Civil War in 21st Century America?

We would destroy ourselves

“Governments without credibility devolve into chaos. … The notion of credibility is why my political preferences don’t align with either of the candidates for president.” ~ Scott Adams

“The spread of fascism in the 1920s was significantly aided by the fact that liberals and mainstream conservatives failed to take it seriously. Instead, they accommodated and normalised it.” ~ James McDougall

Three points must be understood.

  • We in the United States of America are on the edge of civil war. This would be the case regardless of who “won” this election.
  • Few want to see or hear anything about this. Most dismiss it as alarmist rhetoric or far-right wing fantasy.
  • A civil war in a large, developed superpower would be catastrophic for this planet.
  • Let me rephrase what I just wrote, ok: A civil war in the United States of America would be a horror and incredibly stupid, so stupid I want to use the F-word.
  • Here’s another: People don’t want to experience extreme distress. They don’t want to see events race from unlikely possibility to likely probability. Then it’s too late. If more people saw such changes shift from bad to worse they would act to stop war by resolving conflict peacefully.

The United States is the most polarized it’s been since the American Civil War of 1861-1865. As I write these words on the 18th of November 2016, Hillary Clinton is well ahead in the popular vote, Donald Trump is well ahead in the Electoral College count, the Electoral College has not yet voted, the polls predicted Clinton to win, the media declared Trump the winner, Clinton conceded to Trump, and Trump proclaimed himself the President-elect.

Movements are underfoot to both promote and deny Clinton a victory over Trump by having the Electoral College vote align with the national popular vote. Clinton is ahead of Trump by over one million votes with about four million votes left to count. Her margin is expected to increase dramatically.

Both the Democrat and Republican parties are broken even tho their Two-Party Duopoly maintains its dominance over the elections, debates, and state electors to the national College. Independent third party candidates proved insignificant as the majority of Americans were too polarized between Lesser Evils. At the same time about half of legitimate voters even bothered to vote as the election was viewed by so many people as rigged, corrupted, and ultimately irrelevant.

Massive demonstrations were quickly organized in many cities with the majority of the demonstrators peaceful. Initially many of these marches and protests were organized by Socialist Alternative, a growing national organization of Democratic Socialists who leverage Marxist dialectical analysis, in conjunction with Socialist Youth and the Occupy Wall Street-inspired Movement for the 99%. Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Oakland, and New York City were the focal points for these protests. Other organizations quickly moved to organize demonstrations, too.

Ongoing protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the banks financing the corporations behind the pipeline merged with the anti-Trump demonstrations. LGBTQI people marched with those protesting degradation and violence against women and immigrants. Students from high schools and colleges walked out of class to join and in many cases lead the demonstrations.

Allegations swirl around claiming George Soros, a multibillionaire member of the so-called globalist Cabal groups and backer of Hillary Clinton, financed and influenced demonstrations against Donald Trump. So far research demonstrates he hasn’t altho he may do so in the future. He has donated millions of dollars to a broad spectrum of Leftist groups in the past, but most of them are neoliberal groups such as the Open Society Foundations.

Socialist Alternative and its allies, however, rapidly organized most of the post-Election protests on Wednesday 9 November, in multiple cities via social media as they marshaled 40,000 or more people within hours. Socialist Alternative also scorned any help from the billionaire class and refuses to accept donations from Soros and his elitist ilk.

Scattered violence ripples across the nation and appears to be escalating rather than decreasing. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 437 reports of “hateful intimidation and harassment” by Trump supporters from the day after the election thru the 14th of November. This includes 20 reports of assaults upon Trump supporters. Most, however, were by White racists and fundamentalist Christians upon other ethnic and religious groups including immigrants and by heterosexuals against LGBTQIs.

Other reports demonstrate a surge in bullying in the schools, increase in police violence, interruptions of work, high volatility in the financial markets, and greater unpredictability across the planet as different nations, corporations, banks, and non-state groups review their options.

Protests in support of the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors, accelerated by Trump’s declared victory even tho he continues to lose the popular vote, have since spread around the nation to include demonstrations against the 38 banks including 17 banks directly financing the corporations supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River and sacred tribal lands. Many others, however, seek to downplay the violence and bring people back to focus upon peace, compassion, positivity, and finding ways to move forward in spite of deep and ugly divides.

Meanwhile immigration hardliners among the pro-Trump Republican leadership propose the United States use World War II internment camps of Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants then in line to be naturalized as U.S. citizens as models to deal with Muslim-Americans today and track Muslim immigrants. Trump is viewed as unstable and continues to elevate White racist, sexist, and anti-immigrant extremists as well as vitriolic anti-environmentalists into positions of power.

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Aurora Avenue and the Dark Side of Love

A Nest of Urban Vignettes

Machines break down and stop. People break down and somehow keep going. Machines are all about function and efficiency. People are for creativity, making messes, and love.

Chaos was silent. No blaring horns from cars around me. No one reads beyond the edges of their digital screens any more. Finally stopped wondering how people sitting in cars behind me might respond or react to my bumper stickers. Nope. They’re too busy merging with their, ahem, “mobile devices” as they herd themselves into the Internet of Things. At every stop during the last few days all across the City of Seattle I’d see heads bow down and fones rise up in the postmodern autonomic digital prayers of the unconscious. Can’t even get a HONK! Not even one faint li’l bitty ol’ frickin’ honk. Then, BOOM BOOM CHOP! I had to put my 16-year old blue car in the repair shop up north on the Greenwood side of Aurora Avenue, and I met real people out on the streets in the everyday circus of madness and bliss.

She sat hunched over in the woodchips alongside the sidewalk in the shade of Gold’s Gym under a row of leafy trees with her face kinked between folded arms and knees. Her body was so scrawny the spinous processes of her lumbar and thoracic vertebrae poked out like those strange fins on a stegosaurus’s back called scutes or dinosaur dermal plates. They arched over with her spine in such a way I could almost feel the connection to her reptilian brain, but, hey, she’s a mammal, a hominin like me. We’re hominins in America. Hominins in America! The United States was and is still a quasi-fascist, pseudo-democratic oligarchy masquerading as a constitutional capitalist killer clown republic, Barack Obama was POTUS, and the Dem-Rep Duopoly self-gridlocked. Global Climate Disruption worsened, and the Great Global Depression wasn’t over at all for millions and millions of unemployed and underemployed lost people like us. She sat. I walked. She smoked. I judged. She despaired, and so did I.

A red suitcase lay loosely shut with clothes hanging out next to her. She smoked a cigarette somewhere down there under crossed arms, I could smell its acrid, stale heat, but I couldn’t see her face. I could see the crack of her ass between her shirt and her shorts. She was a young White woman with brownish, straw blond hair and all skinny and boney and all alone. I felt huge sadness and empathy. Oh, she was so alone in this world! I felt her energy as I strode around her towards the Gym. Without even trying, I could feel into her dark pool of synaptic fog just by walking by her. She felt sad, hung over, frustrated, desperate, and zonked out depressed. I could feel the ice-cold glitter of pain screwing thru her veins as the yearning for the next fix built up hot under her long sleeves.

I was in a hurry, however, as my car was in the shop, I had errands to do, and I was walking everywhere without any wheels. I wouldn’t take the bus. Nope, no bus today. Gonna walk for exercise. I stopped myself from going over to her, however, and reminded myself I have an old, bad habit of rescuing people. I am not going to rescue anyone anymore, no more drama triangles in life, and so must hold tight to my boundaries. Yes?

Hurried off into the Gym and trained hard with the weights. Slowly regaining my health after a prolonged and strange illness. Came back out after my workout with a long walk ahead of me. There she sat, more sad and desperate then ever, without looking up. She didn’t need to look up. She was primal enough to sense what was happening around her, even if her senses were warped and fragmented by too many of the wrong kind of drugs. I felt her coil without coiling and sensed the dead pulse of mutant killer kundalini. She cranked taunt as locked gears forced apart and popped as automatically defensive as a robot sentinel left behind to guard some long-abandoned ancient fortress. I stopped. She bristled and the image of her lunging at me with a dirty syringe in hand burst into my mind as real as a wild ass grizzly bear rearing up on her hind legs. I shuddered and recalled being homeless myself not all that long ago…and scared.

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In the Swirl of a Dish

Petri Dish Man’s Urban Seattle Socialist Vignette

Hungry. Sun blazing in my eyes. Making me squint as my belly growled low like a dog guarding a slab of meat. Hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Felt ravenous after I spent too much of the morning in the hospital being poked, pierced, measured, and explored by fantastic doctors and their curious assistants. Prodded me like a damn bug followed by quick pecks on their computers. Felt as if I was a giant insect splayed out and peeled apart in an enormous Petri dish by mad scientists and clever kids. Who behaved as if any moment they would hobble over and slather weird baby food goo all over me to see what monsters might grow. Ahhh, yes, call me…Petri Dish Man! BAM! BAM! BAM! DON’T BAN THE PETRI DISH MAN! ran thru my head over and over, tho I dared not tell anyone at the time, as it felt so strange.

Brought back memories of being in the Battle of Seattle during the so-called Anti-Globalization Revolts, and memories of being in Occupy Seattle and Occupy Olympia. Yes, even brought back memories of being homeless during the Great Global Recession after rich, capitalist pundits declared it long over. Despite being such a proficiently medically inspected man, however, I felt grateful for Obamacare’s ACA here in Washington State. Thank goodness it covered what my employer’s private health insurance plan wouldn’t cover. I shake my head funny too, as it seemed plain old common sense for 21st Century America, indeed all of Planet Earth, to have an integrated single-payer universal health care system, a democratic economic system, a socialist system.

Thus satiated on clarity of vision, I ventured hungrily into The Dish, a funky Seattle café, for a belated breakfast. Call it brunch. Time was 11:30 am. It’s a lively little café in my neighborhood. I currently live in a small, quasi-cooperative household below the landlord’s family in a house uprooted from the I-5 Corridor running north and south across the States between Canada and Mexico. The house sits beneath three immense Western redcedar trees in the Tangletown-Latona part of Green Lake up in the middle of North Seattle. At least till the rent rockets up. Only my second visit to this cafe, too. Rarely eat out anymore. Now it’s a treat! The place was abuzz, too.

Two staffers had called in sick, however, leaving the business understaffed. Only two other people were out front serving including one new worker who admitted she didn’t know how to work anything quite yet. But they were game and smiled anyway. Big, welcoming smiles, too. They bustled in and out among crowded customers, and the one cook in back paced himself as he had to. The warm smells of cooked food swirled with exuberant colors intoxicated yours truly Petri Dish Man.

The ghost of a homeless guy watched everything right over the lip of his big orange coffee cup. He was so invisible it as was if I couldn’t see him but nevertheless still sense his presence. I felt the color of his large, tattered coat fade charcoal and gray. Was his bright orange cup just a reflection of the Sun upon a glass bowl of slivered fruit? No, he wasn’t there, just a coat and a cup and the ghost of a man who gave up everything precious but his dignity and curiosity.

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The One Place on Earth to Go

One of many travertine falls in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, European Union. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer in the Public Domain. 2013.

One of many travertine falls in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, European Union. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer in the Public Domain. 2013.

What is the one place down on the surface of Planet Earth’s crust should everyone go visit at least once in their life? As gorgeous as they are, it’s not those beautiful lakes that fall one into the other in the picture above.

So many people pass thru Seattle these days and night, coming and going and going and coming, from somewhere to nowhere to everywhere. It seems Seattle is now the one place to go, or it’s what I hear from so many tourists. Which surprises me. Seattle is booming, yes, one survey earlier this year counted 80 construction cranes dominating the Downtown and Belltown areas alone. Despite the magnificent scenery of the Salish Sea and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, however, Seattle isn’t The One Place On Earth One Must Go. I love Seattle, tho.

During the Great Recession I worked in retail at the Downtown Seattle REI Store, its largest flagship, and met people from around the world. Still do. Love working here at REI. Many fellow human beings from all over Cascadia, too, came and went and come and go as they tell stories about past trips, excited or in some cases afraid of upcoming adventures. Many people come into REI to buy supplies on their way to help out others, whether it’s devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, supertyphoons in the Philippines, giant mudslides in Latin America, or the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

At work I am usually in sustained motion. When it’s slow, I either stock products or stand briefly and people watch. Engage and talk. Ask questions and listen. Help them find appropriate products, or if we don’t have them, suggest other places. Once there was a man from Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic in Russia’s Siberia. He was of Turkish-Mongol-Siberian ancestry, was unusually tall, and was in the United States for the first time. Dressed like a cross between a tweedy college professor, a backcountry woodsman, and a steampunk engineer, he was in quiet awe of the amount of merchandise in every store, including North American grocery stores. He was especially in awe of REI’s depth and breadth in outdoor adventure travel.

Claiming to be among the numerous proud descendants of Genghis Khan’s warriors, he said I should visit Siberia. I’d love to go, I replied. Siberia! One of the wildest, most extreme regions on Earth! The vast boreal forests of the Siberian Taiga, deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, hungry brown and black bears raiding villages, gigantic rivers pulsing towards the Arctic Ocean, bitter subfreezing temperatures, exploding scary ass methane craters in Yamal, the wild, remote, volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, meteorite-hit cities, huge mountains and isolated deserts, southern steppes and northern tundra, Eurasian ethno-cultural blending amid ancient, little-known ruins, and the longest railroads in the world. O, Siberia!

But, no, not even majestic Siberia. There’s another place even more incredible everyone must try to get to. Yes, everyone.

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UFO Gone

Ships of Mind?

Sketches made by the author the evening of the same day he witnessed the UFO over Seattle.

Sketches made by the author the evening of the same day he witnessed the UFO over Seattle.

Close up of one of the author's sketches of the UFO he saw on 9 September 2015.

Close up of one of the author’s sketches of the UFO he saw on 9 September 2015.

I saw a UFO today. Quickly. Clearly. Briefly. Boom! It was over there. Now thatta way! It’s moving around across the sky. Oh! Now it’s spinning and performing loops and changing shape. Whoa! Now it’s… Boom! Gone. UFO = Unidentified Flying Object. No sign of it anywhere. And it’s not a drone. Drones do not wink out of existence, as orbs do, and it’s too big for a drone. Unless cloaking technology is developed enough to hide ships in flight. This silver triangle looked like a mechanical craft, performed normal actions such as flying in a straight line, and crazy actions such as spinning around in loops. Then this UFO did the unexpected as it changed shaped and winked out of the sky.

