Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Face of Evil...

This is a mug-shot of William Spengler, the man who set fire to his house and a vehicle in order to set a trap that would bring firefighters to the scene in Webster he could, in his own words, (via a note he left), "Do what I like doing best, killing people."

This same monstrous creature beat his 92 y.o. grandmother to death with a hammer in 1980, and he served a long prison term as a result....but, apparently not long enough.  We will learn in the next few weeks how it was that a convicted felon obtained at least 3 guns, one of which was the same type of weapon used in Newtown, and in Aurora by the mass-killers in those tragedies.

What I want to know is this: What did his neighbors know about him?  Did they not have a clue that he was a convicted murderer, that he was in a mental state leading to more murderous behavior?

For God's sake, LOOK AT HIM!!!  Does this look like a person that you would want in your neighborhood, someone you would trust to act in a civil and law-biding fashion?  His insanity is written all over his face.  So, why was he not on anybody's law-enforcement radar?  How was he able to buy those weapons....which, it will be noted, he was forbidden to own by New York state law?

So, in the midst of the furious conflict that is already arising about how to control GUNS, what can be done to address this man and those like him?   How do we prevent him from being the living equivalent of a raging beast in our midst?  This is the real question.

I have yet to see a mug-shot of one of these deranged maniacs who looks like anything other than......wait for it......a DERANGED MANIAC.  We have laws specifically put on the books to keep people like this from obtaining the means to commit mayhem.  How can any reasonable person think putting more of the same laws on the books will make any difference whatsoever?

You can direct all the rage you want at the NRA.  You can point your finger at us, carry signs saying we are killers.  But, to any intelligent person, it must eventually become clear that it is people like this man, Spengler, who are the land-mines in the minefield that we walk across every day of our lives.

STOP THE MANIACS!  Somebody tell me how we can do that, and stop wasting time whining about the fact that there are too many guns.  They are simply a fact of life in America, have been since we were colonists....and, ya know what?  That was not a major problem until people began to decide that punishing innocent people for their own pain is okay.

How we got here is a good question.  A better one is now what are we going to do about it?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our National Heartbreak.....

I was driving home from an appointment when the news came over the radio of the massacre in Newtown CT.  At first, I just could not comprehend the scope of it....but, as it sunk in, tears came and a deep sense of sadness settled into my heart.  We have a grandson just the age of some of the victims, and a son whose first name is shared with another one of them.  These facts just made it that much more clear that this happened to ALL OF US.  Yes, of course, nobody can take on or relieve the grief of those parents who lost children on Friday.  But, unless one's heart is in a state of relative torpor, the impact of these murders is immense.

Adam Lanza, the killer, was, according to all accounts extraordinarily bright, something he appears to share with James Holmes, the Aurora theater killer, and many others who have suddenly decided to inflict monstrous acts of violence on people around them.  In many cases, as in Newtown and Aurora, the killer has not even known the people he attacked. It appears they are just 'targets' for his rage,  symbolic souls that I believe represent all of us to some degree.  In the Newtown rampage, the killer seems to have gone out of his way to choose victims that were innocent and young, surely hoping that this would vastly increase the pain created by his actions.  He was right; it worked. 

So, is this the last straw?  Is this event so far beyond the pale that we will finally stop setting aside the question they have all demanded be asked: how do we stop the carnage?  Is this slaughter of innocent young children finally going to force us to recognize that something is dreadfully wrong in our society?  Will we now come to face the terrible fact that we have a society that is somehow causing these human-beings to decide to become monsters?  For surely nobody in their right mind can continue to assume that these are just the appearance of random deviant personalities.  People are raised in families, but also in villages, in tribes, in a society that has both expectations and influences on who they become.

Well, we have pretty much excised the idea of a village or tribe being an extended family. And, with two parent families now on shaky footing, it is becoming apparent that at least some children are growing-up with a proclivity towards deviance.....on a grand scale, not just 'being a little odd'.  How is this happening?  It is way too easy to jump to conclusions; perhaps the best we can do right now is to make a list of factors that seem to be implicated.

I would start with a good hard, side-long look at the fact that so many kids have traded-in such pastimes as 'sand-lot baseball' for sitting in front of a flat-screen playing games like World of Warcraft.  A couple of years ago, I wrote how this 'game' has stolen the normalcy of my grandson, and essentially ruined his life.  I have not changed that opinion, and I ask you to consider how it would be possible for a young and impressionable person to fantasize killing for eight hours a day....and NOT HAVE IT CHANGE THEM PROFOUNDLY.

The 'experts' can opine for the next few decades as to whether or not such violent fantasy games, and equally violent movies, television shows, etc. have egregious effects on developing personalities.  That is what they do: offer opinions, usually in line with some agenda.  I know in the depths of my being that this is a major factor in how young people are learning to see the world around them.

The other element that is implicated...although, yes, there are many and it's not my intent to imply that this is all very clear and the growing deficit of COMPASSION.  In many circles now, compassion is regarded as being something for weak-minded people.  I recently saw a group photo of a sorority at my alma mater--dear old and now bedraggled Penn State--of the young women dressed in mock Mexican garb....sombreros, and serapes....holding up signs that said such things as: "We don't cut grass, we smoke it."  WTF?  Apparently, these all white middle-class young women had no clue that this might be both racist and entirely offensive to latinos. Again, wtf?

If you have the eyes to see it, look around you, and notice how the quality of compassion is being trampled in favor of both self-interest, and voluntary self-isolation of groups.  Only when something like Newtown happens do the people who are clinging to their own humanity come forward and remind us that it is PRIMARILY compassion that renders us human.  Without it, we are in danger of falling far short of the ideals that term implies.  Spend some time listening to Rush Limbaugh if you really want to understand the passionate viewpoint of pure selfishness.  He models it as well as anybody out there.

Now a few words for all those whose immediate reaction to this latest atrocity is that we should impose strict gun control laws.  We are a gun-saturated society, have been since our inception.  The true number of guns in America is somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 million, though it might even be as high as half a BILLION.  Unless you want to have a police-state, there is no possible way that we will even reduce that number, much less get rid of them.  Do not waste our time suggesting that we become England, Canada, Japan or name your 'gunless' society.  IT WON'T HAPPEN HERE. There are just too many factors in play that will prevent a return to innocence, a miraculous state of harmlessness.  It's nice to contemplate....but it's a pipe-dream.  Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S.  It made no difference to Adam Lanza.  He was a time-bomb; his mother knew it, and yet, he was able to steal her firearms and commit mayhem.  How do you stop that?  We will never get an explanation from her as to why her guns were not under lock and key.  And, yet, she even warned a baby-sitter to never turn his back on the then 9 y.o. Adam.  WTF.....again.

