One Lucky Old Gal

September 20, 2014          Linda Easley

Now that the Empire is busy fighting everything from ISIL to Ebola, I guess it’s time for me to get the yard and gardens ready for winter.

This past week was cool and rainy. We had three inches of rain on one day, with smaller rains and brief showers the rest of the week. I did manage to get started deconstructing the garden in between those wet periods, but the coming week promises to be cool, sunny and dry – perfect for really getting busy in the yard.

The small side garden was a success; I’ve left it alone this past week in the hopes that the few remaining tomatoes might get picked by someone. (I do have a neighbor who’s particularly fond of fried green tomatoes.) But, if no one has picked them by later in the week, I’ll probably pick them clean, so I can get it ready for winter, too.

I’m hoping to expand it a little next year and plant a couple of other veggies – maybe some squash and green beans – along with the tomatoes. We’ll see.

And I’m looking forward to trying the winter squash I’ve stored away. I’ve never grown winter squash before, (at least, not successfully,) so that’s kind of exciting. I did clean, seed and freeze the one I dropped on the floor while bringing them in, fearing that I might have bruised it and it would rot around the bruise if I just tucked it away in storage. At least, that’s what the internet squash experts said could happen. I did save the seeds.

I fried a couple of the potatoes I’d brought in and stored the rest under the cabinet after they hardened. I do love fried potatoes. There weren’t too many of them this year, but they looked like nice ones and I think I can squeeze two or three meals of green beans and ‘taters seasoned with diced bacon out of the handful of little ones. Good stuff!

My kitchen table is still half covered with tomatoes, cherry and regular, in various stages of ripening – the last ones from the backyard garden. Hopefully, they’ll all ripen and I will have had my fill of fresh tomatoes by the time winter comes and I have to break in to the frozen and canned ones.

When I’ve finished with the outside gardens, I’ll start working toward my indoor garden for this winter. Each year, I learn a little more from the experience, so I’m looking forward to that.

Then it will be time for the great, pre-winter housecleaning, time to think about shrink wrapping the inside of the windows and to preparing coverings for the doors.

My life might seem small to some, but I really have no need to “live large”. I have loving family, dear friends and good neighbors. I am healthier than I probably have a right to be at my age, can still pursue my gardening, my larder is full (if not so overflowing, this year) and my house is old but comfortable.

Considering that the universe owes me nothing, that still makes me richer than two-thirds of the world population.

I understand that all of this could change in a moment, but, as I’ve said here before, right now, in this moment, I am one lucky old gal.

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Terminal Something

September 13, 2014   

Seems like, this week, the Empire moved from terminally stupid to terminally insane, declaring an “air war” on IS in Iraq and Syria (even though we already have around 1500 “advisors” –all wearing boots, as one wag put it – on the ground in Iraq) while the Empire and our EU allies upped its proxy war in the Ukraine by increasing sanctions on Russia after their mostly “sound and fury” NATO meeting.

Aside from the screaming hypocrisy of Congressional and media warmongers over both situations for the last few months, (neither ISIS nor Russia currently represent a direct threat to the Imperial homeland), there are a couple of things that many in the military/intelligence community think we are not seeing straight about our latest foray into Iraq. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/11/news-organizations-finally-realize-obamas-war-plan-messed/; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/world/middleeast/struggling-to-gauge-isis-threat-even-as-us-prepares-to-act.html?_r=0; http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/countering-islamic-state-will-be-hard-in-iraq-and-harder-in-syria-officials-say/2014/09/10/de74d448-3943-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html

The proxy war the Empire and its NATO stooges started against Russia in Ukraine is not going away and may heat up  if Russia decides to shut off the gas to Europe this winter just as we’re getting in deeper in Iraq/Syria. (Only one of Russia’s possible options, if we are truthful about it.)

US job creation for August, at 147,000, was the lowest since the beginning of 2014 while unemployment figures for last week were the highest in two months at 317,000. The global economy has yet to “break out,” though everyone from Nasdaq.com to Bloomberg thinks it will “soon”.

