The Jaded Prole

A Progressive Worker's Perspective on the political and cultural events of our time.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Assassin in Chief

Robert Scheer writes

So now we have Rambo Obama, a steely warrior who, according to a lengthy leaked insider account in The New York Times, hurls death-dealing drones at anyone who threatens the good old USA. Including children. Those children are presumed guilty by virtue of proximity, and the Times plays along, not even modifying a targeted terrorist with the word “alleged,” as once had been the paper’s convention: “When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises—but his family is with him—it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

Obama as the cool triggerman is an image useful to White House operatives as they buff the president’s persona for the coming election. But what it reveals is the mindset of a political cynic whose seductive words cloak the moral indifference of a methodical executioner. Forget Harry Truman, who obliterated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Lyndon Johnson, who carpet-bombed millions in Vietnam. The Democrats have got themselves another killer, one whose techniques are as devastatingly effective, but brilliantly refined.

The story obviously was planted in The New York Times to benefit the Obama political campaign. Otherwise, why would the president’s former chief of staff, William Daley, and three dozen current and past intelligence insiders provide the newspaper with the most sensitive details of national security decision-making?

Pfc. Bradley Manning was held for many months in solitary confinement for allegedly disclosing information of far lower security classification. The difference is that the top secrets in the news article are ones the president wants leaked in the expectation they will burnish his “tough on terrorism” credentials. This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ban brutal interrogation and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes,” the Times now reports concerning the early promises by Obama. “They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

Parse that sentence carefully to learn much of what is morally decrepit in our journalism as well as politics. The word “realist” is now identical to “hypocrite,” and the condemnation of immoral behavior addresses nothing more than “rhetoric” that only the “fervent” would take seriously. The Times writers all but thrill to the lying, as in recounting the new president’s response to advisers who warned him against sticking to his campaign promises on Guantanamo prisoners: “The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed.”

How telling that reporters who might as well be PR flacks are so admiring of the power of “wiggle words” to free a politician from accountability to the voters who put him in office: “A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies—rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention—that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.”

The Obama answer to those human rights groups is the same as that offered by George W. Bush: Get the Justice Department to say that anything goes. When Obama wanted to kill “an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial,” the Times tells us, “[t]he Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.” Obama approved, and two American citizens were assassinated, including Samir Khan, who was not on any official list of targeted terrorists. “This is an easy one,” Obama told his chief of staff.

What makes such decisions particularly easy is that Obama does not have to release any details of drone attacks or the legal rulings of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that justify the assassinations—exactly the practice that Bush followed in regard to the OLC briefs that he cited for the legality of his torture policy. Michael Hayden, a director of the CIA under Bush and now an adviser to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, accurately described the danger that this poses to a democratic society: “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s not sustainable. I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a [Department of Justice] safe.”

But imperial plutocracies do.

I wrote much on this in an article for Veer Magazine back in April saying, Welcome to the future you were warned about by notables like President Eisenhower who said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." Remember also President Truman's admonition; “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency --- For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government.” And here we are. The National Security State, according to former insiders, has become so powerful it renders the Republic a sham -- a powerless puppet show.

But back to now. President Obama came in on high hopes as a constitutional scholar who campaigned on a platform of reining in the power of the Executive, ending torture, and closing our prison in Guantanamo. His inauguration was seen by many as an end to a dark period of repression, war, government spying on citizens, and torture. Alas, in this regard his presidency has proven a disappointment. If anything, Obama has expanded the power of the Executive and of the National Security apparatus and continues to do so. On December 31, 2011 Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. This act authorizes the government, via the military, to arrest anyone, including American Citizens, and hold us indefinitely without charges or due process. Or as Glenn Greenwald points out, with Obama and his Justice Department legal advisers' distortion o "due process" to the point of eliminating it, kill us.

So, here we are, in a time when our President can order the assassination of anyone, including American citizens without due process. Where a National Security state more powerful and not answerable to Congress can arrest and disappear any of us for any or no reason without charges, where drones roam the globe killing guilty and innocent alike and have now been okay'd for domestic surveillance, and where the President has the authority, under the recently signed National Defense Resources Preparedness order to take control of all energy, production, transportation, food, and even water resources by decree – even in peacetime. What can we do?

Occupy the streets and halls of power! Resist!. Shut It Down!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Moving Beyond Capitalism

As I stated in the editorial of the Fall issue of Blue Collar Review, the many seemingly insurmountable issues, from unemployment to endless war, to the plundered economy and the unfolding ecological crisis are like the branches on a tree. They are connected at the root by a strangling knot of corporate interests. We are facing a cumulative crisis of civilization and even species destroying proportions as the ecosystem
is in freefall along with the global economy which is dependent on it. Protesting the issues without connecting the dots is like trimming the leaves on an aggressive weed. We must go to the root. It is far easier to be anti anything that to be pro something but the time is nigh. The present economic system of global capitalism must be uprooted but it also must be replaced. Naive anarchism is not the answer. We cannot return to being hunter-gatherers. There are way too many of us and we are dependent on a complex technological society. That said, our survival depends on our return to the more egalitarian, community values of hunter gatherers.

In an article in The Nation entitled Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream, Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M. Hanna write,

The destructive "grow or die" imperative of our market-driven system cannot be wished or regulated away. In addition to the overriding issue of global warming, countless studies have documented that limits to growth in such areas as energy, minerals, water and arable land (among others) are fast being reached. The energy corporations are desperately trying to crash through these limits with technological fixes such as fracking, tar sands exploitation and deep-water drilling, which are equally or more environmentally costly than traditional methods.

