Monday, December 22, 2008

Traveling Light

He who would travel happily must travel light.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(1900 - 1944)

Travel Light, Enjoy it More!
By Gregory L. Banks

Is vacation traveling a drag even when your bag has wheels? Maybe you are bringing too much stuff! Most folks tend to over pack without any creative thinking. Consider the freedom and flexibility of traveling with just one carry-on bag! Flight attendants do it all of the time. If you know how to mix and match and how to get the most from what you pack, you can travel for weeks with just one bag. The following basic steps can be applied to both of the sexes.


Think Layers
It’s the most important question to ask yourself when you are packing for a trip. What will the weather be like at my destination? Will it be hot during the day and cold at night? In any case, bring light, quick drying clothing that can be worn in layers as the need arises.

Mix and Match
You can dress in reasonable style for a week or more with only three complete changes of clothing. By three changes, I mean 3 tops and 3 bottoms. You can be wearing one, one can be dirty and one is clean in reserve. More significant, if you multiply the 3 by 3 you suddenly have nine different clothing combinations! All of your clothing should be color coordinated. Before you leave home, spread every article on your mattress and determine if every single piece is visually acceptable with every other piece. Underwear and stockings are light, important for comfort and take little room, so you can afford to bring a few extras. Consider swimsuits that can double as shorts for men or for women, comfortable bathing suits make reasonable undergarments. An extra long t-shirt will make a good cover up or night shirt and a sarong can be used in dozens of ways. Since footwear and outerwear are usually the heaviest clothing articles, keep it to a minimum. In tropical climates, it works best to take along one pair of sandals and one pair of comfortable shoes or sneakers that can pass for more formal occasions. I always bring one light weight jacket or blazer for the wind, the chill or to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. You can include one heavier overcoat if your climate is a cold one, but since they take up lots of room, try to use layers instead. Bring a crush proof hat. Consider bringing a change of older clothes that you can plan on discarding as you replace them with some new ones. Always include one nice, dress up combination for those special occasions.

Washing your clothes
When I travel in the tropics, I make a habit of washing my clothes as I shower every night. Some of the best natural clothing for travel is made from silk for its lightness, strength and beauty. Many of the new nylon fabrics from your sports outfitter also have the ability to dry super fast even at room temperature. Undergarments and stockings are easily washed out in the bathroom sink. One of those round rubber jar openers makes a great universal sink stopper. You can use a dab of shampoo for a detergent. If washing your clothes in your hotel room isn’t your cup of tea, there is usually a laundromat or laundry service nearby.


A good strong belt with an internal compartment is a great idea for stashing money or other valuables. I also suggest a larger money pouch that can be worn around your neck or waist for safety and easy access. A bandana or scarf will take up little room and can be used as protection for your head, a fashion accessory or even a bandage. I always bring a thin plastic poncho for rain. Instead of a travel clock you can buy a wristwatch with an alarm that can be seen in the dark or a small radio that has a built in clock and alarm. A small LED flashlight with extra batteries is a must. Most people like to bring a small digital camera. It is important that all of your electronic accessories share the same type of batteries and the AA or AAA sizes usually work the best.
With the new carry-on restrictions, I have found it necessary to purchase a cheap, all purpose Swiss Army knife upon arrival. Bring a small sewing kit with a large enough needle to accommodate dental floss for heavy duty repairs. It is a good idea to have a small plastic bag containing a few safety pins, some small gauge cord, strong rubber bands and matches. A small roll of duct tape is important for repairs, to help seal things or as a lint remover. Take along some clear zip-lock bags of different sizes and a heavy duty garbage bag. Always bring an extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts. I bring things like sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, a writing pad, pens, maps, a travel guide and a good book. Remember that you can purchase many things after you arrive.


