Monthly Archives: November 2012

Big Box Store, Yes!

Well, let’s hear it for one of the Big Box types. No, not Target nor Wal*Mart, rather let’s hear it for the CEO of Costco.

From what I’ve read, he pays his employees a living wage, gives them benefits and makes enough of a profit to give himself a salary of close to $500K/year. That sounds like a Big Box Store and its CEO with a conscience and a soul. Unlike the Walton minions from Arkansas, whose CEO makes more in an hour than his employees make in a year.

By the way, in Fostoria, Ohio, in the city’s cemetery is the tombstone epitaph that has etched in granite the saddest farewell I’ve ever witnessed: “Gone to Wal*Mart.” Yes, some woman thought that is the destination with which she’d like to be tagged forever or at least as long as granite lasts. That is not unlike the supposed last will and testament that ordered the cremated remains of the deceased to be scattered in the Wal*Mart parking lot, so that a regular visit from family could be assured. It is hard to imagine that those who make so damned little flock to Wal*Mart as though it were heaven-sent. I guess those in an abusive realtionship never quite mangage to get out of it, without lots of help!

I am about ready to buy my Cheerios, toilet paper, frozen chicken parts and cheap coffee by the case, push one shopping cart and pull another through the Costco parking lot to fill my Ford F-150. The problem is that the Costco store is an hour’s drive away. So, I’ll have to waste fuel dollars by patronizing BP to get to a Big Box Store with integrity. If I’m not likely to do that and I can afford to make a choice, how can anyone expect the abused customers/employees at Wal*Mart to do otherwise than get to the closest Arkansan Outlet.

My god, what has this country come to? And we thought that the age of Robber Barons was old, if not ancient, history. Where are the Rockefellers and the Fords when we need them. At least, in the earlier auto and oil business a person could make a living, at union wages.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, who the hell cares? Well, apparently those whom Romney had no interest in care. The lower forty-some percent of the population have little or no choice than to shuffle off to buy discounted products manufactured in sweat-shops in Bangladesh or ground fresh in the pink-slime meat processors right here in the good ole USA.

Anyone with a gram of moral sense, and of course, the extra money it takes to make the purchase, will ever again buy anything except at a local merchant.


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Let’s Hear It From Woody!

Born in 1912 in Okema, OK, this is the Centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth.

It is uncanny to view the Guthrie tribute video on Democracy Now [] and recognize how very much like the 1930s our present experience is. In 1940, Woody was nauseated by Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America.’ Irving Berlin may well have meant the song to be a kind of hopeful ballad of an immigrant Jew, but Woody saw it for the jingoistic anthem that it became and still is. That year he penned ‘This Land Is Your Land’ in response to the American exceptionalism expressed in the Berlin-authored anthem. Thus it was no accident that Woody’s anthem was featured at the last Obama inauguration. We can only hope that this next year’s second term event has a similar theme.

We are in a 21st Century McCarthyism again. History does indeed repeat itself, or at least keeps coming around in frighteningly similar guises. If ever a left that knows the lyrics of Woody by heart were needed, it is now. Woody showed little interest in or respect for family values; he did pretty much abandon his family when he went to New York 1940, but his real vocation wasn’t fatherhood, it was his populist poetry.

Prophets do not have to be good at everything. I don’t remember ever reading anything about Jeremiah or Isaiah or Hosea’s family life being exemplary. Well, Isaiah did give his kids weird names and Hosea did show a remarkable tolerance for betrayal, but other than the latter’s patience with Gomer, I see little in the Judeo-Christian tradition that makes the GOP ‘family values’ facade have much to recommend it.

In the 30s, the leading poets, novelists were, in no small number, Communists. That kind of radicalism won’t win many followers today, but it is well past time for those of us who have thought of ourselves as liberals to jettison all semblance of politeness, political correctness, propriety and some nostalgic allegiance to a two-party system and think outside the box. Real change has never been the option of the underclass and oppressed, it is us the bourgeois who have the time and substance for revolution.

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November 23, 2012 · 6:15 pm

The Ocean Disappeared

The layers of Santa Elena limestone visible on the canyon walls here in Big Bend National Park are evidence that where we are standing was once a shallow sea. Human effect did not cause this sea to shrink to its present Pacific shoreline. Earth’s evolution left this marvel, one of few public lands in the Lower 48 where the KT layer, the strata marking the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods of geologic time, is exposed and can be seen.