Yet the trends continue: the United States, with less than 5 percent of the global population, accounts for 21.6 percent of the world's consumption of oil, 13 percent of coal and 21 percent of natural gas. In the brief period between 1940 and 1976 Americans used up a larger share of the earth's mineral resources than did everyone in all previous history. At some point a society like ours, which produces the equivalent of more than $190,000 for every family of four, must ask when enough is enough. Former presidential adviser James Gustave Speth puts it bluntly: "For the most part we have worked within this current system of political economy, but working within the system will not succeed in the end when what is needed is transformative change in the system itself."

As a matter of cold logic, then, if some of the most important corporations have a disruptive and costly impact on the economy and the environment—and if regulation and antitrust laws in many areas are likely to be subverted by these corporations—a public takeover is the only logical solution.

Full article here.

Public ownership of social necessities is vital. These included the power grid, banking and finance, transportation, health care, the postal service, and food production. Industries must be at very least heavily regulated and publicly accountable if not publicly owned and democratically run for the common good.

Yes, we are talking about Socialism but this is not some abstract dream for a distant future. If we are to have a future, the systemic change over must occur very soon. This is not as big a stretch as it might have been even 5 years ago. As Alperovitz and Hanna write, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated "free" enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term "socialism" by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.

No on can convince the public of the need for Socialism better than the insatiably greed bourgeoisie themselves. As we all feel the pain of a failing economy the writing on the wall becomes increasingly clear. Lenin once penned that in periods of revolution time seems to compress and events that would have previously taken generations happen overnight. Let's hope that is the case. I see much hope is the growth of the global Occupy Movement and the awakening of militant class consciousness it represents. This year is a turning point but we must all add our weight to the effort. To think otherwise, to ideologically parse and nit-pick or to engage in armchair slacktivism is to be a counter revolutionary.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why We Fight

This unfortunately all too common tail was penned by a talented writer, thinker and friend, Dave Ferarro and first posted on It shows the essence of capitalism and the depths to which we've sunk as a society as well as the sick mindset which must be overcome.


Wells Fargo claimed that Norman and Oriane Rousseau had missed a mortgage payment. But the payment HAD been made in person at a Wells Fargo branch by Cashier’s Check, and Mrs. Rousseau has the receipt for the transaction.


The Rousseaus file a dispute with Wells Fargo over the supposed missing payment. Wells Fargo “investigates” and comes back saying that the Rousseaus had stopped payment on the check. They stopped payment on a Cashier’s Check? Seriously?

The teller’s receipt establishes that the cashier’s check was in the custody and control of Wachovia on April 1, 2009, and the research by the Cashiering Department should have concluded that Wachovia screwed up by not applying the cash-equivalent funds to the Rousseau’s account. After delivery and acceptance to the branch office, it was Wachovia’s responsibility to safeguard the instrument; Wachovia itself effectively stopped payment on the cashier’s check

Concerned that they could not resolve the payment dispute but told they should apply for a loan modification, the Rousseaus hired a law firm and submitted a loan modification application. After that it was standard operating procedure at Wells Fargo… we lost this, and we lost that, resend this, and resend that… for almost a year.

Wells Fargo then of course told the Rousseau family not to make their payments, that they were being considered for a loan modification and that making their payments would immediately disqualify them.

So, they saved their payments just in case Wells decided to deny them a modification. Saved every single one just in case the bank decided to act like… well, Wells Fargo Bank.

Then Wells sent them a Notice of Default, but when they called to say they wanted to reinstate their loan, Wells said what they always say… IGNORE IT… don’t worry about it, everything’s fine, it’s just an automated sort of thing… why, you’re being considered for a loan modification.

Then Wells filed a Notice of Sale on October 28, 2010. Their home would be sold on November 22, 2010. And still Wells said… IGNORE IT… it’s just another automated sort of thing… your loan modification is still pending… and please re-submit some documents.

It was November 10, 2010… just 12 days before their home was to be sold… when the Wells Fargo representative told the Rousseau’s that their loan modification had been denied. The reason: Insufficient income.

Yeah, but you know the funny thing about that is that their income hadn’t changed a nickel since they applied for the loan modification. So, what’s the deal? Did it take Wells Fargo a year to figure out the Rousseau’s income was insufficient? That same day the Rousseaus found a lawyer and discovered they had a RIGHT TO REINSTATE their loan. (Nice of Wells not to tell them that, by the way.) They contacted Wells and requested a reinstatement quote… TWO DAYS LATER Wells finally gave them the phone number for RCS, the trustee.


But, RSC said that reinstatement would take two weeks and trustee sale was going off as planned in 8 days. Wells got them their reinstatement quote too… it was dated November 15, but received via email on November 17, 2010.

And it expired in two days and had to be received in Texas by November 19, 2010.

The Rousseaus had more than enough in savings to reinstate their loan, they told Wells Fargo that… but now they couldn’t get the money from their IRA in time for the 2-day deadline and Wells refused to postpone the sale.

So, the Rousseau’s home sold at the trustee sale on November 22, 2010.

Next the Rousseaus go through a series of lawyers. Finally, they get a good one and in July of 2011, the court grants an injunction contingent on them making a monthly payment of $1800.

But, by December of 2011, Wells finally wore the Rousseaus down and they just couldn’t make December’s payment. They used up all their money fighting Wells Fargo, and Norm had been unemployed since the foreclosure. He was taking odd jobs as a handy man to make ends meet.

Wells Fargo immediately goes to court… gets the injunction dissolved… then proceeds with the Unlawful Detainer… the lockout is set for May 15th, 2012… at 6:00 AM.


Over this past weekend, Norm Rousseau talked with their attorney who is working pro bono by the way. Basically, his lawyer tells him…

“Look… let’s face the facts here. We’ll proceed with the lawsuit. We’ll fight like hell to get you back in the home, but you have to be ready with some sort of plan so you’re not left homeless and on the streets.”

