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Sunday, March 21, 2010


Julie..., Butch Ukura..., Me...,
and Khoel

Yesterday I was talking to a young fellow, and he remarked that he had grown up in the neighborhood where we had lived prior to acquiring The Ranch. He didn't remember me..., but he sure remembered my Great Dane dog, Khoel.

I remember him too..., and miss him. Almost a year ago, Don Henry Ford Jr. ("The Urepentant Cowboy") whose Blog I follow (link at my profile) wrote this piece for The Agonist

In it he described having to put down an injured foal.

"The week was rough. Wednesday morning Manuel called from Seguin and tells me that one of my mares had a foal but the foal isn't getting up. I arrive to discover that she has stepped on his front leg and broken the coffin bone. Not just cracked it--it's completely broken in two. The foal tries to get up and falls, again and again--the leg dangles like a limp rag. He looks at me and nickers.

I have no gun.

But I have a pair of fencing pliers...

I spent the rest of the day thinking I deserve to be dead.

Today marks the day we killed Jesus. Again.

Lord have mercy. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm going to need it."

I worte this piece about Khoel for him. It's almost as hard to read as it was to write.

I Thought I Was Tough...,

I wasn’t going to pay a vet $75 to take care of something that I could do for pennies. I felt it was my responsibility. We had raise Khoel from a pup.

A big, coal black Great Dane who struck fear in the hearts of the car deck hands on the Alaska Ferry System when they walked by the canopied Toyota pickup. They couldn’t believe we were going to let him out on a leash during the car deck call. He was fine with people when he wasn’t guarding his truck. And I have never seen a smirk dissolve on the face of a man as fast as the Rottweiler owner when the Rot “got away from him” and charged straight for Khoel. I gave just enough slack in my leash to let Khoel swat the Rot off balance with his front paw and pin the Rot to the deck with his jaws clamped to back of the Rot’s neck. Khoel had more than just heart…, he had the physical prowess to back it up.

But those days were long gone and his hips had given out. His back end was lifeless and he couldn’t get up at all or even stand with help. So I managed to wrestle him into the back of his pickup once more and we drove from town out to what is now The Ranch…, but was then just The Property. I dug the hole. Then we drove out to the ocean beach at La Push and looked out with him where he used to be able to stretch out more like a Greyhound than a Great Dane and run like the wind. We bought him a chicken dinner and drove him back to The Property.

I regretted most that he would never be there to guard The Ranch like he guarded his pickup…, at least not above ground. Then I put a 9mm slug in the back of his head. He stiffened out and didn’t move. I threw the gun on the seat of his pickup and took a couple of deep breaths. I took off his thin, decorative silver choke chain and put it around my neck. I gave him a pat on the chest to say good-by…, and his heart hadn’t stopped beating yet.

I’m not so tough.

Mercy granted Don…, mercy granted.

Scott R. April 11, 2009 - 12:24pm

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Joe Bageant

I have added Joe Bageant to the Blogs I am following. I must admit that the first few essays of Joe Bageant’s that I read, I was a bit taken aback. As in, “Lighten up a bit on the working poor Joe.” But I am reading his book, “Deer Hunting With Jesus - Dispatches From America‘s Class War” now…, and I have a much clearer understanding of where he is coming from. I encourage everyone to read it.... and his website.

Joe Bageant

You may be a bit disconcerted by the title of the book…, I was too. Joe explains it this way in the chapter, “Valley of the Gun”.

“To nonhunters, the image conjured by the title of this book might seem absurd, rather like a NUKE THE WHALES bumper sticker. But the tile also captures something that moves me about the people I grew up with--the intersection between hunting and religion in their lives. The link between protestant fundamentalism and deer hunting goes back to colonial times, when the restless Presbyterian Scots, along with English and German Protestant reformers, pushed across America, developing the unique hunting and farming-based frontier cultures that sustained them over most of America’s history. Two hundred years later, they have settled down, but they have not quit hunting and they have not quit praying.”

