Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:42 am

RIGHTEOUS LIVELIHOOD -- BUILDING WEALTH IN OUR COMMUNITY, by Charles Carreon

Invisible Hand, 101

Adam Smith was one of the first economists, and those who feel that the government should stay out of labor relations, or at least refrain from supporting the goals of workers and restrict itself to benefiting industry, often claim to quote Adam Smith. They say Smith’s “invisible hand of commerce” will guide the operations of the economy, setting prices for labor, food, and commodities, making wage and price controls such as those Nixon imposed, completely unnecessary and totally objectionable. The invisible hand makes no distinction between licit and illicit trade, and for years kept the retail price of a quarter-ounce of marijuana at parity with an ounce of gold, and provided johns with twenty-dollar prostitutes and prostitutes with twenty-dollar bags of heroin. All things work together for good in this best of all possible worlds, as Dr. Pangloss might say. Your average person’s knowledge of Adam Smith usually stops at this level, but Smith’s massive work, An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes of The Wealth of Nations, does not exhort us to have faith in an invisible hand that will adjust our economic fortunes into the black, but rather advises us to watch the movement of labor, goods, and money to learn how people adjust prices and engage in trade.

The Policies of Communities Affect The Creation of Wealth

People, not an invisible force, drive production and trade. Smith’s metaphor was meant to turn attention to the rather amazing characteristics of the marketplace, much as modern scientists have pointed out the marvelous operations that the planet and living beings perform without conscious thought. It is true that Smith was sanguine about the coexistence of poverty and wealth in a single society, and saw no inherent evil in an economic order that he could describe thus:

“Among civilized and thriving nations … a great number of people do not labour at all [but] consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the whole labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly supplied, and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniences of life than it is possible for any savage to acquire.”

One would certainly agree that today many consume hundreds or thousands of times what one other person can produce – a fast-food worker working all day in Los Angeles would be unable to even pay for a day’s worth of parking that an executive would simply put on an expense account. It is also true that Ray Kroc, the popularizer of the McDonald’s fast-food system, got his big idea when he was but a traveling salesman selling milkshake mixers in Southern California, so he may very well count as a “frugal and industrious” workman who rose to “enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniences of life.” But Smith’s positive attitude toward disparity of wealth is not the point of his book, and he is well aware that government policies affect the occupations and prosperity of nations and their citizens:

“The policy of some nations has given extraordinary encouragement to the industry of the country; that of others to the industry of towns. Scarce any nation has dealt equally and impartially with every sort of industry. Since the downfall of the Roman empire, the policy of Europe has been more favourable to arts, manufactures, and commerce, the industry of towns; than to agriculture, the industry of the country.”

A good example of differing policies toward similar industries might be the US government practice of licensing industrially-produced narcotics manufactured by pharmaceutical giants, while simultaneously fighting a “war on drugs” by spraying toxic materials on coca crops in Colombia and Bolivia, while simultaneously pumping new life into the opium economies of Afghanistan and Pakistan by getting evil tyrants like “the Taliban” off the backs of legitimate poppy growers who supply the increasingly bargain-priced street heroin now flooding American cities. Eventually the invisible hand will bring this strong, cheap heroin to Ashland, but for now our local junkies will have to stick with Mexican “black tar” heroin.

The new president of Bolivia wants to legitimize coca growing and use of the native plant, that has no more harmful effects on the native population than tea has on the English. He says it can be used to make soap, toothpaste, herbal remedies, and many other useful substances. Dr. Andrew Weil, the new age doctor whose paunchy good health is now advertised from a thousand Sunday magazines, once suggested we substitute coca chewing gum for coffee. Of course, in the US, we’d have people buying a thousand packs of gum, soaking them in a bathtub, washing the result with gasoline to extract the cocaine, and blowing up their house and kids trying to get a buzz. As Adam Smith might say, some people are just savages.

Everything Has Its Price

Having dispensed with the idea that Smith’s Invisible Hand is predestined to provide benefit for humanity, or that it will do the work of wholesome laws made by ethical politicians with the approval of informed citizens, we can move on to what Smith was really saying. Smith’s thesis is that the cost of goods is established by the cost of the labor required to produce them. Nothing has an intrinsic value. Everything is priced according to how much it costs to get a skilled person to produce it.

Gold and Oregon green bud remained at parity for a long time because it cost a similar amount of money in labor to employ poor blacks at starvation wages in South Africa to produce, smelt and ship bars of gold as it did to employ hippies (not very hard workers, but willing to risk getting arrested and to be paid in product) to grow a finicky psychoactive weed in a secret location someplace near Williams, Oregon, and smuggle it to San Francisco. Take note, however, that gold lasts forever unless you lose it down a rathole, and cannabis must be consumed to extract its value, and will become worthless after a couple of years. So you might argue that cannabis is far more costly, since your ounce of gold will last a lifetime, but your bag of pot will be empty next week.

Raiders of The Labor of Others

Now that more Indian and Chinese people are getting into the middle class, they are buying more gold for marriage ceremonies, there is greater demand for gold, apartheid is over in South Africa, and people are getting paid a wee bit more to extract gold from the earth, and of course, people who think the dollar is going to sink in value want to buy “hard money.” The notion that gold has a fixed value is, however, utterly mythical. During the “Age of Gold,” Spain and Portugal stole so much gold from the Incas and Aztecs that they flooded the European economy with the damned shiny stuff, reducing its value to one-third, much to the chagrin of other European nations, who found their existing stock of gold ever shrinking in value as the conquerors of the New World became the dominant players in the precious metals market. Spanish gold was cheap, please take note, because they didn’t pay for it – they stole it – so it didn’t reflect the cost of feeding, clothing, and managing the dead Incas and Aztecs whose wealth was thus acquired.

Stealing from other nations is what one anthropology professor of mine called “a raiding economy,” such as was traditional among the Apache Indians of Arizona and Sonora. Once they got horses from the Spanish, who had introduced the whole concept of mounted cavalry to the New World, they started raiding other, richer tribes, and their mounted warriors were skilled at scooping up a goat, a child, or a bag of corn with equal facility while marauding through a little village full of squash-growers. Labor costs are affected by many factors, and different “nations” require people with different skills. A farmer would have fared badly in an Apache tribe, but would be appreciated by the Hopis, who moved way up on high mesas to avoid raiders, and there skillfully collected water in cisterns to feed small irrigated plots of beans, corn and squash using unique methods of dry-farming. Interestingly, the Apaches have adapted to the ways of the white invaders better than most tribes, as their facility on horseback and indisposition to surrender gave them a leg up in the larger economy, and many tribes adopted ranching, farming and logging when they were forced to give up raiding.

Of Brickmakers & Woodcutters

The productivity of a community is enhanced, Smith explained, as people become more skilled in particular productive activities. This is called the “specialization of labor” to exploit “the relative advantage” of different workers. Exploiting “relative advantage” can be illustrated by the story of two couples with different skills. The first couple was Jane and Wanda, two lesbian brickmakers. The second couple was Jeff and Sally, two heterosexual woodcutters. Since they enjoyed each other’s company, the two couples at first decided to work Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on brickmaking, and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays cutting wood. After about a month they took a tally of the bricks and the cords of wood produced, and discovered that they had produced both less bricks and less firewood than when the two couples worked separately. Why? Jeff and Sally were unskilled at making bricks, so they made errors, and Jane and Wanda had to spend time training them, and even then the hetero couple didn’t produce as many usable bricks. The same result occurred when the lesbians tried to cut wood. They weren’t as good at it as Jeff and Sally, and due to their inexperience, produced less wood at greater cost in time. Facing the possibility of not having enough bricks to build the house or enough wood to get through the winter, the two couples focused on what each was best at, and in the end there were not only enough bricks and firewood for their personal use, they had some left over to sell. Eventually, Jane and Wanda adopted some war orphans that they turned into a tribe of little brickmakers, and Jeff and Sally gave birth to several children who were handy with the saw, loved the smell of the woods, and branched off into reforestation. A few generations later, the two couples were barely remembered, but their wise choices left a legacy of brick homes and leafy avenues in a town where sexual inequality was a forgotten memory.

The Roots of Modern Underemployment

In story of the brickmakers and the woodcutters, everything is happy, because workers specialize by choice to their greater communal benefit. Of course, this is not how it works in the real world, where people no longer follow the traditional occupations of their parents, and acquire few specialized skills besides what are gleaned from channel surfing, playing video games, driving dad’s car, and purchasing fast food. Most young people are losing specialized abilities like cooking, sewing, and gardening, that help them keep expenses down. The value of acquiring a standard credential like a high school diploma has become vague to many young people. College degrees are very costly to procure, and employers increasingly doubt that college graduates have the skills needed. Top hourly wages in our techno-driven economy go to people with certifications issued by private computer companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and Novell, not to college graduates. The old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is now impolite to ask, since it is likely to throw the child into a quandary that, parents fear, will cause anxiety. Besides which, how could a child be qualified to decide that he wants to be a Linux networking specialist until after he hacks his way into the school network to change his girlfriend’s biology grade? Experiences guide choices, and in this world, choosing what type of labor to specialize in often defaults to “whatever someone will pay me to do.” Which explains why the price of marijuana keeps dropping.

The War Economy and the Market For Soldiers

The disconnect between young people and gainful employment explains why the sudden desire to go open a can o’ whupass on them Arabs took root so quickly in the apocalyptic soil of the unemployed, working-class young people in this country. There was a genuine crisis on hand, fueled by the public murder of over four thousand people in downtown New York. There was a charismatic president leading the nation, there was a fire in the desert, a Holy Grail to chase, and a lot of people wanted in. Money was easy to get in Iraq. In fact, huge stashes of bundled hundred-dollar bills were left completely unguarded, and uncounted billions have gone missing. War is good business, especially when the Vice President is still getting a $300,000 annual payment from Halliburton, the prime no-bid contractor on the project to level Iraq under the guise of nation-building. The invisible hand is working overtime these days.

Two billion dollars have been spent developing and deploying technology to block increasingly sophisticated cell-phone-detonated bombs in Iraq. People often say “think what that would have done if spent on schools.” But they don’t say it when the nation is “at war.” Typically, too much is being claimed for the use of this term. Certainly we aren’t at war like we were in World War II, when we entered a two-front war against two industrial giants that had defeated all of Continental Europe and the South Pacific. Certainly we aren’t at war like we were when I was in high school, the American death toll stood at over 40,000, everybody was buckling down in school to avoid being drafted, and ultimately they turned it into a negative lotto game where the unlucky ones got picked out of a hat, and student or no, it was time to go. We are “at war” because the president said we were. “Being at war forever” has officially become our policy, and like all other policies, it is an economic policy.

Since we are at war, money goes first to guns, then to butter for the soldiers, then to pay for the creation of a gigantic, unwieldy security apparatus to strangle the airline industry, then to pork-barrel projects necessary to grease all of the palms that wrote the campaign checks and bought the dinners and paid for the trips that a Congressperson just can’t live without. If the sleaze of politics seems far from you, be assured it is not. The wages that never go up, the jobs that cannot be found, the housing that isn’t available, the opportunities that don’t appear, have all been swallowed up by a national economic policy that is far more monstrous than one would think from watching TV. Some folks don’t believe in conspiracies. Okay, we’ll chalk it up to the work of the invisible hand.

What Money Buys

No one is going to advocate the end of money if they are sane, because money is the most amazing thing in the universe – it is the equals sign between anything and anything. Using “money,” we can put a value on anything from apple pie to a course in Zen, and the price will always be based on how much it costs to produce the product. It may be more charming to pay for Zen in apple pies, but most Zen masters want cash, because using money, they can buy whatever they want. The flexibility of money makes it useful, but it doesn’t give it any intrinsic qualities of value. A lot of the time we think we want money, and forget that ultimately, we want what money buys. We usually don’t think about this until we go out looking for a midnight snack, and unable to find a grocery store open, return home with gratitude to find a single ice cream bar stuffed in the freezer.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of exchanges are going to be facilitated by money, including, ironically, the establishment of social policy to expand productivity beyond the monetary realm. There is a cost for everything, including an economic policy to increase real wealth among the citizens. The calculation of wealth goes beyond tallying dollars, because one may be wealthy without having a dollar, like an eccentric hermit living happily in a distant location, tending a garden and feeding the birds. Wealth, distinct from money, is an abundance of what we want and need. If our community priorities are straight, we will strive to become rich in essential goods like clean air, fresh water, arable land, inspiring housing and livable towns. We will give people an incentive to increase the wealth of knowledge and skills they carry within them, so we can have excellent teachers in our schools, skilled medical care for those in ill health, and media resources that foster communication in an environment of free thought. These things usually cost money, because people create them, but they can be created and exchanged without money, and can enrich us concretely and directly, giving us more of what makes life worth living.

Markets Encourage Trade and Increase Actual Wealth

Leaving money out of the equation, we still have our skills and creations to exchange, but we lack a “medium of exchange.” A medium of exchange is used to reduce what economists call “transaction costs.” Transaction costs are evident in all activities. Take sending someone a letter. It involves the following transaction costs: time spent writing the letter and addressing the envelope, plus the expense of a piece of paper, a stamp, the time it took to buy the stamp, the time you’ll spend mailing it, and a few days waiting time for your recipient to receive it. The telephone reduces the human transaction cost of having to write the letter, which blocks innumerable communications from taking place. Email reduces the transaction costs greatly, but only at the cost of knowing how to use email and getting access to a machine with Internet. Transaction costs prevent communications and productive exchanges from taking place.

Markets are intended to overcome transaction costs by having everyone bring their product to the same place, so a purchaser can visit many merchants at once. Nowadays, markets have migrated online. Everyone is getting in on the action. Myspace is a marketplace for attention. Craigslist is a marketplace for everything that’s cool. eBay is a marketplace for people who are willing to take risks to get a bargain, and for many legitimate sellers, as well as for scammers looking to turn over questionable goods.

