Monday, August 16, 2010

Jim Dee’s sunny power line suggestion

My three closest blog followers remarked that I’ve been quiet recently and wondered if I had nothing to write. I replied that I’ve been trying to get outside in the sun more, which reminded me of my friend Jim Dee’s solar power suggestion:

Two years ago, I stumbled onto Mr.’s Dee’s unique proposal. And with recent improvements in solar power efficiency, and a President who actually reads ten U.S. citizen letters handpicked by his staff each day, Mr. Dee’s suggestion is now more feasible than ever.

Here is the jist of it, which; with his permission, I have paraphrased from his blog:

"I had a moment of insight this morning and wanted to share. It does nothing less than solve the entire American/Mexican border issue in a true bipartisan way. Here's the deal:

We take the entire length of the U.S./Mexican border, at a width of a good quarter mile wide or so, and privatize it -- sell it to the highest qualified bidder. And, by "qualified bidder," I mean Power Generation Company.

What no other political commentator (to my knowledge) has seemingly noticed is that the border in question, besides being the source of exhaustive political debate, is also located in a particularly bright, sunny patch of the country. Because that area's so ridiculously bathed in sunshine, it lends itself particularly well to ... wait for it ... solar power development! (Yeah, it was an "aha!" moment for me, too.)

Anyway, our high bidding Power Company purchases the land, with the sole stipulation that it must develop a solar array spanning pretty much the entire length of the U.S./Mexican border. Along either side of the array, the company would also have to construct a large security wall to serve the primary purpose of keeping out vandals (from both sides); as a bonus, it would also naturally keep anyone from entering the U.S. illegally.

Here's an additional bonus: Part of the power generated by the array could be diverted to the fence itself -- because, let's face it; an electric fence is much more efficient! The rest of the power would be sold, as normal, to nearby communities, thus (1) improving air quality from fewer coal-fired plants; (2) boosting economic development; and (3) furthering solar technology in general.

Since the power company would have their income/profitability at stake, it would be in their best interest to hire armed security patrols. Let's face it: Unlike government-run initiatives, when there are private/stockholder earnings on the line, stuff gets done. (It used to get done poorly, I'll admit. But, hopefully Sarbanes-Oxley fixes some of that.)

It's an elegant bipartisan solution, don't you think? The right gets a Jurassic Park-esque electric fence, the left gets solar power out the wazoo!”

Thank you Mr. Dee!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

This Difficult Individual Eustace Mullins — and the Remarkable Ezra Pound

by Beatrice Mott

Authors wishing to quote Eustace's books in their own writing make themselves an easy target for reasonable critics or hate organizations like the ADL. In this way, Mr. Mullins has done more harm to the movement than good.

I learned this the long way. Having read Secrets, I drove down to Staunton, VA in the summer of 2006 and spent an afternoon talking with Mr. Mullins. My goal was to find the origin of several stories and statements which I could not reference from the text. Mr. Mullins was an elderly gentleman and he couldn't remember where he had found any of the material I was interested in. He simply replied: “It's all in the Library of Congress. Back then they would let me wander the stacks.”

So I moved to D.C., a few blocks from the library and spent the better part of two years trying to retrace Mr. Mullins' footsteps. Prior to this I had had several years' experience as a researcher and was used to trying to find the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” They wouldn't let me wander around the book storage facility (the stacks), but I scoured the catalog for anything that might contain the source for Mr. Mullins' statements. I couldn't verify any of the information in question.

Sadly, I realized that it would never be good practice to quote Mr. Mullins. But I hadn't wasted the time. I know more about the Federal Reserve now than most people who work there and I learned about the fantastic Mr. Pound.

Ezra Pound is among the most remarkable men of the last 120 years. He made his name as a poet and guided W. B. Yeats, T.S. Elliot and E. Hemingway on their way to the Nobel Prize (back when it meant something). He is the most brilliant founder of Modernism — a movement which sought to create art in a more precise and succinct form. Modernism can be seen as a natural reaction to the florid, heavy Victorian sensibility — it is not the meaningless abstractions we are assaulted with today.

Ezra Pound

Born in Idaho, Pound left the United States for Europe in 1908. In London he found an audience of educated people who appreciated his poetry. He married Dorothy Shakespear, a descendant of the playwright.1 Pound also befriended some of the most brilliant artists of the time and watched them butchered in the First World War.

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, a sculptor and one of Ezra's best friends, was one of these sacrifices. The Great War changed Pound's outlook on life — no longer content with his artistic endeavors alone, he wanted to find out why that war happened.

