am sure Charlie had some tough calls to make…, but there is no man that I would sooner trust than Charlie Red to make a tough call.  But once again…, it is a little too late to ask him about those little details.  He passed away in 2010.  I’ll be writing more about this remarkable man in the future.  For now…, you should check out another link to this Forest History Today magazine photo-journal that was written by Charlie Red and his daughter Sandra McCollister about The Drive…, and I sure hope she doesn’t mind that I “borrowed” some of her and Charlie’s pictures and captions (in italics) for this piece.  I would have asked…, but I lost her email address in one of my computer harddrive crashes. 

There is a wealth of old logging and log drive picture at Forest History Society site…, and I did get their permission to use their photos…, some of which are credited to them in Charlie and Sandra’s story.

There is also a chapter about The Drive in Earl Roberge’s beautifully written and photographed book, "Timber Country"…, and I hope he doesn’t mind if I post a couple of his pictures here.  I have a copy of the book myself…, about the only wise investment I made back in the “hippie days”…, and I bought another as a gift for an old partner not so long ago.



















There are several YouTube videos of various aspects of The Drive you can Google up…, or try these links:

“The Company”…, was the moniker most often used to referred to Potlatch Corporation by those of us who worked there…, was foresighted enough to hire a film company to record the last log drive and Charlie Red narrated the film…, but I can’t seem to locate it for viewing anywhere on the Internet.  That is a real shame…, it is a piece of history that should be available for all to see.
Another great film that features a fairly significant amount of footage of the log drive is the Disney film, “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar”.  It doesn’t identify in the story that the log drive portion was actually shot in Idaho on the North Fork of the Clearwater River…, but the credits do.  And oh yeah…, Charles “Red” McCollister acquitted himself in the extremely professional manner that he always brought to any job he undertook…,while performing his part in the film.



Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Rack'em Up !"

It isn’t a feeling that I get often…, or ever often got for that matter.  It’s been a good many years since I shuffled around a pool table…, and even back in the days when it was an all too common occurrence…, I did way more rackin’ myself than I ever did instructing others to do so.

But every once in while…, OK, make that, great while…, I had one of those nights when the stars all aligned and that old pool cue had a laser light in the tip.  And you could literally feel the fear and self-doubt building in the local hustler as game after game was slipping away…, and after sinking another 8-ball…, you take a long pull out of a bottle of ice cold Hamm’s…, sit it down firmly…, look him in the eye…, and say, “Rack’em up!”

I got that feeling on Tuesday night when I saw the projected results of Bernie Sanders Wisconsin Primary win.  Yeah…, that’s seven out of eight now…, and this was another double digit win in what was supposed to be a close contest.  A couple weeks back the three states that I have lived in, Idaho, Alaska and now Washington…, were on the agenda and once again the main stream media were doing their best to sow doubts about Bernie’s prospects…, or ignoring him altogether.    I even found an excuse to get to town on caucus day, “Honey…, the empty beer cans are piling up on the back porch.  I better make a run to town and dump them at the Boy Scout recycle bin.”  She didn’t question why I couldn’t wait until Monday when I would be going anyway…, or why I was taking the check book.  I drove by the high school…, hoping that there would be a group of Bernie supporters like me…, too principled to publicly testify to being a Democrat…, standing around outside with signs and such.  There weren’t…, I didn’t need the check book.  Back at The Ranch…, I tried to concentrate on chores to keep my mind off of the pending results…, but I had built up a substantial nest egg of new empty beer cans on the back porch before I came inside to check on the outcome.  The glow that I already had on, set off on a whole new trajectory.  I couldn’t have been prouder of my fellow statesmen.  Bernie literally wiped the table with Hillary that night…, in all three of my patron states.

Also last night, Thom Hartmann tried to remind Democrats about…, what he thought were…, some important points regarding this primary.  It was obviously recorded prior to any knowledge of the Wisconsin results:

The Democratic Party is facing a serious existential question. And if the party doesn't make the right moves in 2016 -- if it doesn't hang onto the Independent voters and first-time voters who are turning out in droves to vote for Bernie Sanders and other progressive challengers to the Democratic National Committee establishment -- the Democratic Party seriously risks alienating an entire generation of voters.
But the reality is that the people who are turning out to vote for Sanders -- the people who seem to endlessly share Sanders memes online, the people who are turning out by the tens of thousands just to hear him speak -- are mostly average, hard-working American men and women of all races and ethnic and economic backgrounds who are sick and tired of a rigged political system and a rigged economy.
What the Democratic Party needs to realize is that many of Sanders' supporters are voting for the first time, whether they're 18, 30 or 50 years old. And just as importantly, even if they have voted before, many of them are voting as Democrats for the very first time.
Sanders' supporters can't force the Democratic Party to embrace universal health care and tuition-free college; they can't force the party to embrace expanding Social Security and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; they can't force the party to make overturning Citizens United and ending our dependence on fossil fuels into core parts of the Democratic platform. And they can't cause a riot to force the Democrats to embrace a true progressive vision for America.
But they shouldn't have to.