The Missing Marketplace

Local marketplaces, however, have disappeared, especially ones that serve the needs of young people looking for work, housing, rides, or musical and cultural events that don’t cost a bundle. While granting full dignity to all those people who work the outdoor markets here in Ashland, their offerings are largely focused on the tourist trade, and boxing the farmer’s market into the Armory instead of allowing it to operate in the open air like Portland, Santa Monica, and other cool towns, seems altogether too resonant of the state-of-war attitude that somehow is trickling down to the local level. The entire length of our main drag is dedicated to supplying young people with trinkets, media discs, and t-shirts and supplying older people with pricey food. Miraculously, a laundromat and a drugstore, the last bastions of ordinary commerce, cling to life in the heart of town, but we know this is not forever.

Recently The Tidings ran an article on how much money there is in being spiritual. The next day they ran an article on how much money there is in being fun. Ashland is both spiritual and fun, so let’s make money! Ah, if it were only that easy. The most spiritual people I know are the poorest, and it is impossible to generate enthusiasm for the teachings of people who are making money in the spirit business. All of the money in the guru business is at the top. Everybody else works for smiles.

Taking Stock of Our Assets

If we’re going to find any way to increase the productivity of Ashland people, we’re going to have to do what the hero Wesley does in The Princess Bride when it’s time to storm the castle and rescue Princess Buttercup. Even though Wesley himself is limp and unable to move due to the effects of Prince Humperdinck’s poison, he asks his companions, the Spanish swordsman and Fezzick the Giant, “What are our assets?” By skillfully using each one of the assets, he storms the castle, captures the Prince, and frees Buttercup. The Spaniard also kills the Six-Fingered Man, thus avenging the death of his father. Fezzick procures four white horses, and they all ride off happily together. If we are to accomplish anything remotely as miraculous, we must remember to first take stock our assets.

Listing Ashland’s assets, first I see the amazing environment, then the strategic location on the highway between San Francisco and Portland, then the intelligence and sensitivity of the citizens, coupled with intellectual and information resources like the University, the municipal fibernet, the new libraries, and the theatres. I also see the large population of professionals, and the sensitive people who are talented cooks and gourmet food crafters, and institutions like the Geppetto’s garden, blending into the larger texture of family farms and vineyards that surround the area. Finally, I count as an asset the convenient proximity to Medford, with its many gritty, useful realities and international airport.

Alternatives to Money As A Medium of Exchange

When we remember that money is but a mechanism for equating one person’s labor to another, we may intuit something clever – we don’t need US Treasury Notes to keep track of people’s labor. We can record their relative work outputs in a spreadsheet or other database, or even on a piece of paper. Strictly speaking, that is all the banks are doing anyway, and people who move large amounts of money around are well aware of this. Computers allow us to create and manage databases quite easily. Your paycheck is only good if your boss’s account has enough money in it, which is to say, it appears to have enough money in it when the bank teller looks on her screen. What is handy about the designation of your labor as money is that anyone else will take it in exchange for their goods and services. What is not handy is that you can’t get enough of it to do everything that you want to do.

People will trade for what they could not pay for with cash. Why? Between rent, gas, food, insurance, child support and a DUI diversion, there’s no money available. Statistically, a guy like this in Oregon will likely go bankrupt trying to make money at video poker, which is statistically unlikely. Instead of pecking at a screen like a pigeon, a guy in this situation might wisely choose instead to spend his time sawing boards and pounding nails – building stuff for a friend in exchange for some goods or skills. Maybe he’ll pick up a nice TV by building some shelves for a friend, and then he’ll end up with a girlfriend to clean up a little. Skills and goods exchanges allow a community to grow more wealthy by consuming its own local products and employing its own people. Local skills and goods trading improves individual living standards, gives young people a chance to apprentice in a non-wage environment, and allows community members to preserve cash resources by reducing reliance on money.

Money developed based upon exchanges of concrete trade items or particular services, and was used to facilitate exchanges, not to monopolize the means of exchange. Where economic squeezes by national governments and international bankers impose embargoes and sanctions, barter can keep national economies alive. For example, Venezuela ships oil to Cuba, that sends back medicines, doctors and teachers. Thus Venezuela supplies Cuba’s energy needs, and Cuba helps Venezuela care for the education and health of its people, and they both get the satisfaction of telling Uncle Sam to pound sand.

Historically, people in love have exploited their relative advantages by dividing labor along classic sex-role lines, and family life has been the great factory of non-monetary wealth-generation. People used to routinely help each other build a house, then spend a lifetime washing clothes, making and raising babies, cooking food, growing gardens, fixing cars, chopping weeds, all that stuff Some relationships are very elevated transactions that produce works of art that humanity will enjoy forever, like the music of Chopin and the writings of George Sand, or the sculptures of Camille Claudel and Rodin. For this and many other reasons besides producing soldiers for the fatherland, society has for a long time made it a legitimate social and governmental goal to make it easier for young people to get married, have children, live productive lives, and contribute to the life of the community. Skills and goods exchanges can be great resources for young people who have the energy and motivation to help themselves by working for others, because they benefit three ways – connecting with creative people, learning skills, and getting something valuable from their labor.

Putting The Invisible Hand To Work For the Good of the People

Skills and goods exchanges between individuals don’t happen on our local level mainly because there’s little thought given to non-monetary exchanges, and no place is dedicated to making them happen. There is no forum that is specifically focused on facilitating skills and goods exchanges within our community, and thus money is virtually the only avenue for trade in goods and services. Particularly at a time when the capital for business development is so difficult to obtain, the City would demonstrate vision by establishing a local skills and goods exchange database, available online and in a walk-in office open to the public.

Money can be used to build a community, but it is ultimately so only because money commands the power of human labor. It is of great benefit to a community to mobilize all of the creative resources of its people, including that which cannot be tapped by spending money. The City should first explicitly declare that the primary asset of the City is its people, and that the care, cultivation and development of their welfare, wealth, and well-being are the primary concern of City leaders. The City should establish a skills and goods exchange, using City office and technological resources to increase non-monetary economic activity. The City should establish grants and subsidies to supplement the efforts of gleaners, food banks, and homeless shelter-providers, who are distributing actual wealth to those in need. The City should also adopt a purchasing and hiring policy that requires giving first consideration to local goods and service providers in all City purchasing decisions. Such policies will put Adam Smith’s invisible hand to work accomplishing acts of social benefit, and we will all be the gainers.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:44 am

LINCOLN'S HEAD, by Charles Carreon

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Down at the entrance to Lithia Park
To the left by the stairs at night it gets dark.
Just like Prescott Bush stole Geronimo’s skull,
Some Oregon crackers gave Lincoln’s the pull.

You might try to imagine what it looked like,
The beard, the head, in the lovely moonlight
But it’s gone, my friend, there’s nothing to see,
Those assholes done broke it and left it ugly.

Right by the plaza, where police are now
Cracking down on dangerous feral panhandlers,
City officials were too busy being responsive
To note the Great Emancipator’s radical haircut.

Hundreds and hundreds of times civil servants
Drove by in City vehicles, went to meetings, and
Performed important jobs, none of which involved
Replacing the former president’s missing dome.

The City budget doesn’t include replacing the heads on
Historical statuary, and perhaps removing the Proclamation
From the hand of the Great Assassinated One
Was an attempt at recycling.

Freed slaves take note, we haven’t allocated
Any funds to replace Lincoln’s vandalized visage
And probably we’ll just haul the whole
Damn decapitated politician to the dump

John Wilkes Boothe would sure
Get the last laff around these parts.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:47 am

LOCAL MUSICIAN SPOTLIGHT: BOB MINER, by Charles Carreon

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What do you say about a guy who can hold his own in any musical company? Who can belt off an oratorio from centuries past, get funky like Stevie Wonder, sing labor tunes like Pete Seeger, and listen to Iggy Pop somewhat appreciatively, all in the matter of an hour? That would be Bob Miner, a multi-faceted sonic powerhouse whom I recently saw performing at the Camelot Theatre in the role of a vainglorious major in Steven Sondheim’s “A Little Night-music.” Bob played a pompous but virile stuffed shirt who alternates between seeking revenge over the honor of his mistress and being put out that his wife finds him disgusting — exuding old-world charm and detestable chauvinism in a single breath.

Bob’s next appearance on the intimate Camelot stage will be in the role of Edward Rutledge, South Carolina’s silken-mannered representative to the First Continental Congress, in a production of the remarkable musical 1776, scheduled to run during the patriotic time period from June 21st through July 23rd. Rutledge was the man who brought the Declaration of Independence to a vote, without the anti-slavery language his fellow-slavers found offensive. Rutledge’s big number is “Molasses, To Rum, To Slaves,” one of the most unforgettable songs in the musical, that commemorates the profitable and ignominious “Golden Triangle” that ran from the Caribbean sugar plantations to the ports of Europe to the African coast, maintaining an endless flow of profit and misery for three hundred years. Slaves farmed sugar cane, from which they extracted molasses, that was shipped to European distilleries, that shipped rum to Africa, where it was traded for slaves, and so on, a “golden triangle,” indeed. Not a pretty piece of our national history.

As Bob tells me about the role, he fills me in on the history, interspersing his observations with lines from the libretto, shifting smoothly from a speaking to a singing voice and back to natural speech. For a moment, our conversation turns into an exchange of historical knowledge of the revolutionary era, but it’s clear he has the upper hand, and I settle back to listen as he tells me how John Adams was the man who knew we needed a Declaration of Independence, and wanted to include anti-slavery language. Adams wasn’t well-liked, however, so Ben Franklin got Thomas Jefferson to write it, and recruited Richard Henry “Liberty or Death” Lee, a well-liked scion of Virginia to propose the Declaration to the entire body. Lee’s championing of the document prompted Rutledge to remark, “When a gentleman proposes it, attention must be paid.” The arrogance, the courtliness of Rutledge waft from Bob’s rendering of the line like perfumed powder from the shoulders of a southern gentleman.

Speaking in his own voice, Bob tells me, “This is a story that needs to be told today.” I agree, remembering how the last time I saw the play, it was in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Lyndon Johnson was president, and the daily bill for bombing Vietnam was $50 Million. A Paris-educated revolutionary called Ho Chi Minh was said to be our problem, and our friends were supposed to be the out-of-touch Catholic puppet leader Nguyen Cao Ky and his wife, Madame Ky. The Golden Triangle of those days was the heroin triarchy of Laos, Cambodia and Burma. We sacrificed around 50,000 red-blooded American men, and turned many times that number into wrecked individuals who wandered the streets of our largest cities, addicted forever to numbing the pain of their days in hell. Those days were similar to the present time, when traitors sit in the highest seats of power, spend on war without restraint, ordering soldiers and paying mercenaries to kill innocent foreign civilians, while running a new Golden Triangle of military adventurism, oil production, and gasoline over-consumption.

So we turn again turn to an uplifting, positive production like 1776. When the strong voices of our community join together in music that celebrates the courage our ancestors showed in forming our nation, we experience nostalgia. Nostalgia for what? Let us hope we experience nostalgia for the freedom our people once enjoyed before the militarists hijacked it with dreams of foreign conquest and the never-too-ancient-to-be-reactivated poison of race hatred. 1776 reminds us also that ideals are fulfilled one step at a time – by ordinary people who see their duty clearly and work together to achieve it. So when you go see Bob and his pals perform 1776, as I heartily recommend you do, take along a real revolutionary attitude.

Wait a minute, I hear readers exclaiming — I thought this was a musician spotlight – let’s get back on track! Here in Ashland, we try and keep the musicians light and entertaining, like the pliable players who tramp on and offstage in a Shakespeare play at the king’s command. But with a few more singers and musicians like Bob in Ashland, we’ll be able to challenge that slavish cliché. Bob is a consummate performer who channels the creative power on both sides of the performer-audience polarity. Rather than teaching aspiring singers and actors how to sound as good as he does, he teaches them how to sound like themselves. An audience that is addressed in this fashion experiences their own natural enjoyment of the process, and the result is a successful performance.

When Bob teaches voice, he comments on the emotions and thoughts underlying our habits of speaking and singing. Working with Bob means experiencing the whole spectrum of your voice, including the strangled tones and flattened registers. It’s often not easy to do. My singing voice, for example, is timid and restrained, while my speaking voice easily fills a courtroom. Everyone has such limitations, and for each of us, the question arises – why? Bob helps us acknowledge the limitations that dampen our expressive spirit, and pretty soon, we’re hearing a sound we haven’t heard in a long time – our own, natural voice.

Bob Miner’s website is at http://www.youramazingvoice.com, and his phone number is 541-482-4784.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:49 am

FRIDA AND DIEGO OVERHEARD AT STARBUCKS, by Charles Carreon

July, 2006

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What if Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo came to town? They might have a conversation like this:

Frida: Diego, I like this town. The gringos are so friendly.

Diego: I don’t like it.

Frida: Why not? Aren’t there enough beautiful girls for you to cheat on me with?

Diego: Oh no, there are plenty of those, maybe even more than other places, but they have stupid laws.

Frida: Really, like what?

Diego: They have laws against the size of a sign that a restaurant can have, and they have nosy inspectors who go around and take signs from the shopkeepers.

Frida: The sign on this Starbucks is really big. I bet they don’t take it away.

Diego: Of course, they are big capitalists, so they have big signs, and no one would take them away.

Frida: So what, are you a sign painter?

Diego: No, Frida, why are you teasing me? You know I’m the great muralista.

Frida: Yes, and when are you going to get to work? I notice a lot of blank walls around here that don’t have any murals. There’s that Coca Cola sign on the wall of the Peerless, but it’s so commercial. How about a mural of the massacres of the local natives, the destruction of the forests, and the suburbanization of agriculture? It would be beautiful, and awaken the conscience of the local people. They seem so depressed.

