The Talking Dog

January 28, 2014, R.I.P. Pete Seeger

There are lives that are simply exemplary. Pete Seeger, who just passed away at 94, led one of them. R.I.P., Pete.

We do seem to be running out of the great ones.

January 26, 2014, Weekend update

Not much going on here in Arctic-blasted Brooklyn... I began the 2014 campaign with an arguably disappointing finish-- but a finish-- in the 17 degree [F] Fred Lebow Manhattan Half this morning. At 16 or 17 degrees [F] first thing in the morning, this was actually one of the warmest mornings we have had, or will have, for some time, here in the NYC area. Compared to other parts of the country, this would be quite warm!

So... in the "Hello Captain Obvious" Department, we take a look at this piece from our friends at Pravda, on why the CIA and NSA are... wait for it... criminal enterprises. The subtext is the troubling question of whether some of the greatest revelations of our government's most fiendish enterprises-- such as the universal hoovering of all electronic data in our society (defined as "Planet Earth") by the NSA, or the notorious Cointel program whereby left-wing groups were infiltrated by the FBI circa the 60's and 70's-- could only be "outed" as a result of someone's crime, be it the 1971 FBI office break-in, or the Edwin Snowden leaks. That, and the NSA is not about "security" and the CIA isn't about "intelligence"... discuss.

And, since we have come to the troubling conclusion that once "problematic" sources of information like Pravda, or Beijing's People's Daily, are arguably more reliable sources of American domestic news than American sources, we go to the People's Daily to learn that Chinese Premier Xi and (my college classmate) President Obama are slated to meet privately at least three times in 2014, that China's lunar rover is having mechanical problems, and that the country that just managed to put a remote-control robot vehicle on the freaking moon... is just launching its first civilian sea-plane (I'm guessing China had sea-planes before-- just not for this commercial passenger application.)

The bottom line? We, as a nation, like my 51 year old body, ain't what we used to be... others are stepping up and eating our lunch (although, in the case of China, a country whose opacity and corruption, not to mention environmental degradation and income/wealth inequality, still remain eons ahead of us, I wouldn't exactly trade places). And still, many people here still need-- NEED-- to believe the stories they have been incessantly told, about this being the greatest country in the history of the universe, or about the perfection of our systems (notably ersatz democracy and crony capitalism) and how wonderfully we're doing economically (notwithstanding, oh, things like actual workforce participation rates, which have plunged to 1978 levels-- an era when there were still "stay at home moms" as a regular feature of American society.)

Anyway, my point is simply that "the narrative"-- whatever it is-- seems to be damned important, because it seems to trump (in the minds of most of my countrymen, anyway) not only "the facts" as they might be presented, but actual personal experience... or more accurately, people endeavor to shoehorn their personal experiences in the context of "the narrative," no matter how absurd doing so might be.

Which, to hearken back to the Pravda piece, might explain why only explosive revelations that simply cannot be denied or explained away seem to be the only way to even move public discourse, most of the time. Obviously, I could extrapolate this to my own hobby horses (such as Guantanamo), but you get the idea. People not only believe-- they need to believe-- that our country would not arbitrarily vacuum up completely innocent men and then refuse to release them out of a combination of hubris and cowardice-- no, we need to believe we don't live in such a country (even as the same country incarcerates between two and three million of our fellow citizens in the most draconian arrangement in human history. No-- this is the best country-- and even calling it out on the undeniable facts makes you some kind of America-hater... and we're not going to stand here, etc.

As an attorney, my "day job" is to construct helpful narratives; from time to time, my clients and other assorted witnesses help me do this, and at other times, they undermine my doing this-- but constructing and advancing a narrative is the essence of legal practice. I assume it is the essence of may professions... for example, the ideal narrative in "medicine" would be that we will give you a little something (medication, procedure, surgery, etc.) to let you and your body heal itself-- and only after you have made sure to take care of yourself in the first place... placebo effects are just fine if they work... Instead, the narrative we have constructed is that "health care" is a contributor to GDP (it is now about 18% thereof). Because the narrative has become about money, we have gone out of our way to treat the human body as if it were an automobile engine, with carefully constructed specializations (which any rational physician would seek out, because they are more lucrative than "general practice"), and an absolute minimum of time spent with "the healer," because, of course, he is paid via an industrial method that encourages, if not compels, seeing a maximum of automobile engines patients in the shortest amount of time.

I do seem to be rambling. Anyway, "it's about the narrative, stupid." This has been "weekend update."

January 12, 2014, Fighting the power with the talking dog

Yesterday marked the twelfth "anniversary" of America's most visible demonstration of its post-Constitutional existence, the opening of its Caribbean resort gulag at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Somewhere around 150 protesters braved Washington, D.C.'s rain for an event that started across from the White House and proceeded to the National Museum of American History; this account offers a picture (that's probably me there in the front row in the orange rain poncho).

The most poignant part of the event took place after it "officially" ended, as a group of activists "occupied" the interior of the museum, for a human tableau depicting hoods and orange jumpsuit wearing protesters posed in front of an exhibit on the history of American wars entitled "The Price of Freedom," which included, among other things, a reading of a letter from cleared-for-release-Guantanamo-prisoner Shaker Aamer with a background of American patriotic martial music emanating from the museum's multimedia exhibit.

One of the subtexts your talking dog picked up from overheard conversations with activists concerns (my college classmate) President Obama's political dodge of his own responsibility-- and I mean exclusively his and no one else's-- for this continued abomination, because he managed to successfully blame Congress, especially the Republicans, for tying his hands. Well, he asked for relaxed standards for release of prisoners in a National Defense Authorization Act, and he got it... But, although a few prisoners have recently been released, it's still proceeding at a comparative trickle. And so, the little pressure now, after a dozen years, to end this... will, we hope... pick up steam.

Fight the power!

January 1, 2014, Happy new year

I resolve (maybe) to blog just a little more than last year. That shouldn't be too hard.

Might this be the year our mighty, but nowhere near as mighty as it pretends, nation, finally begins to recognize reality? One of the greatest slogans, in my view, of our nation's most preeminent industry-- propaganda-- is from a margarine company whose name I forgot, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

The sad reality is that, while it isn't nice to fool Mother Nature, she ain't no fool. It's ourselves we've been fooling, by believing a propaganda machine telling us of high stock prices and low unemployment and now the huge throbbing lie of a new "energy renaissance".

In the end, as daunting as our social, environmental, economic, moral and other coming crises are, my fear is of the most troubling failure-- that of imagination...failure of mindset...that a faulty belief system itself is as deadly as the unsustainable arrangements it creates.

I can only put stuff out there, be it about Guantanamo Bay, or the economy (such as it is) or urban gardening or the law or whatever... and hope it triggers something in mindset, that something clicks about how much of our reality is simply about fitting things into established narratives... Because we're not fooling Mother Nature... only ourselves...May this be the year we stop that, and conform our hearts and minds to reality, and not an establishment driven fantasy or parody of it.

Happy new year.