20 September 2012

The Utter Failure of This Enterprise

If you've been checking in (here or your Reader), you will have noticed WoW has been AWOL since July. For not explaining my absence, I apologize.

My time away has afforded me a chance to reflect on life and blogging and the blogging life. Call it: Reculer pour mieux sauter.

WoW is closing in on its fifth anniversary. Five years I've been spewing this crap! WOW! And in that time I've attracted close to a dozen readers. Thanks and greetings to all of you.

Looking back, I see that the nature of my posting has changed over the years. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. I've lost sight of my original purpose. I've been too caught up in the noise and paid too little attention to the signal.

This is the dawning, still (I believe), of the Information Age. Despite all our advances from, say, ENIAC to, say, iPhone 5, as a civilization we are just getting our feet wet in this new era. We are the early adopters, the pioneers. Our kids and grandkids, etc., will look back at us and think how primitive all this stuff—computers, internet—seems to them. Kinda' the way we look back at AM radio or even telegraph today.

To repeat, I've been awash in all the information, call it the knowledge, so newly readily available to us all and lost sight of the Wisdom, or understanding, there to be gained.

(Really, I did have a vision for this joint. Just go back and read some of those early posts.)

So. Going forward, I'm going to try to refocus. Repurpose. To reclaim that original vision. To be worthy of my Russellian title.

Jim H.

P.S. To all my blog buddies out there: Not only have I been neglecting my blog, I've been neglecting yours as well. I haven't forgotten you. I've just needed some time away from the 'Net noise. Some silence, if you will. I hope to reappear soon—ready or not, for good or ill—in your Comments. Forewarned, etc., etc.

24 July 2012

Aloha, Y'all

In case you were worried, I'm away from the office for a few days. Somewhat regular blograming will resume in mid-August. Mahalo.

14 July 2012

ATL Mélange: The Morel of the Story

[As with all pics hereabouts, click to embiggen, scroll over for additional commentary]

Driving by this BBQ place, had to snap a pic or two:

Cord wood is always a good sign. As are neon pigs.
When I saw this sign, I knew I had to obey:

Whatever you say
Pigs notwithstanding, BBQ was adequate. My dining companion:

Patriot Longhorn

Young Nutkin who hopped off the center post just in time for me to snap this.
Somebody forgot to remove this sign, maybe 100 years ago!
The cat's in the bag
After four straight nights of near-torrential rain and scary cloud-to-ground lightning, I present: The fungus among us, or Amanita jump a little lighter:

Smooth Chantarelle (Craterellus cantharellus)
Looks like Browning Amanita (Amanita brunnescens)?
Morel of the same????
No Clue—maybe Yellow Pleated Parasol (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii)
Best guess: Peppery Lactarius (Lactarius piperatus)?
Sickener (Russula emetica), I think 
Ditto, maybe
Vermillion Waxycap (Hygrocybe miniata)

Caesar's Mushroom (Amanita caesarea) perhaps
Again, not sure

Atlanta Psilocybe (Psilocybe atlantis)!!

(h/t to Thunder for pointing me to this site for id's, all of which are subject to correction)

These, of course, after this previously posted stinker:

Eastern stinkhorn (Phallus ravenelii)

13 July 2012

Lily's Well

We had a serious scare over the weekend. Lily, our miniature dachshund, got out of her dog yard. I believe the termite inspector failed to close the gate properly. One of our fellow dog walkers spotted her roaming around the neighborhood and shooed her toward home. While she was out, apparently she got into some rat poisoning. This was Wednesday.

Her initial symptoms, late Friday, were similar to dehydration: low energy, hang dog look, skin ridges, etc. For the first day we treated her for that—at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, I even went to the 24/7 drug store for some Pedialyte. But she hadn't improved by morning so, on Sunday at 9:00 a.m., we took her to a 24/7 Vet. Her x-rays showed fluid in the pericardial and pleural sacs; she was bleeding into the chambers around her heart and lungs. They sent us immediately to an emergency Vet hospital across town.

Rat poison is essentially Coumadin, the blood thinner they give stroke patients—except in massive doses given the body weight of rodents. Unfortunately, Lily only weighs about 7-8 pounds, so she's not much bigger than the Norwegian wharf rats we used to see down in the NYC subways.