So, what we must do is learn how to live with guns being available and we need to start learning how to identify high-risk individuals and get help for them.  We can no longer say, "Well, we knew he would do this someday. But, what could we do about it?"  That is now-I fervently hope-
unacceptable.  These shooters have almost unanimously been isolated, rejected, shunned, regarded as 'outsiders' and their intent in planning and executing such monstrous atrocities is to punish us, to make us feel pain in the extreme.  It is the biggest, most powerful way they can conceive of telling us, "FUCK ALL OF YOU."

So, what are we going to do about that?

Monday, November 26, 2012


Well, it has been over a century and a half since it last came up in a meaningful way, which is to say, more than a few tax dodgers in places like rural Idaho.  So, I suppose it was bound to come back around at some point.  The movement to leave the Union of States seems to be gathering the most momentum in Texas.  Go figure, eh.  One Texan argues that Texas has an economy larger than that of Australia, and will, therefore, have no trouble going it on its own.  Some fellow is promising to run for governor in 2014 purely on a secessionist ticket; he's even changing his middle-name to 'secession'.  Wow.

As I read these reports of people who are so determined to break-up the United States, to fragment it into minor republics that each have their own issues to complain about, my mind drifts back to descriptions of Civil War battles.  An eye-witness account of the Corn Field, at the battle of Antietam, on the evening of September 17th, 1862, comes to mind.  A Union captain had to dismount his horse in order to carefully lead it through the carnage of corpses and wounded. He described stepping in puddles of blood. Thousands of men lay dead and dying, calling out to God, their mothers, and the din of these cries was undergirded by a general moan issuing from the throats of both Confederate and Union men who lay where they had fallen this day. It was the bloodiest single day in American history, still is.

A few hundred yards away, bodies were layered four deep in the soon to be called, "Bloody Lane", most of them Confederates who had died trying to stop a Union advance up the hill towards this sunken wagon road.  All these many decades and four generations later, the descriptions tear at my heart, rend my soul.  My great-grandfather was a Union drummer boy who witnessed Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg the next summer.  He described to my boyhood grandfather seeing a cannon-ball bounding across the field, whereupon a Yank put his foot out, thinking anything so easily visible could be stopped....and it took his leg off at the femur.

This stunning violence and suffering, on both sides went on and on, for four endless years. More than 220,000 Americans above the number who died in World War II were killed, a total of approximately 620.000, making it far and away the most devastating war in our nation's history. And, while conventional wisdom that is being passed along in high-school history classes mostly would have you believe the Civil War was fought over slavery, that was more of an 'add-on' to the primary issue which was whether the United States of America would remain united.

In the minds of the majority of southerners, the issue was 'states rights', which was a way of saying, "Y'all ain't gonna tell us what to do."  And, of course, that included the right to own other human beings.  Many a rebel private or corporal resented the fact that he was fighting 'a rich man's war'.  Desertion was a huge problem for the south as the war ground on.  Johnny Reb, in great numbers, no longer felt that suffering and dying so that 'Massa' could have his slaves was a bargain worth making.

As you drive around the south today, particularly Virginia, where by far the preponderance of battles were fought, you would never guess that this resentment existed back then.  In a humble roadside restaurant you are quite likely to see Civil War mementos for sale.  This includes everything from little cases with 'genuine battleground' bullets, complete with engraved rifling marks from some poor soldier's musket, made in the heat of a struggle to nicely framed portraits of southern saints, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and of course, the saintliest of all, Robert E. Lee...."Massa Rob't" himself.

To a casual observer, it might seem that the Civil War, had ended favorably for the south, that issues once in doubt had been resolved, perhaps laid to rest for all time.  They, we now learn, apparently were not.  But, here's the deal: there are now over 310 million Americans.  Now they come in all colors and all faiths; back then, not so much.  'The deciders' were, and down through the generations have always been, 'Old White Men'.....until now. 

We are changing, in exactly the same way that we have been since our inception.  America is a work of art in progress.  It is also a masterpiece that relies on its resilience, our stunning ability to adapt to the challenges that face us.  And we will continue changing; it's a fact of life and a product of who we are in the world community.  Those souls who cannot accept this reality, who are so short-sighted and selfish as to suppose that things will be frozen in an old and now obsolete paradigm, should not think for even a second that the solution to their discontent is to dissolve a union for which hundreds of thousands have already died. That decision has already been made...and sealed in blood, lots of it. Nobody will break away and take land, and unwilling others, with them.  Never going to happen....not again.

If they are that dissatisfied with the direction America has chosen, the best and proper response is simply to leave.  You may recall the red-neck, faux patriotic, bumper-sticker that started showing up on the bumpers of mostly ratty pick-up trucks in the late 60s: "America Love It Or Leave It"

Well, there it is: if you cannot love our democracy and respect its process of self-determining democratic rule.........then GET THE HELL OUT!  And, leave us to continue this inspired and magnificent process of becoming our fullest potential, because that is exactly what is happening.

Monday, November 19, 2012

So, how did 'chicken' become a pejorative?

Last April, we decided that the time had come to finally put-up or shut-up, and get some chickens.  We had been talking about this for at least two years, and it just felt like a good time to move ahead with things.  So, we approached a friend, Linda, who is a farmer, and asked for some guidance.  A few weeks later we went to her farm and picked-up five 'Golden Comets', which, as it turns out, are a hybrid breed expressly bred for egg-laying.  They were 'pullets', immature hens, not yet laying, but more or less approaching adult size. 

We had, in the interim, built a chicken-coop inside our two-car garage, with an exit to an outside enclosure that would allow them to be outside and still not become food for all the critters who live in the woods behind our house.  That includes some  rather vociferous coyotes, sly foxes, very wide-stripped skunks, racoons, hawks, owls and other assorted denizens who would very much appreciate having a ready source of fresh chicken.  We also have fishers, which are members of the mustelid family, i.e. wolverines, badgers, mink, martins, weasels etc. and they would be the biggest threat of all.  So, alas, our new red birds would not be 'free range', but still have lots of outside time.

After a few weeks, the first small brown egg appeared, and then, in short order, all five hens started laying and the eggs grew in size.  Now, we get five a day, almost without fail, and they are what the grocery store would call, extra-large, for the most part.  All of this is no big deal really.  Tons of folks are now raising and keeping backyard chickens, to the point where one must consider it a kind of fad.  Even in cities people have taken up keeping chickens, on  roof-tops, in backyards, wherever they can.  Zoning boards are increasingly accepting that having a few chickens doesn't mean that you have suddenly taken up farming.

The surprise in all of this, for me, was  that I never expected our russet little beauties to be who they are: intelligent, curious, expressive, playful, easily bored, willing to connect with us on a level that most reserve for pets like dogs and cats.  I just did not expect chickens to have much going in the 'personality' department.  But, I was wrong. 