I think Thom is wasting his breath.  This is the first time in a long, long, time that there is a serious contender to vote for and the Sanders supporters are supporting him.  The Democratic Party isn’t going to hold many of those voters…, and most definitely not this one…, once Bernie is out of the race.  And no…, no amount Bernie’s emails or Thom’s essays…, are going to entice me to support Hillary or the Democratic Party on their merits.

A while back John Michael Greer weighed in with these comments on Hillary:

To a very real extent, Hillary Clinton’s faltering presidential campaign is a perfect microcosm of what Spengler was talking about in his cold analysis of democracy in extremis. Her entire platform presupposes that the only policies the United States can follow are those that have been welded in place since the turn of the millennium: more government largesse for corporations and the rich, more austerity for everyone else, more malign neglect for the national infrastructure and the environment, more wars in the Middle East, and more of the fantastically stupid policy of confrontation—there really is no gentler way to describe it—that has succeeded, against all odds, in uniting Russia, China, Iran, and an assortment of smaller nations against the United States, by convincing their leaders that they have nothing to gain from a US-centric world order and nothing to lose by challenging it.
It’s possible—indeed, I think it’s likely—that Clinton will manage to squeeze past Sanders and get the Democratic nomination by fair means or foul; it’s considerably less likely that she’ll be able to overcome Trump in the general election; but even if she does, others will follow where Trump and Sanders lead, and sooner or later one of them will triumph.
The more likely option just now, I think, is that the Clinton campaign will meet a crushing defeat at Trump’s hands, and the decline and fall of Hillary Clinton will also mark the end of the failed consensus that has dominated American politics for decades. That fact alone doesn’t guarantee improvement; no law requires that whatever policies replace the conventional wisdom must be better. Nonetheless, things will change, and it’s at least possible that some of the changes might remove at least a few of the worst features of the bleak era now stumbling to its end around us.

And Chris Hedges offered up this:

The Democrats are playing a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. She epitomizes the double-dealing of the college-educated elites, those who speak the feel-your-pain language of ordinary men and women, who hold up the bible of political correctness, while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.


So…, this good feeling might not last too much longer.  April 19th is the next “critically important” primary…, as so many have already been called this year.  While there has been speculation about Hillary being able to finally “put Bernie away” previously…, that all too real possibility looms large in the New York primary.  It is a closed primary…, we independents are barred from voting…, and we are Bernie's strong suit.  And April 19th and dates close to it have some bad connotations….,

     1889 – 4-20 – Adolf Hitler Born
     1906 – 4-18 – San Francisco Earthquake
     1912 – 4-15 – Titanic Sunk
     1927 – 4-15 – Great Mississippi Flood
     1993 – 4-19 - an FBI siege ended at Waco, TX with the death of 81 people.
     1995 – 4-19 - Oklahoma City Bombing
     1997 – 4-19 - Red River Floods
     1999 – 4-20 – Columbine School Shooting
     2010 – 4-20 – Deepwater Horizon Blowup
     2013 – 4-15 - Boston Marathon Bombing

They weren’t all tragic events though…, some good things happened on 4-19 as well:

     1775 – 4-19 - first shots fired in the American Revolutionary War
     1943 – 4-19 - Dr. Albert Hofmann discovers LSD
     1952 – 4-19 - I was born. 

So…, anyone who has read my blog knows that I will at least be celebrating my birthday…, if not something else…, on 4-19-16 this year.  Yeah…, Bernie has a long way to go yet and the likelihood of him prying the nomination from the greedy fingers of the plutocrats and oligarchs and blood sucking vampire squids that have those fingers already firmly  wrapped around the likes of Hillary and another Clinton Catastrophe for the working class…, and the world…, are about the same as my chances of running the table…, but it is the only chance I see… so…,

“RACK’EM UP !”


Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Frost..., 11-19-15



That ought to finish off the spud plants in The Garden.  Yeah…, about half of them were still green and hanging in there.  OK…, the monsoon rains had beat them down pretty good…, but they were still green laying there on the ground.

