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Look into my eyes…you are getting sleepy…

May 24, 2018

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-most-underreported-stories-of-2017/

So, over the past couple of weeks I have heard repeated claims by members of the media elite about how they would love to be covering other important stories in the world, but Donald Trump is just too important not to be getting virtually 95% of all media’s attention.

As the head of the NYT’s recently said “I wish it could be otherwise, but it can’t.”

Yet, these very same people know that Donald Trump is 1) a pathological narcissist; and 2) a pathological liar.

Yet they continue to give him 95% of the news space.

Why?

Two reasons come immediately to mind. The first, Donald Trump has been spectacularly good for corporate news ratings and newspaper profits.

The masses, having no where else to turn to understand what is happening in American politics, turns to the media. Corporate media gives the masses what they want. A daily dose of Trump nonsense.

This is a fairly straight forward reciprocal for-profit trade-off. Corporate media – which controls about 85% of American media outlets – is a for-profit operation, and when ratings and sales go up, profits go up.

The Washington Post and New York Times have both seen sales explode since Trump took office.

The second, shadier reason that Trump is good for corporate media is that by focusing on Trump, corporate media can conveniently ignore the multitude of  neo-liberal economic decisions (in which they have a very vested interest – as media outlets are simply small widgets within much larger corporations – ie. the Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon) that are being made which are further eroding our economic opportunities, our freedoms, our environment, and our very sense of a democratic society.

For example: High schools across the land are quietly installing facial recognition programs, allowing the FBI to amass the pictures of every young person in America. All for our own safety, of course! To better forestall future school shootings they say. Which, when you consider that 98% of school shootings are done by a current student of the school, is sheer nonsense. This is metadata collection, pure and simple. Who is at the forefront of this facial recognition technology? Why Amazon – owner of the Washington Post – of course. (See also: Google)

Or, the recent decisions to ban collective bargaining, to outlaw unions, the governments’ unwillingness to deal with widespread lead poisoning in America, that 75% of the American groundwater is now contaminated from industrial agricultural practices, the militarization of law enforcement, how the Democratic Party is actively trying to prevent progressive Democrats from getting nominated for the mid-terms…the list of what the media is not covering is staggering.

One only needs to have an active newsfeed Facebook account to see what matters to the people, and what is not discussed in the media. I see news stories on FB weeks and months before I see any mention of them (if they get mentioned at all) in the mainstream media. (How much have you seen on the massive famine happening in Yemen right now – triggered by US and Saudi military attacks that have destroyed the country’s already meager infrastructure.)

From those non-profits that monitor the media, here is a quick list of stories they deem critical, for which the mainstream media has basically ignored over the past year:

  1. how the fossil fuel industry has taken over funding climate change research done at most universities in America;
  2. in a related story: Shell Oil knew about climate change as early as 1991, but like the tobacco companies, they buried that information;
  3. transgendered people are the #1 risk group for being murdered in America;
  4. judges are using racially-biased courtroom algorithms to access risk behavior in handing out sentences;
  5. the National Defense Authorization Act (first introduced under Obama) gives the government massive surveillance authority to monitor anyone on American soil;
  6. under a program called Hemisphere, the government has been secretly collecting the phone records of all calls made in, or to America, since 1987.
  7. Bernie Sanders has sued the Democratic Party (DNC) – who traditionally were expected to remain “neutral” in the election of the national Democratic leader – but who actively fought Sanders nomination process. In a related story: the DNC (and Hilary Clinton) are actively fighting against real progressives from winning district nominations for the 2018 November mid-terms which is creating a deep fracture within the Democratic Party.
  8. the Pentagon cannot account for $21 trillion in “lost” money – also the Pentagon paid $660 million to a UK firm to create fake Al-Qaeda videos then used to support the war in Iraq.

I could go on but you get the point.

Around-the-clock coverage of Donald Trump is a convenience and a ruse.

While everyone stares into the bright lights, big business and the military are fundamentally undermining democracy in a way not seen since before the First World War.

Our ignorance will be our undoing.

http://projectcensored.org/category/the-top-25-censored-stories-of-2016-2017/

 

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Walking backwards into the future…

May 20, 2018

Truth is one; the sages call it by many names.

