Posts By ds

TODD WALTON: Roads Not Taken



Trail To Garfield Peak (Crater Lake 2015) photo by Marcia Sloane

Under The Table

“Your life is the fruit of your own doing.” Joseph Campbell

Do you sometimes look back on your life and recall those turning points that made you the chiropractor you are today instead of a tax attorney, a real estate agent instead of a dance instructor, a massage therapist instead of a taxidermist, a school teacher instead of a stockbroker, a hedge fund billionaire instead of a white water tour guide—or vice-versa?

Or your daughter calls you from her dorm at Pepperdine and says something that makes you think of the dance your sophomore year in college when you snubbed Andy Philips who was crazy about you because you thought he was dorky, though you liked him and laughed easily with him and you both loved Dickens and bird watching and Joni Mitchell and Emily Dickinson, and you adored Andy’s voice and sense of humor, but you were smitten with Brad Hamilton who was a total hunk, so you did everything in your power to seduce him, and you succeeded and got pregnant and married Brad, though you and he had nothing in common, and you ended up with three kids in Modesto where Brad is a clerk at Home Depot and you are a legal secretary.

Hicks on Marketing…



Rev Billy: Blessed Are You…



Happy Thanksgiving from Gene and Carol Logsdon



Thom Hartmann: How Stupid Has the Democratic Party Become?



From Thom Hartmann

“Given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican; the voters will pick the Republican every time!”

Republicans haven’t taken over red states; Democrats have lost them by not running as real Democrats.

That’s my big takeaway from Alec MacGillis’ fascinating look into the biggest political mystery of our time: why poor white people in red states are not bothering to turn out to vote, leaving the field to Republicans elected by more affluent whites in those states.

There a lot of theories as to why this happens.

One of the most famous comes from Thomas Frank, who argued in his book What’s The Matter With Kansas? that poor white people vote Republican because Republicans have duped them into caring about social issues like abortion, guns, and gay marriage.

There is a lot to be said for that line of analysis, but Alec MacGillis, has a different theory.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Mornings with Heraclitus



The Contrary Minister

I have a regular morning ritual that starts my days with great Joy… it is a habit that I cherish. Sitting in front of my wood burning fire, with my pre dawn coffee, I read pages of Heraclitus, or other great literatuare. It starts my day on a noble plane. I would not wilt the freshest part of the day with the littleness and banalities of morning television and news.

The wood in my fireplace is REAL wood, not the gas fed artificial wood, real wood from a stack in my backyard where a friend brings in several a day and puts them by my living room fireplace. Growing up in West Texas, with real wood, for real fires, there could be no other kind for me.

In front of the fireplace is a hooked rug of Indian design with a sun burst. My two four legged soul mates adore curling up on it, two Shih-Tzu’s, and with me in my chair experience this magic time of the day. I live alone and this is a very precious time where silence and peace, tranquility and vision become present and clear.

WILL PARRISH: Mendocino Redwood Company’s New Public Relations Firm…




According to filings with the California Secretary of State’s office, Mendocino Redwood Company — Mendocino County’s largest and wealthiest landowner — has already spent $24,766.45 on a marketing campaign to defeat a potential ballot initiative that would curb the company’s practice of killing hardwood trees and leaving them standing-dead, known as “Hack ‘n’ Squirt.” The company has dispensed the vast majority of that sum, $19,838.93, to a Minnesota-based public relations firm named Risdall Marketing Group.

The same records shows that MRC has paid $3,393.68 to Sonoma Media Investments, LLC, the parent company of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, along with $855.21 to the Fort Bragg Advocate-News/The Mendocino Beacon — presumably for advertisements that have recently appeared in those publications.

In its public relations campaign, MRC has promoted the new Mendocino County Fire Safety Working Group, established this past spring by the Board of Supervisors, as an alternative to the ballot initiative. “With broad community participation the Working Group can develop real and useful answers to fire safety questions rather than passing new rules, regulations and restrictions,” MRC CEO Bob Mertz wrote in a letter to “Colleagues, Friends and Neighbors in Mendocino County” dated October 8th.

