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Friday November 17th, 2006

The Golden Mean

"Nothing ever really changes in human history. The winning war criminals always sentence the losing war criminals to death."
- letter in The Daily Telegraph of London
by Keith Nolan of Co.Leitrim


Dear Folks,

The above picture is my contribution to Michael Moore's 'Clean Sweep' photo campaign during the recent US congressional elections. The brooms came out and the GOP was swept into a corner. Some of them are still under the carpet. All that remains now is to scoop them up and take them out to the tip. Git 'er done!
Clean Sweep Photo Website

But I don't like the recent talk about 'impeachment being off the table' that I've been hearing from some of the new Democratic Congress. Impeachment of George W Bush is still ON the table . . . and the chair, the sofa, the desk, the armoire, the nightstand, and even in the Abraham Lincoln shaving mirror as far as many of us are concerned. Impeachment is a matter of US Constitutional law, NOT personal discretion on the part of any individual lawmakers - Republican or Democrat:
' . . The [US] Constitution provides impeachment as a remedy for "high crimes and misdemeanors." It is important to note that the category at issue is high crimes. We are mired in a military operation, with no end in sight and a human toll approaching catastrophic in proportion. Impeachment raises its head in this dialog because evidence exists that Mr. Bush and other White House officials may have deliberately misled the nation on the road to Baghdad. Deliberately. If true, the law itself mandates action under due process. Such action is expressly non-discretionary. ' source

I have also included an interesting article below by Stephen Pressfield for all my Neo-Pagan friends. Pressfield seems to think the best way to understand what is going on in Iraq is to think beyond the religious paradigm, to the idea of 'Tribalism'. What is a tribe after all but an extension of our personal family. It goes something like this: the Family - a Clan of Families - a Tribe of Clans - a Community of Tribes - a City of Communities - a State of Cities - a Country of States - a World of Countries. More or less. I'm simplifying things but you get my drift. Be under no illusion, however, that the tribe is a template for the future. It may help to understand what's happening in Iraq (as well as in the Oval Office, Canberra, Buckingham Palace, footy, prison and even the mafia) but we strive toward a future that moves us beyond this archaic system of human organization. Virginia Woolf once said, speaking of the oppression of women by the State, "I have no country, The world is my country." That's the vision template. Or as Martin Luther King called it, 'The Beloved Community.'


Dear Joe,
Re: Your Music and Life
I had never heard of you before today when I saw this is our local East Bay, CA newspaper:
"In the early to mid 1980s my son and I heard a song on the radio that we have laughed about ever since. The only line we remember is 'Ah, shut-upa your face.' Do you have any knowledge of this song and lyrics?"
An Internet search led to your music. Ted Egan and you are ace! That you put your talent to good social causes is commendable. Thanks. -- Dick

RE: The difference between a Scouser and a Geordie
First, a native of Liverpool is not a "Scouse". A scouse is either a dish (a bit like an Irish Stew), or - more usually ­ the word used when we refer to the dialect of Liverpudlians. A native of the city is called a "Scouser". . . (And it ain't just about being a native of the city. Look, the great jazz vocalist - and even greater writer ­ George Melly, is a native Liverpudlian. But you couldn't call him a Scouser. Why not? Well because of the lack of the almost impenetrable Scouse accent! Same goes for the Beatles manager, the late Brian Epstein.) . . . Let me add that if you are going to define a Geordie as someone born and raised inside the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, please realise that whilst some dictionaries will agree with you, the fact remains that this is not the real "de facto" definition. You try telling natives of towns like Morpeth, Ashington and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea that they ain't Geordies! (Let's put it this way: I'd sooner YOU tell them, than me!) Dai Woosnam

(Note: Thanks, also, to Dai for sending the first quote which leads off my newsletter this week. I've taken the artistic license of paraphrasing the above excerpt from some three-way correspondence recently between myself, Dai and Paul R. I liked this little fragment particularly because a decade ago, UK performer, Lee Brennan, recorded a 'scouser' version of 'Shaddap You Face,' called, 'Shut Yer Gob', which I like whole alot but which Dai assures me is not really sung in an authentic scouser accent. Who would have known? Long live Cabbage and Lips.)

