Monday, August 31, 2020


Sal Khan of Lhan Academy is brilliant!  He thinks outside the box.  If we can't let all the kids pile into classrooms in schools and if 5% don't have access to electronic classes, why not let the 5% go to the schoolhouse just to use the machines, masked and sitting six feet apart because there are fewer of them?  They can get food, maybe social interventions if they are in trouble at home, and someone interested in their specific personal welfare in a way not even always present for home-schooled kids with electronic access.  We already did something like this via our community library.


In Portland where people are coming in from Washington and California to celebrate risky defiance and then leave, Covid-19 will enter the demographics to snuff the most inclined to violence and defiance.  Death is never pleasant, but it is always inevitable, and the dice are loaded for those who go looking for trouble.  Fewer of such folks may mean less trouble.

As soon as troublemakers can see that blame is settling on someone (Trump) or someplace (Portland) they take advantage to escape.  Even when I was an animal control deputy officer fifty years ago, bad actors would come in from Washington state or Clackamas County, make trouble and quickly retreat back across the border so they couldn't be found.  This is a technique as old as borders and notorious along the 49th parallel where the border was called "The Medicine Line."

But currently Trump is so clearly doomed that a lot of acts that are by far too clever for him to dream up have been assumed to come from him.  This may be one reason why he's not just impeached and removed, since the evil people riding on his shirt tails would remain.  They have no reason to do anything other than promote their schemes and let Trump -- who's doomed anyway -- take the blame.  The importance of the election is that it will remove ALL or most of the criminal minds at once.


Between 1973 and 1978 I was an animal control officer in SE Portland between the Banfield freeway and Powell, but sometimes as far south as the Multnomah County line.  Responding to complaints that came in mostly via telephone, I went knocking on doors to talk to owners, only rarely “catching dogs.”  Dogs know what they do and why.  Owners fail to think about it or do anything about it.  If people are gone all day, they don’t know that their dogs bark constantly.  They always claimed their dogs never bit anyone.  

I never had a case where someone shot barking dogs, but I know some were tempted.  The saddest ones were people with relatives dying at home who had to hear dogs howling all night.  Those dog owners were the ones who knew never to open the door for anyone wearing a uniform.  I left threatening notes.  We'd had door-hangers made up.

I hesitate to tell much about actual confrontations, because they tend to drift and morph on the ‘net until they escape reality, but some were pretty funny.  Portland Police called one afternoon to ask for help for an officer trying to serve a warrant but cornered by a dog on a front porch with no one at home.  When I got there, it was an older guy pinned by a small noisy shepherd.  He lamented,  “I’m supposed to retire next week!  If I survive dog bites !!”  But he wasn’t bitten and when I advised the dog sternly to go lie down, it did.  I didn’t have to use my catch pole.  I tried to sympathize.

That officer had a personal radio on him, but I only had a truck radio so if I were away from it, I was on my own.  One day the dispatcher advised that a call had come in about a rabid St. Bernard gone crazy and racing through a neighborhood foaming at the mouth.  We were not armed.  “Should I have PPD meet you?”  I thought I should scout the problem first and it was the right thing to do.  The dog out of Stephen King novels turned out to be a puppy with worms throwing up.  It really was a St. Bernard, though.

St. Bernards are often bred to have dry mouths because everyone hates their slobbering, but that ignores temperament which they were originally genetically managed to make them benign rescue dogs.  The same greed for saleable dogs perpetuates hereditary cripplings like hip joints that are too shallow and dislocate easily.

The complex forces at work in these cases are illustrated in an incident that was about a barking dog in a very nice neighborhood with big expensive houses.  Expecting a housewife, I knocked and the door opened about six inches to a young woman biker.  Operating on my liberal ethic of treating everyone with respect, I gave my little speech about being a good neighbor while realizing that there were a dozen other hulking forms moving around behind her.  She was respectful, too, and I left.

As soon as I drove a couple of blocks away, I was pulled over by the cops with siren and lights.  Now what?  It turned out they are on stakeout, watching that house.  They were angry because they thought that the bikers thought I was sent by the cops and so their cover was blown.  They were angry with me that no one at PPD thought to alert us.  They were a little freaked out, assuming that I was low-class and — worse — FEMALE.  “Did you at least get their birth dates?” they demanded.  That’s how you find villains in the computer files.

The real story finally came out when my boss, Burgwin, who had been a cop himself, talked to PPD.  The barking complaint had come in from the house’s neighbor on the back of the block, a county judge who often was unsympathetic to our court cases.  The reason the dogs were barking was because the bikes themselves were chained together in the backyard with a couple of doberman dogs chained to them because a rival gang often sabotaged their machines.  One of the bikers had inherited the house from a deceased uncle.  Presumably, when the uncle made his will, the man wasn’t a biker yet.

The saddest cases were things like the St. Bernard who was in the habit of riding on the hitch of a trucker’s big 18-wheeler.  We rebuked him for this, so he tried to leave the dog chained to a pipe in the upstairs bedroom.  The dog, in a effort to go along when he saw his owner fire up the truck, leapt out the open window.  The chain was not long enough and he hung to death.

Or the two dobermans chained to pipes in the basement of the house in a bad neighborhood.  The residents had left, leaving the dogs to starve to death.  We couldn’t find the people. We'd had no complaints about the dogs until the house owner went to clean up to re-rent. Maybe they moved far away.  Maybe they were also dead.

When I remember stories like this one from a few years ago, I always wonder how much is performance, how much is people in need (maybe in need of brains), and how much is stigmatized people who are clustered and defensive in a place slightly more tolerant than other places.