The Vets gave her a transfusion of plasma to stop the bleeding and reintroduce clotting. Then they gave her the antidote, Vitamin K. It was touch and go for a day and a half. She had some neurological twitches and lapses of attention, so the docs thought she was having a brain bleed. We went to visit her at what must have been the low point Sunday evening thinking this might be the last time we would see her, and she absolutely rallied when she heard my voice and started looking around the room to find me. The twitching stopped, and she was able to focus on my face as I moved across her field of vision. It was the turning point.

We got to bring her home Tuesday. She's about 85% normal now, still coughing slightly when she gets excited. But that's all part of the resorbtion process. She had blood and fluid in her lungs—pneumonia-like—and has to get rid of it slowly the way dogs do. Dogs have amazing recuperative powers. A human being in as bad shape as Lily would probably be in the hospital for weeks.

So, our gal is restored to us. Wisdoc was distraught and practically sleepless Sunday. Wisdaughter, who returns today from her study abroad, was in tears at Sacre Coeur when we told her and only relieved when we Skyped late Tuesday with Lily in my lap. Wisdomie, who's now living on Waikiki, has been in constant touch by phone. And Wesdom has been right there with her the whole way. It's amazing how emotionally attached we are to that foolish, little creature. The human-pet bond is not negligible. And it goes both directions.

Therefore, pics:

"I'm okay, Daddy. Did you miss me? I sure missed you! Thanks for coming to get me."

One happy girl!

05 July 2012

A Perhaps Religious Moment in an Otherwise Cynical Time

Scientists at CERN using the Large Hadron Collider announced they have discovered the traces of a new particle consistent with the elusive Higgs boson. Some have described it as the "molasses" that holds the universe together at a level so infinitesimally small we can scarcely conceive it.

This is a BIG. F'ING. DEAL.

What is the Higgs boson? In 1993, a British minister of science offered a prize for the best lay explanation which was won by David Miller of University College London. In essence, a Higgs field accounts for why things have mass.

I believe we have no real understanding how big (and I use the term advisedly) this discovery—if, in fact, it is replicated and confirmed—is and what it means for let's call it the "human project". For example, the discovery of the electron ca. 1897 by J.J. Thomson paved the way for all the electronic conveniences we enjoy today, including that computer or smart phone you're using now. I'm not sure any fin de siècle 'bloggers' or their equivalents could have predicted we, 115 years later, would be walking around with a device that could, at the same time, connect us with just about anyone on the planet, videochat with anyone anywhere, take sharp and accurate color pictures instantly, carry around enough music to listen to continuously for up to a week non-stop, access more information than was contained in all the libraries of the world at the time, upload information to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit around the earth, etc., etc. All in a device that fits in a man's trouser pocket.

It's very exciting to be living in this day and age. But, it's worth remembering that we are only just dipping our toes in the water in terms of understanding the world we miraculously inhabit and somehow have come to perceive.

In the span of a few short years, we've seen images of a deep field of space which capture light from the state of the universe over 13 billion light years ago, near the time of the creation of all time and space as we know them.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field
And now our instruments have detected evidence of the basic stuff of matter.

An agnostic person, but one who holds out the possibility of some entity so much greater than we can possibly conceive, might say we humans could be on the verge of experiencing the first real inkling of the immensity of something truly worthy of being called deity, one that doesn't rely on mystification and primitive myth and hierarchy to make us experience abject awe at the magnificence of the world we find ourselves in. Frankly, for me, it raises what I consider to be the true religious question, first raised in the song of the Biblical Psalmist: What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and his children, that Thou payest them any heed?

That is to say, what is our place, the place of humanity—nay, of life itself—in this unfathomable vastness?

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03 July 2012

R.I.P. Anj

Lonesome Rhodes:

Andy Taylor w/ The Darlings (aka The Dillards)

Goodnight, Sheriff

23 June 2012

It's About Damn Time...

[And no, this has nothing to do with Akronic/Clevelandia's ex-favorite son's quote.]