 Hindu Scripture

The ancient Greeks believed that you could only find Truth by walking backwards, into the future. Which, when you think of it, isn’t too far off, as far as metaphors go. The whole idea of walking backwards into the future is made even groovier by the fact that the Greeks had figured this out 3,000 years ago. You’d never know it though, as most of us today continue to flounder and flop about like we have no goddamned idea what the truth is, or where the hell to find it. 3000 years! What have we being doing with our time?

Me not being Greek, and living in these forward-thinking fact-based times, I read in a dictionary three very modern definitions for the word truth:

1) The real state of things;

2) A body of real events or facts;

and,

3) An accepted agreement with fact or reality.

          On the surface of it I have no real problem with the first two definitions. Sure, they leave themselves open to endless metaphysical wine-anchored café debates (i.e. What is real? What is fact?), but in the day-to-day, get-things-done, I’ll-have-my-report-in-by-Friday, we’re-going-to-the-lake-for-the-weekend sense, I can live with them. 

        But I especially admire this third definition for this most essential of ideas: it reveals the fundamental construction underpinning what truth ultimately is. Life is all just words, agreed upon.

 

Scientists believe that they understand the world through established facts. Mathematicians see numbers. Astronomers look to the stars. Some of my friends look to distant planetary alignments and Third Eye Shaman Wisdom.

For the rest of us, we see our place through our everyday lived stories. Through words. Metaphors. Similes. Aphorisms. Anecdotes.

“Can you believe it? Wait ‘till I tell you what happened! I’m telling you, you won’t believe it!”

Global warming is a concept that scientists understand. They are accumulating the hard data – this year hotter than last year, which was hotter than the year before that, which was hotter than the year before that, and so on and so forth back over the last 200 years. For the rest of us global warming is still mostly an abstraction – like an old-growth forest we have never seen. Like the flocks of North American Carrier Pigeons which were so large 16th century English explorers reported that it would take a flock twenty minutes to pass any particular point. They said the birds could block out the sun. Abstraction. And what’s the big deal anyway if I get another two weeks of warmth a year? I should be so lucky living in Canada.

Image result for official name of an american robin birdI discovered a few years back that in the spring the North American robin (Turdus migratorius, of the Thrush genus, and second most populous bird in North America) now flies as far north as Nunavut, and the Inuit who have lived up there for tens of millennia have never before seen a robin, and therefore had no name for it. The Inuit – the messengers and story-walkers who live and breathe in deep time – who speak a language older than Christ, older than Moses, older than the ancient Chinese sages – they have no name for this strange red-breasted bird that now comes to visit them in the summer! They had to look it up on the Internet.

That is how I understand global warming.

Truth – this most honoured and essential ideal, this fantastical notion that we set out to teach our children, this Manhattan bridge between Good, and, Evil, this ideal that underpins our most fundamental myths and fairy tales – of why we always kiss the sleeping princess – is, absolutely, ultimately, whatever we agree it to be.

            Anything is either true,

            Or not true,

            Or both true and not true,

            Or neither true nor not true.

            This is the Lord Buddha’s teaching.

And what then of memory? Quantum physicists know that the mere observation of reality changes that reality in small subtle ways. If the observer, simply by observing, alters the experiment, how do I then understand memory – how do I understand truth?

Am I a Prophet? Or a Magician?

Every time I think about this – every time I think about the idea that “the truth” is often little more than the white rabbits we chase down the rabbit hole – that we are no more than little Alices in Wonderland; that we are nothing more than the philosopher Martin Buber’s babies, grasping at air with empty outstretched hands, walking backwards into the future – my head explodes!

If truth is whatever we agree it to be, then, it is only in the repetition of clichés where we can find any solid footing…for clichés are truth writ large, they exist out of time, outside of History.

As Albert Camus once noted, the only thing that counts is truth. And truth is anything that continues.

Clichés are eternal. Everything else are just ghosts, whispering into a mirror.