A few very short years ago…, yeah the years are slipping away way too fast these days…, I wrote a piece for The Agonist called, “Biscuits and Gravy and the First Killing Frost”.  It was dated 10/12/09.  A very late first freeze this year…, and a very early spring and summer that helped set off a fire season for the record books in the Pacific Northwest.  The dry spell during the summer browned up our grass pastures here on the Olympic Peninsula to a state that I haven’t witnessed in my 25 years here.  We got some early rain this fall…, enough to green the pastures back up…, but it didn’t seem to cool off that much.  September furnished us with some hot flashes..., but not much out of the ordinary.  October was about average…, during the days..., it seemed.  But I noticed that it didn’t cool off much during the night.

There is a state weather station at the old Quillayute Airport just a mile or so up the road from us and it reports the weather there in hourly increments on the Internet.  During the week I get up about 4:00 am to get ready for the job and I usually check the site…, along with the news…, to see how much it has rained.  But I started noticing that sometimes the temperature would be over 60 degrees through the night and at that early hour…, and it was almost always in the mid to high 50’s overnight.  A few weeks back I was talking on the phone to my brother Larry over in Idaho…, and remarked that though I didn’t think that the daytime temperatures in October set any records…, I bet that the average temperature set some.

Looks like I was right about that.., with room to spare.  And it wasn’t just here in the Northwest..,



The average temperature over land and ocean surfaces was the highest since records began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And it wasn’t just the NOAA making those claims...,


The planet has not been only record warm this year, it's been so unusually mild that the temperature records themselves have set records of their own. This is the case with October 2015, according to new preliminary NASA data released Tuesday.

The information shows that October 2015 was by far the warmest October on record, dating back to 1880. Not only that, but October also had the largest temperature departure from average of any month on record.The scorchingly hot October seals the deal: 2015 is almost certain to become the Earth’s hottest year since instrument records began in 1880. This means the year will beat out 2014, and become yet another data point showing that manmade global warming, plus natural climate variability, is pushing the climate into new territory.

Importantly, this was also the first time that a single month exceeded the 1-degree Celsius temperature anomaly, surpassing the 0.97 degree Celsius temperature anomaly in January 2007. This is a symbolic milestone, but one that will be broken more frequently as the climate continues to warm due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air because of human activities.

For the year as a whole, global average surface temperatures are likely to reach 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial temperatures for the first time, according to the UK Met Office, NOAA and now NASA as well.

The 1-degree mark means that the world is already halfway to the internationally agreed warming target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), above preindustrial levels. Since the stated goal of the Paris Climate Summit, which kicks off on Nov. 30, is to craft an agreement that will limit global warming to the 2-degree target or lower, it's clear that diplomats do not have an easy task before them.


Yeah..., when I wrote “... Killing Frost ...” six years ago..., I was concerned about the Great Financial Crisis.  Some say we have conquered it..., some say we have only curtailed it.  There may be room for debate about that issue..., but there is no room for debate about climate change.  We need to take some dramatic action..., NOW.

Let’s hope that they realize that in Paris at the Climate Summit.

As I said in "Birthday Eve Ruminations" back in 2014, “Even if it is just a futile gesture…, I think we owe it to her [Mother Earth] to at least try…, out of respect and in gratitude for what she’s already given us.”

And I better get out there and see how many potatoes she has bestowed on me this year.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Totally Pure - Joe Bageant Drops Out


I posted pieces about Joe’s books, “Deer Hunting in America: Dispatches from the Class War” and “Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball”and “Rainbow Pie”.  I noted that it took a few essays to really set the hook at first…, but hooked I was…, and am.  Probably…, hell…, no doubt…, my favorite essay is, Ghosts of Tim Leary and Hunter S. Thompson.  Yeah…, Joe and I had a lot of likes, loves and lusts in common…, liquid libations, lovely ladies and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.  And always..., always..., some music in the background.  The dedication to that piece was a teaser too, “This essay is dedicated to Gypsy Joe Hess (1919-1988).”

The intro to it was this…,

Everything Americans think they know, they learned from a televised morality play. It's all theater. You root for some good guy and boo some bad guy. You pick your own, but you dance to the tune of the men running the show. It's mind control, pure and simple, and if there is an American immune to it, then he is probably living in a snow cave somewhere in Alaska.