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American Mussolini: Trump arises from American Exceptionalism

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Useless Eaters, Serial Killers, & Tyrants

Does anyone reading this take Donald Trump seriously? Do you take Donald Trump seriously? It’s so easy to dismiss his pompous and bombastic rhetoric, shallow of substance, yet cleverly spun to hook into the emotions of frustrated and enraged people. Trump is a master showman. He’s as shameless and as tricksterish as P.T. Barnum and as bellicose and banal as Mike Tyson. He ripped off and trademarked Ronald Reagan’s slogan, “Let’s make America great again.” His followers don’t care, however, as it reminds them of a nostalgic past when White men thought they ruled the world.

For the rest of us, however, as dismayed as so many of us are with the Clinton Democrats as well as the fractious Republicans, Archcapitalist Trump and the Alt-Right presents us with an opportunity. It’s beyond time to rebuild the Left. We must find new ways to build a united front between labor and environmentalists, between indigenous tribal activists and social justice advocates, between scientists and the spiritual, between military veterans and peace advocates, for Black Lives Matter and predominantly White revolutionary Socialist groups. It’s an opportunity to build new mass movements of the Left for a major new political party to challenge the Dem-Rep Duopoly. This is an opportunity to raise working class consciousness and help organize working and middle class people for a new mass working class party of the 99% to spearhead the transition from Finance Capitalism to Democratic Socialism and away from Fascism.

Let us remember a famous book, well written yet choked with racist rants and fantastical declarations. Adolf Hitler wrote out exactly in Mein Kampf what motivated him and what he intended to do. Few took him seriously, and he was dismissed as a buffoon. Hitler went on to win democratic elections in the German Weimar Republic. He consolidated and expanded his power including leveraging false flag events such as the burning of the Reichstag. Having conquered Germany, he then moved forward in his attempt to conquer the world.

Trump is no Hitler. Not even close. Adolf Hitler was an anomaly, and Nazism is extreme tyranny. Trump much more resembles Fascist bully Benito Mussolini with their mutual love of show and pomp. Mussolini lusted for power, glory, and fame. He appreciated drama for its entertainment value as well as for its psycho-propaganda usefulness. So, too, does Trump. One who seeks power, glory, and fame can never have enough of them. As Hitler did, however, Trump wrote a modestly bestselling book in which he combined his belief systems and world view with personal memoir. The Art of the Deal, written with lots of help from Tony Schwartz, came out in 1987.

While his advice is focused on capitalist business and not politics, the book encapsulates Trump’s world view and how he approaches everything. Life is for action, and successful action is all about leveraging assets and liabilities to secure the best deal. Those with the best deals win the contest. Making winning deals and managing the results gave Trump his singular life purpose and he applies it to all areas of a life for action. Such an approach naturally fed into an addiction for more power, glory, and fame.

Mussolini, however, followed a clear ideology as a Fascist Party dictator, Il Duce, The Leader. Portraying himself as a fearless strongman and demagogue, Mussolini leveraged both the capitalist petty bourgeoisie and disaffected workers to establish a Far-Right wing Empire. Trump, by comparison, doesn’t adhere to any one ideology. He seems to view ideologies as tools in toolbox to pull any one out from as he saw fit to accomplish whatever he wanted to achieve. If anything was ideological, it was Trump’s belief making deals, especially business deals, gets stuff done. Thus deal making is both show and pomp as well as melodramatic artistry. Hence, The Art of the Deal.

The Donald is a uniquely American phenomenon. He represents the dark side of American Exceptionalism. He is the epitome of Ayn Rand’s Romantic Fascist supermen. Ayn Rand herself disdained the masses as “human parasites” and considered William Edward Hickman, a serial killer who dismembered girls and called himself The Fox, her hero.

Both Rand and Hickman are twisted products of American Exceptionalism, the kind the politicians and cheerleaders of empire refuse to even acknowledge. American Exceptionalism is the watered down U.S. version of White racism and European colonial imperialism with the latter’s emphasis upon the White Man’s burden, Protestant Christianity with its Calvinist work ethic, and fantasies of Manifest Destiny as some kind of Divine Right of Empire. It’s a belief America is inherently superior to all other nation-states, was and is chosen by God as the Chosen People for the New World.

Arising out of American Exceptionalist belief systems, Rand is the Immigrant, which is ironic as The Donald and his bellicose herd are militant anti-immigrants. Rand was born into a Russian Jewish family in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and during her early 20s immigrated to America. The Fox was as American as the Bush and Clintons. Hickman was born in Arkansas, grew up between Texas and Missouri, and spent the rest of his short life in California.

Both The Immigrant and The Fox were Exceptional Americans. From “the Dark Side,” yes, but as such they are not anomalies but as perversely normal as apple pie and guns. As such they fed the mad, crazy ugliness that captivates, hypnotizes, antagonizes, numbs, dumbs down, and distracts the mainstream public from any clear sense of unity and purpose. The lack of such vital clarity plays a significant factor in the low mass consciousness of the American working class.

Ayn Rand praises her psychopathic, slaughterhouse pedophile with language devoid of all empathy, of all sympathy, other than cold abstract admiration for her Satanic, rightwing godman:

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Grexit Crisis: Update and Reevaluation

Part 2 and follow-up to “Grexit Crisis: EU Disunion or Greater Unification?”

Sometimes the fate of the world hinges on how a seemingly local crisis is resolved or escalates. Nothing happens, however, life goes on regardless of changing circumstances, and the existence of fate itself is dismissed. So it is with Greece.

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The underlying and all consuming economic and political system itself must be not changed but transformed. Today that system is Finance Capitalism triumphant. It devours all political systems from liberal democracies to despotic tyrannies, in turn leaving Corporatocratic Fascism triumphant in politics and governments. People from before Aristotle to beyond Wallace Stevens have observed everything changes yet somehow remains the same anyway. The nature of slavery has changed, and yet, we still have slavery. And so it is with Greece.

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Grexit Crisis: EU Disunion or Greater Unification?

Sometimes the fate of the world hinges on how a seemingly local crisis is resolved or escalates. So it is with Greece.

2x.01 Grexit Crisis

Greece and Europa, and yes, the world is at yet another unsteady crossroads. We look at the Grexit Crisis within the context of the Bigger Picture here in this article. The outcome of today’s Grexit Crisis may plunge us further into recession and depression, or begin to turn things around for the working class everywhere. The Grexit Crisis may trip us closer into a nuclear world war, which, seriously, already looms far closer than many realize or most want to think. Or in a much more preferable outcome so rearrange the balance of military and geopolitical power as to make such a conflagration unlikely. The European Union could fracture, as seems likely, as it is primarily a non-democratic financial treaty organization, or draw itself together into a truly democratic political federation where the working classes assert more socialist power.

The leaders of the European Union, under pressure from the Troika, today gave Greece and its Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras five more days to submit another set of proposals. The Troika demanded the new proposals be worded as if the Greek government is, ironically, responsible to save the Eurozone from financial catastrophe and possible economic collapse. It’s as if those political puppets of the capitalist plutocrats are crying, “Save us by further enriching the banksters who engineered this damn mess in the first place!”

The creditors of the Troika composed of the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission (EC as the executive body of the EU), demand repayment and greater austerity from a nation unable to do either. The Troika has manipulated and exploited Greece and sucked it dry. If anything, the banksters, those pro-Troika gangsters in business suits, praised as educated standard bearers of capitalism, behave as financial vampires. Anchored in bastions of global financial power, they are determined to uphold the domination of finance capitalism as a form of neo-fascist tyranny over Europa. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the woman who stared down Vladimir Putin and made him squirm in his chair earlier this year, comes across more and more as another cold-hearted Margaret Thatcher. We are all in a global class war, and the Grexit Crisis is a major battle in our struggle.

Much fear and paranoia has been and continues to be projected out into the mainstream mass media as well as some of the alternative ones. The pro-Troika side fears whatever they do or don’t do with Greece will set a bad example for the rest of the Eurozone. If they bail out Greece, then other nations within the EU will expect something similar. If they kick out one nation, then the others would fear being kicked out in the future, too, including for any hidden purpose with debt burdens as an excuse to cover the real reasons. If Greece exits the Eurozone, thus the Grexit, Greece exits the European Union. How else can the Greeks stay in, as the EU is not a political union of equals but the result of an economic treaty between unequal members?

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Cold War Blues: A Review

Long overdue recognition for a nearly forgotten part of the Cold War

Image of the Amazon kindle edition cover of Jim Stark's book.

Image of the 2010 Amazon kindle edition cover of Jim Stark’s 1989 book.

Cold War Blues: The Operation Dismantle Story is unique. Jim Stark’s book is a rare and worthy addition to our history of this enigmatic and most dangerous war. First, this book is original history, i.e. a primary source, from the Cold War. It’s not a rehash of espionage dramas, combat ops, or Cuban Missile Crisis politics. It is a detailed account of this planet-wide conflict on a personal level from the anti-war camps. Specifically it addresses the rise and fall of the Operation Dismantle campaign of 1977 – 1985. What makes the book an especially novel read is it’s written in memoir fashion from the perspective of a Canadian pro-peace and anti-nuclear weapons activist, not those espousing American or Soviet viewpoints. One hears the desperation and hope of those within other nations compelled to choose sides in a glacial world war that more than once almost erupted into thermonuclear Armageddon.

Jim and his fellow Canadian activists carved or threatened to established a third front to challenge not just Soviet Communist totalitarianism but the hypocrisy and murderous arrogance of the Western Capitalist, anti-Communist regimes. “Yes, I managed to piss off both superpowers at times,” wrote Jim.[1] Operation Dismantle became a major force to be reckoned with not only in Canada but also with the Americans as it came close to stopping the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles including those quietly armed with atomic warheads into sovereign Canadian territory. Continue reading “Cold War Blues: A Review” »

The Already Thirty-Five Years’ War

1979-2014 and still counting!

Pope Francis denouncing global violence as "a piecemeal Third World War."

Pope Francis denouncing global violence as “a piecemeal Third World War” at Redipuglia Cemetery where 100,000 Italian soldiers killed in the First World War are buried in Italy near its border with Slovenia, 13 September 2014. Agence France Presse (AFP).

We have been engaged in a nearly continuous but rarely acknowledged war for thirty-five years. It began in 1979, twenty-two years before the terror attacks of 9/11. This war is fought around the globe as a patchwork of campaigns between various factions of multiple and shifting alliances. Even Pope Francis recognized this odd and gruesome conflict as a “piecemeal third world war.” Although the combat is small in scale, it has at least two characteristics of a world war: 1) the sheer number of nation-states, stateless-nations, and non-state groups engaged, and 2) fighting and bombing on every continent save Antarctica.

This war has also been called the Middle East’s version of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) due to its widespread, confusing, and desultory patterns of overlapping conflicts and aims. Yet this war is barely recognizable as one long war. Even fewer see the direct relationships between the capitalist system and warfare. The more people see and openly acknowledge we have been in an ongoing war for at least 35 years, the greater we experience a long, overdue change of perspective. The sooner more and more people recognize this long war and numerous others are driven largely by capitalism with its systemic exploitation of ethnic and religious divisions to better access and control natural resources and transportation routes, the sooner we develop strategies to end war. A deep shift in perspective may shift how we approach and resolve this conflict. First we need to see what we are doing.

The morning after airstrikes and cruise missile attacks on homes and buildings destroyed by the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in Syria with France and the U.K. planning to join the campaign against the Islamic State, 24 September 2014.

Two days after the People’s Climate March in 2,200-2,500 cities across the planet and the morning after airstrikes and cruise missile attacks on homes and buildings destroyed by the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in Syria with France and the U.K., already in Iraq, planning to join Dutch forces in the Syrian campaign against the Islamic State, 24 September 2014.

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Global Climate Disruption, Capitalism, and the Opportunity for Democratic Socialism

HUMAN-CAUSED POLLUTION, DRAMATICALLY WORSENED BY CAPITALISM, CONSISTENTLY EXCEEDS POLLUTION FROM VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS TO CAUSE SEVERE CLIMATE CHANGE INCLUDING GLACIER MELT, GLOBAL WARMING, SUPERSTORMS WITH EXTREME WEATHER AND TEMPERATURE OSCILLATIONS, AND TUNDRA THAW WITH MASSIVE METHANE RELEASE AND REVIVAL OF LONG-FROZEN PREHISTORIC MICROORGANISMS

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West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier melts into Earth’s Southern Ocean.

 

 

Antarctica and Greenland

“Remember the front page of The Seattle Times one day last week, a week ago last Monday?” I asked the other participants in the room as I held up a copy from 12 May 2014. The lead article was adorned with a dramatic photograph of West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier melting in slow yet accelerating collapse into the Southern Ocean. The image was beautiful. Huge. The photo made this crisis feel Leviathan. It felt personal. Still does. For me seeing this news report was my “Oh Shit!” moment, my big “Oh Shit!” moment.

This crisis, this moment also presents an opportunity for those of us on the Revolutionary Left. We’ve been engaged in struggles to unify the working classes and others among the 99% to build a Democratic Socialist civilization atop the wreckage of our Capitalist system for a long time. This is now our time, and it will stay our time but only if we make it so. Climate change will not wait. Capitalism will not wait as it continues to bind the world into an iron net of digital tyranny and financial despotism. The logical conclusion of Capitalism is globalized Fascism and self-destruction as what’s left of our biosphere is ruined in the desperate scramble for anything to eat, steal, sell, or blame. The twin disasters of Capitalism and climate change seem slow and twisting. Yet they accelerate toward one disaster after another. Neither crisis will wait for anyone or for anything.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, the UN IPCC, released a new and disturbing report earlier this Spring of 2014. It firmly established the primacy of anthropogenic or human-made causes of climate change over other factors. The scientists involved drove home climate change is a long-term problem with a severe impact upon our biosphere. Indeed, there will be multiple severe effects. This likely will produce unexpected surprises. Perhaps the surprises won’t be as dramatic as a world war or an extreme climate yo-yo but something more subtle such as the resurrection of dormant prehistoric bacteria and viruses released from thawing tundra.

Scientists earlier this year discovered giant viruses reanimating out in the Siberian tundra. The world is warming up. The Arctic tundra is thawing out. Methane gas is escaping from the permafrost. Frozen mammoth specimens are found in spectacular condition. And the largest known viruses, so far, are reviving. The most recent one is an enormous Siberian Pithovirus 30,000 years old. These giant viruses are still alive. They’re infecting and killing the local amoeba population. Scientists consider it easily probable other prehistoric pathogens, frozen alive for tens of thousands of years, may escape as temperatures rise to cause pandemics of deadly diseases among contemporary humans, livestock, and crops as well as wild plants and animals.