Thanks Joe,
I miss the music component of these letters terribly, what's the matter with you? See comments. . .WS

(Note: WS then went on to red pencil my ENTIRE newsletter for me, completely unsolicited! Cool. Haven't had that done since Miss Hamilton's French class in Year 12. (That old bat. But she gave me straight A's.) I think WS got the mistaken idea somewhere that this was supposed to be a MUSIC newsletter. I don't recall ever indicating that in the past three years I've been writing it. (The recipes alone would have given that away.) He also then enquired if my article last week on L'Institute de Gastromdectomy was on the level. Oops! Up to then, I was taking him seriously. Somebody hasn't been taking their medication, there, WS. You, however, mention that if you heard another Heather Mills gag, you would tear your own leg off (which I liked the sound of so . . .)

For No One Haiku

The day breaks,
Her leg aches . . . .'



Q. Which 80's retro act would you pay to see?
A. Joe Dolce, I believe he is doing a comeback. There was a big article about him in The Times. Apparently he's a very deep man now. Friend of Jasper Carrot. Ross Noble, UK


It's the Tribes, Stupid
Steven Pressfield

Forget the Koran. Forget the ayatollahs and the imams. If we want to understand the enemy we're fighting in Iraq, the magic word is "tribe."

Islam is not our opponent in Baghdad or Fallouja. We delude ourselves if we believe the foe is a religion. The enemy is tribalism articulated in terms of religion.

For two years I've been researching a book about Alexander the Great's counter-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan, 330-327 B.C. What struck me most powerfully is that that war is a dead ringer for the ones we're fighting today ­ even though Alexander was pre-Christian and his enemies were pre-Islamic.

In other words, the clash of East and West is at bottom not about religion. It's about two different ways of being in the world. Those ways haven't changed in 2300 years. They are polar antagonists, incompatible and irreconcilable.

The West is modern and rational; its constituent unit is the nation. The East is ancient and visceral; its constituent unit is the tribe.

What is a tribe anyway?

The tribe is the most ancient form of social organization. It arose from the hunter-gatherer clans of pre-history. A tribe is small. It consists of personal, face-to-face relationships, often of blood. A tribe is cohesive. Its structure is hierarchical. It has a leader and a rigid set of norms and customs that defines each individual's role. Like a hunting band, the tribe knows who's the top dog and knows how to follow orders. What makes Islam so powerful in the world today is that its all-embracing discipline and order overlay the tribal mind-set so perfectly. Islam delivers the certainty and security that the tribe used to. It permits the tribal way to survive and thrive in a post-tribal and super-tribal world.

Am I knocking tribalism? Not at all. In many ways I think people are happier in a tribal universe. . . Modern life is tough. Who can fault us if now and then we entertain the idea of going back to the simple life? full article
(thanks to Joe Creighton)



Four Parachutes

A plane is about to crash.
There are 5 passengers on board, but there are only 4 parachutes.

The first passenger says:
"I am Ronaldo, the best football player in the world. The football world needs me, and I cannot die on my fans."
He grabs the first parachute and jumps out of the plane.

 The second passenger, Hillary Clinton, says:
"I am the wife of the former president of the United States; I am the senator of New York and I have a good chance of being president of the United States in the future."
She grabs a parachute and jumps off the plane. 

The third passenger, George W. Bush, says:
"I am the president of the United States of America. I have huge responsibilities in the world. Besides, I am the smartest president in the history of my country and can't shun the responsibility to my people by dying."
He grabs a pack and jumps off the plane.

The fourth passenger, the Pope, says to the fifth passenger, a young school boy:
"I am old. I have lived my life as a good person as a priest should and so I shall leave the last parachute to you; you have the rest of your life ahead of you."

To this the little boy says:
"Don't fret Your Holiness . . . there is a parachute for each of us.
President Bush took my schoolbag."


The History of Child Abuse
A Psychohistorical Study of Childhood


(Excerpts from a speech was given by Lloyd deMause at the National Parenting Conference in Boulder, Colorado.)

"During the past three decades, I have spent much of my scholarly life examining primary sources such as diaries, autobiographies, doctor's reports, ethnographic reports and other documents that document what it must have felt like to have been a child--yesterday and today, in the East and the West, in literate and preliterate cultures.

In several hundred studies published by myself and my associates in The Journal of Psychohistory, we have provided extensive evidence that the history of childhood has been a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes--and the further away from the West one gets--the more massive the neglect and cruelty one finds and the more likely children are to have been killed, rejected, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused by their caretakers.

Indeed, my conclusion from a lifetime of psychohistorical study of childhood and society is that the history of humanity is founded upon the abuse of children. Just as family therapists today find that child abuse often functions to hold families together as a way of solving their emotional problems, so, too, the routine assault of children has been society's most effective way of maintaining its collective emotional homeostasis. Most historical families once practiced infanticide, erotic beating and incest. Most states sacrificed and mutilated their children to relieve the guilt of adults. Even today, we continue to arrange the daily killing, maiming, molestation and starvation of children through our social, military and economic activities. I would like to summarize here some of the evidence I have found as to why child abuse has been humanity's most powerful and most successful ritual, why it has been the cause of war and social violence, and why the eradication of child abuse and neglect is the most important social task we face today. . .