Diego: That’s what I’m trying to tell you! They won’t let me paint anything here. Like that big empty wall in the parking lot of that youth hangout over there, that Evo’s place. I heard the owner of the building wanted a mural, and I would be glad to do it, but the political bosses here won’t allow it.

Frida: It’s the same as in Mexico. Corruption everywhere.

Diego: Of course, mi amor, corruption. Are you going to finish eating that cookie?
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:54 am

A LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND -- MICHAEL RUPPERT SOLDIERS ON, by Charles Carreon

Met At The Goose

I first met Michael Ruppert on a karaoke night in the smoky Wild Goose bar, where he was sitting with some friends of mine. I’d watched one of his DVDs, a recording of a talk he gave explaining his status as a former LA cop who got bounced out of the corps after a run-in with CIA drug-runners. He was explaining why no planes were shot down on September 11, 2001, despite the proximity of many airbases staffed with throttle jocks ready to mount their aerial steeds and blow airliners out of the sky. He had then explained that America’s military might had been deliberately tied up in knots by a spate of overlapping training exercises with names like “Vigilant Guardian” and “Vigilant Warrior.” So I figured I should interview him and we would discuss 911. He gave me his email address, and told me to send him an email, but to write “met at the Wild Goose” in the subject line, so he would know to give it the attention it deserved. I made a note to do that.

What Columbo Would Ask

I have had a lot of questions about 911 for five years now. It looked so much like a controlled demolition, which I remember being an absolute marvel of engineering – far more impressive really than a moon walk. I mean, tearing a skyscraper down when I was a kid was a big deal. They had these things called wrecking balls that were a blast to watch, smacking away at a wall all day long to bring it down. It could take months to take down a big building, and now thanks to dynamite and human ingenuity, they could do it all in just a few seconds, whammo. So I didn’t figure if the WTC towers burned down that they would do it neatly. I also knew that during the grisly firebombings of Tokyo, Hamburg, and other “Axis” civilian populations, huge firestorms with heats above two-thousand degrees had not melted the steel-frame skyscrapers, but merely turned them into enormous ovens in which their occupants were baked. Skyscrapers have flammable contents, so they can have nasty fires, but they don’t catch on fire, which was always considered one of the advantages of steel and concrete construction. So from an engineering standpoint I had a problem with the whole scenario of Buildings One and Two being brought down by misdirected airliners, whether being flown by remote control or otherwise.

Fortunately my puzzlement about why Buildings One and Two came down was resolved when I saw Building Seven suddenly collapsing just like Buildings One and Two, without having been hit by anything, but rather upon the command of several bigwigs who agreed that it was time to “pull it,” as Larry Silverstein, the building’s owner said on national TV. The meaning of “pulling it” has not been explored to my satisfaction, but seems obvious – the building was full of explosives, and had to come down. Presumably it did have to come down, and Silverstein’s weird excuse that Seven was pulled to prevent further loss of life flew in the face of reason. The collapse of Buildings One and Two didn’t save any lives, so why would the collapse of Building Seven? Could it perhaps be significant that the New York City Emergency Command Center, the State Department, the CIA and the FBI were located in Building Seven? Assuming, for argument’s sake, that the same people used the same methods to destroy all three buildings, and staged it from a base inside Building Seven, then it would be logical to destroy all the evidence in the command post – evidence that would simply be too explosive, given the “loss of life,” i.e., the number of murder charges that would be leveled against whoever pulled it off. If I were Columbo, I would want to talk to Larry Silverstein. Talk about somebody at ground zero. I would have to ask him, why did Building Seven have bombs in it? Do you tell your tenants you can blow them up? Is it the ultimate eviction threat? Why were all those bombs in Building Seven ? Did he plant similar bombs in Buildings One and Two, that he also owned? These are my big 911 questions, and I was looking forward to getting Mike Ruppert’s take on them.

When Ruppert and I met again, it was at the Wild Goose, this time for lunch and the official AFP interview. Not yet having read Mike’s book, and therefore not realizing that he was pursuing a particular tack on the issue of 911, I sat down thinking we would have a rollicking discussion about the basic non-credibility of the government’s position and the likely reasons why Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Condi, Rumsfeld and their pet Congress worked so hard to block a real investigation. But politeness takes first position, so I started by exploring Ruppert’s background.

Born Cop

Ruppert was born and raised in a family steeped in police tradition. His father was a defense insider at Martin-Marietta, and his mother was an NSA cryptographer and a secretary to Cordell Hull. Ruppert placed meaningful emphasis on this connection – Hull was a man of immense power and influence, who raised himself from barefoot Kentucky beginnings by becoming a lawyer, a judge, a Congressman, and ultimately, FDR’s Secretary of State for nearly twelve years. Ruppert’s love of authority runs deep. He had so many other relatives in the CIA and OSS, the CIA’s predecessor-agency, that “everybody had clearances.” He cultivates the mystique of having government contacts in his blood, and name-drops compulsively. As a UCLA undergrad, Ruppert interned as a police-student worker under Chief Ed Davis, which I could see putting him in charge of donuts and briefcases. To hear Ruppert tell it, he had all the marks of a fast track career officer. When he graduated from UCLA in 1973, he had a single-minded career goal – to be an LAPD detective.

Narcs Don’t Cry

He started in patrol and was on loan to the Wilshire Division undercover narcotics unit when a woman he calls “Teddy” ravaged him body and soul in an effort to get him to join the CIA. As Ruppert explained to me, before narcotics cops request a warrant to search a drug-dealing location, or to arrest a known drug dealer, they have to put their request into a national database. This request lets all the other narcs know if one of their informants is about to get busted. In principle, this means that the Ashland Police Department won’t execute a warrant on a known coke dealer if the DEA is using the coke dealer as one of their informants. In practice, it means that the CIA takes the heat off their people by claiming that they are working as informants. Additionally, it means that the CIA can finger people who are troublesome drug dealers, thus eliminating competition, maintaining high drug prices, and keeping everyone on a string. Teddy said it was a sweet deal, and lots of other cops were working for “The Company” holding down jobs at police agencies all over the country, keeping the Company’s government-sheltered narcotics network running smoothly by keeping the heat off their pet dealers and putting the competition in jail.

In short, Ruppert had fallen for the wiles of a femme fatale working for the “Dark Alliance,” as Gary Webb, the San Jose Mercury reporter whose career was ended by two bullets in his head, called the international web of drug dealers and intelligence agents. Webb proved that in order to buy weapons to wage a war of attrition against the Sandinistas, the Nicaraguan contras, remnants of the fascist Somoza regime, had shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine in US government aircraft for sale in American cities as crack cocaine – a drug literally engineered for its addictive power. Webb’s accusations also gain support from the book by former Defense Intellegence Agency operative Lester Coleman, “Trail of the Octopus – From Beirut to Lockerbie -- Inside the DIA,” that explains how a group of rogue CIA drug smugglers blew up PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland by planting the bomb in a special suitcase that was normally used by the DEA for the monthly “controlled delivery” of 40 pounds of heroin to Chicago. Since PanAm and the German airport authorities were in on this arrangement, the bomb was thought to be the usual dope shipment, wasn’t inspected, and killed everyone on board. PanAm was sued by the families of dead passengers for negligently allowing a bomb on board, and responded by issuing subpoenas to the CIA, that refused to produce any information, successfully invoking the “state secrets privilege” that the Bush administration is now trying to use to block lawsuits over NSA domestic spying. As a result PanAm, the world’s largest airline, so big that it its logo appears on a building in Ridley Scott’s futuristic movie “Blade Runner,” no longer exists. That’s what can happen to the largest company if it runs afoul of “national security.”

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Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott

Ruppert eventually got permission from his boss in Wilshire Division to go to New Orleans to find Teddy, who had disappeared from LA, and investigate her activities. He says that what he found in New Orleans was outrageous – the CIA and the Mafia were locked in an embrace so tight that it encompassed virtually all of the heroin trade, and Teddy was a major player, watching through binoculars from her apartment as drug-loaded boats docked and unloaded, setting prices, calling in hits, and generally being a major drug kingpin. Not surprisingly, Ruppert’s LAPD career came to a screaming halt when he reported what he’d learned. He went from being the Wilshire Division’s fair-haired boy to being perceived as a mental case, and in an effort to abort a plan to ease him off the force for medical reasons, he checked himself into a private mental hospital and underwent a battery of psychological tests administered by a doctor who tested the mental health of the people who babysit the nation’s ballistic missiles in their iron silos. Ruppert says he got a clean bill of health from the superdoctor, and slowed the speed of his descent from the upper reaches of cop hierarchy, finding a perch as an instructor at the Police Academy for awhile, but eventually leaving in the midst of a career that had stalled before it started.

Career Wreckage

I used to do a lot of “wrongful termination” cases in LA when I worked for Mazursky, Schwartz & Angelo, and had represented lots of people fired from managerial positions in the LA area. So I tend to evaluate someone like Mike Ruppert in that light: Had he been screwed? Was he a fruitcake? Should I take his case on? If I’d still been sitting in my office at MS&A in Century City, the answers would have been yes, maybe, and no. My standard for determining whether someone had been screwed was not hard to meet. I’m sympathetic by nature, even toward people who are stupid enough to want to be LAPD detectives, then discover what a bag of shit they’ve bought. Having subjected himself to the psychological testing routine, however, seemed suspicious, and would certainly cause a jury to wonder why he did it. I definitely wouldn’t take the case, because downtown juries would probably not respond warmly to an LAPD cop complaining that he’d been treated shabbily. I would have been put off by Ruppert’s tendency to shade over the fact that he’d never been promoted to detective, and would question his inclination to live in his cop role for the rest of his life in a state of arrested development. Of course, there would be no way to corroborate the Teddy story or the New Orleans adventure, because the LAPD would strenuously deny any knowledge, the CIA would invoke state secrets, and the entire adventure would be an unhappy and unprofitable one.

Mike Ruppert probably tried to sue the LAPD, and probably received many sympathetic refusals from other wrongful termination lawyers, some possibly sitting in the same building I was sitting in. In its own way, LA’s a small town. In any event, Ruppert didn’t sue the LAPD, and found himself blackballed by his former employer. He couldn’t get a job at a Seven-11, or if he did, he’d soon be fired, after Wilshire Division narcotics cops dropped by to ask his new boss if he had actually hired Mike Ruppert. Hounded into the one employment he couldn’t be fired from, he became the notorious author of “From The Wilderness,” a publication dedicated to – well, dedicated to Mike Ruppert. “FTW” is emblazoned on the company logo, an eight-pointed star that resembles the CIA logo. Cops often see the initials “FTW,” which stand for “Fuck The World,” a common prison tattoo.

The Gary Webb Un-Story

After we finished our lunch at the Wild Goose, Mike invited me back to his office. I was kind of surprised to find him sharing space next to the Forest Service. He showed me his office proudly, and I admired the huge secured parking lot out back that was used only by the federal government. Strange place for an anti-government crusader to shack up, but what the hey, I wasn’t trying to ask a lot of difficult questions. There was a poster of Gary Webb on the wall, autographed to Mike Ruppert, saying something like “To Mike Ruppert, who was on the story before I was.” Ruppert said Webb had been a very good friend. I felt so bad to be wondering if Ruppert had forged the inscription. I volunteered that most people didn’t think Gary Webb shot himself twice in the head, just because it’s so hard to do, and this provoked a firestorm of contempt from Ruppert. God, how he hated hearing that crap. No one knew, like Mike, how much Gary had suffered from depression, and as far as a double-shot suicide, they were hardly unheard of. Oh, I explained, they were heard of, they were just implausible. No, no, no, insisted Mike, with so much disgust in his face that I just dropped the subject.

The Dangers of Physical Evidence

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Fargo, directed by Joel Coen

About that time, I thought it would be a good idea to start discussing 911. I started by saying I just didn’t think that buildings One and Two could collapse that fast without being intentionally detonated. He grimaced, and said that was really not the thing to focus on – there was too much speculation involved in dealing with engineering concepts. I insisted that I thought based on the laws of physics, combined with the information available from the building plans and the precise specifications of all the materials that went into the structure, and the completely anomalous nature of the event in the history of architecture, it didn’t seem very speculative. I had even seen the video taken in January 2001 of one of the top engineers on the WTO project, who die in the September 11th disaster, saying that the buildings were built of such a dense net of enormous steel that an airliner, even multiple airliners, would not meaningfully damage the essential structure, because it would be like “poking a pencil into a screen door.” Ruppert didn’t seem to like hearing this type of discussion, and it rapidly became more than he could bear. Grimacing really earnestly, he explained that he avoided all of this dangerously non-provable stuff, because, he warned me, expert witnesses on the mechanical causes of structural collapse would be vulnerable on cross examination. I couldn’t buy that story. In a twenty-year career as a trial lawyer, I’ve questioned a few hundred experts, many of them mechanical engineers, and actually when they’ve got their numbers right, they’re pretty hard to cross up. And I think that, thanks to physics being such an old field of study, what with Galileo and Newton having worked on the falling problem, most of these numbers are available or derivable to figure out everything in units of load-bearing capacity, explosive force, distance, and time. Given the availability of detailed architectural drawings, and the whole project being executed with materials of known strength, I would expect the numbers to bear out what the eye perceives – the towers were an inside job.

Oil-Centered Reality

Having exhausted all my reasonable efforts to discuss 911 from my own direction, I was ready to give in to Ruppert’s approach. Since he clearly wanted to deal with it as if he were a journalist-cop setting out to convict somebody with a litany of uncontrovertible statements, I asked him, who was guilty of 911? Cheney, he responded, without hesitation. Suddenly I felt as if the gates of speculation had boomed wide again, so I asked him where Cheney was when the towers were hit. Down in a bunker, running the whole show. What show? All of the overlapping military defense exercises that were being conducted to keep military aircraft tied up, so no one would shoot down any terrorist planes. What evidence was there of that? As hijacked planes still prowled the skies, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta heard Cheney tell an underling, when asked whether “the orders still stood,” that of course they still stood, and why was he asking? That was interesting, but why would Cheney want there to be a terrorist attack on the US? In order to provoke the war with Iraq. Why? Because Iraq has an immense amount of oil. So it all came down to Peak Oil, the driver of history.