This item caught my attention: Public Officials in Maine and Miami Take Steps Against the Zombie Apocalypse.

We're getting ready here on the East Coast. What about you?

19 June 2012

Spam Sushi

Stuff in my yard:
Blue Hydrangea Blossom
Niobe and Hydrangeas w/ Butterfly Bush and Variegated Ivy
Some kinda' weird mushroom fungi thing. If you know what it is please alert me in the Comments.

More of the same popping out of the mulch. Pretty suggestive, huh?
Trampoliniensus Jimbus Jumpus next to Lady Banks' Rose Arbor. I'll give it to you if you take it down and haul it away
Cats and Dogs:

Sasha and Lily: The Peaceable Kitchen
Sasha's Spay Scar. Note that her skin is Snow Leopard spotted. This came as a revelation to me. Ever seen anything like this before?
Other random pics:

Transit of Venus on the ceiling of Fernbank Planet-arium
Just when my bubblegum lost its flavor. Bonanza! Take your pick!
Hanging by the Keg
Wisdomie—who is now a bona fide Scuba Instructor in Hawaii—informs me that Spam is the favorite dish of our 50th State. This is the Spam shelf in my local gro. The section at his gro is at least 10x this size. The locals' favorite is Spam sushi. You heard that right: Spam Sushi.

13 June 2012

Clearinghouse on American Fascism

The following statement has been misattributed to American writer Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." More likely a similar statement comes from a talk by John Waterman Wise, Jr. in which he called William Randolph Hearst (the FoxNews/Rupert Murdoch of his day) and Charles Coughlin (the Rush Limbaugh/Glen Beck) "the two chief exponents of fascism in America. If fascism comes, he added, it will not be identified with any 'shirt' movement, nor with an 'insignia,' but it will probably be 'wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution." The Christian Century, vol. 53, 2/5/1936 (245).

George Orwell, in The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) wrote:
"But what then is Fascism?
"Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and — this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism — generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.
"But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations. Eminent Nazi professors have “proved” over and over again that only Nordic man is fully human, have even mooted the idea that non-Nordic peoples (such as ourselves) can interbreed with gorillas! Therefore, while a species of war-Socialism exists within the German state, its attitude towards conquered nations is frankly that of an exploiter. The function of the Czechs, Poles, French, etc is simply to produce such goods as Germany may need, and get in return just as little as will keep them from open rebellion. If we are conquered, our job will probably be to manufacture weapons for Hitler’s forthcoming wars with Russia and America. The Nazis aim, in effect, at setting up a kind of caste system, with four main castes corresponding rather closely to those of the Hindu religion. At the top comes the Nazi party, second come the mass of the German people, third come the conquered European populations. Fourth and last are to come the colored peoples, the “semi-apes” as Hitler calls them, who are to be reduced quite openly to slavery."
Based on his analysis of a number of identifiably fascist regimes, Laurence W. Britt has compiled what he calls the 14 basic characteristics of fascism:
  • Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
  • Disdain for the importance of human rights
  • Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
  • The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
  • Rampant sexism
  • A controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and ruling elite tied together
  • Power of corporations protected
  • Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
  • Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
  • Obsession with crime and punishment
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections
In an April 9, 1944, article in The New York Times, "Democracy Reborn," former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1941-45) identified the form a specifically American brand of fascism might take:
"A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.
... The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.
... [A]n American fascist [is] one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.
... Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.
... The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power.
... The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. ... They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
Strictly speaking, fascism was a particularly 20th Century form of authoritarian totalitarianism. One thinks of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, etc. (By the same token, our representative democracy, our republicanism, if you will, is a particularly 18th Century form of liberal [anti-royalist] government, one which was co-opted in the early 20th Century by the authoritarian totalitarianism of Stalin and Mao among others. Yet, remarkably, it withstood both those challenges.)

