When silent dancing becomes a crime can silent thinking be far behind?

The other day at Washington’s Jefferson Memorial a number of people met, they said, to dance silently to memorialize Jefferson’s belief in freedom. In this case, the freedom to dance. But the park police took it as crime. Some were arrested when they refused to stop dancing. The police said stop and they didn’t stop. Somebody was disturbing the peace and it wasn’t the dancers.

“In the individualist spirit for which Jefferson is known, the dancers danced for the most part by themselves, in place, each listening to his or her music on headphones,” the original complaint said (in the case of a woman arrected in 2008 for dancing at the memorial).

But authority asserted itself, and when the state says something you’d better listen. At the Jefferson Memorial at least, the loss of tranquility and threat of terror for the park police was inherent not so much in the dancing, but in the refusal of the dancers to obey. Obeying the state for average persons is, bottom line, mandatory when it orders you to stop dancing.  Soon it’ll be to stop thinking. The threat of terror will be used to curtail criminal thought. The park police will be the judge of what you might be thinking at the Jefferson Memorial. It may be that if they don’t like what they think you’re thinking —if what they think you’re thinking is not tranquil enough,  you might be spending the night in jail or an indeterminate amount of time in Guantanamo.

Don’t start smirking and saying, Yeah, fat chance. In the 1930s the German’s thought the ideas of their new nutty chancellor would pass, but overnight they found that right-thinking was law and that fear of foriegn and internal enemies was essential doctrine. You don’t get a chance to recall a police state once it’s got one hand at your throat and the other on the lever of power. And when he or she is an instrument of the state your nice neighbor, the police officer, may be as threatening as Al Qaida.

When dancing becomes a crime, dead or not, Bin Laden has won after all.


I’m New Here

May 29, 2011

–Gil Scott-Heron died yesterday

I’m New Here

I did not become someone different
that I did not want to be
but I’m new here; show me around

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone
you can always turn around

I met a woman in  a bar
told her I was hard to get to know
and near impossible to forget
She said I had an ego on me the size of Texas
but I’m new here and I forget
does that mean big or small?

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone
you can always turn around
I’m shedding plates like a snake
It may be crazy
but I’m a closest thing I have
to a voice of reason

Turn around turn around turn around
and you may come full circle
and be new here again

turn around turn around turn around
and you may come full circle
and be new here again

by Gil Scott-Heron

Video of I’m New Here

Cloud of Unknowing

May 27, 2011

Who’s making money? Money is being made, but who’s making it?

Employment statistics in the USA are as torpid as the air in the House of Representatives until some brave fool brings up the plight of labor and the middle class. In that pit of vipers the only things they get fired up about is pushing money uphill into the coffers of the rich while handing out worthless vouchers to grandma to buy health insurance in her declining years. Dumping elders off a pier into a lake of piranhas would be as efficient a way for society to deal with the problem of aging as handing them a coupon to take to an insurance company as Republicans insist. Given the natural physical deterioration of old age it’s a fat chance Blue Cross will be hot to accept them. Or, alternately (considering the fundamentals of capitalism), it’ll cash them in first then inform grandma later, when she’s diagnosed with colon cancer, that she’s not covered for anything more expensive than Metamucil. Where will medicare-murdering Paul Ryan be then?

The country’s reverting more and more to the days of the wild-west every minute. The big ranchers are taking over. They’re cornering water and grazing rights and setting up toll booths on trails across this-land-is-their-land land. The sheriff’s in their pocket and they call the hanging judge Scalia.

Mark Provost at Truthout.org reports that a former member of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, “…accuses the administration of ‘shamefully ignoring’ the unemployed,” and economist Paul Krugman is right there with her. He says Washington has lost interest in “the forgotten millions.”

A cloud of unknowing has settled over the White House as thick as the cloud of volcanic ash the president just cut short his trip to Ireland to avoid.

In 1375 someone famously known as Anonymous wrote a little book called The Cloud of Unknowing which explored the gap between God and what his creatures know of him; a gap that can only be bridged by a leap of faith. But the fog enveloping the White House is not that cloud of unknowing. The one enveloping the administration might more accurately be called The Cloud of Ignoring —the main benefit of ignoring things being that you tend to forget about them. Believe me, I know. I used this technique many times in my life before I understood that a small foul ignored too long becomes a giant chicken when it comes home to roost. When convenient ignorance descends, a Cloud of Ignoring becomes a cloud of unknowing. Low class hurt winds up being treated as an hallucination until nothing is real except what the most well-positioned liars say.

While old Anonymous’ cloud of unknowing represented the gap in human knowledge of God, the one the administration has lost its head in has to do with the gap between economic growth and job creation. The one that makes it possible for big money to say the economy’s improving while employment remains stagnant. Provost says this gap is reinforced by several factors: “US corporate governance, Obama’s economic policies and the deregulation of US labor markets.”

Corporations do what they do to benefit themselves and their shareholders; it’s in the nature of capitalism. Recessions have happened before and were recovered from —job markets eventually rebounded. But in this particular instance, according to a JP Morgan research report (not exactly a liberal think tank), corporations are experiencing growth in profits because the “…entire profit recovery has been predicated…on declining labor costs … like none before it.”