Many Words, Not Always Well-Chosen

Mike wrapped up our interview nicely, by autographing a copy of his enormous book, “Crossing The Rubicon – The Decline of the American Empire and The End of the Age of Oil” with the inscription “Bruins Rule!” to commemorate our status as fellow-UCLA-alumni. Chapter One, entitled “Petroleum Man,” enunciates a disturbing assumption in Ruppert’s reasoning:

“But it comes to this: first, in order to prevent the extinction of the human race, the world's population must be reduced by as many as four billion people.”

This fearful article of faith has been repeated throughout my lifetime by the “Limits to Growth” people, “The Club of Rome,” and their hysterical cheerleader Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of the now-forgotten pessimist prophecy, “The Population Bomb,” that visualized mass extinction through nuclear war well before the end of the last millennium. The repeatedly disproven notion that there are just too many people on the planet has been used to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment, to justify forced sterilization campaigns, and to denigrate the humanity of those who “breed too much.” Adolf Hitler, for one, took the need to get rid of extra people very seriously, so when says we must rid the planet of some four-billion souls to assure our planetary survival, I take notice.

As I kept pushing through the book, I discovered that it is a loosely strung-together narrative in which Ruppert plays the part of a super-sleuth with deep insight into the workings of high government officials, covert operations, financial systems, national economies, and courtroom procedure. We wouldn’t know that Ruppert is incredibly insightful if he didn’t keep reminding us with lines like, “From my knowledge of covert operations this had to be a cover story.” He regales us with quotes from smarmy emails to CIA officers stuffed with allusions to his military pedigree: “I pulled out all my aces and namedropped shamelessly. I mentioned that I was good friends with the widow of famed CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers, shot down over Russia and captured in 1960.” Ruppert’s hyperbole about the all-knowing powers of intelligence agencies serves his thesis that the FBI and the CIA were lying when they said they couldn’t “connect the dots” before 911. The PROMIS software, Ruppert asserts, is a virtual eye-of-God, so how can the government claim ignorance of anything? Mike has a naive faith in computers, believing them capable of turning Arabic speech “into substantively reliable English automatically.” For this dubious claim, Ruppert’s cites only an online article in Technology Review that falls far short of supporting his novel assertion.

Ruppert makes the going difficult by adopting the tone of a lecturer on police procedure, inflating his credentials with unctuous sermons like this one: “In a sound investigation, the simplest explanation must also encompass the known facts without any of those facts being disregarded as a measure of expedience.” It would be less annoying if he would at least follow the rules of police work he so earnestly announces, and not exclude, for example, engineering evidence from his analysis.

For Ruppert, the really important facts are learned by schmoozing people in the know, asking questions of highly-placed government officials, comparing the pronouncements of various politicians, and trying to find the person in authority who is pulling the strings. Logically, he shines best when he is working on deconstructing someone else’s theory, and his attack on the official Congressional 911 Commission report is excellent. In aid of that attack, he marshals much of the evidence that the Commission refused to consider, including the large bets against American Airlines and United that were made in the stock market just before their planes were hijacked, the simultaneous military exercises that distracted the Air Force from protecting the East Coast on September 11th, and the persistent lying by the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) about when the FAA told NORAD about the hijackings.

Ruppert often reminds us of the impact he has on important events, introducing one of the many reprinted articles with great modesty as “the October 2001 From The Wilderness story … that ground the propaganda machine to a halt.” Since the publication of that article, he claims, “the entire United States government – as well as the entire world financial system – has gone completely silent about the insider trading.” Well, that just might be a slight overstatement. Many writers continue to discuss insider trading in American Airlines and United sell-options, wondering aloud why nobody picked up the cash when the bets came in. Maybe Mike just stopped reading about it.

FTW Suffers Extensive Property Damage

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The FTW offices after the mysterious break-in

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Apparently, a secure area.

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Mike had a cozy relationship with the Feds.

I guess the big question about the credibility of Mike’s role as a counterspy for the forces of freedom is, if he’s so damaging to the powers that be, why isn’t he dead? Mike’s friends sometimes die, of course. There’s Gary Webb, who Mike is so sure accomplished the amazing feat of shooting himself twice in the head. There’s Bill McCoy, investigator for Bill and Nancy Hamilton, the folks who had their PROMIS software stolen by Ed Meese. Ruppert seems to opine that McCoy was likely murdered, although he had a heart condition. And the list of people who have died, often by supposed suicide, when they dug too deep into the mysteries of drug money and the CIA is fairly lengthy.

On the night of June 25th, Ruppert’s office was vandalized by a person or persons unknown, destroying seven computers, and thereafter many curious circumstances came to light. One of the odd things was that Ruppert’s office was in a building that was otherwise occupied entirely by a Federal agency, the Forest Service, which meant that the entire parking lot outside Ruppert’s back door was secured with a ten-foot chain link and barbed wire fence with an electronic gate with key-card entry. Investigation by the AFP disclosed that none of the other Southern Oregon Forest Service offices share their space with non-governmental entities. However, in what seems an odd lack of surveillance in these terrorized times, there were no security cameras anywhere. Rather strange for government offices, and for Ruppert, who goes on at length at his website and in person about how many times government infiltrators have tried to destroy his publishing business.

Mike Investigates Himself Thoroughly

The police investigation was apparently a bit of an embarrassment to Ruppert, because one of his employees speculated aloud that Ruppert might have destroyed his own computers, and the police didn’t rule out that possibility. The employee, young and female, also accused Ruppert of sexual harassment, a claim that Ruppert seemed to acknowledge when he admitted that he had danced around his office in his underwear while the employee was in the room, explaining of course that it was a bold investigative tactic intended to flush out the woman’s true intentions, trying to get her to “show her hand,” as Ruppert puts it in his own spoutings on the matter. These were, as you might expect, voluminous and filled to overflowing with closely-argued cop-logic, complete with compelled conclusions and obvious cant. In mounting his defense, Ruppert demonstrates a cop’s expert ability to interpret facts in the light most favorable to himself, and uses the old trick of making evidence do double duty. For example, watch how he turns an uncorroborated alibi into a basis for accusing his employees of the crime: “It is almost certain that the burglary was perpetrated, at minimum, based upon inside information provided by recently fired or resigned FTW staff members. There is – or was – only one television program I cared about, HBO’s Deadwood. It was common knowledge in FTW’s new offices that I was obsessed with the show, and on June 25th I was certain to be home watching one of the first episodes of the new season I had been anticipating for a year.” In other words, he had been alone when the crime occurred, and no one could confirm his whereabouts, which for most people would be a disadvantage, but not for Ruppert – it proves that his employees did it!

Ruppert is sure that three motorhomes full of road people were spying on him, because for months they parked down on Washington Street, that runs parallel to the freeway out where the cops rarely go, and they all disappeared right after the break-in. Although Ruppert says he assumed the motorhomes were stuffed with spies put on his tail by people who want to silence him, he apparently took no photographs of the vehicles, never wrote down their license numbers, and never reported their presence to the police. Now he bemoans that these, the only witnesses, have disappeared! And who is to blame for failing to record the evidence?

Never fear, Clouseau is on the case. He is certain there were two perpetrators, because the work required to destroy seven computers with a sledgehammer would be “physically exhausting.” Although he admits that the office was on little-traveled Washington Street, where the vandalism took place in the middle of the night, he argues vociferously that someone would certainly have spotted his “Blue and Gold, 1996 Ford Bronco” that “stands out like a sore thumb.” Similarly, he places it in the realm of impossibility that “I could have walked a block or two with a sledge hammer over my shoulder without risking being noticed.” It is obvious that whoever broke into the building would have been equally likely to be noticed, as there is nothing about Ruppert, who has an unremarkable rotund profile, or about a blue and gold Bronco, that would evoke particular notice. AFP investigation, conducted from an unmarked car parked in front of Ruppert’s office for eleven minutes at 10:30 pm on a weeknight, resulted in sightings of no vehicles, pedestrians, or domestic animals for the entire eleven-minute time period. Thus, it is no surprise that whoever smashed the computers did so undetected.

What stood out like a sore thumb was Ruppert’s panicked response – issuing elaborate denials of his own culpability, analyzing the crime with pseudo-expertise, and throwing accusations of drug use at an employee whom he had assaulted with a rather gross impropriety. Like small town cops are likely to say of such stories – I don’t know how you do it in LA, but here in Ashland, we keep our pants on around the employees.

When Mike posted on his website that he was going to Venezuela to avoid being hit, I thought, yeah right, by a sexual harassment lawsuit. Who knows who smashed his computers? Maybe it was a desperate gambit to refuel his crisis-powered career, or maybe the breakin just caused Ruppert to crack, broke his nerve, after all those years. Once again, he’d let a woman get under his skin, and everything just blew apart. Suddenly, he’s sweating, crazy fearful that they’ll get him, like they got Gary Webb. No of course, they didn’t get Gary Webb. But maybe they got Hunter Thompson. Well I tell you what, Mike, you’re no Hunter Thompson.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:11 am

THE LAST EMPIRE: AMERICA'S NOSTALGIA FOR ARMAGEDDON, by Charles Carreon

November 1, 2006

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Iraqi Sunburst, by Joshua Carreon

“We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors ... This story goes on, and an Angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.”

President George W. Bush, 2001 Inauguration Speech


Let us take stock. Our country is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our President is “the leader of the free world.” Our Congress worships “the rule of law,” and our Courts dispense “equal justice.” Our military is “second to none.” Our enemies are “terrorists.” Our economy is “the envy of the world,” and the dollar is “the world’s reserve currency.” We produce a new millionaire every few minutes, and the minimum wage is so generous that it hasn’t been raised in nine years. Truly we are “the luckiest people in the world.”

Why is it, then, that we don’t feel so lucky? Why do we feel bound to our fates like serfs, serving corporate masters? Why does the economic good news ring so loudly at the top of the pyramid, and decay to an inaudible grumble by the time it reaches the bottom? Why does the pride of our cocky leader not fill us with confidence? Why do the cries of innocent people, cursing the name of America as they die, reach our ears above the roar of American Idol? Why does the word “Armageddon” have such a ring to it?

“I Am Become Death”

Let us turn for answers to the genesis of our present world. Most historians would pinpoint that date as the detonation of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, at White Sands, New Mexico, an event that prompted J. Robert Oppenheimer to say:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”


When the U.S. military detonated the atomic bomb by driving a bolus of radioactive uranium in upon itself with a spherical charge of conventional dynamite, even the physicists who created the bomb could not foresee the limits of its destructive capacity. Some thought the entire atmosphere would ignite and consume the world in an all-engulfing holocaust. Nor was it necessary to incinerate vast numbers of humans to show that the bomb had destructive power not only previously unimagined, but unimaginable. As military historian Louis Morton wrote in “The Decision to Use The Atomic Bomb”:

The military situation on 1 June 1945, when the Interim Committee submitted its recommendations on the use of the atomic bomb, was distinctly favorable to the Allied cause. Germany had surrendered in May and troops from Europe would soon be available for redeployment in the Pacific. Manila had fallen in February; Iwo Jima was in American hands; and the success of the Okinawa invasion was assured. Air and submarine attacks had all but cut off Japan from the resources of the Indies, and B-29’s from the Marianas were pulverizing Japan’s cities and factories. The Pacific Fleet had virtually driven the Imperial Navy from the ocean, and planes of the fast carrier forces were striking Japanese naval bases in the Inland Sea. Clearly, Japan was a defeated nation.


The decision to drop the new weapon on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 was made by the secret Interim Committee, led by Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who wrote of the decision: “I felt that to extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisers, they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the empire.” In other words, by demonizing the Japanese as an irrational warrior tribe that could be disciplined only with a surprise attack sure to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, the United States justified its use of nuclear weapons, leaving the rest of the world in doubt and uncertainty about when we would do it again. As a result, the world has spent the last sixty years under the looming shadow of the mushroom cloud.

Don’t Worry – We’ll Build Enough Nukes To Kill Everybody!

By 1968, four countries besides the US had acquired the bomb – England, France, China and the USSR. These heavyweights then came up with something called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (“NPT”), that separates the world into “nuclear nations” and “non-nuclear nations.” The nuclear nations promised not to export nuclear weapons technology, and the non-nuclear nations promised not to ever try and get nuclear weapons. With the world’s safety thus assured, the USSR and the US embarked on a bomb-building binge that continued for forty years, until the USSR collapsed in 1989. The rationale for building huge, computer-guided rockets, topping each one with a nuclear cherry, and burying them in holes in the ground, was called “mutually assured destruction,” as comforting a phrase as has ever been spoken by a munitions manufacturer. As a practical matter, these so-called Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles were of unknown accuracy, and if launched, might well have exploded everywhere but their intended target locations. This was not, of course, a huge government boondoggle. It was a sane, well-thought-out policy developed by the compassionate, budget-conscious people at the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA, with loads of help from Martin-Marietta, Lockheed, Honeywell, and General Electric.

