the facts about the effects of the livestock industry on the life
system, our health and the animals, meat-eaters are nudged toward
vegetarianism, vegetarians towards veganism. Denial of course kicks
in quickly for many. Given the facts about nuclear power and weapons,
the devastating accidents, already upon us and hanging over us always
potentially, with its expense, its mind-bogglingly long-term waste,
its devilishly complicated design and proliferation issues, the
average person shudders and takes a stand against. The average
nuclear physicist or technician, enthralled with the intricate
technical challenges, may acknowledge the dangers and expense but in
the end, overwhelmingly, like the meat-eater, comes down in favor.
comes down James Mahaffey in his book, Atomic Accidents, A History
of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters. Despite Three Mile Island,
Chernobyl and now Fukushima (and many others), all discussed quite
objectively in the book, with just the slightest pro-nuke coloration,
he jumps to a conclusion little different than the propaganda we've
heard over the years. True, he is grounded in knowledge that allows
him to pounce upon mis-readings and misunderstandings among the
non-scientist opposition but still, we're talking about boiling water
here. Well, and destroying civilization - the slow way or the fast
way. But to the scientist, all this is understandably fascinating.
It's a bit like religion. The first one that gets ahold of you, you
usually stick to. Why isn't the challenge of intermittency for solar
and wind as fascinating a challenge? Seems reasonable to assume that
it could be met given the billions spent on nuclear. Some claim that
it is already met. See Arjun Makhijani's, Carbon-Free and
Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, a free download
at IEER.org (Institute for Energy & Environmental Research). Then
there is the disturbing fact Harvey Wasserman points out, that every
nuclear reactor is a pre-positioned nuclear device to a terrorist.
Bryson is an entertaining writer. His, A Brief History of Nearly
Everything starts out by explaining that the Universe as we know
it is rather roomy. And he does try to cover everthing the
development of science has revealed. To keep it interesting he often
lingers on dramatic threats, like the fact that the whole of
Yellowstone is a potential magma explosion, perhaps relieved or
delayed by the effusions of Old Faithful and the like. Were the
explosion to occur we would have basically the same effect as nuclear
winter with a massive dust cloud blocking the sun for longer than
civilization can probably stand, at least the U.S. version. And this
explosion happens to be well overdue if you believe in geologic
patterns. His One Summer is lighter fare. Everything in the
book pivots from some event that happened in the summer of 1927.
Lindberg's crossing the Atlantic, Al Capone's corrupting presence in
Chicago, talking movies, broadway plays and the exodus to Hollywood
of its finest actors, Henry Ford's Model T and A, the decisions that
locked in the coming stock market crash, Coolidge, Hoover and
Roosevelt. And, as they say, more! A very fun read for your beach
I had heard somehow of the book by Samuel Butler, The Way of All
Flesh. At one time I scoured yard sales picking up paperback
classics by anyone I ever heard of in the great book department. This
I recently found in my collection, so yellowed and brittle that,
after a few pages I decided to get a hardback copy from the library.
I even wrote a song, stealing the title without having read it in
1990, The Way of the Flesh (see
Well I've always been impressed by people who can talk, or write
and this guy, Sam Butler is one, not as witty perhaps as Sam Clemens,
but still, eloquent and knowledgeable enough to impress me, and keep
me reading. He is constantly meandering off his story with little
asides exploring human psychology, usually ending with an
indeterminate dismissal of the subject as hopelessly controversial.
As I'm only a few chapters into it I have little to report other than
it fits into the late 19th century oeuvre of master
writers, some claiming it as standing very near the tippy top of the
of eloguence and mastery of language, I seem to remember an early
television series called O. Henry, based on his short stories
(real name William Sidney Porter). The writer, similar approximate
time-frame to Butler, interestingly spent some time in prison where
he began to develop the craft of, as my friend Jim Marsh calls it,
scribbling. Poor bloke had only ten years to write, dying with 23
cents in his pocket. I put one of his books on library hold and when
I picked it up needed help to carry it to the car. I can only take it
a short story at a time for it weighs heavily on my lap. I've
developed a callous and a crink in my left hand holding it up,
turning the pages with my right. So far it is situated in Central
America where the author spent some time. He is noted for his kind of
Rod Serling-esgue twists in the endings without the metaphysical
aspect. I am going to have to renew this one more than once, coming
in at 1400 pages.
end this sojourn with a reference to the new James Gallant e-book
I've acquired, Whatever Happened to Ohio?. It has a wonderful
hot-air baloon cover image to kind of lure you into the whimsical
fantasy aspect of the tale. Said tale is highly populated, shifting
from character to character in a tentativly bewildering mix which I
trust, knowing Gallant's skills, will evolve into some mightily
interesting, clever and satisfying resolution. The proof is in his
earlier book, The Big Bust at Tyrone's Rooming House, set in
my Atlanta neighborhood.
This is the first e-book I've read and I do declare, it has some
appealing features. It certainly isn't heavy in my lap.
