Bank on America

Bank on this.

Bank on this.

 

Community-based movements to halt the flood of foreclosures have been building across the country. They turned out in Cleveland once again in October, when a coalition of grassroots housing groups rallied outside the Cuyahoga County courthouse, calling for a foreclosure freeze and constructing a mock graveyard of Styrofoam headstones bearing the names of local communities decimated by the housing crisis. (They did not, unfortunately, stop the more than 1,000 foreclosure filings in the county the following month.) In Boston the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America began protesting in front of Countrywide Financial offices in October 2007. Within weeks, Countrywide had agreed to work with the group to renegotiate loans. In Philadelphia ACORN and other community organizations helped to pressure the city council to order the county sheriff to halt foreclosure auctions this past March. Philadelphia has since implemented a program mandating “conciliation conferences” between defaulting homeowners and lenders. ACORN organizers say the program has a 78 percent success rate at keeping people in their homes. One activist group in Miami has taken a more direct approach to the crisis, housing homeless families in abandoned bank-owned homes without waiting for government permission.

It’s unlikely, though, that any of these activists will be able to relax soon. 

The Nation

 

When I was a lad, I ran off to San Francisco, like hippies from all over, to be free and unconventional and rid of the whole corporate America trip.

I ended up working at the Bank of America, thanks to a pink collar stoner chick who fudged my typing test.

While working at their headquarters, I learned about the proud heritage of the bank, which had rebuilt San Francisco in the early 20th century, in the wake of its great earthquake. 

Today, of course, bankers are universally regarded as monuments to heroic greed, spectacular corruption and epic incompetence–one short step above child molesters on the social scale. Adrift in their bubbles, intoxicated by their own emissions, only they remain unaware of this downward turn in public perception.

When a reporter for the AP politely asked them what they were doing with billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ bailout ransom, they sniffily replied to this effect: “Listen, you tawdry little man–we don’t give a fig about you and your shabby readers. We have parties to attend. Kindly pay up and shut up. Then find your way out.”

Men have short memories. It wasn’t so long ago in the long view of history that, faced with a similar situation, the rabble roused themselves in the streets of Paris and handed the nobility their heads. Good times.

Today, gun shops can’t keep up with demand.

Being a peaceful sort and averse to noise, I got to thinking that maybe it doesn’t have to come to bloodshed and armed insurrection.

Is it conceivable that bankers today are capable, if only in theory, of once again doing the right thing? Could they ever, even in an imagined world, earn their fat paychecks and lead us out of the mess that is largely their own creation? 

Trying to wrap my head around that wild notion, I am once again transported back to a more innocent era.

All across the nation

Such a strange vibration …

 

 

 


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There they blow

Harpoon the whalers

Harpoon the whalers! A little butter, a dash of pepper … Mm-mm good!

The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has opened in Santiago without the usual war of words between pro- and anti-whaling nations.

Some campaigners in Chile’s capital complain dissent is being suppressed.

But Japan says anti-whaling countries will be able to pursue conservation goals more effectively if they accept that whaling can be sustainable.

Save the Internet: Take Action

Look at it this way: If the fat cats take over the Net, it will start to look like prime time TV — full of vacuous “reality” programs featuring no-talent buffoons fattening the wallets of brain-dead producers.

Noooooooo! It’s too horrible to contemplate. Act now, before it’s too late!

Save the Internet: Take Action:

Bush must face trial over Iraq

Not so sure about the Easter BunnyTEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that US President George W. Bush had been defeated in his Middle East plans and would one day stand trial for “atrocities” committed in Iraq.

He also said he thought Hillary Clinton’s new look was “rather fetching,” and wondered aloud as to just “how married” she was.

Khamenei’s withering personal attack on the US president in a Tehran prayer sermon to mark the onset of the Muslim holy month Ramadan came one day after Bush once again accused Iran of undermining the Iraqi government.

“I have a firm belief that one day this current US president and the American officials will be tried in a fair international court for the atrocities committed in Iraq,” he said.

“I also believe, contrary to popular opinion, that one day pigs will fly and that unicorns will be found living on the dark side of the moon.”

Observers noted that an early recording of Pink Floyd could be heard from behind the speaker, who giggled at odd intervals in the course of his remarks.

Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?

What more can I say?

Everyone is gay.

Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

 

 

Here in the US, our national politicians’ numbers have been in the tank. In a bold act of leadership — earning the admiration of thinking people everywhere — they promptly took to wrapping themselves in the flag and bashing homos.

Before comforting the afflicted, a bit of personal background: I was formerly one of the world’s foremost couch potatoes. I read books, watched movies, listened to music and talked a great deal. As my 30th birthday loomed, I learned the cruel truth of the classical dictum which teaches us: Use it or lose it.

I could not ascend a single flight of stairs without huffing and puffing.

Against all principle, I began working out. I even quit smoking. In short order I had to reinvent myself: Talking to a friend in a bar, I was all amaze as a young thing came up to me and began running her hand over my chest, exclaiming, “My God, you’re huge!