Being an animal control officer, even fifty years ago, was a good insight into Portland, not the city of malls and Chucky Cheese, but the demographic patterns of neighborhoods and the potential for uproar.  I only started one small riot in Laurelhurst late one summer afternoon when I tried to sell dog licenses to a lot of half-dressed and half-drunk young people.  The event was easy and quick.  One of the early female PPD sergeants had to break it up, accompanied by a wrecker to take my truck to a service station because the rioters let all the air out of my tires, but they didn’t get the truck door open.  The dogs inside barked their best and loudest to show they were protective.  

My boss said I had balls.  And I should learn how to avoid trouble.  It was a good story for "Dog Catching in America," my book on Amazon or

Here's a more recent semi-related story with no dogs in it.

Sunday, August 30, 2020


Just now considering the difference Kurt Anderson suggests between the "right wing wealthy" versus "the right wing rabble."  The former care only about money and the latter are preoccupied with proof of phony virtue: issues of rules past their shelf life.

Under cover of the latter, the elites working long-term changed the rules of law to make their grifting legal.

It is very strange to see the very streets where I grew up and where my cousin lives now, invaded by thugs with flags, shooting people in the park next to my grade school.  The cops and myself suspect that they are coming up from California where it's too hot even before the fires and also that they have footholds on the Vancouver WA side of the Columbia.  There are only three bridges across that mighty river -- 2 of them double rather than different.  Not hard to throw up traffic stops on them.

To old white male legislators, the wave of people coming up from Central and South America are invaders.  But to the indigenous people of North America they seem more like reinforcements.

Personally, if coffee goes extinct, I could get used to yerba mate.  ("Rolling Thunder" is the brand of tea.  High caffeine.)  The Argentine version of a "go-cup" is a gourd with a straw -- you can drink it that way on horseback.
This linked below is a study of the different effects of sulfonamide drugs on ducks as compared to dogs.  Strong differences!
When I was first diagnosed with pre-diabetes, the doc put me on one of these drugs and I nearly crashed the car on the way home.  My glucose didn't quite go low enough for me to lose consciousness and I've learned to carry a bag of hard candy.  

I don't know whether I'm more like a duck, or more like a dog.  My present doc says it's a known reaction in some people.  Since then I've not eaten sugar if I can spot it (It's in tomato soup and Boston beans in big amounts!) and have gotten along fine on metformin.  Coffee is my new chocolate.

Now I'm just beginning to have neuropathy in extremities, mostly feet, because I get so little exercise -- which incenses the docs.  Obviously it's a shortage of blood circulation which is the virtue of exercise which makes the blood move faster and in greater volume.  Now comes a designer drug, a form of thiamine which helps red blood cells carry more oxygen, cell by cell.  Several poisons, including carbon monoxide, kill by replacing the oxygen in blood cells.  

The idea is that if one's fingers and toes are not getting enough oxygen, maybe neither is your brain.  But the "brain blood barrier" will not allow thiamine, normally soluble in water, into the brain.  The workaround is benfotiamine, a form of thiamine deviced to be fat soluble, thus getting into the brain.

It would be very good if my fingers and toes got oxygen, but my real concern and the way I got to this stuff is thought about why I am always in a state of fatigue and sometimes muscle aches.  When I say "always", I mean since childhood.  Recently I bought an oximeter which shows that I'm always in the lowest nineties when it comes to oxygen saturation.  This is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome and low level fibromyalgia
which my childhood docs called "growing pains."  Rubbing helped and so do hot baths, both of which increase blood circulation.

A clear cause-and-effect dynamic has not been proven, but there's reason for suspicion.  So I have a bottle of the stuff and will try it for a while.  It's unlikely to overdose on thiamine, but I'm cautious so I'll start with smaller doses.

"WILD DOG DREAMING" by Deborah Bird Rose

The quote below comes from “Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction” by Deborah Bird Rose, and addresses the tragedy of the anthropocene in putting ourselves above all others and assuming that we are specially protected and different because of some mythical being in the sky.  The book is meant to use as examples the indigenous people of Australia, those most mystical and ancient figures, and their relationship to dingoes.

“The underlying logic of connectivity is important for what it has to say about self-interest.  In the lifeworld of connectivity the well-being of one is enmeshed in the well-being of the others.  There is no position outside of connection, and therefore what happens to one has effects on the well-being of others.  There is immense vulnerability here, as one’s own well-being is dependent on what happens to others, but at the time there is resilience.  To care for others is to care for one’s self.  There is no way to disentangle self and other and therefore there is no self-interest that concerns only the self.  Interests are mutual, and while they are not indistinguishable, they are situated within the larger dance of life which involves life and death, self and other, us and them.”

The book describes a horrifying episode of “dog killing” by authorities while the people who consider the dogs their relatives, their children, are caught since they have no buildings and can only try to hide the animals under blankets or by holding them close.  There was no mercy, no exceptions, and, in fact, glee and mockery by the police.  It was a vivid illustration that animal killing can be followed by human killing, that genocide is just another version of extinction, or at least its attempt.

Because I was in Browning in the Sixties where “dog killing” was a regular feature of Spring when calving justified the order to the police to kill all dogs not in yards.  Some killers ignored yards, which is not hard in a place with few fences, and shot pets before the eyes of children.  McGraw, a St. Bernard no one seemed to own, was taken in by Eula Sherburne, matriarch by the near-founding family, until it was safe for him to go out again.  I have no doubt that he may have killed calves which meant loss of profit.  It was a bloody wicked mess.  The lesson that authorities held life-and-death power, all in the name of law and order, went deep.  Also, that important people could exempt themselves and what they cared about.