According to a new report from the World Resources Institute, several countries, including the US, may soon be facing the choice of fracking for oil and natural gas or having enough water to drink – a question already being raised in many Texas and California towns about both fracking and big farming as water dries up and towns find themselves without water at the tap.

Though global surface temperatures seem to have been rising much more slowly for the last decade or more, ocean and atmospheric temperatures are still rising fast, as are CO2 levels – with all the negative effects on sea life and record setting weather events across the world.

Oil prices have dropped recently because of lower demand in developed countries. If either of our wars suddenly blossom into something larger, what will be the effect on oil prices as that demand suddenly rises? On climate change? On a global economy still fragile from the great recession? I don’t know, but I’m sure watching for answers.

We are far too eager to believe our own hype about all of these things. As Einstein once pointed out, insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. And, like I said at the beginning of this post, I think the Empire just entered a state of terminal insanity.

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Next Round

September 6, 2014   Photo: Always nice to visit and especially nice to see your garden doing so well <3

Well, today we have our first taste of fall weather here in southwest Missouri, with lows last night in the mid fifties and an expected high of seventy-five this afternoon. By the end of next week, (we are told by our indefatigable meteorologists,) nightly temps may be in the mid forties.

All of this points to some busy weeks ahead. The tomato plants are winding down production after supplying all the fresh tomatoes I could possibly want this summer and a fair number to freeze for soups and other winter dishes; the winter squash will want picking before the nights reach the forties; the small pile of potatoes I’ve dug out by hand will hopefully be added to by friends who – unlike me – had the foresight to purchase a garden fork and will be by on Monday to help me use it.

After that, time to deconstruct the outdoor garden and start preparations for another attempt at indoor gardening this winter.

And so, my own small game, with Nature as the game master, continues. Sometimes I lose; sometimes she lets me win.

I’m looking forward to the cooler weather and the next round of the game.

*****

A big welcome back to fellow blogger Bill Hicks, who writes the Downward Spiral blog (http://billhicksisdead.blogspot.com/ ) and has been in a much more serious game with Nature for the last two years. Glad she let you win this one, Bill.

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The Summer so Far

August 30, 2014   220px-Wild_rabbit_us

Labor Day weekend is upon us and amidst the end of summer/pre-fall barbeques, vacations, staycations and general revelries, here’s what’s happening in my neighborhood:

We hit 101 degrees last week, but after a run of 98 and above, have dropped into the eighties for a few days. Nice. Hopefully, we’ll get some real rain (as apposed to little pop-up showers) to go with the cooler temps.

Whether it was the weather, the straw beds I planted things in this year, dumb luck or all three, I had the first really good batch of tomatoes in three years. Also nice. I’ve had enough to eat fresh once or twice a day and to freeze a couple of gallon bags full, so far this summer plus enough cherry tomatoes to munch on while I work at the computer or around the house.

I have four nice sized fall squash on the one plant that survived the rabbits, which may not sound like much. But, since I have only one mouth to feed, they will make a nice addition to winter food supplies. I still haven’t searched for potatoes or onion, but since the tops are all dead, now, I am thinking that tomorrow might be a good day to tackle that while it’s cool outside.

The extra tomato plants on the south side of the house have also produced a bumper crop and, after a friend helped me put out a sign for people to take some as they ripen, several neighbors – especially older ones who rent and maybe don’t have a place to grow any – have done just that. As there are still some ripening, I consider it a success and will try to repeat the offering next year, maybe adding some other things, too.

The broccoli, cabbage and lettuce seeds I planted awhile back, for a fall garden, didn’t survive long enough for me to even get the little barrier up. I think the rabbits must have a scout that keeps watch for those things. I’m pretty sure the one I’ve startled a couple of times in the early morning and late evening is one such lookout rabbit. He looked a bit shifty-eyed to me.

A skunk (perhaps the skunk, perhaps one of its kinder) made its way past the house going back east, early Thursday morning, as I was getting started for the day. Whether elder or younger, it didn’t bother the garden this time, even the tomatoes at the side of the house, maybe because the rabbits ate all the melon starts earlier this spring.