…Absence makes the heart grow fonder…actions speak louder than words…all’s well that ends well…back to the drawing board…bang your head against a brick wall…beggars can’t be choosers…better safe than sorry…caught with one’s trousers down…circumstances beyond our control…chickens have come home to roost…death by a thousand cuts…don’t count your chickens before they hatch…dressed to kill…early bird catches the worm…easier said than done…every cloud has a silver lining…famous last words…fate worse than death…figment of one’s imagination…gather ye rosebuds while ye may…glutton for punishment…greatest thing since sliced bread…half a loaf is better than none…heads will roll…hit the nail on the head…if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…in the cold light of day…it’s a dog eat dog world…jump on the bandwagon…just for the record…just what the doctor ordered…keep a stiff upper lip…kill two birds with one stone…know which side one’s bread is buttered…land of milk and honey…let’s get down to brass tacks…they lived happily ever after…make a mountain out of a molehill…make an offer I cannot refuse…mark my words…necessity is the mother of invention…nice work if you can get it…no skin off my nose…off the beaten track…old enough to know better…once in a blue moon…paint the town red…pay your money and take your chances…pull out all the stops…quality time…quid pro quo…quiet as a church mouse…race against time...read my lips…ride off into the sunset…salt of the earth…see how the land lies…share and share alike…take the bull by the horns…that’s for me to know and for you to find out…that’s the way the cookie crumbles…under the weather…unkindest cut of all…up the creek without a paddle…vanish into thin air…variety is the spice of life…vicious circles…wait on hand and foot…what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…what’s your poison?…X marks the spot…you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…you are only young once…

 

 

 

Poetry in motion…

May 19, 2018

On this remote and classic lake

only the lapsing of the water can I hear img_6586

and the cold wind through the sumac.

The moneyed and their sunburnt children

swarm other shores. Here is ecstasy.

The sun’s outline made livid

by each lacustral cloud

and man naked with mystery.

They dance best who dance with desire,

who lifting feet of fire form fire

weave before they lie down

a red carpet for the sun.

(Irving Leyton)

_DSC5328

shy wildflower found

peeking out from winter’s bed

serendipity

seeing you after so long,

a brief collision of joy.

(Vickie Goodfellow Duke)

_dsc7910

Moonlight through high branches.

All poets say there is more to it,

than moonlight through high branches.

But me, what do I know about moonlight?

Sometimes I’m under those branches, calling a lost cat,

or, in the house across the road, scribbling.

The moon shines, that’s moonlight for you.

And my neighbor is out in his car again, gunning the motor.

(Eirin Moure)

_DSC3734

When I said ‘tree’

my skin grew rough as bark.

I almost remember how all the leaves

rushed shouting shimmering,

out of my veins.

Even now

I can almost remember

how many hands I had

hooked in the sky.

(seen on the Toronto subway)

 

Coming to terms with the Apartheid apparatus…9 months in Amerika…

May 17, 2018

Related imageChicago!

What a beautiful fantastic city! Music, art, culture, incredible architecture, some of the best pizza in America, the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks, a fantastic place for craft beer and locally made world-class liquors, a lakeside bike lane that runs from top to bottom, parks, parks, and more parks! What’s not to like?

Image result for photos of chicago architectureAnd it is a great town – if you are white.

But if you are Brown, or Black – and if you are not wealthy enough to live in some middle class neighborhood (that will let you live there) – than forget it.

Chicago may as well be on the 156 bus route to hell.

For more than a century the city has relegated the Black community to the south and south-west district of the city. Neighborhoods you will never see in any of the tourist brochures.

Neighborhoods that are now some of the most impoverished and dangerous in America. Army and Navy medics are now trained in the emergency wards of southside hospitals – so they will be better prepared for combat situations.

The city actually once drew a red line on a city map past where no Blacks would be allowed to live – what was once called “redlining” – Chicago is now considered one of the most segregated cities in America.

It is virtually an apartheid city.

It’s almost impossible, as an outsider, to understand how deep racism plays a role in this city – in this America.

Almost every major social ill America currently deals with has its roots in racism.

Slavery, gun laws, immigration, housing, health care, infrastructure, public education – it’s all currently a mess – and if you dig deep enough into the reasons for this mess, you come to one conclusion: the top 20% of white people don’t want to pay their share in order to allow the “colored people” to rise above their miserable existence.

I have, in previous blogs, explored some the racist realities of living in Chicago. The City has cut the street lights in districts of the south; water costs more in the south; electricity costs more in the south end; south-enders pay a disproportionate amount of property taxes in order that the rich can pay less; Blacks are carded; their neighborhoods heavily policed; the city has a long-term plan to try and get Blacks to emigrate to other cities (400,000 have left Chicago in the past 10 years).

And these are just the stories we have discovered since we moved here and have read in the Chicago Tribune newspaper. It’s not like any of this is a secret.