The morning after the 2004 presidential elections I called in sick. I felt the least little bit guilty about that…, but I just could not understand how George Evil Bush managed to win re-election after what he had done to America in the four previous years. How could it happen? Joe’s book provides the answers I was looking for…, and it still makes me sick.

From the chapter, "Republicans By Default".

“That is the American hologram. That is the peculiar illusion we live within, the illusion that holds us together, makes us alike, yet tells each of us we are unique. And it will remain in force until the whole shiteree comes down around our heads. Working people do not deny reality. They created it from the depths of their perverse ignorance, even as the so-called left speaks in non sequiturs and wonders why it cannot gain any political traction. Meanwhile, for the people, it is football and NASCAR and a republic free from married queers and trigger locks on guns. That’s what they voted for--an armed and moral republic. And that’s what we get when we stand by and watch the humanity get hammered out of our fellow citizens, letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit.”

From the chapter titled, “American Serfs”.

“Admittedly, a real blue-collar middle class still exists in some places, just as unions still exist. But both are on the ropes like some old pug boxer taking the facial cuts and popping eye capillaries with no referee to come in and stop the carnage. The American bootstrap myth is merely another strap that makes the working poor privately conclude that they must in some way be inferior, given that they cannot seem to apply that myth to their own lives. Hell, Pootie, if immigrants can put together successful businesses of their own, why can’t you keep up with your truck payments? Right now, even by the government’s spruced-up numbers, one-third of working Americans make less than $9 an hour. A decade from now, five of the ten fastest-growing jobs will be menial, dead-end jokes on the next generation--mainly retail-clerks, cashiers and janitors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

And here are ten more quotes from "Deer Hunting With Jesus"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Archdruid Report

"Hillsfar" commented on one of my comments over at Ian Welch's Blog last weekend. He (she?) suggested that I check out the

I did..., and now I am a follower of that blog.

Here is a sample from a piece called "Endgame".

It’s crucial to realize, though, that this move comes at the end of a long historical trajectory. From the early days of the industrial revolution into the early 1970s, the United States possessed the immense economic advantage of sizable reserves of whatever the cutting-edge energy source happened to be. During what Lewis Mumford called the eotechnic era, when waterwheels were the prime mover for industry and canals were the core transportation technology, the United States prospered because it had an abundance of mill sites and internal waterways. During Mumford’s paleotechnic era, when coal and railways replaced water and canal boats, the United States once again found itself blessed with huge coal reserves, and the arrival of the neotechnic era, when petroleum and highways became the new foundation of power, the United States found that nature had supplied it with so much oil that in 1950, it produced more petroleum than all other countries combined.

That trajectory came to an abrupt end in the 1970s, when nuclear power – expected by nearly everyone to be the next step in the sequence – turned out to be hopelessly uneconomical, and renewables proved unable to take up the slack. The neotechnic age, in effect, turned out to have no successor. Since then, for most of the last thirty years, the United States has been trying to stave off the inevitable – the sharp downward readjustment of our national standard of living and international importance following the peak and decline of our petroleum production and the depletion of most of the other natural resources that once undergirded American economic and political power. We’ve tried accelerating drawdown of natural resources; we’ve tried abandoning our national infrastructure, our industries, and our agricultural hinterlands; we’ve tried building ever more baroque systems of financial gimmickry to prop up our decaying economy with wealth from overseas; over the last decade and a half, we’ve resorted to systematically inflating speculative bubbles – and now, with our backs to the wall, we’re printing money as though there’s no tomorrow.

My take is that our politicians are trying to fix a problem that can't be fixed..., by throwing money at it. The vast majority of that money is being siphoned off by the Banksters and other financial elites (and politicians). We need to do some deficit spending to keep the social safety nets like unemployment functioning. That money gets to the people who need it. Trying to "create" temporary jobs for them stimulates the economy in the short run..., but it won't do much to fix the underlying problem that we have been trying to solve by those very means for the last 30 years. We have used deficit spending to put off dealing with this crisis, hoping that "growth" would pull us through for far too long. I agree with John Michael Greer at The Archdruid Report..., I think we have reached an "Endgame".