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

The answer he got bought him 12 years as a political prisoner in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Anacostia, just across the river from the Capitol in Washington D.C. Pound was never put on trial but was branded a traitor by the post-war American media.

What answer did Pound find? Our wars begin and end at the instigation of the international financial houses. The bankers make money on fighting and rebuilding by controlling credit. They colonize nations and have no loyalty to their host countries' youth or culture. No sacrifice is too great for their profit.

Much of Pound's work chronicles the effect of this parasitic financial class on societies: from ancient China to modern-day Europe. Pound was a polyglot and scoured numerous (well-documented) sources for historical background. The education that Mullins' work promises is delivered by the truckload in Pound's writing. Pound often lists his sources at the end of his work — and they always check out.

Eustace Mullins got to know Pound during the poet's time as a political prisoner. He was introduced to Pound by an art professor from Washington's Institute of Contemporary Arts which, in Mullins' words, “housed the sad remnants of the 'avant-garde' in America.”

According to Mr. Mullins, Pound took to him and commissioned Eustace to carry on his work investigating the international financial system. Pound gave Eustace an American dollar bill and asked him to find out what “Federal Reserve” printed across its top meant. Secrets, many derivative books, and thousands of conspiracy websites have sprung from that federal reserve note.

And here is where the story goes sour. Pound was a feared political prisoner incarcerated because of what he said in Italy about America's involvement with the international bankers and warmongering. Pound was watched twenty four hours a day and was under the supervision of Dr. Winfred Overholser, the superintendent of the hospital.

Overholser was employed by the Office of Strategic Services (the CIA's forerunner) to test drugs for the personality-profiling program, what would be called MK-ULTRA. (See John Marks' The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate": The CIA and Mind Control.) Personality profiling was St. Elizabeth's bread and butter: The asylum was a natural ally to the agency.

Overholser was also a distinguished professor in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department of George Washington University. This department provided students as test patients for the Frankfurt Schools' personality profiling work, which the CIA was very interested in. Prophets of Deceit, first written by Leo Löwenthal and Norbert Guterman in 1948, reads like a clumsy smear against Pound.

It does seem odd that a nationalist student would be allowed to continue the work of the dangerously brilliant Pound right under Winny's nose. The story gets even stranger, as Mr. Mullins describes his stay in Washington during this time. He was housed at the Library of Congress — apparently he lived in one of the disused rooms in the Jefferson building and became good friends with Elizabeth Bishop.

Ezra Pound

Bishop was the Library of Congress' “Consultant in Poetry” — quite a plum position. She was also identified by Frances Stonor Saunders as working with Nicolas Nabokov in Rio de Janeiro. Nabokov was paid by the CIA to handle South American-focused anti-Stalinist writers. (See The Cultural Cold War.) If what Saunders says is true, then it puts Eustace in strange company at that time of his life.

According to the CIA's in-house historians, the Library was also a central focus for intelligence gathering after the war, so it is doubly unlikely that just anybody would be allowed to poke around there after hours.

Whatever the motivation for letting Mullins in to see Pound was, the result has been that confusion, misinformation and unverifiable literature have clouded Pound's message about the financial industry's role in war. Fortunately Pound did plenty of his own writing.

According to Eustace, his relations with Pound's relatives were strained after Pound's release from prison. Pound moved back to Italy where he died in 1972. He was never the same after his stay with Overholser in St. E's. The St. Elizabeth's building is slated to become the new headquarters of the Department for Homeland Security.

Eustace went on to write many, many books about the abuses of government, big business and organized religion. They are very entertaining and are often insightful, but are arsenic from a researcher's point of view. A book that contains interesting information without saying where the information came from is worse than no book at all.

While lackadaisical about references in his own writing, Mr. Mullins could be extremely perceptive and critical of the writing of others. I once told him how much respect I had for George Orwell's daring to write 1984 — to which he sharply replied: “It's a great piece of pro-government propaganda — they win in the end.” Mr. Mullins is of course right: Orwell's Big Brother is always one step ahead, almost omniscient — and therefore invincible.

Eustace Mullins was much more than a writer. He became a political activist and befriended many prominent people in the American nationalist movement. But Mr. Mullins didn't have much faith in American nationalism: It is a movement, he told me, that the government would never let go anywhere.

Beatrice (email her) is a writer and historian living in Burlington, VT.

