Thursday, December 31, 2009

First Night 2009


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I will be drumming tonight at Vets Memorial (Downtown Columbus) at an event called First Night in a group called MDOFE. Come drum and dance the new year in at First Night!
http://firstnightcolumbus.com/

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Project Censored


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The 25 most censored news stories from 2009 has been posted. Here is the link.

http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/category/y-2009/

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ohio State Government On The Verge Of Collapse


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This from Jim Siegel from The Columbus Dispatch

It took Ohio lawmakers more than two months of grueling debate to figure out how to deal with an $851 million budget shortfall.

Some wonder what will happen in 18 months, when the deficit is a few billion dollars or more.

The latest budget debate "shows how divergent the various views are in how we should address the problems of the state," said Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors' Association.

Balanced against a desire to keep taxes low is the reality that many Ohioans are in crisis and need help, while social services are being slashed, he said.

"If we're in a crisis, we need to start acting like we're in a crisis. I'm not so sure we're there," Potts said.

Gov. Ted Strickland and state lawmakers recently solved the short-term budget problem, but as Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, told his colleagues while doing his best Bachman-Turner Overdrive impression: "B-b-baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet."

Estimates of the state's structural deficit for the 2012-13 budget range from $4 billion to $9 billion.

"Anybody who says they know what the 2012 and '13 number is, is just wrong at some level," said David Ellis, the assistant state budget director. "There are many things that are yet to be identified."

Whatever the correct number, it's big.

The fiscal-year 2011 budget, which begins July 1, is balanced with about $3.5 billion in one-time state and federal funding. That includes $426 million from the latest budget fix, which delayed a 4.2 percent income-tax cut until Jan. 1, 2011.

"Mature people on both sides of the aisle have got to get serious," Seitz said. "We can't come waltzing in the day before a budget is passed and say: 'I know, let's cut state government from 24 agencies to 10 tomorrow.' "

Under the state constitution, Ohio's budget must be balanced at the end of each year, and dealing with a shortfall largely boils down to reducing spending or increasing revenue.

Ohio leaders are working without a safety net. The state's rainy-day fund was depleted to fill a budget hole last year, and lawmakers waived the requirement that the budget end the fiscal year on June 30 with at least a half-percent cushion.

So far, the governor, House speaker and Senate president have not said specifically what they will do to address the situation.

The only provision added to the budget fix that even remotely addressed long-term spending was construction-law changes for three university projects, added at the urging of Senate Republicans.

Supporters expect that it will save up to 30 percent on building costs. But even if fully implemented, Ellis said, it will save little to nothing in general tax spending because it's likely that much of the savings would just be spent on additional projects.

Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, called the construction pilot program "a thimble to hold back a tsunami."

"There were many suggestions of how to deal with this, but unfortunately, we weren't able to get there today," he said prior to passage of the budget fix this month.

Grendell and House Republicans have pushed for a plan that would consolidate state government from 24 agencies to 11. They say it could save $1 billion a year and eliminate 11,000 government workers.

But a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission did not estimate the savings, and it projected cost increases in the short term. Ellis doubts much would be saved because 85 percent of state spending goes directly to local services, including schools.

"Can you maybe save a few positions here and there? Sure, but most of the money goes out the door to support services to Ohioans," he said.

Other cost-saving ideas include sentencing changes designed to reduce Ohio's prison population, but the tough-on-crime factions in both parties have struggled to find an agreement. Republicans also have pushed for studies of more privatization of government services and a four-day workweek, along with performance audits to study agencies' efficiency.

Strickland has talked about the possibility of selling state assets but is most hopeful that he can help persuade federal lawmakers to approve another round of stimulus funding.

"But that's not all I'm doing," he said. "We are not passive about looking forward. We are committed to scrutinizing everything we think we can do."

Strickland said he is willing to engage in a serious discussion with Republicans about future budgets.

"But (they say) 'We're going to reorganize government and downsize 11,000 employees' without being specific as to how they're going to do that, what functions will be eliminated and how they're going to continue to carry out the essential services that people expect from government."

Dispatch Senior Editor Joe Hallett contributed to this story.

jsiegel@dispatch.com

There's no safety net. The state's rainy-day fund was used to fill a budget hole last year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

HOME The Making Of Easter Island

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I got a chance to watch HOME on DVD this weekend. Here is a snippet about Easter Island

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Church Of Apathy


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I found this site called church of apathy.com

Look Out Disneyland, Here Comes Realityland

Kids love to believe in fairy tales. Ask somebody under the age of eight what they want to be when they grow up, and they’ll likely say Fairy princess, wizard, mermaid, baseball player, doctor, or something else lying somewhere on the fringe of the reality scale between unlikely and completely impossible.

This is because kids are stupid.

Intelligence is accumulated through real life experience, so naturally young people don’t have much. Children depend on their parents to protect and shape their impressionable minds for the better during their formative years, yet instead of teaching them how the world really works, we allow their heads to be crammed full of fantasy and unbridled, unrealistic optimism for a future that could only exist in the mushroom induced delirium of the caged Indonesian teenager who received a second helping of fish head soup twenty years ago on the other side of the planet for hallucinating it in the first place, and so we set them up for a rude, traumatic awakening in their future.