Norm found someone who has a 27-foot motorhome he can use, but after he gets it home on Saturday… it stops running… it won’t start. But, Norm Rousseau is a man in his 50s with mad skills. He goes to work around the clock taking apart the engine, doing everything he can to get it running so that on Tuesday morning he will have somewhere to house his family. He’s up all night Saturday night, but still can’t get it running. It’s too big to tow with a car.

His mind must have been wandering late on Saturday night. What must a man, a father, a provider be thinking when he knows that everything in life has somehow gone terribly wrong and there’s nothing left to do? He must have been imagining the sheriff pulling up to evict his family on Tuesday morning… just two days away, as the motorhome’s engine lay in pieces in his driveway.

I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind as he worked tirelessly, without sleep, on that engine and electrical system… as the clock ticked away the hours, I’m sure going faster and faster as time was running out. Damn, it’s already 11:00 PM… then it’s 3:00 AM… and then 5:00 AM… and then before he knew it… a most unwelcome sun was shining… 9:00 AM…

I can almost hear him thinking: “Damn it, what am I going to do? How could this have happened?” I can hear him swearing under his breath as he fights with the old parts trying to get them to work together again… I can see him staring at the engine as the will to go on was leaving his soul…


Norman and Oriane Rousseau had bought their home in Ventura, California in 2000, putting nearly 30 percent down, which was their life savings. In 2006, every time they went into the World Savings branch they’d get pitched on refinancing into one of World’s infamous Option ARM loans… that are now illegal, I believe. After a couple of years of being pitched, they finally bought into World Saving’s lies.

They had told World Saving’s loan officer, ERIC COOPER, that they were only interested in obtaining a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate loan. They wanted consistent payments over the life of the loan.

But COOPER assured them that they could significantly reduce their monthly payments… by more than $600 per month, with a lower interest refinanced loan. COOPER said that the new Pick-A-Payment loan product was better suited to their situation.

He described the Payment Option ARM as the new industry standard. He pointed out that the lower interest rate and payment flexibility were valuable advantages that were not available with other loan products. And he said that even more importantly, unlike the previous WORLD loans, the interest rate was tied to an index with historically low rates that were continuing to decrease.

According to COOPER, industry experts projected the interest rates to continue to fall, and so their monthly payments would be EVEN LOWER than their initial payments.



Even under the worst case scenario, COOPER assured them, the historical data for the index indicated that changes in the interest rate would only be slight, and if an increase should occur it would have a negligible effect on their monthly payments… no more than a few dollars.

And besides, COOPER explained, the loan would only be around for a couple years, as they should expect to refinance within the next two years to take advantage of even more favorable interest rates and as the steadily rising housing values would surely increase the amount of their equity in the property.

Then COOPER went for the close…

On the condition that the Rousseaus apply for the new loan that very day, he would agree to waive their pre-payment penalty, stating that there would be virtually no costs to refinance beyond a $35.00 application fee.

COOPER also convinced the Rousseaus that it was in their best financial interests to consolidate approximately $25,000 in unsecured debt in the refinance transaction, citing the benefits of the lower interest rate and the convenience of having only one payment.

The Rousseaus provided COOPER with accurate and truthful information regarding their income and assets, and COOPER was such a nice guy that he offered to complete the Quick Qualifying Loan Application on their behalf.

It was right around November 1, 2007, that WACHOVIA arranged for a notary to complete the closing at the Rousseau’s home. The notary discouraged their review of the documents and directed them straight to the signature lines, but the Rousseaus noticed that a pre-payment penalty in excess of $4000.00 was included in the closing costs… the fee that COOPER had promised to waive if they applied that same day. They called COOPER and he apologized for the oversight, but tried to get them to sign anyway, because it would only add a couple of bucks to their payment.

They said… no… they’d reschedule the appointment and wait for the four grand to be taken off their bill, thank you very much.

Two weeks later, the notary returned and they signed the paperwork for their new $368,000 state of the art loan.

Now, the Rousseaus didn’t know it at the time, but COOPER was a lying sack of garbage that had misrepresented just about everything having to do with their new loan.

The 7.2% interest rate of the new loan was actually higher than their old loan and higher than the 6.8% quoted by COOPER. The “significant reduction in monthly payments” was an illusion accomplished by comparing the fully amortized payment of the 2006 loan with the negative amortizing minimum payment due under the new loan.

The new loan, at annual change dates, added deferred interest to principal and the loan amortized, with payment increases capped at 7.5% for ten years. Then, the new loan recast when negative amortization reached 125%.



The Rousseaus were never told about the new loan’s fully amortizing payment of $2,497.94 per month, in fact their payment amount was intentionally misrepresented by COOPER. And the new monthly payment could never decrease because it represented the minimum payment possible… the negatively amortizing option that meant payments would increase at each change date.

But that wasn’t enough for our boy COOPER. The Rousseaus were charged $2,640.00 in origination fees for the “low cost” refinance, which made a tidy profit for World/Wachovia/Wells/Whatever bank.

And best of all, an undisclosed Yield Spread Premium (“YSP”) of $4,195 was charged for placing them in a loan with an interest rate .50% higher than they qualified for, and that YSP increased their monthly payments by $123.32, or $44,395.20 over the life of the loan.

The truth is that the Rousseaus were a heck of a long way from being considered well qualified for their new loan. Their fully amortized payment represented a total debt-to-income ratio of 27.91%, but that percentage was based on income figures that were grossly overstated by guess who? That’s right… COOPER.

The Rousseaus told COOPER their total gross annual income was, $76,000, but somehow it got listed as $136,800 on the application. You know… the application that good old COOPER was nice enough to fill out for the Rousseaus.

So, it was Sunday… yesterday… around 10:00 AM… and Norm couldn’t get the motorhome running. He must have realized that he couldn’t handle the shame of seeing his wife and stepson evicted with nowhere to go… living on the street. I don’t know how anyone could face that reality. I don’t think I could.

