Monday, September 22, 2008

Please Pray for Nonie

My very good friend, singer-songwriter Nonie Crete suffered a brain aneurysm last Thursday, on the day of her album release concert. It came as quite a shock to everybody, including HWSRN, who played accordion and keyboards on many of the songs on the CD and was scheduled to play the concert with her. He tells me he heard the news only an hour before he was to have gone to the theatre for set-up.

I haven't had any news of her condition since Friday morning, but at that point she was (obviously) not in the best of shape. The doctors had not undertaken any surgery yet, but were monitoring her condition closely.

Nonie was really excited about this new CD and about having a full band backing her up. I think she thought of this as a sort of break-out recording, even though she's already recorded something like 6 albums and is quite well-known regionally and has had some national radio airplay.

But now, we're not sure what's gonna happen. Everything I hear about brain aneurysms discourages me. Except for the fact that she is alive! And being looked after by one of the best neurosurgeons in the country.

All this got me thinking this weekend. About Dharma. One of the Lam Rim teachings is about our precious human rebirth...how rare it is, how we shouldn't waste it. And one of the sections of that teaching is about death...how we don't know the time, and how there are so many potential causes of death compared to the "causes" of human life. As they say, any little thing can cause your death...an organism you need a microscope to see can attack you and kill you. Or an aneurysm...unsuspected until it strikes. So many causes of death, it's a miracle we survive more than a day!

Nonie turned 50 in May. You expect her to have another 30 years or so. We all expect to have another 30 or so. Or 40. None of us ever gets up in the morning and says, "Well, I expect I'll die today..." But maybe we should. In fact, the lamas teach us that, in a way. Expect to die today. It focuses the mind on the important things.

Well anyway, Nonie has not died yet. And we are all sending our positive energy to her for a full and speedy recovery. And I mean full because it would be a shame to have that talent impaired.

I would like to ask all my Buddhist friends to do Medicine Buddha practice, or tong len, or Chenrezig...whatever suits you, for Nonie and all suffering sentient beings.

I've included a song here from the (as yet) unreleased album, Comin' Home. The song is called Where Have My Angels Gone? Right now, we're all hoping they've gone to the hospital where Nonie is. (I'm not sure whether this embedded player will work. DivShare is not entirely reliable, to my mind. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But you can also go to Nonie's MySpace page to hear cuts from previous recordings.)



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Friday, September 19, 2008

Money Markets: Just Another Word For Gambling


I haven't had anything to say about the credit crisis in the US, which is affecting financial institutions around the world. And there's a good reason for that. I don't have the slightest idea what it's all about. But if you want an excellent primer on what's been happening for the last few months and the tumbling dominoes of the last few days, go here and for more analysis go here. Bottom line? It's all about gambling. High risk gambling. And government failure to regulate based on ideology.

But as a layman (not a Lehman, fortunately) I have something to say about this. As I understand it, this whole thing started to unravel as a result of what's called the "sub-prime mortgage crisis." It amounts to this: financial institutions were lending money to homebuyers at below prime interest rates. From the first moment I heard this, my reaction was: WTF???? How can you lend money for mortgages at below prime and make money? Obviously, I'm not the money market wiz some of these guys were, eh? But when it comes right down to it, I think these Wall St. wizards were running a sort of Ponzi scheme
, a financial tower built on quicksand.

I believe it started with Bear Stearns. What the hell is a Bear Stearns, you ask? Damned if I know. I'm just a poor schmuck of a wayward pote. A brokerage firm I think. Used to live on Wall St. Well, the brokerage went broke. Hit a Bear market and suffered Stearns consequences. The Bear Stearns cupboard is bare. Barely there. The reaction around the board rooms was something like, "Whew! Glad it's not us! But after all, it's only one company..."

Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Who are they, you want to know? Not who. What. Mortgage companies basically.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Now, I know the US is the home of Disneyland and Ronald McJob, but what kinds of names are those for serious companies (formerly) worth billions of dollars and holding the fortunes of thousands of struggling homeowners in their greedy little paws?

Fannie Mae? That's the title of an old R&B song by Buster Brown. Later became a signature tune of Jaco Pastorius, who turned it into a bass solo tour de force. But the name of a giant mortgage company? Give me a break.