Like a friend who would leave a drunken buddy to the mercy of a brothel full of card sharps and whores, we allow such abuse of our children, and we give the Disney Corporation a pretty steady flow of pretty pennies to dole it out. Why? because stupid kids whose stupid adult parents let them be brainwashed by Mickey Mouse grow up to be stupid adults who have stupid kids their own lack of accumulated intelligence prevents them from providing the resources they would need to escape the borders of dum-dumville.

There will be no such nonsense in Realityland, the non-amusement park I intend to build someday. In Realityland there won't be any teenagers dolled up as Snow White or Prince Charming making ten dollars an hour to walk around taking pictures and promoting false hopes. Instead, balding, irritable men and flabby, middle-aged women with practical haircuts dressed in sweatpants will roam the grounds introducing themselves to the children as their future spouses, or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

3-D theatrical encounters featuring Michael Jackson, Indiana Jones or the Little Mermaid will not be offered in Realityland – rather, two 90 minute long training seminars on the subjects of sexual harassment and corporate proprietary laws will be mandatory for all children entering the park to simulate the mind-numbing boredom of their future workplace. In addition, all youngsters participating in the motor car attraction stipulated on all tickets as a pre-requisite to exiting the park will be started simultaneously in bunches of ten to pre-create the drudgery of the thousands of daily commutes they’ll eventually make on our nation’s smoggy, congested highways.

Also, replacing Disneyland’s best known and least accurately representative attraction, the “It’s a Small World” gondola ride, Realityland will feature it’s own more realistic equivalent, “It’s a Sad World”, where children will be exposed to recreations of some of the world’s most miserable places during a gut-wrenchingly slow 30 minute boat tour showcasing starving, disease ridden orphans in Africa, browbeaten sweatshop workers in Southern Asia, the crime and drug infested ghettos of Rio, and the sheer hell of present day Baghdad, all set to a soundtrack that apprises them of the culpability of their government’s foreign policy and the complicity of their own glutinous lifestyles.

As far as merchandise is concerned, t-shirts, snow globes, personalized license plates and other inane tchotchkes will not be available in Realityland. Instead, rubber bracelets imprinted with the phrase, “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up” will be handed out free of charge to all patrons as they exit as lifelong reminders not to expect much from their sure to be dreary, generic existences.

Of course, I can’t say your day at Realityland will be cheap, but the investment in your kid’s future will be well worth it, and I can virtually guarantee they’ll never beg you to come back.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mold Making For PMC


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Occasionally I make something that takes so long to cut out that I don't want to do it again for awhile. That is when it is a good idea to take the piece and make a mold from it. This is a two part mold making compound that is mixed together and formed around the piece. Next we will be putting PMC into the mold and carefully extracting the original piece. Then we will fire on a stove burner or torch; turning the (PMC) clay into Fine Silver. The second piece will shrink slightly. This is truly a modern day equivalent to alchemy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Doomer Art


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One of our moderators on LATOC forum is an artist. Her name is Pat Turner. This graphite drawing is from a series called Messages From The End.










http://paturner.redbubble.com/works

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bank Eated Friday


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Every Friday on LATOC there is a discussion about how many banks will be seized by FDIC. We call every Friday Bank Eated Friday! I couldn't pass up this wonderful ad. Just in time for Christmas...or in Ben's case Hanuka. This morning I heard that 7 banks closed yesterday. When this happens the FDIC agents arrive at 5:00pm and by Monday the bank is eated by another bank

Friday, December 18, 2009

Use Cash


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There is a movement to put the banks in their place. It is called Use Cash.

http://www.usecashmovement.org/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Urban Thinkers Part One

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This is part one of a 3 part talk about urban thinkers by James Howard Kunstler. It was suggested on the forum (Clusterfuck Nation) that someone take Jim's weekly podcast to a whole new level by making it into a YouTube. Great idea to have a slideshow about the places and people Jim talks about. Unfortunately transforming all the podcasts would be cumbersome. Equivalent in my opinion to a semester credit in college for an architecture student for instance.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Phoenix Recycling


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On State Route 37 near Thurston Ohio is this abandoned Recycling Building. You have to wonder what happened that would warrant losing such a place. Perhaps it was no longer cost effective for folks to recycle. Perhaps like the mythical Phoenix, recycling will rise again.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nesta


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Our kitty is cold! She does not want to go outside. Nesta spent most of the afternoon curled up in a blanket.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Share The Road


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Today I see these new signs. I don't know how much they cost. They are every 500 ft. or so. I am already supposed to share the road. Where is stick man??? Obviously we have way too much money to spend here in Clintonville! My first response to this sign is that if I am looking at the pretty new sign I am probably already running over a biker. But...they didn't consult me on how to spend the city's money.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Twilight Of An Age

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I follow John Michael Greer's weekly blog The Arch Druid Report. Here he is in a YouTube