And I’ve learned some things to make my life in summer easier as I get older:

Living downstairs, where I can just walk out the back door instead of walking down two flights of stairs, sure makes gardening easier.

Heat rises, so living downstairs is cooler than living upstairs. As is having a front door and a back door at opposite ends of the house and windows on all sides that you can open or shut for ventilation as necessary.

A crunchy peanut butter sandwich on good bread, a fresh sliced tomato and a glass of iced tea make a great no-cook lunch in the heat of the day.

And, finally, don’t take in your son’s long-haired cat when he moves away. No matter how many times you brush her in the summer, no matter how often you run the vacuum cleaner over your carpeting, you will always wake up the next morning to a house that looks like your cat exploded during the night.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone.

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Fighting for Power or Building Bridges

July 23, 2014  http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/140812104557-sot-dorian-johnson-michael-brown-shooting-00004113-story-top.jpg

We can argue “’til the cows come home” about whether, percentage wise, per capita, blah, blah, blah more blacks than whites are on welfare, in prison, commit more crimes and so forth. Truth is, white power is the dominant (and pretty much only) power in the United States. And the wealthier the white, the more powerful the white. It is also true, that white power structure has worked mightily – from small town governments to the halls of Imperial power that rule us all – to keep it that way while maintaining an outward appearance of “striving for diversity”. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/opinion/in-ferguson-black-town-white-power.html

Not smart, folks. Not smart at all, because from what I read, twenty years from now – just about the time those full-on effects of Imperial decline really hit the fan – we white folks will be the newest minority in America. And if you are poor and white, (as a whole lot of us will be by then,) I can pretty much guarantee you that your percentage of white power will be equal in value to current black power in the eyes of a white, Imperial power structure intent on maintaining that power and its perks to the bitter end.

I had my first experiences with this when, as a single white parent working at a minimum wage job and trying to finish a bachelor’s degree, I moved into a house in a “white flight” black neighborhood because the white friend who owned the house (but had moved away during that white flight) let me rent it for the amount of the house payment.

Right off the bat, I was warned by horrified white co-workers to always lock my car door if I went anywhere, park under a light as close to the store as possible if I went shopping (even if I were just running in “for a minute”) and to always check the back seat before I locked myself into the car. These warnings were usually accompanied by lurid assurances that a cousin’s niece’s friend (white, always white) was raped by a black man hiding in the back seat of her car, which she had forgotten to lock, in that very neighborhood.

What I found was a pretty typical lower-middle-class and working-poor neighborhood made up of a few white holdouts and young families who had bought because the housing was cheap and a large number of somewhat wary, but basically friendly blacks – some with college educations, some on welfare – who, mainly through their children going to school with my son, introduced themselves, dropped by to visit, brought a dish by way of welcome or invited me over to their house to eat or visit. In other words, pretty normal activities in any Midwest neighborhood where someone new had just moved in.

My first real run-in with the “white power” experience came when I took one of my neighbors – a young, black single mother – to cash her paycheck at the neighborhood branch bank where my own account was.

When we pulled up to the drive-in window, I told the white cashier that I wanted to deposit my paycheck to my account and, pointing to my neighbor, who held up her paycheck, I asked if they could cash her paycheck, too.

The cashier looked at the check through the window and replied, “Sure.”

We signed our checks and I put them and my deposit slip into the pneumatic tube and sent them on their way. In a minute, the tube came back with an envelope containing my receipt and the small amount of cash I’d withheld from my paycheck. Thinking her cash would come next, we waited … and waited …

Finally the cashier looked up and said, “Was there something else?”

My neighbor leaned over and said, “You forgot to cash my check.”

“There was only one check in there,” the cashier insisted.

“No, that’s not right,” I said. “I put them both in there, myself.”
The cashier looked over as another (white) woman came over and asked, “Is there a problem?”

Pointing to my friend the cashier said, “She says she sent her paycheck to be cashed, but she didn’t.”