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Growing Old With Jackson Browne

I posted this on on The Agonist back in July '09.

Stayed up late last Saturday night to catch Jackson Browne on PBS’s Soundstage program. Yeah…, I am getting to the age where anything past ten o’clock qualifies as a late nighter. It wasn’t just that, that was making me feel old. When I calculated it, I realized that it must be 25 years since I last saw Jackson Browne in concert. That was in Boise, Idaho…, a six or seven hour drive from where I called home at the time. I had an old partner who had just done a little time in Boise at one of Idaho’s finest facilites…, and a Jackson Browne concert was a damn good excuse to get down there to see how my old friend was doing. It was the last time I saw Jackson Browne…, or that old friend. I moved on…, the old partner went back. I tracked Jackson’s career moves much closer than I did that old buddy’s after that.

The first time I saw Jackson Browne in concert , about ten years prior to that Boise reunion concert…, was in Norfolk, Virginia. 1973. Courtesy, so to speak, of my “friends and neighbors” who selected me to serve my country. I can also thank the U.S. Army for choosing my assignment at Ft. Eustis instead of Vietnam. Jackson wasn’t the headliner in those days, he was the opening act for Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I didn’t even know who Jackson Browne was before that concert…, but I never forgot. That’s not to say that I appreciated just what a special talent as a singer-songwriter he was at that time. I packed a lot more years of living…, and almost dying…, into those ten years between Jackson Browne concerts than the time line would suggest. During one of the convalescent periods of a particularly close call…, I spent time reading “From Here To Eternity” and listening to “The Pretender”. If you are well acquainted with one or the other…, imagine experiencing them simultaneously.

“The Pretender" was an old album by that time. “Running on Empty” was out…, and I had about worn it out. So I pulled out the “The Pretender”.

“Though the years give way to uncertainty
And the fear of living for nothing strangles the will
There’s a part of me
it speaks to the heart of me
Though sometimes it’s hard to see
it’s never far from me
Alive in eternity
That nothing can kill.”

“The Fuse”

“No sooner had I hit the streets
When I met the fools that a young fool meets
All in search of truth and bound for glory
And listening to our own heart beats
We stood around the drum
Though it’s fainter now
The older I become
Living your life day after day
Soon all your plans and changes
Either fail or fade away
Leaving so much still left to say.”

“Daddy’s Tune”

“I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each others paint by number dreams”

“The Pretender”

It took a few more years…, but I found that girl…, and she is still filling in those colors. Brighter every single day. When we were living in a cracker box camper trailer in a remote logging camp in Southeast Alaska, we bought “Lives in the Balance” on cassette tape. And I discovered that Jackson Browne had even more range that I ever imagined.

“I’ve been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you’ve seen it before
When a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
And there’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars fought in the places
Where their business interests run”

“Lives in the Balance”

That was a good 10..., closer to 15 years…, back down the road now. So I was anxious and excited to hear what Jackson had to say last Saturday. Jackson doesn’t get much air play on FM radio…, unfortunately…, and I never made the conversion to CD’s when the vinyl records turned to warpped crap in the 80‘s. It took me three tries to get a playable copy of “Running on Empty”. I got lucky with “Hold Out”…, but threw up my hands in frustration with “Lawyers in Love”. So I have missed a lot of Jackson Brown since then. Yeah…, I’m getting old. And so is Jackson Browne. I was happy to see that he hasn’t dyed his hair. No pretender he. He still looks good. I wish I could say that he still sounds good. But nearly 30 years of chain saw screams and heavy equipment bellers have taken their toll. That’s why I don’t listen to new music today. I can’t hear it. It’s a jumble of words that I can’t filter. I need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics on a CD. The old music is still there though…, inside the ear. I can still hear it load and clear. So, I don’t know what new perspectives Jackson had to impart last Saturday night…, but when he closed the show with a song released in 1986..., “Lives in the Balance”…, I realized that his music and his message are ageless and timeless.

