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Welcome to Steele Park

Penny
Editor Emeritus: Penelope Puffbear Quivertail 2000-2014

This site contains cross-postings of my posts at Agonist.org, before it folded, since archived at Agonistas.com.

It also has a number of music videos and recipes and computer ‘war stories’.

It is affiliated with Steele Park Press.

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    Joe Bageant died in 2011. He wrote “Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War” and “Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir”. Joe’s writing was put before the public, particularly the online public by a peripatetic, cosmopolitan chap named Ken Smith. Ken was Joe’s ‘literary executor’ and Ken put together “Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant”, which Ken felt were Joe’s best 25 essays.

    Ken kept Joe’s website operational and after some issues with the hosting, was considering migrating it to WordPress. I offered to help with this and he gave me access to the data, to serve as a archive in case the conversion failed or the old website was lost permanently.

    In 2016, Ken Smith passed away. At the request of Joe’s family I have established Joebageant.org to preserve Joe’s online presence and the website now belongs to Joe’s family.

    While I am happy to help preserve Joe’s wonderful writing, I am neither young nor immortal.
Buy the books, read and savor Joe’s wit and honesty – and spread the word.

Inequality

Inequality is generally considered a bad thing, although it is obvious that some view it as an inherent quality of humanity and society. Those, of course, are usually people who consider themselves superior to others and want to maintain their privileged status. Walter Scheidel’s “The Great Leveler” makes the point that in the global history from the Stone Age to today, inequality never dies peacefully. The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling: mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues―have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich.

Nothing less seems to have worked but the Jewish custom of Sabbatical Years and Jubilee Years offers a hint of how a peaceful resolution might be effected.

The chief driver of inequality has always been debt (which existed well before money was invented and need not be financial – see David Graber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”). What would be the consequences if absolute equality – wealth and power – were periodically enforced?

The results would vary by country, as does the level and severity of inequality worldwide, but my guess for the United states is that there would be a significant improvement in the circumstances of about 40% of the population, a modest improvement for the next 40%, a modest decline for the next 15-18% and a serious decline for those in the top 2-5%.

Even assuming such a redistribution were possible and desirable, the first thing to notice is that – at least in our current world – the process implies an entity with sufficient authority and power to make it happen. And that the last step of such a process would consist of the enforcing entity to give up authority and power.

Pecan Pies etc

Pecan pie is a type of Chess Pie, based on sugar, syrup, butter and eggs and there are many variations (including Vinegar Pie). It’s hard to find a good one in restaurants North of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The type and ratio of sugar and syrup determine how rich/hearty it turns out.
If you like extra rich, use molasses and dark brown sugar.
If you like it lighter use white Karo corn syrup and a lighter sugar.
You can experiment using honey, maple syrup, white sugar.
Traditionally pecan halves are intact but some folks like to chop and mix in, ‘decorating’ with halves around the edges.
I cover the bottom of the pie crust with pecan halves. They rise to the top during baking.

I prefer a fairly light pie, so my pecan pie recipe is:

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup light Karo
1/4 cup butter
3 large eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans
1 pie crust for 9″ pie pan.
Put pie crust in pan
My wife & son make crust from scratch but I don’t unless I’m making several pies.
I use pre-made crust but move it from freezer to fridge a day in advance.
(Doesn’t keep longer than about a week in the fridge).

Preheat oven to 375°
Beat eggs in large bowl & set aside.
Combine sugar, syrup, butter & salt in saucepan.
Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly – won’t take long.
Add small amount to beaten eggs and mix well.
Add the rest of the hot mixture and mix well.
(If you dumped all the hot mix into the beaten eggs at once, you’d end up with sweet scrambled eggs).
Pour into pie crust.
Bake 40-50 minutes until center is just a bit jiggly when shaken.

Variations:
Haven’t tried using honey but I’ve made a Maple Walnut Pie with maple syrup, light brown sugar and walnuts.

I’m lucky to have family living in the middle of a pecan orchard, so I get pounds for free every year. If you are fresh out of pecans, you could substitute other nuts or try the following:

Poor Man’s Pecan Pie

1/2 cup grape-nuts
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup brown sugar (I use light brown)
1 cup corn syrup (I use white Karo)
1/4 cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie crust for 9″ pie pan

Preheat oven to 375°
Lay pie crust in pie pan.
Soak grape-nuts in the 1/2 cup warm water.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter & salt in saucepan.
Bring to quick boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved & remove from heat.
Beat eggs until foamy, Add small amount of hot syrup to eggs, beating well.
Ad remaining hot mixture, mixing well.
(If you dumped all the hot mix into the beaten eggs at once, you’d end up with sweet scrambled eggs).
Stir in the softened grape-nuts.
Pour into pie crust.
Bake 45-50 minutes until center is just a bit jiggly when shaken.