30,000 year old amoeba-killing Pithovirus from Siberia. Image by Julia Baroli & Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS/AMU, 05 March 2014.

Giant 30,000 year old amoeba-killing Pithovirus from Siberia. Image by Julia Baroli & Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS/AMU, 05 March 2014.

We are vulnerable as a species. Adaptation and preparation will prove crucial although exhausting. We’ll encounter limits as we run out of options. Most importantly, however, is we move forward with great speed and urgency to implement significant, indeed revolutionary changes. We do not have much time. We do, however, have choices and proven strategies.

A Democratic Socialist alternative, for example, will allow our species to establish a common front to address this Capitalist-induced destruction of our planet. We must first build such a unified front. Here in Seattle, those of us in the Socialist Alternative are positioned to provide leadership and inspiration to working people during this time of worldwide climate disruption. A majority of citizens recently elected Kshama Sawant, a teacher, economist, and activist in the Socialist Alternative, to the Seattle City Council in 2013 over a long-entrenched Democrat. Together with other labor activists we successfully spearheaded a rough and tumble drive to raise the minimum working wage to $15.00 an hour.

Numerous other groups are active as well in the struggle for our environment. Most of them are focused on singular issues such as stopping the coal and oil trains, tackling fracking, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, cleaning up polluted areas, and transitioning away from fossil fuels to green renewables. There has been a patchwork of local and regional successes, but many have been reduced under repeated onslaughts of Big Business as Capitalists seek to deepen their grip on our society. The Corporatocracy is relentless in its pursuit of resources to fuel its expansion of power. We’re focused, however, on local-global economic and labor issues. Yet climate change won’t wait for workers to wake up and take charge of our economy. Nor will the Capitalists in power wait for us workers to rise up. Earth’s environmental crises, however, won’t wait, not for anyone. Within the past year we Democratic Socialists achieved remarkable successes locally. We’ve been driving hard in a most difficult struggle to improve the lives of workers and their families. Economic and environmental issues are mutually intertwined. Will we take this opportunity?

Look at the picture of those melting glaciers in West Antarctica again.

James Yungel of the NASA team captured the photo. The “collapse of massive portions of the Antarctic ice sheet” appeared “inevitable.” Indeed, the speed of melting and collapse with rising seas is faster than initially feared. The epic disaster unfolding across our southernmost continent was deemed “unstoppable.” Mother Jones even shouted, “Holy Shit!”

This calamity is global. It was visible. You can see it all around without the immediate drama of human beings with their towns and cities ravaged by wars and earthquakes. Yet it could conceivably help bring an end to the current global civilization humans have built here on Earth. The melting West Antarctic ice sheets reinforce the idea global climate change, including global warming, is really global climate disruption.

Continue reading “Global Climate Disruption, Capitalism, and the Opportunity for Democratic Socialism” »

Response to a Concerned Small Business Owner over 15 NOW

Earlier this month I posted a link on one of my social media sites to an essay I wrote the night before, “Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!” Among the people who responded along a spectrum between yes and no were two from my native state of Virginia. Let’s call one of them Brigid, which, of course, is not her real name. Brigid, a progressive liberal more radical than many and as mellow as a Summer pond at twilight, expressed concern about us activists moving too fast to raise the minimum wage. She thought proponents for $15 now would be wise to slow down and take more time. After all, why rush it and mess it up for all of us?

More captivating, however, was a wrenching inquiry from a friend of mine back East. He was a small business owner who ran a small but bustling bakery and café. My friend, let’s call him Isaac, declared raising the minimum wage up to $15 an hour “would put” him “out of business in one month.” Unless, he said, he jacked up his prices. I could hear him as he pounded his fist upon the countertop as he continued. “The socialist-workers rights-stick-it-to-the-man person in me loves it, but I am the man here. This seriously would break me,” he wrote. “Why do this if prices just rise in concert with pay?”

Continue reading “Response to a Concerned Small Business Owner over 15 NOW” »

Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!

Fight for 15, Fight for the Working Class, Fight for Justice, Fight for Freedom. Solidarity!

Fight for 15, Fight for the Working Class, Fight for Justice, Fight for Freedom. Solidarity!

Those who argue against raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour do not get it. These naysayers spin broken webs of economic facts and figures rooted not in the reality of our natural environment but inside the charts and computer algorithms of a virtual world divorced from physical reality. It’s not about the money. I want to stand up and shout, “It’s not about the money; it’s about people! Real live human beings! It’s about relationships, our relationships! It’s about class war.”

Life is Struggle. The working classes get life is a struggle. So do artists and small business owners. So do the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the foreclosed, the laid off, the poorly paid, the uneducated, the overeducated, students deep in debt, the hungry, the sick, the pissed off.

This is part of our struggle to build Democratic Socialism. As such we seek to remove banksters and Corporacrats from power. Get them out of out of politics and government. We work to reclaim democracy from the grip of the rich. We intend to go further and put democracy and justice into business, into the workplace, and into the marketplace.

This struggle is part of finishing what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., started. He knew we couldn’t have political democracy until we also have economic democracy. This is not about the stupidity of self-righteous fools who ridicule the spelling and grammar of hardworking low-wage workers such as myself, but for democracy based upon human rights and social responsibilities instead of property rights and financial violence.

We understand this is an issue of ethics and even morals. We get in a way sheltered pundits do not the Great Global Recession did not end in 2009. Indeed, this worldwide almost-Second Great Depression continues to grind on and on without any clear end in sight. These are hard times for large numbers of people from the poor to the middle.

Remember bad times don’t last forever. We must remember our victories during times of discouragement. We must remind ourselves during those moments when we just wanna quit all this will pass. So, yes, stop and rest a bit. Then get back up and keep going. Because we’ve already come a helluva long way! We learn, adapt, and adjust. Together we recalibrate, grow, and evolve. Ours is the search for what works and best serves us thru inquiry, action, results, and analysis. It is the Dialectical process.

You keep going. We all keep going. We go. Action is better than indulging in cynicism, apathy, and do-nothingism. Struggle serves to move us hard working people from enduring ever more suffering-to-barely-survive to rise up to stand in our power and thrive.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us in the last speech he made before he was assassinated he’s “been to the mountaintop,” he stood up there and looked over and saw the Promised Land. He knew all of us would get there. We will get there, and we will get there together!

 

William Dudley Bass
8-9 April 2014
Seattle, Washington
Cascadia

See:

Fight for a $15/hour Minimum Wage, <https://www.15now.org>.

Sign up here ASAP to register for the national conference scheduled for Saturday 26 April 2014 for raising the minimum wage: Onto the Ballot, Into the Streets, <https://www.15now.org/april-26>.

Let’s unite and give each other our support!

Also see William  Bass’s earlier article, “Raise the Minimum Wage,” with its extensive list of Sources, at <http://williamdudleybass.com/raise-the-minimum-wage>.

***

Copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass.

All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship

of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons.

Thank you.

 

Blundering into Armageddon

Are our leaders mad? Are they deliberately setting the stage for a series of interlocking wars and economic collapses? All to look like accidents? Our leaders’ heartless mistakes of opportunity may indeed wipe out millions, even billions. For what? Are they are prepared to absorb extreme costs as the price to pay for extreme victory? Or are our leaders clueless? Are they just fucking stupid? Reacting with military precision directed with sloppy, nationalistic stupidity to converging crises overwhelming common sense, good judgment, and cooperative intelligence? And what the hell are We the People gonna do? Are we going to just read about it in a tweet the next day after half the world blows up? “Good morning! 1/2 earth blown up…the end looks better n movies & cool, i can still tweet!”

Continue reading “Blundering into Armageddon” »

Violence and Nonviolence are Tools

Is Nonviolence a Tactic, Policy, or Principle?

Is Violence Pragmatic and Necessary?

Both can be ineffective. Both can be effective.

It’s not Violence vs. Nonviolence.

It’s Violence and Nonviolence, and

how they’re leveraged for success.

Violence, nonviolence, and civil disobedience are tools in the great struggle against tyranny and oppression. They have been used in the great class war against the Global Financial and Political Elites. They still are. These tools are strategies and tactics based upon values and principles. Violence and nonviolence are no more anything else than the term Global War on Terrorism is rife with misnomers. Terror is a feeling. It’s an immediate physiological response to a reactive emotion. Flight or fight or freeze and still piss your pants. Terrorism is a tactic in crime and war. It’s been pointed out repeatedly one cannot wage a military campaign against tactics. Instead, one does so with strategies and tactics against enemies using terror as a tactic.

Many of us confuse nonviolence with being a rigid “thing.” Growing numbers of people continue to feel inspired by the fierce stands Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., took for nonviolence. Ironically, both were murdered almost 20 years apart during periods of violent civil strife. Their deaths sparked even greater outbreaks of violence.

Even so, many people view nonviolence as an inviolate colonnade of pillars holding up temples of peace as if such abstractions of mind existed out in the physical world. Nonviolence, a tool, has come to be regarded as religious doctrine by many people. Instead of a tactic, however, it’s another invisible but real, to them, flying buttress supporting the invisible architecture of an abstract cathedral. By doing so, these believers in the holiness of this abstract tool risk bringing everything they stand for collapsing down upon them in bloody ruin.

The proponents of nonviolence, upholding Gandhi and King and even Buddha and Jesus, often dismiss or suppress any challenge to nonviolence. Who would dare question nonviolence? I imagine the Global Elites and the security and intelligence apparatus under their control appreciate being the only ones to dispense violence while not receiving any in turn. Nonviolence helps keeps them in power.

Don’t make any abstraction of mind so rigid an ideology it cripples effective action. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, religion, economics, or tradition. Those nouns, those words stand for concepts with definitions held within the abstract mind. Which means we make it all up in our heads and call it “real.” If enough people agree yes, it’s real indeed, and then we label it “consensual reality.” And so we go, as brilliantly collapsed as ever. All abstractions are tools.

The most effective toolboxes have a modest variety of choices. It is the same during resistance against oppression and struggles for justice, equality, and liberty. We struggle against the class war of the financial elites, against institutionalized racism, corporatism, sexism, corruption, and fascism. We struggle for social, environmental, and economic justice. We struggle for power. Aye, we struggle for the power to determine our own lives together.

Continue reading “Violence and Nonviolence are Tools” »

Raise the Minimum Wage

It’s not about the Money

Up Close and Uncompromising! The front of one of the famous Red T-Shirts worn by volunteers for Kshama Sawant's Socialist Alternative Campaign for Seattle City Council, Position 2, the 5th of November 2013. Photo by William Dudley Bass.

Up Close and Uncompromising! The front of one of the famous Red T-Shirts worn by volunteers for Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative Campaign for Seattle City Council, Position 2, the 5th of November 2013. Photo by William Dudley Bass.

Those who argue against raising the minimum wage do not get it. The naysayers spin broken webs of economic facts and figures rooted not in the reality of our natural environment but inside the charts and computer algorithms of a virtual world divorced from physical reality. It’s not about the money. I want to stand up and shout, “It’s not about the money; it’s about people! Real live human beings!”

I really want to jump up and yell, “It’s not about money, you insert language most foul!” Such verbal intensity, however deliciously vulgar, would just rile up the troll militias, so I won’t cuss here. It’s challenging enough to feel compassion and empathy for my fellow human beings, including those who exhibit cruelty and heartless stupidity. No matter. We all suffer. Everyone single one of us experiences suffering. Life is Struggle.

The working classes get life is a struggle. So do artists and small business owners. So do the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the foreclosed, the laid off, the poorly paid, the uneducated, the overeducated, students deep in debt, the hungry, the sick, the pissed off. Reformers understand action is better than indulging in cynicism, apathy, and do-nothingism. Revolutionaries understand reform only goes so far before it dead ends in a mirage. Struggle serves to move the working classes from enduring ever more suffering to survive to rising up to stand in their power and thrive.

During these bleak but exciting times I volunteered for Kshama Sawant’s openly Socialist campaign for Seattle City Council. I joined with other veterans of the Occupy Uprisings from the Green Party of Seattle and the Seattle branches of the Socialist Alternatives to serve to get her elected. Other Socialist Alternatives ran strong campaigns elsewhere, especially Ty Moore in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It proved a tight race. Still counting ballots days after the Election. We rocked the city and made waves across the nation. Ripples were felt around the world. It was an astonishing experience. A small, highly disciplined organization raised well over $110,000 and marshaled over 300 volunteers, many of them part-time volunteers such as myself. What helped us stand out in addition to our red t-shirts was our uncompromising stand for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.

Continue reading “Raise the Minimum Wage” »

Our Current Capitalist-Fascist System as Faux Democracy vs. Neo-Communism and True Democracy

This is an unfinished work in progress. Thank you.

Perceptions

Perceptions Matter. What People think is true but isn’t vs. What’s so & thus is true vs. What’s possible, especially for us to create once we learn to work together.

Continue reading “Our Current Capitalist-Fascist System as Faux Democracy vs. Neo-Communism and True Democracy” »

Lessons from Class Warfare and the Death of Occupy

An Analysis of the Successes and Failures of the Occupy Uprising, Occupy’s Comparison with Previous Recent U.S. Revolts, and What’s Likely to Occur Next

Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Earth! Occupy Love! What is our one Demand? WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND?

Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Earth! Occupy Love! What is our one Demand? WHAT IS OUR ONE DEMAND? Image altered from the Commons.

Occupy, of course, is not dead. The residue of the movement continues to smolder among the ruins of the Great Global Recession. An occasional flare-up bursts forth in protest here and there. In the underground of cyberspace, however, there lives a vibrant hum of activity. Instead of dramatic visibility in parks and streets, many in the Occupy movement carried their ideals, values, and freshly exercised practices away to their homes, farms, businesses, and neighborhoods.

A new alternative civilization is emerging from the osmosis of Occupy into the greater culture at large. A good term to describe this organic yet deliberate dynamic planetary community is the Breakthru Civilization. We’re breaking thru old paradigms and ways of being that no longer serve humanity as these obsolete ways aid in the destruction of life on Earth. Breakthru from love and respect for life to love and respect our selves, one another, and our planet. It is a difficult challenge to move forward towards hate, fear, and violence with compassion, forgiveness, and love armed with nothing more than aware minds, open hearts, and firm backbones. Yet this Breakthru accelerates the expansion of individual awareness and mass consciousness to understand and embrace Socialism as perhaps the only immediate alternative to the current system dominated by Capitalism and corporatist fascism.