When either of us gets anywhere near the outside run, they all come piling outside and over to the nearest place to where we are.  There is a constant chatter of sounds, few of which could be called 'clucking'.  Most of their varied vocabulary is comprised of tiny little 'mewing' and chortling sounds. Yes, there is a wide variety of greater calls and sounds, some of which are so surprising that it makes us laugh when a hen gets wound up and on a noisy bender.  My favorite--and I haven't figured out what its meaning is yet--is a kind of ' bok, bok, bok, bok...BEGOK!!!", repeated many times over, until she runs it out and is done.  There are also the classic, 'cluck', and even something that sounds distinctly like 'purring', which we have witnessed when they are having a really grand time during a dust-bath.

Of course, the question arises as to whether or not 'pet' chickens will end-up on the dinner table when they have finally reached the end of their careers as layers.  For us, the answer is decidedly 'no'.  As soon as we brought these sweet birds home, my wife named them, after the 'Golden Girls' from long ago on the t-v, plus 'Violet' because our granddaughter loves purple.  I told Abby that I was never going to kill an animal of ours  that has a the deal is done.   They will be 'retired', fed, stroked and admired...but no heads will roll. 

In fact, just knowing them is tweaking my sensibilities towards becoming a vegetarian....never thought I'd say that.  But, then, I never thought I would meet such amazing chickens either. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Angry Americans

Well, we have survived another presidential election.  There were times when the avalanche of negative ads, in both directions, seemed almost intolerable, verging on overwhelming my sensibilities as a voter, as an American, and as a participant in democracy.  Finally, I had to resort to having the remote in my hand with my finger on the 'mute' button.  Alternatively, I limited myself to watching programs I had recorded....and felt a strange sense of smug satisfaction as I fast-forwarded through the visual collage of nay-sayers, finger waggers, pseudo-sad lamenters.....and good ol' LIARS.

I have to admit that while it appeared that Romney and Ryan had momentum and were becoming likely winners, I felt a palpable sense of dread.  Was it really possible that working class Americans could be snookered into thinking a true 1%er, vulture capitalist, and an Ayn Rand disciple were on their side?  But, far worse, for me at least, was the specter of having a pair of individuals leading our nation who seemed as comfortable with lies as they did with anything resembling factual truth. Some comedian pointed out that Romney and the entire GOP were waging war on the truth.  It would have been funnier if it weren't so scary.

Ah, but all that is behind us now, isn't it?  Mitt and Ann will go drown their sorrows in a beautiful swimming pool at one of their multi-million dollar homes.  His ego has suffered some serious bruises, but, then, he just needed to reach for the one thing in his life that was missing: ultimate power.  He craved being the most powerful man on the planet, as the president is so frequently referred to.  And, because he has the personality of a faux aristocrat (a fact of which we were reminded by his own gaffs at every turn in the road, i.e. the 47% tape and so many more), has character issues around at least telling the truth, he got his ass royally kicked.

Unfortunately, I am certain we haven't seen the last of Ryan, and his wolfish gaze.  The man really does remind me of the currently popular t-v show, "Grimm", in which characters morph into hidden archetypal 'beasts' of mythical origins.  Some say he looks like Eddie Munster, an allusion that perhaps only folks of my generation will recognize.  But, I think he's way too sinister for such a comparison.  In his eyes and his physiognomy as a whole, I see a hungry wolf, one who insisted that his congressional staff members read 'Atlas Shrugged', the novel by Ayn Rand who espoused self-interest and dominance over less capable or less aggressive souls.  I do not hear him saying that he's a representative of ordinary people, but rather that he's a champion of the 'haves'....and " sucks to be you", if you aren't one of them. He, like Romney, also is a big fan of saying whatever he feels will plead his case...whether or not it is true, or factual.  He lies his ass off.  And, I am not even sure he knows when he's doing it.

But, in the aftermath of the political season, one thing has become crystal-clear: we are a nation divided.  Some of us are liberals, or progressives--both terms used as epithets on Fox News--and some of us are conservatives.  And there is a vast reservoir of anger, even rage, that is hovering in our midst. Clearly,  because of losing the election in a surprise defeat that almost swept every so-called 'battleground state', a preponderance of that rage is residing with the right.  Some of what is being written on the web is so hateful, racist, venomous, and odious that it doesn't even bear repeating.  It is like sewage spewing from a broken sewer-main.....all over Main Street.  And, while apparently the people who are spewing, feel that it is their right to do so, some of it is even espousing assassination or violent overthrow of our government.....which is a felony, a fact they seem oblivious to.

Despite what these enraged spewers seem to think, Free Speech does have certain limits, and fomenting violent revolution or murdering our elected leaders is not a right or a privilege, it's just plain unacceptable.  They are perhaps a cocktail mixture of not caring what impact their words might have, and being so stupid that they really believe anything goes.

As a person who has studied and observed ethics in action for my entire adult life, I do not have a good feeling about what all of this portends.  When people are so invested in their own point of view, so absolutely certain that they are right and those who believe differently are wrong, it means the potential for compromise--any solution that requires accepting some give and take--is diminished, even impossible.  This means a situation where harmony, carrying on with life as a normal and positive undertaking, is also not possible.  Some people, in the wake of this election, are saying our country is dead.  This is a dramatic statement by any measure.  It is dramatic for it's stark negativity, and for its sheer stupidity....and for the complete absence of any faith that our democracy is flexible and resiliant, that it has durability and endurance.  It is perhaps the most un-patriotic statement I can imagine a person making. is BULLSHIT, pure and simple.

I don't know what it will take for Americans of all outlooks, all ethnic persuasions, all socio-economic levels to understand.....that sink or swim, WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME LIFE-BOAT. If we insist that in order to move forward, the 'other' guy has to surrender his or her sense of what is right for them, that one viewpoint, right of left, must entirely dominate how we conduct our nations affairs...then we are in a world of hurt.  This is self-interest and intellectual block-headedness on a level that will have a corrosive effect on all of us.

It seems worth noting that the burners under these enraged souls, are seemingly pleased to play an inflammatory role.  Whether it is Fox New (".....fair and balanced", yeah right!)  or MSNBC with equally biased commentators, pushing their views to an audience hungry for validation that what they believe is 'right' and what those 'others' believe is trash....the net result is the same.  We are living in a time when apparently it is more important to be 'right' than to be truthful or reasonable, and we are in a downward spiral of negativity--on both sides--that will not result in any kind of happy landing, for anybody.  Being in the same life-boat, means that hatred and venom is the enemy of BOTH SIDES.

If we are so busy punching holes in the bottom, in order to prove that the other side is 'wrong', the water will continue to rise....until we are all swimming in shark infested waters.

I steadfastly cling to my conviction that we are being asked to do better, to rise to the occasion and to avoid creating a disaster.......just to prove we're 'right'.  C'mon America!  I know you can do better than this.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life goes on......