I tried to tell her what had happened, but she bent down to look at my friend and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t cash checks for people who don’t have an account with us.” Then she walked away.

And that was that. The cashier told us to please move the car, as we were blocking the window. My black friend gave me a resigned nod and we left. I offered her twenty dollars to tide her over until she could borrow money from family. After I knew the bills had been paid, I closed the account and opened one at a bank nearer work – back in White America.

But in forty years since, I’ve never forgotten the encounter with those two representatives of White Power or the realization that, to them, I was just another “black” whose word meant nothing.

It’s not that there were no problems, that everything was hunky-dory for the three or four years I lived there. There were the occasional hurt feelings, black and white. My house was broken into and my old 13 inch, black and white TV stolen – apparently by some black kids down the block according to a black neighbor who told me (accurately) that it would do no good to report the break-in because the police wouldn’t do anything about it. A neighbor – whose son had exchanged words with my son on a couple of occasions – ran over and killed my son’s dog. Whether it was deliberate or not, I still don’t know.

I do know that neighbors have spats, houses are broken into and neighbors do cruel and spiteful things in neighborhoods both black and white, rich and poor. But only in poor, black, or minority neighborhoods I’ve lived in have I seen the constant displays of white power (often including banks toward the white and minority small businesses there) that I’ve described above.

We’d like to think things have changed for blacks. Maybe they have, for a few. But, living in other black and mixed neighborhoods, now and over the years, it really hasn’t for far too many of the poor and working poor – especially minorities, especially blacks.

Over the last two weeks, trying to follow the stories out of Ferguson and the comments attached, I’ve seen the term, “black thugs” so frequently in comment after comment – often referring not just to those looting, but to all blacks – that I’ve frankly come to believe it’s just a newer, more sanitized, but no less hurtful or inaccurate white phrase for “niggers”.

So, as we whites move toward minority status in a country too many of us have always considered “ours”, it seems to me we have choices to make – especially those who understand the economic, geological, environmental and climatological perfect storm coming full bore toward us. We can isolate and arm ourselves against those “others” in a futile attempt to preserve whatever power we think we have against the power structure of a declining empire that will be only too eager to disabuse us of the idea. Or we can do a realistic assessment of our own fears about those others whose minority status we will soon join and begin to make friends with them, now.

There will be disagreements (a lot of them simply cultural differences) that will have to be overcome; there will be people you just don’t care for, for one reason or another; there will also be people who just don’t care for you for similar reasons. And there will be those you want to avoid – whether dangerous or just damned annoying – just like white people you know or run into.

But it has honestly been my experience, in every minority or mixed neighborhood I’ve lived in, that once you’ve made friends and built some trust, they will be as glad to point out the people who are truly dangerous (or truly annoying) as you would be, because they are as tired of being painted with the same broad brush as you also would be.

It’s going to be a scary place here in America as whites lose their majority status and an even scarier place as the One Percent try to maintain control of the declining Empire. Looking at the situation ahead, it’s usually a good idea to have your bridges in place before you get herded toward the edge of the cliff with nowhere else to go.

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It’s All So Very Confusing

August 16, 2014

I don’t really know what is currently happening in Ferguson, Missouri, although it is only about 200 miles from where I live. News accounts vary, but here is what I think I know.

After days of protests over the shooting of an unarmed black eighteen-year-old, Michael Brown, by an unnamed police officer who had stopped him for walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk, met with several nights of militarized police response – including teargas and wooden bullets – calm had finally been restored by Governor Nixon finally appointing the Captain of the State Troopers for that region to handle the protests and taking away responsibility from the St. Louis County police.

Ferguson is predominantly black (two thirds of its 22,000 residents) while the police department is predominantly white (55 of the 58?) including the police chief. The captain of the State Troopers is black and grew up in Ferguson. How much that has to do with the shooting and the change in tenor of those protests, I don’t know.

Thursday’s protests were apparently peaceful, following the appointment of the Captain, who initiated damage control which included sending the County police and their military equipment away, talking to and listening to protesters and even walking with them during at least part of the marches. That was where things appeared to stand when I went to bed, Thursday night.

