Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Finger-Wagging from the Faux Left

A long article by one Rebecca Solnit appeared at Common Dreams on Thursday, as well as at Huffington Post, and possibly elsewhere this week: Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to the Dismal Left

Ms Solnit set about scolding, at length - yawn inducing length in fact - anyone whose politics veer towards the left and who is not about to support President Obama in the November election. Other so-called liberals and "celebs" have scolded these individuals, such as myself, in similar fashion. Such sanctimonious scolding is irritating in the extreme. Ms Solnit is entitled to her views on the issues she raises; I and many others who think differently are entitled to ours. It'd have been quite easy to compose a post explaining her viewpoints without descending to insulting her readers.

For example her 2nd para:
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
And later on this gem - dearie me!!!
Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.
I was very happy to see the comment thread beneath Ms Solnit's piece at Common Dreams double and treble in length over a couple of days, filled with views from people such as myself, but far more knowledgeable on US politics and far more eloquent.

"Dismal left" she calls us? In my view it is Ms Solnit's view that is dismal - dismally blinkered.

Tom Carberry's popular comment begins thus:
Ms. Solnit's cliche filled essay complains about the cliche of the lesser of two evils, because she must admit that she has hitched her wagon to Obama's stairway to heaven and declared the slaughter of Muslim children OK because "thousands" of American children will do better under Obamacare. (I can do cliches, too).

Ms. Solnit belongs to the amoral left, that seeks its own benefits, without regard to the costs paid by others. No matter what happens, well off "liberals" like Ms. Solnit will do fine, or at least she believes that.

We have two types of mainstream voters in Amerika -- moralistic conservative voters (such as in they oppose abortion, but don't mind if the child starves or dies without health insurance) and amoral liberal voters, who cannot take a moral stand on any issue, no matter how urgent................I had to read a long way into the article to see what Ms. Solnit deemed important enough to go along with war, torture, and mass murder. Obamacare and the potential promise of Obama maybe (or maybe not) coming out in favor of gay marriage. That seems like a poor bargain.

There are now around 550 comments on Ms Solnit's essay at Common Dreams, the majority of which match my own feelings. Ms Solnit's piece on Huffington Post collected more approval, something to be expected I guess - more readers of HuffPo are of the same ilk as Ms Solnit - Obama Apologists seems to be the label they've acquired.

A few more clips from the hundreds of comments at Common Dreams:

If Obama is truly representing hundreds of millions of people, then maybe that is where you should be trying to scrounge votes for him. He does not represent me. I didn't vote for a war surge, or drone assassinations, or drill baby drill, or trillions in bailouts to Wall St. or putting banksters in charge of the economy, or cutting backroom sweetheart deals with Pharma and insurance giants, or revocation of civil rights, or domestic spying on steroids, or the White House office for wrecking environmental regulations, or the sabotage of international environmental and arms-limitation treaties, or the crackdown on whistleblowers and public demonstration, or the ramped up war on medical marijuana, or putting business lobbyists in charge of food, agriculture and energy policy, or the aggressive pursuit of anti-environmental union-busting job-killing international trade deals. (And do you really think hundreds of millions of people *did* vote for those things?)

by cent erista:
The only thing more to blame than the politicians, are their apologists who refuse to demand more from them. Not only do these hope-fiends enable regressive policies by defending those who enact them, they thwart the efforts of the small minority who rail against them by trying to quell dissent through fear mongering and ridicule. This behavior can become so entrenched and their ego investment in protecting the politician so reactionary, that they actually, involuntarily, begin to become agents in support of things they claim to abhor...

This article condescendingly makes its own argument against itself. So progressives are just supposed to turn a blind eye and shut up about Obama's remote-control slaughter in the Middle East because of some modest health insurance reform? That's just one example. I will never stop speaking out against the military-corporate takeover of Democracy, no matter what political party partakes in it.

To end with a wry ironic smile:

Pollyanna, I'm in complete agreement. I am so sick and tired of people complaining about the holocaust whenever I say Hitler was a snappy dresser. Can't people just stop always accentuating the negative?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Obscenity of Drones

Why is the subject of drone use in countries with whom the USA or UK are not at war not prominent in political discussion? A few blogs and internet news sources have carried good pieces on the topic of drone warfare, but only infrequently. I was heartened to see a video clip from a recent Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC where she asks a variation of that question. She frames it along the lines of "why isn't Mitt Romney bringing up the topic in his campaign speeches?" She admits to seeing the President's stance on the issue as being "hair raising" - which is as close as anyone on MSNBC is likely to get to criticising He Who Must Not be Criticised. That's why I stopped watching MSNBC.

