Cat, the Commie

We were sitting by the pool at the house that my new acquaintance managed in Merida, Mexico. She had invited me over since we had become friends during the past month. She and I had some things in common, some fundamental alienation from America culture. That is why she had spent most of the last 20 years of her life in Mexico and before that, another 20 years, having taken a brief hiatus sometime in her thirties or forties. She was now 68.

She talked frenetically and it was often hard to follow her thoughts. She threw out names and stories, often without enough context. I was always asking her: “Who was that? When did that happen? Where were you then?”

She averred that she was a communist. More than that she would not reveal about her exact political analysis. And being a sometime Hegelian-Marxist….I refrained from inquiring, lest she condemn me. She often appeared angry or irritated. She would raise her voice, grow emotional and yet, it was understandable. You see, she was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.

Her name was Catalina and she grew up in SoCal….near Seal beach. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother she did not talk much about. Cat began drinking heavily at the age of 13 and regularly had black-outs which she told me…..she thought of as normal. There is much I don’t know about her. Once, she quickly mentioned that she had a gun pointed in her face in Mexico. Maybe her Mexicano boyfriend was a Cartel member? She didn’t go into it.

But I do know that she is angry. Cat regularly goes to AA meetings…..which is good. She had been attending them for some 15-20 years, again she is a bit vague on the topic. Of course, she claims she is also ADHD and so it is a bit challenging to put together a straight bio of her life as I get bits and pieces here and there as she leapfrogs from anecdote to anecdote.

She tells me of a recent AA meeting here in the city of Merida where she was the only woman present. They were having a discussion about some practical matter and there was supposed to be a vote on a proposal, it being seconded….but one particular cigarette smoking fellow named Hal who did not follow procedure….kep talking and wouldn’t allow a vote on the proposal. So, Cat pointed it out to him.

“The proposal has been seconded, so it’s time to vote,” Cat urged. “Oh, and who appointed you leader, Mom!!???”
“Fuck you, Hal!” Cat blurted out.
“You can’t say that!” another man chimed in.

“Of course you can,” Cat said. “People talk like that at AA meetings all the time!” The other men stared at the floor, mute.
“Well, are we gonna fucking vote or not?” she belted out.

Again silence.

And with that, Cat stalked out of the meeting. “Fucking idiots!” she muttered as she returned home just six blocks away.

Often, she interrupts my stories as well as her own and we sometimes forget what exactly we were talking about. She laughs and admits that this is a terrible habit of hers. We talk while we are in her pool. Well, not her pool. It is the pool of the owner for whom she is managing the house I referenced earlier.

You see, she became friends with the couple who owned the place. The wife allowed her to live there without having to pay anything as the house was gigantic and there were several empty bedrooms. So, her rich friend told her: “Hell, just live here. Why not? My husband is a bore and besides, he won’t even care or notice.”
Her husband was a philanderer, often out womanizing in any case, very common practice in Mexico, married or not.

But back to Cat. So, Cat stayed with her new friend. And eventually, her friend died. Her friend’s husband, now very elderly and after suffering seven heart attacks, decided to move back to the U.S. His children agreed to let Cat be the caretaker. After all, she was honest and who else could they trust.? They themselves wanted no part of the mess. Maybe they were well off. Certainly, they did not want to live in Mexico.

They wanted to sell the place and put it up on the market of $800,000 which, of course, is a fortune in Mexico. It was a huge property in downtown Merida but you could not tell from the street, of course.
As in many old city centers in the Old World where houses shared common walls, what lay behind the front doors when closed and sealed was mystery. And this house extended a half block back and then veered right (an L shape with a series of other rooms, storage and other). In addition, it had a elevated patio with multiple rooms and a spectacular garden and of course, a pool.

Cat was responsible for maintaining the residence and also paying the bills and dealing with the realtor who was having a difficult time trying to sell the damn place. She had a regular employee who did most of the maintenance and catering required, a nice Mayan man named Daniel who didn’t drink, a real plus for a poor fellow in Mexico.