And everyone goes about their business as if it is nothing at all. There is no outrage, no scandal, no political promises to do anything about it.

Imperial America was created through the genocide of the Aboriginal peoples. It was built on the back of slaves. It increasingly exists as a two-state – have, and have-not – society. And now it has an openly racist neo-Nazi supporting President.

God bless Amerika!

Spandexed America…

May 12, 2018

Image result for men in cycle shorts

Adapted from a failed magazine query:

“I still remember, back in the early ‘70’s, how my parents howled with delight the first time they saw a man jogging in a pair of “what the hell are those?”

Spandex came on the American market in 1962, but this was our first time seeing a man running in a pair of Spandex shorts. Everyone, at the time, seemed to be in agreement that the tight fitting noodle-revealing Spandex showed a ridiculous lack of dignity and self-respect.

Jump ahead forty years and I watch as a flock of middle-aged men swagger into my café on a Saturday morning wearing cycling shoes and clacking like ducks. Everyone turns to look at the men covered in Spandex cycling gear, showing the world everything the world does not want to see in out-of-shape middle-aged men. Spring…cycling, and the return of the Gearheads!

My fifteen-year-old daughter looks up from the book she is reading. She says she wants to hurl.

Image result for spandex jeansDo you know that 80% of all clothing sold in America last year contained Spandex. Jeans are now mostly made of spandex.

Spandex sales have grown nearly 600% over the past 25 years and is predicted to be an $8 billion industry by 2020. Du Pont patented Spandex (then known as Lycra) in 1962, and it remains one of chemical giant’s most financially lucrative products.

In 1989, four Argentinean men stole the blueprints for processing Lycra and demanded a $10 million ransom for their return. Swiss police arrested the men in Geneva.

Spandex is a cultural virus. It’s everywhere.

What will cultural historians and anthropologists say, two hundred years from now, about Spandex, and how it has become ubiquitous in our early 21st century society?

What does it say about us that we like to be tightly wrapped?

Spandex sales took off at the same time as Bill Clinton was getting blow jobs in the Oval Office.

Image result for spandex cosplayObesity, sexual repression, fitness obsession, cosplay, fear, comfort – because of its stretchiness and malleability, spandex suits all lifestyles; the material has become more common than the blue jean. As common as cell phones.

Is it a coincidence that Spandex sales have exploded as we increasingly feel we are living in a world out of control?

The Empire is in free-fall and everyone is wrapping themselves in Spandex.

 

 

Lost cafe notes…

May 9, 2018

…random doodles from last year, when we ran a small-town cafe…(before we moved to Chicago)…

Saturday night jams…

She doesn’t know it yet, but one day when she is alone – in the big city, perhaps after a breakup, or a bad day at work, she is going to weep for this night when she was seventeen.

For that moment when she could just sit and text with her friends while her father jammed in the other room with some of the best old-time musicians in town. The smell of coffee and bourbon. Cigarette smoke wafts in from outside.

Acoustic magicians following the old lady singing the blues, crying over that old house in New Orleans – because she’d been there, and has lived to tell a cautionary tale.

She goes outside with the old lady who wants to have a smoke. “If you knew what I know sweetie, you’d smoke too!” The old lady laughs gruffly through 40 years of nicotine, with mirth and sweet nostalgia, all the while, she looks at the river with those laughing eyes, admiring its  swollen spring presence.

~~~~~

At seventeen, I realize that she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about these postmodern revivalist musicians, trying to go back to the old school. I survey them fro behind the bar. Survivors of divorce, bi-polar meltdowns, mid-life crisis; growing impotent under the fat shade of a hairy, half-moon eclipses.

But for these five minutes, on a Saturday night, they are lost in the music – early Miles Davis drifts into the opening riff of Hotel California which melts into Louisiana Blues and attempts at zydeco. Everyone smiling and hooting and stomping their feet.

~~~~~

I watch them as they drive through our long-weekend town, the long line of shining cars backed up all the way to the Catholic Church on the other side of town. Inching forward, stopping, then moving as a group when the light turns green. Then stopping again, creeping forward, impatient to gain every inch of pavement.

Colonial settlers from the city, up for the Civic Holiday, going to “cottage country”. Who we are, what we do here is immaterial. There is a cottage on a lake somewhere that they have dreamed about all week while they drudged through there commute from home and back, home and back, home and back – this town means nothing to them. At the moment it is a bottleneck in the way of getting to the cottage.