Sometime yesterday, (Friday) the Ferguson Police Chief held a news conference to announce the name of the police officer who had shot Michael Brown. In doing so, he praised the officer as a “gentleman” and a kind, gentle person with no complaints on his record. Then, he presented a police report of a convenience store “strong arm” robbery, occurring about ten minutes before and three blocks away from where Michael Brown had been shot, and convenience store video that showed a large, black man grabbing the cigars and shoving the convenience store employee who tried to stop him as he went out the door. The man was identified as Michael Brown, in the police report and the Police Chief said he was the suspect in the robbery.

In response to reporters’ question, he also said that the officer who shot Michael Brown did not know this at the time; he had stopped him and his friend only because they were walking in the street and “blocking traffic” and that the shooting was not related to the robbery.

When asked why he released the police report and video at the same time he released the officer’s name – even though the report and video were taken the day of the robbery and Michael Brown’s death almost a week before – he said he’d had so many FOIA request’s and reporters wanted the information.

The family of Michael Brown and the protesters were understandably angry, feeling that, although the robbery case had nothing to do with the shooting death of Michael Brown, he was deliberately being smeared as a robbery suspect while the officer who shot and killed him had been portrayed as the epitome of “Officer Friendly”. In spite of that anger, the protests throughout the day were peaceful though “boisterous”. And that’s where things stood when I went to bed last night.

By this morning, when I went online, the news reports and blogs were all over the place. Depending on whose version I read, the angry but peaceful protesters had all turned into violent looters and rioters while the State Troopers sent packing the SLC police who had turned out, in full riot gear, to contain them and allowed the looters full rein. Or, the protests continued, largely peaceful though some looting did occur and when the SLC were sent away, protesters blockaded the stores – standing with their hands raised in the “don’t shoot” pose – to block looters from getting into the stores.

I don’t know what the truth is. In videos and picture I saw both.

What I do sense, as I write this, is a shift from important questions we were beginning to ask and discuss about the increasing number of shooting, beating, tazing deaths by police of unarmed citizens – especially minorities, the homeless, the poor and the mentally ill; whether this increase was an inevitable outcome of increasing militarization of police forces across the country by the Justice department, the DOD and the DHS;  other important questions about how and why it happened and what we and our legislators could do to stop it.
 
As I read, the question seemed to have changed to whether Michael Brown was just another black thug who deserved to die even though he wasn’t shot while committing a crime and was never arrested, tried or convicted for the robbery of which he was suspected.

In other words, we and our reasonable questions had suddenly been successfully redirected and the deep discomfort we felt over what happened had been pacified once again for too many Americans by what had been presented at that press conference.

As have our concerns about what’s going on abroad between Israel and Gaza, in Syria and Iraq, between the US, EU, Ukraine and Russia and a dozen other areas where we have sown chaos abroad recently – either directly or by proxy.

We live in a declining Empire who’s political and military elite are widely aware of the threats that declining oil, economic instability and climate change represent to its hegemony. They have been increasingly militarizing our police forces since the seventies – since the peaking of our own conventional oil supply – and sowing chaos around the world by proxy or direct military intervention. After all, a declining empire must maintain disorder abroad and control at home at all cost. And it must at all cost control and redirect the questions those behaviors raise.

I know it’s all very confusing and I’m really not sure that asking the questions will change the Empire’s increasingly militant control, except temporarily. The Empire is dying; the Empire will do what it must – here and abroad- to survive and maintain that hegemony as long as possible. What asking those questions and understanding the answers might do, is keep us from tearing each other apart and help bring us together to salvage from that confusion and chaos what we can of the nation buried beneath the Empire as it continues its self-destructive decline. That’s why maintaining that confusion is so important to them and why it’s so important for us to ask those uncomfortable questions as we fight our way through it.