How could it be that just 12 years before they had put their life savings down on their first and likely last home? They had done everything right, but nothing was right anymore, and I’m sure to Norm Rousseau, nothing would ever be right again.

Their church had offered to help them, maybe find them somewhere to stay temporarily, and that would be fine for his wife and her son… but not for him. I’m sure he wept as he looked at the engine parts laying there, realizing that it was over.

Norm Rousseau called me a couple of months ago. He wasn’t asking me to help him, in fact, he never even told me about what he was going through with Wells Fargo. No, Norm was concerned about someone else who was losing a home. A really good person who’s done so much for so many others, was how he described her. It wasn’t right what the banks were doing he said. He was hoping that I could do something to help someone he knew, because she was someone who had helped others… but he didn’t say a word about himself.

Norman Rousseau gave up over that engine that sits in pieces in his driveway today, the sun shining down making the metal parts hot to the touch. Maybe it was the frustration of having nowhere to turn for justice, maybe it was the shame he felt that somehow he had let his family down… even though that was not the case at all.

Sometime mid-morning on Sunday Norm Rousseau ended his own life. He went into his bedroom, covered his head with a blanket so as to contain the mess… and shot himself. At one point he could have reinstated his loan, that’s what he had planned to do, but Wells Fargo had made that impossible… they stripped him of everything he had.


And now, his wife and stepson are to be evicted at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning. They have nowhere to go, they have no money, they are still in shock over the loss of Norm.

And I don’t know what to do really. I’m going to call the sheriff’s office in Ventura… see if I can persuade them to drag their feet for a week before locking them out. Their lawyer is trying to file something with the courts, but maybe you can think of something too.

Maybe you can forward this article to people in the media. Tell them what’s going on… maybe someone will care enough to do something. It’s 11:21 AM and I’ve been up all night again, I can’t really keep this up much longer… but somehow I felt like telling Norm’s story was the very least I could do.

Since Wells Fargo had already done the very least they could do.

Rest in peace, Norm Rousseau.


The psychopaths in charge of Wells Fargo have already killed another American. Wells Fargo, Mammon’s agent on earth, now has Norman Roussseau’s blood on its hands. And these are people who never missed a house payment. Given that Wells’ only responsibility is to generate profits for shareholders, and devil take the hindmost, perhaps Cooper’s behavior, described above, is to be expected. And thus the wages of “corporate personhood:” if we knew a person willing to do whatever it takes to generate a profit, lie, cheat, steal, kill, wouldn’t we call that person a psychopath? Instead, executives get fat bonuses, banks build giant buildings as monuments to themselves, or as temples of Mammon, and we whistle down the street knowing that the business of America is business. And this is why Occupy has sprung from the streets and alleys, and resistance is beginning to form. And why the state maintains such an overweening interest in squelching nonviolent protest.

How we the sheeple can sleep through this slow-motion Kafkaesque nightmare without getting our ample butts off the couch and into the streets is simply beyond me.


In the blog, “The New Inquiry (,” George Scialabbla answers the question, “How Bad Is It?” with precision, and by invoking the writer whose work whose works are highly instructive in these times, the man I call the arch-prophet of Doom, Morris Berman:

“Here is a sample of factlets from surveys and studies conducted in the past twenty years. Seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels. Fifty percent believe that the earth has been visited by UFOs; in another poll, 70 percent believed that the U.S. government is covering up the presence of space aliens on earth. Forty percent did not know whom the U.S. fought in World War II. Forty percent could not locate Japan on a world map. Fifteen percent could not locate the United States on a world map. Sixty percent of Americans have not read a book since leaving school. Only 6 percent now read even one book a year. According to a very familiar statistic that nonetheless cannot be repeated too often, the average American’s day includes six minutes playing sports, five minutes reading books, one minute making music, 30 seconds attending a play or concert, 25 seconds making or viewing art, and four hours watching television.

Among high-school seniors surveyed in the late 1990s, 50 percent had not heard of the Cold War. Sixty percent could not say how the United States came into existence. Fifty percent did not know in which century the Civil War occurred. Sixty percent could name each of the Three Stooges but not the three branches of the U.S. government. Sixty percent could not comprehend an editorial in a national or local newspaper.”

This all sounds very much like Kunstler territory, as that stylist regularly decries the burgeoning illiteracy of the neck tattoo crowd, the NASCAR crazies, and the vulture capitalists. Citing Robert Putnam in bowling alone, he notes that “all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.” We stick our noses and computers and on social networking sites, and leave behind having friends to dinner, card parties, making new friends face-to-face, trusting one another, joining volunteer organizations, and otherwise being vitally involved in our respective communities.

And while we members of the “precariat” toil for our bread, the quality of life in the world’s richest nation continues to spiral down to Third World levels. Recently summarized by James Speth and Orion magazine, you’ve heard it all before. The US has the highest poverty rate for both adults and children, lowest rated social mid-ability, lowest score on you and indexes of child welfare and gender inequality and of course, remarkable levels of economic inequality. Thus the legacy of trickle-down economics.

Scialabba goes on to invoke Morris Berman. For those not familiar with his work, Berman is a cultural and intellectual historian, so his portrait of American civilization is anecdotal and atmospheric as well as statistical. Scialabba puts it well:


“He (Berman) is eloquent about harder-to-quantify trends: the transformation of higher (even primary/secondary) education into marketing arenas for predatory corporations; the new form of educational merchandising known as “distance learning”; the colonization of civic and cultural spaces by corporate logos; the centrality of malls and shopping to our social life; the “systematic suppression of silence” and the fact that “there is barely an empty space in our culture not already carrying commercial messages.” Idiot deans, rancid rappers, endlessly chattering sports commentators, an avalanche of half-inch-deep self-help manuals; a plague of gadgets, a deluge of stimuli, an epidemic of rudeness, a desert of mutual indifference: the upshot is our daily immersion in a suffocating stream of kitsch, blather, stress, and sentimental banality. Berman colorfully and convincingly renders the relentless coarsening and dumbing down of everyday life in late (dare we hope?) American capitalism.