An effort to implant the word “treatment” in the public mind as a substitute for “poison” or “poisoning” has also been a centerpiece of the ad campaign. “In recent months, a public conversation was begun by a group of local residents regarding the practice of treating tan oak in the forest,” Mertz’ letter stated. “The treatment of tan oak occurs throughout Mendocino County to restore the redwood and Douglas fir trees across public and private land. Our company, Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), has been treating tan oak in the forest since we acquired the forestlands in 1998.”



Independent:Dependent Lily Cai Dance Company © 2015 David Jouris : Motion Pictures

Independent/Dependent (Lily Cai Dance Company) copyright 2015 David Jouris/Motion Pictures

Under The Table

“When we become truly ourselves, we just become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent upon everything.” Shunryu Suzuki

As I was sitting by the woodstove last night—this November much colder than last—scribbling away on my latest something, I was struck by how little connection I feel to the books and stories and plays I’ve written over the last forty years, or even to the book I finished writing earlier this year.

How does it happen that something I thought about constantly and worked on for several hours every day for months on end is now but a vague memory? How can something that meant so much to me, mean so little now? Can the creative heart really be so fickle?

Then this morning our neighbor came by with a dozen beautiful blue and brown and white eggs just laid by his prolific chickens, and I thought I’m a hen, and the egg I’m laying right now is the most important egg in the world to me, but a few eggs hence I won’t remember this egg at all.

Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism and Defeating ISIS…


Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, spoke about democratic socialism and how the controversial idea can help Americans in their everyday lives. He referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights,” a program for economic and social justice advanced in 1944 but not yet achieved. Other topics included his ideas for defeating ISIL and whether or not the U.S. should accept refugees following the Paris attacks the previous week.

FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights…




Excerpt from January 11, 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.“Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

GENE LOGSDON: How Can You Keep Them Down In Paree’, After They’ve Seen The Farm?



The Contrary Farmer

​Although the song “How Can You Keep Them Down The Farm, Now That They’ve Seen Paree?” is nearly a hundred years old (1919) and just as stupid then as now, it still lingers around the edges of popular music. The notion was that when American soldiers were shipped to Europe to fight WW 1, the glitter of the big city would sweep the dumb yokels off their feet and they’d never be content to go back to forking manure and providing the food for all those terribly intelligent, educated people for whom actual physical work was beneath their dignity. The song was meant at least partially as humor but like all things humorous, its roots were fed by the rich loam of cultural prejudice. It might not exactly be racism in the biological sense but it is very much so in the division of labor sense. Those who have to do the “niggah work” are just not smart enough for the challenges of intellectual pursuits. I tend to overreact to this bias ever since a cultural historian advised me to stick to writing about corn and leave important decisions about human progress to people better equipped for it, like of course him. He did not even know that I had as much accreditation in human cultural studies as he did. But that is not the point. He was exhibiting what in my opinion is the most destructive kind of cultural bias, as if sitting in an office cubicle all day staring out the window and waiting for your computer to tell you what to do next is a higher calling than the window cleaner who keeps the windows clear enough to see through.

​From the most ancient times, the division of labor has reeked with bias against physical work. Smart people don’t dig ditches even though it takes brains and skill to dig ditches properly. For that reason, farm work has rarely been held in esteem. Farm children used to be told that the only way to success was to flee the farm. Those smart enough to know how wrong that was and stuck with farming are as rich today as any “professional” in town. None of the ones I know even bothered to go to college.

The media and the Paris terror attacks…



Thanks to Jim

Last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris have triggered an international media campaign aimed at inspiring panic and justifying an escalation of the wars in the Middle East and the assault on democratic rights within the US and Europe.

The establishment media accepts uncritically all of the claims of government officials, as well as their cynical statements of sympathy for the victims and their self-serving denunciations of the killers as evil incarnate. It works to use the latest attack to legitimize the wars and repressive measures that produced it and previous terrorist atrocities, while setting the stage for wider wars and outright dictatorship.