Pakistan – One Hell of An Ally

Although 185 non-nuclear nations have signed the NPT, including Iran and Iraq, three of our country’s staunchest “allies in the war on terror” never did – Israel, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons, and regularly threaten to nuke each other back to the stone age. Pakistan has exported nuclear technology as energetically as it distributes heroin, and Dr. A.Q. Khan, the man responsible for selling nuclear secrets to Libya, North Korea, and Iran, is a national hero. Our alliance with Pakistan in the war on terror is really important though, so President Bush never mentioned to his good friend President-for-life Perverz Musharaff that pardoning Dr. Khan and shielding him from questioning by international arms inspectors, might send the wrong message to someone like, say -- Kim Jong Il? But that just shows how much you know about diplomacy. You would probably expect U.S. security officials to ask the Saudis to help catch the people who backed the 911 hijackers, not realizing how Arabs feel about that kind of talk, and then we’ll be talkin’ high gas prices! No, the world’s a complex place, and besides which, U.S. intelligence officers and agents of the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) knew the nuclear horse was escaping from the Pakistani barn long before 2003, when Iraq confessed that it had been buying nuclear technology from Pakistan for fifteen years. What would be the point of shutting the door now?

“The Samson Option”

Israel is another story altogether. Officially, this newest of nations has announced that it will “not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.” Domestically, however, the pluses and minuses of having nukes have been debated widely, and most Israelis are said to favor having them. Internationally, the CIA and the Pentagon have repeatedly identified Israel, along with India and Pakistan, as “de facto” nuclear states. As Avner Cohen wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

Israel’s nuclear project was … a sacred matter of national survival, the only way to grant Israel the deterrence it needed -- Israel must be in a position to inflict a holocaust to prevent another holocaust.


According to Cohen, the “holocaust trauma” suffered by Eastern European Jews in prison camps run by Germans, Poles, Czechs, Rumanians, Bulgarians, and Yugoslavians, provides a “moral justification” for the current government of Israel to maintain a secret nuclear arsenal. Since Israel’s nukes aren’t trained on Germany or Eastern Europe, but rather on Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, the “moral justification” may be somewhat strained, but let’s not quibble about whether one mass murder deserves another. There can be little doubt that hyper-motivated holocaust refugees developed the mechanisms that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Albert Einstein was a German Jew who fled to the United States during the war, visited Israel freely thereafter, and declined an offer to become President of Israel in 1952. Enrico Fermi and his Jewish wife Laura fled from Mussolini’s Italy to the warms arms of the Manhattan Project. J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American Jew, as was Edward Teller, the “father of the H-bomb.” Author Seymour Hersch titled his book on Israel’s nuclear strategy, “The Samson Option,” alluding to how the biblical hero destroyed many of the enemies of Juda, and himself, in a single act of sectarian vengeance. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction can be colored with heroic highlights, but it remains a suicidal gambit.

Where’s Dimona?

The U.S. and other NPT signatory nations made no effort to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology to Israel, and indeed, Israel’s steady progress toward developing nuclear weapons was studiously ignored by the United States. After sourcing extractable uranium in the phosphorus deposits of the Negev desert, France violated the NPT by building a 24 Megawatt reactor for Israel at Dimona, near the uranium deposits. The U.S. spy apparatus knew Israel was making a beeline toward its nuclear goal, but according to the Federation of American Scientists:

Although the United States government did not encourage or approve of the Israeli nuclear program, it also did nothing to stop it. Walworth Barbour, US ambassador to Israel from 1961-73, the bomb program’s crucial years, primarily saw his job as being to insulate the President from facts which might compel him to act on the nuclear issue, allegedly saying at one point that “The President did not send me there to give him problems. He does not want to be told any bad news.”


Mordechai Vanunu -- Israel’s Prisoner of Conscience

The reactor at Dimona, and the weapons manufacturing conducted there, was made public when Mordechai Vanunu, who worked there for years, turned whistleblower in 1986 and provided the London Sunday Times with photographs and extensive descriptions of the reactor and the nine buildings where nuclear weapons are created for deployment via bombers, missiles, artillery shells, and from submarines. Shortly before the article was to run, Vanunu was lured to Rome and kidnapped by the Israeli Mossad (secret police), charged with “treason,” for speaking the truth, and imprisoned for seventeen years. Released from prison in April 2004, Vanunu refused to keep silence, and in March 2005, he said through a representative: “I want to work for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want the human race to survive.” Vanunu is still restricted from speaking to the foreign press, has no passport, and is forbidden even attempting to leave Israel. He lives in East Jerusalem among Palestinians, hoping for an end to his ordeal, but unwilling to compromise with Israel’s nuclear cabal.

State Secrets, Private Suffering

The most zealous opponent of Vanunu’s freedom is Yehiyel Horev, identified by the British press as “the head of Israel’s most powerful intelligence service, dealing with nuclear and military secrets.” Horev “operates with no law, no real scrutiny and no monitoring by the Israeli parliament,” according to Yediot Ahronoth, a security correspondent for one of Israel’s leading newspapers. It is easy to see why. Like the CIA’s secret prisons were until very recently, Israel’s nuclear weapons program isn’t officially acknowledged to exist, and therefore can be managed without any oversight. Nonexistent though it may be, Dimona was the subject of an Israeli documentary in 2002. The old reactor has been online for forty years, and workers interviewed for the film said explosions, fires and toxic leaks were routine, and had to be cleaned up without protection, because their bosses denied they were working with radioactive materials. Since then, many have fallen ill with cancer and other diseases, but the government of Israel refuses to acknowledge their claims, and has blocked legal efforts to obtain compensation in the name of secrecy. One of the workers, filmed without his knowledge, apologized that he could not speak freely: “I wanted to talk to you but I have been silenced. They came from intelligence and told me not to talk. They said I would be like Vanunu.”

Never Again, or Forever War?

Perhaps it is not so difficult to understand why Israel has adopted this terribly clever posture with respect to its nuclear arsenal. This tiny nation, born in travail, founded by the survivors of centuries of persecution, was threatened with extinction from its earliest days. The slogan of its founders, scorched by the heat of the death camp ovens, was “Never Again!” These sentiments need no explanation, and with all the moral justification they will ever need for the next millennium, the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”) have become the most fearsome fighting force in the world, utilizing the absolute cutting edge of modern weaponry against some of the worst-trained, under-weaponed adversaries to be found anywhere on the planet. At present, the IDF has unleashed weapons designed by genius-level intelligences against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, the most densely populated area on the planet, and a place where over ninety percent of the children have been traumatized by observing the death or dismemberment of other human beings.

The IDF’s favorite tactic, honed to perfection over the last fifty years, is the blitzkrieg, German for “lightning war,” used by Nazi forces to overwhelm Poland, France, and other European nations in the opening months of World War II. In a blitzkrieg, tanks, mechanized infantry, and close air support overrun the enemy’s forward positions, knock out power and transportation facilities, and occupy the seats of civil authority, striking terror into the civilian populations, who flood the roads in an effort to flee the attack, thus immobilizing the defenders, who find themselves gridlocked in a sea of terrified citizens. Precisely those tactics are on display now in Lebanon – perhaps the most violent manhunt ever staged in the effort to recover a kidnap victim since the Greeks set sail for Troy.

In fact, Israel’s military leaders are about the same business as the Greeks, who used the abduction of Helen as a pretext for all-out war against the Trojans. The Lebanese people didn’t kidnap anyone, and do not deserve to be run from their homes, least of all by a hail of rockets and artillery. The presence of Hezbollah weapons emplacements in Lebanon is a problem, and if Iranian rockets are indeed killing people in Israel, the international community should apply diplomatic pressure to bring a halt to those attacks. If necessary, the UN should deploy a peacekeeping force to disarm them, and thus assure Israel of safety within its borders. But the wholesale pillaging of Lebanon, treating it like a free-fire zone where its citizens may live or die as their fate befalls them, is barbaric, animalistic, and cannot be justified by raising the spectre of holocausts past. This is holocaust now, and empowering the victims of the European holocaust to run the world’s most sophisticated murder machine is not justice, but a horrific exploitation of their ongoing agony.

The Last Generation?

The United States’ Janus-faced policy toward nuclear proliferation has armed Israel with nuclear weapons sufficient to start, if not to finish, a worldwide nuclear war. Not only that, the stated policy of Israel, through the mouths of its apologists, is to hold the entire world in thrall to that threat of annihilation, if necessary, to protect its nationals from injury. The invasion of Lebanon, that killed nearly a thousand Lebanese civilians, injured unnumbered others, and destroyed the civil infrastructure of recently-reconstructed cities and villages, was prompted by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. Calling this a “disproportionate response,” as most national governments around the world did, is a gross understatement. Calling it an expression of “Israel’s right to defend itself,” as Bush did, is merely cloaking brutality with the language of national security, and I’m sure his “base” of evangelical Armageddon freaks are thrilled by the certainty that they are “the last generation.” Nor is their enthusiastic celebration of the impending “endtime” unjustified. For there is no doubt that, regardless of their overt political affiliation, Israel’s leadership would rather see a world without humans than a world without a Jewish state. Because of their preposterous religious beliefs, many evangelicals will candidly admit that such an “end of history” would suit them to perfection. Whether the citizens of the United States, including the evangelical planetary death-cultists, are well served by having a President in office who shares such deranged beliefs in another question.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:17 am

NO GOOD DEED WILL GO UNPUNISHED: THE MIKE BIANCA STORY, by Charles Carreon

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Well, for just a minute there during the last week of August, it looked like we might really need cops with guns in Ashland. The Tidings reported a carjacking at gunpoint in the Albertson’s parking lot. Turned out it was just some gal tired of going to work and running out of excuses for flaking out on her boss, so it was just one more Class “C” misdemeanor for filing a false report. She must’ve garnered some sympathy down at APD, though, ‘cause even not returning a video is a Class A Misdemeanor. The only thing lower would be a ticket for smoking pot, but that won’t get you out of going to work, so I can see why she didn’t go there. Oh, Ashland Police Department, how vital to the public good thou art. It’s easy for me to joke, though – I’m not on a watchlist – at least not the one that was circulated to the Chamber of Commerce by Sgt. Selby. I don’t get harassed for jaywalking like the homeless. I didn’t get pushed out of my job as Chief by a cadre of cops who hated my guts.

Mike Bianca did, and the strain of it showed in every fiber of his being as we ate lunch together on the veranda at Pilaf, overlooking lively Guanajuato Way and noisy Lithia Creek. He looked very different from how he had in years past, when he was healthy, vibrant and full of good cheer. I had seen the stress building since he took the job as Chief, but in the bright summer sun, I could see a dark tinge had crept into his features, lines of pain were etched around his eyes, and the skin had drawn taut over his brows, cheekbones and jaw. Something very bad had happened to this man.

In 2002, Bianca had spent seventeen years on the force “as an outsider … not being one of the boys, and viewed as a bit of an oddball.” He had made Sgt. Under Vic Lively, the Chief who retired in 1991. So perhaps it was surprising to some within the department when Bianca sought the Chief’s position, left vacant by Scott Fleuter, who had the job from 1996-2002. Certainly it was a disappointment to Rich Walch, who held the position of Interim Chief, after Fleuter’s departure, but didn’t apply for the Chief’s position. Bianca felt he could do the job, and expected to receive at least the level of respect the rank and file officers had shown for Gary Brown, the Chief from 1991-1995, between Lively and Fleuter. Brown, who had dressed the force in grey uniforms that they hated, and fostered an attitude of sensitivity that was derided by police insiders as “hug and release.” Bianca observed that Brown had been a “conflict-reducer” who “blurred the lines between management and union and cut off APD from the larger law enforcement community.” In retrospect, Brown’s policy of forcing APD officers to march to a more sensitive beat may well have been a shrewd move. He, after all, was not ousted by his own officers. Brown also profited by the contrast with his predecessor, Vic Lively, who had been an old-school cop with a penchant for doing things his way, the police union be damned.

Bianca caught a pendulum swinging in the other direction. His predecessor, Scott Fleuter, had successfully shaped the APD attitude into the one that some people complain about – “professionalism.” In practice, professional police are scary, and for a reason. Bianca summed up his perception of how your average patrol cop has been trained to think: “There is so much fear in policing. Everybody’s going to kill them all the time. We whipsaw our police officers … they think they need machine guns and armored cars because they’re fighting terrorism and drug dealers who have them. I never thought we were fighting a war on drugs or terrorism. I felt we were serving the community. That kind of jive was lost on me twenty years ago. We’re not making war on our own people. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

As Bianca put it, the upside of Fleuter’s tenure was getting a Federal grant for mobile computers and plugging into the larger law enforcement network. The downside was that an arrogant attitude infected the department: “We’re the cops. We’re better than you. We’ll do it our way.”

Another development fed the atmosphere of self-glorifying paranoia at APD – the Columbine effect. Police had been utterly ineffectual during the one-sided firefest that Klebold and Harris unleashed on their fellow students before they killed each other. In Ashland, and all over the country, masses of kids were suddenly viewed as bands of potential homicide perpetrators. School administrators and some parents demanded assurances that “it won’t happen here,” noting that Columbine, too, was a nice mountain town full of white people with fat incomes and children with high SAT scores.

The entire law enforcement universe, of course, got a jolt from the destruction of Larry Silverstein’s World Trade Center buildings and Building Seven, by a mysterious series of explosions that detonated the three structures shortly after a pair of jetliners smacked in buildings one and two. Police did nothing of importance during or after this event, allowed all of the evidence to be destroyed, allowed all the Saudis left alive in the country to leave without being asked any questions about why the other Saudis had crashed those planes into Silverstein’s buildings. Nevertheless, police found plenty of new reasons to be spooked by the terrorist menace, and reason to hope that the wave of fear sweeping the nation would put civil rights back in their rightful place – on a little card in a cop’s wallet. The President abolished all types of criminal laws intended to put the burden of proving guilt on the government, declaring that at his word, a man could be called a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant,” and be forced to spend years in prison without charges, without a lawyer, without a judge. Torture came back into vogue, the Geneva conventions were deemed quaint, and Congress signed something called the PATRIOT Act, all in a hurry to experiment with the new concept of being statesmen in time of war.