Even after they halved the asking price to $400,000, they got very few people inquiring about the place. I mean, the maintenance on the place, given its age, is fairly substantial—the gardens, the pool, the ancient plumbing and electrical grid.

Remember, this is Mexico where things have been patched up for decades and decades without, most often, much care given to things. Hire a cheap Mexican laborer to patch things up. Then when things get fucked up, hire two Mexican laborers to patch it up. Something like that. Mexican laborers do not make much money. But many know what they are doing and can do the temporary fix which is what most people do mostly because that is all they want to do. They prefer not to spend much money on anything. This is not America.

If you want to fix something seriously? Oh shit. You would have to spend thousands and thousands and maybe tens of thousands…..tear into walls, underneath the floors…..and God knows what you might find. This process goes on in America also with older homes. So you can only imagine what it is like in Mexico….when these structures were built…100 years ago? 200 years ago.

And the electrical grids in Merida like many cities are a hodgepodge of affairs. Here in Merida, you see workers climbing ladders and replacing wires and cables every day on some street. Updating to fiber optic some people say. Replacing old cables. It has gone on for over a year now and maybe ten years….god….who is counting. Something is always being replaced.

Drainage systems? I have been told that there are no pipes draining water away. There are just holes, maybe caverns. Hell, I don’t know how this works. I can tell you that many streets flood in heavy rain. This is the way it was in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles where I grew up in the 1960s. They did not have proper drainage systems then. But they eventually got them. I recall how they tore up the streets and how long it took to do the work.

See, that is the difference between a so-called Developed nation and an Under-Developed nation. Developed nations have good or decent or sufficient infrastructure, more or less. But who knows anymore? Things are getting worse even in developed countries. Potholes go unfixed. Sewage systems in some countries in Europe, no doubt, are ancient.

In Mexico, you can’t flush toilet paper down most toilets. It clogs things up. Underneath the house you are renting or have bought….sewer pipes are rusted, maybe cracked, possibly on the verge of breaking. My God, I smell horrific odors walking down many streets in many cities in Mexico. ‘What the hell is that?’ my brain asks after the appropriate neurons receive the malodorous sense impulses from my nostrils.

So the house where Cat lives has been reduced in price to $400,000 but still, Cat tells me…… no one wants it. It is too big. Potential buyers come in to look at it. Maybe they want to transform it into an B&B? Maybe they want to turn it into a school? A business? See, if they buy this place, how much money will they have to throw into it to make it right? That is part of the problem. The investment. The risk.

In Mexico, lots of Americans, Canadians, even Europeans come and buy what they consider cheap houses. Then, they fix them up. The ‘right’ way. Now, they have a very decent or awesome place. Then they grow old and want to return home for perhaps better medical care. They also want to see their families and be with them more. They are in their seventies and walking sometimes becomes difficult. And many end up suffering from all kinds of illnesses from eating and drinking too much, smoking cigarettes, not exercising.

Sorry for that digression in case you did not find this background….exactly…..well, mesmerizing.

“Shit,” Cat says, “I can’t sell the fucking house!” Which is a blessing actually. She lives there for free and even gets paid for the work she does which turns into a nearly full-time job in her mind since she counts the hours she even has to think or worry about something. It’s stressful and god-damn it, there is no man in her life either.

She stands six foot, two inches tall, towering above my 5’ 7” frame and has a limp due to her sciatic nerve. Soon, Cat plans to return to the Bay Area to see a doctor and to take a break and live in a friend’s house…more care-taking while her friend takes a vacation. Cat is a bit gangly with the tall body she has to pull around and her gait is a bit twisted as she walks.

Cat let me use her internet to teach English since I was having problems with mine where I was living about a half mile or a tad more from her. I was introduced to her by a couple male friends I had previously met, one an obese and pleasant but very opinionated American, the other a quiet Dutch fellow…..both married to Mexicanas by the way…and these extranjeros sounded very well-traveled.