. . Most early states practiced child sacrifice. Typical was Carthage, where a large cemetery has been discovered called The Tophet filled with over 20,000 urns deposited there between 400 and 200 B.C. The urns contained bones of children sacrificed by their parents, who often would make a vow to kill their next child if the gods would grant them a favor--for instance, if their shipment of goods were to arrive safely in a foreign port. Some urns contain the bones of stillborn babies along with the bones of two-year-olds, indicating that if the promised child was not born alive, an older child had also to be killed to satisfy the promise. The sacrifice was accompanied by a music, wild dancing and riotous orgy, and was probably accompanied by the ritual rape of virgin girls, as it was with the Incans. Plutarch told how the priests would "cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan [while] the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums..."

. . That child sacrifice was carried out mainly by the rich in each of these early societies confirms my theory that it is a guilt-reducing technique. Whenever new ventures were begun, children would be sacrificed. Whenever a new building or bridge was built, a child would be buried within it as a "foundation sacrifice." Children still play at capturing a child and making it part of the bridge in "London Bridge's Falling Down." Children's bodies were particularly useful in curing disease. Whatever one's physical ills, a child could be used to "absorb" the poison that was responsible. When, for instance, one wanted to be cured of leprosy, one was supposed to kill a child and wash one's body in its blood. When one wanted to find out if a house whose previous occupants had died of plague was still infected or not, one rented some children to live in it for several weeks to see if they died--rather like the use of canaries in mines to detect poisonous gas. . . The erotic beating of children continued in Christian times, because of the anxieties of living with a child who is so full of your projections. Children were experienced as always about to turn into "changelings," those who, as St. Augustine puts it, "suffer from a demon"--which usually meant just that they cry too much, since the Malleus Maleficarum says that one can recognize changelings because they "always howl most piteously," and since Luther says they "are more obnoxious than ten children with their crapping, eating, and screaming."

That children with devils in them had to be beaten goes without saying. A panoply of beating instruments existed for that purpose, from cat-o'-nine tails and whips to shovels, canes, iron rods, bundles of sticks, the discipline (a whip made of small chains), the goad (shaped like a cobbler's knife, used to prick the child on the head or hands) and special school instruments like the flapper, which had a pear-shaped end and a round hole to raise blisters. The beatings described in the sources were almost always severe, involved bruising and bloodying of the body, began in infancy, were usually erotically tinged by being inflicted on bare parts of the body near the genitals and were a regular part of the child's daily life. Century after century of battered children grew up to batter their own children in turn. Public protest was rare. Even humanists and teachers who had a reputation for gentleness approved of the severe beating of children. Those who attempted reform did so only to prevent death. As a thirteenth-century law said, "If one beats a child until it bleeds, then it will remember, but if one beats it to death, the law applies." As Batholomew Batty put it, parents must "keep The Golden Mean," which is to say they should not "strike and buffet their children about the face and head, and to lace upon them like malt sacks with cudgels, staves, fork or fire shovel," for then they might die of the blows. The correct way, he said, was to "Hit him upon the sides...with the rod, he shall not die thereof. . ." full speech and further links
(thanks to Ramon Sender)


People Who Tell the Truth

Bios and portraits of Rachel Carson, Ralph Ellison, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Howard Zinn, Mother Jones, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Chief Joseph Hinmaton Yalektit, Dorothea Lange, Eleanor Roosevelt, Emma Goldman and many others.
Artist's Statement:
"The courage of these individuals needs to remain a part of a great tradition, a united effort in respect for the truth. . . . These people form the well from which we must draw our future."  Robert Shetterly


International Lawyers File Suit against Rumsfeld in Germany
by Sarah Boseley

 An international grouping of lawyers has filed a lawsuit calling on German prosecutors to investigate outgoing US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for allegedly sanctioning torture.
The 220-page suit is being brought on behalf of 11 former Iraqi detainees of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and one Saudi currently being held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The suit was filed to Germany's federal prosecutor Monika Harms at her offices in the western city of Karlsruhe, said Hannes Honecker, the secretary-general of the Germany-based Republican Attorneys' Association Tuesday. German law allows the pursuit of warcrimes cases regardless of where they originate in the world.