Historically, fascism has taken many forms. Contemporary writer, Umberto Eco, identifies the elements of what he calls "Ur-Fascism" in his Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt (1995):
  1. The cult of tradition, or syncretism of opinion
  2. The rejection of modernism, or irrationalism
  3. Action for action's sake, taken without reflection or debate: Culture is suspect
  4. Disagreement is treason; the critical spirit is degenerate, emasculate
  5. Fear of difference; disagreement is a sign of unwelcome diversity
  6. Ur-fascism derives from individual or social frustration, or the cult of victimhood
  7. Nationalism, xenophobia
  8. Feeling of humiliation by the wealth, size, and force of the enemy
  9. Life is permanent warfare, the ongoing struggle; the Armageddon complex
  10. Contempt for the weak; Elitism of the military, the celebrity, the athlete
  11. The cult of heroism; willingness to send others to death for principles
  12. Machismo; sexism; homophobia; idealization of chastity, purity
  13. Selective populism; the Leader pretends to act for all
  14. Newspeak; elementary syntax, impoverished vocabulary
If you're interested, here's a fairly sober look at the progress and regress of the fascist current in contemporary American political affairs.

My suspicion—no, my worry—is that we are heading toward a much softer version of authoritarianism. Call it authoritarianism by consent. It won't be just like the fascism of the mid- to late 1900s, so that any attempts to saddle it with that label will be laughed out of the common discourse.

I don't know quite what form it might take, but I do believe it will involve corporate control over government: plutocrats buying Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the Presidency and, more importantly, the regulatory apparatus surrounding it; all, I might add, for the purpose of creating inequities in the system which will accrue in greater and greater proportions to those at the top.

It will likewise entail private militaries as well as public and will include all the services and industries (intelligence, weapons, etc.) surrounding them—let's call it the National Security apparatus; all of whom, I might add, require ever increasing portions of the treasury (both public and private) to sustain them. Thus creating an intensely symbiotic relation with the corporatist faction.

I don't think we're there quite yet, and I have some sympathy with Sara Robinson's point above, to wit: the 2000s saw the pendulum swing more toward the fascist side of our polity, and the 2010s have seen us moving—however incrementally and incompletely—back from that extreme. This may simply turn out to have been a hiccup in the inexorable march of democratic societies to some form of authoritarian totalitarianism, something toward which much of our Western political history—from the ancient Greeks and Romans on—has trended. That, of course, remains to be seen, and is dependent on the strength of our democratic institutions to withstand the corruptions of corporatism and our will to maintain an open and relatively equitable society over against the creeping militarism.

It is our job to keep our eyes open and call it out when we see it.
If you disagree and feel our society's corporatist militarism is heading us irretrievably in the direction of fascism, download and print a hard copy of Gene Sharp's cookbook for democratic revolutionaries before they take your internets away: From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation:
"When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks:
  • One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;
  • One must strengthen the independent social groups and in- stitutions of the oppressed people;
  • One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and
  • One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully." (7-8)

01 June 2012


Change, unless it is revolutionary and often entailing violence, happens incrementally.

Today the stock market dropped 274 points on bad employment news. The unemployment rate ticked up a tenth and new hires were down.

Believe it or not, that could actually be a piece of good news. Why, you might well ask? Good question. You, my readers, are very bright people (and not corporations).

The answer requires you to think back to the early go-go G.W. Bush years—and even before. During that time, when unemployment rose, the stock market rose. When hiring went up, it fell. Month after month there was this disconnect.

When Bush took over after Clinton, there was, essentially, full employment. The stock market bubble of the Bush years was built on the back of the employment market. Unemployment rose, and the market skyrocketed. However, this bubble was, as we saw, unsustainable.

It represented a schism between productivity and profit-making, on the one hand, and employment, on the other: productivity and profits rose while employment foundered. Higher unemployment meant, in that bubblicious economic moment, greater profitability for the corporate owners and, Bush's ultimate constituency, the management class.

Workers' higher productivity was not being rewarded; wages fell and unemployment rose. Instead, profits went to corporations—which to this day still have remarkable stores of cash sitting on the sidelines and are still refusing to hire. Rising stock prices resulted. It was the mechanism of the great redistribution of wealth from the working and middle and lower upper classes to the rentiers at the top of the economy.

Today's higher unemployment news created a bad moment for the economy—this drop wasn't about Europe or China. This is significant. It is different from the trend of the 'aughts.

