I know a place where the top ten thousand feet of a twenty thousand foot mountain range slid off and skidded fifty miles to the east. I know places, lots of them, where sixty million year old rocks are covered by three hundred million year old rocks, and I understand how that came to be. I know a place where a large piece of the Earth’s crust shot skywards over ten thousand feet, exposing rocks that crystallized not too long after the planet stopped being molten. I can show you the remnants of volcanic islands that slammed into North America before there were dinosaurs. Dig down from the chair where I am right now, and hit fifteen million year old basalt sitting on top of forty million year old ocean floor that somehow found itself stranded on North America. Consider that the Pacific Ocean is ever so slowly narrowing, and that the Ring Of Fire marks the friction points where oceanic crust dives under creeping continents.

Cool, right?

Or not. I get that most people don’t get quivering excitement over weird rocks, but I got it from my Dad, who was quite the enthusiastic rockhound. He used to prowl the new roadcuts being cut for the Interstates in Montana and collect specimens. He bought a couple of books on minerals and geology, and I read everything in the house, so I knew Igneous from Metamorphic from Sedimentary by the time I was in Second Grade. Dad once showed me one of the many limestone cliffs around Great Falls and fired my imagination when he told me that it had once been underwater. I could feel my world get bigger when he told me that, so much bigger than the six thousand year old world Mom taught me about.

Now that the news is so uniformly dreadful, I take great comfort in reflecting on how long this planet has been here, and how everything is recycled. We humans have our little day, and strut about as if we are somehow Important, but we will vanish, too, in time, just like the dinosaurs and the trilobites and the saber tooth tigers. We get to live here for exactly as long as it takes until the next major extinction, which we may well cause, or until the Yellowstone Caldera wakes up again. Meanwhile, the Atlantic gets wider and the Pacific shrinks, whether we’re here to see it or not. If we go, some other creature (I’m betting on raccoons) shall explore the exciting world of huge forebrains and opposable thumbs, and shall, no doubt, dig up our bones in due course.



Whence The Orcs?

Earlier this year, various public opinion polls noted that Americans were sick and tired of fighting other peoples’ wars for them. I have been watching American politics for five decades, and this was the first time in all those years I saw politicians begin to ask questions about the ongoing costs of running an Empire. (I am not going to argue about terminology. If a nation maintains hundreds of thousand of soldiers in over a hundred other places around the planet, that nation is an Empire, whatever it chooses to call itself.) There have been anti-imperialists on the Left forever, and a few small R republicans on the Right forever, but it really did look as if a majority of Americans were about to begin discussing Minding Our Own Damn Business For Once and scaling back our enormous Armed Forces.

And then, out of nowhere, came the Orcs, driving US made tanks, riding on US built trucks, shooting US made guns and demonstrating a mastery of tactics that somebody must have taught them. The story is that the Orcs acquired the weaponry and other gear from the fleeing soldiers of our puppet government in Iraq. I no longer believe the Story.

Sorry. I have been lied to too many goddam times by our government.

What I think is that we made ISIS, and have no desire at all to eliminate ISIS. If we really thought that these goat-bangers were an existential threat, we would be dealing with Iran, who has powerful reasons to hate and fear Sunni crazies with tanks, just as we dealt with Joe Stalin when it came time to fight the Nazis. Instead, we see President Lame authorizing air strikes and begging to send more money and more guns to more Sunni crazies whom the State Department shall properly check out this time. Sure they will. And, of course, Iran is far too Evil and Scary to talk with about a common threat, because they’re working on The Bomb. (Israel, of course, already has The Bomb, but we are only supposed to fear Iran.) My BS meter is pegged, and nothing I hear from our government moves the needle. Nothing. My default position is that I am being lied to, again and again.

I conclude that ISIS is yet more sound and fury signifying that the CIA still knows how to whip up diversions. And divisions. It’s gonna be a great little war. I predict boots on the ground back in The Sandbox within a year, all to Keep Us Safe.

Going To Church With Creedence

Waiting for Netto last night and passing the time with Sirius/XM Deep Tracks which was on a live tracks orgy. The last song of the set was the old Creedence Clearwater Revival set-ender rave-up, “Keep On Chooglin’.” I first heard this track in 1969 when I bought “Bayou Country.” I thought it was okay. Moved right along. Basically one chord. Okay.

Well. I think this concert was recorded at the Fillmore, and we should recall that Creedence was a Bay Area band playing in the same league and at the same venues as Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Quicksilver and all the rest. Gotta be able to get all those hippies dancing. Let it simply be said that this rendition of Keep On Chooglin’ is perhaps the greatest single live track I’ve heard in a very long time. That sucker MOVES. I am certain everybody was dancing as hard as they could. The interplay between the musicians and the crowd is the one thing studio records cannot capture. This crowd at this concert wanted to fly, and Creedence wanted to fly them. Magic ensues.