Variations:
Couldn’t find Grape-Nuts last time so made it with AllBran. Worked fine.
Some recipes call for rolled oats, oatmeal raw or instant, whatever.
Suspect you could use most anything bland and able to soak up moisture – diced bread, etc.

The Matter of Mind

   This is a not-quite-random musing on the nature of the Mind and its processes. I will preface it by admitting the arguments and speculations may or may not apply to those with organic or genetic problems or traumatized brains. I’m talking here about run-of-the-mill folks, the more-or-less normal.

   I have been in various sorts of psychotherapy and closely examined the process, both in my own case and with others. I also have observed the effect of psychoactive substances on myself and others.

   When we repeatedly perform an action, from walking to washing the dishes, we develop a way of doing so that is most efficient, not only from the point of view of getting across the street or having clean dishes, but also from the point of view of minimizing the effort expended. It’s as though we have limited energy and want to conserve it. My contention is that we do the same with our mental efforts. It is often noted that many (most?) people find it easier to accept what they hear on TV than to really think about the issues and make up their own minds. They loudly proclaim their rationlity when the fact is that many haven’t had a new idea since they discovered little boys were different from little girls (and they’re still trying to figure out the ramifications of that).

   Therapists all know that most psychiatric medications are not highly effective in the long term. They alleviate the severity of the symptoms temporarily, providing a window of opportunity for the therapist to induce a “cure’ or at least a significant reduction in symptoms. I would claim that if one wants to be depressed, anxious, manic, etc, one will be, despite medication. In fact, it is my observation that this ‘obstinacy’ is such a part of our mental mechanisms that the mind will find a way to counteract the medication.

   Depression, mania, stress, etc do manifest biologically and it is these biological manifestations that medications are prescribed to eliminate. MDs too often treat depression and stress as a chemical imbalance in the brain. They do so with only a cursory thought (if at all) as to whether the patient’s circumstances are depressing and stressful.

   A patient living with constant pain – physical or mental – and stress over money, relationships, security etc is suffering from more than a chemical imbalance. In fact, If the mind (as I think it does) accepts a particular mental state as the norm, it influences the body to alter the chemistry of the brain so as to reinforce the depression, etc. Energy-wise and attention-wise It will less taxing on the individual to “automate” the depression by tweaking brain chemistry. And an acceptance of the status quo is equivalent to wanting it, as far as brain activity is concerned.

   I smoked for 45+ years. I made several attempts to quit, sometimes being smoke-free for months, but ultimately unsuccessful. Then one day I woke up and found smoking was ‘ego dystonic’. I never smoked again or had any desire to do so. I didn’t stop smoking – I stopped being a smoker. There is a difference.

   We’ve all known people referred to as ‘dry drunks’ who haven’t had a drink in years but are still alcoholics. I had the following exchange with an alcoholic friend:

  Me: You can get up in AA and say, “I’m Joe, and I’m an alcoholic, right?”
  Joe: Yeah, I do that.
  Me: Can you get up and say, “I’m Joe, and I’m 77 years old”?
  Joe: Well, I could say that but it wouldn’t be true.
  Me: But even knowing it isn’t true, you could say it?
  Joe: Yeah, I suppose I could.
  Me: Can you get up in AA and say, “I’m Joe, and I rape little babies”?
  Joe: No! For Christ’s sake! How could I say that? I’m not a baby-rapist!
  Me: But how is that different from saying you are 77 when you’re not?

   Even knowing that it was not true, Joe could not bring himself to utter the words. A self-image as an alcoholic was acceptable or at least ‘recognized’ but a self-image as a raper of babies was so ‘ego dystonic’ he could not mouth the words. I told him, “When you feel that way about saying you’re an alcoholic, you will stop being an alcoholic”.

   When I had quit smoking for short periods, there were always a few days of physical withdrawal symptoms, not particularly severe but definitely present (Lobeline Sulfate was the only thing that helped with this, btw). Yet when I stopped being a smoker, there were no withdrawal symptoms at all. Think about that.