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Peak Oil Shrink


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I got to say that many of us have a difficult time after we come to an understanding about the reality of peak oil. For those of us who need a shrink from time to time, it is refreshing to know that there is a blog about Peak Oil Blues composed of psychoanalysts and psychologists who are totally knowledgeable about this reality. Check out Kathy McMahons blog.
http://www.peakoilblues.com/blog/

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dubai Collapse In Pictures


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This morning on the peak oil site I see a link to the collapse of Dubai through a photo journal from The New York Times.
A picture is worth a thousand words they say...so a slide show must be worth at least a million! I hope you readers don't have your pension caught up in this mess.
http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/showcase-85/?ref=business

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pet Food Politics


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I am reading Marion Nestle's book about the Pet Food industry. The 2007 Menu pet food recall was the largest FOOD recall in history. She believes as I do that it signals a larger and deeper problem in our whole food safety system.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Story Of Cap And Trade

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From the maker of The Story Of Stuff
http://storyofstuff.com/capandtrade/

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Motorized Bar Stool


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This story just gets better and better.

MARCH 31–In a law enforcement first, Ohio cops this month arrested a man for drunk driving on a motorized bar stool. That’s right, a motorized bar stool, which can be seen below in a police evidence photo. According to cops, Kile Wygle, 28, crashed his bar stool near his Newark home earlier this month and called 911 due to his injuries. When an officer arrived and asked Wygle what happened, he answered, “I wrecked my bar stool.”

According to a Newark Police Division report, a copy of which you’ll find here, Wygle’s homemade ride is powered by a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine. Wygle noted that the bar stool could hit nearly 40 miles per hour, but that he was only going 20 when he wiped out late in the afternoon on March 4 (a witness told police that he spotted someone driving a “strange motorized machine” before the crash).

A plastered Wygle, who failed a series of field sobriety tests, was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license, both misdemeanors. His bar stool was not impounded. (Read more.)

B.S. Report–I don’t understand–if you’re not allowed to drink on a bar stool, where can you drink these days? So the guy admits to having a beer or two (or fifteen!), he’s still sitting on the sacredly protected throne of a drunk–his very own bar stool.

You mean you lose the legal protection of a bar stool simply because it’s buzzing around city streets between 20-40 miles-per-hour? Watch yourself you drunkards–you can now be 86′d from your own bar stool! What a world

So this morning 9 months later they are auctioning this thing off for back child support. I am guessing that this is not the end of this story

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Bad You Know

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One of my all time favorites. It pretty much sums up everything these days.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday


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We are getting ready to list a few pieces of vintage Fiesta for sale on eBay. It is a better strategy to sell rather than buy today. If you see something here of interest you can check back later today on eBay...username yourcatdid.
For those of you out there that want to purchase Christmas presents not made in China, Fiestaware fits the bill. Fiesta is USA made, lead free, and very durable. Support the already unemployed in our household, by purchasing Vintage Fiesta this cyber Monday!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Next Knife Project


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As I am finishing up the two boot knives I am making this year, another knife comes into my possession. This will be etched with a Celtic knot near the blade guard, the handle made of white oak embellished with gemstones and ending with a cast acorn. The art council awarded me a grant and so I am happy to report that I won't have to shut down my knife making workshop for the winter as I had thought I would need to do. Many thanks to The Ohio Arts Council.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doomer Defined


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I feel validated at last!

A Doomer is a peakist (one who has peak oil related concerns that oil depletion will lead to a severe economic recession or another Great Depression) that also believes that a Malthusian Catastrophe will inevitably follow. Doomers attribute their beliefs to humanity's over reliance on petroleum for agricultural and industrial productivity. Many doomers are also survivalists.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomer

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday


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You gotta wonder what in the world they have in there that would cause the multitudes to stand in line in the middle of the night. Maybe these folks are paid to stand there. Posturing for the rest of us. Maybe they think we need to retrained as consumers. Maybe this year it truly will be the last Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pet Products Made In China


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HealthyStuff.org tested over 400 pet products, including beds, chew toys, stuffed toys, collars, leashes, and tennis balls. Since there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it is not surprising that toxic chemicals were found.

45% of pet products tested had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemical, including:

  • One-quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead.
  • 7% of all pet products have lead levels greater than 300 ppm — the current CPSC lead standard for lead in children’s products.
  • Nearly half of pet collars had detectable levels of lead; with 27% exceeding 300 ppm — the CPSC limit for lead in children’s products.
  • One half (48%) of tennis balls tested had detectable levels of lead. Tennis balls intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead. Sports tennis balls contained no lead.
  • I guess this is one we can’t blame on the FDA, and yet… the presence of dangerous toxins in everyday items like toys — toys that might be sold for pets, but certainly don’t magically self-destruct if a child starts gnawing on them — is certainly directly related to the almost complete lack of safety regulation on products being imported into this country from places with less than stellar safety and health practices in manufacturing, hello, China.

    Although of course, even children’s toys from China were recalled by Mattel for high lead levels while the 2007 pet food recall was still going on — remember this?

