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Category Archives: American Pastoral

The gloves of  Bob Allison,  Babe Ruth,  Brooks Robinson, Jerry Koosman,  Ray Hayworth,  Red Murry

Lindytown, West Virginia, coal town abandoned after mountain-top strip miningBoston under lighteningChicago, South Water Street Terminal, 1943, Photo: Jack DelanoEllen McLaughlin in Angels in America

Chuck BerryRichard and Pat NixonSurvivalist’s stockpileDollar store, Saddlebrook, N.J.Aggragate pit, Irwindale, Ca.Abandoned commercial buildings, AlabamaMug shot, John Henry1919 Chicago White SocksBarry Bonds
Gillette, Wyoming, coal and gas boom townDetroitJ.P. Morgan Library   LizGrant Wood, Daughters of the American Revolution

Edward Hopper, Movie

The boys of spring are out on the diamonds, though some have skipped onto the courts.  And not the basketball ones.  The pressures of commerce, which as has been said is America’s purpose for existing,  naturally warps the great American past-time, no less than it warps the doctors who prescribe mountains of pills at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry.   “The business of America is business,” said Calvin Coolidge, and for the most part it seems Americans have taken that mantra as their own.  We live, it seems, to make money.   The politics of the moment merely underline this old American adage, as Representative Ryan sells his snake-oil “plan” and President Obama retorts with his.  Shall we or shall we not throw Granny and Gramps under the bus?  Or when and how?

Inexorably the nation moves towards its fiscal truth, which certainly no elected politician can utter, except in the most oblique of manners: the bill has come due, and it must be paid.  We don’t really say from whom the bill comes and we don’t really say why.  Instead we discuss who must pay it, and how.  The reason is that an honest look all points to the very system which America has raised to a religion, that good old Free Market Economy Capitalism, which, left to its own devices does whatever is needed to make a bigger faster buck.  If towards that end ravaging the landscape, selling sugar and oil saturated food to ever bigger and sicker customers, peddling fast gas guzzling cars, shipping factories and production systems to lands of cheaper labor and less onerous regulations,  building a giant near-private military establishment to protect our global “interests,” and developing an all pervasive mass media to sell lies to the citizenry all looks to make the quickest fortune, then America will do it.   That’s how capitalism works, and it has worked its magic on America. 

The current end result is that a tiny one or two percent sliver end up owning about everything – especially those things, like the mass media, the educational systems, and the military, which serve its purposes best.  And of course, the political system, which now is pretty much totally under the control of the corporate systems which that most rich segment has devised and uses to control the rest of us.   The reckoning perhaps has already arrived, or it is arriving now – it depends on how we slice and dice our view of history.

The ship of state has run aground on the usual shoals of empire (that forbidden word which we Americans dare not utter):  an over- extended and overgrown military gobbling up our remaining resources and busy making us unwelcome where ever it goes; a fat and complacent hoi polloi happy to be distracted with trivial circuses  (the Super Bowl, the World Series, American Idol), and a bickering political class in panic as the last pieces of imminent collapse fall into place.    It is, of course, all the others’ fault, though they all agree we can only put it right by carefully avoiding reality.

Pumped on the latest designer drugs our colosseum gladiators take brain-dimming hits, swat homers, collect the hottest chicks and take home millions, to the adulation of the crowd.   Our stars and CEO’s are swamped in “earnings” for their secret labors, the stock market curiously goes up each time unemployment figures head higher, and outside the gate the bread begins running short and the circus begins to grow stale. 

The Sultan of Swat


Scott’s Bluff, Neb.;  thanks to Todd MortenRalph Albert BlakelockHalo Reach video gameHousing tract

J.P.Morgan, NYCBuster KeatonForeclosureFire, San Bruno, Ca.Glenn Beck, ratings falling

The two permissible Parties

Barbara Davis, Beverly HillsJanis Joplin, San Francisco

Maricopa County, AZNuclear power plant, GeorgiaFire, blown gas mainsTom  McGuane, ranch, MontanaHarry Truman House,  Independence, Mo.Senators Paul Rand and Mitch McConnellWTC, Building #3Grafitti, New York subway

Winter is fading, its weather cataclysms slipping from mind, the promise of spring hinting at better things to come.  Such are the age-old cycles which, even in our technically distorted world, still function.  The cold gray lifts, the sun slants less obliquely, eros stirs.  Meantime out in the broader world other things are stirring, sending quivers through the Beltway calculus.  Utterly unanticipated, a Tunisian peddler set himself aflame, and in less than two months the entire middle-east, repository of America’s “national interests” in the form of oil, is likewise engulfed.  In Libya the tragi-comic figure of Gaddafi holds on, and Europe and America ponder whether to intervene to lessen the blood being spilled, though these policies are mitigated by a long colonial history of Western exploitation, which in truth is in large measure the cause of the current crises.  In America the faint glimmer of an alleged economic up-turn is now at the mercy of mobs calling for democracy and dismantling the dictatorships which had for some decades kept “stability” with the support of our oil hungry “democracies.”