“There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can’t even say the names
They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they’re never the ones to fight and to die”

“Lives in the Balance”

Scott R. July 18, 2009 - 3:30pm

Comments on "Health Care Reform"

Last week I posted this comment on The Agonist:

I am on record here (and elsewhere) predicting that a bill would get passed…, and that the only sure thing about it would be mandatory “insurance” coverage. I thought for a brief moment that I would have to admit that I was wrong…, it was barely on life-support. But it didn’t take the insurance companies long to swing into action…, raising rates. Now…, if they really didn’t want any bill passed they would have laid in the weeds waiting until it was completely dead…, but they didn’t…, they rose up and virtually shouted out load, “You need to pass some kind of bill NOW…, or look what’s going to continue to happen!” And The Big O stood right up with them (coincidence?)…, calling a summit…, promising “bipartisan” (compromise?) support for a new health “care” reform bill.

What we need is a health “insurance” reform bill…, not a health “care” reform bill.
The Big O is going to deliver for the insurance companies (mandatory insurance coverage & no competition)…, and the insurance companies are going to keep the premium increases…, and there won’t be much (if any) insurance reform in it.

I agree…, there is still “hope” that he will take a stand and deliver something meaningful…, or let it die…, but I am not holding my breath.

Scott R. February 28, 2010 - 11:02am

Last night on PBS, Bill Moyers asked as much of one of his guests.

BILL MOYERS: Excuse my growing cynicism at this age and stage, but could this be the briar patch strategy? In other words, they want to get people angry enough to– for Congress to pass that health care reform with the mandate that delivers millions of new customers to them under penalty of law?

The guest, Wendell Potter didn’t answer that question directly, but he believes that the bill should be passed because there are enough good things in it (at least the Senate version) to offset the “mandated coverage” requirement. Things like requiring the insurance companies to cover “pre-existing conditions”. My question is, will they be required to cover people with “existing conditions”…, and what’s the difference? He says there are meaningful regulations…, I say those will be eliminated or watered down in the bill that gets passed. And I say again…, a bill will get passed.

The next guest, Marcia Angell takes the position that there isn’t enough good in the bill, even if it isn’t watered down, to make it worth passing. And she echoes what I said above.

MARCIA ANGELL: It’s not lack of health insurance. It’s lack of health care. There is a difference between health insurance and health care. You can have insurance offered that is too expensive to buy or too expensive to use. What good does it do? And what happens when this occurs, is that what you see is instead of improvements, look at my state of Massachusetts.

So if you look at what’s causing the problem, the causes are not being targeted in this plan. They’re not being addressed. Maybe some of the symptoms of the causes are being addressed like let’s stop excluding people from pre-existing conditions. But it doesn’t stop the insurance industry from raising its premiums.…And what do you think they’re going to do? If you were an insurance company, you would say, “Well, thank you, Santa Claus. I’ve got all of these captive customers. Young ones are healthy. They probably won’t even use the insurance. There’s nothing to stop me from raising my premiums. I have all of these subsidies coming in.” Don’t you think that the prices would go up? I think it would be remarkable if they didn’t.

When I look at the Senate bill and the President’s suggestions, almost every paragraph, there is a poison pill for someone. I think sometimes they’re unintended. Let me give you one example. They allow for insurance companies to charge three times as much for older people as for younger people.

So from the point of view of the insurance industry, this is a god-send because either way, they win. Either the 55-year-olds cough up three times the premiums, and that’s good. Or else they can’t, and that’s probably the more likely situation. They can’t, and then they’re fined. And the insurance companies don’t have to take care of people who might actually get sick. They’re left with all of the thirty-year-olds, who are less likely to get sick, but who are required to buy their products.

So this sets up a situation which probably all plans, for 55-year-olds, are high priced. So they can’t afford to buy it, or if they do buy it, they have to pay an excise tax on it. This is a real poison pill for these older people. It’s a gift for the insurance industry.

Well worth the read…, or the watch.