The number of activists has dwindled since those promising days from September 2011 to May 2012. They certainly no longer reflect the greater 99%. Instead, Americans woke up to the reality of economic inequality and class war. Occupy called attention to this invisibly visible ugliness so vividly the topic of class warfare was debated among Republicans and Democrats during the 2012 Presidential Elections. Yet Occupy itself subsided into the nooks and crannies of local neighborhoods.

What happened? Especially after so much occurred in the beginning to astonish and galvanize people around our planet?

Before I answer those questions, we must acknowledge and celebrate Occupy’s multiple successes. Occupy left enough of a significant impact, certainly in the short term as this story has yet to run its course, to perhaps catalyze a larger and more multifaceted transformation than is often realized. It’s still too new. So let’s celebrate a few successes:

"The Extreme Inequality is Killing us - our Commons, our Democracy." Syd Fredrickson in Occupy Seattle, October 8, 2011.

“The Extreme Inequality is Killing us – our Commons, our Democracy.” Syd Fredrickson of the Green Party in Occupy Seattle, 8 October 2011. Photo by William Bass.

Continue reading “Lessons from Class Warfare and the Death of Occupy” »

Headless Sally

Ghost Hunting amid the Echoes of Tragedy and Carnage at Saylor’s Creek

Midnight came and went across the woods and fields of a 118-year old Civil War battlefield. With a firm grip on powerful flashlights turned off, we crept along the edge of the bridge and peered downstream into the darkness for ghosts. Well, for a specific ghost in particular, a ghost named Headless Sally. The three of us stood there in the dark feeling stupid and scared all at once. It was cold, too, down there in the damp mini-valley of Saylor’s Creek. A full moon hung in the sky casting shadows through trees and thickets leafless in Winter.

Earlier during the day we had agreed to hunt for Headless Sally under a full moon in a relatively clear and calm night sky. Luna draws out the madness in people, draws out mindless ghosts questing about on soulless autopilot, the objects of long-faded desires lost to spiritual dementia. And here we were, three Witches of Silverwood, leaning over the bridge railing facing downstream looking for the ghost of a floating head or perhaps her headless torso. We were confident of our abilities to protect ourselves against harmful or mischievous spirit entities. Besides, we figured after midnight on a cold weeknight there would be far less traffic on a lonely country road to disturb our focus than earlier in the day or on a weekend.

We have visited with ghosts nearby at the Hillsman Farmhouse at the epicenter of the Battle of Saylor’s Creek. Fought on Thursday 6 April 1865, as heavy rains fell and the creek rose, the fields, woods, creeks, and farms were the scene of a ferocious and savage three-part battle between Confederates and Federals. American Civil War combat was often at close quarters with severe injuries from up-close discharges of firearms and artillery as well as hand-to-hand fighting.

The Hillsman home was occupied by the Federals and used as a battlefield hospital. The family and servants there were forced downstairs into the basement, but afterwards helped dig mass graves for the dead. I don’t know if the “servants” were Black slaves, lowly-paid Whites, or White indentured servants. Indentured servants as an institution, shockingly enough, endured in the U.S.A. until 1917, long after slavery itself was legally abolished. Few narratives from Civil War battles more than mentioned the presence of slaves as if they were a bothersome afterthought.

The medical staff operated on screaming Union and Confederate wounded without question. Stories were told of so many amputations deemed necessary as the gory battle unfolded, the pile of severed limbs and body parts tossed out the windows reached up to the windowsills. Soft lead Minié ball bullets tore large holes through soft tissue and shattered bones. Cannons firing loaded canisters bursting with lead and iron balls packed in sawdust mowed down troops on both sides.

Sanitation was unknown, and this lack of hygiene helped generate severe rates of infections such as gangrene. Doctors and nurses, including surgeons, may care for their patients and feel passionate for their professions, yes. Their knowledge and technologies, unfortunately, were surprisingly Medieval during what many historians consider the first Modern, Industrial Age war. No wonder so many ghosts haunted the area. Sally, however, didn’t die in the war.

Continue reading “Headless Sally” »

Sleeping with Ghosts on the Appalachian Trail

Ruminations, Romance, and the Lives of a Family Long Dead

Story and Photographs by William Dudley Bass

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

In late May 1991, almost three months into our odyssey along the Appalachian Trail, my wife and I planned to sleep among ghosts. Old-timey Virginia ghosts. It seemed like a fitting thing to do while walking across our home state, a journey as rich with rumination as it was with hardship and joy.

Gwen and I had embarked on the first day of spring from the top of Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to backpack the whole Appalachian Trail end to end. The AT, as we hikers called it, or simply “the Trail,” stretches more than 2,000 miles northwards across 14 states to the summit of mile-high Mt. Katahdin in north-central Maine. Almost a quarter of the Trail passes through the Old Dominion, making Virginia home to the longest section of the AT, more than any other state. Gwen and I took six-and-a-half months to backpack the whole Trail, climbing Katahdin in early October on the day after our third wedding anniversary.

Rich in both history and wildlife, the Appalachian Trail is an intersection of people and wilderness. Those who backpack end-to-end in one push are known as “thruhikers,” while those who attempt to complete the whole thing in stages are called “section hikers.” Most take on trail names. Gwen and I were thruhikers, as such a distinct minority among the day hikers, weekenders, and picnickers. We called ourselves the Pregnant Rhinos.

Our trail name arose from a backpacking trip out West the previous year, when we got teased about the huge new internal-frame expedition packs bulging from our backs. “Damn, y’all look like a coupla pregnant rhinoceroses,” exclaimed a teenage boy, his own rickety, external-frame pack jangling with pots and pans and sloppy blankets.

Continue reading “Sleeping with Ghosts on the Appalachian Trail” »

Skipping Rocks at Carkeek Park

Blended Family Fun on the Beach just after Sunset

Morgan & Talia at Play

~ Summer of 2004 ~

All photographs by William Dudley Bass.

Click upon any photo to expand it. Click again to make it bigger! Click the return arrow to go back to the previous page to the photo’s original size.

Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, June 2004.

Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, Wednesday 16 June 2004.

Kristina, my partner at the time, and I discovered one of the best ways to blend our quirky families was to play together. Shared activities made any chore much more fun and the play a hooty wild blast. Sometimes we played rough, too. My kids and I called wrestling with Daddy “rumble tumble.” Kate was the roughest, although Talia enjoyed a good tumble, too, until she decided she didn’t appreciate a particular move. Morgan didn’t care for such forceful fun. She was a more gentle, restrained, and patient player who valued eccentric, witty goofiness over “play fightin’.”

Continue reading “Skipping Rocks at Carkeek Park” »

The Lost Creek Monster

Did a Sasquatch tear up the woods between two Virginia farms?

The mystery of this strange event has never been solved. Recent scientific discoveries and claims, however, may provide the inquisitive with clues.

It’s springtime in Virginia. The year is either 1967 or 1968, and possibly as late as 1972. My memory of time and dates from long-ago events are a little hazy these days. Not the incidents and sequences of events, however long ago they occurred. These events are crystal clear in the “documentary film” of my memories.

A giant and mysterious beast went berserk in the woods shared by two intermarried family farms. The destruction was extensive and required immediate repair. We farmers kept our herds of cows and heifers separate to prevent them from getting all mixed up. Both farms had planned to turn loose their herds into adjacent fields separated by the fences along Lost Creek. Compounding the mystery was odd feeling the destruction appeared to be far more playful than malicious. Or perhaps it was a warning?

Maybe there was more than one entity. Perhaps a small family of these unknown monsters was responsible for the bizarre rampage. At the time people, adults as well as us kids, thought a tornado was the most likely culprit even if a tornado made no sense at all as there were no storms. So we imagined a giant, troll-like creature and named it the Lost Creek Monster. We certainly hoped if there really was such a beast there was only one at most. Feeling a bit superstitious, we nonetheless prayed the monster would leave us alone. Especially if it was the Devil. But we were just as afraid of God.

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Out of My Body and Across the Sea

Once I had an OBE, an Out-of-Body-Experience, and flew across the sea. There were a few times I am certain I had other OBEs, one bordering on a NDE or Near-Death Experience. This particular OBE had one significant difference, though, that distinguished it from all the others. As of March 2013, this event remains the only time I managed to intentionally astral travel. All of my other OBEs were unintentional and spontaneous. This particular astral journey was startling in its clarity. I remember it vividly many years later as if it happened yesterday.

During my time as a Wiccan, I was exposed to a number of practices and paranormal phenomena at odds with mainstream orthodox science. Among these were strange “things” called astral projection, astral travel, or out-of-body experiences. They are different terms for the same phenomena. One could dismiss such things as magical thinking, a level of psycho-spiritual and socio-cultural evolutionary development considered inferior. Magical thinking is a cluster of different religious and psychological belief systems wrapped up in elements of what many deride as “superstition.”

The one primary distinction shared within this cluster is the idea thinking certain thoughts either intentionally or unintentionally generates actions and events in the outer or “real” world of matter and energy. Research into psychic phenomena and brain waves demonstrate the power of focused mental energy to affect change in the environment beyond the body. Meditation, prayer, casting spells, calling down old Deities, and focused ESP represent different examples of focused mental power.

There is still much to learn regarding the mysteries of consciousness. The experience of Afterlife beings raises questions about definitions of life, especially beyond biological death. None of this mattered to those who feared for my soul, however, as they were sure these “things” were real. My Fundamentalist Christian friends and a few family members swore I was deluded by the Devil and flying straight down into Hell.

One afternoon, however, regardless of Heaven or Hell or the Levels In Between, I faced my fears and deliberately left my body for what proved to be an exciting adventure.

Continue reading “Out of My Body and Across the Sea” »

Doppelganger Among the Cows

Once I saw a doppelganger, although I wasn’t aware of it until the next day. This mysterious event still baffles my mind. Strange and still unresolved questions were raised for which “hoax” would be the easiest yet least likely answer. There are questions regarding the possibility for the bilocation of matter, especially biological organisms, at high levels of material cohesion. Can a person split themselves at will or unconsciously? Other questions provoke inquiries into the evidence consciousness extends beyond our living bodyminds as well as continues, at least for a while, after death. One may speculate as well upon the spiritual ramifications of doppelgangers.

I was not the only witness that warm, sunny afternoon. First, however, what is a doppelganger? Yeah, what the heck is that? And is it dangerous? There’s no way this was a hoax. Well, a hoax is highly unlikely. I’ll explain why further down in this article.

Doppelgangers have existed in myths and legends since Ancient Times. I’d never given the phenomena much attention or credibility prior to this event. Yet my wife and I and others witnessed a doppelganger. Later that afternoon, one man even worked unknowingly alongside this doppelganger. When the man discovered he had done so, he freaked out and prayed feverishly to God so he wouldn’t be snatched up by the Devil and flung down into the fires and stench of Hell.

Continue reading “Doppelganger Among the Cows” »

Summer Twilight of the Burning Sky

The following anomalous event occurred one summer in the early 1970s in rural Prince Edward County, south-central Virginia. It remains unexplained.

This weird incident happened about five or six years after my family and I experienced an unidentified flying ship over the fields and woods behind our farmhouse. Those two experiences may have nothing to do with each other except both were strange and were dismissed, ridiculed, or explained away by our American Government.

Our paranoid Cold War fears intensified after the anomaly occurred this particular hot and sweaty summer evening. I was a young teenager back then. A group of us kids played outside in a grassy cow pasture between my house and the neighbors’. Joe, my younger brother, was running around with us, too. Our parents were out and about in their respective yards. The fireflies were already out, winking on and off along the edge of the woods bordering the field even though there was still plenty of light left. We called ’em lightnin’ bugs. We jerked alert as we found ourselves and everything around us bathed in glowing light. It happened fast. BOOM without sound.

“Whoa, look!” shouted one friend in awe. “Look at the sky!”

“Oh, wow!”

“What the hell is that?”

“I sure don’t think it’s Jesus comin’ back. Don’t hear no trumpets a blowin’.”

“Trumpets, shit. Maybe the Russians are bombin’ us.”

“Or aliens from Outer Space!”

“Whoa, look at that! Hey, over there, too. Oh man, the sky’s on fire!”

Continue reading “Summer Twilight of the Burning Sky” »

Call of the Divine down by the Clothesline

Our culture is riven with wounds. The linguistic tapestries woven from many of our stories arise from psychological, emotional, social, and physical trauma. Ken Woodley, a man who once attended the same small, all-male college as I did went on to advocate for deep racial and social healing between Blacks and Whites in Virginia and across America. From his position as Editor of The Farmville Herald, the local newspaper in Prince Edward County where he still works, he once stated, “We are not responsible for a lot of the wounds we find, but we can be responsible for the healing.”

Healing of such magnitude begins with awareness and presence. Healing of any kind demands such presence. Awareness begins with waking up. Dreams aren’t any good unless you wake up to take action to make your dreams come true.

I remember when I first woke up.

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Goat-Headed Devil in a Black Tuxedo

Ancient image of Cernunnos on the silver Gundestrop Cauldron created by Celtic craftsmen during the European Iron Age. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Ancient image of Cernunnos on the silver Gundestrop Cauldron created by Celtic craftsmen during the European Iron Age. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

A Modern image of the Horned God of the Wiccans dispayed in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the UK. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

A Modern image of the Horned God of the Wiccans dispayed in the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the UK. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

 

What transpired is true and cannot be proven.

Once upon a time in the deep dark of night my first wife Margaret and I walked in the door of our home and saw a goat-headed devil sitting in the chair watching us with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap. Scared the bejesus out of us, too. We didn’t know what in Hell this creature was other than it was male. He certainly challenged our religious, psycho-spiritual, and cultural upbringing.

Thick, smoky fog oozed through the woods and draped the open fields. Down the hill beyond the bluffs snaked Big and Little Sandy Rivers. It wasn’t too cold, but the damp chill made the fog drip with hypothermia. Margaret and I arrived home close to midnight. We’d been out at a gathering celebrating Goddess and God with the other Witches of Silverwood Circle. Our group was a Neo-Pagan Celtic Wiccan coven in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

My wife, well, she was my first wife, was the Inner Flamenca or High Priestess of Silverwood. Our close friend, Paul, was the Inner Flamen or High Priest. We preferred “Inner” instead of  “High” to promote ideas of going deep into the mysteries rather than someone being superior above others. The terms “flamen” and “flamenca” derived from Latin words for Roman priests and priestesses responsible for the sacred flames of Gods and Goddesses. They’re not as common in Wiccan usage these days, but some Celtic Wiccans preferred the Roman words to distinguish themselves from Neo-Celtic Druids.