Here's the clip from Rachel Maddow's show. For any passing reader without 7+ minutes to spare, scoot in to around the halfway point, after she stops talking about Paul Ryan.

I've looked around the net to see what others are thinking on this issue, found a Pew Poll SEE HERE which shows that in 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Americans are the clear outliers on this issue – 62% approve of the drone campaign, including most Republicans (74%), independents (60%) and Democrats (58%).

A 62% approval?.... of exercises which result in often killing unarmed civilians and children?.... in countries with which the US or UK are not at war? So....would this 62% be willing to accept reciprocal behaviour from other countries on the US or UK?

Some comments around the net state the view that, in a nutshell, "war is dirty, people will be killed". We are not at war - that is the crux of this issue. If drones had been available during World War II (doodlebugs were their precurser I guess) well then, perhaps the use of drones would have been acceptable as a form of self defence. Had that war been lost, Nazi rule would have spread world wide. War has not been declared.

This from
.....The United States government doesn't acknowledge that civilians have been killed in drone attacks. Making matters worse, aid workers, first responders and even locals tend to wait several hours before going to the scene of a drone strike to help the wounded, for fear of a second strike following.

Clive Stafford Smith, the founder and director of Reprieve, a nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom that sponsored the report, said the academics visited 130 places in Pakistan, talking to survivors, to create their report.
"Drone warfare is traumatizing the entirety of Waziristan," he said. "Of the 800,000 people in Waziristan, the vast majority are not extremists. These folks have these drones flying round and round over their heads, 24 hours a day. And it's causing serious psychological trauma." Among those victims, he said, are children.

Smith said, in addition to witnesses who talk about their trauma there are doctors who are treating people for those sorts of illnesses and an "exponential increase" in the use of psychiatric drugs for treating anxiety and depression.

"We're talking common sense. My mother was in London in 1944 when there were various drones fired overhead at London. She's 85 today and she still remembers very vividly the effect of these things coming down," Smith said. "That's the same thing that's going on in Pakistan today."

Mentioned in that piece was someone who lived through the London blitz. As a young child I lived through the blitz too, not in London but in Hull, an east coast port bombed regularly by the Germans. The experience possibly helps to understand and empathise with the ordinary people of territories being drone-attacked by the US/UK . Though very young at the time of World War II, I retain clear memories and shallow-buried fears. The sound of a siren still makes my blood run cold almost 70 years after. I remember blocks of houses disappearing overnight - their occupants, including some of my little firends, blasted to kingdom come. I remember, after being evacuated to live with grandparents, watching from an upstairs window at night, the far horizon red with the fires in my parent's home city after more bombings. Young as I was, I understood that the morning could bring devastating news.

People who consider current drone use to be just and necessary ought to "walk a while in the shoes" of those civilians who live in fear because of what we in the US and UK are allowing our governments to do in our name.

What about the people actually doing the remote killing?
Drone operators see their intended targets 'wake up in the morning, do their work, go to sleep at night,' explains Dave, another high-tech murderer who killed from an office cockpit at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base and who now trains new recruits to the cyber-killer corps at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base.

When instructed to kill someone he has stalked from the air for a prolonged period:
"I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy. I have a duty, and I execute my duty." When the deed is done, he points out, nobody "in my immediate environment is aware of anything that has occurred."

Another drone operator named Will insists:
"There was a good reason for killing the people that I did, and I go through it in my head over and over and over."