Today in my online “magazines” I received two stories.  One, from Psyche, was about the constant question of where human blood-thirstiness came from and addressed the reference back to apes, the idea that killing is an animal feature — not human.

The other was from, which delivers excerpts from books.  This one was “The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World — and Globalization Began” by Valerie Hansen.  The excerpt is about the  discovery of raising grain in Europe, called “cerealization”, a way of feeding far more people and of hoarding food, as in the horrifying example of the exploded grain elevator in Beirut, destroying desperately needed food kept in centralized storage.  

The explosive power of the hoarded ammonium nitrate meant to be fertilizer is matched by the explosive power of grain dust which has caused abandoned elevators across America to be deliberately blown up as a precaution.  You can see video examples on YouTube.  In my mind, grain elevators equal explosives, and — yes — I can see one out my window.

The dark biological side of food is that it causes population to expand to its limits which fuels competition and hoarding that inevitably caused war or disease or both to knock the population back.  Limited shelter has much the same effect.  This is what causes feral populations to grow, like cats in Valier.  The government of China met overpopulation head-on by limiting families to one child.  Democracies can’t even persuade their citizens to wear masks to protect other people as well as themselves.

One relief is migrating to a better place, but those already in residence may resist, even if there is actually enough space and food.  What is remembered deep in the people’s guts is fought hard.  If they don’t dare kill the people directly, they can kill what the people value and consider part of themselves, like their dogs, their horses, and — in Valier — their cats and trees.  Or destroy their houses, set their businesses on fire.  Evict them.

Sometimes those attacked are not immigrants but simply “others”, whether distinguished by skin color or by wealth.  Law and order can be deliberately undermined as by Trump et al systematically eliminating all the environmental protections again things like frakking or methane emissions, to say nothing of removing all economic safety nets.  

Expansion, domination, control, might be characteristic of all living beings, whether insects or elephants.  How to set limits and enforce fairness is not the concern of the environment, though that’s usually what defines limits and occasionally destroys food and shelter through cataclysms like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and droughts.

Human thought is a real and present form of environment though it can’t be seen, only shared.  Through our understanding and mitigations, our self-restraint and connection to all of life and existence, we can prevent much of the heedlessness that may yet carry us to extinction as a species.  Even as mafia-spawn tries to take over the world and esp. America, there are people joining to push back.

Human emotion is as powerful and sometimes MORE powerful than human thought.  Logic won’t reach love and hate, but stories can.  Future-based tales are teaching us what can happen in a worst case, pulling up the past for examples: not apes or even cereals, but WWII which is still in memory.  I’m watching a Netflix series called “Occupied” which reinstates in 2090 that past time when the far north Euro countries were threatened by dictatorial land-hungry Russia.  The story is cleverly threaded with a computer war game used by enemies to communicate.

I watch the scenery of these sea-and-snow scenarios with fascination, but this time the extra plus is that the “prime minister” is played by a woman who looks like that “ideal” doll I included some posts back, the one who is unbelievably thin with masses of red curly hair.  “Russia” is portrayed as a steely woman, equally thin, with platinum hair close to her head.  The men proceed with their political and military moves and counter moves.  Most of the killing is bloodlessly portrayed in the cyber-game.

We will continue to “game” our way through the plots of the moneyed minority currently trying to kill the rest of us.  This time the People of Color and different Gender are the majority.  But the game can wink out painlessly.  Life can wink out, but there will be pain.

Saturday, August 29, 2020


Quilts are an excellent example of material culture that is internationally transmitted as well as being examples of coping with shortages, the need to re-cycle materials which can become an art form.  In addition and unseen is the value of the community bonding when groups quilt together.

Fabric quilts are only one example.  Shirlee Crowshoe showed us how the Blackfeet re-used one artifact over and over, often a strip of leather, possibly worn-out horse harness, repurposing it by cutting it down, attaching something else, maybe just beading it or adding brass tacks on a scabbard.  Notoriously, people realized that they could perpetuate artifacts originally based on a fur-acquiring culture by making a shortcut that left the risk of trapping behind — simply buying discarded fur coats in Salvation Army shops.  I’m not sure everyone understands that this is a long standing practice of indigenous people going back to pre-white times. They tend to think it's cheating.  If you know what you’re looking for, sometimes three or four uses can be detected.

A friend sent me this photo of a sashiko-inspired quilt or throw.  In this Japanese form seams are not hidden and raveled edges become a feature of the design.  Plaid patterns come about when fabrics are created on a loom with different threads woven together on two dimensions. When Paul Seesequasis began his project of photos from the “middle period” of far northern peoples, “Blanket Toss Under the Midnight Sun”, it was striking how much cloth was plaid, maybe because it was traded through Hudson’s Bay, and combined with the traditional skin clothing.

Waking to consciousness both as a child and in thought, family quilts were one of my earliest sense perceptions.  One was pastel cotton in one of the folk-named patterns, like “Wedding Ring”.  It was worn and lightweight, a summer quilt.  A warmer one was made with something shiny and heavier and was padded with wool that had not been washed and carded enough, so that slivers sometimes worked their way out.  Technically, it was not really quilted, but merely tied or tacked every few inches.  It was pale green, not patchwork.  

Locally, Blackfeet patchwork quilts were made for warmth from Salvation Army wool men’s suits, cut into squares to make the cloth lie flat and tied with red wool, fast and simple without quilting frames, equipment that a generation of white women might have as household equipment.

I have a few older quilts of heavy clothing material in duller colors from women’s clothing of a former century.  “Log Cabin” is the pattern.  They are too worn and shabby to be put on a bed, so I hang them.  One was embroidered after being assembled — nothing elaborate but following the seams between bits in complex stitches.