Settlers pretending to be pioneers, woodsmen, explorers, with their electric lawnmowers and solar powered chain saws, with their Home Depot lounge chairs, and a weekend’s worth of wine and food picked up in the city, for fear that all we would have here is domestic beer, and cheese of a very bad vintage.

~~~~~

Image result for latte artCity Folk have come to expect art on their lattes. Expect in the merest sense of the word, like it’s nothing more than a sign of modernity, common sense, the least a decent cafe should be doing to meet expectations.

          Local folk are equal parts amazed and perplexed that we have come to this: putting art on our coffee.

          Some of my childhood friends, those who grew up with dirt floors, are the most confused by the state of the world; friends who never left local, and now live amongst million dollar cottages and $5 latte art.

          Occasionally one of them will walk into out cafe, they heard I was back in town, they want to have a quick chat, catch-up, talk about the old days. I’ll make them a latte – what’s that they say? Coffee, I tell them. Ain’t no coffee I ever had, they say. Is it like a double-double? No quite, I tell them.

          Love it, or hate it, they are bemused by the art. What will they think of next, they say with a chuckle.

          Talking to some of the old ones up here – there’s a 94-year-old mother (grandmother, great-grandmother, now great-great-grandmother…) of 21 children – who by the way can still tear it up at the UNAF dance – talking to her is like the time, back in the ’90’s, when I got to talk to three old guys sitting on a bench in Clarkesdale, Mississippi, and asked them what life was like in Mississippi, 30 years after Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement.

          “Shit boy. What do you know of such things?” And then they would all laugh and smoke their cigarettes and look off into the middle distance.

          The old ones up here can be like that too. Remembering the street fights between the Catholics and the Protestants. Trees as wide as houses. Getting through the winter on potatoes and cabbage. Tongue soup.

          Latte art…she says.

          What will they think of next?

 

 

The myopic vision of Oligarchs…

May 6, 2018

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-12/bezos-says-he-ll-spend-amazon-lottery-winnings-on-space-travel

It baffles me how blind Oligarchs are to the socio-economic problems right in front of their faces.

Jeff Bezos – one of the wealthiest men on the planet – last week, in an interview, referred to his profits as “winnings” – as if he had done nothing more than win the Powerball lottery.

Bezos is worth an estimated $120 billion (as of today – he has made an additional $20b so far this year). Bezos makes more every 12 seconds than do his average workers over the course of an entire year (average Amazon salary $28,000/yr or less than $13.50/hr over a 40hr week).

While Amazon software engineers can make more than $100,000/yr, approximately 1 in 10 Amazon lessor workers qualifies for food stamps. Amazon usually pays the state minimum wage for all of the grunt work required.

In his interview, Bezos was asked why he (like Elon Musk) was about to spend a billion dollars on space travel? Bezos responded with “what was a man to do with his winnings? Space travel seemed liked the most logical thing to do.”

Amazon, you might remember from earlier this year, declared that under the new Trump administration tax plan, would not have to pay nearly $800 million dollars in 2017 taxes – which helped make Amazon the most profitable company in America in 2017.

You might also know that Amazon is looking to build a second headquarters – somewhere in America (or Canada), but will only choose the “right” city depending on what kind of financial incentives that city will provide.

Amazon has already said they want below market prime real estate, ten-year tax-free exemptions, the necessary infrastructure provided free of charge, etc. etc.

What else to do with his winnings?

I suppose it is “winnings” when corporations successfully lobby the government to effectively eliminate corporate taxes. When you can pit cities against each other in a rush to the bottom, that’s a win. When the government has to subsidize your low wages with food stamps (that you no longer have to pay for) – another win.

I am continually stunned at how, despite all of their business prowess and mountains of riches, Oligarchs have no long range vision – they can’t seem to understand the long-term effects of their vampire business model.

Greed has an incredible blind spot for long-term success.

How much Amazon merchandise can an Amazon employee buy when they only make $11 an hour? When 65% of the American population now works for less than $30,000 a year, how do Oligarchs expect them to consume product?

The entire country continues to deteriorate around us – the worst public education system in the western world, unsafe drinking water in all 48 states, collapsing bridges and sewer systems, millions living without health care – and Bezos asks “what could I do with my winnings”!

Seriously?

He may as well have said “Fly me to the moon. The rest of you can eat cake.”