My acquaintances seemed to convey a silent warning about Cat. They didn’t say that much about her. But Cat and I discovered we had let unorthodox lives, her much more so, of course, as she had become a communist early in her life. She thinks Stalin was no worse than Americans who took Indian lands and helped to eliminate them one way or another. When I mention to her that most Indians in the New World were wiped out by disease, she says, “Oh really? Who told you that?”

Of course, I have read a lot, being a history major…. and continue to do so. There are actually historic primary sources documenting many of the diseases Indians died from since they did not have the natural antibodies to fight off the diseases. Even measles or chicken pox could decimate villages, not to mention the plague and other illnesses.

But back to Cat, the commie.

As I said in my introduction, Cat had invited me over to her nice pool which I had enjoyed several times in the past month and we were conversing about all matters of things, often taking diversions on tangential topics and forgetting the point each one was trying to make or relate. And, no, we were not stoned. Just loquacious and verbose, lonely souls ready for some radical social perspectives and commentary which were difficult to hear much about these days.

(You know, sometimes it’s nice to think that some of the virtues and ideals from the sixties are still alive….even if just simmering).

I told her a story of taking the BART in San Francisco south to San Mateo and meeting a homeless person which inspired her to share her own anecdote about traveling on the same mass transportation service, having spent considerable time also growing up in Oakland. She even told me of hanging out at Raider games with Al Davis and his friends. But now she condemned football as nothing but ‘war’ and detested the violence therein.

Her harsh condemnation of football had surprised me but I let that go. Hell, I am a huge NFL fan. Didn’t want to argue with a commie, ex-addict about that.

But back to her story.

She says she was getting on the BART when she saw a woman who lay on one of the bench seats and who was very still. Cat told me, “Hell, I thought she was dead! Her face was all puffed up red and disfigured! And you know, there was a BART security guard right there talking with a another couple about the Giants, you know the baseball team!!”

I nodded my head as if to say, ‘Yes, I understand.”

Cat looked at me and commented, “Well, doesn’t that shock you?” She looked at me a bit perturbed.
“No, not really,” I commented.

“It doesn’t shock you that you the security guard was ignoring this woman, totally oblivious to her state and just babbling on about baseball?” she accused.

“Well, no because I have seen people in authority and in their jobs ignore all kinds of things that they should be paying attention to,” I replied, a bit irritated myself at her tone.

“Well, then, another Latino couple got on the train,” she continued. “They were young and were kissing and such and really didn’t appear to notice the woman laying on the bench.”

She continued:

“Well, I was fuming and got up and told the security guard about the woman but he just shook his head as if affirming he was aware of the situation. But he didn’t do anything, not even investigate the situation,” Cat asserted, now getting quite upset.

I listened to her story, taking it all in.

“You mean that this does not surprise you at all!” she inquired of me once again as I gawked at her. She obviously expected some serious reaction from me that she was not getting.

Meanwhile, I was thinking: ‘The security guard probably deals with this crap and worse on a daily basis. After a while, he just gave up caring’. But I kept this to myself….seeing Cat get upset made me think that I had best keep my honest opinions to myself.

Well, about now, I was feeling a bit under attack as if I was having a conversation with one of my wives during my marriages and did not happen to react in the way they expected me to.
I guess I was not showing Cat some empathy for her feelings which, to be honest, I didn’t quite understand.

I mean, why was she so angry? Granted she had abused drugs and alcohol for many years and I wondered if this was the source of her anger. Nah, it went much deeper, her whole fucked-up childhood….and adulthood it sounded like.

I again explained to her, now somewhat defensively, “Do you expect me to have the same reaction you had?”
“Well, don’t you care that the guard wasn’t doing his job?”

“Cat, the guy was obviously an asshole and didn’t care. What else do you want me to say?”
She looked at me, unmollified. Then, she said, “Well, then this woman who I thought might be dead, got up and took out a meth pipe and lit it! And the Latino guy got up, went over to her and told her to stop smoking, otherwise he would knock her out!!”