All very heroic, isn't it? (Irony)

I'll summarise in a single sentence.
Use of drones outside of a legitimate war is obscene

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

600-year Arcs - Capitalism, Astronomy/Astrology

In reading a very interesting piece by Morris Berman at Counterpunch:
The Waning of the Modern Ages, I noticed mention of the "arc" of capitalism, a period thought to be around 600 years long: 1500 to 2100.  Whenever I read about "arcs" I think of astrology.....anyway more on that later. A brief clip from the article:

La longue durée —the long run—was an expression made popular by the Annales School of French historians led by Fernand Braudel, who coined the phrase in 1958. The basic argument of this school is that the proper concern of historians should be the analysis of structures that lie at the base of contemporary events. Underneath short-term events such as individual cycles of economic boom and bust, said Braudel, we can discern the persistence of “old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic.” An important derivative of the Annales research is the work of the World Systems Analysis school, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Chase-Dunn, which similarly focuses on long-term structures: capitalism, in particular.

The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.

The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through. One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.

 I couldn't immediately relate a 600 year span to anything in astrology, but a little research soon brought up the following at sacred
An astronomical period of 600 years, spoken of as the "Naros," the Cycle of the Sun, the Luni-Solar period or Sibylline year, consisting of 31 periods of 19 years, and one of 11 years, is often referred to in old works on the Mysteries. It seems to have been known by the Chaldeans and ancient Indians; it is a period of peculiar properties. Cassini, a great astronomer, declares it the most perfect of all astronomic periods.

If on a certain day at noon, a new moon took place at any certain point in the heavens, it would take place again at the expiration of 600 years, at the same place and time, and with the planets all in similar positions. 
Hmmmm - not sure how that relates to any supposed arc of capitalism, but the fact that there is a definable 600-year arc in astronomy/astrology is interesting and food for further thought.  Perhaps that brush-stroke I mentioned in a previous post about the current set of Uranus/Pluto conjunctions is actually a brush-stroke in an oil painting covering a span of 600 years - or la longue durée.

 PS - Both linked articles are worthy of full investigation!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gimme Hope! ~ Forgotten Song Remembered

Music and songs have the almost unworldly power to arouse old memories.  
Sometimes it happens the other way around - the "man bites dog" effect. For some inexplicable reason a memory from the early 1990s surfaced from the depths the other day, and set me on a search for the related song.

We (late partner and I), sometime in the early 1990s, on an annual jaunt to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, were walking along the sea front area one evening on our way somewhere. We spied a colourfully dressed African guy singing and playing guitar in an open-fronted bar. The music was infectious. We sat down, ate, drank and listened for hours. The evening ended with the singer encouraging (actually forcing) us all onto our feet to form a chain and dance around the bar to a song I'd never heard before. That song was the one bugging my memory. I had to be a bit creative on the Google, I couldn't remember any detail, only the feeling, but after many attempts I eventually found the song on YouTube, with lyrics.

Eddy Grant, it turns out, was the composer and original vocalist. He was born 5 March 1948, in Guyana but as a child he emigrated to London, England with his parents. He had hits in the 1980s with I Don't Wanna Dance in the UK, and with Electric Avenue in the UK and USA. Many of his songs were politically slanted, especially against the apartheid regime then existing in South Africa.
The song bugging my memory: Gimme Hope Jo'anna was one of these ("Jo'anna" = Johannesburg, South Africa). It was a song about apartheid, and banned in South Africa. The line: "The Archbishop who's a peaceful man" is a reference to Desmond Tutu, first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town who received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid.

All of that was unknown to me as we danced and enjoyed the infectious rhythm. Why this song should surface from the depths of memory just now I don't know - except that the message, minus names and places, remains relevant:
"Gimme hope!"

More wise words on HOPE:
"HOPE has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. It is not about the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and more potent hope becomes.
Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness, the lies, fraud and coercion employed by the state. Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on all of us. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope's power. Hope demands for others what we demand for ourselves. Hope does not separate us from them. Hope sees in our enemy our own face." ~~~ Chris Hedges.

"Hope is a straw hat hanging beside a window covered with frost."
― Margaret George, "Mary Queen of Scotland & The Isles".

Monday, September 24, 2012

"The Lord's Work"? Hobby Lobby? Really?

During my first couple of years in the USA one of my favourite places to look around, when out shopping, was the Hobby Lobby store in a nearby city. Over recent years I've become disenchanted with the store. Their merchandise has seemed increasingly shoddy, over-priced and less imaginative than it once was - and now almost all of it is made in Chinese sweatshops. We now make a point of looking for alternative outlets when in search of art materials, decor, frames, holiday items etc.