I looked up the lyrics to Fannie Mae, just to see whether there was any sort of divination to be had there. Something spooky happened. The first set of lyrics to come up were these:

Well I want somebody to tell me what's wrong with me
I want somebody to tell me what's wrong with me
Oh I ain't in any trouble and so much misery
Now Fannie Mae, baby won't you please come home
Fannie Mae ae ae, baby won't you please come home
Yeah I ain't been in debt baby since you been gone
I can hear your name a ringin on down the line
I can hear your name a ringin on down the line
I want to know pretty love how do I win my time

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

I no o o o for me, I no-o-o-o for me
Well I ain't been in trouble and so much misery

You will notice I put one line in boldface. What’s this about debt? I ain’t been in debt until I met you Fannie Mae? Huh! I bet there are a lot of former homeowners singin’ pretty much the same tune!

However, those are not the lyrics Buster Brown actually sang. The words he actually sings on the recording (perhaps a little hard to decipher) are: Now I ain’t been myself, girl, since you’ve been gone. Where did these words about debt come from? I dunno. (Some smartass fooling around on the song lyrics sites?)

Meanwhile, there’s also the first line of the song: Well I want somebody to tell me what's wrong with me…

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you Fannie Mae! You didn’t take care of business and you abused the trust of your clients, that’s what!

So the Feds had to pony up to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s asses afloat.

Then came Lehman Brothers. Investment bankers. It appears they invested mostly in their own bank accounts. 180 years or some such down the tubes. Greed, I tell you…

And now, the latest domino to fall…AIG. Agh! What’s that? I’ll tell you. Re-insurers. See, in the financial industry it ain’t enough to have insurance. You need insurance for the insurance. In this case, what was needed was insurance for the insurance for the insurance cuz the insurance for the insurance didn’t quite cut it. And AIG was “bought” by the US Federal Government for the bargain price of 85 billion dollars. Not because of a sudden ideological urge to nationalize the financial industry. No. It was necessary to save the shoddy capitalist free marketeers. M-I-C…K-E-Y…M-O-U-S-E marketeers.

Some people, like Rosa Brooks in the LA Times, while satirizing the predicament of the US economy, have tossed out the “S” word – yes, the big bogeyman SOCIALISM. Never mind that she and others who do this simultaneously disseminate and perpetuate the delusion that government control of some institution equals socialism. (That could be the subject of a whole other post…which I’ll probably never get to…) In North America, at least, we have succumbed to the myth of the middle class. Except for the upper stratosphere, which in reality commands most of the wealth (an obscene proportion of it…) and the really destitute homeless pariahs of society, everybody supposes themselves to be a member of the middle class. Well, I have breaking news…

Yo! Bubba! I don’t care what your wages are. I don’t care if you’re on salary. Maybe you’re driving a Hummer and you got a nice little hot tub out there on the deck. I don’t care. If yer workin’ for the man you ain’t middle class. Yer working class and you oughtta wake up to that fact.

Meanwhile, just because a government assumes control of some major industry, or a portion of it, that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly become socialist. In fact, the whole purpose of all these bailouts and the hundreds of billions of dollars being poured into these failing companies is to bolster the twisted underpinnings of post-modern capitalism. There’s nothing socialist about it at all. You could say the government is desperately trying to find a way to help someone continue to make a profit out of this whole mess. And be assured that someone will profit. Here’s another phrase, or paraphrase, that you’ll see if you look around: what the Feds are doing with these bailouts (which comes from tax money squeezed out of all those people who think they are middle class but who really are well-dressed working stiffs…not the gamblers who created the problem) is privatizing the benefits and socializing the risks. In other words, someone will profit (not the working stiffs), but if they don’t profit, the working stiffs will take the loss. As they already have.

Now, if you were to define socialism as a system of government in which the politicians really cared for and looked after the interests of the vast majority of the people, in ways that mattered to them (which does not include, in my books, massive subsidies to mismanaged giant corporations in the hopes that meaningful jobs will trickle down), required (on pain of permanent liquidation…) corporations to follow the environmental, health, safety, and financial, rules for the benefit of the people they employ…If you defined socialism as just that, nothing more (and really it is so much more) then I say, the US and Canaduh too and probably every other country in the world could stand a good dose of socialism!