    Think long and hard about all the “Made in China” toys and collars you buy your pets, not to mention the source of the supplements in their food and yours. The reality is, when you decide you’re never going to buy anything made in China ever again, you’d better be willing to starve your pets and yourself, and go naked, because it’s not easy.

    Which seems like a good reason to relentlessly inspect and test everything we import from them, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a pet blogger.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Accidental Maps


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    There are maps virtually everywhere...even accidental maps. Can you spot the map in this picture?
    In the right column of this blog you will find some blogs I follow regularly. Strange Maps is one of them. Check out Strange Maps for more weird entertainment. Or you can go to Strange Maps by my right column direct link.


    http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/424-accidental-geography-the-long-overdue-sequel/

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Even Bongs Are Outsourced These Days


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    Talk about holiday cheer.

    Hundreds of boxes that were shipped from China and labeled as Christmas ornaments were seized by suspicious customs officials at Los Angeles Harbor recently. Inside the boxes were 316,000 glass bongs and other drug pipes.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-christmas-bongs20-2009nov20,0,7946125.story
    Copy and paste this link for the complete story.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Going Green Or Green Smoke


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    One of my favorite monthly entertainments is seeing James Howard Kunstler's Eyesore of the month. This is a "green" building on Skidmore College Campus. And here is what Jim has to say about it.
    "As a bonus here's another project underway on the same Skidmore College campus. They're painting the old field house (now dance department) green! Notice how it fades from dark green on the left to light green on the right. "We're Green!" the building declares -- meaning, I suppose, that it is a morally upright building on a morally correct campus run by right-thinking people. We do stupid things like this because we have no faith in our ability to produce truly beautiful buildings -- so we engage in semiotic stunts instead.
    America, you are blowing green smoke up your own ass!
    Tragically, we're only fooling ourselves."

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Clay


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    I am reading this book for the second time. It is called Clay by Suzanne Staubach. I read it several years ago and forgot the title and the author. I am glad I found it again and I am thrilled with it the second time around and may someday buy this book.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Planned Obsolescence


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    Planned Obsolescence. Finally a solution to my Black and Decker nightmare. They would have me believe that I needed to buy a new band saw...probably made in (another country). For now, a piece of inner tube cut to fit around the wheel glued into the groove. Cross your fingers for me.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Why Things Are Falling Apart

    Blogroll Me! This guy minces no words. Thanks DD for giving me this link!

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Letter To Joe Bagent about Smokers and Fat People


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    It has been two years since I had a cigarette. But I doubled my weight...so it is a shallow victory. Here is a letter to Joe Bagent that addresses the subliminal and not so subliminal hatred directed towards smokers and fat people.

    Shoot the fat guys, hang the smokers

    (This is a long letter, with an even longer reply, but this reader has several excellent points, including the politicization of smoking and over-eating. -- Joe Bageant.)

    Dear Joe,

    I smoke cigarettes. This is my 49th or 50th year -- don't know which.

    When this war on smokers really heated up, in the late 90's, I wrote to a friend in San Francisco, and asked her what was going on. "Is this some kind of grassroots movement?," I asked, in caps. She said she didn't know what it was, exactly, but that it couldn't be a grassroots deal, because they were very, very rich, and very powerful, and they had the full support of governments, corporations, and all of the media, without exception. They were getting lots of tax money, she said -- hundreds of millions -- and there were rumors that the big pharmaceutical companies were involved in funding and planning operations. "After all," she added: "They want to sell nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and a shitload of tranquilizers to the masses who quit as they get the piss pounded out of them." She said that a mutual friend had remarked that it was sure to become the largest social engineering project in the history of the world, and that, though he didn't smoke -- he found it frightening.

    I avoided studying the whole thing, because all of the TV infomercials seemed to be telling me that there was an enormous amount of new evidence about the horrors of smoking -- for smokers, themselves, and for everyone they come into contact with. I just didn't want to think about it. But I, too, felt frightened about the social engineering. Still do.

    Then, one day, three or four years ago, I had to do a bunch of outdoor work. The following morning, I sat down to try to catch the weather report on the local 6:00 news. I turned on the TV, and they went immediately to some huge anti-smoking rally in Seattle. It was a big, sumptuous event in a banquet room of a ritzy hotel. The governor of Washington State was there, as were the mayors of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, one US Senator, a couple congressmen, and a bunch of local city and county politicians. The place was crawling with media. The politicians were falling all over each other to genuflect before the local anti-smoker uber-thugs, and smoking was declared infinitely worse than nuclear war or even a possible collision between earth and a massive rogue meteor.

    I thought, "Well, I guess I should look into all this. It just keeps getting more frightening."

    That was dozens of books and hundreds of essays and articles and a pretty serious number of epidemiological studies ago. I had planned to write an essay for the Left, but now I've got a dozen rough draft essays, and so much information bookmarked, on Word documents in folders all over the computer, and scattered all around the garage in books and print stuff, that I don't know where I am, half the time. I'm so fucking lost and overwhelmed, that I'm not sure what to do. If you have any advice -- any at all -- about how to keep all this stuff straight, I'd sure like to hear it.