The closer we approached our home the colder and clammier everything seemed. We felt open psychically, perhaps too much so, for we had relatively little training in the arts of psychic and spiritual self-defense. We were beginning to encounter spiritual entities for which we were unprepared to meet.

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Ghosts and Hauntings at the Old Bass Family Farmhouse

 

Old Bass Family Farmhouse on a visit to Virginia from Seattle, December 2005. Foto by William Bass.

Old Bass Family Farmhouse on a visit to Virginia from Seattle, December 2005. Foto by William Bass.

A ghost, yes, an invisible ghost, scared me nearly all to pieces once upon a time back when I was a little kid. I was young, so you can laugh if you wanna, but I was well read and smart, too for being such a squirt. The way that ol’ ghost stomped down the hallway of an old farmhouse in my direction freaked me out. Made my big Frankenstein hearing aid SCREAM. I could hear this ghost, too. I could feel it, feel both the vibrations of the stomps and the cold blob of air moving along with it.

I was a young boy back in the mid-to-late1960s sometime. I don’t remember how many years old I was or what grade I attended in school. What I do recall, however, was the weather. It was Summertime. Lush, green Summertime! It must’ve been between grades. I reckon I was in late elementary school or maybe even early middle. Not sure. But it was Summer that I know. And a ghost scared the bedoobus outa my insides. This true story began late one afternoon.

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Amend the Second Amendment: An Immodest Proposal

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This is the second of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, those collectively regarded as the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment was ratified on December 15, 1791. That’s a little more than fifteen years after the American Declaration of Independence and eight years after the Peace Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolutionary War. It became known as the “Right to Bear Arms” amendment.

Note the Constitution lacks any direct reference to individual self-defense.  Instead we have a muddled Second Amendment that declares a stand for the right to bear Arms. Not swords, battle-axes, legs, or cannon, but arms as in firearms as in guns. It doesn’t proclaim a right to self-defense. Indeed, there is not any reference whatsoever to any right of self-defense. Which is interesting, isn’t it?

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Big Belly Cigarette Smoking Man Swimming in Winter

The Author staring across Puget Sound towards the Olympics from the beaches of Carkeek Park, Seattle. This foto is not from the same time as the essay, it was taken years later on 6 November 2011 by Kate Bass, but it captures the chill of the story as the slide fotos of the actual event were lost in the 2010 house fire.

The Author staring across Puget Sound towards the Olympics from the beaches of Carkeek Park, Seattle. This foto is not from the same time as the essay, it was taken years later on 6 November 2011 by Kate Bass, but it captures the chill of the story as the slide fotos of the actual event were lost in the 2010 house fire.

One bitter cold sunny day I came upon a tall, balding man standing on the beach wearing nothing but a skimpy Speedo swimsuit and smoking cigarettes. He had an enormous belly, a tremendous leviathan of a belly; the kind of tight power belly a big man could even feel proud of. Yet he moved like James Bond in the movies. He smoked like Humphrey Bogart used to in the movies, too. Him and Katherine Hepburn, remember? This man stood barefoot before me in sand, pebbles, and broken seashells as he gazed across the Salish Sea from the shores of Carkeek Park. I estimated he was a youngish sixty. An icy breeze sliced through my coat and stung my cheeks.

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Guns, Madness, and Mass Shootings as the Perfect Storm of Blowback hits Mount Rainier


U.S. veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, proud of his guns, in
a photo from Pierce County Sheriff Department archives. Note
the high-capacity magazine clips on both firearms.

This undated photo provided by Mount Rainier National Park shows park Ranger Margaret Anderson. Anderson, 34, was fatally shot Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, according to the National Park Service.
Ranger Margaret Anderson, Mount Rainier
National Park, Washington State. Photo
from MRNP archives.

New Year’s Day 2012 began as if Doomsday had arrived way too early from out of the prophesized Mayan Apocalypse. By the time the one-man war of Army veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes ended, two people are dead with four more injured, two of them critically wounded, three children left without parents, and communities across the United States, including Mount Rainier National Park were devastated. It’s almost a year, too, after Rep. Gabby Giffords and a number of others were shot with many killed in Tucson, Arizona. Excuse my lack of professionalism, but WTF?

In grotesque mockery of its own Constitution, the United States Government continues its overreaching neo-imperial agenda. We invade Iraq for the oil, for revenge against Saddam, and to outflank Iran and thumb our noses at Russia and China. We spend more money on our military than the next 17 countries combined. Yet we don’t help our veterans. And anytime you send people into combat, battles, and wars, guess what? Real, live human beings – men, women, and children are killed and maimed, often in horrific manner. Many in our Armed Forces return with damaged minds. Not everyone, but many more than most admit.

Since our government is so deep in debt and has been played by the banksters, it implements austerity measures and cuts services. National Park services get cut. Rangers get less support.

Bankster and corporatocratic manipulation of finances, markets, political elections, and government leads to illegal wars and economic disruption.

Illegal wars are still real wars. Our young men and women kill and injure other human beings. Many of our men and women are themselves killed and injured. All survivors witness great destruction. The Americans return home, and some of them break down, fall apart, and go crazy. And usually not in ways that engender sympathy.

A government short on money begins by cutting then chopping services. “Our” Federal Government begins by eviscerating federal institutions. Not nearly enough health care is provided for our veterans and their families, especially psychotherapy and counseling. It’s easier, faster, and cheaper to build flashy new weapons and weapons systems. Other federal services get cut, including the national park service.

Benjamin Colton Barnes was a former soldier in the United States Army. He served in the Iraq campaigns of 2007-2008 during the Global Long War on Terror. A private first class, he served in communications while deployed into Iraq. Barnes was also released from the military with a misconduct discharge for a string of offenses.

At a New Year’s Eve 2011 party in Skyway, a satellite town on the edge of the Greater Seattle Pugetopolis, Washington State, a number people brought guns including military weaponry to show off, brag, and posture. The rest of us would likely call them “gun nuts,” a term I reserve NOT for those who respect the firearms they collect and the responsibilities the right to possess a firearm demands, but for those who are immature, violent, and spoiling for a fight. The latter are consumed with egoitis. Barnes was at the party with several hot dates, all of them guns.

Posturing and bragging led to bruised egos. The ego is easily wounded when one’s skin is so thin. Arguments escalated into threats escalated into a gun battle. The details remain murky, but so far it appears Barnes took on the others, big bad soldier from Iraq he is, or was. In the ensuing firefight Barnes shot four people. Two of them were grievously injured and remain in critical care.

Barnes fled the party early in the morning of 1 January 2012. He drove off in a car with guns, knives, ammo, and survival gear. He raced into Mount Rainier National Park to hide out in the middle of the Cascade Mountains. Mt. Rainier remains one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, is more massive of a mountain than any of those in the Himalayans, and soars skyward to 4,392 meters or 14,411 feet above sea level. The Mountain dominates the Pacific Northwest and is the black hole of severe winter storms. It receives astounding amounts of precipitation. Its vast slopes are blanked with heavy, deep snow, thick forests, and icy glaciers.

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Fear and Paranoia: Down Out of the UFO Attic

UFOs are taboo.

To be more precise, as Unidentified Flying Objects seem to come and go as they please and not when and where as we would expect or even like, it is the topic of UFOs which is taboo. This includes many squirmy topics, which may or may not be completely true nor completely false, such as: shape-shifting and transforming objects, alien abductions with grotesque medical, genetic, and sexual experiments, mutilations of animals including cattle, horses, and humans, USOs or UUOs (Unidentified Submersible Objects or Unidentified Underwater Objects), secret underground and underwater bases, soul harvesting, anomalies on the Moon and on Mars and elsewhere which appear to be the ruins of vastly ancient civilizations, mysterious orbs, biomechanical or cyborg ships, Cold War conspiracies, ridicule by the authorities, stupidity in the media, cover-ups by hypercompartmentalized entities within or outside the military/security-industrial/corporate-education/prison-intelligence/surveillance complex, extraterrestrial and/or interdimensional species and technologies, free energy, and secret weapons.

There are allegations by whistleblowers and others in or who used to be in the militaries, intelligence agencies, scientific institutions, and other reputable organizations around the planet about and for these things. There are the so-called “black projects” within Unacknowledged Special Access Programs (USAPs). A deluge of documents has been declassified by a number of governments that demonstrate a significant and prolonged interest in a mystery otherwise dismissed and debunked in public.

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Violence: After Newtown

There are days and there are nights when the best way to face horror and tragedy is to go right into it, into the pain, and not turn away.

The recent gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, touches us all on some level as our lives are so intertwined. A young man, Adam Lanza, sick with perhaps more than one illness, shot dead 20 young boys and girls, seven adults, and then took his own life. His illnesses are termed “psychological” or “mental” even though all such disorders stem from the body as mind arises from brain activity. Reports claim he shot many of these people numerous times. He was so accurate with his gun that there were no survivors among those he shot.

Police reports claim he used a Bushmaster .223 caliber Remington AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle. It’s a demilitarized version of the Army’s Vietnam-era M16 and is categorized as an assault rifle. Our national ban on assault rifles expired in 2004. Adam Lanza also allegedly carried two handguns and several hundred rounds of ammunition including high-capacity magazines for the Bushmaster. He stole these weapons from his mother, a registered gun owner, whom he killed first.

Regardless of deep emotions and strong beliefs inflamed by such murders, this massacre of schoolchildren as young as six and seven years old aroused a nation. Indeed, it aroused the world. We are once again reminded that even though we divide ourselves over politics, religion, and ethnicity, we are still one species sharing one planet.

Many issues are at stake here. What is most striking is even though so many people have staked out rigid positions on the various issues; many more are willing to engage in dialogue about them for solutions. That is good news and feels long overdue.

Let me name the dragons we finally have the courage to face as a nation. Keep in mind that to name something is to identify it and to some degree rob it of its power. To name something is to respond without reacting and thus we take on being responsible. By taking on responsibility, especially after first accepting what has happened even if we don’t like it, we become cause in the matter, not victims of circumstance.

Below I name our dragons:

This is an issue of emotionally laden language between groups of people who label each other “gun nuts” versus “gun grabbers.” The issue is the capacity and the willingness to set such divisive blame and shame language aside, or the incapacity and unwillingness for people to do so. Can we stop calling each other names?

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A Wild Kayak Adventure Down Slickrock Creek

Wanna hammer down a creek few have ever paddled? Flush through crooked, boulder-strewn chutes and delicately pick your route down Class 5 Wildcat Falls as you drop off the edge of the world into forever? Then throw away your guidebooks and come south prepared to hike in with your boat. You won’t forget this big, open secret as you rassle with the River Gods to turn it loose. This little bugger roars.

April 4,1989. We were deep in the lush, virgin forests of the Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness putting onto a stream we knew very little about. None of us had hiked it, and we only knew a handful of other NOC boaters who had paddled it. Rain had been falling steadily, and we were looking for something different. Steepcreekin’ in Appalachia is Southeastern tradition, and part of the fun is seeking out and paddling remote and seldom run descents. As thunderstorms rolled over the mountains and feeling as if we were in a jungle, we knew we were in for dangerous adventures in a mysterious whitewater gorge.

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Overflow! Reflections on Kayaking Class 5 Overflow Creek

Jeff going "singless" running Singley's Falls.

Jeff going “singless” running Singley’s Falls.

We expected extreme whitewater. We knew we were all skilled paddlers, climbers, and hikers and could handle ourselves in the wilderness. We were trained in river rescue. We just had no idea our party of four kayakers would get stuck in a confrontation with the Grim Reaper deep in a remote Appalachian gorge as the Sun slid down behind the tallest trees.

In the pages of North Carolina Canoeing, Bob Sehlinger and Don Otey write of the notoriously wild Chattooga River, “If Section IV bores you, try Overflow Creek.” They declared it was for  “boaters with…a little insanity.”

Such crazy madness was the predicament the four of us found ourselves in one sunny, warm afternoon: were we really all that bored with Section IV? Heck, after all, the Chattooga was at a romping 2.8 feet on the gauge. In the end we figured we were indeed bored with Section IV and probably not quite all there in the head, either. Though we were much more of a humble and calm team. We were just more on the spiritually cool side of gonzo.

Truth be told, we mainly wanted relief from rowdy crowds congregating along Section III that day for the recent International Peace Rally hosted by the Nantahala Outdoor Center. As much as we enjoyed partying with the Soviets and Costa Ricans, when it came down to the water, we were seekers of solitude. So off into the wilderness of North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest we went.

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Running Towards the Quiet Roar of the Dharma

I felt swallowed by suffering into the giant maw of a monstrous lion. Over the past few years I’ve lost almost everything but life, and even that was in question at times. In the midst of such suffering I learned to run towards the roar, the roaring of lions mute with fear and rage and cravings. I had to learn to do so or else the Grim Reaper would hug me with his scythe. I learned to run towards the quiet roar, the quiet ROAR of the Dharma, to stay present to the miracle of my life.

An unusual compression of numerous losses traumatized me more than I would like to admit. I even ended up semi-homeless for two months and staying with friends for a few more. I say “semi-homeless” because I lived out of a tent pitched back in the bushes behind three enormous woodpiles and a Native American sweat lodge with access to the facilities of a nearby house. All in the middle of urban North Seattle. In each moment I was awake I ran and sometimes stumbled towards that quiet roar, that quiet ROAR of the Dharma.

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Inner Shifts of Being

Sunset from the bluffs while gazing across the Sound toward the Olympics. Richmond Beach Park, Shoreline, Washington, Sunday 23 September 2012. Foto by William Dudley Bass.

Sunset from the bluffs while gazing across the Sound toward the Olympics. Richmond Beach Park, Shoreline, Washington, Sunday 23 September 2012. Foto by William Dudley Bass.

Something has shifted in me recently. What has shifted is I’ve lost my taste to speak harshly of others.

During the unexpected challenges of recent years I almost crumbled. The past few months were particularly difficult emotionally and financially. I could’ve sunk deeper into cynicism and bitterness and wallowed in apathy and self-pity. Instead I found the strength and the courage to pivot into a field where there are no paths. My life was my own to choose. My life was mine to live.

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It’s Time to Rethink Swimming

With more and more people becoming involved in whitewater, it’s time to rethink swimming. Many steepcreekers have been swimming differently for years, and their experiences can improve the swimming techniques for both those who take a once-a-year commercial raft trip and the average weekend paddler of Class II, III, and IV rivers.