Now I read that Hobby Lobby - (for any passing reader unaware of this company, it's a privately held retail chain of arts and crafts and general decor stores based in Oklahoma City) is bringing a lawsuit against the "contraceptive mandate" i.e. health insurance coverage for employees that covers emergency contraceptives (morning after pill and anything similar). Hobby Lobby has some 13,600 employees in 41 states.

The lawsuit, against U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding The Affordable Care Act, opposes the mandate that a wide range of preventative health-care services, including birth control, be offered to women without out-of-pocket expenses. The suit lists Hobby Lobby, Mardel Inc. and family members of company founder David Green as the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs state that requirements of the Act would violate their religious beliefs. CEO David Green has said "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate. Hobby Lobby has always been a tool of the Lord's work, but now our faith is being challenged by the federal government."

I'll be very interested to discover how this lawsuit is eventually resolved.

My own views, for what they're worth, are that, whether or not one agrees with a law of the land, it remains the law and must be adhered to. Religious proclivities are not involved in the laws of the USA, as I understand it, other than the fact that freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution. Freedom of religion means exactly what it says. CEOs such as Mr Green who profess to being good Christians can lead their lives in whatever way they wish, within the laws of the land. So can everyone else, whether of Christian belief or any other belief, or of no belief at all.

The Affordable Care Act outlined what should be included as part of a health insurance plan. An American for profit company is obligated to follow US law.

Employees of Hobby Lobby, or those employees covered by the company's health insurance scheme - which might well be a small proportion considering the number of part-time employees - take up employment with the company agreeing to the level of pay, which has embedded within it healthcare insurance coverage. That is part of what they are paid in return for their daily work in making profits for the company. The insurance coverage is not something benignly bestowed upon them by their employer - it's part of their wage for the work they do. As such it does not include the right of the employers to make medical-related decisions for their employees.

The employers would not, in any case, be "paying for the morning after pill", the main thorn in Mr. Green's side (or so he proclaims), the insurance company would be paying for it. The employer pays, as part of the full-time employees' recompense for the work they do, to have their medical needs covered; involvement in employees' healthcare stops right there - any further meddling could be seen as discrimination.

As a side issue: why, if Mr Green and his family are against supporting anything related, however vaguely, to abortion, and are intent in "doing the Lord's work" does their company sell so much merchandise made in China? Over 13 million abortions a year are carried out in China, including both forced and elective operations. Of course to take that into account would mean a hefty drop in profits for Hobby Lobby - wouldn't it? In China and other third-world countries from which his company's merchandise comes, people have little resembling human rights. Merchandise sold by Hobby Lobby stores is manufactured in "sweat shop" conditions. The company makes vast profit from the work of those paid a pittance and working in terrible conditions. Which Christian priciple is Mr Green and Co. following when deciding the source of their merchandise?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Miss Lindeman's Class of '47 & New Blogger GUI

On Thursday Blogger forced its entire blogging community onto their new, supposedly improved, interface. For the past few months we've had the option of retaining the original interface, which, by the way, many have found to be vastly superior to the new version. Anyway - an apology in advance for any ragged looking posts with spaces in the wrong places and images askew which might ensue as I try to wrangle the new clunky slow-slow-slow, it hangs, it hangs, it freezes Blogger GUI (graphical user interface).
As an initial experiment and trial exercise I've copied an old journal post of my husband's (with his permission), so that I can "mess around" with the new layout etc. without having to curse and compose something sensible at the same time.

So: GUEST POST by "anyjazz", aka my husband~~~

Miss Lindeman's 4th Grade Class, 1947
“What kind of music do you like?”
“Do you play an instrument?”
“When do you find time to play all your records?”
“What started your interest in music?”

It’s a long story.

In fourth grade Miss Lindeman told the class, “Listen and see if you can hear the horses. Listen to this and imagine a gypsy dancing. Listen for the raindrops and the storm starting.” And we did.

It probably falls back to the trite old adage: “One must listen, not just hear.” Or something like that.

Lots of people hear music without really listening for the raindrops and the call to arms. Miss Lindeman told us to listen. She taught us that there was something in addition to the melody or the words. Treasures were hidden in those sounds.