Once again it is important to think small. Of course you will need the essentials. Current FAA rules allow you to carry on fluids in up to 3 once bottles if they are placed in a quart size, clear, zip lock bag. Bring shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, shaving cream, a razor, a comb/hairbrush and whatever else you might need. Dental floss makes a great strong thread for repairs and can be used to tie things together. There is usually bar soap and a towel available everywhere except at campgrounds. A small first aid kit is recommended and can contain your medications, vitamins, aspirin, band aids, gauze and adhesive tape. A small bottle of iodine can sterilize a wound and a couple of drops will purify water. I always bring a box of antibacterial wipes and a small roll of toilet paper.

What to Put Everything In?

Thankfully the days of the rigid suitcase are over. There are many types of soft sided luggage now on the market. My personal favorite is called a Conversion Pack. It is basically a soft sided, carry on bag with an over the shoulder strap and hidden back straps. This allows you the option to have both hands free. Part of the fun of traveling is picking up some souvenirs along the way. I like to bring a large nylon empty duffle bag. When compressed it will take up no room on the way there but can hold lots of treasures on your way home. I also bring a smaller day bag for those day trips after I arrive. This smaller bag can also be used to carry some of your souvenirs on the way home. A reasonable alternative to the conversion pack is a regular backpack that is no larger than regulation, carry-on size. The important thing is to have your hands free. Carry-on regulations differ from airline to airline and plane to plane, but generally the length + width + height should equal 48 inches. Finally a small luggage lock that can attach to your bag’s zippers will help to keep prying hands out.

Money Counts

Don’t forget to bring your money, traveler’s checks, charge card, your passport and tickets. The US dollar is, for now, still the money standard in the Western Hemisphere. I bring two thirds of my money in smaller domination US cash with 20,s 10,s and five dollar bills; and about one third in small travelers checks as back up. Out of the way places will have trouble making change for larger bills. It is not a good idea to exchange a large amount of money at the airport or at those money changer booths when you first arrive. If anything, try to exchange a minimal amount, enough to last until you get to a bank where the best exchange rates will be. A VISA/ATM/check card combination will serve you well. ATM machines are now found in many more places and will allow you to get local cash at the current exchange rates. Check with your bank about their usual ATM service charges. These are per use charges and can be 5 dollars or more each time so it is better to withdraw a larger amount at once rather than a small amount many times. It is usually a good idea to use your charge card for larger purchases like hotels and tours but again, always ask first about extra service charges! The merchant may charge you an extra 15 percent just for the use of your card. In an emergency or as a last resort, you can take a cash advance, but remember; the rates are high and start immediately! Never exchange more cash than you will use during your trip. Many foreign currencies are worthless outside the home country. The duty free shop is a good way to use it up before you leave. Finally, be sure to save enough US cash for any surprise departure fees at the airport when leaving for home.

Make a Packing List
So get started by making a packing list. After you make your list, try to reduce it by half! Place your like items together in those clear zip lock bags and you will be able to locate everything easier.

Enjoy Your Trip!
If you can follow these basic ideas, you will discover new sense of freedom as you move from plane to train to automobile. More opportunities will be open to you when you travel light.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

End of the Long Night

“Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
Hawaii, 1959

It is impossible not to feel good about this right now regardless of what happens in the future.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Learning to Walk

"People would rather defend the possibility of becoming rich rather than to admit to their own poverty."
John Hancock

Everybody should have seen this coming but when the money is rolling in, nobody wants to rock the boat. As always the poor suffer the most and the middle class are being hit very hard as the Wall Street traders are sitting pretty with their average $600,000 bonuses. There hasn't been such a disparity in wealth since 1929 with the very, very top, the top one percent and especially the top .1 percent living like Roman emperors on the dime of the rest. Well we all know what happened to Rome.
The causes have been detailed and analyzed. It doesn't take a genius to see why this happened. Also, what we have learned is that the dollar is still (for now) the currency of the world. Even I predicted that the Euro would be the new dollar and China and Japan would eventually cut off our IOU for a more stable standard. This seems not to be the case. China will not call in its markers short of a nuclear war.

