The Brothers Karamazov

"Actually, people sometimes talk about man's 'bestial' cruelty, but that is being terribly unjust and offensive to the beasts..."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Friday, September 10, 2010

Memories of Ole' King Koal

Trenton Chamber of Commerce Photo

Prior to and during WW II in Trenton, NJ, where I grew up, (State capitol, 100-150 thousand people), everybody burned coal. Once a month or thereabouts, the truck would pull up, and down a chute tumble several tons of black, shiny, anthracite coal. It even had a brand name, "Blue Coal", and sponsored a favorite radio drama,"The Shadow", (The weed of crime bears bitter fruit, the Shadow knows, heh, heh, heh).

Houses, factories, railroads, the local utility Public Service GAS & Electric, (accent on the gas part, a by- product of coal burning), before the Big Inch pipeline connected the northeast to the Texas natural gas fields and took the business away, they all burned coal. Some hard coal, some soft coal but lots and lots of it.

Now, it's true that on certain days in the winter, when conditions were just right, a stinky pall settled over the area. Like the smog in L. A., perhaps. What didn't add to the mix was any great amount of auto exhaust. No cars to speak of then. Depression on, remember? And later, wartime restrictions on passenger cars.

In my working class street, all of the men were employed at blue collar or white collar jobs. All, with the exception of my family and one or two others, did so without cars. People; women, kids and working men, walked, or rode the bus! Every day, for every purpose.

TRENTON MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES; reads the sign on the bridge over the Delaware river, leading to neighboring Pennsylvania. The sign is still there they tell me, but the world no longer takes since Trenton no longer makes. The jobs have vanished. Nada, all gone. EXCEPT, government jobs. State capital, remember?

All the decent paying work in factories, foundries, needle trades, or the railroad no longer exist. You work for the government, go on the dole, or eke out a two job existence.. Not much else remains that would support a family of working class people.

How did this terrible thing happen, we all ask?


At the end of WW ll, Washington was in a panic. The boys were coming home. What'll we do with them? There's no work except war work, and the girls, and the others are doing that. Oh my! Depression again. Can't have that.

Got it. Send the boys to school, anyway the ones who can read and write and... get the gals back in the kitchen. But how? They've all gotten so...independent these days. Put them in brand new houses at next to nothing down. Even less for vets. But where? Suburbs of course, nothing out there but corn fields. Get them to leave the city and drive back and forth to work and then, of course! ...sell them new cars! Eureka! But people love the city, grew up there, friends and families are there, how will we do that? They don't want to leave.

No problem. Scare 'em out! Tell them during the war while you were away fighting for the country, they moved in and took all the jobs and you know what that means.
No, ...what?

Your sister!

Okay, I'm ready to go. But how do I get back to my job in the city? The roads out there are all tiny country lanes and are jammed up all the time.

No problem! Since the commies are going to bomb us any day now we have planned smooth and wide super roads all over the place to move our strictly defensive guided missile launchers from place to place quickly. You can use these great new highways, free!.

Best of all, your new house on its own private grass patch will be state of the builders' art. Latest in all the new kitchen appliances and best, best of all, your furnace will run on natural gas or will burn oil. No more shoveling that messy coal and putting the ashes out on the curb. Welcome to the bold new world of Levittown! And in no time we'll move your job into another corn field so you won't have to go to the city at all.

And it worked. For awhile. While we, the USA, still had all the money and made and sold all our good stuff to the rest of the world. If you weren't able to buy our stuff and you were among the losers of WW II, well we'll give you the money to rebuild, then you could buy all our stuff. However, if you were our friend during the war but you were godless and didn't play our game, well, tough, nothing for you.

And it worked. For awhile. But then our new friends learned how we made our stuff and they made it cheaper, and often better. Well, that won't do. Too many cheap towels and sweaters on the market from our old enemies, oops new friends, okay close up the knitting mills in the old industrial North and ship the work down to the New South. Cheaper land, big tax dodges, lower wages. Great, that's done.