In Spenglerian fashion, Berman seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animating Geist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. Expansion, accumulation, economic growth: this is the ground bass of American history, like the hum of a dynamo in the basement beneath the polite twitterings on the upper stories about “liberty” and “a light unto the nations.” Berman scarcely mentions Marx or historical materialism; instead he offers a nonspecialist and accessible but deeply informed and amply documented review of American history, period by period, war by war, arguing persuasively that whatever the ideological superstructure, the driving energy behind policy and popular aspiration has been a ceaseless, soulless acquisitiveness.” Not surprisingly, Berman finds parallels to the fall of Rome in our current state. By the end of that empire, Berman noted that economic inequality steeply rising, the legitimacy of the state was waiting, popular culture utterly the based, and civic virtue among the elites had disappeared. This made the effectiveness of the state and the projection of military power unsustainable. Scialabba points out this is 21st century America in a nutshell. Our foreign policy for the past 50 years has brought us to the turn where, in the period of time after 9/11 we have flailed about looking outside ourselves for the solutions to vague and undefined threats, ramping up internal Stasi-style security apparatus to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate the citizenry. “Our response to 9/11 is been utterly hysterical, and our inability to make an effort to understand the long festering consequences of our Imperial predations portended is clearly as anything could the demise of American bloat global supremacy.”


Scialabba adds, “What will become of us? After Rome’s fall, wolves wandered through the cities and Europe largely went to sleep for six centuries. That will not happen again; too many transitions — demographic, ecological, technological, cybernetic — have intervened. The planet’s metabolism has altered. The new Dark Ages will be socially, politically, and spiritually dark, but the economic Moloch — mass production and consumption, destructive growth, instrumental rationality — will not disappear. Few Americans want it to. We are hollow, Berman concludes. It is a devastatingly plausible conclusion.”



Jesus is quoted in Matthew as having said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” By our fruits, or deeds, we clearly worship Mammon, and Norman Rousseau was a blood sacrifice. For all of that and more, as Berman notes, we are doomed, if for no other reason than the Lords of Karma will see to it. After all, Nature bats last. And, as to how we treat one another, Karpatok reminds us of Martin Buber’s I and Thou: “To the extent that one cannot embrace the reality of the Thou, one is not fully human..”

What are we? What have we become? Ray Kurzweil whispers of the Singularity, as we dispense with one another with all the empathy of machines.

It is thus on my heart on a Sunday morning, with the soft breezes of her Virginia spring whispering through the trees. . . a holiday weekend, where the sun is bright, the birds chirping in trees bursting with bright green, my neighbors bustling about readying themselves for church. Yet Mammon lurks, hungrily.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Secrets of the CIA

Good expose documentary Here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Global May Manifesto

We are living in a world controlled by forces incapable of giving freedom and dignity to the world's population. A world where we are told "there is no alternative" to the loss of rights gained through the long, hard struggles of our ancestors, and where success is defined in opposition to the most fundamental values of humanity, such as solidarity and mutual support. Moreover, anything that does not promote competitiveness, selfishness and greed is seen as dysfunctional.New York City. October, 2011.
But we have not remained silent! From Tunisia to Tahrir Square, Madrid to Reykjavik, New York to Brussels, people are rising up to denounce the status quo. Our effort states "enough!", and has begun to push changes forward, worldwide.
This is why we are uniting once again to make our voices heard all over the world this 12 May.
We condemn the current distribution of economic resources whereby only a tiny minority escape poverty and insecurity, and future generations are condemned to a poisoned legacy thanks to the environmental crimes of the rich and powerful. "Democratic" political systems, where they exist, have been emptied of meaning, put to the service of those few interested in increasing the power of corporations and financial institutions.
The current crisis is not a natural accident; it was caused by the greed of those who would bring the world down, with the help of an economics that is no longer about management of the common good, but has become an ideology at the service of financial power.
We have awakened, and not just to complain! We aim to pinpoint the true causes of the crisis, and to propose alternatives.
The statement below does not speak on behalf of everyone in the global spring/Occupy/Take the Square movements. It is an attempt by some inside the movements to reconcile statements written and endorsed in the different assemblies around the world. The process of writing the statement was consensus-based, open to all, and regularly announced on our international communications platforms. It was a hard and long process, full of compromises; this statement is offered to people's assemblies around the world for discussions, revisions and endorsements. It is a work in progress.
We do not make demands from governments, corporations or parliament members, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt. We speak to the people of the world, both inside and outside our movements.
We want another world, and such a world is possible:

1. The economy must be put to the service of people's welfare, and to support and serve the environment, not private profit. We want a system where labor is appreciated by its social utility, not its financial or commercial profit. Therefore, we demand:
• Free and universal access to health, education from primary school through higher education and housing for all human beings. We reject outright the privatization of public services management, and the use of these essential services for private profit.

• Full respect for children's rights, including free childcare for everyone.

• Retirement/pension so we may have dignity at all ages. Mandatory universal sick leave and holiday pay.

• Every human being should have access to an adequate income for their livelihood, so we ask for work or, alternatively, universal basic income guarantee.

• Corporations should be held accountable to their actions. For example, corporate subsidies and tax cuts should be done away with if said company outsources jobs to decrease salaries, violates the environment or the rights of workers.

• Apart from bread, we want roses. Everyone has the right to enjoy culture, participate in a creative and enriching leisure at the service of the progress of humankind. Therefore, we demand the progressive reduction of working hours, without reducing income.

• Food sovereignty through sustainable farming should be promoted as an instrument of food security for the benefit of all. This should include an indefinite moratorium on the production and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and immediate reduction of agrochemicals use.