I don’t go to church these days, but I had one hell of a spiritual experience last night .

You want to find the truth in life, don’t pass music by.


Inspiring Motivating Lies

It’s Fall, which means that if we aren’t out and about, we’re watching football on the weekend. We don’t pay for TV, but even so there are multiple options on Saturday starting at 10 AM some days and running until 8 PM. Sundays there are three NFL games. Loads of football.

This means loads of commercials, for beer and trucks and boner pills. The audio mute is a trusty pal when it gets to be too much, which is always. Yesterday I saw a new one, featuring various actors and jocks looking into the camera Earnestly and Sincerely and saying something. Mute was On, so I had no idea what it was, but I could tell it was Earnest and Sincere. When the graphic came, I knew: Together we can end sexual violence and domestic abuse.

I am now erecting my soapbox. Talk amongst yourselves.

Friends, let me be very blunt with you: there is no way, in any conceivable Universe, that “we”, whoever the hell “we” are, are going to end sexual violence and domestic abuse. People may become more educated about the issues, and people may repent past behavior and do better next time, and people may be encouraged to get help, and people may be empowered to offer help, and all kinds of good and useful things are possible. Eliminating violence, domestic or otherwise is not possible. Sorry. Scratch a suburban Mom and find a plains ape with attitude and an enormous forebrain. We are a bit smarter than the chimps, in that we fling our feces symbolically, but fling them we do. We are tribal, emotional and bloody-minded, and find it very difficult to think rationally when part of a large group of our kind. It takes us years to learn to control our emotions, and many of us never learn. Given all this, we are not going to eliminate violence. Not now, not ever, world without end, amen.

So what is the point of asserting the impossible? Think how many campaigns of this sort you have seen over a lifetime. Think about the rank impossibilities asserted as achievable. “Together, we can end homelessness.” “Together, we can end poverty.” Or, painfully, “Together, we can end racism.” No, we can’t. Somebody is always going to be homeless. Somebody is always going to be poor. Somebody is always going to be a racist. How many times have you heard somebody on the tube solemnly say something that Just Ain’t True? Is it possible that the widespread cynicism about Everything we have been and are being told is based on the dawning realization that we are being tenderly lied to for our own good? Maybe a societal overdose on too much “Together, we can do ANYTHING!” rah-rah?

I hate rah-rah.

The impossible Perfect is the enemy of the possible Good. Truth, however awkward or painful or unwelcome is better than a lie, even an Inspiring Motivating lie with only the best of intentions. Truth is we are not perfect, have never been perfect, are never gonna be perfect and would hate being perfect if somebody forced Perfection upon us. End violence? Sure, the same day that the lion lays down with the lamb and the lamb gets up and walks away. We do not get to eliminate the problem. Instead we just get to deal with it, and try to mitigate the harms done. We can never win the war. Never. We never end violence and we never end sexual abuse. Such being the case, stop promising the impossible and get busy with what can be done. We can make things better, but we can’t make things perfect.

Keep the pie in the sky in church, where it belongs.  Just give me some truth.


Having lamented the sad disappearance of the Liberal in our politics, it is time to be Fair and Balanced and mourn the loss of the Conservative in our politics. ‘Twas Edmund Burke first advanced the notion that reform, although necessary and inevitable must be implemented slowly and with great respect for tradition. He was responding to the craziness of the French Revolution, where he saw for himself how Democracy can easily slide into grimmer tyranny than any King might provide with the enthusiastic support of the masses. Comparing and contrasting, he noted how the Americans got rid of their King, but kept their calendar, their religion(s), their English Common Law and their fine old English notion of keeping the Executive from getting over-frisky, and thus avoided the Terror and slaughter that the French got from their Revolution.

I think that nations are like an ecosystem, in that tinkering with one thing usually throws something else out of whack, and the best thing a gardener can frequently do is Nothing. Let it roll. If the aphids show up, the lady bugs are two days behind. There is no need to pull out the spray and Do Something, as that kills all the good bugs along with the aphids. Now, if one has poor soil to start with, sometimes the only thing to do is till deep and amend it: compost, minerals, cover crops. It can be done but it takes time and one has to work with what is already there, not nuke it and start over. The easy solution is no solution at all, and the only real solution takes time and cannot be short-cut. Nature limits what is possible, and ignoring those limits is disastrous. Measure twice; cut once.

Those garden illustrations of mine illustrate how a Burkean conservative looks at the world.

Now close your eyes and imagine any Fox News conservative advocating prudence and restraint. Go ahead, try.

The problem is that capitalism as currently practiced works by urging us to abandon prudence and restraint, which the Go-Getters among us deplore as Sales Resistance. Billions of dollars are spent to undermine prudence and restraint. Digging deeper, Karl Marx first described how capitalism uproots Tradition in the 1840s, and time has proven him right; the matrix of old relationships that Burke took for granted has been shredded by the very Free Markets fetishized by the likes of Fox News. There is nothing left to Conserve, and so-called Conservatives did it to us.