Here at home, hot on the heels of their November winnings at the polls, the Republicans and their Tea-Party cohorts have reached quickly to translate their views into policy.  In Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, governors and firm Statehouse Republican majorities are looking to wipe out what vestiges of union life remain in America, and are taking their cleavers to budgets for almost everything (except the military).  In the US Congress they’re doing the same.  Carried out these should up the unemployment rolls a good bit, and trash the wheezing of the communal economic corpse even more.  Pundits theorize this is purposeful, to assure a victory in the Presidential elections in 2 more years.   I’m inclined to agree though I doubt the result will be the hoped-for GOP landslide, rather it would appear there will be a harsh backlash which will whip Obama back into office for another term – Obama, whose policies are very marginal improvements on those of his predecessor.  However articulate his tongue, this President appears to be a master of the jive and shuck, saying one thing but doing another, always able to say it is better than what the crazed far-right would do.  It now seems an obvious bit of sleight-of-hand on the part of our not-so-hidden rulers. In America we might say presidents are always “right.”

So while soon the flowers will bloom, and a sunnier disposition will be only natural, it will most likely be a pleasant delusion as the next steps of our national restructuring are carried out: more work, less pay (for those who have work); no work and no social support net for those without work.  This will be the order of the day, all in the name of saving the economy.  Meantime the CEO’s of the big banks and corporations will reward themselves with yet bigger bonuses.   400 individual Americans taken together hold the same wealth as 150 million other Americans share together.  Such is our nation.  Until, perhaps soon, the things we’ve seen in Cairo and Libya arrive here.

Spiral Jetty, from James Benning’s Casting a Glance

The Milky Way, our galaxy

Tea Party Express, NevadaVoting, Lexington, MissouriClosed manufacturing plant, MichiganHouse stripped by brick thieves, St Louis, Mo.

Buffalo, New YorkMiami, James EgglestonBasel/Miami Art showPavement plays Williamsburg, Brooklyn Ocean Park #117, Richard Diebenkorn (sold for 6 million, 2009)
Chicago Stock Exchange (destroyed), detail, Louis SullivanAspens, ColoradoMountain top Massey coal mine, West VirginiaPentagonKentileInmate processing centerJasper Johns, NumbersFBI file of John Lennon’s fingerprintsMohamed Osman Mohamud, 19 year old American “terrorist”New Mexica, Mexico borderWalker Evans, “Damaged”Norman Rockwell, Rosie the RiveterGeneral Petreaus slumps at Congressional hearingGas line infrastructure explosion, San FranciscoDeer in the headlightsUnemployment office, San Diego

As winter solstice approaches, America seems sinking ever deeper into a season of discontent.  The election over, the victorious Republicans and their Tea Party adjunct promise to bring the government to a halt if they don’t get their way all the time.  First in line is continuation of the Bush tax cuts for America’s richest few, and if that is not offered as alms by Obama, then no extensions of unemployment for the millions now jobless.  Obama, following his pattern of the last two years shows every sign of capitulating on this one.  He’ll say it’s a compromise and he’s reaching across the aisle, but he’s just getting the shit kicked out of himself.  Official unemployment hovers near 10% while the un-fudged real one is closer to 20%.

Far away in Afghanistan the war grinds on, gobbling up billions of dollars a month, while America’s infrastructure steadily collapses.  Despite the revelations of the Wikileak State Department cables, bluntly out-lining the massive corruption of our “allies” there and in Pakistan, we’ll continue painting a face on Obama’s chosen good-war pig.  Afterall, it is not only our allies who are wallowing in riches, it’s our own military-industrial-complex, and our privatized mercenaries and suppliers also feeding at the trough.  In America this lop-sided arrangement expresses itself in a Federal Budget which finds half of the national spending to be for an increasingly over-stretched imperial force, while calls are made to make deep cuts in programs for education, medical care and Social Security.  The military budget remains sacrosanct, even if we spend 5 times the rest of the world on armaments, and we’ve contrived to have only a small small percentage actually serve.