I last posted here on May 12th.  And, then something happened: I lost the will to share.  Share what?  Well, almost anything.  I have looked carefully at why I started to feel this way, and, what I have surmised is that I just got tired of being the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.  The general tenor and tone of what I was sharing was most frequently negative and contained a lot of finger wagging. 

Of course, when I look around our society, I can see all the same prompts that made me feel that way.  Nothing has changed.....except for one thing.  I now feel a modicum of detachment around all the things that previously I found so dire and disconcerting.  That is a sideways means of saying, "I don't care anymore." 

Sheesh, that's pretty callous, eh.  Not really.  What I am finding in this new-found state of neutrality and reduced outrage is that a much clearer perspective is available.  What I mean by that is that, having pulled back to a longer and wider view of it all, I can now see with much greater clarity the causes behind it.....and the ultimate inevitability of it all. 

Here we are, floating through space on this infinitesimally tiny blue-green speck.  Scientists know that there are BILLIONS of galaxies, and we inhabit a microscopically insignificant dust-mote in a relatively minor galaxy.  Of course, we seem unable to regard ourselves as insignificant, far from it.  We crow about being the "most intelligent" species of the myriad with which we share the planet.  We are terribly concerned with how to go about self-aggrandizing and promoting ourselves, both individually and collectively.  We even send messages into deep space, "Hey! We're the Human Beings, planet Earth, Milky Way. Give us a shout!"  Aside: one pundit pointed out recently that we might want to re-consider doing this because any aliens who would be able to respond are very likely much more advanced and might just head on over here to see what we have that they want.  Uh-oh.

So, we are sitting  here, just brimming with our own self-importance, doing our damndest to both exploit and to destroy our host planet.  And, when we finally succeed, do you really think the entire rest of the Universe will even notice?


Our fate is in our own hands, and we seem so utterly unaware, much less unimpressed, by that fact, that we spend our time--this fall for instance--debating how to dig, drill, blast, or otherwise access more carbon rich energy sources to maintain our lifestyle......knowing--here's the kicker--all the while that it is exactly that approach that is preparing the way for the Sixth Great Extinction, i.e. OUR OWN. 

So, I once again, harkening all the way back to my footloose days as a wandering hippy, have begun to identify with the archetype of the Fool.  In fact, my fool is the one sitting on the hill and watching the world spin around. 

We are going to do exactly what we WANT to do, not what our massive intellects tell us is the sensible or correct or proper thing to do.  It has always been that way, throughout human history.  We look, we see, we want....and we take.  We have never backed away from any self-created disaster, most notably wars, of course.  And the fact that we are being more than adequately warned of the ultimate consequences of our present course of action....will not dissuade us from following it to its inevitable conclusion.  And, when we succeed in achieving the forewarned systemic failure to thrive....we will wail and gnash our teeth like a two year-old being denied access to a big bowl of chocolate pudding.  Our final act will be to throw a humongous HISSY.

And, then the theater will go dark....and the beings in the audience will shrug and say rude things about how stupid those humans were as they shuffle out.

And, here's the final realization that gives me some inner peace: In the greater scheme of doesn't and it won't matter at all.  We are the only ones to whom it will matter, and because we are insistent on choosing this pathway.....we have no one to blame but us. 

So, carry on Humans.  Do what you feel so sure you need to do.  Apparently about half of you are ready to leave the planet anyway.  Big surprise, eh, if you don't get that painless and easy way out of being raptured up to Heaven.  I'll be seriously gob-smacked IF YOU DO.

For me, it's a new day.  I am just going to stop worrying that our brilliant species is going to act exactly as it always has.  Some things you can just count on.  And, my intent is to spend whatever time I have left here to MAKE ART. Who knows? Without a guarantee of being Hoovered, I could be here awhile.  I still get a grand feeling from the natural world. Beauty is still rampant in the places where we have managed to keep our greedy little hands off of it. Beauty is, and has been for decades, the greatest reward in my life.  In it's essence I sense the key to the Great Mystery, and I will derive great satisfaction and pleasure from continuing to explore its countless manifestations.

I feel a bit like the band on the Titanic.  But, ya know what?  I don't really mind feeling that way.

It's all just okay.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Big Wheels just keep on turnin'......

The U.S. Military embraces climate change

Click above to read an article that explains why our military establishment, and a whole lot of other militaries, not only accept that global climate change is upon us, but are actively planning measures to prepare for it.

In fact, the people who want us to believe that it isn't happening, that the, by now, mountain of indisputable evidence is to be disbelieved, are those who will continue to profit from continuing to use polluting sources of energy: the oil companies, of course, the pipeline companies, and on and on.  If we suddenly wake-up and start demanding that substantial changes begin to be mandated, profits in predictable sectors will collapse.

So, they would rather see the environment trashed, and our fate long as they can continue to loot our money, for now.  It I have previously pointed out, however...a fool's deal.  Rather than a symbiotic relationship to the host economy that provides their opportunity to make is a parasitic one, that will eventually kill its host.

But, for some reason that seems unclear at present, this doesn't seem to either occur to them, or play a role in their planning for a sustainable future.  On the rail-line where their train is furiously steaming at thunderous speed...there is nothing but an end of the line, and one helluva train-wreck.  Of course, WE ARE ALL ON THAT TRAIN. They do not give a damn, apparently....and the wheels and rods are churning.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ernest Callenbach's Apt Legacy ....

Epistle to the Ecotopians

I wrote about Ernest Callenbach here awhile back.  He was the author of "Ecotopia" and then "Ecotopia Emerging" back in the 70s.  Ecotopia was a cult hit with environmentalists at the time, and it was a fictional account of a section of northern California, including San Francisco, that seceded from the United States to form a truly 'green' state. My previous post was a link to an interview with Ernest at 82, and it contained some very apt observations of our current state of affairs. His use of the term, "looter elite" was the first time I encountered it and his flat statement that when the looter elite take over a society it is entering the beginning of its dissolution stage...really pulled me up short.  Truth is a hammer between the eyes sometimes.

Well, Ernest Callenbach died last month.  He knew he was going to, had a terminal diagnosis, and so he began working on his 'Epistle', which he well knew would be his last chance to tell those willing to listen how he saw things coming down here on planet Earth in the early 21st century.

It is a longish piece, but I believe that you will be very glad that you took the time to read it, if you do. Among other things, he gives some very practical advice.  For instance, he notes that people who succeed in remaining hopeful in the face of great challenges do better than those who let hope slip away.  He notes that teamwork in such situations is also a critical divider between those who manage to cope and those who do not. He reminds us that having a few down-to-earth living skills...even those as rudimentary as being able to chop wood safely, or cut a board and hammer nails...are a really good idea.

He looks out across the world through the eyes of an octogenarian who sees with not only clarity born of having lived for eight decades as an observer of humanity and our behavior, but that of a man who is looking around his 'house' for the last time, before he closes the door and walks away....into the adventure that awaits us all.