   One of the earliest things an infant learns is the difference between ‘me’ and ‘not me’. That learning is critical to human development and serves as the beginning of a sense-of-self. It appears that humans must have a sense of identity. (Imagining yourself or another without a self-image would be an interesting ‘thought experiment’, wouldn’t it?). This process seems to start with physical contact with caregivers. Infants who do not receive feedback affirming their identity develop serious mental and often physical problems. (And ideally, the infant acquires a self-image as lovable). I recall reading of an orphanage whose doctor noticed that while many of the children were developmentally behind, some were much closer to ‘normal’ than others. It turned out that a cleaning lady had a habit of picking up a baby and carrying it around all day as she worked. That physical contact made a difference. And the difference was in the baby’s mind. And that mental difference affected the baby’s physical condition.

   All of which brings us back to the point of this screed. Changing mental processing, behavior, attitudes, etc. can change brain chemistry, and ultimately probably affect other chemistry in the body. It seems pretty obvious to me that talk, physical closeness, emotional interaction and such affect the brain chemistry and thus how the brain functions. Is it any wonder that if someone is in bad circumstances, the brain would adjust to that by chemically producing depression, addiction, anxiety?

Family Tales

A life: Cynthia Weed Steele

My mother, Betty (Steele) Wallace, wore many hats over the years – reporter, Clerk of the County Court, columnist & de facto editor, high school English teacher and author. Born on a small ranch in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, of pioneer stock and into a world of ranching, mining and timbering, she had a deep understanding and keen appreciation of those who migrated to the area and built the communities. Some of those communities faded into ghost towns, some continue to prosper. The people who built that part of Colorado are long gone, but Betty had known a good many of them, went to school with their children and knew every family in the Gunnison Valley – their history, virtues, faults and quirks. For several years, she wrote a weekly column in the Gunnison News-Champion, telling the stories of the area’s early citizens. She called it her ‘pioneer series’ – interviews of the original settlers or their children; ranchers, saloon keepers, miners, storekeepers, prostitutes, preachers and politicians. One of the people she interviewed and wrote about was her mother, Cynthia (Weed) Steele. This is mother’s column on my grandmother, published in the Gunnison News-Champion, April 6th,
1950.

Continue reading

Legalize Marijuana – and hemp

Uses for hemp

Paper
Printing – Specialty paper – Filter – Newsprint – Cardboard

Textiles
Twine – Rope – Nets – Canvas – Tarps – Carpets – Agrifiber – Clutch/brake lining – Caulking – Apparel – Diapers – Fabrics – Handbags – Denim – Shoes

Building
Fiberboard – Insulation – Cement – Fiberglass substitute – Stucco/Mortar

Foods
Salad oil – Margarine – Supplements – Cooking oil

Industrial
Oil paints – Varnishes – Printing inks – Solvents – Lubricants – Putty – Coatings

Hygiene
Soap – Shampoo – Bath gel – Lotions/balms – Cosmetics

Animal food

Fuel

Medicine

Agriculture
Weed suppression – Reduce pesticides – Soil erosion – Soil improvement (via rotation)


    Hemp is a farmer’s dream crop – robust, hardy, fast-growing, reduced or no pesticides or herbicides. Unlike marijuana, it is not psychoactive. You cannot get high on hemp.

    It was falsely equated to marijuana and marijuana was then demonized by Harry Anslinger and J. Edgar Hoover. This conflation of hemp with marijuana was deliberate. Why?
Take a guess.

Hemp’s competition
Georgia Pacific – Humboldts Redwood – Weyerhaeuser – International Paper – International Forest Products – Koch Industries – Mendocino Redwood – Domtar – Universal Forest Products – Dupont – Eastman – Rhodia – Ashland – Dow – BASF – Bayer – Nufarm – Monsanto – Makhteshim – Bristol-Myers Squib – Lilly – Forest Laboratories – Pfizer – Johnson & Johnson – Novartis – Allegan – Watson – Celgene – Abbott – Merck – Sanofi – Mylan – Cargill – Pernod Ricard – Altria – Philip Morris – Anheuser Busch – Brown Forman – Fortune Brands – Diageo – Reynolds American – Constellation – MillerCoors – Archer Daniels Midland – Bunge – Syngenta – Unilever – Colgate Palmolive – Proctor & Gamble – Nestle – L’Oreal – Occidental Petroleum – ConocoPhillips – Exxon Mobile – Marathon Oil – Sunoco – Hess – Tesoro – Valero – British Petroleum – Chevron – HollyFrontier – Lubrizol – Sherwin Williams – Celanese – PPG Coatings – Valspar – Allegheny Technologies – Dynamics – US Steel