Out on the 24/7 political circus of pundits, opinion page scribes, talking heads, and bloggers, the air is shrill with accusations of treason, and we are treated to the spectacle of the truly unserious being accepted as potential presidential timber.  The timbre has descended to the level of reality TV shows and the likes of American Idol, where a roll of the dice might come up snake-eyes and you still get the prize.  De Tocqueville foresaw this some century and a half ago, predicting that our egalitarianism would drive us towards the lowest common denominator and in due time we’d elect an idiot for President.  We have done that already, and apparently are trying to scrape lower next time around.  Meanwhile our present President, while clearly intelligent, seems to lack some essential capacity to act as a leader, and appears to be led around by a hidden force of military-industrial-media-complex handlers who make sure he behaves just like a run-of-the-mill corporate Republican.  In two fast years he’s hugely disappointed most of his base of American “liberals” and been raw-meat for the hysteric Right.  And instead of responding in any meaningful manner he’s put on his best Rodney King imitation while being pummeled into the ground.

And so we exit the first decade of the new millennium, traumatized and scarred, the Neo-con dream of another “American Century” crucified on the realities of their own 8 years of hubristic practice, and instead of a triumphant America uber alles, we are an America in a surprised and hasty retreat, with all the bad elements of an empire in terminal decline – wealth concentrated to a sliver, the hoi polloi drunk on trivia and decadence, gone fat and stupid, as the ship of state swirls wildly in the foamy white water of the blind practice of the Free Market Economy which has stripped the country of its productive means in the name of fiscal profit for the controlling few.  Caligula is waiting in the wings with his horse.

Joseph Cornell, American Rabbit

Halladay pitches play-off no-hitterFred Phelps, Christian, Topeka, KansasConey Island, NYCOhio Representative,House Minority Leader John BoehnerCalifornia forestFlorida Everglades in droughtFlorida Airstream copy-cat “art”Sacramento delta, CaliforniaWayne Thiebaud painting of the Sacramento delta

When America built things, the Golden Gate Bridge under constructionPhoenix, AZ, sky, thanks to Joe PodlesnikSing-sing, New York, execution chamberJob search room, unemployment office, OregonMemorial for Marcelo Lucero, Patchogue, NY,  2 weeks after he was killedCabela’s gunshop, ColoradoTennessee bar OK for gunsJoseph Cornell, Lauren BacallKatherine Heigl, movie starTwo women, painting by Wayne ThiebaudLos Angeles RiverPostcard of Edward Hopper’s painting, Approaching the CityBarnett Newman painting in gallery

With less than a month before the mid-term American elections, the airwaves are flush with the sounds of campaigning, this year more strident than ever courtesy of the Supreme Court ruling opening the floodgates for corporations to invest all they wish in manipulating public opinion in the name of “free speech.”  One buck, one vote.  We once would have called this “corruption,” but in present-day America this concept no longer applies: money talks and bullshit walks, as ever, and as in other parts of the world, there is no longer any pretense that anything else applies.

America has bifurcated into two distinct worlds – that of the 2% hyper-rich and their fellow-travelers, those 20% or so who imagine themselves rich, though by comparison they are poor, for whom the magic of Wall Street still works, and the shuffle of money, huge amounts of money, can be heard stuffing the ballot boxes, and the bank accounts of their enablers at Fox – Rush, Glenn, Palin, et al, as they eagerly move the herd of gullible victims toward the cliff.

The other America, asleep at the wheel the last decades, in thrall to the cheap stuff of malls and plastic credit eagerly urged upon them by the most venal of banks – no less venal than PayDay check loan outfits – suddenly finds itself evicted.  The credit’s been cut, and the knocks on the door are to pay-up the 12-38% interest on the past money loaned.  And if you lost your job, tough luck.  Those doing the knocking these days get their money almost interest free from the Fed, so anything they collect is icing on the cake of their bonuses.  Too big to fail.  But millions of others are too little to help.  But not too little to smother in fraudulent campaign lies, to get them to vote to slit their own throats.