Into this atmosphere came Chief Bianca, a man plain-spoken enough to share his deeper musings, honest enough to admit that Ashland policing could be a bit dull for cops in search of “action,” and trusting enough to think his fellow cops would give him a fair shake. Bad move on all three counts. Better he should have spouted lines by Sgt. Joe Friday, spoken ominously about gangs and drugs, and fired every person on the force who wouldn’t come to his barbecues. Then, he would still be in office, and the police union would be complaining about how cops are entitled to free speech, too. Which would be a hoot.

But that Machiavellian strategy would not have served Chief Bianca’s purpose, which was to protect Ashland from the wave of repression that the law enforcement cultists were actively promoting around the country. With money, training, databases, task forces, and fear-mongering propaganda, the federalization of law enforcement continues to be a threat to the freedom of every American. Mayor Potter has fought a mighty battle in Portland to get the FBI out of the Portland Police Bureau, and has even discovered FBI informants in city government. Portland, you will recall, is where the USDOJ put an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield under secret arrest for over a week after the FBI searched his home office with Patriot Act warrants, accusing him of being a terrorist in league with the Madrid train bombers, who had, in addition, a Muslim wife who had once made a phone call to Pete Seda, the Ashland peace activist. Perhaps you think I overstate the matter, but I was there when Chief Bianca took the microphone last year during Free Speech in the Park Day and told everyone assembled there that, if they were worried “about secret searches and people being taken from their homes in the night,” that we didn’t have to fear them as long as he was Chief of Police in Ashland. I for one slept better that night, and I believe it was what he was fighting for.

But the war one is fighting and the battle in which one is defeated are two different things. By the time he resigned this summer, many of us thought that Bianca’s hour of crisis had passed. In fact, the toxic brew of hatred for him became the meal du jour at APD for a clique of managers, led by Dep. Chief Rich Walsh, Sgt. . Selby, and Gail Rosenberg, a civilian training manager. Their strategy was to undermine Bianca’s authority by all means necessary. Keeping him out of the loop, deliberately neglecting his policing priorities, and going over his head to complain to City Administrator Gino Grimaldi and Mayor Morrison.

First, why would Sgt. Selby hate Chief Bianca? It might be temperamental. Sgt. Selby is a grim woman. Last time I saw her we met inside the police station, where I was trying to get some police records about Terry Carr, the Hollywood director who disappeared from Ashland Market of Choice last year with his little girl, and they both turned up dead in Clearlake, California the next afternoon. Naturally, the APD refused to produce the full police report, and after I had taken all the lip I needed from the clerk, she called Sgt. Selby to deal with my intransigent ass. I’ve known Selby since I was a Deputy D.A. in 1994, and I still haven’t seen her smile. A little tiny turn up at the corners of the mouth, maybe once or twice. On this day, she was wearing a bulky bulletproof vest under her uniform, and when we met, she declined to proceed informally, directing me to enter the conference room as if it were a jail cell and she were about to lock me in. In the room, she remained standing, and promised to help me get the documents. Thereafter, she did nothing of the sort, failed to answer my email, and when I got her on the phone, blandly told me that she wasn’t going to help me at all. So, she lies.

She has also had health problems, which for a police employee, can provide some latitude for the independent type. Police retire on disability at much higher rates, and with much greater ease, than the rest of us. In fact, up in Portland, there are so many disabled cops they’re trying to get ‘em back in the office to answer phones or fetch donuts. But that’s generalizing, and in Sgt. Selby’s case, the sick leave thing had become a specific problem, and Chief Bianca had sent her a letter telling her that she’s just have to show up to work a little more often. Things didn’t get any better when time came to fill a vacant Lieutenant position. Selby was the only cop with five years supervisory experience, a prerequisite for the job, but instead of giving the job to Selby, he decided to keep it open while he groomed a field of candidates, who would each serve one year as “Master Sergeant,” a training position. Selby was promoted into that job, and spent most of her year at home, convalescing from surgery, and working on “projects.”

Selby evinced no gratitude to her Chief for the long months of accommodation of her illness, and in the summer of 2004 organized the other officers to attend a meeting with City Administrator Gino Grimaldi for undisclosed reasons. Once they were there, some of the officers were told that the purpose of the meeting was to badmouth Chief Bianca behind his back. When Grimaldi expressed support for Bianca, Selby was undeterred. She pushed forward with her campaign to undermine the Chief by riling up the police union, that ultimately issued a “vote of no confidence” in the Chief. She organized a second meeting, with Mayor Morrison, who agreed to hire consultants to identify the problem in the department. That was of course the beginning of the end. The corporate death march had begun, and predictably, when Chief Bianca submitted his forced resignation, Mayor Mike Morrison cited the report submitted by the consultants as the reason for letting him go. The report, said the Mayor, was “a roadmap” that would take the City down the road to “community policing,” and he didn’t have confidence that Chief Bianca could lead us down that road.

Well, the report is on the City website.

Conceivably, of course, if Chief Bianca had not chosen to fire Rick Spence for sexually harassing police recruits, he might have avoided appearing in a tragic role. Based on an internal complaint from a female police officer, Bianca learned and reported to the City Attorney what he believed was a severe charge of misconduct against Spence. As I fished for adjectives to describe Spence’s conduct, suggesting the word used in the media – “hazing--” the look on Bianca’s face suggested he thought the word far too weak. “More like torture,” he followed up, looking deeply troubled.

Bianca made up his mind to fire Spence without first “instituting progressive discipline,” a magic word that means you should paper the file with records of an employee’s misconduct. One little problem. Spence had been a training officer for years, was the go-to guy on graveyard shift, and was looked up to by a lot of the younger officers. Nobody had been papering his file. Bianca observes now that under Spence’s training, new officers went sour on an accelerated schedule. I asked him what he meant, and he explained that while all cops get worn down over time, and enjoy their job less, under Spence’s training, the downward curve was hitting very soon for most of the new Ashland cops.

It is apparent that Bianca didn’t act rashly in deciding to fire Spence without prior discipline – everyone above him supported the decision, including City Attorney Mike Franell, someone with authority from the City’s insurance company, and Mayor Mike Morrison. There were no dissenting voices. Whatever Spence did, it must have been really upsetting to a lot of people, because on any given day firing a cop with a union is something a City official thinks twice about. So it must have been that everyone agreed that it was probably more of a liability risk to the City to keep Spence around than to try and use some progressive discipline. Of course, failing to discipline him at all would be as good as encouraging him in his depredations upon his fellow employees, so that surely wasn’t an option. There might have been some middle ground, but apparently no one wanted to occupy it – Spence was a bad hombre and he had to go now.

But a worm will turn, and with the help of police union lawyers, Spence filed for arbitration. As settlement discussions proceeded, Morrison told Bianca to negotiate directly with Spence’s lawyers. After rejecting Spence’s settlement proposals, Bianca expected the City to back his position, but instead, Morrison and Franell overruled him, and put Spence back on the force. Doesn’t that give you a creepy feeling?

It sure upset Jan Janssen, who abruptly ended her long tenure as a civilian APD employee in protest over the re-hiring of Rick Spence. Known to hundreds of Ashlanders as the probation officer with a heart, she was a pillar of the criminal court system. Before her abrupt resignation, Municipal Judge Alan Drescher had described her as an indispensable person, the one person who addressed the need for social rehabilitation of young people who have run into trouble with the police. In our interview, she was careful not to say too much, but expressed consternation at how her own police union exercised its leverage against Chief Bianca, while simultaneously acting in secret. She did not support the “vote of no confidence,” but was unable to learn how her fellow-union members had voted, or even the final vote-count. After she submitted her resignation, Mayor Morrison asked her to stay, and explained his decision, but she coouldn’t work for a department that would rehire Rick Spence.

Jan said she was looking forward to a new beginning, but I had to ask myself what kind of thinking had driven the City to re-hire a sexual harasser, a torturer, if the Chief’s assessment was fair, at the cost of losing someone as genuinely valuable to our community as Jan Janssen. Why should a nice town like Ashland be constrained to lose a Chief that it wanted, and a probation officer it needed, to keep a cop that everyone in the top levels of City government had agreed should be fired?

Mayor Mike Morrison was just a little bit difficult to get ahold of, but after a couple of calls, he gave me an interview that was very cordial, but not very informative. I asked him about why Rick Spence had been rehired, and he responded that it was “all legal stuff,” and he wasn’t able to discuss it in much detail. Posing a question for my benefit, he asked, “Am I particularly happy that Rick Spence is still in the APD? No.” However, he assured me, “I sleep very comfortably with my decisions.” I ran through the facts that Chief Bianca had shared with me, and the Mayor confirmed that he and City Attorney Mike Franell had all agreed to fire Spence without progressive discipline. So, I asked, why did they bring him back? Morrison said it was like the O.J. Simpson case – the City knew what Spence had done, but Mike Franell didn’t think they could prove it in a court of law. I asked him if he could tell me just what it was that Rick Spence had done that couldn’t be proved in a court of law, but he smiled and said, “that may be a legal matter.” Well of course, but isn’t it strange that it’s a secret from us, the taxpayers who pay Rick Spence’s salary, and have to accept him as a peace officer in our town? Yes, said the Mayor, it was “antithetical to public accountability.” He added to this by saying, “It goes against the grain of me because truthfulness is the basis of public policy.”

So there you have it. Thanks to the two-faced, flip-floppy political atmosphere that prevails at the top of the administrative food chain in Ashland, we have lost a Chief who was popular with the citizens. We have lost Jan Janssen, a much-loved and very effective probation officer. We have retained Teresa Selby, rewarding her for going over her boss’s head and pouring a sob story into the ears of the Mayor. And after taking out the garbage, Mayor Morrison held his nose and brought it right back in by rehiring Rick Spence, whose record would apparently qualify him for a job at Guantanamo. Now Spence, who would apparently be a total loser as a civilian, is back in uniform, driving a car loaded with a computer full of secret data about you and your neighbors, not to mention a shotgun and a TASER. If you meet him, on duty or off, he will probably be carrying a gun. He is getting paid his full salary, and probably got a nice sized check to cover his pain and suffering for being fired, but that is a confidential number that you will not get to learn because you just pay the bills. Unlike you, Spence has the power to stop, question, arrest, even kill his fellow citizens. And while you can’t ask about his personal business, he’s free to pry into yours.

Everybody says you can’t fight City Hall, but in researching this article, I discovered the reverse. City Hall can’t fight the cops. Our Mayor and City Attorney are pushed around by the police union. We will get the kind of policing the police think we should have. Just think about that the next time you see an Ashland cop tailing you. It might be Rick Spence.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:19 am

A HIGHLY IMPROBABLE PRODUCTION -- THE BBC VERSION OF DOUGLAS ADAMS' HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Charles Carreon

The BBC production of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is filled with humorous dialogue, dealt with Adams’ trademark understated style, probably because Adams, a longtime BBC writer, was substantially involved with the production. The recently-released Hollywood knockoff didn’t have the benefit of Adams’ input, since he died at the young age of forty-eight shortly after signing the movie deal and moving to Santa Barbara. The BBC production is thus the one to watch, and if you haven’t read the book, the two-minute summary below will show you why you must. Fear not that the story will be given away -- it’s far too improbable for that. The notably passive central character, Arthur Dent, the only “earthman” in the entire story, never gets out of his bathrobe on one very long day that begins with trying to prevent a work crew from razing his home to make way for a bypass, a matter that becomes rather moot when the entire earth is suddenly annihilated by an alien species who are engaged in constructing a galactic hyperspace bypass.

Arthur would have perished with the rest of humanity but for the timely intervention of his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who is doing an update on planet Earth, which so far has a short entry: “harmless.” Ironically, just before the destruction of Earth, a young woman had just realized the truth that would turn our lives here from hell to heaven, but sound as her understanding was, and beautiful as its unfoldment would have been for all humanity, the Vogons put an end to that precious potential. Arthur and Ford escape instants before the interstellar Armageddon descends from the skies, thanks to Ford’s possession of a clever little device. Thus, after fortifying themselves with three pints of beer each and stashing as many peanuts as possible on their persons, the two teleport themselves into the storage hold of the very same Vogon spaceship that has arrived with the mission of destroying earth. Naturally, they are discovered for stowaways and ejected from the airlock by a rather loutish Vogon underling, after being forced to listen to the Vogon Captain’s truly atrocious poetry. Improbably, but not completely impossibly, Arthur and Ford do not decompress in outer space but find themselves aboard the extraordinary spacecraft recently christened The Heart of Gold, powered by the utterly unique Improbability Drive, and stolen before her maiden voyage by a two-headed celebrity by the name of Zaphod Beeblebrox, who has somehow picked up the lovely Trillian to serve as his navigator and source of feminine distraction. In what is truly improbable, Arthur realizes that he had met Trillian some months before at a party, and they had seemed close to hitting it off when this guy named Phil, actually Zaphod in a one-head form, came up and stole her away with a line of nonsense about being from another planet.

After various narrow escapes from death, Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian are leaving the hollow planet of Magrathea, where some very advanced white mice have expressed an interest in swapping Arthur’s brain for a computer, as a way to extract the information they had hoped to glean from the whole experiment called planet Earth, which was actually a complex experiment the mice had set up to learn the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Despite being the experimenters, in the context of the experiment, the mice had ironically appeared as small, white creatures content to run mazes in human laboratories. Unfortunately, in a cockup of astronomical proportions, the Vogons stupidly destroyed Earth just as the answer was about to be produced. Now the only way to get the total gestalt of the answer, and thus avoid having to recreate Earth anew and run the very long experiment again, would be to dice and analyze Arthur’s brain. None of which is relevant to the fact that the cops are hot on Zaphod’s trail, and cops being cops, they are going to shoot some sense into the situation.

First Cop: OK, Beeblebrox, hold it right there, we got you covered!

Zaphod’s Extra Head: Cops!

Zaphod: Anyone else want a guess?