The ailing stock market, the bank defaults, the housing bubble and all the rest are only symptoms of the disease. The Reaganomic, trickle down theory where free markets regulate themselves is horse manure. Yesterday Greenspan finally admitted this, if in an ever so subtle way. Congressional hearings are just for show with both parties staging the theater and no one goes to jail. Unenforced regulations mean nothing. Only legislation has teeth. People need to go to jail for fraud or this will certainly happen again. FDR used the psychology of a strong, likeable, father figure to help the public feel better, but it was the economic policy he pursued from John Maynard Keynes that slowly removed us from The Great Depression.

The economy can be saved if we take that bailout money and invest from the bottom up.

1) Infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, water supplies, sewage plants would put people to work immediately and leave us with something to show for our money. Despite what some say, there are projects ready to go right now at the state and local level where the plans are already drawn and are just waiting for funding.
2) National health care would take the load off of business both big and small and advance hiring.
3) A shot in the arm for education would pay huge dividends within a decade.
4) Of immediate concern is that money needs to be spent on the homeowners so they can stay in their homes... renegotiated rates to address the discrepancy between what they paid and what they have now.
Of course $800 Billion US (or whatever it is now) wouldn't do all of these things. Rolling back the tax cuts on those at the top to a more equitable level will help but as Keynes said, an economic downturn of this magnitude is the real time to go into hock (not a stupid useless war) Now is the time to borrow even if our national debt is over $10 Trillion. China, Japan, Saudi Arabia are still willing to lend and if we put the money in the right place right now this will reverse itself in 3-5 years. But it looks like the government and the Fed want to play both ends..from the top and the bottom. This will just prolong the agony.So I am predicting that this is no time for happy faces or for drinking the Kool Aid.

This is the big one. It will not be another Great Depression because there are still some safeguards in place leftover from the 1930's but hard times will certainly linger on for most of a decade.

Monday, October 13, 2008


"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men."

Woodrow Wilson, after signing the Fed Reserve Act in 1913

Three weeks after the $800 Billion economic bailout and three weeks before the 2008 presidential election we are a nation still leading the world to the precipice. Today England and the European countries will attempt to the bring us back from the edge. The principles should have had time to scramble into their lifeboats and the offshore accounts where names are replaced by numbers. Europe, not so strangled by the hands of Political Action Committees can act swiftly. The plan is based on the Swedish model in 1992 where the government spent 4 percent of it's GDP and bought out shares of the banks in return for a stake in the recovery. This was a bitter pill for the bankers and the investers and while Sweden still experienced a recession, it avoided a total financial meltdown.

It will be much more complicated today because thanks to the mathematical hocus pocus, the assets have been bundled, packaged and made to disappear. Finding them will be no easy task but this, at least, is the second step in recovery. (Acknowledging the problem was the first step) This is not a solution but a tourniquet for a badly bleeding patient. It doesn't take a medical doctor to realize that a blood transfusion to the perpetrator will not save the victim.

The proper treatment is obvious to everyone in the hospital but the doctors are reluctant to prescribe a remedy that is contrary to the interests of the administration, the investors and themselves.

In 1933 after Herbert Hoover remained frozen and seemingly oblivious to the financial crisis, FDR was elected and began to implement the economic philosophy of John Maynard Keynes.
This involved a government infusion of funds from the bottom up. By funding infrastructure like roads, bridges and schools; jobs would be created, credit would get rolling again and there would be something tangible to show for it in the end. FDR also implemented regulations for banking and protections for the savings and the welfare of the citizens. The states have these rebuilding plans ready to go and they could be implemented quickly.