The question now becomes: Is this a tipping point away from the 'supply-side' mythology of trickle down economics wrought by the laughable Laffer curve of Reagonomics? Does this represent a real, though probably politically imperceptible, change? Are we moving to a more Keynesian, demand-driven, egalitarian economy where increases in productivity by workers are rewarded by higher wages and not siphoned off for executive pay and outsized profits? I don't know. I'm no economist. But it does look definitely different.

This sort of trend—if it is one—is worth paying attention to going forward. Guys like this and this, who are economists, might be able to tell us.

30 May 2012

Is This How It Begins?

My kids are freaking about this one: On Monday, Miami police shot to death a man who was eating another man's face.

"Dad, it was a straight up zombie," said Wisdomie calling from his Pacific dive paradise—cordoned off by thousands of square miles of ocean from the non-swimming undead. "It's all a big cover-up," quoth Wisdaughter, who claimed she hasn't slept well for the last two nights.

The yutes are all atwitter: this, they fret, is the beginning of the Zombiepocalypse.

Apparently, the only reason to eat another man's face is so you can get to the brains—which, as everyone knows, is what zombies yearn to eat. Really.

And that bit about 'bath salts' (the street name for a meth-type drug) being the new LSD. "That's bullshit," they say. "It was a zombie." The cops shot the attacker several times in the arm, and he just growled at them. "Everyone knows you have to double-tap zombies to the head. That's the only way to kill one. And that's what the cops ultimately had to do." One report says they had to shoot the attacker 12 times to stop him. And that's with police weapons.

Needless to say, I told them about the era of Dahmer, Gacy, et al. They were, necessarily, impressed, but no less worried about their futures.

Shockingly, the CDC has taken down its Zombie Preparedness guide from its website. That, my friends, is indeed ominous. An NGO blog, however, seems to have taken its place for all your zombie-related pre- and post-apocalyptic needs. Bookmark the Zombie Preparedness Initiative now! I urge you.

And it may not be too late to audit the Michigan State summer class: SW 290 Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes & Human Behavior. It will be online.

Our polite friends in British Columbia are taking no chances. Last week was Zombie Preparedness Week in BC. Click the link for some serious tips and how to protect you and yours in case of ... well, you know. At least they'll be ready. In fact, the whole of Canuckland seems to be uniting on surviving the ZA.

I've said it before, quoting friend BDR, metaphors abound. Fear of zombies, it seems to me, represents a fear of being dead inside, of having no humanity, no human fellow-feeling, a fear of being merely a product of unconscious (often violent and destructive) drives. The recent (let's call it) hysteria among our youth about zombiepocalypse, in this regard, gives me some hope for our future. But what do I know? To them, this might be real.

And, as teh kidz say, that's what's up.

29 May 2012

Doc Watson

Arthel "Doc" Watson, a walking encyclopedia of mountain music, died today. He was blind and 89 years old. His bio is here. Rest in Peace, Doc, and thanks for the tunes.

I've seen him perform. He was a brilliant guitarist, maybe one the best flat pickers ever. Great chops. Honey tones. Depth of emotion. Respect for traditional American folk musics.

Here's a sampling. Watch. Listen. Learn. Enjoy.

Tonight the angels in heaven are trading in their harps for banjos.

25 May 2012

The Birther Truth

[An oldie but a goodie]

Okay. I've held my tongue long enough. It's time to tell you what I know. You may not want to hear it, but it's important. So important that it could change the history of this country, maybe even the world.

Some years back, when I was practicing law in New York, I worked with a group of well-connected, New York liberal lawyers. Some were New Lefters from pre-HUAC days—certainly the old lions in the group. Most spent their summers at socialist camps. Hard core. Their clients were mostly politicians and leftist activist agencies and their principals. I was a good lawyer and did my job faithfully representing their interests. But this is beside the point. Needless to say, these guys were deep in, high and mighty mucky-mucks, who were all really, really angry about what President Ronald Reagan had done to their beloved Soviet empire.