One of the most cogent observations that stuck with me, was his statement that the process of dramatic change has already begun, that we're already in this process and we might as well accept that and turn to meet it.  He uses the wonderfully effective image of a kayaker whose boat is already in the flume leading to the serious rapids.  And, indeed, I do believe that any intelligent soul who is observing the sum total of events and factors surrounding us.....will come to the exact same conclusion.  Callenbach is even clear about the fact that as a society begins this process of breaking down that its politicians get crazy.  Hello!  Isn't that exactly what we have been watching in this entire primary season....a long, seemingly endless, string of GOP nutjobs, one after the other, each making the previous one look almost sane.

So, click on the "Epistle to the Ecotopians" above and you will go to this rather astonishing outpouring of insight...which was found in his computer after his death.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thomas Kincaide....seriously?

Yesterday, a pundit on the toob mentioned that Thomas Kincaide, whose name is almost never mentioned without the term,"Painter of Light" being attached to it, a term which he, by the way, had patented....died of causes directly related to alcohol consumption.  His brother told the media that Thomas had fallen off the wagon....apparently, however, he did not merely 'fall off', but was sucked under its cruel wheels and crushed asunder.

His brother went on to explain that Kincaide was terribly upset that people didn't like his paintings and had taken it badly that a London paper had anointed him the 'King of Kitsch'.  This was such a blow to his ego that it drove him to drink himself to death. There was, of course, a history that preceded this and Thomas had been previously caught peeing on a statue of  Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland, as he muttered, "This one's for you, Walt".  Seems the lofty peaks of success carried some bitterness along with the rewards.

This is also the same artist who has been named 'richest living artitst' and who has a following of millions of fans who adore his work.  The by now famous images of wee stone cottages festooned in vines and surfeited in multi-hued banks of flowers, nestled by a sweet stream, with perhaps a doe and her spotted fawn standing, gazing off towards the setting sun, and--need I go on here?--are of great solace to people who perhaps see them as idealized antidotes to the ugly-ass world of reality.

Kincaide learned how to exploit this proclivity and ultimately had a veritable factory turning out paintings by the score.  These masterpieces would pass from one painter to the next as each installed their specialty for trees, another for flower blossoms, another for water, another for stonework...we must assume, and finally, the painting would receive the finishing touch of a brushstroke by the Master himself...and then his signature.  The real profit, of course, was in the unlimited limited editions of prints.  People have paid handsomely to adorn their own wee cottage....or shabby apartment, or cell wall, with these images.  Kincaide made untold millions in this fashion...before he ran the locomotive off the tracks and into bankruptcy.

Exactly how you make such success into such failure is a mystery to those of us who simply plod along life's path making a normal living.  I suppose you merely overspend and buy what you cannot afford until the cows come back to the barn and there is a great reckoning.

But, for me, the real question that must be answered is this: can an artist really get away scot free with selling out?  I believe that Thomas Kincaide knew with great clarity that he was a complete sell-out, that his work was indeed kitsch of the very worst kind.  It was so shamelessly saccharine and cloyingly, nauseatingly redolent with the odor of rank sentimentality that it practically oozed off the page.  If his goal was to find what people wanted in this vein and to exploit it in the best traditions of the business world....he succeeded magnificently.  If his desire was to deceive himself into thinking that he was making sincere art....perhaps he succeeded on that count too.

But, I do NOT BELIEVE IT. suh!   He knew full well what he was doing and that's why he felt so miserable that he needed to anesthetize himself with booze...unto oblivion ultimately.

A wonderful artist and spiritual teacher that I know, said, "Only two things are necessary to progress on the spiritual path: sincerity and a sense of beauty".   If a person has those, they will succeed.  And, life has repeatedly demonstrated to my satisfaction that he was right.  But, Kincaide decided that it would be worth the pay-off to be cynical about beauty...portraying it as so much cotton-candy...and his sincerity was apparently never even on the radar of his mind.

So, he found out what can happen when an artist feels a calling to make art....and then turns it inside out and becomes a cynical and bitter seeker of money.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What happened at Goldman Sachs......

Greg Smith's letter of resignation from Goldman Sachs has created quite a stir on the web and throughout the business world this week.  The surprise was that an insider would leave the firm in such a public and even petulant way.  It should come as no surprise to anybody that he was pointing to a burgeoning culture of corporate greed and cynical attitudes towards the clients whose money they use to make their millions.

The question that immediately came up for me was: "How did this transition from serving the clients to using and even abusing them happen so quickly?"  Greg Smith was only at Goldman for 12 years, but in that time he saw a shift of attitudes and ethics of 180 degrees.  So, what propelled this rapid transition towards greediness and total disregard for the clients?  It's almost as if Ayn Rand had arisen from her grave and been appointed CEO of the company.  Suddenly, everybody is on board with calling customers 'muppets' and selling them lousy investments or at the very least putting the customers investment goals last.

My best guess is that such a total and sudden transformation can only come from the top down.  This kind of shift doesn't come from the ranks; it comes from the managers and executives who set the tone for how the account execs operate.  The new 'wunderkind' who arrive, fresh out of Harvard Business School, or Wharton, or--nowadays--from elite computer science programs at top universities, come on board with dreams of multi-million dollar bonuses, making their fortunes before they're 30, having a Gulfstream parked out at Teterboro, ready to whisk them off to Aspen, Barbados or Paris on a whim. No doubt about it. They have been carefully 'chosen'--in the true sense of the term, 'chosen few'-- from a bumper crop of brilliant achievers to become the Elite.  And, they arrive ready to take whatever cues and pointers will help them to fulfill this dream.

So, when the middle and upper levels of management model a financial philosophy that says, in essence, "anything goes, just make us a ton of money", the result is easy to predict.  The young Turks of Wall St. bend to the task of skirting inconvenient regulations...what few are there....and become ingenious at creating such things as 'Credit Default Swap' instruments that allow them to pre-package lousy mortgages and pawn them off to even their best clients as solid investments.  Well, we all know how that worked out.  But, we also know that nobody has been held accountable for all of this 'creativity' either.

If Ayn Rand really was sitting in the top floor corner office...the one with a good view of the Hudson....she would be feeling very pleased and proud of her new crop of brokers.  They have learned what she wanted them to, and they are applying the ruthless principles of the pseudo-philosophy that she created: Objectivism.  The essence is not difficult to grasp.  It simply says that getting what you want, the practice of unbridled greed, is a superior path in life, and one for the strong and ruthless, who are destined to become the ruling elite.....because they have the power that only great wealth can buy.