    But, beyond the "ME" in all this, we smokers are being "Denormalized." That's the official term. Unofficially, it means that we're characterized as being, in many ways, subhuman -- unworthy of any consideration whatsoever, under any circumstances, like a disease or a repeatedly offending child molester. And, of course, they're taking more and more of our money, and sending it on up the line to the well-to-do professionals who promise to protect society from us drooling psychopaths down here at the bottom. And, in the employment section of the want ads, more and more businesses and government agencies declare that "users" of tobacco, in any form, need not apply: "Urine and blood samples will be taken when we accept your application."

    Generally, this war is described as a battle against big tobacco, but, of course, it's actually a war on working people, their habits, their little idiot joys, their little mechanisms of coping.

    In any case, the point of this letter is that, throughout the last few years, I've been expecting ("Oh, any day now!," I'd tell myself) some of the big guns on the Left to write some essay condemning all this shit -- but, of course, it has never come. Alexander Cockburn, George Monbiot, and a host of hotshots have even written in favor of what's happening, and Amy Goodman spoke out about what a good idea it is to support a Republican Senator's plan to force smokers -- primarily working and poor folks -- to pay for health insurance for the country's neediest kids. Presumably, the Left would rather not foot the bill itself, so it's handed the burden off to the poor.

    I don't understand how this is a Left issue. I don't understand how they're letting all this go on, unchallenged, without even a critical comment.

    Then, this morning, I awoke to read a piece by Alexander Cockburn on Counterpunch which literally spends a couple dozen paragraphs attacking fat folks (never had that problem, but the wife is pretty chubby, and I know some very bright, very Left, very serious, very, very fine fat folks).

    He actually calls them names, and trashes and demeans them from a number of perspectives. It's a savage, creepy piece.

    And, I don't understand how being fat is a Left issue, either. What the fuck is all this shit?

    I've always thought of myself as a Lefty -- a "Left Anarchist," that is -- to differentiate myself from Libertarians, with whom, I'll admit, I have some things in common, but their belief in "The Free Market," and the joys of big business, just makes me puke. I thought of myself as a Lefty because I just couldn't stop hearing all the calls for help, from all round me -- all the poverty, all the misery, all the injustice, all the racism, all the sexism, all the violence, all the loneliness, all the situations and people you've so excellently described in your book. I wanted to help, in whatever small ways I could, those folks who were suffering and consistently ignored. And, of course, I wanted to understand what was happening -- how something this terrible could have come to be and could continue to be.

    I don't see how punishing smokers, many of whom have been dedicated and effective "members" of the Left, throughout their lives, is responding to cries of help from those who most desperately need it. I don't see how punishing fat people fits into this framework, either. The essential structure that is attacking smokers is working toward various denormalization programs for fat folks -- with, again, Big Pharma generally leading the way. Lots of stuff for drinkers, too, on the horizon.

    Even in a "perfect world," a world after the revolution, this shit would not make sense to me, but in a world in which virtually everything is sick and twisted, anti-human and often anti-life, spending tens of billions of dollars to make smokers and drinkers and fat folks the equivalent of Jews in 1930's Germany (this is not hyperbole), it seems to me absolutely inconceivable.

    The second-hand smoke deal, as confirmed by 149 epidemiological spousal studies, workplace studies, and childhood studies, is nothing more than "perception management." Smokers are accused of being murderers.

    I decided, after trying to make sense of Cockburn's essay, to write a letter to Joe Bageant and ask him to give me his take on all this madness. I've written 50+ letters to various people and newspapers and magazines and TV stations and various governmental agencies and NO ONE has ever replied. There's a dark, very disturbing religious quality to this whole thing, as if someone like me is writing letters asking priests if they mind if I have sex with the nuns.

    What do you think, Joe?

    Thanks for listening to this torrent of babble. Oh yes, and thanks for being Joe Bageant.

    Joe

    ------

    Dear Other Joe,

    I scarcely know where to begin on this topic. As a smoker for 40 years, I think I've experienced every emotion and held just about every opinion possible on the subject. I've enjoyed the hell out of smoking most of the time (before it helped ruin my health), hated myself for being addicted, loathed the fact that despite having both kinds of COPD, I cannot seem to quit. I've quit for up to a year at a time, only to go back. Right now I am taking Welbutrin, which helps more than anything I've ever seen, but I still lapse in and out of the addiction.

    As you can see, I'm not prone to defend smoking at this late age when I suffer from so many of its long term effects. Long term suddenly got short on me.

    However, I do observe the same things as you regarding the anti-smoking movement. It is extremely classist.

    Our society never asks why most of America's underclass people smoke. America is a society at the edge of a cliff. Many people fall over the cliff but instead of building a fence, America sends middle class professionals down in a basket to pick the pockets of the dead and dying victims, either through the "recovery industry" or expensive end of life care and funerary services. In the case of smoking, however, middle class Americans, left or right, seem intent on beating up the victims for sheer enjoyment or, as you point out, to fulfill some unfathomable political agenda. The prevailing philosophy seems to be "Why exercise an ounce of mercy when you can expend a pound of cruelty?"