Anyway, one evening we were at an upstate country-club for our annual summer golf/tennis outing. I'll not name it here (nor any of the people), but the PGA has played major tournaments there. After a dinner of London broil and lobster, a few of them retired, as they did every year, to the gentleman's locker for some cards and cigars. "Care to join us for a Cuban, Jim my boy?" one of the younger partners, my mentor, asked me. I was surprised but truly honored. After having practiced law with most of these guys for over eight years, this was the first time I'd been asked into their sanctum sanctorum. "Absolutely," I said, knowing that this was an initiation rite for me I could hardly refuse. I knew enough, besides, not to open my mouth except to raise or pass or fold or puff or sip.

We played cards late into the night. The talk ranged from hot female paralegals at the firm to the Yankees to celebrities they had known from their school days. Most of it very light-hearted. As the evening wore on and the scotch wore in, the talk naturally enough turned to politics. They hated Ed Koch—'Bozo the Clown' they called him. They thought Rudy Giuliani, then a U.S. Attorney, was a fascist ('Mussolini-lite') who was crucifying Michael Milken—a firm client for certain minor real estate matters, I might add. And they wanted to string up Henry Kissinger as a war criminal. etc., etc. You can get the drift.

Then the talk turned to the current administration. Reagan was a stooge, they said, a cut-out for his then-Vice President George H.W. Bush who was the power behind the attempt on Reagan's life and, though nobody could prove it, on JFK. What was happening with the shadow government he was running from the basement of the White House was no less than an attempted coup. There was lots of rumbling agreement around the table. All of this political stuff meant little to me; I had never even voted.

"Not to worry," the most senior guy, an old 50s radical, said. "We've got a guy." He'd obviously had a few too many, and the liquor and the outrage had gotten the better of him. One of the other senior partners from our Chicago office whom I didn't know hissed an 'Ix-nay' at him and tried to change the subject, nodding covertly in my direction. From the corner of my eye I noted my mentor giving him a quiet nod across the table as if to say it was okay to talk around me. I could be trusted. I pretended to be lost in thought about the five cards I'd just been dealt—two low pair, fives and threes, if I remember correctly. I took a deep draw on my cigar, folded, and wandered back over the bar to refill my drink—f.y.i. Basil Hayden straight up with one cube of ice.

I thought nothing more about that little slip until later in the evening, as the clock approached the single digits, the senior partner and the Chicago partner started talking somewhat absent-mindedly among themselves—it was probably the scotch that loosened their inhibitions around me. I don't remember the exact words of their conversation but its import has haunted me to this day, and it's especially poignant now given the current controversy. I don't know why I never put it together before now.

Here's what I learned that night: the two of them had been involved in a secret society that had been culled from a larger group of radicals and leftist liberals. They had formed just after the JFK assassination—in fact in reaction to it. They believed it had been an outright coup by the "right-wing, military-industrial complex" and felt they needed to do something to set the country back on the path toward socialism. They had discovered a young man, 'Mau Mau' I think they called him, who would help them exact their revenge. His father, it came out, had been a covert Soviet spy who had brainwashed and recruited his mother to raise him as an agent of influence. There had been a few technicalities they had to iron out early on, I remember them saying. Something about a birth certificate and the child's bona fides—Operation Hula Hoop they'd called it, laughing. Obviously, I thought nothing of this little detail at the time; I had no idea what they meant by legitimacy. I had no reason to, obviously, at the time. From what I gathered, they had been covertly watching out for him through the years, using his teachers and friends, his church leaders and the organizations which employed him to groom him for the great role they had for him. Again, I had no idea what role they meant. They talked about how much trouble they had had bringing him to New York from an obscure West Coast college (I don't recall the name). They talked about how they had sponsored what they called his 'politically correct' education somewhere here in town and then sent him off to Chicago. As Harvard Law School alums themselves, they were proud of the way they'd managed to matriculate this Mau Mau at their alma mater. One of the Yale Law grads at the table harrumphed and mentioned some fraternity buddies of his at Yale who could've helped, if they'd only have let them. I had no idea what he meant. I just figured this was part of the normal rivalry that went on all the time between these two groups of elites.