At one point I discovered that an aunt had made three baby quilts for we three sibs, stained from use but not much worn because we quickly outgrew them.  They were not discarded.  They joined other sentimental emblems in the linen closet.  

The quilt above was begun when my mother, who did a lot of needlework in her single days, was expecting me.  Here’s a photo.  For years it existed as blocks, waiting to be joined.  When my niece was expected, my mother invited her mother to help in finishing the work.  They signed it and felt endorsed by it.  Unfortunately, the material had rotted over the years and can’t be used, only displayed.  

At another stage when my friend’s daughter was newly married to a man whose wife was a master-quilter, my friend’s wife followed the same practice, endowing various family friends with customized quilts.  For mine she spend years accumulating materials about “Indians.”  It’s not hard to find those prints with moccasins or feathers.  It’s a beautiful example, done very well.  These women were rich, exploratory, and skillful, but absorbed in a shared needlework that symbolized need in the thrifty past.

In old age my mother’s hands were too arthritic to do real quilting, but as a charity she sewed the bindings on quilts of simple squares made on a sewing machine by an old man who bought remnants.  He gave them away to those who needed them.  Of course, this gives up the pleasure of looking at a quilt made from remnants of familiar family clothes and remembering incidents when they were worn.

Such resourcefulness becomes art forms and they travel between cultures as well as up and down class hierarchies.  Before the Blackfeet could afford Pendleton blankets to award as signs of regard and inclusion, they made Star Quilts with local materials.  Some still do that in the near-genetic shared work of people with more time than money, reinforcing social ties as they stitch.

When I write on this sort of subject, some readers will picture me as a sweet old lady, a warm creative granny.  Forget it.  What I’m interested in is NOT beautiful quilts, though I admire them (particularly the spectacular and amazing modern ones) but the process, the invisible cultures they inhabit.

Google “abtract art quilts”, hit “images” and prepare to be amazed.  It’s not just pattern or color, but the inclusion of other needle arts like trapunto, overlays, appliqué — even paint.  Inclusions may be bits of old jewelry, buttons, stamped thin metal fragments, shells, or even photos.  This is partly what makes quilting — fabric mozaics and bricolage — such terrific sources of metaphor for describing landscape seen from an airplane to mixed philosophical systems.  But it works much better if people know actual quilts, sleep under them, eat in front of them.  This is how culture arises, how generations reach across to the future, how nations enrich each other, how we educate our eyes and hands.

Inevitably, machines get into it so that one can acquire a long-arm sewing machine that will sew together the layers in electronically determined pattern in an hour or so.  But at the same time world patterns change so that the cheap quilt I sometimes use in summer was quickly basted together by Third World women, possibly girls, for very little money.

There is a quilt on the wall behind me as I type.

Friday, August 28, 2020


Most curious of all the people whose warcry is “why don’t you go back to your own country” is that they —  clearly white Euros who came to this continent no earlier than 1492 — are yelling it at the indigenous people who were already here.  And yet for all their supposed “Americanness”, media white people don’t allow among their silos one that is labeled “Indians.”  People of color, if you mean indigenous dark and ruddy people, were already here.  The pretense is that they don’t exist. They're just in stories.

No one asks “Indians” what they think of Trump, nor does anyone ask Trump what he thinks of Indians, who are People of Color.  What sort of wall might he think would keep them out if they were already in?  If there is no wall, what can he sign with his sceptre Sharpie, as though a nation were a book to autograph for the eager hordes.  “To Martha, a patient and subservient woman.”  Indeed, the only tribal person he can think of is Pocahontas whose storybook name he uses to insult Elizabeth Warren.  The real daughter of Powhatan was MatoakaPocahontas was her childhood nickname, which depending on who you ask means “playful one" or “ill-behaved child.”  (Smithsonian)

When Euros first met the indigenous people on this continent, particularly when adventurers first penetrated as far as the east slope of the Rockies, it mostly happened in Canada before Jefferson “bought” the Louisiana Purchase.  It’s a poorly kept secret that nations are simply mercantile enterprises in their developed state and that “Indian reservations” were a British strategy for limiting foreign cultures, more often bordered by river courses than walls which was cheaper than war.  

This strategy first came about in the early places the sailing ships could reach, the coasts of India, Africa, and China — though China had older powerful businesses and governments of its own and a wall bigger than anyone else’s that predated Hadrian’s Wall, meant by Rome to shut out ungovernable land, thus inventing wilderness — and reservations.  Japan was an island, like Britain, and thus came with a moat.

In America the Blackfeet had a wall bigger even than the Chinese Wall: the cordillera called the Rocky Mountains, which came close to shutting Lewis and Clark out of the northwest, at least by land.  Sailing ships had already found the mouth of the Columbia River.

“Sir Francis Drake sailed from Plymouth, England, on Dec. 13, 1577, with 100 men and three ships: the Pelican, Elizabeth, and Marigold.”  Drake lost two of the ships, renamed the “Pelican” to be “The Golden Hind” and sailed it to the mouth of the Columbia River.  Traffic after that was brisk, but intermittent.  Lewis and Clark hoped to sail home that way, but no sailing ship showed up in time.  It was the beginning of the bi-coastal America that sends media versions of “sailing ships” through our lives to create empires of mercantilism.

What we now call “flyover country” was “trudging and wagon country” not so long ago.  My great-grandmother walked the Oregon Trail and my mother told me her stories of standing around the campfires in the evening, drying long skirts soaked by walking through tall wet grass.  They were lucky — there WAS water and grass.  Later those were used up.