In other words corporations are profiting because your wages are declining or non-existent. The economic recovery you hear about in the media is a recovery not for average Americans, but for corporations and those bought by corporations —a recovery of auto companies, of banks and other financial institutions, of the oil industry, and of politicians through newly legal infusions of cash from business. That last is one of the reasons government is doing little or nothing about it. The US government has become virtually owned by corporations. The problem is systemic. It’s the result of the corruption of election financing, a system in which money is defined by Supreme Court Justices like Anthony Scalia and John Roberts as free-speech.

But it’s really not speech —expect in the sense that money talks (or as Bob Dylan said, it swears); and it’s not free. Somebody pays. In this case American labor is pays —and as you, young person, will pay when you get too old to be attractive to Aetna —that is if Paul Ryan and his den of well-suited shysters have their Ayn Randian, super-capitalist way.

Author Carl McColman says of the The Cloud of Unknowing (the book) that one of its remarkable features is “that it advocates the use of a single-syllable ‘prayer word’ to effectively discipline the mind and to keep it focused while the heart attempts to grow in its … task of loving God. This spiritual exercise involves repeating a short word like ‘God’ or ‘love’ … in order to help … seek the place of inner silence, where one may “be still and know” the God who is lavish love.” It’s a form of meditation.

Republicans, as a party, seem to have their own god and act as if they’ve been doing just that, meditating on and muttering one word over and over as they move through their minutes and hours and days. And they’ve adopted as their political mission a merciless campaign to get the whole country muttering that word over and over until all hell breaks loose. The word is “Me”.

What will improve our prospects for success and survival into the future is to ditch that word for another —the word “We.”

by Jim Culleny, 5/27/11
for the Greenfield Recorder,
Greenfield, MA


Mindful consistency is the hobgoblin of rank venality —and. by obvious extention, the condition of Republican political thought. Republicans will do everything they can, will come up with any unfair and unjust solution to our debt crisis to avoid raising taxes on the most wealthy Americans. Why?  because being rich is an entitlement of the already rich.  Having obtained wealth, keeping wealth is an entitlement even if it means making it difficult for average americans to make a decent living and obtain wealth themselves … even simple wealth, the wealth of good nutrition for instance.

“In a bill released Monday, Republicans proposed cutting $832 million – or 12  percent – from this year’s budget for the federal nutrition program that provides food for low-income mothers and children. The 2012 budget proposal for food and farm programs also includes a decrease of almost $457 million, or 31 percent, from an international food assistance program that provides emergency aid and agricultural development dollars to poor countries”.

The key phrase in that quote is, “…food for low-income mothers and children.” For Republicans it is high morality to cut funds from programs that provide food for low-income mothers and children while making it possible for the rich to sequester even greater riches for the purchase of stuff that make the rich think they’re really somebody. This is the gist of Republican ideology in 21st cedntury America. In this regard at least John Boehner is not much different from Hosni Mabarak, or any other of the mideast elites worried about losing their grip on wealth and power.

In Republican eyes,  everything associated with attaining the American dream is what they call an “entitlement” and subject to cuts; everything that is except being rich.  THAT entilement is apparently a divine right.

Regarding the president’s recent speech on the importance of a two-state solution for Isreal and Palestine, how long can this situation exist in light of uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia? Forget for a moment the injustice of the situation, think in just practical terms. Israel’s security can’t be sustained under these conditions:


Then, after thinking practically, think of justice. Think justice.

It’s been a long time since I trusted politicians of any stripe, but I did not trust Republicans way before that.  As a political entity the GOP is one of the slipperiest, sleaziest, mean-spirited, elitist, me-first, anti-American party to have ever come down the pike.  Therefore, I can’t help but wonder what their angle is on dissing one of the most popular government programs ever. Threatening to end Medicare seems at least counterinutitive. So (my fearful heart asks) what are they really up to?

Digby at Hullaballoo is wondering and fearing along these lines as well:

“Perhaps the Republicans had to go completely over the cliff before they could
realize they have become too extreme even for a nation that has developed a
tremendous appetite for right wing fantasy and corporate advertising. It’s a
good thing for the country if they shoot the moon and lose very big. But it’s
dangerous too. You never know what might happen and if they get validated again
in 2012 as they did in 2010, we have a major, major problem on our hands.”

If Republicans, despite all they’ve revealed about their intentions for the nation, regain control of the United States government in 2012 it’ll mean the calculations made by Harold Campling predicting an apocalypse for yesterday were just off by 18 months or so. One thing you can be fairly certain of if that happens is that  congress will out itself as the Upper and Lower House of Lords, and the USA will become the FSA —the Feudal States of America.

No, really, I’ve done the calculations …apocalypse without rapture.

by Jim Culleny, 5/22/11

Sex and the Bible

May 22, 2011

What does the Bible have to say about the sex-related issues that tie many American Christians up in knots and make it nearly impossible for government these day to govern? Enough —and ambiguous enough— to make wide consensus a tough thing to achieve.

In Nicholas Kristof’s NYT column this morning he goes over a few. Take his test to see how savvy you are on Biblical sexuality.

From The Old Testament’s Song of Songs:

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins
which feed upon the lilies

Until the day break and the shadows flee away
I will get me to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of frankincence

Having thankfully gotten to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense a few times myself, that’s a bit of the bible that is refreshingly rich and earthy.