The traditional approach to business was just so much foolishness, a path for the weak.  Offer a good product or service at a fair price and stand behind it.  Practice personal and professional integrity in all matters.  Really? Why would I do that if my intent is simply to amass wealth in the quickest and most efficient way possible?  Such a code of conduct is not merely inconvenient; it's a real impediment to my goals, therefore must be ignored.  The practice of greed, at its most advanced levels, is not for softies who care about others. It is for the strong and requires that one be willing to do whatever is necessary.

And, it was the exact same essential concept that Himmler preached to his legions of SS, in order to get them to go out and perpetrate the Holocaust.  He actually sympathized with them having to take on such an odious task as the murder of millions.  And, he asked them to 'steel yourselves' because it had to be done for the Fatherland.  To this day, people wonder what was in the hearts of people who could act so utterly without conscience.  And, now we are seeing the culture of me first, to hell with you, rising again.  This time it's intent on having--and already has--the vast majority of the wealth in our society...worldwide.  It's a different kind of hegemony....but it's domination all the same.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Great American Petrie Dish is Showing Some Virulent Colonies.....

In the last few years, I have noticed a distinct degeneration in the quality of posts that people put up on the web. It hardly matters what blog or news site is involved.  About 80% of the comments that people make on a given story or blog posting, are either off topic or simply toxic. It feels like there is a vast pool of people--most of them seem to be either young or astonishingly immature adults--who read damn near anything and react to it by dumping not merely critical opinions but blatantly nasty, even vicious comments.

Here's a link to a news story on this topic on CNN:

When I pause to wonder why this should be the case, nothing springs immediately to mind, other than the notion that these people seem to be driven by a world-view that is so toxic that one shudders at the thought of what it must be like to see life through their 'shit-colored glasses'.  Apparently, the anonymity of the web does encourage people to act-out at their lowest level. Under the cloak of remaining nameless, their worst tendencies just come roaring out. But, I get a sense that it is an obnoxious but powerful form of honesty these individuals are practicing. They aren't faking this; they really do feel this way. Ouch!

Many of them present as low-brow people who have no clue as to the corrosive nature of what they are posting, while others seem to be simply lost souls who have way too much time on their hands.  Many are so limited in their use of the English language that I have to wonder if they are early-life failures in the educational system, and are feeling rejected. Of course, it's possible that their the abuse of their native language is just another way of acting out.

I just keep wondering why any person would feel so compelled to dump poisonous sentiments into a discussion?  Maybe it serves as a catharsis that hopefully lowers the pressure of the inner seething that they carry through their daily lives?  Is this lowering the frequency of school shootings?  If so, then let 'er rip kids.

Another train of thinking leads me to ask if we're developing such a shattered sense of our society that these individuals feel cut-off, disenfranchised.  Maybe they see themselves as 'outliers' and are reacting to feelings of being rejected.  What is particularly troubling about this is the apparently vast number of such souls out there across the land.  How do these individuals survive?  Are they able to lead anything resembling a normal life, or are they just stewing in their own poison, breeding negativity on a level that renders them partially or completely incapacitated?

This coterie of people has a descriptor that is beginning to be used to identify them:. They are 'The Haters' and they don't have to look further than Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck to find role models. This term serves as an indication of how many and how noxious they are.  My thoughts turn to questions such as: "What will be the impact on society at large of having an apparently significant portion of us so dysfunctional?"  Or, "How will these people ever manage to have happy lives?"  "Does life really suck that badly for so many people?"  Am I just motoring along here with a completely false sense of what life is like for so many?

It's becoming apparent that far too many young people are marinating in a toxic stew of nastiness, viciousness, separation and hopelessness. I do not have any answers. I am not sure anybody else does either. But, if you know a young person, or several, who seems to be caught-up in this mode of being, I hope that you will feel that it's at least worth trying to reach out to them and let them know....that they're not alone.

Or can it really be that these young people are just harbingers of where our society is headed when we have so much hatefulness and disrespect being broadcast non-stop by people like Rush Limbaugh?  Is this who we are becoming?

If so, I want to get on the first train out of here.  Is it too late for me to sign-up to get hoovered when the Rapture comes?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An article worth reading....if you are puzzled by the anti-intellectualism of Santorum

"What really aggrieves right wing conservatives is that professors of "The Liberal Arts" actually teach the "liberal" arts and so promote a way of looking at the world in which "truth" is derived through research and reason rather than by mindless adherence to the ancient scribblings of some book.
The gripe that conservatives like Rick Santorum have against higher education, in short, is not that liberally-biased faculties are forcing their students to think like Democrats. Their real complaint is that college professors are teaching students to think for themselves."
This is an excerpt from an article on by Alex Pareen.  It is a very clear explanation of how the far  right conservative element got to the point where having an education, learning to think, has become a liability.

The Awareness of not ours alone

Well, I was back at Portland Head, which is also the location of Portland Head Light, a magnificent lighthouse that was built when George Washington was president. And, this time I had my Nikon spotting scope with me. This optic is tripod mounted and offers magnification from 15x to 45x.  In other terms, it is up to 4.5 times as powerful as my binoculars and needs to be on a tripod because at the higher magnifications it would be just too shaky to be useful.

I set up the scope and was looking at a sizeable flock of Common Eiders that were working their way along the rocky outcropping that forms the shore of most of Maine, in fact.  I glanced a bird in the small cove just below me and saw that it had a lot of white but was certainly not an Eider.  So, I moved the scope and when I finally got on this duck, I saw a stunning creature.  His eye was bright yellow, placed on a smashingly irridescent green head, with a large white spot on his cheek. I knew it was a Goldeneye, but without a birdbook in hand, I guessed it was a Barrow's Goldeneye, and didn't realize I was wrong until I got home and looked him up.  It was indeed a Common Goldeneye.
But, despite a name that would lead one to believe this duck is like some kind of Mallard or the ubiquitous Black Ducks we have all over this region, this little duck is far from ordinary.  He's another example of how amazingly Nature can design a creature.  See the photo to know what I am saying; he's just a jewel with feathers and a truly golden pair of eyes.

When I come across another reminder of how Nature combines color, design and an overall package that works so perfectly, it often makes me wonder about the reason that Beauty is so consistent in the natural world. I have no idea that the birds and flowers, the clouds and waves, the light phenomena, and Nature in its entirety were created by chance.  Nor do I sense that an anthropomorphized deity created all of this for our amusement or benefit in any way.  Nature--all of it--has evolved over the millions of years since this planet was a hot roiling mass of elements careening through space, because it has self-selected the qualities that it needed to continue the process of 'becoming'.  Each species--in whatever kingdom--has continually refined and evolved as it needed to in order to persist.

But, the real take-away from this scientific reality, is that Beauty is an integral part of the entire process.  It's not here for us...most certainly not....although there have clearly been legions of humans who have erroneously assumed that Nature is only here for us to use and to amuse us.  This is an unattractive artifact of the human ego, but it's been given a great assist along the way by the anthropocentric aspect of much religion too.  A male Goldeneye--or name your species of bird--became the stunning creature who now represents his species as a way of attracting a mate.  It needed to be ever more appealing in order for the species to propagate.