Our history is so recent.  The US Constitution (1787) was written before the Louisiana Purchase (1803) was imagined, and it was certainly imaginary in terms of the lives of the indigenous people, their families and settlements.  By the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) the economic pressure from immigrants flooding in from Europe also powered the idea of treaties and reservations in roughly the same decades.  A war machine had been created and itched for use.  The hell with walls to set limits against greed.

Smallpox and the railroad afflicted the Blackfeet along with everyone else, but it was starvation through deliberate elimination of the buffalo that broke them, though with their backs against the Rockies, they stayed where they were.  Their reservation, much reduced from its original size, has in contrast grown quickly to a population that crowds the rez, creating a diaspora that covers the continent so that Stephen Graham Jones, though genetically Blackfeet, is geographically born a Texan, educated in Texas and Florida.  He’s most noted for horror novels and Marvel comics.

Knowing all this, with this context I identify with the rez -- which horrifies Valier even though it’s one-third indigenous in census figures — I look at both national party conventions without seeing their relevance.  Or their claim to be conventions.  The Constitutional Convention lasted all one summer — May to September — and still had to be augmented by the Bill of Rights.  

2020’s two conventions made foregone nominations that could become obsolete by November.  In a land stalked by Pandemic and Senility, what candidate will even exist in one month let alone two? 

In the university towns — Missoula, Bozeman, Billings —the young die of Covid-19.  In small villages like this one it is old age that takes people away.  In the twenty years I’ve been here, many people have aged and disappeared.  Like legislators.  In Washington DC it’s politics that makes all ages finally see they’d better get out quickly.  Their problem is remembering where they came from and whether anyone wants them to come home.

I began this speculation by asking why no one except the Dems during their colorful nomination sequence —which gave voices to real “Indians” in their own languages — ever includes them in their thinking and why we never hear from them when their votes are not needed.  “People of Color” seems to include mostly Hispanics without asking about indigenous genetics and portrays them as either abject victims or menacing criminals.  “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t include the mixed Black/indigenous people.  Living in poverty with only an un-owned location technically includes voters but actually doesn’t.  Unless the party in power wants their votes.  Most Blackfeet are Dems.  More than that are non-voters because they are treated as invisible and learn that being passed over can be an advantage.  No demands.  No decisions. 

I’m not indigenous to Blackfeet Country but I’m attached.  The category of unenrolled but attached people is rather large and includes both residents and diaspora with varying relationships to the actual land.  Some low quantum faraway enrolled people are “library Indians” who have anthropology instead of experience.

Most of this maybe white and non-present group are probably Democratic rather than registered Independents, like myself.  The rez-surrounding territory is more likely Republican because ranching and crops have close federal relationships through subsidies and international laws.  A vengeful federal government can be fatal, especially in hard economic times. 

It would be wise for everyone to listen to indigenous people.  Eurasia, South America, and Africa have the same cracked systems as we do for the same reason of ignoring indigenous people and what they know, like the value of community and protecting the whole.  Sometimes it seems that Australia, originally a colony of banished criminals, is doing best, but even they talk about recovering the Aboriginal Way.  Why don’t we?  Remember that the indigenous survived us.

Thursday, August 27, 2020


McKay is a name among many early Blackfeet and other tribes because of the names of Hudson’s Bay factors who took local wives “in the country way”.  But my awareness of the Blackfeet family only goes back to Iliff McKay, an elected leader of much power in Bob Scriver’s generation.  His children have been remarkable.  Mary Margaret McKay Johnson was an enduring, resourceful and beloved school superintendent in Browning.  She was in my Sixties English classes and is now retired.  Diane Magee was a notable teacher.

Mike McKay was in the first class I ever taught, the designated highest performers of the 7th grade in 1961.  They lived up to their chosen-ness, but only Mike was the comedian, particularly noted for his portrait of “Sistergirl,” the infamous “auntie” type who tells the truth even as her underwear goes askew and no one is listening.

Tom McKay was a year older.  I didn’t know Joe, the youngest boy who became a lawyer.  But you need to know this family in order to understand the significance of the story in the local newspaper this week.

Tom is, as the story linked above describes, a steady worker for the famous Blackfeet Writing Company and then worked for tribal housing , until most recently he became a county commissioner.  

The Blackfeet Tribe has gone to mail-in voting because of the pandemic and because of the long distances on the rez.  At the time of the Primary Election, McKay was in the post office when he glanced at the wastebasket where people throw their unwanted mail and saw handsful of mail-in ballots sent to registered voters who had evidently thrown them away.  The envelopes are meant to be distinctive, but so are the envelopes that are advertising or the steady torrent of “significant information” from the governments.  In fact, a remarkable envelope seems more of a source of mistakes than an ordinary one might be.

Since he was a conscientious and politically alert McKay, Tom gathered out the prospective ballots and took them to the Satellite Office of Glacier County where they called the people whose names were on the ballot and asked,  “Did you really mean to throw this in the trash or are you going to vote?  We have your ballot.”

Looks like those who have suspicious ideas about mail-in voting have it upside down — it’s not that people will vote too many times or vote without being registered, but that those who are entitled will simply shrug it off.  This is particularly shocking in a place so dependent on the results of elections, both in terms of sympathy to needed programs and in terms of budget.

McKay hoped for backup from County officials but they were horrified by the prospect of the postmaster being obligated to dig through trash.  The county clerk and recorder, Mandi Kennerly, said they had taken precautions against every kind of cheating or abuse and considerable care to get the records straight and make it easy to vote.  But no one had ever even imagined that the voters themselves would simply ignore voting.  Some message is simply not getting through.