There is a vast area of the Park, though, that gives sobering evidence of the long-lasting change that humans can inflict upon an environment. Now it is called Tornillo Flat. Stretching on either side of the mostly dry Tornillo Creek, thousands of acres are nothing but rocky sand, parched by a relentless sun, and dotted by lonely mesquites and a forest of creosote bush, as far as the eye can see.

Had you been here in the 1870s when US military expeditions first surveyed the Big Bend, a much different sight would have greeted you. The Great Comanche Trail followed the path carved by Tornillo Creek. On either side of the creek, as far as the Comanches could see from horseback, as they drove their plundered cattle and horses back from their raids into Mexico, was grass tall enough to brush the bellies of their livestock. Their trail followed sources of water and food for their herds.

From forts along the Trans-Pecos, US Cavalry troopers, many Black Buffalo Soldiers, made southwest Texas safe for settlement by winning the Indian Wars. With Comanche raids marked only by memories and an October moon named for their lunar-lit travels, both Anglos and Mexicanos began to settle a land the early Spanish called ‘el despoblado,’ ‘the uninhabited place.’

By the early years of the Twentieth Century, some Mexican ranchers owned smaller holdings in the Big Bend, where the Rio Grande takes a sharp left, then right turn, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Anglo neighbors held title to larger ranches. While it was never easy living on these ranches and among the Mexicano-populated villages, with the Eastern demand for beef, mohair and mutton, the ranchers and their cowboys managed a living into a second generation.

By the late 1930s, word was out that the State of Texas was buying land for a new ‘Canyonlands’ State Park. With a recognition that they would not be long on their land, what with the possibility of a National Park, some ranchers began to push their land beyond its capacity. Over-grazing denuded grasslands. In places like Tornillo Flat, the very structure of the sod was uprooted.

What had been grasslands in the 1870s by 1944 had become desert. Now, a hundred years after ranches dotted the Big Bend, Tornillo Flat is still a wasteland. Although Park efforts to restore grass has been ongoing for a number of years, it is unlikely that it will ever be restored.

Here, where there was once a shallow sea complete with dinosaurs along its salty wetlands, the earth matured over millions of years to support a complex menagerie of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. Then in the course of fifty or so years, humans destroyed an ecosystem.

Mr. Rubio from Florida, may not be able to tell you how old the earth is, since he is not a scientist, but I am here to bear witness that it is not so old and resistant that we cannot wreak havoc upon it. Only the willfully ignorant can doubt the effect of humans upon our planet.

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an end of the day

The cactus and ocotillo covered hillock, just beyond the new Border Patrol housing immediately to the northeast of our trailer site, just signalled the beginning of the end of the day as the sun’s shadow crept to its top and cloaked us all in evensong. Although the yellow of the fog-lights of the Patrol’s white and green pick-up still reflects the end of the day’s radiance, we know that the time of the evening’s voices and visitors is soon upon us. The javelinas will likely make their single file to the arroyo beside us, through our site. A raven may yet croak and a coyote may whine or howl. We are not likely to hear the slither of the serpents seeking their day’s sustenance.

The scanner radio programmed to eavesdrop on most all of the Park’s communication is wheezing to report that 427 is ending their day of patrolling the remote camp sites of the Chisos Mountains. The dispatcher will listen with acute attention and pass on information and requests until about 9pm, at which time Big Bend National Park will turn out the lights, set the thermostat so that it doesn’t drop below 60 in bedrooms, pull the covers up under its chin and drift off into another night’s sleep in paradise.

Meanwhile, it is almost 6pm CST and we are starting to do the dishes. We’ll listen to satellite radio for a while. Ron will write some. Jane will read while he writes. And before the big hand stands upright three more times, we too will peacefully sleep. ‘Nite all.


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Follow the Lady!

You can call it ‘follow the lady,’ ‘bola, bola, bola,’ or ‘three card monte;’ but no matter what it is called it is a con. Gather around some guy who appears to be on the look-out for the ‘heat,’ watch him throw down three cards on the top of his easily removable box/desk and then bet on which card is the Queen. The guy next to you is betting and appears to have won, so why shouldn’t you? Well, you shouldn’t because the guy doing the betting is the shill in the con with the dealer. He really wins nothing, nor does the dealer lose when the shill wins; it is just a part of the con. The only real loser is you, because when you bet, you cannot in the wildest imagination beat the dealer. If you should pick the Queen, the dealer will simply allow the other guy to thrown down a higher bet and then tell you that he only pays the highest bet.