-- Gypsy Joe Hess (1919-1988), prospector, self-educated philosopher and horse trader


Damn right I Googled “Gypsy Joe Hess” when I read the essay a couple years back…, and got no hits.  I do now though…, after this title piece by John Lingan was run at The Baffler - Totally Pure - Joe Bageant drops out.

Gypsy Joe Hess & Joe Bageant

We are offered glimpses of Joe’s life in his books and essays…, but most of them are from his life back in West Virginia in his early years or later in life when he returned.  Lingan paints a very nice portrait of Joe’s life throughout…, with plenty of quotes from Joe’s work..., and I found out that we had a lot more in common than I thought…,


They bought the shack in 1982, with no electricity, running water, or address. It was on a dirt road about halfway up a mountain, which must have recalled Shanghai Road. Joe worked tirelessly, clearing forest and planting a garden behind the house. He built a barn for horses and livestock.



That “shack” was near St. Maries, Idaho, just a couple hours from my old home stomping grounds in north central Idaho. I remember spending a long afternoon in The Sasquatch Bar there in about 1984 or so.  But I wouldn’t have known Joe Bageant if he had been sitting beside me…, and probably wouldn’t have let him interrupt my concentration on the cute little bar maid anyway.  And in the summer of 1986 my brother and I hired out a couple of machines and ourselves on a powerline construction project well north of St. Maries…, so I made weekly trips through there for four or five months.  I kind a like to think that this old hippie met that old hippie on the road a time or two.


Often at my speaking engagements or readings, I see one or more of them in the audience,” he wrote, “long gray hair, loose-fitting, sensible, well-worn clothing, soft eyes, and perhaps an herbal amulet around the neck or in the hair. . . . Immediately after the reading or talk or whatever, I seek them out if at all possible (press agents sometimes screw this up). Always there is the big smile and the hug.

And we are again brothers and sisters, as we used to sincerely address each other on the street. And again I have been granted the gift, that brief spark of unquestioned mutual love and goodwill in a darkening time.



I made a move to Forks, WA in 87 and he moved to Moscow, ID in 88…, he went to Eugene, OR in 91 or 2 and I went to southeast AK in 91.  I came back to Forks in 94 and the property we bought didn’t even have the shack on it…, let alone running water.  But we got the horses and a barn and a garden and a Bar(n) now.

So I don’t think I will be following Joe’s path down Mexico way…, at least not anytime soon.  I will hold out here..., tend the garden and the horses...,  and hope for more ghosts like “Toxically Pure” to appear.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The First Time


I thought it would be more painful.  It wasn’t completely painless, to be sure…, but after 63 years of absolute abstinence, there was bound to be a little discomfort, at the least.  Luckily, it didn’t last long.  It was over almost before I knew it.  I was left with some feelings of guilt…, maybe remorse.  Time will tell about that…, I guess. 

I left my name, mailing address, phone number and email address.  No physical address.  I learned that lesson many years ago.  When all I used to give out was a post office box for an address and had an unlisted phone number…, not even the IRS could track me down.  And they were trying…, family and ex-employers told me so.  Two weeks after I got a phone listed in my name for a house I was sharing with the rest of the logging crew working on an out of town job…, an IRS agent left a note on the door for me.  But I digress…, in this case I want some acknowledgement of my contribution.  Then again…, I don’t want it to turn into a constant and relentless demanding…, or begging…, for more.

Yeah…, it’s already started.  It wasn’t a demand or a beg really…, more of a thank you note via email, with a not so subtle hint that it would be ever so helpful if I could give again.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so generous the first time…, probably should have taken it a little slower and easier.  But after all these years, I felt that if I was going to do it…, I was going to do it right and go all the way.  Or at least as far as I felt I could, without feeling some real pain.  So I clicked that $100 button…, and it was over and done with.  No turning back now.  And I am not feeling too bad about it at this time…, I guess.

Yeah…, I donated to Bernie Sanders campaign.  The first time ever, that I have contributed as much as a single penny to a politician.  I might just do it again before it’s all over…, though most of the pundits in the media say he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in this global warming climate of acing out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.  I don’t know…, those same pundits were saying the same things about Obama and Hillary six years ago.  Think about that for a moment…, after you consider what’s been in the news about black men out on the streets of America lately.  That a black man was able to woo voters away from Hillary says a lot about her.  I think voters were looking for an anything but Hillary nearly eight years ago…, and they may be again.  Sure, all the big time Wall Street money is bet on her…, and believe me…, that money will be pouring out like water over Niagara Falls for her if Bernie starts to gain some traction.  Well…, I don’t know just how afraid the oligarchs and plutocrats are of him right now…, but if his common sense approach to the issues starts to resonate with the voters of this country and sparks a bit of a fire…, we could see some real panic in the boardrooms…, not to mention the Clinton bedroom.  “NOOOO…, not AGAIN !!!”  And that will be before we get out of the primaries.