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who served under President Bill Clinton, told CNN that an infrastructure plan that could quickly pump money into the economy was the most important action that U.S. authorities could take to help deal with the current economic crisis.
"I would put in place an infrastructure piece... bridges, water systems roads, highways, but not new projects that are going to take a long time to set up," Rubin said. "There are a lot of existing projects where states and cities are having a hard time finding a lot of financing where you could funnel that money right into existing activities where you would be able to act very very quickly."
By David Lauder Sun Oct 12, 9:51 PM ET

Monday, September 29, 2008

Suicide by Crooked Cop

"Capitalism will always survive in the United States as long as the government is willing to use socialism to bail it out."

Nathra Nader
Ralph Nader's father

Like an exceptionally violent scene from "The Sopranos", the American People are being held hostage to the wealthiest cabal in the world in order for them to become even more wealthy. There is a loaded gun to our head that says "Either give us your money or you will lose everything."

"Finance is the art of passing money from hand to hand until it finally disappears."

Robert W. Sarnoff

This situation was hardly unexpected. The housing and finance bubble had been described, documented, detailed for years. It was like a round of musical chairs, shifting the money around as if it was the green pea in some shell game in Chinatown.
Well now the music has stopped.
We all knew that the escaping Bush regime would engineer one last fleecing, a well placed poison pill if you will, a parting "gift" to the American People. It could have taken the shape of another false flag phony terrorist operation or a much anticipated invasion of Iran. As it turns out, those options were frivolous compared to the daring, daylight robbery of every man woman and child in the United States of America.

Today with constituents telling Congress to vote "nay" 100 to 1, the 700 billion dollar toothless taxpayer give-away program was defeated in the House of Representatives 228-205. They haven't told us where the money is going to or where it is coming from. It sounds like another example of faith based legislation. If this plan is passed with no mandate for finance regulation, executive pay caps, taxpayer warrants (paybacks), no help for homeowners in trouble and most importantly, no prosecution for the guilty, it cannot be called a "rescue plan" but is rather a hijacking of the personal wealth of the common people for the greater benefit of the already filthy rich. The word on Wall Street late last week was that the champagne bottles were already popping after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced his corporate welfare bailout in a three page, no frills document that republican presidential candidate John McCain said he hadn't even read well into Tuesday of the following week. This plan is worthy of the Gambino family and the kicker is that $700,000,000,000 will not begin to satiate the hunger of the herd of pigs that are now lining up at the feedbag. Hear them squeal? I think what will probably happen if this bill never passes is that Wall Street will sober up and realize that they can't make any money unless they get back to work. A tremendous amount has already been made and the bailout would be the icing on the cake. Ultimately they will come to terms with this and get back to business. If the bill does pass, then this will be just the beginning as in any blackmail, there is always more to come. Nothing will have changed. Hopefully the American People will finally have the resolve to say NO and not succumb to these overfed piglets.
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 15, 2008

Free Falling

US in 'once-in-a-century' financial crisis : Greenspan
14 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States is mired in a "once-in-a century" financial crisis which is now more than likely to spark a recession, former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan said Sunday.
The talismanic ex-central banker said that the crisis was the worst he had seen in his career, still had a long way to go and would continue to effect home prices in the United States.
"First of all, let's recognize that this is a once-in-a-half-century, probably once-in-a-century type of event," Greenspan said on ABC's "This Week."
Asked whether the crisis, which has seen the US government step in to bail out mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, was the worst of his career, Greenspan replied "Oh, by far."
"There's no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I've seen, and it still is not resolved and it still has a way to go," Greenspan said.
"And indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes.
"That will induce a series of events around the globe which will stabilize the system."
Greenspan was also asked whether the United States had a greater-than 50 percent chance of escaping a recession.
"No, I think it's less than 50 percent.
"I can't believe we could have a once-in-a-century type of financial crisis without a significant impact on the real economy globally, and I think that indeed is what is in the process of occurring."
The former Federal Reserve chairman also predicted that the financial crisis would see the failure of more major financial institutions, even as embattled Wall Street investment giant Lehman Brothers scrambled to find a buyer.
"In and of itself that does not need to be a problem.
"It depends on how it is handled and how the liquidations take place. And indeed we shouldn't try to protect every single institution."
On Saturday, Democrat Barack Obama's campaign seized on a warning from Greenspan about John McCain's tax plans to portray the Republican as economically reckless.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television Friday, Greenspan said the nation could not afford 3.3 trillion dollars of tax cuts proposed by McCain without matching cuts in spending.
Greenspan, a long-time friend of McCain and a Republican, said about the Arizona senator's plans to extend massive tax cuts imposed by President George W. Bush: "I'm not in favor of financing tax cuts with borrowed money."
McCain has said he would pay for his cuts by ending pet funding projects for US lawmakers' districts known as "earmarks."