No one ever told them that the price of freedom is constant vigilance.  No one ever suggested that they were letting other people run their lives.  It had not been taught to them that they matter, that they have their own future in their hands.

Instead the message has been that any official is corrupt, all of them are opportunists, and the safest way to live is by pretending they are too nasty to think about.  It’ll just make you feel bad.  Elections don’t matter.

On October 2, next week, mail-in ballots in Glacier County will be available at both the main Court House in Cut Bank and the Satellite Office in Browning.  They will be mailed out by October 9.  No stamp is needed, just like all those advertising replies

Organizations have formed to wake people up and urge action.  “Western Native Voice  is a non-profit, non-partisan social justice organization working to inspire Native leadership through community organizing, education, leadership, and advocacy. With 7% of Montana’s population being Native American living almost evenly split between reservation and urban areas, WNV organizes in both rural and urban communities using a culturally tailored community organizing and citizen education model to build Native leadership.”  One of their goals is to follow-up on creating good drop-off points in the satellite villages, like Heart Butte, Starr School, Babb, St. Mary, and even East Glacier, which is 44% white.

There also need to be posters, meetings, and maybe even door-to-door contacts.  People don’t throw money in the trash, but they don’t realize that voting is MORE valuable than cash.  No one in the McKay family could get away with such a thing.  The relatives would come down on uncaring family members with force.  Get an education!  Vote!  Claim your citizenship!  


At the end of the first day of the Republican National Convention, Nicole Wallace mused that considering who was chosen to speak and what they had said, they seemed to be aiming at the people generally considered Trump’s dedicated and unshakeable core.  Certainly they seemed oddly old-fashioned, in the way that Trump saw the world when he began to be adult and assumed the world would never change.  He reinforces this worldview with old movies on TV after midnight.

To Wallace it suggested a need to make sure that the basic fraction that shows up in polls remained loyal.  After all, many have left, even hard-core Republicans.  Some to prison.  Who can blame them?  Clearly everything is different, even with a president who refuses to change his mojo or to observe any previous Republican standards.

Somewhere in the labyrinth of leadership skills taught formally and informally, is the strategy for breaking up polarized binaries.  It’s two-fold:  one is finding a category that includes both opposing concepts, like Tillich’s brilliant resolution of Being confronting Non-being on the Ground of Being.  The other one is reducing the big things to a horde of little things, with the illustration of a big thing not being able to get through a grid screen, but if it were made into small components, it could go through.  I can’t lift a case of catfood when it's delivered, so I simply open the box and carry in the cans.

Closely related is the idea that if you look at a jail cell door of bars, it would be a good idea to ignore the bars and think about the spaces between them.  What can go through those spaces?  What can the spaces be used for?  It’s not as idle as you might think.

At first glance, I guess the political binaries deadlocked in America share the idea of "winner take all."  It would be fascinating if a book explained all the little components that finally coalesced into that idea.  It is so rigid that it crowds out the big overarching category of America the Inclusive.

These counter-strategies are grouped as re-framing, which means taking a new point of view, which often reveals ideas not previously considered.  Reflection on this second political convention -- which is not a convention at all since the order of events has been reversed with the nomination first instead of last -- it reveals that the nomination of Trump was a foregone conclusion so it could be gotten out of the way at the beginning.  That piece of business interfered with the adulation. My father used to say, "We'll take a family vote and then I'll decide."  He wasn't joking.

Re-framing means looking at new facts, but Trump doesn’t do that.  Facts are swept aside by the need to say “best,” “most”, “no one ever imagined”, “the world is in awe”, and other excesses from Barnum and Bailey.  What this shows again is that the nomination means nothing.  It isn’t necessary.  There is no developed and discussed platform. In the next two months this convention will have no impact at all.  We will still be worrying about the pandemic and global warming.  No answers were sought.

The constant assault on propriety, the Rule of Law, and responsibility have reframed what is possible when in defying all safe-guards, just ignoring them.  It is a premise for the moment, not for the future.  We are forced to rethink the oversights and assumptions about politicians, which weren’t flattering anyway, and in fact even redefine the nature of democracy when it is in name only.  Clearly it’s possible to fool some of the people all of the time.  Now we know who they are.

They go low, because that’s their practice — not the Repubs, but the Trumpists.  If the Dems manage to go high anyway — they don’t always — that makes the Trumpists crazy and the real Repubs wistful, sometimes finding the need to get out for the sake of sanity.  Reframing taken to an extreme can reveal that what was taken for granted, what was never even imagined, is just this side of madness.  When one sees that people formerly considered heroes are on the take, merely criminals, sanity is shaken.  But the new “frame” some choose IS crime, though they were not born to it and don’t do it well.

So many concepts have been questioned — nations, science, democracy, gender, defiant treason, covert deals, and gangland threats — that the law is barely relevant, especially when the judges, even on the Supreme Court, can be controlled.  Family is reduced to opportunities for extortion.  I was not a fan of Justice Thomas nor even Scalia, and certainly not Kavanaugh, but it was Kennedy who broke my heart.  I had believed in him.

Trump is exercising the Law of Unintended Consequences daily.  His refusal to take responsibility for organizing and funding a strong central national body to manage Covid-19 has meant that states are forced to form coalitions to provide their people with help.  “Let the governors do it,” Trump said.  So they are and in the process defining new ways of working together that could lead to strong opposition to feds or even departure from the Union.  Their new points of view reveal new options, like common cause and cooperation.