Pretty soon, everyone's attention started fading, and the game petered out. I lost about $25 that night, not too much. My mentor, one of the Yalies, had won a couple hundred bucks. I pretended to be a little drunk and even closed my eyes to make the men think I was nodding off as the two old partners nattered on about how it wouldn't be long before they would finally set things aright in this country—even if it didn't come in their lifetime. They just had to be patient. The optimism and hope in their jaded old faces was unmistakable; it energized them. Gave them life

But, of all the things that happened that night, nothing is starker in my memory than what happened later in the parking lot. As I was walking out to my car, my mentor caught up with me and put his arm firmly around my shoulder, gripping me the way he'd done a thousand times. "Jim old boy," he said, "sometimes people say things aloud they really shouldn't, you know?" "Not sure what you're talking about, Bill." He stopped, "You can never ever tell anyone what you heard in there tonight." And he dug his fingers into my shoulder just at the pressure points to the point that it hurt. "I have no idea what you're talking about," I told him. "Good," he said, "keep it that way." His words were deeply chilling. His meaning was crystal clear. "See you Monday."

I never learned any actual names that night. I had pretty much mastered the art of eavesdropping—making myself appear nonchalant, uninterested, distracted—so I didn't ask any follow up questions as I would have, say, if I'd been cross-examining the men under oath, even though I comprehended very little of what they were saying. The next week, one evening when I was sure I wouldn't be noticed, I searched the records room and file rooms of the firm for any further evidence about this so-called Mau Mau or Operation Hula Hoop conspiracy. Needless to say, I found nothing. And I thought nothing further about it.

Until this week. Even now, I am shaking as I type this. It all came back to me in stark relief when I heard Lou Dobbs and the folks at FoxNews talking about this so-called 'birther' controversy. Some people believe that President Obama is not really a citizen of this country. They believe he was born in Kenya and might be an agent of influence for some foreign power or have divided loyalties. They believe he has been planted in the presidency to destroy this country. I don't know anything about that. All I know is what I heard a number of years ago over whiskeys and Cubans around that Westchester card table late one summer night. All I know is what they're alleging sounds a lot like what those old liberal, New York lawyers were laughing about that night. It's remarkable that even then, back before the Civil Rights Amendment had even been passed, they could've foreseen that, with proper guidance, a middle-class boy of mixed-race and mixed-religious parentage from Hawaii (a brand new state at the time) could navigate the treacherous waters of American politics, rise to the very pinnacle of power that rich white men had monopolized throughout the history of the country, and deceive the American public into voting him president. And actually win. How those old card-carrying, card-playing liberals could've known that then I'll never know.

In the intervening years, I've cut all ties with those old guys at my former firm. And most of the men—particularly the two older partners—have since either died or retired. Yet... Yet, I hesitate to write this in fear of what they could do to me. This powerful cabal of leftists has eyes and ears everywhere; I mean, if what I think happened happened, their man—their plant—is now the most powerful person in the world, and only a small group of heroic, right-wing, truth-seeking patriots (bloggers and talk radio callers) stands between him and the fulfillment of this ultimate, nefarious plan to destroy this country hatched by a bunch of defeated, resentful liberal elites nearly a half-century ago and executed with the sort of cunning and precision that makes Dick Cheney, David Addington, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and the whole American Enterprise Institute's Project for a New American Century look like a bunch of pikers—a real Mayberry Mafia.

23 May 2012

It's Always Fishy in the ATL

If your travels ever bring you to fair Terminus, may I suggest you pay a visit to perhaps my favorite commercial establishment of ever: Atlanta Water Gardens. [The former original Fountains of Wayne, I feel you.] Below are some pics from my annual Mother's Day trek there with Wisdoc to replenish the goldfish and tadpoles in our pond:

Big Bamboo 

Kermit contemplating Eternity, its worth 
Don't be so Koi

Lily pads
Grotto: If you wanna' build it, they will come

Hello Kitty!
Goldfish: Bought six smaller versions of these
Penis. Also too Gargoyles and Ape.
I kinda' wish I had a place to put this
♫ "Smoke on the water..." ♪

For all your garden gnome needs 
This may yet find a place in my home. Feng Shui don'tcha' know.
2001 Fountain [Recognize the jacket?]

My pondage: If you look closely you can see 3 or 4 of our beauties, thumb notwithstanding