I was now stupefied at the turn this story was taking. And worse, Cat went on.
“And if he hadn’t, I would have,” she declared matter of factly. “Finally, at the next stop, the security guard ushered the woman off the train. Can you imagine that!”

Still feeling the shock that she could get so angry that she would turn violent against a woman who she had previously given up for the possibility of being dead….I didn’t know what to say. At this point, our interaction morphed into a argument and, for the life of me, I could not understand why she was so angry at me.
‘What did I do wrong?’ I wondered. I even asked her.

She then turned on me, “What’s wrong with you and why are you so angry? You’re the one that has made this an argument!”

Shit. This was shades of my first wife, the MFT, the one who railed at me and physically attacked me when I did not quite see things her way.

So, I announced that it was time for me to leave and got up. That was the last I heard from Cat except a terse message she sent by phone: “I am sorry for my part in our argument.”

Hell, I still wonder, what was ‘my part’? But when it comes to examining the emotions of a angry woman, sorry I get lost. I don’t think that this is what the French meant when they said, ‘Vive le difference’.

I did send over a message by email to Cat explaining that she should not expect me to have the same reactions to things that she had. I was nice. I told her that I thought she was ‘cool’. But apparently that was not sufficient for her. She wanted me to admit that I was partly responsible for the confrontation. First off, I wasn’t and second of all, I had no intention of wanting to hang out with here any more even if she had a pool and it was refreshing.

Just as well. As a friend of mine told me when I described the incident: “RUN! You don’t want to deal with an ex-alcoholic, ex-drug addict!”

I couldn’t agree more. I think people are entitled to their own opinions even in cases when they are stupid, ignorant, or angry like Cat. I just don’t want to be around them. Hell, you really can’t expect people to agree with you on all matters. And if a Commie woman wants to knock out a meth addict, I might not agree but when I am a guest at her house, I really don’t want to argue vehemently about a social problem or whatever you want to call it.

It just isn’t polite. Hell, it’s not like I am married to the woman. Thank God.

Nirvana City Madness


by Mikhail Branski

copyright Mikhail Branski, all rights reserved

Davida predicted some apocalyptic tragedy and then proceeded to discuss his latest plan to save up enough money to purchase land and live in exile, fed up as he was with the general public stupification. He now was preparing for what he termed `The Coming Great Collapse’, the economic and political calamity he predicted was coming to America and the world.

Mikhail listened to his friend’s latest rave and stared at him wondering why he refused to cut his nose-hairs and how his girl friend tolerated that. I mean how could one be so oblivious to those hairs stretching down reaching for that upper lip?

And then he thought, `Here I am once more, in this damn coffee shop, looking for companionship if not what might pass for a social life?

Coffee shops being Mikhail’s place of refuge whenever a crisis entered his life, the latest being his second divorce which had left him despondent. Seeking out some social contact which might mollify his own disgust and morbidity at all things normal, the local coffee house was his preferred destiny. He couldn’t abide bars.

Besides, he liked flirting with the manager whom he had wrongly convinced himself, had been giving him the eye.

So, this is what passed for socializing, listening to the rants of his friend, Davida, as he vituperated about the current state of the world. Mikhail had heard it all before but that was okay as he didn’t mind hearing Davida vent, and in any case, it got him out of his drab apartment.

‘Ah, that’s just your negativity being reflected,’ Mikhail thought but blurted out, “Oh yeah, everything is screwed up but probably always has been, y’know.” This made Davida pause and reflect before he continued in the same vein harping about the decadent state of American society.

Mikhail had long ago given up trying to make sense of any of it, it being reality in all of its manifestations. His circumstances in life compelled him to see injustice and unfairness everywhere and yet, luck and circumstance determined that some were treated well by life. Why? Maybe it was karma…..fate, predestination. Who could comprehend?

Mikhail’s only true sanctuary resided in reading and re-reading favorite books. He would read a book ten and fifteen times gleaning every last morsel from the writer, for it was his assumption that if a book was the sum total of of the author’s experiences and thoughts, and took maybe years to write, that, to do the author justice, he should really attempt to digest it which required several readings at least.