And it worked. For awhile. But soon the folks in Dixie wanted more. Fuggettaboutit! Lots of peons looking for jobs. Let's move further south.

And it worked. For awhile. They, those ingrates, wanted more. Let's move West, really far west. The good commies are really our friends now and they work for rice and noodles. Let's go West to the Far East!

And it worked. For awhile. Now, bigger ingrates, and they want it all! Instead of doing what we do and buying everything in sight, they save their money! Isn't that cheating?

In the beginning everything was peachy. They made stuff and made it cheaply and pretty good, too. The ships sped across the seas on tons of really cheap oil, and all was well. But things started to change a bit. Running all those big ships made sense when fuel was a giveaway but it got more expensive. Much more.
And people at home were going in hock to pay for all the new stuff because they hadn't saved enough to pay for it.

No problem! In the new world they won't need money. That's old style. All they need is lots of cheap credit and a computer to shop in the virtual world we have created for them. But ...that will require plenty of smart people who work cheap to take orders for the stuff, and we don't have enough. No problem. People in India speak English, sort of, work for a pittance so they get the job. And diction lessons as well.

And it worked. For awhile. In no time all, this coming and going became just going. A one way street of money...ours. So what! Our credit is AAA, well...AA anyway. What's the big fuss? We're good customers. So charge it! I'll have another hamburger and I will pay you Tuesday! Oops that's not right. That's what Wimpy said in the comic strip. Not what our Masters of the Universe would ever say. But maybe that's how it sounded to those too-clever-by-far commies, 'er, our good trading partners. Just because they saved their money, (the chumps), they are beginning to make noises saying we are not paying them enough interest on the money they lend us to buy all their stuff because our wonderful, spotless currency has gotten a tad faded. Hey, it was our money to begin with. And so what? More hamburgers please, I will pay you Tuesday...maybe.

Now, talk about gall, they say they will give us more money but in exchange they want our holy institutions, the very icons that separate us from the rest of the worlds' unwashed, our glorious cathedrals of commerce and culture, our banks. What insolence! What's with those people?

Okay spoil-sports, you can have the banks. They're empty. Ha Ha!

Now with the oil looking to become more expensive than say...water, everybody's getting worried. What to do? Can't burn coal. Too messy. Ah, we'll build more nukes! What... don't you remember Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, all that waste we can't take care of, half-lives out to forever?

Not to worry. Mankind is very clever and somebody will think of something. When the first nuclear plant was going up in India, they didn't even have a crane to hoist the containment vessel up into place. Well, they built a great big bamboo scaffolding and a bunch of guys with ropes dragged it up. See!
Somebody always thinks of something.

Remember, we don't need no stinking coal to boil our water when we got ...nucular!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Peace! Bah. There's no money in it." ...Uncle Sam

"My job doesn't make me a war monger, does it?"... Joe Everybody

The stacatto series of Money Panics of the nineteen thirties AKA, the Great Depression, which sounds a bit classier than Panic! Panic! Panic!, ended December 7, 1941 by Japanese airmen shouting Tora!Tora!Tora!, and, presto, War began decades of prosperity for us all.

We have done other things in the ensuing decades to make money, but we always fall back on old reliable Casus Belli . Make some money. Have a war. Make some more. Have another war. It's what we do because it works.

We sold some cars; used to sell a lot more until those other former war-mongers oops, Japan and Germany got into the act and ruined it. We made lots of airplanes, mostly war planes of course. Plus big machines and little machines of all kinds. Well, we actually gave that up years ago. Sent that work to the farm team, AKA the rest of the world, to manufacture, along with the needle trade, electronics, computers, wow! damn near everything when you think about it.

Not the ordnance, oh no, we still make most all of the stuff that goes boom. Let the farm-team buy that stuff from us, thank you very much. That's about all we have to sell these days, anyway.