Op-Ed Columnist New York Times
Financial Russian Roulette "If institutions need to be rescued like banks, they should be regulated like banks — why were we so unprepared for this latest shock?"

Published: September 14, 2008
Will the U.S. financial system collapse today, or maybe over the next few days? I don’t think so — but I’m nowhere near certain. You see, Lehman Brothers, a major investment bank, is apparently about to go under. And nobody knows what will happen next.
To understand the problem, you need to know that the old world of banking, in which institutions housed in big marble buildings accepted deposits and lent the money out to long-term clients, has largely vanished, replaced by what is widely called the “shadow banking system.” Depository banks, the guys in the marble buildings, now play only a minor role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers; most of the business of finance is carried out through complex deals arranged by “nondepository” institutions, institutions like the late lamented Bear Stearns — and Lehman.
The new system was supposed to do a better job of spreading and reducing risk. But in the aftermath of the housing bust and the resulting mortgage crisis, it seems apparent that risk wasn’t so much reduced as hidden: all too many investors had no idea how exposed they were.
And as the unknown unknowns have turned into known unknowns, the system has been experiencing postmodern bank runs. These don’t look like the old-fashioned version: with few exceptions, we’re not talking about mobs of distraught depositors pounding on closed bank doors. Instead, we’re talking about frantic phone calls and mouse clicks, as financial players pull credit lines and try to unwind counterparty risk. But the economic effects — a freezing up of credit, a downward spiral in asset values — are the same as those of the great bank runs of the 1930s.
And here’s the thing: The defenses set up to prevent a return of those bank runs, mainly deposit insurance and access to credit lines with the Federal Reserve, only protect the guys in the marble buildings, who aren’t at the heart of the current crisis. That creates the real possibility that 2008 could be 1931 revisited.
Now, policy makers are aware of the risks — before he was given responsibility for saving the world, Ben Bernanke was one of our leading experts on the economics of the Great Depression. So over the past year the Fed and the Treasury have orchestrated a series of ad hoc rescue plans. Special credit lines with unpronounceable acronyms were made available to nondepository institutions. The Fed and the Treasury brokered a deal that protected Bear’s counterparties — those on the other side of its deals — though not its stockholders. And just last week the Treasury seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-sponsored mortgage lenders.
But the consequences of those rescues are making officials nervous. For one thing, they’re taking big risks with taxpayer money. For example, today much of the Fed’s portfolio is tied up in loans backed by dubious collateral. Also, officials are worried that their rescue efforts will encourage even more risky behavior in the future. After all, it’s starting to look as if the rule is heads you win, tails the taxpayers lose.
Which brings us to Lehman, which has suffered large real-estate-related losses, and faces a crisis of confidence. Like many financial institutions, Lehman has a huge balance sheet — it owes vast sums, and is owed vast sums in return. Trying to liquidate that balance sheet quickly could lead to panic across the financial system. That’s why government officials and private bankers have spent the weekend huddled at the New York Fed, trying to put together a deal that would save Lehman, or at least let it fail more slowly.
But Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, was adamant that he wouldn’t sweeten the deal by putting more public funds on the line. Many people thought he was bluffing. I was all ready to start today’s column, “When life hands you Lehman, make Lehman aid.” But there was no aid, and apparently no deal. Mr. Paulson seems to be betting that the financial system — bolstered, it must be said, by those special credit lines — can handle the shock of a Lehman failure. We’ll find out soon whether he was brave or foolish.
The real answer to the current problem would, of course, have been to take preventive action before we reached this point. Even leaving aside the obvious need to regulate the shadow banking system — if institutions need to be rescued like banks, they should be regulated like banks — why were we so unprepared for this latest shock? When Bear went under, many people talked about the need for a mechanism for “orderly liquidation” of failing investment banks. Well, that was six months ago. Where’s the mechanism?
And so here we are, with Mr. Paulson apparently feeling that playing Russian roulette with the U.S. financial system was his best option. Yikes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Another Astounding Success!