Mikhail stared at Davida once more and realized how dissimilar they were but how alike in their alienation from American society. Granted, they found solace in the misery of each other’s lives, a misery-loves-company typical kind of dynamic, but they didn’t really have much in common beyond a cynicism and alienation to modern life.

It was a friendship of chance. Years ago, Mikhail had met Davida professionally, had needed his design skills for a little literary publication he had been fashioning and was introduced to Davida by a mutual friend.

The friendship had been professional for some time but had grown into a deeper bond out of sheer loneliness. For Mikhail was not someone who sought out blasé or banal company. In any case, he had nearly convinced himself that he was meant to be more of a loner.

Not that he did not like the companionship of peers or others but that the stress of two divorces and the resulting cynicism had made him more anti-social than anyone might suspect. Besides, he had no time he often told himself, what with a struggling publishing business which required six days a week of work and the other obligations in his life taking up most of the rest of his other free time.

Davida spoke again, “Anyway, Melinda really wants to get some land and move away from all this….shit! I’m getting some money together from my family and she’s looking at some land in Plumas.”

“Plumas?” Mikhail interjected. “Shit, there’s nothing much up there. Why Plumas?”

“Hell, you can’t get land anywhere in California cheap anymore but land in Plumas is still reasonable. You can buy 20 acres relatively cheaply.”

“But that’s red-neck country.”

Davida added, “Well, I don’t plan on talking politics with my neighbors if we have any. Chances are we won’t. Or at least, won’t be close enough to encounter them regularly. Melinda just wants a garden, a big space for a garden. That’s all I want as well.”

Mikhail looked at his friend for a minute without speaking. `Well, he`s finally going to do it,’ he mused. He spoke again, “Well, look, I can come up and visit you after ‘The Collapse’.”

“Sure,” Davida encouraged, not catching the sarcasm. “You’d be welcome. You’d have to have your own cabin or yurt. It’s community that we want. Four or five other people to share in a vision.”

Mikhail’s eyes wandered toward the manager again, a slightly stocky blonde with a gorgeously enticing smile. He had convinced himself that she had a crush on him but he was too cautious to act on it. Nonetheless, whenever he caught her eye, he smiled back at her. He liked her coyness and her demure style. But he was not ready to ask her out since he had not persuaded himself that the age difference was not a huge matter. `How old is she,’ he wondered. `Thirty? Thirty-five.’

“Look Mikhail, I’ve got to go meet Melinda and take her to work. See you later in theweek, maybe. I’ll give you a call.”

“Yeah, or I’ll get in contact with you. I have a busy schedule this week. But I’ll try to call you on Saturday if not before. Maybe we can go for a hike.”

“Okay.” Davida grabbed his helmet and headed out the door towards his motorcycle which he had parked in a yellow zone out front.

Mikhail finished his coffee and read the paper, particularly the political and economic news. “Shit, he thought, it’s all coming to an end. And everybody is too numbed out and dumbed-down to see it. Either that or they are too busy consuming. How did we ever arrive at this state of affairs?”

He glanced at the clock. “Crap. It’s time to go to work.”

He left, bidding goodbye to the coffeehouse manager. She smiled as usual. He proceeded down the street when he remembered that a client owed him money, so he stopped in at his business, a store that sold secondhand goods, mostly records, tapes and jeans.

Mikhail peered in the front window first, looking for the owner Nick but didn’t see him. So, he opened the door and looked around to see Nick’s woman whom he had seen many times but never actually talked to.

Mikhail scrutinized her lithe body. She was thin but her pose made her alluring. That was until one paid attention to her face which was pockmarked but heavily doused with powder in an effort to hide the fact. The woman seemed to possess an eerie quality, something undefined. He concluded that she must have had a hard life, probably plenty of drugs and God-knows-what-else.

She was looking down into her purse, barely aware of him.

Mikhail looked at her and caught her attention and asked, “Is Nick in?”

The blonde took a moment to think about it and then blurted out, “I used to work for the FBI and the CIA.”