So for those of us who really listen, we hear a painting, colors and feelings. The composer gathers his thoughts or the musician speaks to us. We experience layers and textures, emotions and ideas.

Most enjoy hearing music. Some only enjoy certain areas, country, jazz, classical. The Listener likes anything musical. Anything Musical.

Many people enjoy hearing songs with words so they can identify with the singer or the story being told. But for the Listener, it is a deeper experience. A Listener hears the music and sometimes knows the brand of the guitar playing, or when a breath was taken in a solo phrase. We know how hard a clarinet is to play. We know when a jazz artist has borrowed a bit of a solo from an old scratchy record. We hear the emotion coming from a breathy saxophone solo or thrill at the coda in a violin concerto.

Some hear a classical opus and find it quite satisfying. A Listener knows when a favorite classical overture is being played by a different orchestra or maybe led by a different conductor: a note held longer here, a cymbal a bit louder there.

Miss Lindeman taught us how to listen. Thanks, Miss Lindeman.

Dad had an old 78RPM record changer perched atop the refrigerator. It couldn’t be reached by six year old hands. He played a Benny Goodman record, “Sometimes I’m Happy” and said, “Listen to the sax section.” And a six year old listened not knowing what a “sax” was, let alone the mysterious “section.”
Listening began.
Thanks, Dad.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Arty Farty Friday ~ Learning Curve Continues : Frederick G. Cooper

In a ring-binder in one of the antique stores we visited during our recent trip, among items stored in plastic sleeves, I found that shown below, mounted on a page numbered 185, "America's Tribute to Britain" F.G. Cooper (1921).

It had obviously been the result of canibalising some old volume of illustrations or poster-related items. The subject matter appealed to me, so as the price was meagre I bought it, thinking to put it in a small frame by my desk. I haven't framed it yet, but have done some research on the artist, Frederick G. Cooper....and learned something new along the way. 

Extracts from a brief bio from Comic Art Fans website:
Fred G. Cooper (1883-1962) is one of the best cartoonists/illustrators you've never heard of. Born in Oregon and educated at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco, Cooper moved to New York City in 1904 to find work as a freelance artist. He created designs for New York Edison (or ConEd), Westinghouse, and the U.S. War Department, among many others. Cooper began an association with Life magazine in 1904, which lasted until the early 1930s.... drew small spot cartoons-"cartoonettes" which were often little graphic masterpieces. He also contributed covers and full page interior cartoons and illustrations.......not just an illustrator, but a fantastic graphic designer. He designed alphabets (though not Cooper Black), was one of the founding members of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
There's more detail and further illustrations of Cooper art in Parts I and II posts at a blog called Filboid Studge

What I found is an illustration of a mini-poster, bigger than illustrated but not standard poster-size, designed for publication just after the end of World War I. Original or facsimile versions of the poster are available from various sources online.

Other examples of his work:

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Randy Newman's I'm Dreaming: I think he is, indeed, dreaming....

Randy Newman's new song, I'm Dreaming features the line: "I'm dreaming of a white president", is full of satirical, sarcastic anecdotes about someone who votes for a president because he is white. The song features lyrics like: "He won't be the brightest, perhaps, but he'll be the whitest, and I'll vote for that."

Newman said as he wrote the song the lyrics "didn't come that easy.....It's delicate enough that I'm not going to offend people every which way, but I wanted to get it right as best I could." He is supporting President Barack Obama in November's election. He says he wants the public to find comedic relief in the song, but to also know he's serious about his thoughts that racism is well and alive in the world and in the current presidential race. He called racism "the great issue of this country.......I don't know how many people you can get to admit it. I think maybe zero."(See article and video at Slate, 18 September 2012.)

Sorry, Mr Newman, but I see the song itself as racist, serving only to further inflame remaining divisions in this country, akin to picking at a sore place.

Randy Newman may be a brilliant musician and songwriter but he's being disingenuous if he believes that anyone who isn't supporting President Obama's re-election is doing so because the President's skin isn't white. How about Mr. Newman writing a song about Prez Obama's policies - about how they differ wildly from his campaign promises? How about writing a song about the corrupt political system in this country? How about a song about this......(The remark featured on the board was one of the late, great George Carlin's). Perhaps Mr. Newman is in The Club, or at least on its periphery as an honorary member - and is no longer able to clearly see outward.