After decades – to say more like a century – of constant governmental and school and media propaganda, the broad American public is against almost anything that might serve itself, and is ready to rail against anything that hints of social welfare, the common-weal, even if the most obvious logic in the world makes clear that these things are necessary for their individual lives.  Dumbed down and brain-washed, our public is seemingly ready to commit hara-kiri on the altar of the magical free market economy – the one that down-sized them, shipped their jobs off to cheaper labor, less environmental restrictions, and other profit-oriented reasons, and basically shafted them royally so that the 2% could watch their stocks go up and up and up until they owned almost all the wealth of the nation, and certainly had bought the government, lock, stock and barrel.  A government which now is of the corporations, for the corporations and by the corporations.

Dutifully it seems these voters will go to the polls, disgruntled and angry on Nov. 2, and in a fit of pique, slit their wrists to write in blood their choice to support those who are most  against their interests, who spent the last months selling them such a bill of absurd goods that even Barnum would blush.   Such a finale was anticipated by de Tocqueville quite some time ago.  However, as is well known, the great unwashed American public has a dim view of all things French, and most of all, intellectuals.  Fry your freedoms.

Dallas Tea Party

Obama giving Iraq war alleged withdrawal speech in newly decorated Oval OfficeOld timey cash registerJasper Johns Flag sold for 28 million dollars

Oklahoma land rushOklahoma City Federal BuildingTimothy McVeigh

Sarah Palin giving speechAmerican parking lotsTeaparty billboardMassey mountain-top removal coal mine, W. Va.Roger Clemens departing arraignment hearingRanch, South DakotaTexas City, Texas; BP refinery in backgroundNogales, New Mexico, then and nowJ.P. Morgan, 1904Meth lab, Kalamazoo, MichiganSalmonella tainted Wright County Egg factory, Galt, IowaSingle-bullet theory JFK diagramLouisiana shrimp shopRonnie Lee Gardner, last Utah prisoner to be executed by firing squadGlacier National Park, MontanaButte, Mt   (photo Lynn Weaver)Leo Castelli, art dealer (with Ruscha on wall)

Ben Bernanke, Fed director at Congressional hearingWarhol painting sold for 32 million dollarsAngry SimpsonsWall Street

American cultural icon (Copyright)Texas City, Tex. BP refinery explosion costing 15 lives

Redwood, Eadweard Muybridge

It is autumn on an even numbered year, and in turn it is time for America to crank up its bi-annual electoral machinery to its maximum pitch.  As customary and traditional the word high and low is that the newly installed President’s party is headed for a come-down, in this case perhaps a loss of its majority in the House and Senate.  Not that the closing two year cycle suggests it would make much difference: with a commanding, though “blue dog” tainted, majority in both chambers, the Democrats could barely limp a step without kow-towing to the vociferous shouts of right-wing commentators and politicians, who endlessly suggested Obama was in any event not legitimate by nature of his birthplace, his religion, and, sent only by transparent code words, his color.   For some in America a (half) black man cannot be resident in the White House.  These same people generally take their words literally, whether in this case, or in the Bible.

President Obama has, by his turn, not served himself well since the election.  Admittedly faced with an avalanche of welcome-to-the-job problems (thank you Mr Bush and company), which he faced with a calm coolness which might be admirable in some contexts, and in truth for the problems he faced was the right comportment – yet the tenor of the nation begged for passion and he seems to all appearances to be dispassionate.  Entering office he was perched on a wave of genuine public enthusiasm which he promptly deflated with both his demeanor and his staff and policy choices.  Perhaps this is revealing of his real political beliefs, which if so are essentially hard-core American corporate conservative with a lip service to broader public interests, or perhaps it was revealing of a naive political miscalculation.  In either case, much of the liberal/left is sorely disappointed, while the seething right clearly declines to be mollified by any gesture of compromise.

Thusly are our politics reduced to a pathetic cartoon in which the utterance of any truthful analysis of our national circumstance is political suicide.  No, our temperamental children will not face any reality that deprives them of their instant gratification.  Being woefully ill-educated, trained for decades to be selfish first and social last, and to run in horror at any word that begins with “c-o-m” our voting public is now bent on social destruction, deluded that they can have everything, pay no taxes, war for fun while utterly ignoring it, trash their neighbors, and somehow the grand “American Exceptionalism” will exempt them from all costs.  Naturally it will not, and as the cost is being applied, our electorate appears to be running full-tilt into the arms of exactly those who sold them the sweet story that you could have it all and not pay for it.  Were Reagan alive in two years, he’d probably win in a landslide of historic proportions, never mind it was his philosophy and economic policies which induced our current situation.  Ah, but he was, despite being a rather bad actor, a very good politician in that he could pull the wool over almost any sentimentalist’s eyes.