I only voted in one presidential election…, ever.  And never in a primary.  They say now-a-days that it makes no difference if you vote Democrat or Republican…, they are one in the same.  I thought that for years before folks started saying it.  Then the Wee Bush got elected…, twice.  Yeah…, I voted against him the only time I ever voted for (make that against) a president.  And I was physically sick when he got re-elected.  That experience doesn’t give me a whole lot of faith in the voters of this country.  That they couldn’t see then, the train wreck that was riding the rails of a Wee Bush re-election still flabbergasts me.  Well…, a hell of a lot of them woke up after that train wreck.  As the late Joe Bageant described that awakening, “Either they have suddenly developed a streak of conscience, or they simply don’t want to be associated with the trail of crime, blood and feces Bush and his cronies have obviously tracked across the carpet of American history.  My bet is on the latter.”  Yeah…, a pumpkin-headed pogo stick could have trounced any Republican candidate after the stench and stigma left on the Grand Old Party by the Wee Bush.  The stench was so complete and long lasting that a pumpkin-headed pogo stick could probably do it again in 2016…, and probably will…, if we don’t find some way to wake up some rank and file, common sense voters to get out and vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries.  They say that big money buys elections these days…, but this is a chance to show the oligarchs and plutocrats that their money is not always well spent.  I don’t know how many more presidential elections I will have the chance to participate in at my age…, but at least this one could be a chance to vote FOR someone…, as opposed to voting for the least worst option.  And I am not at all sure if there is a least worst option between Hillary and another Bush.? 

Sanders is running on the Democratic ticket as a strategic move…, but he has served 20 some years in Congress as an Independent and describes himself as a “democratic socialist”.   That won’t scare the educated and thoughtful folks who understand what socialism really is…, but for the knuckle dragging, Neanderthal, FOX news, Rush Limbaugh junkies and Republicans?  Well…, I just wish that Stephan Colbert and Jon Stewart were going to be around to have me rolling on the floor, pissing my pants laughing, as they make fun of the talking heads screaming bloody murder, the sky is falling and the barbarians are at the gate…, as Sanders gains in the polls.  The Scandinavian countries have survived and thrived quite nicely with a socialist form of government.  And after bearing witness to the free market, private enterprise example of the too big to fail and too big to jail Wall Street banks and banksteers…, I would welcome the nationalization of those entities…, not to mention the nationalization of the health care industry where private insurance companies run a cost plus, monopoly business model.


Here’s the “platform” statement from Bernie’s “thank you” email:

Income and wealth inequality: In the United States today we have the most unequal wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth -- worse than at any time since the 1920s. This is an economy that must be changed in fundamental ways. 

 Jobs and income: In my view, we need a massive federal jobs program which puts millions of our people back to work. We must end our disastrous trade policies. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And we have to fight for pay equity for women. 

Campaign finance reform: As a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, American democracy is being undermined by the ability of the Koch brothers and other billionaire families. These wealthy contributors can literally buy politicians and elections by spending hundreds of millions of dollars in support of the candidates of their choice. We need to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections so that all candidates can run for office without being beholden to the wealthy and powerful. 

Climate change: Climate change is real, caused by human activity and already devastating our nation and planet. The United States must lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainability. 

College affordability: Every person in this country who has the desire and ability should be able to get all the education they need regardless of the income of their family. This is not a radical idea. In Germany, Scandinavia and many other countries, higher education is either free or very inexpensive. We must do the same. 

Health care: Shamefully, the United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-all single-payer system. Health care is a right, not a privilege. 

Poverty: The United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. I believe that in a democratic, civilized society none of our people should be hungry or living in desperation. We need to expand Social Security, not cut it. We need to increase funding for nutrition programs, not cut them. 

Tax reform: We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities by stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. 

And these are just some of the issues that we will be dealing with. 



Yeah…, common sense, down to earth, plain and simple, to the point, easy to understand…, and impossible to argue against.  I am not saying that it will be easy for Bernie to get any of those things implemented if the gets elected…, the man is honest enough to tell you that himself.  I will say that I am as certain as I have been about anything in this long life…, that none of those things will be implemented by Hillary Clinton or Jebby.  