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Early Morning Thoughts

August 9, 2014  U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

This morning, I did something I rarely do on blog post day. After reading some of the morning news, I went out into the garden. While it was still in shade from the walnut tree, while the grass and straw were still wet from the showers we had this week, while it was still cool and damp and “newer” than the garden I’d walked in yesterday morning, I made the conscious decision not to break down and cry over the increasing insanity of the wider world in which the garden and I both exist.

Then, I picked the handful of ripe cherry tomatoes and checked the status of the larger Arkansas Travelers and Rutgers. Despite the similarity to that watched pot that never boils, they are slowly ripening. And I found two, perhaps three, tiny new squash budding out from previously unnoticed squash blossoms. I noted that the potato plants are beginning, one stem at a time, to wilt and turn brown, that the pepper plant and the okra plant have not yet given up on themselves and wondered how long I would have to get the little barrier (the parts of which I now have ready to staple together) put up around the broccoli and cabbage I just planted.

As the sun rose above the walnut tree and the shade crept back toward its roots, I decided I’d better go back to my desk and get busy pulling together the disparate parts of today’s post and checking out the rest of the news.

That news, of course, is pretty uniformly bad news – at least for most of us mere mortals here and around the world, though I’m sure the elite think they have everything under control.

Russia still refuses to bow the knee to its Imperial betters and their vassal states in the EU (would you prefer the term, “client” states?) despite being battered with both increased propaganda and sanctions over the MAL 17 incident – for which we have supplied not one shred of real evidence that the Russians had anything to do with it. Now, Russia is apparently ready to begin some sanctions of its own. I assume their Imperial betters and said vassal states will not take this well and the race to bigger and better measures will begin.

Israel and Hamas have declined to take advantage of extending the cease fire and trying to work something out that would actually benefit both sides and have returned to their lopsided war. Although Israel may fool itself that it is otherwise, it is, in fact, one of the vassal states of this declining Empire, too. Not a promising long-term position to be in, I fear.

The Ebola outbreak has spread to another African country and, if news reports are correct, to Saudi Arabia, now reporting one case of its own. And the Empire, in its infinite wisdom (or perhaps, its infinite hubris) has brought two of its American victims, working among the Ebola patients in Africa, home to its humanitarian bosom. The CDC assures us they can handle it. No problem. Of course, this is the same CDC that left vials of small pox forgotten in a closet for fifty years. And there are those “humanitarian” cases – the military and the big pharmaceutical companies – who could both make a killing (literally, in the case of the military) off of weaponized Ebola or vaccines from blood samples undoubtedly drawn from the two cases before they received the experimental serum treatments.

And along with the 800 military “advisors” we’ve sent to gather intel and protect our embassies in Iraq, we are back to running bombing raids there  – for humanitarian purposes only. Absolutely no combat troops, EVER, we’re assured, (while the neo-cons in Congress clamor for more “robust” action). Haven’t we seen this movie before?

I do wish I could trust the Imperial government, its military, it “free market” corporations, its military-industrial complex, its concern for all its “client” states. But. I. Do. Not.

In my 70+ years, I’ve heard it all before – the propaganda, the obfuscations, the lies. The realities underlying them do not end well. Our economy is like the sputtering old car engine that will surely turn over and take off with the next turn of the ignition key. Our muscle-bound military hasn’t had a clear-cut win in nearly seven decades. Big oil is in debt up to its eyeballs; big corporations, dependent on buy-outs and buy-ups, are fleeing the declining Empire like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Our infrastructure is in disrepair and many of our cities are simply treading water until they drown in their own debt.

We have stripped the earth of its resources, polluted our air and water, altered our weather patterns and the overall climate of the globe in our lust for global hegemony – political, financial and military.

As maintaining it becomes ever more expensive, the declining Empire is in retreat. The world knows it; our vassal states know it (even if they dare not admit it.) We would know it, too, if we listened past the obfuscations and asked the difficult questions that are outside our comfort zones.

I spend a lot of time working in the garden, finding ways to cut back on energy, learning new ways to make do. Whether any of this will help me survive the coming realities, I don’t know. All I do know is that, in those early morning hours, before the sun fully rises and the shade retreats, it beats the heck out of breaking down and crying.

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