This financial boondoggle would look good on its perpetrators, just what they deserve, if it were not for the fact that it’s not they who are really suffering. It’s the ordinary people, Joe and Jane Lunchbucket who really take the hit. When they lose their houses, they lose their life savings. Just ask the people in Slovenian Village in Cleveland.

And why? Because we’ve allowed our economy to be run and manipulated by speculators and gamblers. Really, the stock exchanges are nothing but tarted-up casinos where guys in suits lay bets on the price of virtually everything there is. And everything is for sale. Especially if you’re using Other People’s Money. OPM. You think drugs are the problem in the good old U.S. of A? No, it’s OPM and gambling and betting on the price of gas! That’s the addiction that’s killing the golden goose.

Look around you. The price of gas. Artificially boosted by stock market speculators. The housing boom. Obscenely boosted by manipulated mortgage rates, ie. sub-prime mortgages. Food prices going through the roof when supposedly our methods of farming and production are more efficient than any other time in the history of the world? What is wrong with this picture?

But just to return, at the end of this unconscionably long diatribe, to the subject of the bailouts and the mismanagers and CEOs who mismanaged themselves into a Federal bonanza…

If I were king of the world, my first move would be to seize the personal assets of all those guys, and I mean every last dime, and spread it around to the victims of their mismanagement. Maybe we’d save somebody’s house!


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Hawgtown Introduces "Cops In Schools" Program


Having cops in the halls to provide security for students is one thing, but this is a little overboard, don't you think?

(Of course, this isn't Hawgtown, and the police aren't actually in the same room. They just have their small detachment in the same building. Still, it makes a great photo doesn't it?)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The State of the US Economy...

I've been reading Karl Marx lately, so the symbolism here is just too poignant for words.

This photo is part of a Photo Essay on the Republican National Convention, at Mother Jones.

Photos and text by Jonathan Stein.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Keeping Our Priorities Straight

Yet Another Record for Marijuana Arrests
clipped from www.reason.com

According to FBI figures released today, about 873,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges in the United States last year, 5 percent more than in 2006 and a new record. This is the fifth year in a row that marijuana arrests, which are up 167 percent since 1990, have increased. In 2007 marijuana arrests accounted for nearly half of the 1.8 million drug arrests; as usual, the vast majority of the pot busts, about 775,000, were for simple possession.


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These numbers are kind of astounding, don't you think? 873,000 is (maybe) a little more than the total population of Lunchbucket and surrounding region.

Of course, we have to keep all those dope-smoking hippies in line cuz chances are they're Democrats...or Anarchists, which amounts to the same thing, eh?

Isn't it nice to know that the war on drugs is having such spectacular results? It almost makes you want to pour yourself a good stiff drink to celebrate!

Or...looking at it another way...

Our priorities may be straight, but a significant chunk of the population ain't.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2 Versions of the Same Thing

1.
I'm a hitch-hiker across spiritual terrain
thumbing a ride on the dharma caboose.

Choo-choo!
Choo-choo ch'boogie!

(A poetically mixed metaphor I think...)

2.
I'm a hobo tramping spiritual terrain
riding the rails on the dharma caboose.

Choo-choo!
Choo-choo ch'boogie!

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A Telegram to Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder Japhy Ryder
beatpoet Zenmonk
Zenpoet beatmonk
Japan pilgrim climbs California hills

Berry-picker wilderness tramp
of the rucksack revolution
Lumberjack lookout on Desolation Peak
Cascades to Canada

Highways rivers civilized sinews
all gone in gone world
City Lights Frisco Bay
Desolation still stands

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Latest on Tibet

(As you can see, blogging with Clipmarks has its drawbacks. I don't know enough about code to figure out how to change the size of this headline so it fits inside the box. If you know me or have read any of this blog, I myself have trouble fitting inside the box....)

What the headline is supposed to say is: Dalai Lama calls special meeting to discuss Tibet

clipped from ca.news.yahoo.com



Dalai Lama calls special meeting to discuss Tibet

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama has called a special meeting of Tibetan exiles in November or December to discuss political unrest in Tibet this year and the future of the Tibetan movement, officials said on Friday.