Here’s the link to the Bill Moye’s interview on the PBS TV program:



And a quote from the program:

BERNIE SANDERS: Yes. The only point, there is a difference between social issues and the economic issues. And I will not deny for one moment that taking on the ruling class of this country and the billionaire class, it’s tough stuff. It is tough stuff. So I don’t have any magical solutions. But what I do know is that if we do not create an economy that works for ordinary people, if we do not end the fact that 95 percent of all new income now goes to the top one percent. We’ve got to end it, and the only way I know to do that is to rally ordinary people around the progressive agenda. So our job is to create a 50 state, grassroots movement around a progressive agenda.


I also posted that link to the Moyer’s show on my Facebook page with the comment that if Bernie ran…, “I will get involved”. 

He did…, and I am…, for the first time.   And I am feeling better about it all the time…, and that ain’t no guess.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I Think I'll Skip Piketty's Book


Note:  I submitted this one to The Agonist a few weeks ago.  Got a few comments on it there.

Thee Book to read these days is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty First Century”…, or so I have heard.  But my bookcases are all overflowing and I mostly buy books on the Kindle now…, and am just finishing up Michael Hudson’s (highly recommended) “The Bubble and Beyond”…, so I don’t feel the need or desire to tackle Piketty’s “Capital…”.    At 700 pages, it seems like a lot of space to tell me what David Michael Green told me on his blog a few years ago…, and that I shared with all The Agonistas around at the time.
Let me make it simple, in case anyone wants to share this essay with their idiotic, Republican (pardon the redundancy) cousin Buford: The story of American politics over the last generation is the story of the transfer of wealth from the people to the plutocrats. If you think there is anything else essential going on here, you don’t get it.

I got it right off.  I guess it takes academics like Paul Krugman a few more pages…, say about 700 more…, before they get the point.  PK seemed genuinely amazed, on the Bill Moyers show last week, to find out that there are some people getting filthy rich…,  while some others are wishing they had the bottom of a barrel to scrape.  He admitted that he should have “realized it” himself.  I wanted to ask him if he realized that upwards of 90% of the additional Keynesian Stimulus money that he keeps wanting to throw at this Great Recession would go right into the pockets of those same plutocrats that have been sucking it up before it hits the masses for the last 40 years?  I’m not sure he really “gets it”.


Harold Meyerson says in his article from The American Prospect, “The Forty-Year Slump”:
Hardly anyone paid attention to a story that seemed no more than a statistical oddity:  That year [1974], for the first time since the end of World War II, Americans’ wages declined.
Since 1947, Americans at all points on the economic spectrum had become a little better off with each passing year. The economy’s rising tide, as President John F. Kennedy had famously said, was lifting all boats. Productivity had risen by 97 percent in the preceding quarter-century, and median wages had risen by 95 percent. As economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted in The Affluent Society, this newly middle-class nation had become more egalitarian. The poorest fifth had seen their incomes increase by 42 percent since the end of the war, while the wealthiest fifth had seen their incomes rise by just 8 percent. Economists have dubbed the period the “Great Compression".  
During that time, median family income more than doubled.
What no one grasped at the time was that this wasn’t a one-year anomaly, that 1974 would mark a fundamental breakpoint in American economic history. In the years since, the tide has continued to rise, but a growing number of boats have been chained to the bottom. Productivity has increased by 80 percent, but median compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) has risen by just 11 percent during that time. The middle-income jobs of the nation’s postwar boom years have disproportionately vanished. Low-wage jobs have disproportionately burgeoned. Employment has become less secure. Benefits have been cut. The dictionary definition of “layoff” has changed, from denoting a temporary severance from one’s job to denoting a permanent severance.
As their incomes flat-lined, Americans struggled to maintain their standard of living. In most families, both adults entered the workforce. They worked longer hours. When paychecks stopped increasing, they tried to keep up by incurring an enormous amount of debt. The combination of skyrocketing debt and stagnating income proved predictably calamitous (though few predicted it). Since the crash of 2008, that debt has been called in. 
All the factors that had slowly been eroding Americans’ economic lives over the preceding three decades—globalization, deunionization, financialization, Wal-Martization, robotization, the whole megillah of nefarious –izations—have now descended en masse on the American people. Since 2000, even as the economy has grown by 18 percent, the median income of households headed by people under 65 has declined by 12.4 percent. Since 2001, employment in low-wage occupations has increased by 8.7 percent while employment in middle-wage occupations has decreased by 7.3 percent. Since 2003, the median wage has not grown at all. 