Ford: Yeah ... this way!

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Second Cop: We don’t wanna shoot you, Beeblebrox.

Zaphod: Suits me fine!

Trillian: Back to the lift?

Zaphod: Back to the lift!

(Cops open fire)

Arthur: Hey, I thought they said they didn’t want to shoot at us!

Ford: I thought so!

Zaphod: You said you didn’t wanna shoot us!

First Cop: It isn’t easy being a cop!

Ford: What did he say?

Zaphod: It isn’t easy being a cop.

Ford: That’s his problem!

Zaphod: I think so!

Ford: Listen, we’ve enough problems of our own having you there shooting at us! If you’d like to avoid laying your personal problems on us, I think we’d all find it easier to cope!

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Second Cop: Now, look, buddy, you’re not dealing with any dumb, two-bit, trigger-pumping morons with low hairlines, little piggy eyes and no conversation! We’re a couple of caring, intelligent guys you’d probably really like if you met us socially. I don’t go around gratuitously shooting people and then brag about it in seedy space rangers bars. I go around gratuitously shooting people, then I agonise about it afterwards to my girlfriend!

First Cop: And I write novels!

Second Cop: Yeah, he writes them in crayon.

First Cop: Though I haven’t had any published yet, so I’d better warn ya, I’m in a mean mood!

Ford: Who are these guys?

Trillian: I preferred them shooting.

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Second Cop: So are you gonna come quietly or you gonna let us blast ya out?

Ford: Which would you prefer?

(Another fusillade ensues)

Second Cop: You still there?

All: Yeah!

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First Cop: We didn’t enjoy that at all.

Ford: We could tell!

Second Cop: Now, listen to this, Beeblebrox. And you’d better listen good!

Zaphod: Why?

Second Cop: Er ... because it’s gonna be very intelligent, and quite interesting ... and humane.

Zaphod: OK, shoot. I mean, fire away! No, no, I mean ...!

(another round of shooting)

First Cop: Sorry, misunderstanding there.

Second Cop: Beeblebrox, either you all give yourselves up, and let us beat you up a little, though not too much because we are firmly opposed to needless violence, or ... er ... or we blow up this entire planet! And one or two others we noticed on the way over!

Trillian: That’s crazy! You wouldn’t do that!

Second Cop: Yes, we would! I think we would, wouldn’t we?

First Cop: Yes, we’d have to. No question.

Trillian: But why?

First Cop: Tell her.

Second Cop: You tell her!

First Cop: You tell her!

Trillian: Will one of you tell her!

Both Cops: It isn’t easy being a cop!

Ford: Listen ... if we keep them talking, maybe their brains will seize up.

First Cop: Shall we ... shoot them up again for a while?

Second Cop: Why not?

First Cop: Yeah.

Ford: Wait ...

Zaphod: Well, that just about wraps it up for this lifetime, I guess.

Ford: Well ... it’s really been nice running into you again, Zaphod.

Zaphod and Ford (singing loudly): Zaglabor astragard, Hootrimansion Bambriar ...

Arthur: What the hell are you doing?!

Ford: A Betelgeuse death anthem. It means, “After this, things can only get better.”
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:31 am

BURNT, MAN, by Charles Carreon

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The apocalypse is a tricky subject to deal with creatively. Once, down in LA, I was enthusing to my friend Mike, a sharp-tongued northeasterner, about Road Warrior, Mel Gibson’s most enduring epic. Mike’s response was as sharp and swift as a towel-snap in a locker room – “Oh God, stoopidest movie I ever saw. So stupid I couldn’t watch the whole thing. I mean, here the whole world is running out of gas, and they’re standing around revving their engines!” Well, that put paid to my enthusiasm for a movie that is all about what happens when you loose a bunch of crazy Australian gearheads in the desert with a budget. I’m still trying to figure out how they pulled that scene where the idiot biker tries to punch a hole in a spinning truck tire, and he gets swept under the rig in a trice, his bike reduced to pig iron in seconds.

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All this by way of saying that high-speed misbehavior is something with which I greatly sympathize. Acceleration is a stimulant that mixes badly with youth, alcohol, and other inebriants, but I fancy I can handle it now, after three motorcycle accidents in a riding career that spans twenty-three years. Nevertheless, I have not been to Burning Man, and am not going, no matter how many friends invite me.

My friend John wrote a fantastic poem about how to have the Burning Man experience without leaving home, but he just did that for me, since he must make his yearly pilgrimage to the Nevada sands, his excuse being that it’s an easy place to find sexual partners. I don’t know about that. I say quality before quantity, and the smell of body paint and sweat has never qualified as an aphrodisiac in my hierarchy of pheromonal favorites. Personally, I think if John just stayed put in Boston, and gave away the entire amount of his plane fare five dollars at a time in Harvard Yard, he’d get laid just as much and by a better cut of person. In fact, I have it on good authority that on Venice Beach, if you straightforwardly ask every person who seems like an attractive sex partner if they would like to have sex right now, you will get a “yes” one out of twenty times. The point is, hoping to have sex with one of our modern temple prostitutes isn’t a good enough reason to go to Nevada.

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Before you go to Burning Man, you should consider that it does take place in Nevada, where marijuana possession is still a felony, and Linda Ronstadt got pitched out of the Aladdin casino for trying to dedicate a song to Michael Moore after the audience rioted. It is a place that was literally shaped in the cradle by the mob, where gambling, mining and prostitution are major industries. It is a place where Wayne Newton is considered a big entertainer, and a synthetic volcano belches heat on the main drag while down the street pirates and pirate wenches duel with cutlasses to a pounding disco beat, taking big falls from the rigging into the artificial lake below, twice a night. It is also a place where the heat is as bad as Arizona, but there are fewer rivers and less shade.

But, people say, it is such an awesome scene. Take the art vehicles, for instance. The art vehicles? You mean the tricked-out Winnebagos made up to be rolling nightclubs? Why not got to Vegas itself, where they have great DJs, air-conditioning, painted women, and lightshows produced by people who work for Cirque de Soleil during the week? Maybe I skipped a chapter in modern history, but aren’t Winnebagos some of the supersized detritus of suburban life, symbols of the “freedom” to burn gas like a petroleum-mad Neanderthal, the chosen vehicle for those who are ostentatiously “spending their children’s inheritance?” These rigs are parked under tarps all over middle America, while their tires dry out and water accumulates in their gas tanks, because the day of the gas hog is over. But as P.T. Barnum said, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” and there’s no idea so bad that someone won’t buy it. So hell yeah, let’s lavish a bunch of decorating skills on an old dinosaur and pay fifty cents a mile to drive it to Burning Man! Who thinks this stuff up? Dick Cheney?

Since most Burning Man attendees strive to be politically correct, let’s consider the political correctness of having a party focused on burning huge piles of stuff in the desert while global warming takes hold. Nor is the folly all one side of the gender divide. Just to prove that having a clitoris doesn’t mean you can think clearly, a group of Bay Area women called something like “the Flaming Lotus collective” burned seven-thousand gallons of propane to fuel a fire-belching dragon, producing a chorus of oohs and ahs, setting off some passionate lovemaking in various art vehicles, and permanently contributing to the greenhouse gases now choking our planet. Talk about a sacrifice for the sake of art! We are all grateful to donate a few breaths of oxygen to the cause. And since it’s a good idea to make fires in the desert, the Burning Man organizers should promote carbon burning by honoring famous carbon burners from around the globe. Saddam Hussein would get the first award, for his awesomely punk act of setting all the oil wells ablaze in Kuwait, an event notable both for its size, and for the fact that he did it with someone else’s oil! Talk about sticking it to the man! Yeah!

I haven’t even gotten to the fact, of course, that you have to pay some serious bucks to get into this festival of pyromania that takes place in a desert so devoid of natural resources that the native Utes and Pah-Utes were the poorest of all Native Americans. For your money, you will get next to no amenities -- there so few toilets, showers and water sources that everyone goes around constipated, dusty and thirsty for the duration. In the end, all of the entertainment is provided by people who are either part of some art commune that you have to pay to be part of, or who just show up and pole dance for free. The people who organized this are geniuses – soon they’ll be charging people to masturbate in public while charging other people to watch and encourage them. And people thought Vegas was a rip!

No, this Burning Man thing is utter bullshit, and the more approval it gets from the mainstream press, the less I like it. The world, people, is on fire already. Instead of helping to burn it down, grab a bucket! Instead of marinating in “art,” lend a hand to your fellow-human. At least, for god’s sake, don’t add to the problem under the guise of just having fun, just getting laid, or just wasting time. There is no time to waste.

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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:33 am

AYAHUASCA FOR THE MASSES, by Charles Carreon

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Froghand, by Joshua Carreon

“One of the weirdest of our phantastica or hallucinogens is the drink of the western Amazon known as ayahuasca, caapi or yaje. Although not nearly so popularly known as peyote and, nowadays, as the sacred mushrooms, it has nonetheless inspired an undue share of sensational articles which have played fancifully with unfounded claims, especially concerning its presumed telepathic powers.”

The Visionary Vine of the Amazon

In the essay from which this quote is taken, Richard Schultes recited what he considered the sum total of Western botanical and pharmacalogical knowledge concerning Ayahuasca in a few pages, identifying the source plant as the Yage vine, and the active ingredients as harmine and harmaline. There was, Schultes admitted, a great deal left to know about the visionary vine of the Amazon, and he concluded with the statement: “This is how far 100 years has brought us. How much farther is there to go? Should we not step up the speed of our studies before time blots out much of the native lore of the Western Amazon?” Over forty more years have gone by since Schultes’ essay was published in the sixties, and we have learned a few things. Most importantly, we learned there’s more than one plant ingredient in the best brews of ayahuasca tea. The first substance is the Yage vine. The second substance is leaf material from a shrub known as Chagrapanga. The Amazonian natives who use Ayahuasca brew it according to special recipes, cooking the tea in open pots over the course of day-long ceremonies, often accompanied by songs and prayer. While the first combination of the two plants is in the pot, the interaction of the chemical essences of these two jungle plants inside the human brain is the primary focus of our concern, because it is not just a matter of two drugs having a enhanced effect, but rather the revelation of an entirely new experience due to the creation of a special climate in our perceptual organism.

A Binary Psychedelic

Ayahuasca is a binary psychedelic. Yage (Banisteropsis Caapi) contains the Potentiating Substances -- harmine and harmaline, that create a special chemical environment in the human brain. Mildly psychedelic in themselves, harmine and harmaline are active at doses around one tenth of a gram. Chagrapanga (Psychotria Viridis) contains the Activating Substance – Dimethyltryptamine – that has no effect whatsoever when taken orally unless the brain has been properly prepared by an adequate dose of harmine, harmaline, or some other monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Separately, these two types of substances have generated substantial interest in the psychological community. Harmaline and harmine have shown promise in treating chronic heroin and cocaine addiction. A single half-gram dose has caused the addictive cravings of hopeless addicts to go into remission for months or weeks. Claudio Naranjo’s book, The Healing Journey, describes very rich experiences suggesting that harmaline and harmine induce a strong connection to images of inner strength, physical warmth, and release from self-confinement. Dimethyltryptamine, abbreviated to “DMT,” has powerful but very short-acting psychedelic effects when injected intravenously, as documented by Dr. Rick Strassman of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, in his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Dr. Strassman hypothesizes that DMT mediates the entry and exit of consciousness into the human body prior to birth and at death. His hypothesis centers on the undeniable fact that DMT precursors are present in the pineal gland, a vestigial eye located in the center of the forehead, and referred to by Descartes as “the seat of the soul.” Among Amazonian natives, snuffs derived from seeds containing DMT and its relative, Diethyltryptamine (DET), are popular, and are associated with spellcasting, sorcery, and some rowdy behavior.

Traditional and Religious Uses of Ayahuasca

Schultes describes various psychic goals natives seek to achieve through drinking Ayahuasca, such as inducing clairvoyance, learning the truth about a lover, and gaining foreknowledge of strategy to aid in tribal diplomacy. Ayahuasca healers believe they can diagnose disease, discover appropriate plant medicines, and intituitively learn the pharmacoepeia of the jungle by consuming the psychedelic tea. Ayahuasca sorcerers also believe they can learn who is casting malignant spells and how to avert their effects.

From these native traditions, there have evolved several churches, primarily in Brazil, that use Ayahuasca as a sacrament in the context of traditional religious liturgies. The two best-known churches are the Santo Daime (the “Daime”) and the O Centro Spirita Beneficiente do Vegetal (the “UDV”). They have fairly informative websites at http://www.santodaime.org, and http://www.udv.org, respectively, that lay out the structure of their belief systems. Of the two, UDV has the “slicker” look, but both the Daime and the UDV look like religions operating under a full head of organizational steam. Both ascribe the origins of their religion to revelations received by humble spiritual seekers who drew inspiration and guidance from their Ayahuasca experiences, and both endorse the validity of the Christian religion while combining elements of nature wisdom and a philosophy of planetary healing.

A Bright Spot In The Legal Universe

Until recently, the use of psychedelic substances for spiritual purposes in South America had little importance to those of us living here in the United States. Recent legal developments, however, have opened the door to greater religious freedom in this country. In particular, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (the “RFRA”) provided the basis for a recent legal victory by the UDV that has entirely changed the landscape of visionary spirituality for ordinary Americans. Thanks to the enactment of this law, and its remarkably clear-headed application by the United States Supreme Court, an unexpected ray of light is shining for those who believe that genuine spiritual insights may flow from the wise use of plant sacraments. On February 21, 2006, Chief Justice Roberts issued a unanimous opinion in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, 126 U.S. 1211, upholding an injunction barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting UDV members for importing Ayahuasca tea (that the UDV calls “Hoasca”) from Brazil in 30-gallon drums. Issued pursuant to the RFRA by the United States District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the injunction requires the UDV to import Hoasca under a permit to be issued by the DEA, to restrict distribution of Hoasca to UDV authorities, and to warn prospective Hoasca-drinkers of health risks.