Lofgren's Deep State does not, as I expected, delve into the
secretive intelligence agencies but rather studies the mostly
corporate oligarchy, their lobbyists and the bureacracy whose prime
motivation is job security and advancement. Such factions are served
by policies that perpetuate the status quo and resist reform. Whether
these policies promote the general welfare is a matter of
indifference, if not hostility to the players. The CIA, NSA etc; have
their role but as servants not masters. Lofgren's very nicely written
prose is embedded with intriquing and devastating tidbits on the Deep
State, like these:
28 years as congressional staff member I increasingly viewed all
political ideologies as mental and emotional crutches, substitute
religions: for leaders, a means of manpulating attitudes and
behaviors; for the rank and file, a lazy surrogate for problem
solving and a way of fulfilling the craving to belong to something
bigger than oneself.
of the House Newt Gingrich employed chaos, polarization and
scapegoating to carry out a divide-and-rule strategy, destroying
what bi-partisanship had existed previously.
clique of neoconservative ideologues, both inside and outside the
Bush administration, abetted at every step by the mainstream media,
acted as carnival barkers for the most destructive and
self-defeating policies since Vietnam.
told whoever would listen that the “slam dunk” evidence of
Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was weak and that by invading
Iraq the U.S. might be purchasing its very own West Bank on
steroids. The total bill for Iraq summed up to a nice, round
U.S. economy was mutating into a casino with a tilted wheel, a Wall
Street constructed heads-I-win-tails-you-lose Ponzi scheme resulting
in the meltdown of 2008.
twin shocks of 9/11 and the Great Recession seem mentally to have
unhinged a portion of the people and much of the political class.
Thus followed crazy arguments about the president's birth
certificate, death panels and voters shouting that the government
must get its hands off their government-provided Medicare.
new crop of Tea Party freshman announced that their first priority
was to drive the country into a sovereign debt default. The circus
was being run from the monkey cage.
venerable institutions have outwardly remained the same but they
have grown more and more resistant to the popular will as they have
become hardwired into a corporate and private influence network with
almost unlimited cash to enforce its will.
rural counties of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, large areas of
Detroit, Cleveland, Camden and many other U.S. cities, qualify as
third-world. At the same time, wealth beyond computation piles up in
the money center of New York and the technology hub of Palo Alto,
enough to purchase a $95,000 truffle, a $38 million vintage Ferrari
or $179 million Picasso before the balance is parked in an off-shore
are symptoms of a shadow government that pays little heed to the
plain words of the Constitution.
Deep State is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism,
militarization of foreign policy, financialization and
deindustrialization of the U.S. economy and the rise of plutocracy.
tidbit also from the book is that the author is a former Reaganite
whose 28 years on the Hill gave him a close-up of the
sausage-making, which tranformed (radicalized) the way he saw the
world. The above bullet points all come from the first 5 pages of
the introduction. The book is full of them. Here are a few more or
less randomly selected from deeper in:
Kennedy quote, “D.C. Is a town of northern charm and southern
efficiency.”, injects a little humor to the discouraging list.
Ervin the much-loved, Shakespeare-quoting chair of the Senate
Judiciary Committee Watergate hearings was also the author of The
Southern Manifesto, a document urging defiance of the 1954 Brown
v. Board of Education.
who bray about “family values” fail to consider that the modern
U.S. economy is increasingly unable to deliver the stable, well-paid
jobs, medical insurance and family leave that make such a way of
are too busy raising money and looking over their shoulder to do
frequent points during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the
tongue-tied George W. Bush sorely needed the mellifluous double-talk
of British prime minister Tony Blair, on the theory that nothing
sells hideously awful policy as well as an Oxford accent.
the American people did not voluntarily give informed consent to the
web of unaccountable influence that radiates from Washington and
permeates the country, then their passive acquiescence, aided by
false appeals to patriotism and occasional doses of fear, surely
played a role.
lot of money is changing hands, both in campaign fund-raising and
honararia to government personnel whose “distinguished” careers
set them up for a payday beyond imagining for most U.S. citizens.
Obama, for once, sought a negotiated solution to a problem in the
Middle East rather than unilaterally employing force, Republicans
presented a nearly united wall of opposition.
the citizens of the U.S. consciously decide with their votes that
the safety of their drinking water is a lesser priority than
delivering suitcases of off-the-books cash to a corrupt satrap
entertaining bullet points are merely a sampling of the multitude of
mixed joys you'll encounter in the writing of this career bureaucrat,
before he sets down some suggestions as to what it might take to
overcome the latest guilded age. The first on that 9 item list is
“Eliminate private money from public elections.” The others are:
sensibly downsize and redeploy the military and intelligence complex;
stay out of the Middle East; redirect the peace dividend to domestic
infrastructure improvement; enforce antitrust laws; reform tax policy
(to get corporations paying their share); reform immigration policy;
adopt a single-payer health care system; abolish corporate personhood
status. He details those proposals and closes his book on an
optimistic note – We are situated to where we can turn this around,
despite our many institutional flaws and the accretion of ideological
myths that have impaired our ability to see the world as it is and
live sensibly and peacably within it.
a conservative Reagan appointee to this list of recommendations is
quite a leap and exactly the transformation needed for a critical
mass of the remaining Reaganites and fellow travelers, if we are to
avoid social and environmental catastrophe.