Over at CounterPunch, Robert Urie chimed in with, “Say Goodbye to Social Security”:
With corporations and the rich who own them receiving a larger proportion of what labor produces and paying less in taxes, there is now little left to pay for necessary social programs such as schools, health care and pensions. But this shortfall is no accident. It is the intended result of four decades of policies specifically designed to enrich the ruling class at the expense of labor, the middle class and the poor.
The economy is only a catastrophe for working people, the middle class and the poor. The ruling class is doing better than it has since the 1930s. Under the guidance of Republican and Democratic administrations, labor’s take in wages and salaries has fallen from 53% of GDP in 1970 to 44% in 2012 (link). The effective tax rate on corporations is currently half of what it was in 1970 (source: BEA). Likewise, tax rates on the wealthy have been dramatically reduced. And these policies have produced exactly the outcomes they were designed to produce.
For forty years the rich and connected, the ruling class, have used their representatives in government to take exactly what they wanted. Tax cuts, executive payouts and stock dividends were paid instead of promised pension contributions. Social institutions such as schools have been turned into cash cows for connected capitalists who have no intention of educating our children. Environmental standards have been gutted in return for promised jobs that never materialized. And while the ruling class has taken what it wanted without apology, the chattering class—liberals and progressives, has acted as if it’s at a debate club meeting. 

Robert Reich has been hitting this theme hard as well…, and even has a new film out on the topic called “Inequality For All”:
…the rich have been getting a larger and larger portion of total income. From 9 percent in 1980, the top 1 percent’s take increased to 23.5 percent by 2007. CEOs who in the 1970s took home 40 times the compensation of average workers now rake in 350 times.” (“Confessions of a Class Warrior,” August 22, 2010).
Yet even as their share of the nation’s total income has withered, the tax burden on average workers has grown. They’re shelling out a far bigger chunk of incomes in payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes than 30 years ago. It’s just the opposite for the superrich. Over the last three decades, the richest 1 percent’s share of national income has doubled (from 10 percent in 1981 to well over 20 percent now). The share going to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled. And they’re doing better than ever. The median pay for top executives at 200 major companies was $9.6 million last year, topping pre-recession highs. Total compensation on Wall Street hit a record $135 billion. The heads of the top 25 hedge funds made almost $1 billion each. Yet, remarkably, tax rates on the very rich have plummeted. From the 1940s until 1980, the top income-tax rate on the highest earners in America was at least 70 percent. In the 1950s, it was 91 percent. Now it’s 35 percent. Even if you include deductions and credits, the rich are paying a far lower share of their incomes in taxes than at any time since World War II” (“Wealthy Americans not paying fair share of taxes,” April 17, 2011). 

Yeah…, everybody has an opinion regarding what the hell happened.  There were numerous factors that combined to get us here.  Maybe Piketty hits them all in his long winded attempt to explain it all…, globalization, financialization, foreign competition, NAFTA, out sourcing of jobs, technology, robotics, credit, debt, liar’s loans, NINJA loans, adjustable interest loans, no interest loans, not enough loans, unearned income, economic rent, carried interest, tax breaks, loopholes, offshore bank accounts, bonuses, stock buybacks, regulation, de-regulation, CO2, methane, ocean acidification, ozone, global warming, climate change, peak oil, military-industrial complex, unions, non-unions, pensions, Social Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, Republicans, Democrats, Federal Reserve, Glass-Steagall,  nannycrats, plutocrats, and oligarchs.  From what I can gather, Piketty seems to be saying that it is just a natural outcome of the capitalist system…, that the rich are going to get richer and everyone else is going to get poorer when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth.  Paul Krugman seems to think that Piketty has discovered the magic bullet.