There is one problem, however. All our war stuff and the boom-boom action that accompanies it, costs money. Runs at a loss. So we finally have had an old fashioned Money Panic! lately. Don't anybody call it that, though. Call it recession (will that be one dip or two, like ice cream) or retrenchment, 'depression lite', anything but Money Panic! But then, why-oh-why won't the banks lend out money anymore? Oh, so that's what happens when bankers hit the Panic button.

Yeah,yeah, but it's the fat-cats who are the war profiteers, not us. Well, the billionaires are not on the production line turning out fighters jets, or grenades or drone consoles, etc, etc. Somebody else is making a buck from the war machine, no es verdad? "Hey Man, only doing my job, man.", a million voices ring out, kinda miffed.

Our culture is as homely and normal seeming as apple pie and mother's milk to us, yet the US is the biggest war profiteer since the old Romans and we don't even realize it anymore. Just something we do (have always done?), in the lifetime of most of us, Yes. The sheer genius of the whole deal is ...we do it now with borrowed money. How's that for hubris! And delusion.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How the Anti-war Community Came to Love War/ or

Finesse those mothers!
2010 Master Plan

The earnest but essentially futile effort by the anti-war community over decades, even centuries, suggest a new approach is in order. Nothing is working. By using spoil-sport methods and banding about the dread Peace word, the message has fallen on deaf ears. What has been consistently overlooked is the propensity for young men to be so convinced of personal immortality they cannot hear anything to the contrary.
This elementary fact of life has enabled every army in history to exist.

I blame it all on agriculture. The women started it. For going on 12,000 years the chronically under-employed hunter class has been festering. Looking for something or someone to stalk. Ah, the thrill of the chase! Hard to give up.

So to accomplish its purpose the peace movement must begin to glorify war; the uniforms, the comradery and feats of daring-do. We must speak constantly of the nobility of armed effort in behalf of ones country and family, ones friends and loved ones; we all know the language. But this talk must not come from the usual suspects. It must be noised about enthusiastically, nay zealously, by the anti-war community

This 180 turn will not go unnoticed by the old guard supporters of the status quo.Resentment will quickly follow astonishment as a rush to defend turf is sure to ensue. After all, who are the true believers here, and what are these usurpers up to anyway? When the cacophony builds and the jingoism crescendo reaches critical mass, and it will, the time will be ripe for the next step which is...

Yes! That's the key. The anti-war folks agree to go back to the old stance if...the establishment agrees to a tiny change in the Military Code. If they do this one thing, both sides return to the old position. Not such a big change, really, mostly tweeking a number, that's all. Will they agree?

Do this and we have detente.
Just change the minimum age for entry into any of the armed services to thirty-five...and reinstate the draft ! That's all. Then loose the dogs-of- war to your hearts content and the movement will shut up. That we promise, (mission accomplished).

Quoth the Raving



Julius Caesar

Veni,Vedi,Vici...Sidi ( I stuck around )

Uncle Sam


....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving

All I know, all any of us know, is what we're told.

...Zero Gravitas


Quoth the Raving

If it walks like a depression, talks like a depression, and looks like a depression; it's a recovery.

...Zero Gravitas

Nice paint job

Nice paint job
Watch your step!

Quoth the Raving

Full scale War in Korea; we called it a Police Action
Police Action in Iraq; we call it a War.

...Zero Gravitas


Gene Pool?

Gene Pool?

Quoth the Raving

Ecology is an impending Black Swan quagmire therefore incorporation is anathema to Economists.

...Zero Gravitas


Quoth the Raving

An incoming US President who does not immediately resign his office after having received eyes-only briefings of what's really going on is hopelessly co-opted or delusional.
....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving

We are now a nation of middlemen. What becomes of us if the center cannot hold?

....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving


Why not use some of the red ink to make things Green?

....Zero Gravitas

"Ashes to Ashes"

"Ashes to Ashes"