During recent years there has been an increase in drownings and injuries among even experienced boaters as well as casual rafters, which could have been avoided, had they swum differently. Of course we all go out there thinking and hoping we’re not going to fall out of our rafts or come out of our boats. But let’s face it: sooner or later we will all swim, and swim again. Swimming is an integral part of whitewater, and just like combat rolls and eddy turns, it should be done properly and safely. It should even be practiced.

Swimming aggressively instead of floating passively is the key. A number of paddlers have been killed or injured in a variety of river conditions from long, continuous rapids to fairly small rapids. There are numerous cases of flush-through drownings where boaters were swept for extended periods while maintaining the old float-with-toes up position.

Earlier this year in a different type of incident a tandem open boater drowned in Nantahala Falls, a Class III rapid in North Carolina. He and his partner had quickly gotten into the traditional swimming position: toes up, head upstream, floating on one’s back with the arms out to slow one down. His partner shot along the tongue of the falls to safety, but he dropped over a ledge in the steeper section and pinned. His feet and lower legs became entrapped in a crevice, and he drowned. In the same incident, a would-be rescuer also trapped his foot in the same spot and nearly drowned as well. It is likely the victim would be alive today if he had swum aggressively.

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The Other Nantahala

Big Kahuna - Nantahala Cascades - est flow 950 cfsLooking at the Great Kahuna, crux of the Nantahala Cascades, from a photo dated November 14, 2009 when the Upper Nantahala Gorge was running about 950 cfs.
NOTE: This foto has since been removed and the server is often unaccessible.

 

The Nantahala River is one the most famous whitewater runs in North America. Most people, however, know it merely as a scenic but beginner-level run. Only recently has word been getting out about “the Other Nantahala,” the river of the Class V-VI Cascades, frequent floodstage big water, of shooting the Horns of the Ram into the maw of Big Wesser Falls. Carving a deep gorge across an earthquake fault through some of the steepest mountains in the Southeast – mountains so rough they have earned the dread of many Appalachian Trail thruhikers – it is home to the paddleheads of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Located deep in the boonies of Southwestern North Carolina, down there where Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina all butt up against the Tarheel State, the “Nanty” runs year round. Most of the recent International Peace Rally-Nantahala ’90, featuring competitors from around the world including the Soviet Union – were held in the Nantahala’s narrow, heavily-forested gorge. Right before the rally, the Nantahala raged up to a near-record 9.5 ft.

After several years of unrelenting drought, the Southeast has been in the whitewater limelight since heavy rains and frequent flooding returned in January 1989. While disastrous in the eyes of many, the high water has been a boon to paddlers. It has been a special boon to water-starved boaters of the Nantahala area.

Rising high in the Nantahala Mountains, the small river and its headwaters drop into an artificial impoundment, Nantahala Lake. Here Nantahala Power and Light Company (NLP) pumps water through 5.6 miles of pipe and releases at the generating plant about 13 miles downstream.

Most boaters put in below the powerhouse for an exciting dash through continuous Class II-III rapids as the river drops a mellow 33 feet per mile. The icy waters clash with the warm air to create thick ribbons of fog through which one spies bobbing multicolored helmets. In fact, the word Nantahala is Cherokee for “Valley of the Noonday Sun.” The river crashes on until the run culminates in Class III Nantahala Falls, 400 feet above the takeout.

This is the normal run, great for beginners to learn and for intermediates to hone their moves without fear. In the summer the river is often crowded with rafters.

But for others there is the Other Nantahala, the Nantahala of frequent high water. For a time in 1989, NPL was releasing from the lake itself. Water continues to pour down the spillway even now. In both 1989 and 1990 there were numerous extended releases on White Oak Creek, a major tributary of the Nantahala. The character of the river changed as boaters came from all over to experience the Upper Nanty, the Cascades, and Big Wesser. Or even the regular run during high water.

For many miles below the dam, the Nantahala runs through dense willow thickets, gradually widening and descending. The rapids begin to build up to Class II, sometimes III, becoming more continuous and technical. The river plunges over three jumbled waterfalls known as the Upper Cascades and finally merges with White Oak Creek to form the famous Upper Nantahala run. The stretch above the confluence is only rarely run due to the congestion of brush and the fact that the Class IV-V+ Upper Cascades are runnable only when the rest of the Upper Nantahala below is just too high, thus prematurely ending the trip.

White Oak Creek deserves mention. It is one of the hardest hair runs in the Southeast. White Oak flows through continuous Class II rapids through a gentle valley into a small NPL lake. Below the dam the bottom drops out as it plunges for several miles through a tiny gorge with continuous Class II-V rapids. Halfway down is Triple Drop (or Becky’s Catapult), a nasty Class VI three-tier waterfall choked with jagged rocks, vertical pins, and shallow pools. It has been run only once to my knowledge. Becky Weiss, one of NOC’s best hair boaters, catapulted end over end, miraculously without injury.

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We’re at the Brink of War

We are at the brink of war. You won’t find this being addressed in our current run of debates between Republicans and Democrats here in America. When I say “war,” I refer to major regional or world war, not the Global Long War on Terror. The black hole of world war is opening right now in the Middle East.

Allied countries, despite their angry rhetoric with each other, are lining up against other allied countries that also squabble among themselves. Common self-interests in the midst of extreme crises have a way of polarizing nations into opposing armed camps. This whirlpool of destruction will quickly pull in a succession of nations from all over Earth. Ongoing smaller wars around the world will likely merge into a planetwide conflagration as fast as news zips through cell phones and the Internet.

You will find little news of these urgent matters in the majority of the mainstream mass media, although tidbits surface now and then. I search through military and intelligence sources, scan news from both the far right and the far left, and sift through educated opinions from ivory tower pundits to conspiracy theory gurus. There is a lot out of detailed information out there, but so little for the public to readily see.

Why is something so vitally important kept out of the public discourse?

Several reasons exist. Primarily no one in power really wants all-out war and thus they seek to ignore or deflect attention away from its buildup. Why not inform the public? We can handle the news.

Many in the know understand such a war will crash the world economy during this Great Global Recession. An economic collapse will lead to greater environmental destruction and possibly famine. Survivors will ravage our environment even further for energy and resources in order to rebuild. We’ve not as a species experienced the collapse of a complex global economy on such a scale before. No one in their heart wants this in their legacy.

Because such a war will upend significant elections such as the American electorate voting for Obama or for Romney or other candidates. No candidate wants a war on their hands in a war-weary nation. Right? After all, we’re inundated with doom and gloom and jokes about the end of the world because it’s the year 2012.

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Public Control of the Money Power similar to Civilian Control of the Military

We need to establish public control of the money power. We must transition away from central bank currency such as Federal Reserve Notes to printing our own currency. Money is currently dominated and controlled by the international central banking system and national tax regimes. In the United States that means the Federal Reserve System, the Big Banks, and even the IRS. Our money is controlled, dominated, and even owned by private interests among the Global Financial Elite and their Allies behind the facade of the Fed and our banking system. Even our Department of Treasury and many government regulators are beholden to the central banks and transnational financial institutions that dominate Wall Street and thus Main Street.

Our money is not truly “our” money. Not yet. The principle of civilian control of the military power serves as a model to apply.

On June 23, 2010, American President Barack Obama relieved General Stanley McChrystal of command of global Allied forces in Afghanistan. It was a quick and decisive stroke by a President often criticized for prolonged deliberation or by war hawks as “not man enough.” The sacking of McChrystal has been compared to President Abraham Lincoln’s firing of General George B. McClellan in the U.S. Civil War and of President Harry Truman firing General Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War.

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Running from Mad Yellow Jackets

Two Days Later... (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Two Days Later… (Click on all images to ENLARGE.)

There it is ... Pandora's Garbage Can.

There it is … Pandora’s Garbage Can.

I pissed off a blizzard of yellow jackets the other day. They were the Mask of Death rising up without any forewarning or expectation. The Grim Reaper swung out his scythe in warning as I jumped high, and we both whirled away in opposite directions. Death by surprise with the horror of a thousand toxic stings. Except it wasn’t my time to pass on through to the other side…yet.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in early October 2012, on the 2nd of October to be exact. I stepped outside into the backyard to help clean up some trash and debris. I’ve been staying with my friends Gabriel and Joy in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, as they settle into their “new” home. The backyard was a glorious overgrown wood with tall, beautiful trees and thick bushes bunched around an urban meadow of shaggy grass and dandelions gone to see. In the corner set an old, abandoned metal garbage can. The lid sat somewhat ajar. Bits of trash hung out over the rim. One long, blue length of twine spooled down and out and lay snarled in weeds and sticks.

Behind me on the upstairs balcony Gabriel and his little boy, the one I call “Young Master,” were cleaning up, too. They watched from above. And they just as easily could’ve been out in the yard, too. Young Master could’ve been walking right there with me to peek inside the old garbage can with the same curiosity that possessed me. After all, he was out there messin’ around a couple days earlier over the weekend.

I carried two bags of trash and one of compost. Without much thought I strode up to the ugly old can squatting among the bushes on the edge of the woods. My hand reached out, grabbed the lid, and lifted.

My eyes caught a quick view of what looked like gray paper. Immediately, a monster swarm of bigass yellow jackets rolled out in a thick curling cloud. These were plump, end-of-summer demons all fattened up to die in another month or so. They came together in the air like a biological chainsaw, like a living robot from the Transformer movies, and they were enraged. When I lifted up the lid, apparently I’d ripped their nest apart.

For a moment so brief yet so long I stood there on hyperalert seeing the massed swarm of buzzing yellow jackets pouring out of the can into the air around me. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, way slooooww mooooshunnn. I felt as if I was inside The Matrix movie.

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Don’t Waste Your Vote on Obama or Romney

Don’t waste your vote on two-headed snakes. Do not vote for Democrat Barack Obama or Republican Mitt Romney. Vote independent.

Please don’t get me wrong, as both President Obama and former Governor Romney are fundamentally good men. They do, however, represent the lock on power the two major parties have on behalf of the Financial – Power Elite and their Allies. They already dominate our political landscape from Washington, D.C. to the most remote county. Any major party candidate, left and right, it doesn’t matter one whit, is constrained by dependence on sponsors and handlers. As such they will continue to undermine your Constitution. Their actions increase or allow for others to increase the power of the 1%ers over the rest of us 99%.

Republicans and Democrats rile us up and tear us apart over social issues and yet they differ little on true and significant reforms. There is little or no real movement to address the truly serious and potentially catastrophic issues we face today as not just Americans but as a species sharing this planet.

Instead our major politicians debate like entertainment celebrities and offer bland, band-aid solutions as they stay the course straight toward the edge of the cliff. For example, none of their ballyhooed economic and financial reforms will make a lick of difference until drastic reforms of the Fed, the international central banking system, fiat currency, the tax regime, and the ruptures between our economy, energy, and the environment are resolved.

Over the years you’ve likely heard the mantra warning citizens not to waste their votes on third party, alternative, or independent candidates. We the People are encouraged to give up and surrender to the reality that politics are a corrupt circus dominated by Big Everything – corporations, banks, political parties, special interests, and the military-industrial-surveillance complex. So we are told don’t waste our votes on any candidate who is not a Democrat or a Republican.

I say don’t waste your vote voting for the major party candidates. Save yourselves. Save your counties, towns, parishes, cities, states, territories, wards, and districts. Save your country. Save America. Save Planet Earth. Vote independent. Vote third party. Vote for liberty and the constitution. Vote against the tyranny of a gridlocked, two-party system that divides people emotionally over hot button social issues like abortion but otherwise are the same.

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Seeing Chris Guillebeau in Seattle for his new $100 Startup Book

Yesterday morning I sat down with a cup of strong Irish tea to catch up on a ton of email. I didn’t get very far before I discovered Chris Guillebeau was scheduled to speak that night at Town Hall Seattle. I’ve never met the guy, and his writings expressing his unique way of thinking about our world provoke and inspire me. I love his blog The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel. He has a book out with the same title that also stirs the pot, your pot, with relish. It stirred my pot for sure.

Fueled up with a late afternoon cup of coffee, I hustled downtown and promptly got lost. I make the same stupid mistake every time by parking in the wrong underworld garage then meandering around in the labyrinthine maze atop the Convention Center lid over the freeways. I caught myself ranting on the phone to my wife as I tried to get her to come meet me, but she was too far away to arrive anywhere close in time.

She listened with more patience than me as I caught myself getting angry. Feeling silly, I burst out laughing at what a fool I was. I cooled off quick and chilled out. There were more important things to do than get wiggy over buses and cars, and, boom, Town Hall. Wow, I’ve never happened upon it so quickly. I could hear the Universe poking me and saying, “So, there!”

It was only $5.00 to get in to Chris Guillebeau’s presentation Downstairs at Town Hall. Wow. And between the time I paid $5.00 and scurried back from the bathroom the numbers of people in the room had swelled from about a dozen to well over a hundred folks. As more poured in the staff flung open the partition curtains and arranged more rows of chairs. And still more people arrived.

Chris Guillebeau is a tall, lean, young man who lives with his wife Jolie in Portland, Oregon. Apparently she lets him travel as long as he promises to keep coming back home to her. He’s never worked a real job and has been self-employed most of his life. Chris is a world traveler and adventurer who’s been to, as of last count, 183 nations. He’s a salesman, volunteer activist, writer, entrepreneur, networker, published author, and a blogger with a global following.

I think of Chris Guillebeau as a type of guerrilla Seth Godin as he operates on a much smaller budget than that genius on the Hudson. Chris has demonstrated he’s a man of action and vision, probably in that order, and is both proud and humble.

In person he’s courteous, friendly, easy-going, and piercing. Up on stage he is an acute, attentive listener with a quick mind. Chris bows before his mentors and his followers and acknowledges he wouldn’t be anywhere without both. He demonstrates a gift for speaking with a certain cadence right into the ears and minds of another’s listening. And his stories are … amazing. What people do to move forward when they choose to move is awe inspiring. His unique perspective on the Great Global Recession with his mix of gloomy realism and optimistic opportunism inspires. I could feel the whole room bend forward in … wow, in gladness, in hope. But don’t get your hopes up too high. Chris Guillebeau is much too pragmatic and down-to-earth to be anyone’s messiah.

Chris is on a whirlwind tour across North America to market his new book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent The Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, And Create A New Future. He presents his two primary themes: “freedom” and “value.” He is all about freedom. He is for each person establishing their freedom – if they choose to do so. It is a choice, and he points out too many people give up before they even get going as they believe being free is just too hard, too much work, too expensive, etc. And he is aware to be truly free and independent is only true within the context of our interdependent networks. Chris is also a big stand for value and redefines value as something a person creates to share with others. It doesn’t do any good to invent or create the most astounding thing only to hide it or use it for extorting extreme prices.