• We demand policies that function under the understanding that our changing patterns of life should be organic/ecologic or should never be. These policies should be based on a simple rule: one should not spoil the balance of ecosystems for simple profit. Violations of this policy should be prosecuted around the world as an environmental crime, with severe sanctions for those convicted.

• Policies to promote the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy, through massive investment which should help to change the production model.

• We demand the creation of international environmental standards, mandatory for countries, companies, corporations, and individuals. Ecocide (willful damage to the environment, ecosystems, biodiversity) should be internationally recognized as a crime of the greatest magnitude.

2. To achieve these objectives, we believe that the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from local to global. People must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies. To this end, we demand:

• Control and regulation of financial speculation by abolishing tax havens, and establishing a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). As long as they exist, the IMF, World Bank and the Basel Committee on Banking Regulation must be radically democratized. Their duty from now on should be fostering economic development based on democratic decision making. Rich governments cannot have more votes because they are rich. International institutions must be controlled by the principle that each human is equal to all other humans – African, Argentinian or American; Greek or German.

• As long as they exist, radical reform and democratization of the global trading system and the World Trade Organization must take place. Commercialization of life and resources, as well as wage and trade dumping between countries must stop.

• We want democratic control of the global commons, defined as the natural resources and economic institutions essential for a proper economic management. These commons are: water, energy, air, telecommunications and a fair and stable economic system. In all these cases, decisions must be accountable to citizens and ensure their interests, not the interests of a small minority of financial elite.

• As long as social inequalities exist, taxation at all levels should maintain the principle of solidarity. Those who have more should contribute to maintain services for the collective welfare. Maximum income should be limited, and minimum income set to reduce the outrageous social divisions in our societies and its social political and economic effects.

• No more money to rescue banks. As long as debt exists, following the examples of Ecuador and Iceland, we demand a social audit of the debts owed by countries. Illegitimate debt owed to financial institutions should not be paid.

• An absolute end to fiscal austerity policies that only benefit a minority, and cause great suffering to the majority.

• As long as banks exist, separation of commercial and financial banks, avoiding banks that are "too big to fail".

• An end to the legal person-hood of corporations. Companies cannot be elevated to the same level of rights as people. The public's right to protect workers, citizens and the environment should prevail over the protections of private property or investment.

3. We believe that political systems must be fully democratic. We therefore demand full democratization of international institutions, and the elimination of the veto power of a few governments. We want a political system which really represent the variety and diversity of our societies:

• All decisions affecting all mankind should be taken in democratic forums like a participatory and direct UN parliamentary assembly or a UN people's assembly, not rich clubs such as G20 or G8.

• At all levels we ask for the development of a democracy that is as participatory as possible, including non representative direct democracy.

• As long as they are practiced, electoral systems should be as fair and representative as possible, avoiding biases that distort the principle of proportionality.

• We call for the democratization of access and management of media. These should serve to educate the public, as opposed to the creation of an artificial consensus about unjust policies.

• We ask for democracy in companies and corporations. Workers, despite wage level or gender, should have real decision-making power in the companies and corporations they work in. We want to promote co-operative companies and corporations, as real democratic economic institutions.

• Zero tolerance of corruption in economic policy. We must stop the excessive influence of big business in politics, which is today a major threat to true democracy.

• We demand complete freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration, as well as the cessation of attempts to censor the internet.

• We demand respect for privacy rights on and off the internet. Companies and the government should not engage in data mining.

• We believe that military spending is politically counterproductive to a society's advance, so we demand its reduction to a minimum.

• Ethnic, cultural and sexual minorities should have their civil, cultural, political and economic rights fully recognized.

• Some of us believe a new Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fit for the 21st century, written in a participatory, direct and democratic way, needs to be written. As long as the current Declaration of Human Rights defines our rights, it must be enforced in relation to all – in both rich and poor countries. Implementing institutions that force compliance and penalize violators need to be established, such as a global court to prosecute social, economic and environmental crimes perpetrated by governments, corporations and individuals. At all levels, local, national, regional and global, new constitutions for political institutions need to be considered, as in Iceland or in some Latin American countries. Justice and law must work for all, otherwise justice is not justice, and law is not law.

This is a worldwide global spring. We will be there and we will fight until we win. We will not stop being people. We are not numbers. We are free women and men.
For a global spring!
For global democracy and social justice!
Take to the streets in May 2012!
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fascist Republicans Threaten Putch

As if there was any remaining doubt that the Republican wing of the Corporate Party has morphed into a fascist hate group, The Republican Party of Greene County in Virginia published their monthly newsletter in March and in it, the editor suggested an “armed revolution” will be necessary if President Obama is reelected in November: We have before us a challenge to remove an ideologue unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized. . . . The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse[sic] but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November. More here

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ernest Callenbach, Last Words to an America in Decline