The special meeting, the opening session of which would be addressed by the Dalai Lama, would be attended by Tibetan leaders, intellectuals and non-government organizations chosen by the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

Tibetan officials said the meeting would see wide-ranging discussions about the future of the Tibetan movement.

"He will advise and he will give guidelines ... he will put before the general body his ideas," Chophel said of the Dalai Lama.

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It looks like His Holiness has decided to call a Town Hall meeting of sorts. My guess is he wants to make sure he gets his views across to the Tibetans in particular who are agitating for more "forceful" action.

The Dalai Lama holds the loyalty and love of Tibetans and exerts powerful moral suasion. I have personally seen it in action as he addressed a group of Tibetans (admittedly on a religious issue, not a political one...) He was direct and forceful himself.

Not to say that he is closed-minded about this. Contrary to Chinese propaganda, I think he may well be one of the most open-minded people on the face of the earth. His training insists upon such a viewpoint. Nevertheless, he will have his say.

And he will listen.

I hope the Chinese are listening too.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11

This anniversary snuck up on me. I happened to mouse over the date/time display on my computer and noticed that midnight had passed and suddenly it was that awful date – 9/11.

Strange to think that such a day could sneak up on you. But see, even for the people whose loved ones and friends died in 2001, life goes on. Not much of a life, perhaps. A vastly changed one, certainly. But still, it goes on.

The world undoubtedly changed forever that day seven years ago, and not for the better. 9/11 is the day we began our walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Unlike the words of Psalm 23, however, we do not “fear no evil”, for we have entered into the Age of Fear. The world has become a fearful place. No more fearsome, I think, than it ever was, but we are more fearful. At least, some of us are.

Fear can manifest in many ways. Anger and aggression are common responses, and that's the way the US chose to respond. By a fatal twist of history (some might say a fraudulent theft of an election), it just so happened that the White House was populated by George W. Bush and his band of refugees from the first Gulf War. These men were quick to seize the circumstances and whip the fear of the Murrican people to feverish heights. That fever has not yet entirely abated and the worldwide psyche has suffered because of it.


As I think of it now, isn't it a little odd that a nation as God-smacked as the US purports to be could not "fear no evil" and be comforted by the knowledge that the Lord was with them and had his rod and staff. Unfortunately, the US did not spare the rod, and the staff turned out to be the General Staff.

Whether the actions of the Bush administration were truly sincere I can't begin to guess. But they certainly were wrong-headed. And here we are in 2008, a mere seven years since the atrocity of 9/11, and the real power and prestige of the US has never been lower. Not even Viet Nam brought the US into such disrepute.

And lest we forget...the Murricans were the victims! Sad to see that the recovery process has not gone well. But then again, I see hope in the kind of enthusiasm that has been engendered in this presidential election year. Maybe it was hard to think about recovery while Bush was still in office. Maybe a change of president will bring a change of heart.

On this day seven years ago, my heart went out to the Murrican people. Today too.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yoni School Federal Election Watch 2008 Pt. 2

Update on Green Party Debate Debacle Sept. 10:

A victory today for grassroots outrage. This afternoon, Jack Layoff agreed to let Elizabeth Mayormaynot participate in the debates, and after Jack said OK, Stephen Harpie said OK too.

I'm taking full credit for this about face. I personally sent emails to Harpie and Layoff and Mothercorp...very snide emails. I am capable of full-metal snidity when provoked. Here are those emails:

To Jack Layoff:
Jack, Jack, Jack, I never thought I'd see the day that you would actually agree with Stephen Harpie. You have seriously lost face in my books. I fear that the NDP will never again be able to think outside the box. Or are you just pissed off because Dion out-manoeuvred you in a potential alliance?

If the NDP still had any socialist or democratic socialist DNA, you might have a claim to represent a real alternative. As things stand, however...

The Green Party ought to be in on the debates. They represent a significant chunk of voters. You, Mr. Democracy, ought to be leading the charge.

To Mr. Harpie:
You and the other leaders are acting like a bunch of twerps by not allowing Elizabeth Mayormaynot to express the voice of several million Canadians in the televised debates. What's the matter? Ya scared?