Now that the oil companies are doing a brisk business in Iraq, isn't it time for the leading US war contractor to come right out into the open and make a grab for what is left?
Iraq is the perfect example of the 4 decades of western Shock Therapy experiments world wide. From the electric shock treatments at McGill (that were good at breaking down but not rebuilding) to Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics' early experiments in Chile, Iraq is at the apex of this practice where all of the most ruthless methods were used in concert, resulting once again in perfect chaos, a breakdown where there shall be little success in rebuilding.

Anyone who still believes that the world is not under the control of an very small group of the international elite, the wealthiest .01 percent, anyone who thinks democracy is still a viable concept without first addressing the economic power structure itself, still has their head in the sand. Martin Luther King gave his life to wake up America.

Iraq seeks to buy 36 F-16 fighters from U.S.: report

37 minutes ago
The Iraqi government is seeking to buy 36 advanced F-16 fighters from the U.S., American military officials familiar with the request told the Wall Street Journal.
This move could help Iraq reduce its reliance on U.S. air power and potentially allow more American forces to withdraw from the country than had been proposed.
The F-16, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, is the most sophisticated weapons system Iraq has attempted to purchase so far.
Late in July, the U.S. Department of Defense had approved up to $10.7 billion in arms sales for Iraq, including a $2.16 billion sale of M1A1 Abrams tanks built by General Dynamics Corp.
The U.S. recently announced F-16 sales to Morocco and Romania. Those sales, each for roughly $100 million per plane with training, related equipment and support included, offer an indication of how lucrative the Iraq deal could be for Lockheed Martin and its suppliers.
Iraq now appears determined to significantly expand the air power of its military, which has become more competent and confident in recent months but depends heavily on the U.S. for air support.
Iraq quickly has become one of the biggest weapons buyers in the world as it seeks to strengthen and professionalise its fighting force.
No one was available at the U.S. Department of Defense for comment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What If?

When the truth is denied it will always come back and bite you in the ass.
Greg Banks

“The US is not a superpower. It is a bankrupt farce run by imbeciles who were installed by stolen elections arranged by Karl Rove and Diebold. It is a laughing stock, that ignorantly affronts and attempts to bully an enormous country equipped with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.”
Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:
What If?

What if Americans were more aware of their worldly surroundings?

What if Americans realized that people are the same all over rather than simply black, white, yellow and red?

What if Americans realized that all people want the best for their children, they want shelter, food, medical care?

What if Americans realized that all the people in the world eat, drink, fornicate, defecate and put their pants on in pretty much the same way?
What if Americans understood that a passport is a key and not a burden?
What if Americans realized that there are other languages and the importance of communication.

But the big shots at NBC, Boeing and Pfizer must grow their salaries beyond their profit margin and squeeze out a whopping paycheck now at around 500 times that of the workers while the GDP remains virtually static month after month? The rich must get their due rewards while the other 90 percent are missing payments, losing jobs and choosing between food and pills?
Maybe what Americans want is not in their own best interest or that of America.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shock and Awe

"If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves there wouldn't be enough to go around."