If that happened today, I’d say something witty, like, “You should see the rest of me.”

At the time, however, I stammered like a simpleton. (Imagine George Bush, after he’s had a few.) But I made a mental note: Lifting weights: Good.

That was 25 years ago. Today, everyone hits on me, all the time, but especially officially straight guys — usually muscular, handsome, fraternity boy, captain of the football team types.

Why this population? I have often wondered. I think it’s because they’re more confident.

Like this one guy: When he first started showing up at the gym, about a decade ago, he’d never look at anyone, never talk to anyone, never do anything but lift weights and leave. Quickly he got to looking really good and loosened up a little. Now and then he’d have a brief chat with someone. Still, a year went by and all that anyone knew about him was, “He has a girlfriend!”

Well, then he started entering bodybuilding contests… and winning! This painfully shy guy got up in front of God and everybody in a skimply little bikini to flex his muscles and show his stuff. He got to be not so shy. Then he hit on me. What a surprise.

Thinking about all this in the dim, lurid light given off by uptight, buttoned-down evangelicals (and the leaders of the people who pump them for all they’re worth), I wondered what might be done for all those nice queer couples out there who only want the same rights as everyone else.

Then, the other night, while watching the second part of Martin Scorcese’s documentary on Bob Dylan, it hit me how much more fun everyone seemed to be having back then, in the mythical 60s. There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.

And how love is from God and how love will find a way and…

How about if all those gay folks just get married anyway? Preferably in pagan ceremonies with lots of flowers and music and in full view of the world media.

In sum, then: Screw the establishment! Do your own thing! Let anarchy reign and may sweet freedom ring!*

Finally, and most importantly: Up against the wall, mother fuckers!

 

_______________

 

* Keep your hands off the kids, though, or you will surely end up suffering eternal perdition.

Worse, you will do so in the company of televangelists, along with priests and prelates of the Catholic Church.

Dressed up as a choir boy, you will enact a perpetual part, set upon by horny devils on all sides. You will find the clime quite hot (though not in the way you imagined) and altogether funny (though not to you, being, as it were, the butt of all the jokes).

See my forthcoming musical: Dante’s Lost Canto — Land of Infernal Delight.

 

 

Iraq: My Brain

I was watching a local cable program the other day. An author was in town, reading from his new book. He was bright, funny, amiable — the sort of guy many might enjoy having over for a beer.

His works were all political in one way or another, he said, adding that what Americans fear is the cost of health care, not terrorists. “I mean, come on,” he said.

His entire argument consisted of that one ad hominem.

The next day the news broke about the FBI arresting a nest of bad guys in Florida, who appear to have been planning on blowing up the Sears Tower.

Coincidentally, the men in custody are poor, dark and disenfranchised — akin to their foreign counterparts, they appear to be buffoons in search of explosives.

That got me thinking. About how much I love Bruce Springsteen, George Clooney, PBS, the BBC and all my friends who oppose the war. And how much I don’t want them running the Pentagon. But how their hearts are ultimately in the right place.

Then I got to thinking about the differences in temper between those on the right and those on the left. And how those differences often seem to come down to the division between the hard-headed and the soft-hearted, as explicated by William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience, specifically Lectures XIV and XV, where he writes about the value of saintliness:

We must frankly confess, then, using our empirical common sense and ordinary practical prejudices, that in the world that actually is, the virtues of sympathy, charity, and non-resistance may be, and often have been, manifested in excess.

The powers of darkness have systematically taken advantage of them. The whole modern scientific organization of charity is a consequence of the failure of simply giving alms. The whole history of constitutional government is a commentary on the excellence of resisting evil, and when one cheek is smitten, of smiting back and not turning the other cheek also.

You will agree to this in general, for in spite of the Gospel, in spite of Quakerism, in spite of Tolstoi, you believe in fighting fire with fire, in shooting down usurpers, locking up thieves, and freezing out vagabonds and swindlers.

And yet you are sure, as I am sure, that were the world confined to these hard-headed, hard-hearted, and hard-fisted methods exclusively, were there no one prompt to help a brother first, and find out afterwards whether he were worthy; no one willing to drown his private wrongs in pity for the wronger’s person; no one ready to be duped many a time rather than live always on suspicion; no one glad to treat individuals passionately and impulsively rather than by general rules of prudence; the world would be an infinitely worse place than it is now to live in. The tender grace, not of a day that is dead, but of a day yet to be born somehow, with the golden rule grown natural, would be cut out from the perspective of our imaginations.

The saints, existing in this way, may, with their extravagances of human tenderness, be prophetic. Nay, innumerable times they have proved themselves prophetic. Treating those whom they met, in spite of the past, in spite of all appearances, as worthy, they have stimulated them to BE worthy, miraculously transformed them by their radiant example and by the challenge of their expectation.

[…]

World of light from which all brightness shines
You have that world’s illuminating eyes.

These sad eyes in which you always dance
These eyes are agitated eyes.

sufi-mystic.net/index4.htm

O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.