    Smoking and drinking are indeed among the few miserable pleasures available to working class and working underclass folks. They were and are always there for me when little else is, so long as I am willing to pass my money up the class ladder. They make money for the middle and upper classes two ways, first through corporate sales profits, then later through medical treatment for the diseases incurred (or in the case of insured middle class people hooked on nicotine, patches and pharmaceuticals).

    Smoking unarguably costs America billions upon billions in medical expenses. But you gotta ask just who the billions are paid out to. They are paid out to the "healthcare industry," which is just that -- an industry -- to support the millions of doctors and others in the professional classes. Which means cigarettes will always be with us. Somebody's gotta pay for their hot tubs and vacations in Provence.

    As far as I am concerned the government could ban the goddamned things and we'd all be better off, black market or no black market. That would certainly solve my problem, and I suspect solve the problem for millions of others like me, who wouldn't smoke if cigs were not available at all. I know that probably makes a libertarian like yourself blanch. But I'm only speaking from my own selfish perspective. I wouldn't knock off a liquor store to buy a pack of smokes on the black market, nor would most smokers I know.

    Put simply, I'd do anything to kick my nicotine addiction, which as Ray Charles said, "is worse than heroin." I believe him. While I was back in the States this summer working on the new book, my webmaster, Ken Smith, said to me, "You're a vet. Why not use your VA benefits?'" I avoid anything related to the US government for the same reasons one avoids any other criminal cartel. But considering the way my health has seriously gone to hell (COPD, hypertension and type two diabetes) and that I couldn't breathe, couldn't fuck, couldn't sleep, and had arthritic pain 24/7, I decided to go, and as long as I was going, to give smoking cessation a shot. I must say here that the VA hospital treatment turned out to be excellent. Beyond excellent.

    I found myself in the smoking cessation program with the kind of people I've known all my life, hard looking people by the commercially indoctrinated middle class standard. There was a tough Lynndie England type who was an Iraq War vet, a black diabetic guy with no feet, a retired construction foreman who was trying for something like the tenth time.

    As I looked around and listened to each of these rough looking brothers and sisters speak, I realized that not a goddamned one of them was going to be able to quit smoking. Not because they are weak (hell, half of them have been shot at and shot back) but because of the very real fact of addiction, plus the nerve wracking insecurity of daily American life. No employment security at all, no health insurance for their spouses, no viable future for their kids, not enough real education to comprehend the greater world and the larger forces that govern our lives (which in this country means working against us to make a buck). Eventually any one of these or other hazards will slow-walk them down and fuck up their nerves -– again -– and they're gonna be right back on the fags. Ultimately, some will go down to emphysema or a heart attack.

    And I thought: "There's no damned reason to believe I'm special or any different than anybody else around this table. After all, I'm here ain't I?"

    I also thought about how so many of the people who read my books and essays, so many of my friends on the left, would view these people if they encountered them on the street. There would be the instant assessment of their coarse manners, poor diction and working man's bluntness that is so often mistaken for surliness, and their obvious lack of education. "Trashy and dumb," would be the verdict.

    There are a million ways to be smug and the American left holds the copyright on three quarters of them. Down inside most lefties feel superior to the majority of Americans for the simple reason that they are indeed superior. Morally superior (at least in the justice sense), intellectually and politically superior too, if you exclude every member of the Democratic Party. However, the American left is void of compassion, the thing that is at the very heart of the true left the world round. And by true left I mean the people dying for the cause in places we never heard of and never will.

    Given the afore named virtues and qualities possessed by most lefties, they are convinced they know everything about the people around them and what is best for everyone else. People should not own guns, or eat meat, wear fur or shop at WalMart. They should be able to obtain abortion on demand and pot should be legal. Maybe so, but those who do not agree will never be convinced of that by people they will never meet, but who insist upon calling them "sheeple" and "'Merkins" on the Internet and in other public venues.

    All of which is not the worst thing in the world. In a nation that proclaims every citizen to be an individual, precious and special in his or her own right, merely for being born, well, a lot of folks are bound to take such bullshit a mite too seriously. As in, "I'm special, and you might be too, but the rest of them are just sheeple." I've done that myself, so I'm throwing stones from a glass house. It took a lifetime to recognize the lack of compassion in American society. Hell, I was raised there too. And it took the raw obscenity of George Bush for me to realize that ideology had taken over the political and civic arenas, the only venues where a society can exercise compassion collectively and by force of legislation and law demonstrate its humanity and evolution.

    It was the snuffing out of what compassion remained in the Democratic Party that ceded the political stage to hard rightist forces. The Democratic leadership, fickle spineless cunts that they are, let the rightists reduce everything to ideological warfare, handing the rightists the field of play.

    It no longer matters if Democrats are the majority. We don't see our warfare abroad decreasing. It's expanding. And following an ideological war over healthcare reform, we "won." We got reform. Reform which forces 40 million of America's poorest and hardest working folks into bed with insurance corporations, sucking an additional 70 billion dollars a year in public funds from the citizens' pockets into insurance industry coffers. We don't need the insurance companies at all. Never did. Never will. But they are still leeching us because "we won." We the supposed proponents of universal healthcare, we who believe in the right of all children and old folks, the right of all people to freedom from pain and misery, we won.