There may well be pockets of racism still existing in the United States - it'd be surprising if all evidence of that cruel and disgusting era which preceded the late 1960s were completely gone.

That's another matter. The matter of a president's record is what's important here, and what directs me not to support his re-election:
President Obama surrounded himself with conservative advisors and key figures - many from previous administrations, and an unprecedented number from the Trilateral Commission. He also appointed a former Monsanto executive as Senior Advisor to the FDA. He has extended Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, presided over a spiralling rich-poor gap and sacrificed further American jobs with recent free trade deals.Trade union rights have also eroded under his watch. He has expanded Bush defence spending, drone-killed civilians and children, failed to close Guantanamo, supported the NDAA which effectively legalises martial law, allowed drilling and adopted a soft-touch position towards the banks that is to the right of European Conservative leaders. Taking office during the financial meltdown, Obama appointed its principle architects to top economic positions. Obama's detractors absurdly portray him as either a radical liberal or a socialist, while his apologists, equally absurdly, continue to view him as a well-intentioned progressive, tragically thwarted by overwhelming pressures.(Hat-tip to a past political commenter, joe kiggy for the detail)

NOTE: More on Randy Newman, and his natal chart, from my archives HERE and HERE.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Uranus Square Pluto - Brush Stroke in a Vast Oil Painting

Our internet connection went south for a while earlier, it led to my delving into a couple of astrology books to see what the authors had to say about a matter currently claiming astrologers' attention: the square aspect (90 degree angle) now being formed between Uranus, planet of revolution & change, and Pluto planet of transformation following some kind of "clearing away". Square aspects in astrology, by the way, denote conflict and challenge.

On first thought it would seem that these two outer planets, with somewhat scary reputations, might indicate events more troublesome when in harmonious aspect, working together via - a trine (120 degrees), for instance. Could the challenge of a square lessen the likelihood of a turmoil-laden scenario the two slow-moving planets might be seen to reflect when working in tandem?

Astrologers look to history and consider what has happened in previous planetary cycles when similar aspects occurred. Using historical reference as yardstick isn't particularly reassuring though.

From Planets in Aspect by Robert Pelletier (1974)
Uranus and Pluto were in this relation from 1931 to 1934, when dramatic events stirred the world. While people were deeply preoccupied with the Depression, trying to find work and food, Hitler made his move. He effectively restored order amid the chaos in his own country and stabilized its economy, but the price paid by the people was extremely high. He enslaved them and gained domination over those willing to serve his madness.

You must be constantly alert to pay the price you will pay if you fail to respond to the danger signals of any popular movement or political development. there will always be individuals who will try to rise to power when the public is apathetic.
That's something to keep in mind - whilst also remembering that the rest of the planets are in very different positions now, in 2012, from the way they were during any previous Uranus/Pluto squares. The world has changed some too - though not nearly as much as one might wish!

The result of current astrological indicators won't be properly clear for at least a couple of decades. It's as if now we're looking, with a magnifiying glass, at a single brush-stroke in a vast oil painting. There is no way of knowing what the complete painting is all about.

Another of my books, E. Alan Meece's Horoscope for the New Millennium tells how current astro positions might play out in humans born at this time:
"Lonely rebels" 2011-2018 (Generation Z-b) (Uranus in Aries square Pluto in Capricorn; Neptune in Pisces).
This group will be similar to those born in the early 1930s. Like them, they will be confused rebels or lonely seekers in their youth. Growing up in times of crisis, they will insist on breaking free from authorities and blazing their own path, however unsure of where it might lead them. Highly visionary, in later years some of them will be able to adapt and find a powerful leadership position within society

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good News & Bad News from The Sooner State


Oklahoma will be the only state of the 50 United States of America where just two names will appear on the ballot in the presidential election 2012: Barack Obama (incumbent president)- Democrat; and Gov. Mitt Romney (Republican). According to local sources this will be the 3rd consecutive presidential election in which Oklahoma voters will be artificially limited to two choices for President. Oklahoma legislature has denied and blocked all efforts to reform the state's ballot access laws since 1999.