[1] Dorothy Pound's ancestry does depend on some circumstantial evidence, and readers who are interested in this should see John Tytell's book, Ezra Pound: The Solitary Volcano. Return to article.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Secret Lives of Meter Readers

If you are looking for a long walk every day with not bad pay, maybe meter reading is the ticket. Generally, you get to spend a lot of peaceful time by yourself, plenty of serene reflecting space, unhindered by a bickering work crew. Simply dedicating yourself to reading meters all day can actually lead to a very ascetic lifestyle.

When a vault into the earth is uncovered, great mysteries lie inside. Neighborhood kids dash over and want to spy. Newts and frogs, snakes, snails and polliwogs are all revealed from these tiny underground arenas. If the meter reader does not watch carefully, he may uncover a hornet's nest. Thus, most workers carry a medicine pouch within their toolkits.

Meter reading routes are hard roads at first; but endurance soon builds up, as the man (or woman) becomes self-reliant. As he walks along, he strengthens his full character, all the way down to his stem cells. Striding along, his breathing becomes natural and he finds himself more plainspoken.

Travelers often pose directions or unusual questions from meter readers. Does the deer turn into elk at the same elevation rattlesnakes stop snapping? On what Idaho road did Hemingway kick the can? Having snappy answers handy makes the job more pleasant.

Dogs are an inherent part of meter reading. Most browsers are friendly and can decipher the meter reader's spirit with a high degree of accuracy. Many dogs will grant you easy access through their gated community to inspect the meter. It's getting out again that presents a problem, as pups craving companionship insist that you stay and play.

Some meter readers get to thinking up fantastic ideas along the trail. They begin to carry a notepad alongside their number recorder and write down musings in a Thoreau-like manner. Even in cities, they see bits of nature, which many motorists blur by too fast to appreciate. Along the glistening stream: some morel mushrooms for their pouch, a storytelling of crows over in that towering tamarack tree, trying to alter a chapter in an owl's life.

Meter readers of various utilities develop an eye for detail and take note of safety concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed: A dead tree branch leaning into a power line. The scent of gas somewhere, or loose manholes in the street. This talent is not lost on Homeland Security officials who sometimes speak of enlisting meter readers to keep "an eye out" for all of us. However, most meter readers are not into this sort of thing. They could draft maps of homes of the stars if they wished, but most prefer to shine as more of a nameless Pale Rider-type of hero. Blending into the background; but emerging with more than speedy serendipity, for the occasional good deed along their way.

Daydreams of meter readers include running a line of electricity up to Pioneer Cabin. Imagine the boss man wondering why only one meter was read this afternoon. Meter readers face harsh conditions in the winter, post-holing through deep snow and truly appreciate your efforts to keep the pathway clear around reading time. Some consumers seem to forget that having a utility company representative freshly familiar with the physical location of the meter is a key aspect for safety, since the utility meter is also the spot for the emergency shut-off valve.

Customers must think that meter readers are as secretive as wolverines, since they are so seldom seen. However, when they are detected, it's nice to give them a high howdy and a thank you for their dedicated service. They will likely remember that for a long time. During my years of meter reading, there were only a handful of times, when someone offered thanks, but it always brightened my week.

Alas, many healthy aspects of meter reading are rapidly transforming, along with much of our world’s unquestioned “progress.” With the advent of the GPS receivers, probing rods and older methods of tie-down measurements are less required to locate meters obscured by leaves or grass. In addition, remote registers and smart-grid telemetry are phasing out some routes. Therefore, if your dog seems a tad more lonesome lately, it could be that he didn't receive his monthly belly rub and a pat on the head from your friendly neighborhood meter reader.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wht Schools Don't Educate

A Sun Magazine classic.

Key Quote:

“But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes, or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers; we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach “the basics” anymore, because they really aren’t basic to the society we’ve made.”

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Monday, January 25, 2010

A Mayonaise Jar & Two Beers

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar, he shook the jar lightly.... The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. 'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.. Spend time with your children.. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.'

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Loneliness of the long distance runner

Beth and Ron had both had escaped from the mental institution in recent weeks, temporarily attaining the mythic freedom we often discussed in the sanitized atmosphere of our communal living room. Each of us had roommates in the open ward. Most were there for drug or anger-coping problems, but not me. No, I was there because my basketball dreams had deflated. The patients would sometimes play basketball in the dungy basement too; and there I still had much of the natural ballet flow with which I grew up. Mellaril stifled some of this; but the bigger problem was that I realized how doubtful it was that any basketball scouts would be following up on their scholarship offers, by peeking in on me at the drab mental institution.