    After the ceding of issues and principles to ideology, the only exposure to politics the people got was to ideological warfare. And the only way they got to vote was based on ideology. The left was entirely sucked into this game. Now it's the only game in town and will remain so. You cannot backtrack on pure meanness once it is unleashed, because if you quit playing the game, soften up and exhibit compassion, the opposition eats you alive next election. Calls you the kumbaya crowd and mocks you mercilessly through its extensive network of media puppets, a la Beck, Limbaugh. The crowd loves mockery. Meanwhile the nation continues to rot under a soulless ideological sun. Perishing for want of a drink from compassion's cup.

    I think many Americans voted for Obama because in their minds he represented the promise of a more compassionate America. They forgot, or chose to forget, that the promise was a political promise. Which is to say it was all either just smoke, or unfulfillable by even the best intended mortal in such a heavily armed high stakes whorehouse. Some of the best among us have thrown in the towel, lost all faith in the political process. Frankly, in my 63 years as an American I've never seen more hearts broken nor more bitter people created by a single event. And that includes the Vietnam War.

    Those who remain politically involved have internalized politics as ideological warfare. Which means no thing nor person is now safe from the toothy maw of ideology. As the Red Brigades in China showed us, ideology is the big grinder, baby.

    For the common people, ideological adherence can only be demonstrated by zeal. And in their zeal, which is really unarticulated frustration at their powerlessness, the people start to cannibalize one another according to the social themes and agendas issued to them by institutions and corporations through the state sanctioned media. What themes are not about conformity are about denormalization of individuals and behaviors. First the smokers (in a country established as a tobacco colony), then the fat guys (in a nation whose government force feeds its people corn syrup through corn subsidies). To see smoking, physical attractiveness and other human attributes and frailties politicized is chilling. To see the left (which apparently does not own a single mirror between them) so whole-heartedly taking part in such cannibalism bodes even grimmer. Among other things, it means that the worst people among us have managed to turn the left once again against their brothers and sisters on this earth, against the very people who most need what liberalism and the left has to offer humanity. Things like justice, genuine equality, environmental healing, freedom from hating and being hated -- all of us bound together by our commonalities as human beings. By acknowledging our equal weaknesses, we become equally strong.

    Which means we are fucked. As long as Americans remain convinced we are each so damned individual, unique, special and different from our neighbor, better than our neighbor, we're sunk. As long as we are kept divided, the murderous assholes will keep on owning the game, keep on looting destroying and extorting the people's wealth and health.

    Yes, I think the anti-smoking movement is becoming a mass social control program. But not in the ways I sense you see things. I don't believe any grand wizard or corporate cabal cooked it up behind the curtain (although they certainly capitalize on it). Not directly anyway. I believe it just came down the pike wearing opportunity's hat. In America one man's misery has always been another's opportunity to make a buck. We are not good at "the common good." And besides, nobody wants to miss their big chance at that buck, which they are assured will surely come along here in the land of opportunity.

    At heart, it's a predatory society. So damned mean we no longer even notice its inherent cruelty. A strongman's democracy in which bodily appearance has become political, and the only allowable vice is self-righteousness.

    You're right.

    It's creepy.

    In art and labor,

    Joe

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    World Made By Hand


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    I just finished World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler. This work of fiction takes place post industrial collapse. I totally enjoyed this book and believe that Mr. Kunstler has started a sequel called The Witch Of Hebron. Even if you are peak oil aware you can find something you never considered might happen when everything shuts down.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    4 Bowls For Empty Bowls


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    I finished putting the glaze on my 4 bowls for The Empty Bowls Project. Unfortunately, I won't be unloading the kiln...so I won't get to see how they look when they are fired. I used blue, purple, and red. They should be very bright and vibrant.

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Santa's Workshop

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    Before Christmas shopping we should all watch this little video!

    If you have trouble viewing this click on the little Google Video icon and it will take you to Google Videos. Then put Santa's Workshop in the search bar.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Happy Birthday Grandma Sue


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    My Grandma turns 92 today. Here is a bowl I made for her. Happy Birthday Grandma Sue

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Tempered Blade


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    Here is my blade being tempered. The color changes go from Brass to Brown, to Purple, to Blue.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Unrepentant Cowboy


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    I follow this writer called The Unrepentant Cowboy (unrepentantcowboy.com). Here is a most recent excerpt from his writing.

    "Just because we survived three previous periods of crisis, doesn’t mean we survive the next.

    Never before have > 6 billion people inhabited the earth. Not even close. So you can’t say that just because humans have never before affected the climate, we aren’t doing so now. In less than 100 years we have consumed half the known supply of extractable oil from the earth, oil that probably took millions of years to form. We’ve cut down trees, paved over swamps, ripped open land and allowed topsoil to erode. Balls of tar and plastic float in our oceans; coral reefs die, ice caps melt, species disappear.

    Never before have we been so dependant on machinery, most of which is powered directly or indirectly by fossil fuels. Never before has such a large percentage of our population been so far removed from the land that feeds them. Never before has a single farmer fed some many others.