Ernest Callenbach, Author of Ecotopia leaves us an important final analysis: To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support -- a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging. As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy, and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times. How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture. But let us begin with last things first, for a change. The analysis will come later, for those who wish it.
Hope. Children exude hope, even under the most terrible conditions, and that must inspire us as our conditions get worse. Hopeful patients recover better. Hopeful test candidates score better. Hopeful builders construct better buildings. Hopeful parents produce secure and resilient children. In groups, an atmosphere of hope is essential to shared successful effort: “Yes, we can!” is not an empty slogan, but a mantra for people who intend to do something together -- whether it is rescuing victims of hurricanes, rebuilding flood-damaged buildings on higher ground, helping wounded people through first aid, or inventing new social structures (perhaps one in which only people are “persons,” not corporations). We cannot know what threats we will face. But ingenuity against adversity is one of our species’ built-in resources. We cope, and faith in our coping capacity is perhaps our biggest resource of all.
Mutual support. The people who do best at basic survival tasks (we know this experimentally, as well as intuitively) are cooperative, good at teamwork, often altruistic, mindful of the common good. In drastic emergencies like hurricanes or earthquakes, people surprise us by their sacrifices -- of food, of shelter, even sometimes of life itself. Those who survive social or economic collapse, or wars, or pandemics, or starvation, will be those who manage scarce resources fairly; hoarders and dominators win only in the short run, and end up dead, exiled, or friendless. So, in every way we can we need to help each other, and our children, learn to be cooperative rather than competitive; to be helpful rather than hurtful; to look out for the communities of which we are a part, and on which we ultimately depend.
Practical skills. With the movement into cities of the U.S. population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. When I was a boy in the country, all of us knew how to build a tree house, or construct a small hut, or raise chickens, or grow beans, or screw pipes together to deliver water. It was a sexist world, of course, so when some of my chums in eighth grade said we wanted to learn girls’ “home ec” skills like making bread or boiling eggs, the teachers were shocked, but we got to do it. There was widespread competence in fixing things -- impossible with most modern contrivances, of course, but still reasonable for the basic tools of survival: pots and pans, bicycles, quilts, tents, storage boxes. We all need to learn, or relearn, how we would keep the rudiments of life going if there were no paid specialists around, or means to pay them. Every child should learn elementary carpentry, from layout and sawing to driving nails. Everybody should know how to chop wood safely, and build a fire. Everybody should know what to do if dangers appear from fire, flood, electric wires down, and the like. Taking care of each other is one practical step at a time, most of them requiring help from at least one other person; survival is a team sport.
Organize. Much of the American ideology, our shared and usually unspoken assumptions, is hyper-individualistic. We like to imagine that heroes are solitary, have super powers, and glory in violence, and that if our work lives and business lives seem tamer, underneath they are still struggles red in blood and claw. We have sought solitude on the prairies, as cowboys on the range, in our dependence on media (rather than real people), and even in our cars, armored cabins of solitude. We have an uneasy and doubting attitude about government, as if we all reserve the right to be outlaws. But of course human society, like ecological webs, is a complex dance of mutual support and restraint, and if we are lucky it operates by laws openly arrived at and approved by the populace. If the teetering structure of corporate domination, with its monetary control of Congress and our other institutions, should collapse of its own greed, and the government be unable to rescue it, we will have to reorganize a government that suits the people. We will have to know how to organize groups, how to compromise with other groups, how to argue in public for our positions. It turns out that “brainstorming,” a totally noncritical process in which people just throw out ideas wildly, doesn’t produce workable ideas. In particular, it doesn’t work as well as groups in which ideas are proposed, critiqued, improved, debated. But like any group process, this must be protected from domination by powerful people and also over-talkative people. When the group recognizes its group power, it can limit these distortions. Thinking together is enormously creative; it has huge survival value.
Learn to live with contradictions. These are dark times, these are bright times. We are implacably making the planet less habitable. Every time a new oil field is discovered, the press cheers: “Hooray, there is more fuel for the self-destroying machines!” We are turning more land into deserts and parking lots. We are wiping out innumerable species that are not only wondrous and beautiful, but might be useful to us. We are multiplying to the point where our needs and our wastes outweigh the capacities of the biosphere to produce and absorb them. And yet, despite the bloody headlines and the rocketing military budgets, we are also, unbelievably, killing fewer of each other proportionately than in earlier centuries. We have mobilized enormous global intelligence and mutual curiosity, through the Internet and outside it. We have even evolved, spottily, a global understanding that democracy is better than tyranny, that love and tolerance are better than hate, that hope is better than rage and despair, that we are prone, especially in catastrophes, to be astonishingly helpful and cooperative. We may even have begun to share an understanding that while the dark times may continue for generations, in time new growth and regeneration will begin. In the biological process called “succession,” a desolate, disturbed area is gradually, by a predictable sequence of returning plants, restored to ecological continuity and durability. When old institutions and habits break down or consume themselves, new experimental shoots begin to appear, and people explore and test and share new and better ways to survive together. It is never easy or simple. But already we see, under the crumbling surface of the conventional world, promising developments: new ways of organizing economic activity (cooperatives, worker-owned companies, nonprofits, trusts), new ways of using low-impact technology to capture solar energy, to sequester carbon dioxide, new ways of building compact, congenial cities that are low (or even self-sufficient) in energy use, low in waste production, high in recycling of almost everything. A vision of sustainability that sometimes shockingly resembles Ecotopia is tremulously coming into existence at the hands of people who never heard of the book. ___________________ Now in principle, the Big Picture seems simple enough, though devilishly complex in the details. We live in the declining years of what is still the biggest economy in the world, where a looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire. It is intent on speedily and relentlessly extracting the maximum wealth from that carcass, impoverishing our former working middle class. But this maggot class does not invest its profits here. By law and by stock-market pressures, corporations must seek their highest possible profits, no matter the social or national consequences -- which means moving capital and resources abroad, wherever profit potential is larger. As Karl Marx darkly remarked, “Capital has no country,” and in the conditions of globalization his meaning has come clear. The looter elite systematically exports jobs, skills, knowledge, technology, retaining at home chiefly financial manipulation expertise: highly profitable, but not of actual productive value. Through “productivity gains” and speedups, it extracts maximum profit from domestic employees; then, firing the surplus, it claims surprise that