What passes for Conservative in America is either propaganda for corporatist Oligarchy, or a futile longing for a past that never existed. Either way, nothing there worth a minute of my time.


After watching most of Ken Burns “The Roosevelts” I really really miss liberals. I don’t know where they all went. I do know that the current crop of self-described “Progressives” are close-minded, authoritarian and incapable of organizing a one-car parade. Eleanor and Franklin would actually spend time among the poor folks, talk with them and LISTEN to them. Imagine, say, Hillary getting her hands dirty and calling in bigtime political chips to help a few hundred sharecoppers, while actually involving herself in trying to help poor people whose names and stories she knows because she lives there with them. Eleanor did that. Hillary won’t. Not ever.

Liberals made their name in American politics by looking out for the Little Guy, but that was a long time ago. Today nobody is looking out for the LIttle Guy, least of all the Little Guy’s government. One of FDR’s major accomplishments was separating commercial banking from investment banking with passage of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1937. The repeal of this landmark law was signed by alleged Liberal Bill Clinton at the behest of the Wall Street banksters, who promptly ran the entire national economy into the goddam toilet. Again. Just like they did in1929. If we had any real Liberals around, hell would be raised, but as it is: crickets. Nobody went to jail over tanking the economy. Nobody ever will. The corporate malefactors FDR sought to control are now controlling the mass media and buying the legislation they want by buying the legislators they want, and they are as snug as bugs in rugs with the willing cooperation of both political parties. Both political parties. BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES.

Anybody sees a real Liberal, please let me know. I’m pining over here.

Road Trips

If the Wistful Wishes Fairy ever shows up, she is going to give me a comfortable car with superior audio capabilities and sufficient cash to buy gas, food and accommodations Forever. Throw in a Road Atlas for North America and we’re good.084_84

Ever since I was a tiny person in diapers I’ve been loving being on The Road, a fortunate affinity if one is born in Montana, where the distances are great and the family far-flung. The very earliest coherent memories I have are of a trip to Seattle in 1957, and how much bigger and brighter the Seattle city lights were from Queen Anne’s Hill than the Great Falls city lights viewed from the Twilight Drive-In Theater. Maybe a year later I remember freaking out when I was told we were going to drive over a mountain in Glacier National Park; something about that notion made little Me deeply uneasy. So parents and grandparents lied right to me, saying it’s okay, Cotter (Grandma’s nickname for me) we won’t go over that scary mountain, even as we were ascending that scary mountain. Once we got to St Mary’s, they asked me if I had liked the ride. I had in fact loved the ride. Then they told me that we had just finished going over that scary mountain, and that wasn’t so bad, was it? I remember being aware that they had pulled one over on me, but I didn’t mind because I knew they were right. And then I had my first experience of Black Hills Gold and endless copper bangly stuff at the Gift Shop. Enormous log buildings. Buzzing horseflies that hurt like fire if they bit you. Grownups in shorts, with pale legs. Sunglasses. Watching the train pull in at East Glacier, with the Blackfoot decked out in full regalia to greet the tourists. Colors screaming bright, grass and flowers and war bonnets and sky and the enormous silent mountains. All new. Dazzling.

There was a time when there were no Interstates. There was a time when there were no rest stops. One in immediate need therefore had to “Pee the road.” This meant finding a wide spot, pulling over and selecting a bush. Our families favorite place to do this on the road between Great Falls and Livingston was a thicket of chokecherries just past the Burma Shave signs and before you got to the five white crosses marking the site of a fatal accident. (Montana used to put up a little white cross wherever somebody had died in a car wreck. Constant remembrance of mortality for a little boy with more graphic imagination than was perhaps necessary. I doubt they do that any more. Some atheist would sue them silly.)

I know what it is to ride a Montana highway in the back of an old El Camino. Me and my Baptist Youth pals looking for a hot spring with the radio turned up loud, playing the Young Rascals. Four or five of us in the back of that thing, doing 75, all keenly aware that if anything went wrong, we were all dead. It was a marvelous feeling. Three different sets of parents had no problem with turning us loose with no particular place to go in a completely unsafe vehicle. They gave us Freedom, understanding that risks are involved. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

And now let us sing: Goin’ up the country, goin’ where I wanna go/Goin’ up the country, goin’ where I wanna go/Goin’ to some place where I never been before. I’m goin’ I’m goin’ where the water tastes like wine/I’m goin’ where the water tastes like wine/you can jump in the water and stay drunk all the time.

Heaven, if it exists, is going to be an endless roadtrip. Much more to my taste than standing around on those silly streets of gold endlessly telling God how wonderful He is as the Elders fall down and worship.