    Naseem Taleb says the larger and more complex a system, the more redundancies that are built into that system, the less likely the system is to fail. But… When it does fail, (and it will), the greater the consequences of that failure.

    Pride comes before destruction. The more you tell me how we can or won’t fail, the more I am convinced we must. We (not just the US, but modern man as a whole) built something approximating the tower of babel. It must be destroyed in order to save the planet.

    There are some, the most evil among us, Malthusians also, but of a much more radical strain than I, that see the same things I see and decide they will engineer the collapse to the favor of their own based on race, religion, region, class, gender etc. They say, if it’s them or us, it’s going to be them and then they proceed to make it happen. Bush, Cheney, Gore and even your boy Obama are counted among them. Worse than these lie ahead.

    It’s not that there aren’t non-violent fixes out there, it’s that they won’t be employed.

    It will not be geologic constraints of peak oil that seals our fate, nor will climate change get us, although either of these in time presents grave threats. It will be the anticipation of these events and the reactions of those in power that bring about the worst disasters this world has seen.

    Plans for the destruction of others will backfire. We will fall victim to devices of our own construction. We are entering a time of great upheaval: wars, famine, disease and natural disasters unparalleled in the history of this planet are soon to come if I don't miss my guess.

    I’d say more, but it’d take a book. More than a book. And I don't have the time or space to do that here.

    But take heart. The old must pass away so the new can rise. If something isn’t done to destroy civilization as we now practice it, the planet will be destroyed. And I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    You see, in the end, I am an optimist.

    My guess: Thirty years from now, the United States of America will have collapsed. The world’s population will number less than 2 billion. I don’t expect to be one of them. But you never know.

    And the planet will begin to heal itself."

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Empty Bowls Deadline


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    I got my posters delivered for Empty Bowls Project. I will only be donating 15 bowls this year, just 5 shy of my record in the past. Tomorrow will be the last day I can finish trimming my bowls. They go into the kiln on Tuesday and hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday I will be able to glaze them. If you get a chance to attend one of these soup suppers look for my bowls.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Collapse Review


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    I snagged this story and interview about Mike Ruppert's new book Collapse from the Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt by Anthony Kaufman.


    Michael Ruppert proudly claims that he predicted the global economic slump more than four years ago in his self-published "From the Wilderness," a monthly news publication and Web site. A narcotics investigator for the Los Angeles police department in the 1970s, Mr. Ruppert left the department and spent years trying to expose links between the CIA and drug smuggling; after 9/11, he wrote the 2004 bestseller "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil," published by New Society Publishers and a favorite among conspiracy theorists.

    Mr. Ruppert, 58 years old, has since moved on to what he believes are more pressing matters: oil and energy. ("I walked away from 9/11 five years ago," he says. "I have nothing to do with the 9/11 truth movement.") He has a new self-published book, "A Presidential Energy Policy: Twenty-five Points Addressing the Siamese Twins of Energy and Money," and a critically acclaimed new movie, "Collapse," in which he is the sole star and commentator.

    Directed by documentarian Chris Smith ("American Movie"), the film consists mostly of Mr. Ruppert speaking about the dangers of peak oil and the looming catastrophe that declining oil reserves could bring. The film opens Nov. 6 in New York and on the new video-on-demand channel FilmBuff.

    "The power of 'Collapse' is that Ruppert ... never sounds like a crackpot," Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman wrote after the movie's Toronto International Film Festival premiere in September. "You may want to dispute him, but more than that you'll want to hear him, because what he says—right or wrong, prophecy or paranoia—takes up residence in your mind."

    But as with "Fog of War," the Oscar-winning documentary about former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Mr. Ruppert comes across in the film as both authoritative and dubious, leaving the audience open to make its own judgment of the man and his ideas. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Mr. Ruppert to discuss oil, Wall Street and the "imminent collapse of human industrialized civilization."

    For the complete interview follow the link.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703932904574511942676683258.html

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    First Part Of The Journey


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    Last night at Harvested Earth we fired up the forge and heat treated my blades. That means 1500 degrees and non magnetic and quenched in motor oil. It seems to be a success in that the blades are still in a nice shape...not warped. When I clean them up they will be ready to be tempered.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Tonight At The Cultural Arts Center


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    Come join me tonight at The Cultural Arts Center For Harvested Earth and Open House.

    The Cultural Arts Center
    invites you to celebrate their new completed Earthworks Sculpture
    Autumn Open House
    Friday November 6, 2009 5:30 to 10:00pm
    139 West Main Street Downtown Columbus Ohio
    There will be bluegrass music, campfire storytelling, homemade soups, brats, sauerkraut balls, hot cider, beer, mulled wine and kettle corn. And of course Bonie and I will be heat treating and tempering our blades! Hope to see you there.
    http://www.culturalartscenteronline.org/open_house___harvested_earth

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    What is Safe?


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    Is your safety deposit box really safe? I have never thought so. Here is a link that makes me think I might have been right.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Reconstruction


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    We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen. My posts for the next few days may be sporadic.