“Yeah, and I’m the Pope!” Mikhail retorted.

This seem to throw her off balance and she hesitated before, once again, asserting that she had once been hired by the FBI and CIA to do undercover work.

Mikhal didn’t call her a liar but simply repeated that he was the Pope. She looked askance as if she was seriously considering what Tom had just said. Then she fidgeted and put her hands on her hips, and twisted her body into a seductive pose.

“Look,” Mikhail said, “I just want to talk to Nick. I have some business to talk over with him.”

“Well, he ain’t here. He’ll probably be back tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll try again then if I’m in the area.”

“You do that,” she sneered, obviously not meaning it. Mikhail exited quickly not wishing to sustain a conversation with someone he deemed ‘off her rocker.’ He had had enough conversations with eccentric persons to last a lifetime. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ he thought. ‘they can be interesting and good fodder for storytelling, but this woman was just a tad too bizarre.’


Two days later, Mikhail encountered Nick in his place of business, his girl friend no where to be seen. After talking business a few minutes, he ventured a comment which, in retrospect, seemed quite ballsy.

“Nick, that lady of yours is something else.”

“Why do you say that?” he looked at Mikhail inquiringly.

“Well, she told me that, once upon a time she worked for the CIA and FBI.”

“Yeah, I know. She also knows who killed Kennedy.” He spoke and looked at Tom knowingly. Then he smiled and chuckled.

Mikhail chortled and inquired, “Where is she today?”

“I sent her back down to Hollywood for a spell. She wants to break up with me.”

“Oh, too bad,” Mikhail said, not really meaning it. Actually, he thought it was the best thing that could happen to Nick.

“Actually, my girl friend is schizophrenic,” Nick suddenly admitted.

‘My thoughts exactly,’ Mikhail thought.

Nick continued, “Yeah, the other night, we decided to eat dinner at Lyons Restaurant but when I saw the wait, I suggested to Amber that we leave.

“But, of course, she decides she has to eat at Lyons. So, I told her, ‘Fine, you eat here. I’m going across the street to eat at Sizzler.’

“I left her there and when I returned, nearly an hour later, there’s Amber talking to some Highway Patrolmen. I said to myself, ‘Oh shit.’

“I knew she was feeding them some fantastic tale so I got in my car which was parked about just ten feet from them. I could hear their whole conversation.

“Just like I suspected, she was telling them some wild, crazy story. But like the dunces they were, they were writing it all down. Seems like she had them convinced that she had witnessed a murder and she knew where the body were. You remember, the girl who disappeared last week?”

Mikhal nodded. He was thoroughly enjoying the story.

Nick continued, “I took out a cigarette and waited till she was mostly done talking. Then, I got out of my car and waltzed up to the Patrolmen. They looked at me at me with blank faces, typical highway patrolmen.”

” ‘Look, officers,'” I say to them.” ‘That’s my girl friend you’re talking to and she’s just telling you a pack of lies.’ ”

The Patrolmen looked at me blankly. Their brains must have been parked in their car. So, I told them that my girl friend knows the Unabomber, Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Elvis Presley.

“They both looked at me finally like they knew what the hell was really going on. Anyway, I got her into my car over her hysterical protestations that I was an incarnation of the Devil.

“I finally had my fill of her, schizophrenic or not. I told her to get the hell out of here and she took a bus to L.A.”

Mikhail looked at Nick who began to chuckle. Mikhail joined in, enjoying how Nick could make light of the situation.

“Nick, what the Hell are you doing with such a crazy chick?”

“Well, hell, she needs me,” he said sheepishly.

“Yeah, but isn’t that hard on your sanity?”

“Well, if I leave her, she’ll probably commit suicide.”

“Look, Nick, I got to ‘fess up.” Mikhail insisted, “that chick of yours is loose. Y’know what I mean? I’ve seen her in the store with guys. Hell, she’s humping them in the dressing room. I know this isn’t any of my business but I just think you ought to know.”