I'm not a member of the Green Party, but I want to hear what she has to say, and how she stacks up against the twerp factor. If you and the other party boys want to have your little circle jerk debate, fine, but don't be asking to do it in public. As for the rest of your so-called programs and platforms and solutions, my suggestion is that you should just go and debate yourself.
So because they could not bear to face my withering snidifery, they backed off. But not exactly with good grace. Here's an excerpt from the Canajun Press article:

A spokesman for Harpie said the Constipators still object in principle to Mayormaynot's presence, but given that Layoff has changed his mind, the prime minister will not boycott the debates if the Greens are admitted.

"We're not going to stand alone on a point of principle," said Kory Teneycke. "We don't think she should be there. But if the NDP have decided they're changing their position, we will not stand alone."

But some Constipators suggest it wasn't Harpie's idea to keep Mayormaynot out of the debates.

"The truth of the matter is the NDP took a position and we agreed to back them because we, like the NDP, thought that this was unfair on principle," said Sen. Marjory LeBreton, the Constipated campaign co-chair.

"But if Jack Layoff has decided to change his position, I mean, we're not going to stand in the way of her participating in the debate."

Harpie's change of heart came less than an hour after Layoff's about-face. Layoff said the issue had "become a distraction" and he did not want to continue "debating about the debate.

In other words, Stephen Harpie doesn't care enough about "principle" to stand alone in the face of strong and vocal opposition. (Sorry Stephen, you don't get to win here. I think it's good that you finally agreed to let the Green Party into the party, but you should not have phrased it in those terms...principle...not going to stand alone...sheesh!)

BTW, after all that, Elizabeth May...or...maynot show up.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Yoni School Federal Election Watch 2008 Pt. 1


Green Party of Canada Shut Out of TV Debates by Petty Politicians


Our wonderful...visionary...magnanimous...public-spirited...democratic-minded...political party leaders have decided that if Elizabeth Mayormaynot, leader of the Green Party, is allowed to participate in the TV debates, they will take their tiny political balls and shrivelled bats and go home...no debate.

What courage! What aplomb! What the f...!

In the 2006 federal election, the Green Party collected about 4.5% of the national vote. Not a landslide, obviously. Not even enough to win a seat. But still a significant showing. I agree with many others that the Green Party has as much right to be represented in the debates as the other "national" parties like the Constipators (whose main base is in the west) and the Gliberals (whose main base is in central Canaduh and the east). And even more right than the Floc Quebecois which doesn't even pretend to be national. The Green Party runs candidates in every riding. The Floc does not.

Canajuns deserve to hear the full spectrum of political debate, not just the natterings of peevish PMs (Stephen Harpie), dweebish Dions, and Nearly Democratic Party wannabees (Jack Layoff). (All of them men, by the way, or nearly so...)

If you think the Green Party should be included in the televised debates, go here and sign the petition to the TV network consortium.

Here, also, is info on the party leaders who gave the Redlight to Elizabeth Mayormaynot's Greenlight. Email them and make sure you express your inexpressible scorn. March on their shabby little parliamentary offices. Make them feel the heat of Canajun ire.

Stephen Harpie:
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900
EMail: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca

Jack Layoff:
Telephone: (613) 995-7224
Fax: (613) 995-4565
EMail: Layton.J@parl.gc.ca

Gilles Deceit:
Telephone:
(613) 992-6779
Fax:
(613) 954-2121
EMail:
Duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca



Preferred Language:
French

(Just as an aside: I find it particularly galling that we should have to "petition" the networks for coverage of important national issues, and important events. And "petitioning" our politicians makes me think we are reverting to some sort of feudal state. No wonder voter turnout gets to be so low! And that's not even mentioning that Stephen Harpie manipulated this election in defiance of his own election law!)

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

And They Call It Democracy

Update Sept. 9/08:
Go here if you are interested in signing and sending a petition to the powers that be protesting against the unwarranted arrests of journalists during the Republican National Convention.

Fun and Games at the Republican National Convention

(Violent flower protester pepper-sprayed...twice...once in the face, once in the back...)



This is just one small example of the police/authoritarian lunacy that's been going on in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the members of the Fifth Estate are doing one of two things: either sleeping at the wheel or being arrested. Check out here and here.

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