Thirty years on we are paying a very steep price for this shared delusion, and given the mind-set of the public, the price will likely get a lot steeper as our lemming herd runs as fast as it can to all the wrong people and policies – a sure-fire formula for even worse problems in the coming years.   Doubling down on our misguided practices is going to require the “miracle” which our Glenn Beck’s pray for, but the real world doesn’t work on miracles or snake oil.  Americans, accustomed to thinking of themselves as “different” and always being Number One, are likely to show their meanest and nastiest side as their delusions crumble about them.  The current season is merely a prelude.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform

Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohen, CEO and President of Goldman SachsKip Lynch, Iraq war soldier, AlaskaLynch and family he killed along with himself, victims of PTSDQuilt, Harriet Powers, circa 1890

Glacier Park, MontanaRoute 3, Montcoal, W. Va.Butte, Mt., Lynn Weaver

Rare earth mine, CaliforniaUS-Mexican borderNear Douglas, ArizonaBarber shop, MichiganForeclosure eviction, MilwaukeeOilfield, western North DakotaWindmill blade manufacturing, Newton, IowaDillon Panthers, Austin, TexasBargirl, NYCPassage, painting by Stephen LackGulf of Mexico, BP platform

America, once, held out a promissory note stating:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

While it can easily be argued that this promise was from the outset fraudulent, in, for example, not including among its “men” the native inhabitants of North America, nor women, nor black people, or in being the construct of a slim minority of wealthy men who designed their formula for government to lean towards their benefit at the cost of others (one had to own land to vote back then), the promise nevertheless was given, and many in time took it to be genuine, and in steps it seemed the nation thus founded moved stumbling towards its original stated aims.

Today this promise seems, though, ever more questionable. The nature of our modern technological society, based on a capitalist economic system which didn’t really exist in our founder’s time, and a radically altered change of “shared values” seem to challenge it daily, in manners both obvious and near-invisible.  Life itself is challenged with the vast output of our society, which blindly produces things with no real accounting as to their impact on our very lives and the small globe we live upon. This very moment a river of toxins flows into the Gulf of Mexico, owing to the profit-minded practices of a giant corporation, which in collusion with a manipulated government, chose not to install a half-million dollar device which might have prevented the BP Deepwater Horizon well blow-out.  The price which this “accident” will incur is at present incalculable, and will never be meaningfully measured in that standard American yard-stick, the dollar.

The corruptions which led to this incident run like gold veins now throughout our entire culture – a corruption broadcast by radio and television in the fraudulent “news” that passes off propaganda as “truth” no less than did the old Soviet Pravda, which meant “truth.”  It runs through the highest institution of our “justice” system, the Supreme Court, which some months ago ruled that corporations have the same rights (if not the same responsibilities) as people, in a craven ruling which signaled that our political system has been completely purchased by the powers of business and wealth.  It runs through the common shared discourse of the nation in which the facile poisons of fame and celebrity are taken as virtues, and the squalid matters of movie stars and pop singers are of greater import for many citizens than are the chronic wars which eat as a cancer at our society.  It runs through the compliant participants who long ago forgot the originating impulse of our nation: no taxation without representation.  These days, the most represented – the corporations which now own the political structure and govern in their interests – pay the least in taxes, and those with no representation, the common citizens, are taxed proportionate to their incomes far higher than the richest.  So far have the founding structures of our social contract collapsed.

The fractious response to these ruptures is seen in the Tea-party, in the profound and deep alienation to be seen across our narrowed political spectrum, in whichever language it is spoken.  Our politicians seem like the embalmed figures of the late Soviet Union, sporting their emblems, caught in a turgid and dead language, speaking in the circular echo-chamber of their own dumb blindness.  Our American version is little different, and there is little reason to think that we will fare other than that imagined monolithic “union” did.  Our future is dissolution, the consequence of a terminal corruption of the commonweal which once, for a while, seemingly held us together.

Of course, from the very outset, it was all an illusion.

For further images from Stephen Lack, see his website.