There are other themes, too. Our current economic hard times are truly HARD TIMES. Everywhere he goes Chris encounters many, many, way too many highly qualified, educated, and skilled human beings out of work or underemployed. Either they lost their jobs or their businesses failed. When Chris saw over 300 supereducated people apply for a low-level clerical position for $14 an hour with 0 benefits, he knew the system is broken.

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Spirit & Soul as Apocalypse Approaches

Inspired Notes from Working with Michael Meade

“Forget the Enlightenment,” Michael Meade said as he came out swinging. “We’ve now entered into an Age of Endarkenment.”

In early November of 2009 I visited Port Townsend with my friend Michael Scott Brooks, called Scott by those who know him, to hear Michael Meade. Port Townsend is a beautiful place, a progressive town where liberals thrive amid isolation. It’s at the tip of a peninsula on a peninsula and a ferry ride followed by a long drive from Seattle even though as the crow flies it’s fairly close by. The waters of the Salish Sea surround it with views to mountains all around. Olympic National Park squats in massive diversity behind a veil of hills. The workshops were held in the local Unitarian Universalist church, itself a bastion of self-proclaimed “liberal religion.”

Scott’s a friend of mine who facilitates Men’s Work in the mythopoetic vein of Robert Bly and Michael Meade. Although not as well known as they are, he’s an amazing man in his own right, a survivor who transcended deep trauma, and is still in training. Scott’s a master of ritual and an intuitive healer who brooks no nonsense. He cuts through bullshit with rigorous lovingkindness in a way I’ve seen very few people do. As I’ve written before, Scott transcends the boxes many contemporary Men’s groups try to put us into. Instead, he grounds himself in the timeless wisdom of indigenous human beings.

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The Devil in Uncle Watt

Uncle Watt bit off the head of a big, fat, juicy green tobacco worm, peed on his deaf cousin, and poked mules in the ass with a sharp stick just to see ‘em kick. Oh, yes, he was full of the Devil. Yes, he was! So people said, and thus my efforts to untangle dead ancestors one from the other to find the truth lured me down into a genealogical exorcism.

“Oh my Lord, he done got the Devil in ‘im BAD,” Raffie, an ancient-looking man who said he used to work beside Uncle Watt on the farm once told me back when I was a young lad. “Yeah, Lord, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s BAD!” As late as July 2009, Helen, one of my beloved aunts and a Beatnik artist in her 80s, when reminded of Uncle Watt called him “quite a character.” And so I tumbled down the dumbwaiter chute of a family mystery. Who was this “Devil?”

My Dad told me stories. Raffie told me stories. Uncle Willy told me stories. Even Uncle Aumon who got peed on told me stories. Willy and Aumon were brothers, and as they were also my Dad’s uncles they were really my paternal great-uncles. All of them would shake their heads with bemused dismay and chuckle. They could laugh simply because Uncle Watt was dead. He died young and wasn’t around anymore to torment anyone with all his foolishness. I never got to meet him. Dad said, “Uncle Watt died before you were born, Son, long before you were born.” He didn’t remember what of, tho.

“You don’t remember what he died of?” I asked all eaten up bug-eyed in impatient dismay.

“No, I don’t recall anything,” Dad replied. “Wait. Something about his toe. His big toe, maybe? Hell, I don’t know. Can’t help ya there. Got work to do now. Don’t you?”

Turns out Uncle Watt died long before my Daddy was born, too, as in a little over two decades before Dad’s birth. The strangeness about Watt Bass includes those who told all those crazy wild tales about him spoke as if they were there running alongside him in the same window of time. Whenever I asked way back then how long ago did those events happen not one person seemed to know. Asking a few questions turned into an unexpected adventure in genealogy as I dove into the rabbit hole of fading memories, cryptic notes on faded paper, and incomplete information online.

He was a fun-loving guy who apparently was constantly pushing people’s buttons, telling jokes, and playing pranks like biting off the head of a giant caterpillar to pee all over Uncle Aumon, who was but a laddie-lad, too. He lived life on the wild side. Chased pretty girls but never married. Or so I was told. Which I found out was wrong, wrong, wrong as he certainly did marry. Unless I stumbled upon the tombstone of the wrong Uncle Watt. Turns out I didn’t as the correct tombstone was also the same shared with his now-deceased wife.

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My Beloved & I (2001-2013)

I love this amazing woman, Kristina Katayama.

Then 12 and a half years later we divorced, darn it, but not before we dove thru our Hearts deep into the Center of the Sun.

Kristina Katayama: Businesswoman, World Traveler, Adventurer, Mom, Stepmom, my Fiance, & then my Wife. Professional Photo by Cass Redstone for Kristina, April 23, 2008, & adapted on iPhoto by William Bass, March 17, 2012. Seattle, Washington, Cascadia.

Kristina Katayama: Businesswoman, World Traveler, Adventurer, Mom, Stepmom, my Fiance, & then my Wife. Professional Photo by Cass Redstone for Kristina in Seattle on 23 April 2008, & adapted on iPhoto by William Bass for this essay on 17 March 2012. Seattle, Washington, Cascadia.

Note: Click on any photo to expand it, and click again to make it even larger. Click the back arrow to return to the essay. All photographs protected by Copyright with All Rights Reserved. Thank you, and enjoy!

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Broken Glass

My Momma always used t’say I was rough on things. And after awhile, my Daddy started saying the same thing. They called me by my middle name, and said, “Dudley, you’re rough on things!” Well, I was a very energetic little boy. Things had a tendency to break around me.

I grew up on a dairy farm in Prince Edward County in South-Central Virginia during the 1960s. I lived in a house built in the middle of what used to be a big pigpen. “Hogs,” they called ’em back then. When pigs got big they called ’em hogs. “Hawgs.” As in “Hawgs!” You could even see the straight line of trees where the old woven wire fence used to run to keep the hogs in the pen. Otherwise it was all green grass, daffodils, shade trees, pansies, irises, and vegetable gardens.

It grossed me out a few years later, though, when I got my hands on a couple of Daddy’s college textbooks on parasitic worms and other nauseating diseases associated with domestic livestock. The books showed the most graphic and horrible pictures, and I found them quite fascinating – until I realized I lived inside of an old pigpen.

My house back then was small. I could run from one end to the other, and often did. The front door opened from a small, cozy front porch into the living room on the almost-east side of the house. That flowed through a big wide walk-through into a dining room, which opened into the kitchen, which opened onto an enclosed back porch where the washing machine was. All the bedrooms, closets, bathroom, and the den were on the sorta-west side of the house. I could run all the way from the front door to the back door and back again. The full length of the house. As hard as I could. Fast!

Drove my Momma crazy. “Dudley,” she would yell, “Stop slamming the front door! Either go out and play or stay inside and be quiet.”

“Yes Ma’am!” I shouted and deciding to stay inside, charged through the house as fast as I could, my little feet drumming across the floors. That drove my Momma crazy, too.

“Dudley!” she scolded again. “Stop running in the house! Go outside and run.”

Oh, boy, but I was having too much fun.

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Swimming in Avalanches

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Photo from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Foto of multiple plasma strikes in the Rockies from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning struck the mountain as the heavens cracked with thunder. Snow and ice burst loose like boiling water, and I was swept down the couloir, a steep gulley plunging down the flank of the mountain. Runaway snow felt like galloping wet sand and hissed like snakes. It was a hell of a way to spend a summer vacation.

It was mid-July 1986, and I was in the Wyoming Wind River Range toward the end of a 30-day Wind River Mountaineering Course with NOLS, the world-famous National Outdoor Leadership School. Headquartered on the edge of the range in the cowboy town of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS was the premier outdoor adventure school of my time. Once I was on purpose to become a NOLS Instructor. At least I was until love, romance, and a broken down car got in the way. Nevertheless this 30-day NOLS mountaineering course proved to be one of the most pivotal points in my life.

Back then I planned a career in outdoor adventure and sought concentrated training in hard skills such as alpine rock climbing and glacier travel and in soft skills such as teamwork and leadership under pressure. Along with those skills NOLS also taught natural history, science in the field, environmental responsibility, wilderness navigation, and backcountry first aid, all knowledge I desired. I had one semester left in grad school, too, back east in Richmond, Virginia. And, to be sure, what I most wanted as an ol’ farmboy from Virginia was an immersion adventure in the Wild American West. And I got it.

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UFO over Seattle on 21 January 2012

Down at the Seattle Center, I climbed a grassy knoll waving my smart phone around in the sunshine for better reception. Below me in the Fisher Pavilion hundreds of people including many of Vietnamese descent celebrated Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Kristina, my wife at the time, remained down there with our foreign exchange student from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. I turned around, heard a helicopter overhead, looked up into blue skies, and saw the helicopter circling toward Downtown where Occupy protests were occurring. Then I spied the UFO.

What appeared to be a silver sphere moved in a straight, horizontal line from the southeast, or the direction of Downtown Seattle, northwest over Queen Anne Hill toward the Salish Sea. The object flew swiftly and steadily, perfectly straight. It was shiny silver and reflected the sunlight. The sun was low in the sky more toward the southwest. The time, date, and date was 3:00pm on Saturday 21 January 2012.

For a second I shrugged it off as an airplane or helicopter, then I realized, wait, hey, it’s far more silvery-metallic than any of those would be. More importantly, there were no visible wings, fins, rows of blinking lights, jets, or visible thrusts, rocket engines, or propellers. It was silent, and flew so straight as to be smooth, as in none of the buffeting and wing-dipping I normally see even on straight-flying aircraft. At one point the object appeared to pivot or partially rotate while continuing to “fly” in a straight line at a steady pace. When it pivoted, it appeared as more of a silvery rod, a short, stumpy rod, and reminded me of a fat airplane fuselage.

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Over Meditated

After four days away in the woods of Cloud Mountain, a Buddhist meditation retreat center down near Mt. St. Helens, Washington, I’m back in the Emerald City of Seattle surfing traffic in my four-wheeled kayak. With fiercely serene contemplation my breath guides me to all the sweet spots between grinding dump trucks and vrooming sports cars and teeth-gnashing morons, oops, excuse me, peoplyps, wow, post-meditation Freudian malapropism there smashing together people and polyps! Oops, back to the breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Good thing we worked with our nasal orifices and not any others. Indeed.

During the retreat, we focused on Samatha or Concentration and Tranquility Meditation with Jhana practices. Samatha is “the other twin” to Vipassana, or Insight Meditation, and is little known in North America. It’s beginning to take root, however, as it is rediscovered by many practitioners. My two teachers, Tina Rasmussen, a former nun, and Stephen Snyder, had immersed themselves deeply in these Samatha practices. They mentored under a rare master, the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw of Myanmar/Burma.

After studying and practicing Vipassana in Seattle for two years it proved to be the missing link. For the two middle days I spent at least nine to ten hours in sitting meditation, or attempting to, and the rest of my time awake meditating while walking, eating, and during tasks such as brushing my teeth or working as one of two “soup yogis.”

As part of trading work for money to get myself into the course, I set up and maneuvered giant soup contraptions for the cook. It wasn’t hard, especially as a tiny woman with a head-spinning mane of hair who once spent five years as a bald nun on a silent Zen meditation retreat handled those big soup gamdoodles even faster than I did.

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Original American Thanksgivings Redux: Lessons for Today and Tomorrow

 

Thanksgiving: What was, What happened, What's possible.

Thanksgiving: What was. What happened. What’s possible.

As an American one of my favorite holy days is Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving. And as much as I love the food and the sense of community I feel, for me it really isn’t about food, family, and friends. It’s more for being aware of and the expression of gratitude and appreciation. We give thanks on Thanksgiving.

It’s a time to pause and reflect, to slow down and be aware of what is. It’s a few moments to be thankful for all the things we take for granted.

Thanksgiving has a dark side, too. It’s often glossed over and forgotten in history books and magazine articles. For a short time Thanksgiving blended together Native American Indian and European-American traditions in celebrations rich with the fragile promise of two very different racial cultures co-creating a new, hybrid civilization. This failure ranks as one of the great tragedies of human history, and one of the greatest unsung ones.

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Empire of Bases for Wars without End

Hey, guess what, folks? It turns out the leaders of the United States don’t even know exactly how many American and Allied military bases exist. Furthermore, the number of wars the so-called, unofficial but still real Euro-American Global Empire is engaged in does not match the official count. Because there are more violent military and intelligence operations occurring simultaneously than Empire wants to admit. When Special Forces engage in covert hostilities behind enemy lines of a state or quasi-state we are not technically at war with, or when the CIA fires drone missiles into countries that we’re also not technically at war with, isn’t that “war?”

There are two ways the great, borderless superpower of today behaves in a similar fashion to empires of old.

During the height of many large, polyglot empires from the Roman to the Mongol to the British, the imperial Center, i.e. the homeland realms, were often in a state of prolonged peace.  Except, of course, for an occasional civil war for control of the state. The majority of the population enjoyed the illusion of a peaceful world of trade and commerce free of war. What they actually meant, however, were their cities and countryside were free from invasion.

The far-flung borders and colonies of these empires, however, were often in a state of chronic warfare. These conflicts included tribal wars, local ethnic rebellions, and frontier guerrilla wars. There were unique situations where off and on border wars raged between large empires without either committing fully to what would have been a Phyrric victory. Ancient History buffs may note one case in particular, the Roman-Parthian Wars. A Modern example would be the American-Soviet Cold War, although the Soviet Empire  collapsed at the end of it.

Today, the dominant region of the Euro-American Global Empire is called “the United States Homeland.” “Homeland” is a post-9/11 term that recalls a time not all that long ago when the Nazis emphasized Germany as “the Fatherland.” The Soviet Communists did the same with Russia as “the Motherland.” The focus has shifted from American liberties and protecting Constitutional rights to enforcing Homeland Security with domestic surveillance and militarization. The militaristic and ultranationalist “feel” these terms evoke is quiet different from the peaceful, loving reverence many feel for “Mother Earth and Father Sky” for example.

The second similarity is the vast number of military garrisons empires establish to maintain control of far-flung regions, whether it is political control, to promote and protect certain religions and corporations, to defend against enemies, to hold territory, or to allow for safe commerce to flow. These imperial frontiers and colonies were dotted with numerous forts, castles, and other fortifications. The First and Second World Wars destroyed the concept of “forts.” Now they are called “bases.” Forts became something preteen boys built back in the bushes from which to lob rocks and sticks at one another.