What this is telling us, is that birds, and a plethora of other species.....RECOGNIZE BEAUTY.  A particular bird of paradise from Papua New Guinea--it could easily be argued--is perhaps the most over-the-top beautiful creature on the planet.  When I saw such a bird on video, it almost took my breath away.  And then this 'bird-brain' put on a mating display that had me totally and utterly GOB-SMACKED.  And, it was indisputably all done to attract a female of his species.

So, what I am coming to here is this: we are not the only species on this planet that is aware.  If a simple duck or warbler can recognize beauty and respond to it, whose to say it cannot also respond to other forms of beauty in its environment.  We insist on holding ourselves up as so vastly superior, that we must be the focal point of all the natural world.  Well, the times are sending us the contemporary version of the same message that has been coming for several millennia now: we are not doing a very good job of being the 'smartest and only self-aware' beings on Earth.

In fact, we pretty much suck at it.  We are creating almost all of our own problems by means of our own arrogance, selfishness and stupidity.  Perhaps it's time we backed-off a little on the idea that God put us in charge and gave us permission to fuck everything up if we wanted to.  Doesn't that sound like a teenager who has burned down the house because he wanted to have a fire in the livingroom?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meet the new Old Squaw, the Long-tailed Duck

I have been a passionate, if not methodical, birdwatcher since childhood. This very likely is an inherited trait, because my father and his father before him have all been likewise fascinated by our feathered friends.

I recall my father with his arm and forefinger extended, excitedly whispering, "Look, an Indigo Bunting!", as if he'd just spotted an African lion in the New Jersey woods.  My grandfather had a collection of birds' eggs so exquisite that it was given to a university after his passing in the early 80s.  But, among all the vast variety of beautiful birds that are around us....ducks have always been special some how.  If asked why that is true for me, I usually explain that they are rather the ne plus ultra of the bird world: they are among the strongest fliers (Blue-winged Teal can do 90 mph in level flight), they swim, they have an astonishing array of plumage designs.....and they 'QUACK', at least many of them do. The sound of a flock of ducks at rest is enough to make me smile: "...quack, quack, quaaaaack" like a bunch of seniors at a bingo game.

There are, however, a few ducks that I consider to be even more extraordinary than their peers. One is the Wood Duck, with plumage so stunning that it hardly seems possible that it's real.  Another is the Harlequin, also an absolute masterpiece of duck-design.  But, yesterday, I saw a small flock of a species that I have seen only twice in the previous 33 years: the Old Squaw.  Apparently, however, some birders in positions of influence felt that name was too politically incorrect and offensive to persist, so the Old Squaw has been re-named the Long-tailed Duck.  Okay, I get it.  Birders are not the kind of people who want to offend others.  Fine, but, I wish they were also a little more imaginative and creative. I mean, "Long-tailed", just doesn't sound like much, no big deal.  And then you see the actual duck!!  Designed in perfectly harmonious shades of grey and brown, with white and black accents....and with a jaunty curled-up tail of pin-feathers that looks like they belong on a British royal's hat. Surely, such a magnificent bird deserves a more august, more inspiring name than one that simply states the obvious. Maybe such beauty is just that which is beyond, they just settled for gross under-statement.

I do not really care.  But, I can tell you that when my binos took in the sight of eight of these stunning creatures bobbing gently just off the rocks of Portland Head, I felt a rush of joy that only the sheer power of Beauty, yes, with a capital 'B', can bring about.

And, here's a Harlequin...just so you can see for yourself what makes me stretch for superlative adjectives when I try to describe such amazing creatures.

My thanks to Kevin T. Karlson, who is one of the best duck photographers out there, in Cape May NJ.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dear Anonymous.....

This is addressed to the people who think they should be able to share their opinion as if it were a muffled voice, coming from behind a curtain. I am only rarely--as in once to date--willing to publish a comment that is being offered by a person who is either too scared or unwilling to assume responsibility for what they are saying.

I did post one such comment recently because the person wanted to share a resource that could be of value to readers.

For the most part, however, if you can't stand behind what you are saying, it probably isn't worth saying.

One such comment came just the other day, in the form of a rather pointed question: Are you saying that the hordes of people won't be coming out of the cities looking for what we have? That's a paraphrase, but the essence is accurate.

Answer: No. But, the question in response to this possibility is, how are we going to behave as a nation of people? If we are now working on mentally preparing ourselves to regard people who have been caught-up in a disaster as 'zombies', i.e. 'other', and are girding our loins to be able to shoot large numbers of them, thereby increasing the chances of our own survival...then we are a nation of people who have lost our way.

There is an alternative, but the people who are getting ready for the Great Zombie Invasion don't want to hear about it. Last summer in Vermont, as a result of the hurricane, turned tropical storm, that came up the east coast, entire towns were flooded and some were completely cut-off as bridges were destroyed. It was a dire situation. No, it wasn't Katrina, but, for the people caught up in it, it was every bit as serious. And, in their intrepid yankee way, Vermonters responded to it by pulling together. I saw one t-v interview with a woman who had lost absolutely everything. Her most notable comment was: "We're going to be okay because we have each other."

If indeed we are, at some point, going to have a situation in which very large numbers of people are put at risk, if we eventually do face a breakdown of the logistical supply system, and people are going to go hungry, we will be forced to decide WHO WE REALLY ARE. And, if the answer to that is that we're not much better than a pack of wild animals who are willing to kill our fellow Americans...all the while pretending that they are not really even human beings....then we are also going to be confronted with the realization that we're a far cry from being the nation of courageous, hard-working, inventive, NOBLE and compassionate people that we have been imagining we are all these generations.

We will be just one step this side of being inhuman ourselves...and, at this moment, I just am not at all sure that I would be willing to struggle to survive so that I can live in such a place. There was a time when I felt en-nobled by being an American. I was willing to die for this country and the ideals it represents, and I put my ass on the line to back that sentiment up: three years in the infantry.

Now, I am looking around and I am hearing the din of selfish people figuring out how to be selfish in ways that are positively nightmarish, not merely lacking in compassion or a willingness to sacrifice for others, but so utterly devoid of humanism that embracing becoming a human predator is now somehow justified.

Sooner or later.....we WILL BE TESTED. And, if this is our response, if survival depends on being the baddest s.o.b., with a willingness to kill anybody we feel threatened by, we will have become that which we have traditionally eschewed and rejected: a nation of hateful and selfish people who care only about our own well-being.

Sucks, if you ask me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Big Oil's to die for profits......but, you're the one doing the dying

If you click on the above title you will be taken to an article by Bill McKibben--originally posted on TomDispatch, now re-presented on spells out in very accessible terms the roots of climate change denial and why Big Oil is funding it so lavishly.