Keep this game in mind when President Obama steps up to the table to tell us all where the Queen is in the game of Fiscal Cliff Slope. Watch very carefully because there is a history on the part of player Obama to indicate that he has played with this dealer before. In fact, when Boehner last dealt, player Obama laid out such a wad that had the Dealer been able to get his House to back him, he would have taken the shill for a real roll. The shill would not have been the loser though. We would have lost in terms of Social Security and Medicare. Fortunately for us the last time that Dealer and that player huddled in what appeared to be a game we could benefit from, the Dealer’s House said, “Fold your cardboard and leave immediately!” We were lucky to get out of that one unscathed.

Unless player Obama is really more your friend now that he was the last time he looked at Boehner’s three curved cards in front of him, you won’t want to step up and lay anything on his hunches. Unless and until the President steps up to the table with the courage to say, “I’m no longer going to be the shill in this con game to make Republicans happy,” we will be as poorly served in his second term as we were in his first.

Oh, I know there were lots of things he accomplished, and I appreciate every one. But what he has yet to accomplish is to recognize that he is the one who is the Dealer and it is our turn to be the backer of a Dealer who plays the game to our benefit.


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You Didn’t Do It Yourself!

Back in July, candidate Obama reminded us that success, even entrepreneurial, is not an individual accomplishment when he said “…if you started your own business, you didn’t build it yourself…” Of course, the Romney campaign took that phrase out of context and tried to bash him with it.

Well, I do not want to bash President Obama but I do want to remind him that he spoke the truth. Mr. President, you didn’t do it yourself! You had help from your fantasy-land opponents who were and are so unaware of and unconnected to those of us outside the Beltway. Your tears this past week indicated that you are aware of the awesome ground game put forth by your campaign staff and volunteers. You are not going to be President for another term on your own doing.

Do not forget that it was those of us who voted early in Ohio weeks before November 6th, those of us who stood in lines for more hours than many put in for a work day, those of us who refused to be intimidated by attempted voter suppression by the Republicans who have given you four more years. We did that not because we like you. Truth is that we do not really know you personally well enough to call you a friend. We voted to give you four more years because we really want the kinds of progressive change evident throughout results of voting across the country. Women won in precedented numbers. The right to marry whom one loves was supported by referendum. A more rational approach to recreational drug use was affirmed by State majorities. Radical ‘right to life’ politicians were run out of town in two States where they had every expectation of winning easily held posts.

What we did, what we, the overwhelming majority of The People, did, was at the very least, brought our nation to a tipping point toward a progressive future. You have done all that is either necessary or decent in congratulating Governor Romney and his running mate on their effort. There is absolutely no need for you to play nice with Republicans. There is absolutely no reason for you to compromise the positions you have taken. Do not, for the sake of those of us who have supported you one more time, do anything to tip us backwards by so much as an ounce!

The Republican Party has demonstrated that they do not differ by degrees from the majority of the population, they are totally opposed to the ‘rest of us.’ Do not compromise on the basis of promises that are made by a Party that has just made prevarication a basis for a campaign. They cannot be trusted and cannot be met half-way. The House Speaker speaks compromise but he does so only because he was forced by the election result. They do not respond to nice, they respond only out of necessity.

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Journalist Embedded in War Zone

Gotta hand it to generals with degrees from West Point. They are not above inventing neologism. Or at least, they have ways of giving new meaning to old words.

Petraeus’ journalist mistress gives ’embedded’ a nuance few had expected.


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Veteran’s Day Honors

I don’t know how or why but my grandfather did not serve in WWI (the other one was already deceased) and my Dad was exempt from the draft in WWII as an ‘essential business’ owner/operator in his small town. I did not serve in the Viet Nam era because I had a deferment as a student in a theological seminary through 1966.

Yes, I was one of those clergy who opposed the war in Viet Nam. I did not look down upon returning veterans though. I have a distinct memory of the Marine Lance Corporal, whose family I did not know but whose funeral director contacted me to preside over the Lance Corporal’s burial in Cincinnati in 1968. As I remember it, the military casket included a ‘glass’ covering over the uniformed body. I rather suspected, at the time, that little more than the Corporal’s head, neck and a part of his torso was shipped home for burial. To me he was anonymous as I met his family first at the funeral home a day before the interment. I did the best I knew how, to acquaint myself with the hopes and dreams he took with him in to USMC service. As with all the funerals I conducted, as a very free-thinking, yes, I’ll use the “L” word, liberal clergy-person of the 60s, I issued him complimentary ticket into the Kingdom. I did not think that his service afforded him that entitlement, I believed then, and still would so profess, were I still a professing Christian, that eternal life was the absolutely free gift of an entirely gracious divinity.