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UFO witnessed in action from atop Mt. Erie, Washington

A group of six people, including myself, witnessed an unidentified flying object from the summit of Mt. Erie on Sunday 3 July 2011. We observed what we eventually determined to be a large, garbage-can lid type flying saucer shrink down into a bizarre high-speed orb. The other five observers were my then-wife Kristina (then age 42), my daughter Kate (age 12), and three men who appeared to be in their mid-to-late 60s. As I write this article I am 52 years old. Mt. Erie itself is a relatively short but steep mountain amid those scattered across the San Juan Islands. At 388 meters high (or 1,273 ft.) it is the most prominent in the area and dominates the Skagit River Delta region of northwestern Washington State. It also dominates Fidalgo Island and looms above a string of lakes near Deception Pass. The peak lies in the City of Anacortes park system. From the mountaintop we six saw a UFO engaged in unusual actions. Those actions were as if a machine ship or biological organism behaved as a subatomic quantum particle/wave.

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UFO Encounter in Virginia

Classic flying saucer image from the Rex Heflin Orange County case in Southern California, 3 August 1965, the same general time period the Bass Family encountered a UFO in Southcentral Virginia. Except their's wasn't saucer shaped. From: http://www.ufoevidence.org/photographs/section/1960s/Photo305.htm

Classic flying saucer image from the Rex Heflin Orange County case in Southern California, 3 August 1965, the same general time period the Bass Family encountered a UFO in Southcentral Virginia. Except their’s wasn’t saucer shaped. From: http://www.ufoevidence.org/photographs/section/1960s/Photo305.htm.

My entire family of origin had a vivid UFO experience back in the mid to late 1960s. The event was exciting, even amazing, and also at moments terrifying. For years afterwards this encounter affected my family and me in unexpected ways such as the odd actions of the FBI and weird behavior among certain people involved with this incident including myself. Ever since then I’ve had a deep, personal interest in so-called “Unidentified Flying Objects” and the controversies UFOs generated.

Despite some apprehension I feel it’s time to tell my story and some of what I’ve discovered since then. My story is long overdue, too. As I stand for transparency and full disclosure, I feel strongly We the People of Earth need to know the full truth whether or not others feel we can “handle it.” Indeed, I stand for full and immediate disclosure of all information from all organizations and institutions regarding UFOs and the immense complexity of what’s alleged to have gone on in some cases for millions of years and what goes on in our current timeframe.

The list of what so many credible whistleblowers are claiming is long, overwhelming, unexpected, and goes far beyond flying saucers, galactic empires, free energy, and underground bases. They include numerous species of ETs/ESs/EDs/IDs (extraterrestrials, extrasolarials, extradimensionals, and inter- or intra-dimensionals), Majestic 12 and other hypercompartmentalized units within Earth nation-state regimes, various breakaway civilizations, ancient even prehistoric ET and human civilizations with ruins throughout the Sol System, the Secret Space Programs (SSPs), the Inner Earth civilizations, secret societies, the German role, the Cabal/Illuminati/Elitist crime syndicates and factions, black budget ops and other USAPs or Unacknowledged Special Access Programs, advanced and hidden technologies and scientific discoveries, global economic and financial manipulation and fraud on unprecedented scales, debunking and disinformation campaigns, grotesque medical and genetic experiments on many lifeforms including Earth humans, widespread human trafficking and slavery, Solarian bases, possibilities for a Star Trek-style civilization, exopolitical ramifications, orbs and plasma life forms, an apparently extreme intergalactic A.I. or Artificial Intelligence menace more omnicidal than nuclear weapons, new understandings about the nature and possibilities of consciousness, and considerations regarding densities versus dimensions and biological evolution with spiritual ascension.

The lines between so-called academic research, mainstream mass media, alternative media, and so-called conspiracy theory first dissolve into murkiness before becoming clearer. Everything one thinks they think they know regarding consciousness, compassion, health, money, politics, religion, spirituality, war, genetics, science, energy, love, relationships, and the definition of life may well be turned upside down and inside out. No, shall be. Let’s return, however, to where and how my involvement in this labyrinthine entanglement began and back to what occurred.

Our family UFO encounter happened on a warm late afternoon after I was home from grade school following a long ride on a yellow school bus. It was dinner time. I think it was early Autumn, although it could have been Spring. I sat around the dinner table with my younger siblings. They were my sister Beth and brother Joe. Our mother bustled about in the kitchen. Our kitchen was a big farmhouse kind of kitchen, and the dinner table was pragmatically placed there off to one side of the room. Dorothy Ussery Bass was my Mama’s real name, but most people who knew her called her Dot. It feels strange to me the actual events of almost four decades ago were so dramatic I remember them in great detail but, alas, I can’t recall whether it was Spring or Fall.

We had a table full of food, however, a big family dinner farmer-style. We kids began to shove food into our mouths, which annoyed Mama. My Dad, William M. Bass, known as Bill, was away where he worked up the hill at “the Barn.” As the large cow barn with the enormous hayloft dominated the center of our dairy farm as some Medieval Great Hall, we simply called it “the Barn.” The rest of the farm’s buildings circled around the hill and ridge. The family business had long been named Riverview Dairy Farm from the proximity of Big and Little Sandy Rivers as they looped around the estate. We were in the Rice – Sandy River – Green Bay belt of northeastern Prince Edward County. This area’s in turn is located in Southside Virginia, i.e. Virginia south of the James River, in the Piedmont of rolling hills, woods, ravines, and cultivated fields.

Mama was mad because we’d started chowing down before we said the Blessing. Dad wasn’t expected home until later. As we munched down into our dinner, we heard an unexpected ruckus. Daddy burst through the back door into the house.

“Come quick!” he shouted. “There’s a flying saucer out back!”

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Boomerang Tree

Once upon a time when I was a brave and crazy fool I rode a tree like a dragon. Armed with a homemade boomerang, I was a pretty young lad somewhere in that transition between preteen to true teen. My exact age and even what grade I was in remain lost to memory. What I do remember is a gusty, late afternoon storm with cloudy skies churning the color of dark green moss. It happened in Virginia where I grew up on a farm, and I thought I was gonna die.

I felt proud of my boomerang. I’ve spent hours carving and sanding it from a piece of wood. When I whipped it through the air across the cow pastures on my parents’ dairy farm, my boomerang actually returned. It would spin away from me whirling like a helicopter propeller. As my boomerang spun it rose high and higher still, turned, and came zooming back to me. Sometimes it flopped and dug into grass and dirt and skittered off rocks. At other times, however, I had to duck as it zipped over my head. I dared not reach out to grab it. Those were the best!

My buddy Jerry Vernon and I were out in a huge cowpasture on the Gates Family Farm. Jerry’s dad worked for the Gateses milking cows and fixing fences, so we played a lot. My brother Joe, six years younger, also hung with us that day. Our dad ran the Bass farm for his uncle, who was cousins with the Gateses and further down the road the Bruces.

It was one afternoon after school, and I can’t remember if it was November or March. The weather felt heavy with a cloudy-late-afternoon-right-before-supper-time feel, and we had one eye out for bulls. Rumor had it the Gateses had turned loose a bull into the pasture to impregnate the cows, and he would snort, charge, stomp, and gore you all to bloody pieces if he discovered you simply existed. We were terrified of bulls.

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Asteroid 2005 YU55 zooms inside Luna’s orbit as it zips by Earth for a Happy Birthday

Asteroid 2005 YU55, Radar Imagery from Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, CA, 7 November 2011.

Asteroid 2005 YU55, Radar Imagery from Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, CA, 7 November 2011. Wikipedia.

A big but small asteroid rapidly approaches Earth as it karooms around our solar system. And just in time for my wife Kristina’s birthday. On its merry way Asteroid 2005 YU55 shall pass inside Luna’s orbit as our moon revolves around Planet Earth. It’s a bit too close for comfort for such a large rock barreling through space, but all government officials and NASA scientists involved are calmly warning us not to worry. It most likely won’t hit us, “too close” is not the same as “direct impact,” and besides, it won’t wipe out all life on Earth. It won’t even smack the moon. I imagine them scampering back out of sight hunched over gnawing on their fingertips. Or blissfully ordering another cup o’ Joe.

YU55 only 400 meters across, darn it. Way too small for the excited little boy in me who revels in blowing shit up. That’s the size of about four football fields lined up side-by-side. Big American football fields, too. Scientists advise us to imagine a giant bowling ball the size of an aircraft carrier, which, of course, doesn’t look a thing like a bowling ball sailing through space. It’s that big. And there were bigger ones once upon a time. And many more still out there.

The one that smashed into what’s called the Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico today to exterminate most of life on the planet including the dinosaurs was about 25 times longer and over 15,000 times more volume. Still, I can’t help but wonder if today’s my last day on Earth. At least I got to wish my wife “Happy Birthday” this morning. As I’m still a mammal with a reptile brain, I got urges to satisfy later tonight! Especially before we go extinct.

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back when we welcomed the invasion of the first colored television

I’m in my early 50s now, just a little bit more than halfway to a hundred. I know, I know, those elderly gents snort and splash air at me with wrinkled old hands, grin a somber smile, and remind me “Young man, you’re still just a puppy! Only fifty some years outa diapers.”

Tho I imagine another voice cackling among fluttering pigeons not to worry “cuz you might find yourself back in diapers before you get to turn a hunnert years old.”

Once upon a time, however, way back a long, long time ago, long before old folks could depend on Depends,  (wait, little ® there, right?), I was a wee little bitty fella all excited because every Monday night I could snuggle up next to my Momma on the sofa across from the TV and watch “Lost in Space.” Then talk all about spaceships, alien planets, and monsters in school the next day. Especially with my buddy Eddie. I was in First Grade, and our television was black-and-white.

B & W was all I knew. Clear, crisp black, grey, and white. Unless zigzagging zebra stripes took over the screen.

One evening my parents were giddy with excitement and anticipation. They beamed at me with eyes like flying saucers. I looked around in wonder.

“Come on,” Dad said. “Get ready. We’re going up the road to Charlie Watt and Rosella’s new house.”

“What for?” I asked.

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Untangling the Octopus

Cartoon.02_Federal_Reserve_1912_Coming_Money_Trust

The Octopus as viewed in 1912 on the eve of the Bankers’ Coup of 1913.

Alfred Owen Crozier, an attorney and activist from Michigan, Ohio, and New York, drew the above cartoon in 1912. He warned the public of the banksters before the Bankers’ Coup of 1913 issued in the Federal Reserve System and the Internal Revenue Service. The Octopus was the first illustration to grace the interior of his 1912 book, U.S. Money vs. Corporate Money, “Aldrich Plan,” Wall Street Confessions! Great Bank Combine! In 1913, Crozier testified against the Federal Reserve System, originally proposed by the Aldrich Plan as the National Reserve Association.

The Octopus as viewed in 2011 in the midst of the worldwide Occupy revolt.

The Octopus as viewed in 2011 in the midst of the worldwide Occupy revolt.

The Octopus represented the art of 1912. Almost a hundred years later, in October 2011, three complex-systems theorists crunching algorithms determined 43,000 TNCs (Transnational Corporations), represented by all the dots in the 3D image, dominated the global economy. Among these are 1,318 core companies with interlocking ownerships. The collectively controlled 20% of global operating revenues and another 60% of global real (manufacturing revenues.) Of these 147 formed a supergroup of <1% controlling 40% of the total network. The majority were Big Wall Street Banks and investment firms.

See “Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world,” in New Scientist at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

and “The network of global corporate control” at http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1107/1107.5728v2.pdf.

Interlocking Relationships and Web of Control.

Interlocking Relationships and Web of Control in 2011. Capitalism, especially Finance Capitalism, now dominates politics, governments, academia, NGOs, markets, businesses, and finances locally, regionally, and all across the planet.

Over time we see a much more convoluted and intricate network of interlocking, non-democratic entities formed. This has grown to dominate politics and governments as well as marketplaces and businesses around the planet. Perhaps the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street and Everywhere movements can find common ground. Neither will they or anyone else, however, be successful in political, economic, and financial reforms unless we go straight to the hearts of the Beast. The foundation of radical reform is simple in concept and shall be challenging to execute: We the People of Earth must establish public control of the money power similar to civilian control of the military power. Such public control must be transparent and accountable with all information open to public audit.

NOTE: This is from a from a larger work in progress looking at the de facto Euro-American Global Empire, which may be more correctly termed a Postmodern and neo-feudal Empire of the Money Power.

William Dudley Bass
2 November 2011
Seattle, Washington
Cascadia

Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.

Dancing at the Gates of the Underworld

“Celebrating the 13th Mortiversary of the best man I’ve ever known,” leapt from the glowing blue and white screen a few days before Halloween. The author was a gorgeous and stunning enigma who turned heads whenever she strode into a room, or in my case, a tipi during an all-night Native American prayer meeting. “Mortiversary?” I wondered in awe. “Oh, he’s dead!”

Then I felt the glow of shame for not getting it right away at my friend’s expense. Here was a woman honoring the life of a man who once moved her deeply by celebrating his death. From beyond the veils between worlds he continued to move and inspire her. In allowing her self to feel so moved she inspired me and my heart opened to the pain and the sadness and even the magnificence of death.

As storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade said about two years ago on a blustery November night in Port Townsend, “Welcome to the Endarkenment.” He felt the world has energetically moved away from a period of awakening, enlightenment, even bliss into a period of darkness and turmoil and chaos. It wasn’t all bad, either. Such dark times are often the cauldron of creativity and transformation. Our spirits fly away leaving our souls burrowing into dirt and filth, transforming both into rich soil.

It was Samhain, the Celtic New Year, All Hallows Eve 2011. This year it fell across a three-day weekend with October 31st falling upon a Monday with two more dark holy days following. Samhain (usually pronounced as ‘sow-win’), Feralia, Pomona, Halloween, Hallowmas and All Soul’s, Dia de los Muertas … it’s that time of the year to really celebrate Summer’s End and herald in the Endarkenment. I love how they mix and blend together like the blood and genes in our Postmodern flesh.

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October Falls

I love October. Leaves burst with color then fall leaving the conifers green. Rocks turn dark. Bright sunny warm days dance with chilly wet rainy days. Crunch of twigs, grit, and animal bones. Samhain awaits at the Gates of November stirrin’ up what’s left of my old, hot Celtic blood.

William Dudley Bass
October 2011
Seattle, Washington

 

Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.