Grandmother – A Life


    My mother, Betty (Steele) Wallace, wore many hats over the years – reporter, Clerk of the County Court, columnist & de facto editor, high school English teacher and author. Born on a small ranch in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, of pioneer stock and into a world of ranching, mining and timbering, she had a deep understanding and keen appreciation of those who migrated to the area and built the communities. Some of those communities faded into ghost towns, some continue to prosper. The people who built that part of Colorado are long gone, but Betty had known a good many of them, went to school with their children and knew every family in the Gunnison Valley – their history, virtues, faults and quirks. For several years, she wrote a weekly column in the Gunnison News-Champion, telling the stories of the area’s early citizens. She called it her ‘pioneer series’ – interviews of the original settlers or their children; ranchers, saloonkeepers, miners, storekeepers, prostitutes, preachers and politicians.
    One of the people she interviewed and wrote about was her mother, Cynthia (Weed) Steele. This is mother’s column on my grandmother, published in the News-Champion, April 6th, 1950.
Continue reading

American Narrative

  The bullshit American Narrative to the contrary, America is and has always been a ‘class society’. There are basically three classes: Rulers, Mandarins and Peasants.

  The Rulers care only about acquiring and increasing their own personal wealth and power. To that end they will enslave, oppress, plunder, exploit and murder, from individuals to entire countries and populations. One thing that has traditionally held them in check has been competition from rulers in other countries, but with economic globalization, national distinctions are vanishing and we can speak of a trans-national elite, a ruling class no longer limted to one country.

  The job of running the world for their benefit is too large and complicated for them to accomplish directly. They have therefore established a class of Mandarins – the professionals who actually do the day-to-day work of making the Rich & Powerful richer and more powerful and otherwise supporting the status quo. They do this for the sake of crumbs from the Rulers’ table and the few benefits that place them above the class of Peasants. Joe Bageant nailed it: “The truth is that when we are looking at the political elite [and Mandarins in general], we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune”.

  If the Rulers constitute the top .1% financially, the Mandarins constitute perhaps the next 20% or thereabouts. They are the visible aspect of the Ruling Class; the pundits, politicians, opinion-shapers, and technicians. As long as they are kept well fed and housed and given the [false} hope of rising to the status of Ruler, they will labor mightily to keep the wheels on the wagon and the Rulers in power, It has been the Rulers who have called the shots politically, economically and culturally for centuries and it has been the Mandarins who have enabled them. They are as guilty as the Rulers, since they facilitate the Class System.

  The Peasants? Well, they have provided the actual labor to create the true wealth and have provided the cannon fodder for the Rulers’ wars of conquest and plunder. Both the Rulers and the Mandarins keep the Peasants distracted and provided with the minimum necessary to keep them alive and useful (to the Rulers), but only the minimum, since giving Joe Redneck more than a living wage would reduce the Rulers’ profit margins.

  There have been isolated periods of time and place when the Peasants have rebelled, sometimes with temporary victory and sometimes suffering horrendous defeat. However, never having exercised the wheels of power, they are inexperieced in wielding it and the resulting regimes soon fall prey to the machinations of Ruler Class survivors or Mandarins (trained to administer) newly elevated to Ruler Class. Note that educating the Peasants in how to run the world is taboo – can’t have the rabble thinking thoughts above their station. Which partly explains the state of the educational system in America today (along with the desire of the Rulers to reduce taxes and privatize for profit).

BTW: The widely-touted success of the American Revolution was not a matter of Peasants throwing off Rulers. It was about replacing Rulers three thousand miles away with local Rulers. George III & his ministers vs New England mercantile interests and Southern Plantation owners.

  Fortunately or unfortunately, some things are self-limiting. The obsession with cheap energy. for example, (to net them every penny in manufacturing and distribution) has triggered Global Warming. The only thing that will limit climate change is the collapse of the mechanisms that drive it. But in the process, billions of people will die and billions more have their lives reduced to precarious day-to-day survival. The Rulers don’t care. They. Do. Not. Care. They themselves will survive in style, in well-protected enclaves (on high ground), served by (fewer) Mandarins and protected from the Peasants by other Peasants.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould

  Ultimately, greed is self-limiting, a la the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg. The social, political, economic and human equivalent of Golden Eggs is playing out in slow motion today. We are witnessing the gradual (but accelerating) collapse of economies, politics, societies and nations. This is not new. It has happened repeatedly over the centuries. What is depressing is that it will likely continue to happen as long as the species lasts. And if anyone believes that one leader, one politician, one party can somehow reverse, avoid or prevent historical processes from running their course, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell them.