I well remember that at each Veterans Day weekend throughout my 40+ year career as a pastor, even though I considered myself a pacifist, I invited Veterans of all our military services to be recognized in the Sunday worship. When asked by the community group planning the annual Memorial Day Parade event at the local cemetery, I agreed to offer one of the prayers or, on a couple of occasions, to be the event’s speaker.

So please, do not talk to me as though, even as one who never served our nation in the military nor with an ancestor since the Civil War who has, that I do not recognize what it means to give one’s all. There is no non-military person who has more respect for those who have borne arms in the service of our country than I have.

So, I have a suggestion for a very significant way to honor Veterans. Let’s have fewer of them! Let us spare more mothers viewing the corpses of their sons and daughters, even though draped with the Star Spangled Banner, with no future. Let us have fewer parents who see, through a film of tears, a precisely folded flag presented to them by a uniformed member of the Armed Forces at a graveside. Let’s have fewer wounded warriors with lives disfigured by amputations and brain trauma.

In my knee-jerk liberal way of looking at things, the best way to honor those who serve in our military is to have need for fewer and fewer women and men to do so. It is much more than our bowing heads to honor sacrifices, it is more honest and honorific to admit that we continue to be the largest supplier of arms and armed forces in the world. All too many of our forays in ‘defence of liberty’ are really strategies in pursuit of larger and larger boosts to our national GDP. We wage most wars to benefit our economy.

We may well be at a tipping point, perhaps even have already tipped, as a society with regard to the right to marry whomever one desires, with regard to the right to enjoy a ‘Rocky Mountain High,’ and with regard to recognizing women as fully equal to men in every aspect of their lives, but with regard to bellicose foreign policies, we are barely more advanced than speaking offensively and carrying a club.

If you really want to honor Veterans, let your Senators and Congressmen/women know that you want less military spending, except to care for those Vets we’ve already wrung the life from.



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It is a good morning.

Of course, I am thrilled and relieved to see my vote counted toward the President’s second term.

In the interest of a real two Party system, it is my sincere hope that Republicans at the center of their power recognize that Mitt Romney did not lose, rather his campaign and their Party had been hijacked by the Tea Party, homophobia, misogyny and evangelical fundamentalism. If the Republican Party wants to have an effective future, it must look at such defeats as Mendel in Ohio, West in Florida, Akin in Missouri, Mourdock in Indiana, Thompson in Wisconsin and Brown in Massachusetts as well as looking at the drag that Ryan was on the Romney ticket. Romney’s concession speech gave us a glimpse of a man of sincerity and integrity below the political sheen. The GOP will have a diminishing pool of white male voters to attract in its future and must recognize that the anti-women, racist, anti-gay, religious-right appeal has diminishing returns.

Voters in Colorado have given a new definition to “Rocky Mountain High” and, in concert, the State of Washington has brought that tune to the top of the charts. Could it be that a rational attitude toward drug use is beginning to gain momentum? Let’s hope so; the ‘war on drugs’ has been a disaster.

And I don’t have to buy that damned parrot.


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“Wheeet Wheeaal,” the wolf whistle was unmistakable. I knew immediately that it was directed toward Jane, who, after all, is more than well-preserved for one in the early years of her eighth decade. OK, she’s 71 but that is the beginning of that decade and she is a good-looking woman, if one is allowed to say that about one’s wife.

The source of the whistle though, was less certain. The fellow grilling the evening meal on the table-top hibachi at the campsite beside us probably had an appreciative eye, but I could not imagine a man being so obviously fresh, the more so since he’s probably my age or a bit older. And his wife is right there! 

When next I heard a laughing cackle and then a coarse “Help me! Help me!” I realized that, at last, we had neighbors in the campground without a pet on a leash (one fellow was walking two dogs and a cat, all on leashes). We had a parrot in the $240,000 motor home next door.

I decided right then and there that I want one of those. No, not the sleek, brown, beige and black RV. I want a parrot! If this election results in a Republican win, I’ll lose my voice crying for help. If it is President-elect Romney who grins at us late Tuesday night, we are all going to need all the help we can get.


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