I do not understand how, when a country's citizens have the right to elect a president of the entire nation, all citizens of all 50 states are not entitled to have the same list of candidates from which to make their choice. It makes no sense ! The people of Colorado, for instance have multiple choices (10 or more), while Okies are left with a choice between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. Why? Where is the logic, and more importantly where is the justice? I'm beginning to regret having wrangled my way through the tangled (and expensive) route to citizenship so's I'd be able to vote - only to find....what? My choices are unfairly restricted by what smacks of a distinctly fascist-flavoured legislature, intent in keeping a two-headed political monster, whose heads serve the same masters, as the only choice for voters of this state.

Please....anyone....can you explain the reasoning behind this iniquitous electoral system to me ?

Link to a chart showing how various other party representatives have ballot access in the other 49 states. Minor amendments to the details might be needed eventually, as noted HERE.


$3.5 Billion Wind Power Line Approved for Oklahoma -by Jake Richards, September 14, 2012.
The Plains and Eastern Clean Line wind power transmission line in Oklahoma was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Wednesday to start acquiring customers for its potential 7,000 MW of clean energy.
This line will be approximately 800 miles in length and is a high-voltage direct current transmission project. The new line is being developed in order to send clean energy generated by wind farms in western Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle to customers in the Mid-South and Southeast.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trip to The Bridges of Madison County, Iowa.

Got back from our trip on Thursday evening, feeling somewhat "knackered" as they say in Yorkshire. A few nights in an assortment of strange beds can do that to a body - but we don't mind, our trip made a little fatigue worthwhile.

This trip was part planned part left to chance. Eventual destination would be, we hoped, Madison County, Iowa, to see those covered bridges made famous by Robert J. Waller's novel and the subsequent movie based on it. I've been itching to see the bridges for years. I, along with many people, found the film and the novel emotionally moving.

Each time we began planning a trip to Madison County in the past, something got in the way. This time we made it! Good thing we didn't plan too rigidly because I'd overlooked the matter of late summer State Fairs and suchlike. For instance, the unexpected Husker Harvest Days festival in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, Kansas had motels filled to overflowing putting some receptionists in a spin. The motels and hotels were charging well-hiked rates for remaining vacant rooms. We had to bite the bullet and pay up the outlandish rate. However, we did give the the heaving Fairs themselves a wide berth. I enjoy local colour but not en masse!

Our route: northern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, eastern Nebraska and western Iowa.....then back along a reversed and slightly different trail. We set off in hot hot temperatures, high 90s until we reached Nebraska, and eventually Iowa when we enjoyed a couple of delightfully cool but sunny days, just right for exploring the bridges. Rain and a cold front followed us home.

Some photographs from both my camera and the husband's, and a few notes:

By the time we reached Auburn, Nebraska around noon, Friday 7 September the temperature had cooled from high 90s in Kansas to just 65 degrees! Wonderful! We crossed the wide Missouri River. There are museums and memorial sculptures to Lewis & Clark , scattered around here. Their famous expedition took the pair through this area.

On into Iowa and a teeny tiny town, Walnut, known as "Iowa's Antique City" due to it's single street comprising of a dozen or so antique stores. We were not unduly impressed by the stores there - when several dealers gather together like this prices tend to rise to ridiculous levels. Husband's search for vintage photographs turned up few worthy of collection, prices way above those we see frequently elsewhere.

The name of Walnut's local newspaper (possibly now defunct)tickled me more than anything else in the town.

Scant choice of eating places in Walnut didn't appeal one little bit, then Husband discovered he'd somehow lost the cellphone (a Tracfone with a ton of unused units on it!) He'd either left it at our last stop in Emporia, Kansas, or it had dropped from his shirt pocket somewhere along the way. Our phone remains lost. We moved on from Walnut after one night's stay.

Rather than going on to West Des Moines as originally intended, we decided to drop anchor in a smallish town, Stuart, for a couple of nights. It appeared to be a handy base from which to explore The Bridges, avoiding the bustle of a big city. Iowa, outside of its few urban areas, is a very "farmy" state, even more so than Oklahoma -and that's hard to do!