Christina Stead 1903-1983 House of All Nations (1938)

The Tanking Economy

What is happening to our economy involves the same kind of “Shock and Awe” tactics that the Bush regime used against Iraq. As Naomi Klein writes in her recent book, “The Shock Doctrine”, the goal of “Disaster Capitalism” is to break down, to brainwash if you will, the targeted population to the point where they are unable to resist and then to establish a clean slate by whatever means necessary. The final intent is to rebuild the object population according to a preconceived economic agenda. Events like 9/11 and Katrina were to Condi Rice and others “great opportunities”. For example, a clean slate was established in New Orleans and then public schools were privatized into charter schools and public housing was dismantled for upscale condos. After 9/11, shock and awe worked beautifully on the American people. In the entire history of this country, the things that we never thought would be sanctioned, such as domestic spying and torture, became commonplace and acceptable.
So our current economic crisis is just another way for the Milton Friedman “Disaster Capitalists” to dismantle what remains of FDR’s social contract with the American people, something that has always been the goal of the elite classes. It is this which we must resist. There is plenty of wealth in this country. It is the distribution of wealth that needs to be addressed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friend of the Devil

"The man who grabs the cat by the tail
learns 44 percent more

than the man who only watches."

Mark Twain

This photo of the poisonous Eyelash Viper was taken by the side of the trail in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica.

In a land of so many temptations it is important over time to develop some kind of daily routine. There are a great many ex-patriots in their 50's and 60's who have either made the permanent move or are in various stages of buying land or building. Some start the day with a power walk, a healthy breakfast of fruit, and a morning swim. During mid-day when the sun is the hottest, a sojourn in Cahuita National Park can be surprisingly cool with the constant sea breeze. At other times a relaxing nap is quite in order. Almost every other evening someone will have a dinner party or everyone will meet at a seaside restaurant for the catch of the day. The days always end after a night of dancing to calypso or reggae down at Cocos.

On the other side of town the lifestyle is decidedly different. It is no secret that the Caribbean Coast of Central America attracts a good number of outcasts, marginal characters and even some former CIA assets who were forsaken and abandoned by their government after the murderous black operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Many are content to drink themselves to death with the hush money from Uncle Sam.

When the sun finally drops behind the Chinese market and we all sit across the street on the concrete steps watching the world carry on in some kind of sublime, subversive, separate reality; the time is ripe for the Theater of the Absurd with a cast of characters as if from some crazy, tropical Fellini film. The long term regulars Marion the crazy German girl and Mike the drugged out American, Mustafa the big black hotel keeper from New York, Hubert the pillar of the community who grew up in the village as did 86 year old calypso legend Walter Ferguson, Marci from Vancouver who made her first visit as a young girl in 1974, expat Wayne from Toronto, village local Peter, Gary the drunk who sings Ave Maria for a cheap bottle, my high school friend Ted "The Boss" from Simsbury who has found a home and various bit players, tourists, travelers, the Ticas, the Aussies, the Dutch girls and all of God's Other Children who let their collective mind grow long. The one thing to remember in this part of the world is to not ask too many questions. Anything and everything else is on the table for consideration. The bohemian vibe is priceless. As always, the day ends with dancing at Cocos.

My friend Ted says that the Devil is around every corner.
Maybe he just likes it better here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Walk in the Park