I haven’t read the book…, but the reviews that I have read don’t seem to mention that the plutocrats and oligarchs have made a conscious and concerted effort over the last forty years to buy the judges and politicians who make and break the laws that allow the economic elite to pay a lower tax rate on their multi-millions…, if they pay taxes at all after taking advantage of all the tax breaks and loopholes…, than the tax rate us ordinary people pay on our low tens of thousands…, if we are lucky enough to still have a job that is.  And it wasn’t just tax laws that were rewritten…, it was a whole host of financial laws and policies that were rewritten or repealed that created a wealth shift the likes of which the world has never seen…, well…, at least since the roaring ‘20’s.  Everybody knows what happened in 1929.  It wasn’t some accident or law of economics that has created the current inequality and rising oligarchy…, it was a well-designed and executed plan that was laid out by a Lewis F. Powell Jr. in a 1971 memo…, not long before he was appointed Supreme Court justice.  If you haven’t checked out the film, “Heist: Who Stole the American  Dream”…, you need to.  It was on Link TV recently. From Wiki:
Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? is a 2011 documentary film which argues that government deregulation led to the Great Recession. It was directed and produced by Donald Goldmacher and journalist Frances Causey and narrated by Thom Hartmann. The documentary is partially based on Jeff Faux's 2006 book The Global Class War.[1] The film traces the roots of the Great Recession to Virginia lawyer Lewis F. Powell, Jr., whose 1971 memo to the United States Chamber of Commerce urged corporate America to become more aggressive in molding politics and law.
Filmmakers Goldmacher and Causey started work on Heist in 2006 after they had been investigating the exploitation of undocumented workers near the Arizona border.[3] Heist explores the premise that Roosevelt's New Deal is being dismantled piecewise. It documents the aggressive push for free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as the deregulation of financial products as evidenced by the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act and the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.[2] Heist lays the blame for the crisis on the cozy relationship between politicians and corporations, citing the Reagan administration as well as the actions of Presidents Clinton and Obama.[4] The documentary ends with suggestions for how people might organize, including tactics employed by Occupy Wall Street. 

Morris Berman reviewed it over at CounterPunch:
Beyond generating dialogue, Heist provides an alternative narrative to what’s been going on in this country since 1981. “Reaganomics,” or what we now call “neoliberalism,” is the philosophy that economic growth is the answer to all our problems, because as the rich make more money, some of that will supposedly “trickle down” to the rest of us. This has been the dominant narrative in this country for the last thirty years, and what Heist clearly demonstrates is that it’s nothing more than pure kaka. What actually happened under this narrative was that wealth got transferred upward; that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; that virtually nothing “trickled down”; that unions were busted, public services gutted, American manufacturing crippled, the media collapsed into six major corporations and turned into corporate propaganda mouthpieces, and so on. In other words, Reagonomics gave us the America we have today, in which 1 out of every 5 of us is without work and without prospect of same for at least a decade, and in which 2 out of every 3 of us lives from paycheck to paycheck, hoping that some major accident won’t occur in our lives and put us underwater for good.
Heist is thus an exercise in counter-brainwashing: Reagan and his ilk, the Powell Memorandum and the so-called think tanks (read: propaganda machines) of the political Right (American Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, etc.) all sold us a bill of goods, stole the American Dream out from under us, and we need to recognize that we’ve been economically and intellectually fleeced. Unless we can debunk the dominant narrative, and realize what really went down since 1981, we will not be able to take back the American Dream—which Causey and Goldmacher define as everyone getting a fair share of the economic pie.

Yeah…, if Piketty thinks that diagnosing the intricacies  of economic theory and coming up with a simple solution of “taxing away” the wealth of the plutocrats and oligarchs that have spent the last 40 years securing the legal and political means of acquiring and keeping that wealth…, well…, he’s just dreaming.  And I am not sure Krugman has woken up since I called him, "Kick the Can Krugman” here at The Agonist five or six years ago.  We need nothing short of wholesale Senate and House cleaning and meaningful campaign finance reform to just begin to undo the damage already done. Who knows what it will take to repair the coming damage.

A few comments from Joe Bageant ought to fit in well here:
Yes, it looks big time from the cheap seats. But the truth is that when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington's political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class. For instance, they do not work for a living in the normal sense of a job, but rather obtain their income from abstractions such as investment and law, neither of which ever gave anybody a hernia or carpal tunnel. By comparison, the ruling class does not work at all.
Yessiree, it was gonna be a "systemic collapse," by god, and if you needed proof, just look at the way both George Bush and Barack Obama agreed that some American corporations were too big to let sink, therefore it was time for the public to start bailing out the boat. Meanwhile, the royal economists were unanimous in that this "rescue" was going to require another 10 trillion bucks somewhere down the pike -- a very short pike. So it must all be damned serious and we gotta do this thing.  Right folks?
In an unusual display of common sense, the American public said "Bullshit," by margins of three or four to one, depending upon region. That did not bother political and economic elites much. What the fuck do the proles know anyway?

No…, there is no magic bullet economic theory…, not even 700 pages of it…, that will cure our ills.  But I will say…, I am glad that Piketty’s book is bringing attention to the problem and am glad that Krugman is helping spread the word…, however misguided their solutions are.  I hope Krugman is finally…, at least starting…, to “get it”.
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