First thing we saw in Stuart:

Then... (in case not readable "Site of Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow Bank Robbery April 16 1934")

Saturday evening in Stuart. We intended to take in a movie at the town's tiny cinema, but on the way there realised something was afoot. A Classic Car rally was in session. Beautifully restored American classics some parked, some cruising a circular route around town. We forgot the movie and concentrated on the cars. Locals were out enjoying the evening, children catered for with 1960s music, hula-hoop competitions and popcorn etc. A really nice atmosphere and small-town scenario unfolded. Husband commented that it does one a power of good to see that such pleasantly old-style atmospheres can still remain within these pockets of peaceful existence.

Below is what's probably the grand-daddy of our own Chevy Monte Carlo

On Sunday we "did" 4 of the 6 bridges. First visit was to Roseman Bridge (the famous one featured in Bridges of Madison County). The bridges are mostly found via unmade dusty roads. Clouds of white dust follow vistors' cars which, seen from a distance look like earth-bound comets with tails.

(Taken from an information plaque):
Roseman Bridge was completed in 1883 and was built by a local bridge builder, Benton Jones. Although only 6 covered bridges remain, there were many covered bridges once dotting Madison County in the early 19th century, all built by local craftsmen, with each bridge builder utilizing his own engineering design that uniquely separated the various construction styles.

Why did they cover the bridges? They were covered to protect them from the weather and extend their longevity. In 1870 a Board of Surveyors stated that "the expense of the roof is more than made up by the permanency of the bridge". The bridges ranged in cost from $900 to $1900. One historian quipped, "Bridges were covered for the same reasons women wore hoop skirts and crinolines, to protect the beauty seldom seen, but nonetheless appreciated."

The remaining bridges paint a story of pioneer people who took what they had and did the most with it. The structures which are attactive, durable and useful are a trubute to a generation of pioneers who left a land better than they found it and leaves us a link with a romantic past.

We also visited Holliwell Bridge (the longest), Cutler-Donohoe Bridge, and Hogsback Bridge. We gave Cedar Bridge a miss as it's not the original - a restoration after arsonists burned the old bridge in 2002 (how could they??) We didn't make the trek to Imes Bridge, 15 miles away. To be honest, all the bridges look much the same, apart from slight variation in size, inner construction style and the immediate surrounding areas.

As fascinating as the bridges themselves were, the many inscriptions on their inner walls intrigued me almost as much. Local authorities paint an area in the bridges' entrance-ways white, especially for visitors to inscribe messages. The white paint is obviously renewed every few years; older messages sprawl well beyond painted areas though. Some inscriptions are very, very touching: some to loved ones who've passed on, some to lovers wronged and regretted, or many just simple loving messages. There are, of course, many of the "so-and-so loves so-and-so", or "Kilroy Was Here" variety, but all in all these sites could be said to house Bridges of Love. Being a bit of a romantic myself, I choked up more than once while reading inscriptions.

Robert Kincaid in The Bridges of Madison County: "This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime". A quote remembered by one inscriber:

We looked around Winterset, small town featured in The Bridges of Madison County book and film, saw a few locations mentioned in the novel. I tried to decide which traffic lights were the ones where Robert Kincaid's truck stopped in front of Francesca, sitting in her husband's truck, in one of the most heart-rending scenes of the movie.

Also in Winterset is a house, birthplace and young childhood home of John Wayne whose family (and he) moved to California when he was 4 years old.

A couple more curiosities, this also in Winterset:

Clark's Tower, accessed via a long winding unmade tree-lined roadway up a steep hillside. Built in memory of Madison County's first pioneers, Caleb and Ruth Clark.

And.... one of those weird all-American "Roadside Attractions" in tiny Cawker City, Kansas:

An old 2-room jail in another tiny town, Buhler, Kansas, not far from Hutchinson, next to site of the old court-house now long gone, and the Town Hall now an antique store.

Hutchinson, Kansas where we stayed for two nights is a biggish city, but manages to retain its friendly atmosphere. Parts of the 1955 film Picnic were filmed there - among the city's humungous grain elevators (scene from movie below).

It was too awkward to get a photograph, so here's an old postcard of one of 'em

This post is already longer than intended, so just as postscript: we noted novelist Willa Cather's birthplace and a tribute museum in Red Cloud - last town in Nebraska before the Kansas border. We passed through centre point of the 48 contiguous United States in Lebanon, Kansas; and drove through Kingfisher Oklahoma, birthplace of Walmart's Sam Walton.

An excellent trip!