Firing all experts in every field and decapitating the Civil Service, then pushing fake remedies and milking everything for personal profit, especially relating to his properties, has provided the eventual reformers with convenient targets for impoundment.  As the result of trials, the government already owns apartments in Trump Tower.  Motivation for recording and clawing back laundered money is high and we know where it is. 

Trump's dependence on his “children” -- without giving them either freedom to develop or authority of their own -- has set them up as targets, mockeries of real people, emotional cripples, dummies and pawns of foreign countries.  His mob-boss TV idea of luxury has created environments of either overblown gold-plated formal rooms or the slightly worn and Fifties retreats at his golf “resorts”.  His idea of a banquet for athletes is piles of cheeseburgers, because his real understanding of African Americans is that they are ghetto people.  He thinks that’s the natural order of things.

To create new frames for living, one must leave the old ones but he and his loyalists will never do that, don’t know that it’s possible.  But meanwhile, time and the world go on and these are reframing in a way that disintegrates his old assumptions.  His flubber-faced enthusiasm for fantasy is plainly crazed now.  He stands butt-out, wobbling and weaving, and we suspect that just behind the scenes may be a wheelchair.  We don’t know which brand of adult diapers he prefers.  Nor the brand of that fake stuff on his face and hair might be called, but we can see the edges and the places he missed when he rubbed it on.  He never realizes what we see because he doesn’t see us.  In his frame there’s no picture.  Only a fun house mirror.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


A brain is not inert between uses like a computer.  It is a process of waves, circuits, blood and plasma circulation and constantly varying inclusions in those circulations.  If they stop, the result is death.  But the focus of action at a given time depends on the stage in the day/night cycle.  

I’ve been thinking about “arousal” as part of my avoidance of too familiar terms.  We don’t usually think of arousal as part of sleep except maybe “wet dreams.”  This definition is from

Arousal is an abrupt change in the pattern of brain wave activity, as measured by an EEG. Arousal typically represents a shift from deep sleep, which is commonly known as REM sleep, to light sleep, known as NREM sleep, or from sleep to wakefulness.”

So arousal as seen from the outside reflects deep tissue functions among the cells in one’s head, which may also include messages from the rest of the body.  Most people just let that take care of itself.

But we are in a time when a state of arousal is so commercially promoted, so related to owning things, that what is normally internally integrated into a physical state in the course of life has become a performance to present to others.  Like a movie of your life instead of your life.  After a while the person may stop feeling anything at all.

Approaching this problem is — ironically — a movie, which follows a young man who says he feels nothing, neither happiness, sadness nor connection with others.  But this film doesn’t leave the pharmaceutic paradigm — simply moves it to the trendy “primitive” concoction called “ayahuasca,” literally cooked up from jungle plants.

The writer/director/editor of “The Last Shaman” has done such a beautifully seamless job that like the omniscient author of a skillful novel, he disappears.  His name is Raz Dagen and I had never heard of him until this film, but his connections — which include big name movie people — add up to a US sophisticated community that had the resources to take a young man from a mental hospital where he hadn’t found help to the depths of the Amazon jungle in order to record what happened to him there over 11 months.  

All the while Dagen and his cameraman are so invisible that we believe the story just happened and never question how.  We never know how the boy was chosen except that he comes from “entitled” parents who are doctors or why the film makers thought anything would come of the boy’s experiment anyway.  He might have just died.

The state of not-caring is common in we overwhelmed busy people, so we do want to know what comes of this.  What will reawaken him?  Can he become “aroused”?  Lurking in the background is what to do about a whole nation that is so unaroused that they will allow democracy to be stolen by flashy schemers.  How does one wake up voters or calm them down when they are over-aroused?  How do you get them to the polls without inciting them to riot and burn police cars?

The film exposes a whole economy based on what is supposed to be ayahuasca with tourists anxious to swig what is sure to make them throw up.  There are plenty of cheaper emetics at the corner drugstore, so that can’t be it.  The boy is aroused enough already to object to this commercializing of what he clearly expects to be spiritual, though no one uses the word.  His name is James Freeman.

James speaking about ayahuasca.

The movie is online at YouTube and also on Netflix.

What I would pick out as crucial was experiencesHe names reintegration with others.  Community.  Listening.  Relationships.  The step he hasn’t reach yet is service to others.  What will he do to help the people he knew in Peru?    The movie makes this a sharp question, showing the “last shaman” himself condemned to hard labor in a city.

This review rejects this film in favor of “Icaros: A Vision”.  The reviewer “knows better” and considers the films to be competition.  He’s from the kind of mind that sees meaning and value in horror films, some “better” than others.  Hard to find the spiritual aspect of them.

The point is that the general US culture is all peaks and valleys, and the valleys are paralyzing depression while the manic peaks are provided by someone with an economic motive and in an unmodulated goal.  Trump et al with their consciousness of Hollywood, have given us the equivalent of an hallucinogenic movie for the last three years and are now at the RNC trying to push a horror film starring Biden as a Slasher.  As usual, their sense of casting is deranged.

After his eleven months in Peru, James came home, went back into the hospital for a while, and finally found anti-depressants that worked.  Ayahuasca was not a miracle drug.  There’s still not much talk about the “spirituality” he thought was important.  But he’s no longer suicidal and is optimistic about the future.  He’s so handsome and eloquent, good things seem probable.

I’m not talking about hallucinations and horror here, though they seem to have become part of our daily lives.  What I’m really after is what gets some of us to wake up, to be “aroused”, and participating in politics instead of drawing away with cries of how dirty it is, how beneath nice people it is.  Or getting drawn into an impassioned commitment to some empty cult.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


Why aren’t I Germaine Greer?  We’re the same age, we’re both educated, my hair is often as messy, I say things that are just as outrageous while claiming they are true — and they are.  Maybe I AM Germaine Greer and you just don’t it.  After all, do kids these days even know women who are eighty exist at all?