A similar attempt to prosecute Rumsfeld in Germany was rejected two years ago, but the German lawyer representing the detainees, Wolfgang Kaleck, told a press conference in Berlin he was confident the complaint would be followed through on this occasion.

"We failed two years ago because there was an ongoing investigation in the United States, but it is now clear that there is no chance of prosecuting high-ranking officials in the US," Kaleck told a press conference in Berlin called to present the complaint. article



Jeff (Skunk) Baxter


Guitarist Jeff (Skunk) Baxter of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, currently works as an anti-terrorist consultant to the U.S. government Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community, as well as for defense-oriented manufacturers like Science Applications International Corporation ("SAIC"), Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. He has been quoted as saying his unconventional approach to thinking about terrorism, tied to his interest in technology, is a major reason he became sought after by the government.

"We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles," he has said. "My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at." article
(Thanks to Alan Johnson)





China's Environment Degraded to Dangerous Point: Official
The degradation of China's environment is reaching a critical point where health and social stability are under threat, China's top government official on the environment has said.
"In some places, environmental problems have affected people's health and social stability, and damaged our international image," Zhou Shengxian was quoted as saying in Monday's China Daily.
Rapid industrialisation over the past two decades had transformed China into one of the world's most polluted countries, with local governments and industries shunning ecological protection in the pursuit of short-term gains. article



Penne with Roast Vegetables, Sage and Brown Butter

100g small pumkin or yellow squash, peeled
100g carrot, peeled
100g sweet potato, peeled
10-15 garlic cloves, whole left in skins
fresh parsley, chopped

Sage in Brown Butter

handful of fresh sage leaves
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
fresh grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
red chili flakes (optional)

Melt about half stick of butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the sage leaves and continue to cook on medium heat until the butter just starts to go brown. Immediately remove from heat and toss the sage leaves until they begin to get crisp. Add the chopped garlic, and red chili and stir. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 300C. Bring a pot of water to rolling boil. Cut the three vegetables into pieces approx 10 x 5 cm. Roast for about 15 minutes. Add the penne and cook until al dente. (Try to time the penne and roast veggies to finish at the same time.) Add the garlic cloves and roast for an additional 15 minute or until tender. Make sure not to burn the garlic or vegetable. (If garlic is ready first, remove and set aside and finish the vegetables separately.) Remove the garlic from its skins. Cut the vegetables into small rough pieces which will be tossed with the penne.

Place a serve of penne on a plate, scatter some of the roast vegetables and garlic on top and spoon over some of the warm Sage and Brown Butter. Add black pepper and parsley to taste. Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese, making sure to leave extra around the edge of the plate for decoration, or so people can add more or less as they prefer. Serve with a small leaf green salad.



In the Storm
Some black ducks
were shrugged up
on the shore.
It was snowing
hard, from the east,
and the sea
was in disorder.
Then some sanderlings,
five inches long
with beaks like wire,
flew in,
snowflakes on their backs,
and settled
in a row
behind the ducks --
whose backs were also
covered with snow --
so close
they were all but touching,
they were all but under
the roof of the duck's tails,
so the wind, pretty much,
blew over them.
They stayed that way, motionless,
for maybe an hour,
then the sanderlings,
each a handful of feathers,
shifted, and were blown away
out over the water
which was still raging.
But, somehow,
they came back
and again the ducks,
like a feathered hedge,
let them
crouch there, and live.
If someone you didn't know
told you this,
as I am telling you this,
would you believe it?
Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned --
if not enough else --
to live with my eyes open.
I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness --
as now and again
some rare person has suggested --
is a miracle.
As surely it is.
~ Mary Oliver ~



A man and a woman are sitting beside each other in the first class section of the plane.
The woman sneezes, takes a tissue, gently wipes her nose, and shudders quite violently in her seat.
The man isn't sure why she is shuddering and goes back to reading.
A few minutes pass. The woman sneezes again. She takes a tissue, gently wipes her nose and shudders quite violently in her seat.
The man is becoming more and more curious about the shuddering.
A few more minutes pass. The woman sneezes yet again. She takes a tissue, gently wipes her nose and shudders violently again.
The man has finally had all he can handle. He turns to the woman and says,
"Three times you've sneezed and three times you've taken a tissue and wiped your nose then shuddered violently! Are you sending me signals, or are you going crazy?"
The woman replies, "I'm sorry if I disturbed you. I have a rare condition when I sneeze, I have an orgasm."
The man, now feeling a little embarrassed but even more curious says,
"I've never heard of that before. What are you taking for it?"
The woman looks at him and says, "Pepper".
(thanks to Dai Woosnam . . again!)