The calls for more troops and bombs in Syria and even more pervasive government spying, harsher policies against immigrants and other undemocratic measures have nothing to do with protecting anybody. They are about implementing pre-existing plans to seize the oil resources of the Middle East and clamp down on restive populations within the imperialist countries.

CNN, for example, has been recycling a video clip of Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declaring that she has premonitions of disaster like those she had just before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Washington Post published an editorial Tuesday denouncing President Obama’s policy in Syria as insufficiently aggressive. It called for increasing the deployment of Special Forces troops beyond the level announced by Obama earlier this month, using drone missiles, and setting up so-called “safe zones” as staging grounds for an offensive to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

FAIR: Context-Free Coverage of Terror Helps Perpetuate Its Causes…


From Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

At the time of the attacks in Paris, FAIR’s website led with a piece by Ben Norton (11/13/15) about US reporting on the ISIS bombing in Beirut—noting references to the civilian neighborhood targeted by the bombing as a Hezbollah “stronghold” (MSNBC11/13/15), “bastion” (Reuters11/12/15) or “area” (NPR11/12/15). Given this framing—and the generally limited amount of coverage granted to the Lebanese victims—it’s unsurprising that the Beirut terror failed to provoke the same sorrow, horror and identification among US audiences that the Paris massacres did.

It feels callous to question the allocation of outrage; empathy is in such short supply in this world that one hesitates to question it when it emerges. But as a long-time citizen of New York City, I’m all too aware of the weaponization of grief. The outpouring of no-context, ahistorical sympathy after 9/11 helped pave the way for a violent reaction that killed in Iraq alone roughly 150 times as many people as died in Lower Manhattan  that day—an opportunistic catastrophe that did more to mock than avenge those deaths.

Just as the question of Al-Qaeda’s motives in 2001 provoked more self-congratulation than serious inquiry (Extra! Update10/01), coverage of Paris in 2015 tends to skirt over political realities. Thus the New York Times (11/13/15) could report: “A stunned and confused French capital was again left to wonder: Why us? Once again?” The obvious answer was alluded to obliquely by a soccer stadium spectator: “With all the strikes in Syria, we’re not safe anymore.”

America’s Empire of African Bases…


U.S. military outposts, port facilities, and other areas of access in Africa, 2002-2015 (Nick Turse/TomDispatch, 2015) 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers:  Last week, Nick Turse appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his superb TomDispatch work on Special Operations forces and his new Dispatch book, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in AfricaClick here to check him out at DN! (or here for the online extended interview). Then, if you’d like a personalized, signed copy of his new book, just go to the TD donation page. For $100 — and the knowledge that you’ve helped this website roll into 2016 — it’s yours! Tom]

As I’ve written elsewhere, what Chalmers Johnson called America’s “empire of bases” was “not so much our little secret as a secret we kept even from ourselves” — at least until Johnson broke the silence and his book Blowback became a bestseller in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.  In those years, however, if (like Johnson) you actually wanted to know about the way the U.S. garrisoned the world, you could profitably start simply by reading the Pentagon’s tabulations of its global garrisons, ranging from military bases the size of small American towns to what were then starting to be called “lily pads,” which were small sites in potential global hot spots stocked with pre-positioned materiel and ready for instant occupation.  It was all there on the record for those who cared to know.  Well, perhaps not quite all there, but enough of it certainly to get a sense of what the “American Raj” (as Johnson called it) looked like from Europe to Asia, Latin America to the Persian Gulf.

Sam Harris: Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon…



From Sam Harris (9/10/14)

In his speech responding to the horrific murder of journalist James Foley by a British jihadist, President Obama delivered the following rebuke (using an alternate name for ISIS):

ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt…. we will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. May God bless and keep Jim’s memory. And may God bless the United States of America.

In his subsequent remarks outlining a strategy to defeat ISIS, the President declared:

Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim…. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way…. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

More British Muslims have joined the ranks of ISIS than have volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. In fact, this group has managed to attract thousands of recruits from free societies throughout the world to help build a paradise of repression and sectarian slaughter in Syria and Iraq. This is an astonishing phenomenon, and it reveals some very uncomfortable truths about the failures of multiculturalism, the inherent vulnerability of open societies, and the terrifying power of bad ideas. 