After several weeks of loitering there, I felt as if this wasn’t a place for me to make progress. So, I took a cue from Ron and went over to the nurse’s station to hang out for a final time. As the nurse dipped behind the partition to parse out a patients evening dose, I slipped over quietly and quickly tapped the elevator button. It wasn’t going to be enough time though, and I knew this from timing it before, while hatching my escape plan. So I hustled back and leaned against a far wall corner, stroking my beard and reading an important newspaper from my clipboard.

After checking under the tongue of her patient to ensure the dosage was properly swallowed, the nurse drifted behind the partition for more medicine, opening the chance for me to dash to the awaiting elevator. I hopped on soundlessly, hit the button for floor one and placed my palm over the floor indicator bell. The elevator took me down, and as I exited, I clung to my clipboard as if it was breaming with important information, then I nonchalantly walked out, pretending I was a doctor, while stroking my beard, and slipped past the two hypnotized woman at the lower administration desk and through the unlocked glass door to freedom!

It was a frigid freedom however, with the temperature in the lower twenties. Immediately after I strode past the front desk and up the hilly grass, I sprinted to the far end of Macarthur Park and slipped into a shady grove. There I followed an ancient railroad track though some thick woods. Even though the path was amid a bustling metro area, it was not well traveled, probably because of the large amount of briars in that neighborhood. The path came out conveniently near Key Bridge, which would be the natural route for me to head into Virginia. However, that’s precisely where authorities recaptured Ron and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.

Therefore, I purposely walked deeper into the city. It was Saturday, December 23, 1978 – a long holiday weekend and not many people were out for this cold late night. Fortunately, I was dressed warm enough to walk around. I trudged into the heart of the red-light district, to elude police, alerted to any escaped mental patients, fitting my description. After a few hours of gerrymandering around the Capitol, I wound my way over to the 14th Street Bridge. Back then, it did not have a pedestrian walkway, and the guardrail was only thirty inches high, but as the traffic was sparse, it felt safe enough to cross the river there.

While crossing the 14th St. Bridge, there was a brief period when it became completely barren of traffic. Here*, I stopped and reflected above the Potomac for a few minutes, wondering if back at the institute they were aware of my escape yet. Then looking down at the dark water, it struck me, “So this is what it comes to for some people.” The thought naturally occurred, to make me wonder what would happen if I jumped in. The river didn’t appear to be flowing very fast, but that probably was deceptive, because it must certainly be powerful. Then I thought that if I jumped in, deception or not, there was a chance I would survive, because I was still a strong young man. Next, I thought, what a cliché this tragic event would be, and if I was to go, it should certainly be under circumstances that are more dramatic! Here they might not even find me, unless somebody actually sees me jump.

Thinking again about the cliché, I realized that this was something funny. Even though the doctors had drugged me badly, I recognized the element of dry humor above the river there and remembered that I had often been a funny guy. As I looked over at some vehicles approaching from the Rosslyn end of the bridge, I thought I could laugh at this incident in a year or two, if I filed the humorous fragment away for future use. Then I walked to end of the bridge to my Virginia freedom.

*Two years later, Air Florida’s Flight 90 crashed at the same spot of the bridge where I stood reflecting that dark evening. The crash resulted in some heroic, dramatic rescues, along with 78 fatalities, most in the frigid river:

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It made me stop and think

A few decades ago, a good friend of mine, and his girlfriend broke up. They had been together for several years, and were quite close, but circumstances were such that it was time for them to split apart. They still had places in their hearts for each other though, and even after they moved to different states, they kept in touch once or twice a year.

A few years passed, and they had not spoken for a while. Then one day, my friend received a letter from his old girlfriend’s sister. Before he even opened the letter, he sensed that she was no longer alive and the letter confirmed his sad intuition. Her next-door neighbor in a violent act murdered her, and I don’t know many more details than that.

My friend has often been an eye-for-an-eye type of person. For several years, he actively petitioned the Governor of the state where she lived, pushing for the death penalty for the murderer. For a long time, I secretly disagreed with what he was doing and with his grim death-row outlook. Finally, it was on my mind so much that I asked one or two friends what they thought of the situation. One woman said that if somebody murdered her, she would be proud that an old boyfriend would take such a chivalrous stance to avenge her death. This made me stop and think; to the point that eventually I started shifting my belief system about the death penalty - at least enough that I started respecting my friend's fortitude and resolution, dedicated to someone he once loved. After all, how could I purport to understand how he feels, when I’ve never experienced somebody that close to me being murdered?

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