Windsor, N.H.Foto by J Nousak, perhapsOuray Canyon, Colorado, 1901Windsor Hotel Fire, NYC 1899WTC, Sept. 11, 2001US Army virtual reality battle training systemSpielberg/Hanks WW2 Pacific war television movieBillboard, Minnesota Jan 2010WTC 7 Building collapse, 9/11/2001Nascar race, 2010Tea partyBaker, CaliforniaMcKittrick, CaliforniaGrand Canyon US Gov’t. Budget Director, Peter Orszag

Republican Congressional leadersBody of Tacoma cop-killerCisco network wiringYob, metal band“Bullet” by Alfredo MartinezArizona-Mexico reservation fenceDown Mexico way, Ciudad Juarez, US consulate staffNevada, nuclear bomb test siteLethal injection room, LouisianaMuseum of Modern Art, NYC

There are people who have an appetite for grief; pleasure is not strong enough and they crave pain. They have mithridatic stomachs which must be fed on poisoned bread, natures so doomed that no prosperity can sooth their ragged and dishevelled desolation.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Desolation Row

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Cinderella, she seems so easy
“It takes one to know one,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning
“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
You better leave”
And the only sound that’s left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide
The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel
And the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love
Or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight
On Desolation Row

Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read
“Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough
From Desolation Row

Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
They’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They’re spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
Casanova is just being punished for going
To Desolation Row”

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

Bob Dylan, 1965

Walker Evans, Moundville, Alabama

Tacoma cop killer’s house, night stake-outWest Point cadets listen to ObamaCairo Illinois, 2009Windsor Hotel, New York, circa 1880Screentest by Andy Warhol, 1964Goodyear blimp, 1938Empire State Building, NYCGolden Gate Bridge, 1937Ed Ruscha

Rural homeless ranch, San Luis Obispo, Ca.Long abandoned black school, North CarolinaTeabagger convention, Pennsylvania

Looking for work, unemployed, NYCHarlemPhilip GustonKenneth Noland, 1924-2010James TurrelMiami art show

Voters in Massachusetts reflected the national mood in rejecting the business-as-usual choice of an institutionally chosen replacement for Senator Kennedy and installed instead truck-driver given to contradictory words – a real politician ! – while Obama recoiled and took a populist turn on that opportune target of the moment, bankers.  The stock market in response took a dive, and the Supreme Court, ruling in a matter which could have led to a narrow decision decided instead to open the floodgates of corporate spending on election campaigns.  Perhaps this will result in a new law stating explicitly that corporations are not “persons” and do not have the same Constitutional rights and protection of real persons.  Or perhaps it will result in a while in a government 100% of, by, and for the corporations which in fact govern a massive amount of the national political culture (and most other culture) already.

Jasper Johns, Flag

WTC 9/11 ceremony, 2009Disney pigmentsJacko’s houseMarietta, Ohio

Ralph Stanley

Columbus, NebraskaCity Hall, Los AngelesHarry Callahan, Chicago

Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack  Ruby

Richard DiebenkornTruro, Edward HopperMafia club, BensonhurstRoy CohnStonewall bar, Greenwich Village, NYCStahl house, Los AngelesJacko’s end of This Is It tourBeverly Hills HotelAlexis de Tocqueville

The stories we tell ourselves are what a culture is, for better or worse.  Each nation or cultural body tells itself its own stories, largely the ones which it desires to tell itself, though this is not always a happy story.  Where de Tocqueville imagined a tyranny of the majority as the end point of America, curiously we have arrived in a quite different place.  While in many trivial ways he was right – our popular culture exemplifies this – politically he was wrong, perhaps because he could not foresee the bifurcation of America into an urban vs rural experiment, in which political power in the most forceful legislative branch, the Senate, would be concentrated into the hands of representatives of rural America, whose values are in large part antithetical to the vast majority of Americans who live in urban areas.  Thus Senators Baucus, Nelson, Imhofe, and others of the sparsely settled mid-west and West are able to derail any legislation not to their liking – such as the current health care reform, now mangled beyond any real reform and surely to be moderated still further by the Senate, or measures to limit global warming gasses.   So for now, we suffer a tyranny of two minorities – that of rural America, representing a small fraction of our population, and that of the ruling class elite, representing an even smaller fraction, those of the 1% who own and control 95% of America’s wealth.

“The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.”    Thomas Jefferson

That distant period arrived in the last 10 years or so.

Note: there is a new posting on paginasparaclarinha.

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GALVESTON 2008Galveston, Oct 2008DETROITDetroitUS_soldiers_stuck_in_sand_in_southern_AfghanistanHummer in AfghanistanWhites protesting school speechProtesting Obama school talkwhitman_by_brady

Let that which stood in front go behind, Let that which was behind
advance to the front. Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new
propositions. Let the old propositions be postponed.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) Reversals Written