the great mass of people lack purchasing power to buy up what the economy can still produce (or import). Here again Marx had a telling phrase: “Crisis of under-consumption.” When you maximize unemployment and depress wages, people have to cut back. When they cut back, businesses they formerly supported have to shrink or fail, adding their own employees to the ranks of the jobless, and depressing wages still further. End result: something like Mexico, where a small, filthy rich plutocracy rules over an impoverished mass of desperate, uneducated, and hopeless people. Barring unprecedented revolutionary pressures, this is the actual future we face in the United States, too. As we know from history, such societies can stand a long time, supported by police and military control, manipulation of media, surveillance and dirty tricks of all kinds. It seems likely that a few parts of the world (Germany, with its worker-council variant of capitalism, New Zealand with its relative equality, Japan with its social solidarity, and some others) will remain fairly democratic. The U.S., which has a long history of violent plutocratic rule unknown to the textbook-fed, will stand out as the best-armed Third World country, its population ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-educated, ill-cared for in health, and increasingly poverty-stricken: even Social Security may be whittled down, impoverishing tens of millions of the elderly. As empires decline, their leaders become increasingly incompetent -- petulant, ignorant, gifted only with PR skills of posturing and spinning, and prone to the appointment of loyal idiots to important government positions. Comedy thrives; indeed writers are hardly needed to invent outrageous events. We live, then, in a dark time here on our tiny precious planet. Ecological devastation, political and economic collapse, irreconcilable ideological and religious conflict, poverty, famine: the end of the overshoot of cheap-oil-based consumer capitalist expansionism. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you have small chance of understanding where you might be headed. So let me offer a capsule history for those who, like most of us, got little help from textbook history. At 82, my life has included a surprisingly substantial slice of American history. In the century or so up until my boyhood in Appalachian central Pennsylvania, the vast majority of Americans subsisted as farmers on the land. Most, like people elsewhere in the world, were poor, barely literate, ill-informed, short-lived. Millions had been slaves. Meanwhile in the cities, vast immigrant armies were mobilized by ruthless and often violent “robber baron” capitalists to build vast industries that made things: steel, railroads, ships, cars, skyscrapers. Then, when I was in grade school, came World War II. America built the greatest armaments industry the world had ever seen, and when the war ended with most other industrial countries in ruins, we had a run of unprecedented productivity and prosperity. Thanks to strong unions and a sympathetic government, this prosperity was widely shared: a huge working middle class evolved -- tens of millions of people could afford (on one wage) a modest house, a car, perhaps sending a child to college. This era peaked around 1973, when wages stagnated, the Vietnam War took a terrible toll in blood and money, and the country began sliding rightward. In the next epoch, which we are still in and which may be our last as a great nation, capitalists who grew rich and powerful by making things gave way to a new breed: financiers who grasped that you could make even more money by manipulating money. (And by persuading Congress to subsidize them -- the system should have been called Subsidism, not Capitalism.) They had no concern for the productivity of the nation or the welfare of its people; with religious fervor, they believed in maximizing profit as the absolute economic goal. They recognized that, by capturing the government through the election finance system and removing government regulation, they could turn the financial system into a giant casino. Little by little, they hollowed the country out, until it was helplessly dependent on other nations for almost all its necessities. We had to import significant steel components from China or Japan. We came to pay for our oil imports by exporting food (i.e., our soil). Our media and our educational system withered. Our wars became chronic and endless and stupefyingly expensive. Our diets became suicidal, and our medical system faltered; life expectancies began to fall. And so we have returned, in a sort of terrible circle, to something like my boyhood years, when President Roosevelt spoke in anger of “one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed.” A large and militant contingent of white, mostly elderly, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant right wingers, mortally threatened by their impending minority status and pretending to be liberty-lovers, desperately seek to return us still further back.Americans like to think of ours as an exceptional country, immune through geographical isolation and some kind of special virtue to the tides of history. Through the distorted lens of our corporate media, we possess only a distorted view of what the country is really like now. In the next decades, we shall see whether we indeed possess the intelligence, the strength, and the mutual courage to break through to another positive era. No futurist can foresee the possibilities. As empires decay, their civilian leaderships become increasingly crazed, corrupt, and incompetent, and often the military (which is after all a parasite of the whole nation, and has no independent financial base like the looter class) takes over. Another possible scenario is that if the theocratic red center of the country prevails in Washington, the relatively progressive and prosperous coastal areas will secede in self-defense. Ecotopia is a novel, and secession was its dominant metaphor: how would a relatively rational part of the country save itself ecologically if it was on its own? As Ecotopia Emerging puts it, Ecotopia aspired to be a beacon for the rest of the world. And so it may prove, in the very, very long run, because the general outlines of Ecotopia are those of any possible future sustainable society. The "ecology in one country" argument was an echo of an actual early Soviet argument, as to whether "socialism in one country" was possible. In both cases, it now seems to me, the answer must be no. We are now fatally interconnected, in climate change, ocean impoverishment, agricultural soil loss, etc., etc., etc. International consumer capitalism is a self-destroying machine, and as long as it remains the dominant social form, we are headed for catastrophe; indeed, like rafters first entering the "tongue" of a great rapid, we are already embarked on it. When disasters strike and institutions falter, as at the end of empires, it does not mean that the buildings all fall down and everybody dies. Life goes on, and in particular, the remaining people fashion new institutions that they hope will better ensure their survival. So I look to a long-term process of "succession," as the biological concept has it, where "disturbances" kill off an ecosystem, but little by little new plants colonize the devastated area, prepare the soil for larger and more complex plants (and the other beings who depend on them), and finally the process achieves a flourishing, resilient, complex state -- not necessarily what was there before, but durable and richly productive. In a similar way, experiments under way now, all over the world, are exploring how sustainability can in fact be achieved locally. Technically, socially, economically -- since it is quite true, as ecologists know, that everything is connected to everything else, and you can never just do one thing by itself. Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them. Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go. All things “go” somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi -- the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it. There is beauty in weathered and unpainted wood, in orchards overgrown, even in abandoned cars being incorporated into the earth. Let us learn, like the Forest Service sometimes does, to put unwise or unneeded roads “to bed,” help a little in the healing of the natural contours, the re-vegetation by native plants. Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth.