Saturday, March 28, 2020



1.  What ecosystem do you live in?  What would you say was your relationship to it?
2.  Do you love it or hate it or ignore it?
3.  Does the wind blow there?
4.  Do you eat locally?  At home?  Does your local eating place serve local food?
5.  What is your relationship with your neighbors?
6.  Do you feel safe?
7.  How many miles to the nearest doctor?  Hospital?
8.  Name as many ethnic and genetic sources of yourself as you can.
9.  Name your pets.
10.  How do you feel about cowboys?
11.  If it rains, do you use an umbrella?
12.  How many bird songs can you imitate?
13.  How many operas have you attended?


Feel free to add.


When the cats come to wake me up at 4AM (I can stall until 4:30 but no later), I get up and stagger to the kitchen to open cans of catfood and drink a cup of water myself because I dehydrate in the night.  Not much of a problem -- I just go back to sleep unless I've got a pressing idea.  Then I write for a while like this to drain the buzz.  

This morning, staggering in the semi-dark (the health busybodies forced me to install nightlights in spite of Valier's very bright and close street lights) I mistook a kitten for a shoe and trampled it.  It screamed but seemed to recover.  Nevertheless, it cracked my shell of habit and muttering.  Now a lifetime of evil things have come to plague me.  Mostly car accidents (none in which people were killed or some were hurt) and accidental cruelty to animals.  More crimes of negligence, omission, and delayed awareness.  Snatches of driving in blizzards, loading balky horses, or last winter's shoulder dislocation.  Painful things but no permanent damage and mostly self-rebuke for not being more skillful, more thoughtful, more careful.

This is not true.  There are many knotty deaths.  My brother Mark's was unexpected but not surprising.  My mother's was attended by all three of her children.  The doc had given Mark the swabs with morphine, fentanyl, or whatever and he used them liberally.  At the end some people arch their heads backwards, like the movie tropes for someone having an orgasm.  It's actually an attempt to get air.  The covid-19 victims must do it.

In the kitchen I kicked a cat's bowl and a dark insect scuttled out from under.  It might have been a spider but it seemed heavier with different legs.  I stomped it.  I did not scrape it off from the bottom of my slipper to see what it was.  I think it was a dermestid.  Google says it could be called a "skin beetle."  They eat what's dead.

When the provincial Alberta museum in Edmonton was knew, we were there on the way north to hunt moose.  In the hall was a padlocked box with a big sign:  "DANGER!!  DERMESTIDS  DO NOT OPEN."  The bugs were used to clean bones but if they escaped they would eat all the indigenous artifacts since most were made of tanned skins, sinews, bone, and other bits of bodies, both human and other species.

The dermestids are in my house.  For much of my life my job has been to cheer people up, to look for the silver lining, to promise good things later, to "re-frame."  At least to explain.  But a lot of that has been denial, blocking out, covering up. I am an American with much clinging rural culture.  But at night I dream of vast empty university halls.

Born in '39, I was too young to understand WWII.  I took in the patriotism, heroism, the fighter airplanes, the exhausted but determined men, the healing nurses.  This drama is what I understood to be the basis of life and worthiness.  After the war came a bit of relief and then the images of destruction and loss, the revelations about torture and mutilation.  The accounts of betrayal and deals between nations.  Those scandals went deep and vivid.  I suppose it's a form of PTSD that it comes back without being asked.  Most people shoved it down deep.

Call it depression, call it grief, call it lack of energy -- I'm not getting much done.  There's not much I can do for anyone else.  The idea of family is just historical now.  I'm not dead and don't intend suicide, but sometimes it would be good to just suspend existence for a while.

Friday, March 27, 2020


"The P.M.C. are people whose economic and social status is based largely on education rather than capital ownership: teachers, managers, lawyers, doctors, and culture workers of various kinds. These professionals make up about twenty per cent of the country’s population."

You'll notice that this quick list doesn't include legislators.  I don't know what class they are in.  They ought to be educated managers and not just lawyers, but they are mainly money-raisers.  Some of them are ignorant, dependent on their staffs, leashed by big corporations and media.  In the beginning they were land-owners.  Everything is about assets, territory, ownership, and what the rules say.  The "rules" are more like parliamentary procedure than moral principles.  In short, legislators are a kind of capitalist owners who overlap with the people who are so wealthy that they have become self-perpetuating institutions.

In the evenings I've been marathoning "The West Wing" which is about the ivy-league educated managers just below the President.  One of the interesting dynamics is the "assistants" who are female and assist the men who assist the president.  The scripts move the wisdom and strength back and forth between the two.  In addition there are two very strong men, presidential advisors, who are almost co-presidents.  The president himself is very much idealized, NOTHING like Trump.  

It is said that this show tries to be at least believable if not realistic, that it is an echo of the Clinton Administration, at least the face of it.  NOT Bush, NOT Obama.  The question of bringing back a show that is like the Clinton Administration is ridiculous.  Sheen's version of the president is not a hound. We would not tolerate that now.  Not even if the hound were JFK.

The characters, as written, are self-conscious about their status but never quite believe that there are people who are very different: they never think of themselves as privileged financially or socially.  "Different drummer" doesn't cover it.  Some characters are a bit problematic.  Virtue signalling gets a little bent when dealing with "Charlie," the president's young Black "body man."  They're all so young, so looking for love, so bleached and shaven.  No one is funky.  Even if they sleep in the office, all they need for renewal is a clean shirt.

This essay is particularly thought provoking because it takes on the impact of casting, esp. in the case of the president.  To cast a minority or a negative character will totally change the show.  (The deaths of the actual actors also changed the plot line.  Few episodes were as grand as the cathedral memorial for the President's secretary.  (The real actress died of cancer rather than a car crash.) And yet it challenges religion in an upper middle class way.

Even this far out of the actual time of the show, the episodes addressed classic enough situations for them to be almost eerie in terms of what's happening with Trump right now.  They never thought of a pandemic on our scale -- it was inconceivable at that time, in particular for the Professional Managerial classes who thought up this series pre-globalization.  All the characters, even Charlie, are members or aspirants to this class.  However, the "middle class" is actually a very broad "continent" and people work hard to move up in it.  The highest class seem to be mostly born into money, inheriting from resource exploitation, faking college through "heritage".

Another level of watching drama rests on the technique of the actors and the shaping of their material, though they must share with directors.  This paragraph is from Wikipedia's Aaron Sorkin entry.

"Sorkin's trademark rapid-fire dialogue and extended monologues are complemented, in television, by frequent collaborator Thomas Schlamme's characteristic directing technique called the "walk and talk". These sequences consist of single tracking shots of long duration involving multiple characters engaging in conversation as they move through the set; characters enter and exit the conversation as the shot continues without any cuts."

It would be interesting to know who wrote this whole entry since it has a distinct point of view.  The characters have few flaws except for drugs and smoking, which are also Sorkin's problems.  John Spencer, "Leo", was also alcoholic but came from down lower in terms of class.  His parents were blue collar which gave Spencer a ring of authenticity and practicality when he so convincingly portrayed Sheen's advisor.  He died of a heart attack before 59 so left some episodes unfinished, to be rewritten.  This sort of "class-assigning" discussion of characters and actors hasn't been done because both are assigned stereotypical characteristics and I'm doing that here.  It is "America."  

Most of the thought about "class" in regards to Hollywood refers to Jewish culture and connections, which are very powerful.  Outsiders don't think much about the difference between Hollywood and Broadway, and don't think of the "Method" school of acting being Russian in origin, part of that country's acute interest in the science of minds.  On film the director and editor can make actors of a dog because of the power of cuts and points of view.  I once had a student who could create a dialogue between some scissors and a stapler on a tabletop, with pauses, slow turns, super closeups.

To some people the point is sinking into the world of the story to the point of feeling it is real and they hate this kind of observation.  This is more true of movie theatre watching than of television watched at home with bathroom breaks and kids demanding attention.  Sorkin's long thoughtful speeches don't do as well in that medium, so another influence is the actual medium of a story.  He doesn't draw back in terms of using an easier vocabulary or more action to accommodate the people who are watching.  This is rarely true of money-based television.  

But "our class" is avid to watch Rachel Maddow in her long professorial speeches about history and complex forces.  More so as the seriousness of the subjects increase daily.  This doesn't mean she's dry and not impassioned.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see similarities with "West Wing."

Thursday, March 26, 2020


By now the internet has become so intrusive that it's full of paywalls attached to click-bait, popup ads, automatic definitions in boxes, reconfigurations, questionnaires, and money offers, etc etc. that it is clear that what they say is true:  the internet doesn't belong to the user.  It is dominated by those with money who want more money.  I'm constantly prompted to bring up whatever I brought up before, whether I'm any longer interested or not.  To find what I really want, I have to thrash through the underbrush and not triggering more junk from the cloud.

Grannon and Vaknin, for example, not that I don't value them.  They make a lot of other people look like wimpy simps.  They must be paying YouTube or just getting a lot of hits.  The first half of this Vaknin vid struck me as evidence that fear has surfaced his old hangups, like discrediting naive math analysis, hairsplitting concepts, and claiming to know better than everyone else when NO ONE does when dealing with this coronavirus.  But the second half of the same vid hit one of my persisting concepts dead center.  (starts at 8:20 minutes)  Where he gets his theories is beyond me since he can't have much of a clinical practice, but these ideas are very useful to me.  I think they're sound.

It is an analysis he has come to recently and it has a tiny bit of a vengeful edge so I wonder how his marriage is going, which is none of my business.  The idea he has recently been exploring is that the narcissistic man is often accompanied and engaged by a borderline woman.  It's about boundaries, meaning identities, personas, how we know who we are and how we get it wrong, to the point where the two share a psychosis.  (We used to call it more elegantly a "folie a'deux.")  In this vid he offers the idea that this pair, both of them sometimes to a psychotic degree, are acting out "daddy issues," at least on the woman's side.  And the solution of this insoluble problem for an abused woman, often ends up with boundaries so tough that the person is isolated.  But not before she makes a helluva lot of trouble for the narcissist.  In my case, after his death because the attachment persists and now it is safe.

Vaknin's description closely fits my marriage but with the additional element of the Male Narcissist being a genuinely talented and much admired man.  And this Female Borderline being deeply disappointed and frustrated by the failure of my own father.  A lot of this is reanimated by the behavior and demeanor of Trump, although my father in public was never a predator, never criminal, never sociopathic.  Just never dynamic.

My own personal Male Narcissist was the same with the wife before me and the wife after me, which made it easier to figure out.  I never cheated on him and I don't think the others did either.  The first one did.  In my case the "prove-you-love-me" trials he asked became more and more life-threatening, like delivering a load of bronzes to Cody in a major blizzard or sliding under the museum to turn off the main water valve when the space was a yard deep in ice water.  I mean, I'm not stupid now but then I had no boundaries.  

The problem on his side was that such sacrifices meant he had to prove he was worth it with more and more amazing sculptures, but he was aging, almost sixty.  He framed his success in money.  When we went for marriage counselling, he took along an adding machine tape that showed we had made a quarter of a million dollars that year.  The shrink was very impressed.  (All the money went back into the business.  The fourth wife cashed it out when he died.)

Freely admitting this is a good way to understand the consequences of my  early determining decade (the part about fearing entrapment, for instance)., Where I am now is accepting most of that while exploring how it reaches back through generations.  That is, my "daddy man" struggles are linked to those of my mother with her father.  How he got to be such a narcissist is due both to a patriarchal culture that made him responsible for everything, crippled by a problem (Irish) temperament insulted by the deaths of loved ones, a brother and a daughter.  He denied their deaths while secretly thinking he killed them. He was a working class man who wanted to be gentry and lacked education, though he was clerk of the local school board because he bought the house from the former clerk and all the records were in the attic.

On my father's side the dynamics are slightly different. His grandfather was also a volatile, erupting man but his father maintained a mild manner, idealizing as though these homesteaders were gentry.  The culture of the Edwardian turn-of-the-century was his: progressive but not in a demonstrating way, educated, a man of the forming Middle Class without the prosperity or the degrees.  He sent his oldest son (my father) for a Master's degree, but both lost the prosperity element.

So my father was a narcissist and my mother struggled with her borderline.  For both, a good-deal of fakery and suppression were necessary, an avoidance of change.  For me, it rises to the level of moral failure.  Nothing to do with sex but a lot to do with gender roles.  But the culture was on their side, particularly in rural places.  And there is a good deal of dementia at the end of my father's life, which I think has something to do with failure to resolve internal life.  He was supposed to be a hero who saved everyone, but didn't know how to do it -- or really want to do it.

There's another element in my mother's life which I might describe with Grannon's fav approach.  Stoicism.  "The Stoics often refer to the four cardinal virtues of Greek philosophy: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. (Or if you prefer: wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation.)"  In modern terms, she persisted.  I have a little of that Faithfulness.  Hers was to human relationships, but mine is to abstracts.  I don't know how all these cats got into it.  But that belongs to a different subject, the attachment system of mammals and why it exists.  It's quite a stoic sort of love based on sensory experience, cross species.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


It was a 20 year plan.  I've outlived it.  I can't frame up another one because I don't know how much time I have left.  Could be another 20 years but neither the pickup nor the house have that much time left in them without more money than I have.

The unexpected but predicted pandemic has hit us all pretty hard, but I have a few surprising turns that are just me.  When the news of the pandemic hit, I thought I'd update my "in case of my death" binder and called my brother who turned out to have died two years ago.  His wife said he wanted no contact with me and he considered notification of his demise to be "contact."  She didn't tell anyone else in the family either.  He's two years younger than me and I had some conversations I wanted to finish with him.  Nothing hostile -- I just wondered what he thought.  My other brother, who was dead much earlier, was definitely a topic.  An in-law had died.  A cousin was in a mental ward because of repeated concussions.  Another cousin had "nervous breakdowns."

But things began to change before that.  A few former students are beginning to make contact and their account of the Sixties is quite different from mine.  (A few have died already.)  One brought an outsider white acquaintance to visit who assumed I "knew" about "Indian writers."  What I mostly know dates back to the Seventies when the NA Renaissance books were being remaindered and I was in Portland buying them for five bucks each at Powells.  That wave has ended.  This guy didn't know that.  Today's indigenous writers are QUITE different, no longer polite, no longer writing for whites. Mixed feelings about being categorized. 

Also, the assumption on the part of both men was that I was a kind of hobbyist.  A grannie figure.  By the time I got through blasting them, my former student was aghast and labeling me negative and arrogant.  No lie.

But what "got" me was that the former student confessed that he never reads.  I had wondered why he was satisfied with a sort of nothing job that let him live well in Portland, protecting his son and wife. He's more metis than Blackft.  His head was still where it was since he was here in the Sixties.  I had wondered why he didn't mention my work -- he never knew it existed.  Far more people have read my writing on my blogs than most writers of books ever have readers.  There's just no publisher to bind it with a cover.

When I realized my mother's side of the family hadn't been told about my brother's death, I began to try to make contact with them and discovered more shocks.  They had written me off -- their resentment on the part of some of them amounts to blame for things I could not have done, like saving my brothers.  Earlier a childhood friend had had the same reaction.  Actually, my mother took the same attitude.  It seems to be related to attending seminary and the U of Chicago Div School.  They felt I had betrayed them by acquiring something like "higher powers" in a world they knew nothing about and then not using those powers on behalf of them.  I wasn't entitled.

If I had been male and pursuing a PhD, even if it were in lit instead of physics, that would have been all right.  Accepted.  Somehow I was disturbing world order.  Even while I was serving congregations, a hint of that was clinging.  Several of those folks told me they could preach better than I could, that they were smarter and better educated.  Maybe they were.  I hadn't thought of it as a competition.  But their expectation was that I was "hired" to be somehow superior to them.  They live in hierarchies.

I sympathized.  The ministers I had considered role models turned out to have clay feet.  By the time I gave up, they were retiring, had better churches in bigger cities, or simply died.  Even the women who were my cohort disappeared.  The unmarriageable ones married after all and left.  Some had a hard time being called by congregations that paid well, so they starved out.  The idealism leaked out of me by 1988.

But I made the right decision twenty years ago.  I've had two decades in which to write, to use what I learned, and to think.  I only made one real mistake when I moved in here:  I replaced the shallow rusted bathtub with a corner shower.  But I don't think small soaking tubs were on the market then.  One would make winter here so much more bearable.

The decade that was a true awakening was due to something I can't talk about.  It was another writer with a far broader worldview than my Montana history anecdotes.  He knew what "Indians" are really like -- it often takes white people (outsiders) to say some things, to escape the romance of it all and local retribution from the less romantic.  But that wasn't the point.  He saw me as a writer and he was a damn good one himself. He challenged me to a moral scope I hadn't had.  I respected his opinion.  So my plan now that I'm 80 is to write as long as I've got.  

But a question remains.  If I'm so special, so educated, why can't I help my relatives?  It's because they think I'm just so damn special, educated, and out-of-touch with their lives.  This is clearly true.  What will I do about it?  Most of them don't read.  Their attitude towards me is often painful, so I get defiant.  I go out of touch to save myself.  I'm about the only person I can really save.  I can't fire me, but maybe I'll quit.

Here's a good sermon for this moment.  Grannon again.  The first half is enough.  He's struggling with his own advice.  His clientele mostly always wants love, sweet love.  Grannon has settled into being alone.  I will say that vocations are a kind of marriage.  Just don't expect love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


A central puzzle of democracy is the idea that everyone is equal but everyone is unique.  It's as much a puzzle as "theodicy", which is the idea that somehow a benign all-powerful "god" permits so much suffering and evil.  Neither one has really been resolved so far, but we accumulate evidence.  I'm brain-storming here.

Given the notion that there are five "classes" of humans in modern society, what can we say about how they exist and function?

The five are:  the very wealthy; those we used to call the middle class who run businesses, own factories, and manage the capital necessary; those who earn their wealth through education and credentials whom we call "professionals" (the PMC); those who can build and maintain that we call "working class"; and those who have no money -- possibly because they have a different kind of wealth than money, but possibly barely surviving.

The actual physical sources and manifestations of these classes vary by ecosystem.  Until ten thousand years ago -- which seems like the blink of an eye after reading about the cosmos and the unfolding of life on this planet -- everyone was a searcher and hunter.  

Since then there have been waves of change.  One is travel so that something common in one place can be carried to a place where it is worth more money.  Industrialization is recent and has changed the actual atmosphere of the planet.  Communication is progressed to the Internet and computers have transformed knowledge by making incredible data storage possible.  Every one of these waves offers new ways of making a living and takes us a bit farther away from the physical world.

Wealth has been addressed in terms of "money" which each nation invents and backs so that it has value.  The different kinds of money are reconciled through various strategies.  One is through various "stock markets" which record how much people will pay for shares in corporations which are businesses pretending to be persons.  This kind of handling of symbols of value is called managing "capital" and people who do that are called "capitalists" but there are many ways of managing "capital," many kinds of capitalism.  "Venture capitalism" is when wealth credits are invested to pay for starting something new.  If you look at Google lists, there are many characteristics and kinds of "capitalism" including the contrast with what is called "socialism" or communism.  The concept of ownership arises.  One can get rich by merely "owning" something.

Computers and the internet have transformed the way capital is interpreted.  We still don't understand what it does to secrecy, history, translation from one kind of "money" to another, the role of nations in a globalizing world, and so on.  We describe money as "dirty" and needing laundering when money is only imaginary.  Our metaphors take over our reality.  

All we have to do is declare that all money that is not legitimate no longer has any value.  Whatever hidden funds are in bogus banks are simply not money anymore if we say they are not.  Since they were pulled away from taxes meant to provide national health and infrastructure, their equivalent value should  be posted to those accounts.

This stuff may seem silly but I'm trying to get down under the assumptions that cripple us.  We end up arguing about slogans and catch phrases instead of starting from the bottom.  When I was at animal control, Multnomah County  went to "zero-based budgeting."  It was a shock.  We were used to just adding a percentage to what we had the previous year.  It took a little time, study, and argument to figure out the new budget. The US doesn't do zero based budgeting.

This is Elizabeth Warren's list of principles for addressing our calamity.  All practical and do-able.
  • Companies must maintain payrolls and use federal funds to keep people working.
  • Businesses must provide $15 an hour minimum wage quickly but no later than a year from the end
  • Companies would be permanently banned from engaging in stock buybacks.
  • Companies would be barred from paying out dividends or executive bonuses while they receive federal funds and the ban would be in place for three years.
  • Businesses would have to provide at least one seat to workers on their board of directors, though it could be more depending on size of the rescue package.
  • Collective bargaining agreements must remain in place.
  • Corporate boards must get shareholder approval for all political spending.
  • CEOs must certify their companies are complying with the rules and face criminal penalties for violating them.
It's all dominated by corporations and the stock market. Even insisting on the laws that exist and would have real impact if they were enforced would make a difference.  Instead they are evaded and stymied by clever loopholes and semantic quibbles.  Trump BOASTS of ignoring them.  

A binary system of opposing parties funded by the same corporations and staging opposition to each other dominates our thinking.  "The United States of America initially did not have enfranchised political parties, but these evolved soon after independence."(wiki)   "The Bahá'í Faith avers that the partisan apparatus is not a necessary or beneficial aspect of democracy."  (Same wiki entry)

We are NOT a democracy but rather a republic because of distances and lack of communication.  What if we removed the apparatus of representation (electoral college, gerrymandering, etc.) and became a purer democracy, directly voting?  Could it run without parties, which are an added layer meant to make a republic work?  (I assume.)  Some nations make some parts nonpartisan (let's say the Supreme Court) and other parts partisan.  Unfortunately, authoritarian countries are nonpartisan because all options belong to the "beloved leader."

I'm very uncomfortable writing about this kind of thing.  I just don't know enough.  Can states go nonpartisan while remaining partisan on the federal level?  What about reservations, a big slice of Montana? The Blckft are set up as corporations with the enrolled as shareholders.  Some of the People equate tribes with nations and claim they are NOT US citizens but rather citizens of the original indigenous "nation."  Moving back to the issue of class and wealth, the People now are in an entirely different configuration than they were fifty years ago.  Some are extremely wealthy and nationally influential.  Many are part of the knowledge class -- even possibly "over-educated."  And the poor and the addicted are always with everyone.  Some of the enrolled and fractionated might be hardly Blkft at all, not on the rez, and members of all classes.

Monday, March 23, 2020


No one is very likely to get upset by an old woman in a small town on the prairie, so I'm free to say what I think.  I would be derelict not to use the opportunity.  

The most revelatory dynamic revealed by science in terms of how people think, is the proof that when the brain is formed before and for few years after birth, it physically memorializes in the brain structure whatever basic structure it organizes from the sensory world both in and outside its skin.  The loops and connections made in this primal time become the operating system for the rest of life.  

Any potential ideas that find no brain-home are discarded.  There's literally no place for them in the database. This CAN be changed, but only with great effort and concentration because it means creating new neurons, connecting them properly, and reinforcing them with use.  This is not willful nor conscious, but the result of experience.  Because cautious Mother Nature doesn't erase anything if she can help it, most of the reforms and restraints will be installed ON TOP of the preexisting operating system.  With stress, the reforms and restraints will disappear, inactivated.

This is why it's pretty certain that the "old white men" component of our society and particularly our positions of power in government and corporations will not change no matter the persuasion.  But they will die, maybe from the virus instead of old age, and then the picture will be entirely different because the next generation will be different.

BUT that's not what we're fighting now.  The prowling jackals who are diverting millions of dollars, preventing new knowledge, squatting on progress, are not that way because they are old and old-fashioned, though those terms get used.  We've been invaded by the Russian mafia.  I have a hunch that once the old white fossils really understand that, even they will not be complicit anymore.  Until then, we're walking on knives.  Trump will not punish you, he will punish what you love.  Or whom. Or what.  Like ending the Peace Corps. Like indicting Justice Kennedy's nephew.

On Twitter I follow two thinkers in different disciplines, though I don't always agree with them.  They are quite different, one a European expert on narcissism and the other an American expert on criminal violence.  The first is  Sam Vaknin and the other is Bandy X Lee.  

Sam Vaknin was a discovery of mine almost twenty years ago when I was writing "Bronze Inside and Out."  There was no Twitter yet.  As soon as he was able to make vids, I watched them.  This one linked below was a surprise, though as usual to him it's a variation on the theme of narcissism.  What makes it different and highly useful is not just his overview of viruses through history, though I appreciate that, but his extension of understanding the consequences once the virus dies down again.  The social consequences of the terror, the separations, and the deaths will be played out in a nasty craving for authoritarianism that meets those who have been waiting their chance; a wave of relationship breakups after forced and mistaken intimacy; and a wave of babies as always follows emergencies.  The good news he forecasts is renewed prosperity once the population is reduced.

Bandy X Lee speaks for herself in Tweets as she strives mightily to remove the totally unqualified and dangerous Trump from office.  She says, "The data make me believe that politicians wish to suppress science because of what it reveals: political parties are no longer necessary.  Science has developed to the point where we could find the best solution for almost every problem.  There is no need to rely on ideology."

"By creating parties, they make the people fight for the politicians, so that they can pretend to have the solutions while wielding power.  The presidency, furthermore, becomes a personality cult, while the people are fully capable of governing themselves."

"Withholding information from the public is a principal way they disempower the people and retain power.  This is just my outside observation."

As soon as Dr. Lee, MD and MDiv, -- and therefore qualified in both medicine with the specialty of psychiatry and in "religious" ministry -- said the above, a white man spoke up to command her to go back to her shrinky stuff because she wasn't qualified for anything else.  He had a bucket over his head.

I myself will be taking this calamity as a test case for my view on religious meaning, which is partly that the worst of Christian ideas, the ones most bound by the understandings of 2,000 years ago, have persisted because they are useful for autocrats who identify with God, trying to merge with this anthropomorphic figure of grandiose narcissism by encouraging dependence and obedience.  In Trump's case, also admiration.  Unaccountable since he is immoral, unattractive, and lying.

Some say that science is the new religion.  It is not, in the sense they mean, which is that religions are institutions that compete with government and reward their self-defined faithful.  Science, which is now morphing to include human feeling as a form of thought, is a method, a technique for finding the reliable.  Meaning, the impetus for living with care and sustainability both social and individual, is something derived from that.  The image of the river is useful because it moves and because it can get rough.

The new scientifically documented reality does not give primacy to humans, which is partly why it's pretty scary.  Existence is far bigger and older that we can even conceive, which is part of another reason.  The vision is of complex molecules, some of which are a code of life carried by cells.  But we also know about unseeable bits like viruses, bacteria, microscopic worms and bugs, prions (which are technically not alive), and rickettsias.  They can have major consequences when they interfere in bodies, but paradoxically there are also bad consequences if the ones the body needs are missing.  We are part of a sheet of life in all degrees and forms, some of them long-ago captives of our own living cells, like mitochondria.  

Science has also given us access to nearly overwhelming wonder and awe through instrumented images of existence that we never imagined.  This is part of the classic phrase describing the sacred, "mysterium et tremendum."  Witnessing an atomic bomb exploding, gazing out the window of the satellite space station at the planet Earth, we resort to the language of religion.

But science can also be an occasion for absolute rationality with no emotion, which we have in the past seen as supreme and determining.  This is the source of the idea that Vaknin describes, that a pandemic that kills a high percentage of humans is a cleansing, an opportunity for later success.  An old Christian idea.  I went back to listen to him again because I'm not seeing much of this perverse resentful praise of the destruction of everyone in a holocaust.  Vengeance is mine, they say.  "MINE, MINE, MINE!!!"  

But Vaknin is not reading the figures the same way that I am.  Lack of testing means that there are many silent carriers out there, that deaths due to other causes are disguising the virus, and that present exposure won't show up as symptoms until April Fool's Day.  (Who says a virus has no sense of humor?)  This dust won't settle for quite a while.

Though this is clearly an opportunity for the dictators to play Daddy-Man Doctor, to squash disobedient women, and to crush democracy, there is another and opposing force in the necessity of empowering states, cities, and institutions who help people.  This power is leaving the president.

Much of the struggle will be expressed as money, but money is only a convention, a social agreement.  Only on TV crime shows and in Third World wars do we see baggage and bales of dollars.  Otherwise, it's just bookkeeping.  As is ownership.  All governed by the same Rule of Law that keeps us from tearing Trump into gobbets of quivering flesh, as though he weren't doing that to himself.  We can seize, we can devalue, we can trace as never before what the "money" is doing.  The epidemic that seems like a coverup may rip the cover off.  But there will always be a "saving remnant" and that is also Christian.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Start the morning on the floor furnace.

Naps on the bed.

Before they figured out how to climb out.

When the two moms decided to climb in.

Stalking the wily leopard slipper.

In the beginning.

These are NOT Montana cats.
I don't have any sheep.


Perhaps you remember about me grumbling about needing a synonym for the "middle class."  It turns out that I needed more than that -- I need a definition for a whole new class.  At present I have the Goldilocks list of bottom, middle, and upper, plus the wild-card Class X of Paul Fussell, meaning something like arts or hippie free spirits -- that is, people who don't conform and don't have money.  That's a definition possibly created by this new category which is itself founded between the working and middle classes.  I found it in an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich.

The interviewer asks:  "The P.M.C. are people whose economic and social status is based largely on education rather than capital ownership: teachers, managers, lawyers, doctors, and culture workers of various kinds. These professionals make up about twenty per cent of the country’s population, but a person reading the news and watching TV might think they make up ninety per cent of it. Many of these professions began with missions of social improvement, but in practice the P.M.C. have largely reinforced an existing order rather than lifting up the people they represent or teach or care for. You originally asked whether the P.M.C. could actually align itself with working-class interests rather than continue to seek control. Then, in 2013, you wrote a follow-up, in which you observed that the P.M.C. lay “in ruins”—that its members were either placing themselves in increasingly direct service to capital, being disempowered by corporate control, or spiralling down the ladder into hourly wage work. You asked, “Should we mourn the fate of the P.M.C., or rejoice that there is one less smug, self-styled elite to stand in the way of a more egalitarian future?” Do you have an answer to that question, and has it changed?"

Ehrenreich's answer is that we should mourn.  I will expound my own cynical view.  

The PMC was seen by many as a goal and salvation for their kids, esp. in rural and rez communities.  "Get an education!  Go to college!"  In part my outlook is changed by what I've seen over a lifetime of watching students and family.  And part of it comes from a Class X friend.

A competing formulation with the same acronym follows:

"The politico-media complex ( PMC, also referred to as the
political-media complex) is a name that has been given to the close, systematized, symbiotic-like network of relationships between a state's political and ruling classes, its media industry, and any interactions with or dependencies upon interest groups with other domains and agencies, such as law (and its enforcement through the police), corporations and the multinationals. The term PMC is often used to name, derogatively, the collusion between governments or individual politicians and the media industry in an attempt to manipulate rather than inform the people.

"There is recent evidence to suggest that newer media portals (as opposed to those outlets of "traditional" mainstream media MSM) are turning, more readily, to using the PMC framework in critical analysis and interpretation of media behavior." (wiki)

This whole Wikipedia entry is valuable enough for a class session, though it still doesn't deal with the Internet and the forces on government represented by presenting speakers with their former contradictory selves, showing living illustrations of abstract examples, or the effect of seeing politicians age.  It notes the participation of religious institutions.

When I look for info about the Ehrenreich's formulation of PMC, I run into Left Wing radicals and Marxists, who make no sense to me.  I find this political/media complex interesting and vital to the discussion, but evidently I'm taking it in some idiosyncratic way.  I see this PMC class, either formulation or both, as being one that led working class, minority people, and women to use education to become certified, entitled and employed.  But in the process both education itself and the people entering the class were changed.  Not for the better.

Partly it was a matter of confusion as old habits and assumptions mixed but didn't match.  Partly it was "pinkifying" and I don't mean Russia -- I mean that women entering these occupations made their prestige and status drop and introduced a lot of frustration on their part as the pre-existing good old boys tried to shut them out.  In addition. there was an element of upper class white boys who pretended to be educated (Ivy League entitled) but were not, and threw their entitlement around as hate.

For rez people the problem was a little different because it meant a seeming choice between being "white" or being indigenous.  White meant conformity.  Indigenous meant defiance sometimes or others it was just permission to break the rules about schedules, budgets, and other accountibility   -- instead taking popularity as the index of success.  There is a strong prejudice in both cases against what is assumed to be snobbish intellectualism.  Those Ivy covered drunks like that idea and so does Trump.

All along since Trump became so obviously damaged, I've been watching "The West Wing" as an antidote, so that I remember what it used to be like to work on the line between government and the media as I did both for Multnomah County Animal Control and the City of Portland at widely different periods and in contrast to both real UU congregations and to the actual rez.  The series takes up the various kinds of dilemmas and how ordinary lives can become tragic or illuminating to those trying to deal with them from the "top".  Adding in these two PMC theories about class dynamics gives me more concepts and vocabulary, but no solutions.  My head buzzes.

Going to the vast transformation that science exposes is almost a relief.  For one thing, if Corvid19 had struck fifty years ago, we would simply have died in great helpless blind masses.  Now -- having dealt with so many viral epidemics, most powerfully the HIV -- we at least have a knowledge of the molecular structures of cells and bodies that can save some people.  Hang on.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


My idea of research is amateur at best.  In cities I went to libraries before there were the kind of professional research librarians we have now.  Much of my motivation was a kind of snobbery, feeling how elite it was to go to the Multnomah County library downtown, proceeding up the grand marble stairs to the third floor where the arts materials were kept so I could read about ballet.  It was deluded -- that is, some of the books were in French and I sat looking at them, hoping that suddenly I would be able to read them, the way I was once miraculously able to read English.  Of course, then I was in first grade and now I was in the "junior high" years.  

In high school I was old enough to take the bus out to Reed College so I could use their library materials about Commedia dell'Arte for dramatics class.  My teachers endorsed these adventures and supported the idea of being special.  The other encouragement is that I found out so much that was really absorbing.

By the Sixties I was teaching in Browning and then partnering with Bob Scriver.  We were building a foundry and I found information that sometimes worked.  Long afterwards, here in Valier, I built a small library about French lost wax casting, how it developed and what the consequences were for the community of marble cutters in Italy, so that I could put Bob's work in context to write his biography, "Bronze Inside and Out."  Most of the info I acquired about Blckft was oral and experienced. The anthro materials in books were old and old-fashioned.

When that ended and I became an animal control officer, I had an excellent boss who had the idea of an education coordinator with a three-fold purpose: public relations, in-house education, and research.  There wasn't much to research in those days.  Two men did fascinating work and wrote books about it.  One was a scientist studying the heritability of canine temperament who built four corrals with an observation post at the top.  He put four breeds in the pens -- terriers, cocker spaniels, poodles and some kind I don't remember -- fed them, sheltered them, but otherwise just watched through generations and saw how true to their breeds they were, very different from each other.

The other man had wanted to study wolves in the wild, but couldn't raise enough money.  At the time in NYC there were packs of wild dogs living in empty buildings.  He used his wolf techniques to follow them and analyze their lives.  After some months I had enough stuff to write a textbook, the first on the subject that we knew of.

Seminary was a formal academic research-based experience with a vocabulary and concept shape that was all its own.  It was all about precedent and paradigms.  I had been working on clinical psychology, but it seemed to be all about data: statistics.  I was very bad at it.  And I thought psych stuff was wobbly -- still too many big shots.

Walking off from the UU world of ministry, I took a civil service job as a clerical specialist for the City of Portland in the nuisance department.  People called asking for help and we tried to advise them.  Investigators went out to see what was happening and could take bad guys to court.  We had a very bad manager and no one really knew where to find answers.  There were six of us so I made six binders with info about where to get help: phone numbers, ordinances and so on.  When I finally managed to transfer out to the building permit section, the manager collected all the binders and trashed them.  

In "permits" I was a cashier and had no idea what I was doing until we hired another person who had banking experience.  No one had managed to keep track of the cash flow until she made us a daily worksheet to fill out at the end of the shift.  Voila!  It wasn't research, it was know-how.

Then my favorite department:  the site development team who analyzed the placement and structure of buildings according to the soils, possible flooding, previous use, contamination, and so on.  

After moving to Valier to live on a shoestring and augment books with the Internet, I was asked to do research as a long-distance volunteer following the development of knowledge about HIV: the physiology of the virus, the impact on gays, and the lives of boys who are now men because research made it possible to stay alive.  That unfolded into the vast unfurling of what was once disciplines of science and history, now a transformed paradigm that has completely left the old concepts of what humans are in an unlimited eternity and infinity.  If you've been following this blog, you've seen me try to absorb all this.

In the course of my unguided and wandering explorations, I've spent a lot of time reading about cells and human bodies as cooperating single-cells that now specialize and reciprocate as bodies.  More marginally, there is something going on now that brings that into collision with the organizations of humans trying to stay alive in patterns we call culture.  Because we know now that it was not just Rome that rose and fell, but over a far longer span of time there have been perhaps a hundred recurring rough drafts of humans, evidently rising up from the sheets of life on this planet until they knew enough to take hold of their own lives, change their environment, explore everywhere.  Those at the primate stage who were the source of hominins still exist but today we are all endangered, including all the other species and lifeforms.  Most of this comes from human activities that have actually changed the climate and the sea.  Our binding together is in danger of becoming trash.

One can regard this new virus, the most recent of a series with names and terrible consequences, like decimating the human population, as a new corrective for overpopulation.  But the need it imposes for human self-discipline, research, and cooperation may transform and save us.  Hurry up please -- it's time.