The future bottom-line is so potentially vast for them and their businesses are already so amazingly profitable that they are willing to destroy life as we know it on this planet. This is not radical rhetoric; it's the simple truth. Greed is perhaps the most powerful of all human motivators, and people--much less countries and corporations--have always been willing to commit murder when the possibility of financial gain is sufficiently tempting.

In this case it is the promise of profits that are wildly beyond most peoples' ability to even conceive of how much money is at stake. At present the big oil companies are already posting record profits. They are awash in money and have a vision that this will become ever more vast as time passes and the demand for oil continues to grow, even as the overall supply fades. McKibben points out that Big Oil is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support the notion that global climate change is just a hoax...brought about by such kings of sleaze as THE INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE COMMUNITY. Mountains of undeniable data have been acumulated proving beyond any doubt whatsoever that climate change is not merely real, but that if it continues will be a disaster of stunning, unimaginable proportions. But, that is anathema to Big Oil's plans to reap untold trillions of dollars as we move into the future. It seems oddly surreal to me, that they are so devoted to this financial goal that they have voluntarily blinded themselves to the fact that they will not have a future anymore than the rest of us if the plan to pump gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere continues as planned.


BTW: Rick Santorum is now emerging as the latest Republican with 'The Big Mo" behind him. He has bragged that he's wiser and more qualified to lead this country because, after all, he spotted the global climate change hoax before Romney or any of the others. Wow!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

More on the zombie invasion...

As if it weren't enough that a major ammo maker is producing Zombie-Max ammunition....America's most respected maker of rifle-scopes, Leupold, is now offering a new scope, made especially for killing the already dead, formerly humans who are headed your way.

This little cutie--listing for almost $700--is no toy either. It's festooned with appointments in zombie green and has a zombie brain on the inside of one of the scope caps and a zombie head on the other end. It seems that the industry is having a ball marketing zombie items, all the while knowing full well that it is deadly serious underneath all the joking about mythical comic figures. I have no doubt that the sly marketing types who sit around conference tables in companies like Leupold and Hornady think the whole business is just another way to sell more products to shooters.

I also know that the target audience (okay, you caught's a really bad pun) knows exactly what the 'zombie invasion' is....and that pretend ammo, and toy rifles are not going to be sufficient to repel it. Click on the title above to see a short video on a company rep at an industry show introducing this product.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's with all the Zombie stuff?

In the last year or so, Zombies have come up again and again. There was a television series called "The Walking Dead", a self-defense gun show about them, coyly presented with care to give the viewer the impression of it being 'tongue in cheek', and there is even a group on the web calling itself 'The Zombie Squad'. Turns out, they actually offer training to municipal governments, i.e. police departments, and to institutions or other groups. Training for what, you say? For when the Zombies arrive.

But, Zombies are just cartoon monsters, right? They are the 'un-dead', the 'walking dead', the not quite human anymore dead people who stalk the land, looking for living souls to feast on. They move sluggishly, drag their feet, look and smell like rotting flesh, are, in fact, in a state of nearly complete decomposition.........right?

Not so much, it turns out. The photo included here is of ammunition made by Hornady, one of the most respected ammo manufacturers in the business. So, if Zombies are just imaginary creatures from the Black Lagoon...then why is this deadly serious company--who's advertising slogan is "Accurate, Deadly, Dependable"--making real, live ammunition for killing the 'un-dead'? It says right on the box: "This is not a toy." That's Hornady's way of telling you that zombies aren't really a joke after all.

As you begin looking around the greater gun community online, you can drop-in on forums where people are discussing the right kind of weapons to have for SHTF--uh, that is Survivalist or Prepper speak for "Shit Hits the Fan"--and you will begin to realize that there are a large number of people who are very sure that we're on the verge of a descent into social unrest. Well, actually, 'unrest' is way too insipid to describe what they are anticipating. 'Chaos', and 'Armageddon' are much closer to the image they see of our future.

On some level, given the way the news media--especially our dear friends over at 'Fair and Balanced' Fox--portray the state of our society, it is understandable that people would be fearful of a bad outcome. There are times when my wife and I have wondered if we will come through all the challenges we face intact. There is the ever degrading environment, and the projections of what global climate change could mean. Then there is 'peak oil' and the specter of oil becoming so expensive that it initiates a world-wide financial collapse. The punditry is, by and large, telling us that the world's economy is teetering on the precipice of an abyss, lacking only one small shove to send it into complete collapse. Then there is the ever-present possibility of more bad behavior by terrorists and even terrorist states...with WMDs, quite possibly. Add to that the growing stratification of wealth and economic historic precursor to violent revolution throughout modern history. It appears that most of the world's major religions cannot even avoid causing conflict and have become a major source of hatred and violence. Religion used to be seen as a source of good guidance, 'wisdom', compassion, orderly and right conduct....not any more.

So, yes, it's no wonder that so many people are fearful of what the future holds. But, this whole 'zombie thing' has become almost a pre-occupation,...and here's the is NOT ABOUT mythical monsters. It is about people coming out of the cities of this country looking for food and shelter. The SHTF scenario includes the idea that there will be virtually hordes of people who were stupid enough and uninformed to the point that they failed to anticipate social breakdown. These people will be desperate and they will want what we, the wisely prepared, have.

"SO YOU WILL NEED TO BE PREPARED TO KILL THEM" now becomes an acceptable viewpoint, even without openly acknowledging that this is what is being unofficially 'authorized'. And, people accepting this shift in moral convention, are gently guided towards the understanding that they will very likely have to do so in great numbers. It seems that the whole zombie concept has become an unacknowledged euphemism for 'other', for 'the enemy', for people who will drag you down too if you are not willing to kill them. Furthermore, if you are so stupid as to think that you can help them, you will become just like them....exactly in the same way that if a zombie salivates on you, bites you, or breaks your skin, you will become a zombie too. How helpful, then, to be able to see them as less than human. How convenient it is to be able to relegate these souls to the status of 'other'. It was exactly that shift in Germany that paved the way to the Holocaust. Jews became sub-human much easier to accept a policy of extermination then.

"Prepper" is a term that you may have not heard. It is referring to the ever growing number of people who are devoting a great deal of their financial and physical energy to preparing for the big SHTF scenario. Many 'preppers' have formed rural communities, most not much bigger than a few families, and have purchased homes in the country that they have worked to 'harden' and to sustain them as society collapses around them. There is a new series on Nat Geo t-v in February called, "Doomsday Preppers". [ click on the title above to see a YouTube preview of the first part of this series.] If you make the time to watch it, I believe what I am saying here will sink in to the point of your sitting there mumbling to yourself, "Holy shit. These people are serious." You might even question their viewpoint and their sanity.

But, you will not question that they are out there, all across the land, and they are getting ready for the zombie attack that is inevitable in their eyes.