Maajid Nawaz: ‘We Cannot Shoot Our Way Out of This Problem’ of Muslim Extremism…


From Maajid Nawaz

“We cannot shoot our way out of this problem. We are in the midst of a global jihadist insurgency and we have to render the appeal of this Islamist ideology as unattractive as Soviet Communism has now become for young people today.”

Robert Fisk: ‘We remain blindfolded about Isis’ says the man who should know…


From Robert Fisk
Thanks to Todd

With atrocities in Sinai, Beirut and Paris (and let’s keep the order in sequence here, since all those lost innocents, Russian, Lebanese and French, are equal as our brothers and sisters), I was beginning to think that our emotions were becoming as insane as the perpetrators of these crimes. An “act of war”, a response “without mercy” – the French response was straight out of the Isis vocabulary.

So immediately after the Paris massacres, I sought for reason, clarity and wisdom from a man who spent four and a half years in the hands of Muslim kidnappers – 54 months wearing a blindfold, always waiting for death.

Brian Keenan was held by Shia Muslims loyal to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Had he been taken by Isis in Syria or Iraq, we would by now have been able to watch his beheading on video – yet he kept his sanity to write the only literary work to emerge from a Western kidnap victim of Beirut in the 1980s, An Evil Cradling, a book that will live for a hundred years as a monument to humanity amid suffering.

WILLIAM EDELEN: No Violence… No Dualism… No Absolutes…



The Contrary Minister (2002)

When asked “What am I?” I always answer by saying I think of myself as being within the historical stream of Mysticism where there is no violence, no dualism and no absolutes.

No Violence: The vast majority of all the religious violence of the last 2,000 years has come from the “believers” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… the people of the “book,” the bible. Carl Sagan called the burning of the library in Alexandria by Christians in 391 one of the most obscene atrocities in the history of our species, Homo sapiens. Had there been a world view and philosophy of mysticism there would have been no burning of the library, but a celebration of the wealth of knowledge stored there… nor would there have been the Crusades… the Inquisition… the witch slaughtering… nor would there be a Northern Ireland nightmare… nor would there be a West Bank or Gaza strip killing field… Such violence would be unthinkable and obscene to anyone living within the world view of mysticism.

No Dualism: We must rid ourselves of the dualism that infects so much of our orthodox religious views of the earth and the universe. Dualism constantly separates man and woman from the sacred… nature from man… and spirit from matter. Several  years ago the giant Zen Master, D. T. Suzuki, was lecturing at Stanford University. He opened his address by stepping up to the front of the stage, leaning toward the audience, and saying, “Man against God… God against Man… man against nature… nature against man… God against nature… nature against God… a very, very funny religion.”

Pray for us in Paris?



From Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar…


Christian Crock: We Welcome Ben Carson to the Cult of “Before” Stories…




A long time ago, I wrote a post called “A Cult of “Before” Stories” in which I described what it was like as a young Christian to realize that my then-husband had constructed a testimony full of lies–and how I realized that pretty much all of the really dramatic testimonies I heard from other Christians were largely untrue as well. On the heels of realizing that these stories were untrue, I also began to perceive the unbelievably rich rewards Christians get for concocting and sharing these dramatic testimonies. I began to see my tribe as one that was simply obsessed with these “before” stories–thus, my name for the mindset.

That happened back in the late-1980s and early-1990s, but nothing’s changed at all since then. Today we’ll be initiating a new member of the Cult, and talking about what he did to end up in such a venerable group.

Let’s start with a little bit of background about testimonies.

A “testimony” is a Christianese word that describes a Christian’s personal conversion story. It’s a narrative about (1) the Christian’s life pre-conversion, (2) the dramatic event that sparked the conversion, and (3) how happy and fulfilled the Christian is now. These anecdotes are crafted to be persuasive to outsiders and to bolster the faith of those already in the pews, and you can well imagine that the sorts of Christians who get hung up on creating a good testimony tend to get really indignant when someone questions or refuses to believe it. A testimony can be very short to book-length.


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