The real reason, of course, is time and place.  Greer, an Australian, ran with a racy crowd, abandoned her reputation, and told the truth when people wanted the truth.  By contrast, I’ve been pretty self-protective, including my reputation.  Even so, my big mouth has pushed me out at least twice so that I had to go home and mooch off my mother until I could find something else.  “Following my dream” as the hucksters advise, usually got me into trouble, even married and ordained.  Even in those two contexts, I wasn’t enough of a hustler.

Yet I was compliant.  Nothing untoward happened in my family that I can recall — I mean, no abuse, no obvious exclusion.  But I learned at a certain point that having my own bedroom meant locking the door and excluding the world.  We’re accustomed to seeing this in video fiction — it’s a commonplace.  I paid a price.  My father’s belief in rewarding obedience and punishing defiance, which hinged only on his own level of irritation, taught me to not want anything but to be left alone.

In the television shows after the child has had her door forced or persuaded open, the parent comes in and has a talk that explains everything.  That never happened for me.  My mother said in old age, “I fed them, clothed them, and made them come home at night.  I didn’t know I should talk to them.”

But I was told I was smart, I achieved in school, I was meant to be a teacher.  This came from my mother’s side where her father wanted to be Somebody.  He just didn’t know how to do that and neither did she.  They didn’t withhold information — they themselves didn’t know.  But they assumed that if they demanded success, I’d figure it out.

Part of the reason I admire Germaine Greer is that she explains everything instead of papering it all over, denying questions, stifling dissenters.  I think I have two books by her but only one has come out of my sorting piles.  I left it out to read but then wondered what my neighbors would think of it.  I tend to stereotype my neighbors so maybe they wouldn’t even remark on it, but no one comes to visit anyway.  Whew.

The one coffee table book is called  “In Praise of Boys” and is teased by Rizzolli, the publisher who specializes in big luxurious books, with the hint that the book will be salacious.  The cover is a publicity still of “Tadzio” from the film “Death in Venice.”  In fact, it’s a particularly vivid and well-written art criticism book that focuses on boys in European art, often depicted in the nude.  Greer tells us why they are presented that way or maybe in costume and what each portrait means.  Usually not much about sex but a lot about power and hierarchy.  Those last were what my family was missing.

My technique for survival has been to become useful and to research what was unknown.  So when I got to Browning, I did both by attaching to Bob Scriver.  I’m wary of saying I “loved” him, though I was attached very hard, and if he were honest, he’d say he loved someone else, a little blonde who looked like Brigitte Bardot.  But that’s just what he’d honestly believe.  She and I knew he just loved how it looked for a man in his late forties to have such a pretty young girl friend.  She was three years younger than me.  He didn’t love me, but he attached to me because I was useful and found out whatever he needed to know.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that to become a writer, one had to write.  Of course,I’d been writing all along.  I’ve said many times that composing the captions for the miniature wildlife dioramas was the hardest thing I’d ever done because they had to be packed with information but simple enough for a child to read.  The real reason they were so hard was because of my ego.  I thought I was hot stuff but everyone was writing captions and some were better than the ones I wrote.

I wrote a lot of promotional stuff as well.  Nothing hard about it.  Cute animal stories and 19th century tropes about “Indians” as immortalized in bronze.  It wasn’t until much later that I began to ask the moral questions that REALLY made writing hard.  Every wild baby animal we raised ended up dead at an early age.  By today’s standards, we didn’t take proper care of our horses.  No “Indians” that we knew and that worked with us made more than a skimpy living wage, though the people that bought the bronzes were often very wealthy, often from resources they captured in the West.  The rez itself kept morphing and deteriorating, until it got hold of material capitalism and began to merchandize itself.

Germaine Greer’s indigenous people have been in the Southern Hemisphere, Africa and Australia.  She has written much more about contemporary Western so-called Civilization, at least those are the books that make her reputation.  But she was a writer among writers.  I am not.  I don’t write about “Indians,” just Blackfeet or maybe Cree or Metis.

I do share with her a distrust and sometimes dislike of women, partly because I left being like them and partly because they cling and invade.  My mother and I fought over who ran me until the day we buried her remains.  I didn’t tell her how to be, but I used who she was and didn’t regret it.  We were not a kissy family who said, “I love you" to sign off a telephone call.  I never understood what she thought was so special about my brothers.  Maybe that’s why I bought Greer’s book, for clues.  It was a puzzle that they always fell short in ways not their fault, or so it seemed.  This was fate’s insult to my mother, but maybe — she thought — it was my fault.

Parishioners, who sit gazing at their clergy every Sunday, pick up a lot of information and if they are especially intelligent and trained, as UU’s generally are, they can be pretty insightful.  One woman told me that I’d married my mother, though it looked more like I’d married my father because Scriver was male and twice my age.

It was a matter of withheld love.  Biographers say Greer’s mother was possibly Asperger’s and her father was weak and missing.  She says she only loves her sister who does not love her — maybe — but her brother forgives her.  These puzzles spell out “withheld love.”  Greer and I are both oldest children, daughters in families of three, the lead child.  She must have gotten basic care and engagement, a scaffolding of confident if defiant participation in the world from someone, but not enough to prevent “insecure avoidant attachment” as the shrinks put it.  

Constant questioning.  Always seeking.  The co-dependents, fixers, and dominators love it, thinking it’s a opportunity, but they are never attached.  And I’m not quite attached to Greer, another writer like me.  But I appreciate her example.