"Too much of a good thing. . . is wonderful."
Mae West

The other day I walked the 3.5K jungle trail to Punta Cahuita in the National Park. The trail follows the incredibly beautiful coastline on one side with a picture perfect private beach around every turn. On the other side of the trail is the lush protected tropical rain forest full of abundance and life. At certain points the trail edges deeper and deeper into the jungle and farther from the sea.
This is the domain of the White Faced Capuchins "Monkeys" otherwise known as "The Terrorists of the Trees" My neighbor, Elena from Quebec was walking the path from Puerto Vargas back to Cahuita when an aggressive male white face came down from the trees after stalking her for some time. They always look you straight in the eye to kind of size you up. Then without warning the bugger jumped on to her backpack and ripped it off her back. After undoing the zipper and finding no food, the critter tried to steal her camera. Elena was able to shoe away the rascal but not without some trepidation.
On another occasion I came upon a friendly Tico family having a pleasant picnic on the beach at the point. I quietly watched the pack of white faces maneuvering all around the chicken that was roasting on the grill. Finally one of the rascals was hanging by one arm right over the chicken. He reached down with his other hand and grabbed a piece of the meat but it being rather hot, was dropped immediately by the primate with a sharp yelp! Dinner was saved if only temporarily.
On my way back I watched as a troop of about 25 Howler monkeys, including babies, crossed the path on trees only about 20 feet over my head. The babies would stop and eat and then clumbsily struggle to catch the group. There was no overbearing mother nearby so it appears that they feel very safe with the kids on their own.
The many rivers, the volcanic soil and abundant rainfall make this part of the world an ecological paradise where almost anything will grow well. Fruit trees abound. Nothing goes without full and complete nourishment from the land or the sea.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Notes From the Caribbean Coast

"A lie can travel halfway around the world
while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Mark Twain

This is a rare noontime photo
from the crater rim of Volcan Poas C R when the clouds parted for a few minutes. January 25, 2008

Somewhere south of Puerto Limon on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, there is a place where German doctors, British birders and all Fellini's children can mingle, relax and bask in the sun and sea. It is a place where anything goes and nothing goes too far or too fast. It is like looking into the rabbit hole and staying for as long as you like.
The day begins with the howls of th
e Howler Monkeys in the trees above my cabin. The Howlers are very fussy and only stay where life is easy and it is common to see them take one bite of fruit, throw the rest to the ground and grab another. The feeding Three Toed Sloth is in no hurry knowing full well that its food abounds.

Life is cheap and easy here. I have Blue Morpho Butterflies and Hummingbirds right at my door. This is my cabana. It costs $17US per night and you can find cabanas with kitchens, some near the water for as low as $200 per month. Stay tuned for more Notes From the Caribbean Coast!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Waltzing Matilda

"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.
Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for."

Louis L'Amour (1908 - 1988)
Ride The Dark Trail

Today begins a departure both figuratively and literally. I will begin with a legend and finish with the truth.

The poignant Australian folk song "Waltzing Matilda" tells the story of an itinerant worker (a sheep shearer) brewing a pot of tea at a bush camp and stealing a sheep to eat. When the owner arrives with three lawmen to arrest him, he drowns himself in a nearby lake and haunts the area for eternity.
By most accounts, the original lyrics were written in 1895 by the Australian nationalist poet Banjo Paterson and it was first published in 1903.
Many scholars and folklorists argue that the song is a political statement in much the same way as classic children’s nursery rhymes attacked political figures in earlier centuries. The song is not an explicit attack on the squatters’ refusal to pay shearers higher wages. However, it has been argued that the plot of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is based on the conflict that raged between these two groups in the 1890s before the song was composed.
Waltzing Matilda is the act of carrying a "swag" which is a shoulder bag used to carry a man's provisions and blankets.
The name Matilda comes from a old Teutonic female name meaning "mighty battle maid" and is used in this case as a slang term for a de facto wife who accompanies the wanderer.
A Billabong is a small area of water leading from a river.
A Coolibah is a gum or eucalyptus tree.
A Swagman is an Australian tramp.
A Billy is an old can used to make tea.
A Tucker Bag is part of the Swag used to hold food.
A Jumbuck is a sheep.
A Squatter was originally the land owner.

Once a jolly swagman sat beside the billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Down came a jumbuck to drink beside the billabong
Up jumped the swagman and seized him with glee
And he sang as he tucked jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Down came the stockman, riding on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three.
"Where's the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tuckerbag?
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited by the billabong
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Up jumped the swagman and plunged into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive," cried he
And his ghost may be heard
as you ride beside the billabong,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.