We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

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Cross Lobster, by Joshua Carreon

To appreciate the journey that American law has made to reach this point, we need to look at a 1990 US Supreme Court case that came out of Oregon, and motivated the US Congress to enact the RFRA. In Oregon Department of Human Resources v. Smith, 494 US 872, the high Court considered the claim of two men who were fired from their jobs as drug counselors for “misconduct” when they ate peyote at a Native American Church ceremony. The Oregon Supreme Court had overruled the Employment Department, holding that denying people unemployment for eating peyote as a religious practice infringed the “Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment, that states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thanks to the zealous advocacy of Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohenmayer, the US Supreme Court reversed the Oregon Supreme Court in a divided decision that split the high Court three ways. The battleground among the justices was over whether to evaluate the Employment Department’s peyote policy using a “balancing test” to determine whether the State of Oregon had a “compelling state interest” in keeping peyote out of the hands of its citizens, and if so, whether denying unemployment compensation for violating the controlled substance law was the “least restrictive means” of furthering that compelling state interest. The problem with applying this test, as any Constitutional lawyer will tell you, is that when the test is properly applied, the policy under scrutiny rarely passes “Constitutional muster,” and is struck down. This balancing test is called the “strict scrutiny standard,” because most laws fail when subjected to it.

With Justices Rehnquist, White, Stevens and Kennedy joining in, Antonin Scalia engineered a way around the strict scrutiny test, twisting precedents to argue that the Court applied strict scrutiny only to Free Exercise claims that were buttressed by “expressive” and “associational” rights. The case before the Court, Scalia explained, was far simpler. Oregon had adopted a criminal law of “general application” that had nothing to do with speech or freedom of association, and everything to do with conduct. Just keep away from peyote was what the law said, and if every believer could question any law by saying it stuck in his or her religious craw, then each man would be “a law unto himself.” That, said Scalia, would be “courting anarchy.” While the State was free to grant a religious exemption to its controlled substance laws for religious use, it was also free to jail any of its citizens for possessing peyote. Since the State would thereby be depriving its citizens of liberty, it could certainly deny lesser rights, like the right to collect unemployment. Case decided.

Justice O’Connor disagreed with Scalia’s approach, insisting that they should apply the strict scrutiny test. But she agreed with Scalia’s result, because when she balanced the individual’s Free Exercise right to take peyote for religious purposes against Oregon’s right to keep its people away from peyote, the State won. Why? Because peyote had been blackballed by the controlled substance legislation, and it wasn’t her job to second-guess the legislature on that call, just because some Native Americans said it helped them to worship more effectively. She likened the peyote prohibition to laws against dangerous religious practices like snake-handling, or laws requiring parents to vaccinate their kids despite their religious objections.

Justice Blackmun agreed that O’Connor was applying the right test, but, along with Justices Brennan and Marshall, believed she should reach the opposite result and give the peyote eaters their unemployment compensation. Blackmun argued that the Court “must scrupulously apply its free exercise analysis to the religious claims of Native Americans, however unorthodox they may be.” O’Connor had given the State the advantage by giving excessive weight in her “balancing test” to generalities like “public health and safety,” next to which the individual’s right to worship in the silence of their own spirit seemed trifling. Blackmun gives full weight to that very private right to talk to the divine each in our own way. He then puts the teeth back in strict scrutiny, closely examining the State’s reasons for punishing peyote users by withholding unemployment benefits, and finds them “entirely speculative.” Neither the State nor the Feds pursued drug cases against Native Americans, with the Feds seizing only 19.5 pounds of peyote that year, compared with 15 tons of marijuana. He cites scientific evidence recorded in other legal cases that peyote “works no permanent deleterious injury to the Indian.” Citing the Native American Church’s own “internal restrictions on, and supervision of, its members’ use of peyote,” and the known efficacy of the Church in reducing alcoholism in the community, Blackmun concludes that “far from promoting the lawless and irresponsible use of drugs, Native American Church members’ spiritual code exemplifies the values that Oregon’s drug laws are presumably intended to foster.” Blackmun concludes his dissent with an accusation – for the Native American people, the majority’s decision reduced the words of the First Amendment and the assurances of Congress to “an unfulfilled and hollow promise.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Three years later, the Congress declared in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 that “the framers of the Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution.” Congress then observed that “laws ‘neutral’ toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise,” and that “in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion.” Congress enacts something like this when it has gotten a hot-foot from some interest group, and I wouldn’t pretend to say I know who that was, or that they figured on how it would be used by the UDV.

Congress Talks Back To Scalia

Having thus addressed the precise matter at issue in the peyote versus unemployment-compensation case arising from our home jurisdiction, Congress adopted O’Connor’s view from the Smith case, that the Court should apply strict scrutiny to conflicts between religious practices and criminal laws: “The compelling interest test,” Congress found, ‘is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests.” Congress then stated the two purposes of the act: “(1) to restore the compelling interest test as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) and to guarantee its application in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened; and (2) to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government.”

The Congress then told all of the government law enforcement agencies -- state, county, municipal, tribal, and Homeland Security, that they “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability [unless the governmental entity] demonstrates that application of the burden to the person --

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

In response to Justice Scalia’s dismissive analysis, Congress specifically set the goal posts on strict scrutiny for people claiming religious exemption from enforcement of laws prohibiting use of psychoactive chemicals. There can’t be much doubt that the RFRA should apply to that situation, especially after the UDV decision, in which Chief Justice Roberts says that it is significant that Congress directly cited the Smith case as its reason for adopting the law. Ironically, a Bush appointee has provided more relief to the users of plant-helpers for religious purposes than any prior Justice, through an extraordinarily honest opinion that has given surprising vitality to the RFRA.

This Law’s Not Racist Anymore

The RFRA says nothing about Native Americans being the only ones who can assert this defense to a controlled substance offense. That’s a good thing, because the idea that you had to have a certain ethnic origin to qualify for exemption from a law that restricts freedom of thought was more than a little racist.

Not only is this law not racist, it has teeth. Under the category of ‘Judicial Relief,” the RFRA provides: “A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.”

Just The Defense That Was Needed

The RFRA is thus specifically focused on providing an exemption for religious conduct that runs afoul of any law. That it can be asserted as “a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding,” means that anyone charged for any crime or regulatory violation can assert the RFRA as a defense if it is factually applicable to them. This is something that every public defender should learn about, and hopefully will, because as a practical matter, having an interest in psychedelic religion rarely coincides with having easy access to private counsel.

In civil actions, you can assert the RFRA proactively, as the UDV did, by suing the DOJ to prevent the DEA from seizing their tea and throwing them in jail. Congress essentially told Scalia and his fellow-justices that the sky would not in fact fall if judges created exemptions to laws of “general application” if they determined that the harm to a person’s religious beliefs was outweighed by harm to the State’s own interests. The law also gives religious practicioners a right to file a lawsuit to protect themselves against enforcement of laws that would prevent them from worshipping according to their chosen practices.

The UDV case was evidently well-thought-out in its approach and well-funded. The UDV established to the satisfaction of the trial judge that its own system of controlling use of Hoasca was sufficient to protect the public at large from the dangers inherent in providing a psychedelic tea to its adherents, and while it gave some weight to the drug-control interests asserted by the Department of Justice, found that the evidence was “in equipoise,” and granted the UDV’s request for an injunction against prosecution or interference with importation and distribution of Hoasca. The DOJ appealed the ruling to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District Court’s ruling. The DOJ then took the case to the US Supreme Court via “writ of certiorari,” and the Court agreed to hear the Government’s appeal.

Writing an opinion that was unanimously adopted by all the other members of the Court, including Scalia, newly-appointed Justice Roberts didn’t agonize much about the issues, finding that, applying RFRA’s “strict scrutiny” standard to the issues, the DOJ had failed to show a compelling interest in uniform application of the Controlled Substances Act (the “CSA”), and granted the UDV an exemption from enforcement of the CSA. The DOJ had smoothed the road to this result by admitting that the UDV had a legitimate religious practice based on drinking Hoasca, and that the Government’s refusal to grant an exemption for Hoasca-drinking would substantially burden the UDV’s exercise of religion.

The DOJ’s concession the UDV’s Hoasca-ceremonies were a sincere religious practice put the burden was on the DOJ to show that the Government had a “compelling interest” that would justify its refusal to grant the requested exemption from enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. The DOJ was unable to carry that burden. Justice Roberts observed that although the Government claimed that “no exception to the DMT ban [could] be made to accommodate the UDV” because it had “a compelling interest in the uniform application of the Controlled Substances Act, the ”RFRA requires the Government to demonstrate that the compelling interest test is satisfied through application of the challenged law ‘to the person’--the particular claimant whose sincere exercise of religion is being substantially burdened.” Justice Roberts’ individualized consideration of the case was exactly what Blackmun argued for in his dissent against the outcome in Oregon v. Black.

Justice Roberts explained that under the “focused inquiry” required under the RFRA, “the Government’s mere invocation of the general characteristics of Schedule I substances cannot carry the day.” In saying this, Justice Roberts rejected Justice O’Connor’s position in Oregon v. Black, because she explicitly found the mere categorization of peyote as a Schedule I substance to be a sufficiently “compelling interest” to justify Oregon’s policy of punishing peyote users by denying them unemployment payments. Justice Roberts took another tack. Instead of focusing on the fact that DMT is a Schedule I substance, he emphasized the availability of exemptions: “The Controlled Substances Act’s authorization to the Attorney General to “waive the requirement for registration of certain manufacturers, distributors, or dispensers if he finds it consistent with the public health and safety.” Additionally, Justice Roberts noted, “The peyote exception also fatally undermines the Government’s broader contention that the Controlled Substances Act establishes a closed regulatory system that admits of no exceptions under RFRA. The peyote exception has been in place since the Controlled Substances Act’s outset, and there is no evidence that it has undercut the Government’s ability to enforce the ban on peyote use by non-Indians.”

Pinning the tail precisely on the ass of the bureaucratic donkey, Justice Roberts reveals the thinness of the DOJ’s position: “Here the Government’s uniformity argument rests not so much on the particular statutory program at issue as on slippery slope concerns that could be invoked in response to any RFRA claim for an exception to a generally applicable law, i.e., ‘if I make an exception for you, I’ll have to make one for everybody, so no exceptions.’ But RFRA operates by mandating consideration, under the compelling interest test, of exceptions to “rule[s] of general applicability.” (Emphasis added by the Court.)

Your Visionary Religion

It is very important to remember that the RFRA is more than a law that says you can file a lawsuit to protect your religious beliefs from bureaucratic infringements. That’s just the clause that guarantees that the law has teeth in it. The important thing is right at the beginning: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion…” That is huge language, and it applies to every municipality, state and federal agency in the country. Peace officers who attempt to interfere with entheogenic religious practices should be given a copy of the RFRA and a request for exemption from enforcement of the law. This presumes, of course, that the people whose religious activities are being disrupted by peace officers are in fact engaged in a legitimate religious ceremony.

As in every situation in this country, it is important to look like a duck to be treated like one, and the same is true of religion. To be recognized as a legitimate religion, I would suggest your congregation and faith have:

• A nonprofit corporate base

• A specified sacramental substance

• A book of beliefs establishing the purpose for using the sacrament

• A schedule of religious events when the sacrament is consumed

• A liturgy or sadhana during which the sacramental substance is shared

• A commitment to consume the sacramental substance only for religious purposes

• A set protocol for limiting use of the sacramental substance to believers

• A written disclosure of any hazards associated with use of the sacramental substance that is provided to all prospective students

• A controlled setting for the sacramental ritual to comfort, protect and guide students

• An outreach program to skillfully integrate the activities of the religious group into the life of the community

What is a legitimate religious ceremony? The doors are not quite wide open on this question. The Courts have, until now, rejected every attempt to classify anything that looks like recreational drug use as a religious practice. The cases denying such efforts are cited in detail in Justice Blackmun’s dissent in Oregon v. Black. However, that doesn’t mean that sincere practicioners of plant-wisdom belief systems should give up.

Sincerity is of course the key to undertaking such a project. There are any number of plant helpers that have been known for many years, and are now more available than ever. Throughout the Northwest, many species of mushroom containing psilocin and psilocybin are discoverable, and the hardy Psilocibe Cubensis can be cultivated from spores. The sources of DMT to create Ayahuasca-type mixtures are also increasingly available, with Mimosa Hostilis providing a more potent replacement for Psychotria Viridis, and Syrian Rue providing a more convenient source of harmala and harmaline than Banisteropsis Caapi.

Knowledge As Religion

That the earth has provided so many plants that have connections with our physiology and psyche should cause us to reflect upon what this correspondence means. Used without reflection, potentially sacramental substances are a source of trivial diversion. Plant compounds have profound effects on us because we share a unified chemical makeup, in which correspondences naturally arise among living beings.

The Amazonian native people survived and thrived in one of the most challenging and botanically endowed places on earth. They explored their environment boldly, yet we know little about what they learned. As Schultes noted in his essay forty years ago, there is a great deal left to learn from the wisdom of these ancient people, but it is not all a matter of studying their characteristics, taking photographs of their native appearance, and shelving it all away. The bravest scientists make their own lives an experiment, and in the realm of psychopharmacology, the only way forward has been through the efforts of those willing to take the plunge.

The quest for knowledge is the truest religion of our day, and in pursuit of knowledge we should not fear to tread where generations of humans have gone before. At long last, for those sufficiently interested in exploring the inner realms with the aid of plant-helpers, another path, through the thicket of governmental obstruction, appears to have opened. To all interested seekers, I have this word of advice – enter quickly, and make this path fruitful, otherwise it will fall into disuse.
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