Advice to Hillary

The latest Silly Season is weighing on me. I had the following dream last night

  Clinton has won the Primary and the General Elections. Between November and her inauguration, she has embarked on a a cross-country trek of ‘town hall’ meetings, ostensibly to thank the voters. For some reason, I am attending one of these meetings (What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment). Hillary picks me out of the crowd (my Abe Lincoln appearance, probably) and invites me to share the stage and talk with her, tell her what I think she needs to do, where I think the country needs to go. Mentally licking my political chops, I agree.

  You will make history as the first Woman President. That is largely due the change in the way Americans treat gender nowadays and is vindication of the efforts of a lot of women – and a few men – over the decades. It’s not you.

  You should understand that you won the election not so much on your own merits or positions on the issues. You won because enough voters realized that Donald Trump is a 4-door, brass-plated, air-conditioned, turbo-charged, 12-cylinder, 5-speed asshole. They were scared shitless at the thought of what he might do as President. Many – on both sides of the aisle – are also worried about what you will do as President.

  Much has been made of the fact that Trump’s campaign fed on and fed racism, bigotry and xenophobia. But the bottom line on his support and the support for Bernie Sanders should tell you that a great many Americans realize and resent that they have seen their income, privacy, freedom, security and future worsened or destroyed by the policies and practices of the Money Elite, many of whom contribute heavily to your financial undertakings and campaigns – and we both know they expect the favor to be returned. Screw the bastards.. They richly deserve it.

  A woman President was inevitable. It happened to be you. If you want to be a great President, you need to address the real problems of people, both here and abroad. Some of the solutions are not under your direct control but will require action by Congress and the Courts, but even there your leadership could wield influence, as a ‘bully pulpit’ and through appointments in various departments, particularly Justice and Defense.

  Get big money out of politics. Finance elections from tax money and limit spending to some reasonable amount. Ban lobbying. Entirely.. Proposals for government action should never come from corporations with a financial stake in that action. It’s bad enough that when the government puts out an RFP, those who respond will naturally toot their own horn, but we don’t need retired generals/admirals or bankers bullshitting the selection process via the Old Boy Network. Stop it.

  Implement Single Payer Healthcare by simply expanding Medicare to everyone. The procedural and IT infrastructure is already in place and functioning pretty well. At most, it might require an upscale of computer hardware. Healthcare, like education, clean water & waste disposal should be the right of every citizen – and on a not-for-profit basis.

  Stop trying to control the entire world. We are no longer the envy of the world we once were. Instead we are much of the world’s worst nightmare. Our wars, our financing and support for any petty dictator that we approve of, our CIA-led coups in various countries for decades should stop. It is true hypocrisy to criticize and even hate refugees who are are fleeing the hell we created or support. When we destroy Iraq, Syria, Libya, we can’t complain about the consequences. Stop it.

  Stop supporting privatization of things which are inherently public. Prisons and schools and water systems are not being privatized to improve efficiency but to enrich those with friends in power. Stop.

  End the ineffective (though profitable) war on drugs. Just stop it. Legalize and regulate (reasonably) all drugs.Empty and issue a blanket pardon for the thousands of people in prison for posseesing pot. If that’s their only rap sheet, wipe the record clean. And always help them reintegrate into society.

  Instead of prosecuting whistle blowers, prosecute the high-level, wealthy and well-connected criminals. The financiers responsible for the economic meltdown (and who have continued to profit). Politicians for war crimes, torture, the lies that put us in Iraq, the indiscriminate use of drones. Stop it.

  End the militarization of non-Federal law enforcement. All it does is enrich crony capitalists and facilitate an authoritarian mindset among officers who are supposed to be public servants and are increasingly acting as public masters. Stop it.

  End the NSA’s and DOD’s over-the-top spying on innocent people. Put all wiretaps and snooping back to requiring a traditional search warrant – person(s); item to be searched for; reasonable cause – before a judge. And if that overwhelms the judges, it might just indicate too much snooping. You think maybe?

  Note that most of the items involve stopping what we’d doing. It’s enough to make one contemplate the virtues of a government too small to make the mistakes we have inflicted on our people and the world. Unfortunately, the modern world does require Big Government. Stopping the misuse of government power would meet stiff resistance from those who profit from the status quo. But perhaps if we stop wasting time, money and effort on the wrong things, we would be able to spend our time, money and effort on things like improving peoples lives (at home and abroad) and limiting or even reversing Global Warming – for the sake of your new grandchild and and my great-grandchildren.

  You will make history as the first woman President.
  You could make history as a great President.
  Or not.
  It’s up to you.