Nick stared at Mikhail open-mouthed. Mikhail didn’t know what to expect. At first, he thought Nick was going to get mad. But the next thing he knew, Nick was crying. Mikhail felt terrible. ‘Gawd, this is what I get for being a blabbermouth.’ Mikhail tried to rectify his error but it was too late.

“Look, I may be wrong about her humping guys. It’s just that I thought…,” Mikhail paused,…” thought you ought to know if something was going awry.”

“Look, man,” Nick spoke through tears.” Get the hell out of here!”

Mikhail split, thinking to himself that he had been a big jerk. ‘Typical of my tendency to get involved in other people’s business. Oh well, I won’t visit his store for a while.’ He traipsed up the hill back towards his house.

Mikhail lived just six blocks from the downtown section of this quaint historic gold-mining town nestled, as they say, in the Sierra foothills. Grass Valley was in Nevada County in northeastern California, about an hour northeast of Sacramento. The area was a mix of mostly retirees, your standard American rednecks, and a contingent of hippies who had moved here in the late 1960s, attracting a following of like-minded new age types over the years.

His first wife had dragged him up here nearly twenty-five years ago as she had wanted to join a spiritual community that had been established in the area. Founded by a disciple of a famous yogi, the community had attracted thousands of visitors over the years and, ultimately, established legitimacy as the small towns appreciated the increase in business from those associated with the community as well as those who had left but remained in the area.

Lots of the visitors ended up staying as well, attracted by the rural character, the great recreational opportunities, not to mention the opportunity to make money growing marijuana which had become a major crutch to the community when the economy suffered.

And in the hinterlands, secreted away down old unpaved, rain-gutted roads, were a matrix of pot farms and meth labs. Occasionally, someone was busted, the pot or drugs confiscated and then life went on.

The community itself was an odd mixture of New Age types, lots of racists emigrating away from the increasing multi-ethnic cities, many of them transplants from the Bay Area as well as SoCal. Over the years, the old gold town had acquired a new look, a sort of hipness that allowed many tourist shops to proliferate along with bars, some nice restaurants and a number of businesses catering to the outstanding recreational activities of the area which included hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and more. Gold panning was even on the menu and the local river, the Yuba, was a huge draw from people all over, not to mention many of the local reservoirs that people called lakes.

At the higher elevations in the Sierra were lots of lakes and opportunities for camping. Lake Tahoe was only one hour and half away. Sacramento a mere hour. San Francisco two or so.

Mikhail’s stay in the community had been, more or less, an unmitigated personal disaster. After living at the spiritual community for less than a year with his wife, it became clear to Mikhail that the spiritual community was more of a cult than anything. During that time, he had to endure the mindless affection devotees had for their Swami, who was a very astute businessman besides being a charlatan, not unlike the Televangelists pandering for money .

Besides, he discovered that his wife was having an affair with the so-called Swami that had founded the community. And if that wasn’t enough, she had got pregnant by another guy, probably a one-night stand, as she later admitted. Ultimately, she had had an abortion.

Mikhail would tell this story to anyone who would listen. Most thought he was exaggerating. For some reason, his stories often did not have the ring of truth to them for many listeners and, of course, no one liked to hear the truth in any case, besides which they felt that Mikhail should not be sharing this personal information and were uncomfortable hearing about it. Or, they regarded it as judgmentalism which the New Age horde abhorred since criticism of others was a sin and a projection of one’s own self according to the tenets of the dogma they imbibed on an almost daily basis. Psycho babble that sells like hot dogs at baseball games.

In fact, if anything, Mikhail was honest to a fault. Blabbering about this and that matter, he would reveal the most intimate details of his life as if he were confessing to a priest. This confessional mode had often made him attractive to women who found his vulnerability charming but that was once upon a time before he turned cynical.

Nowadays, women regarded his cold demeanor and negativity as a reason to avoid him. Or, maybe, it was his reputation that preceded him, to quote Twain.

After returning home and exercising at the gym, Mikhail made dinner, a simple one of rice and vegetables, one of his favorites. Afterwards, he worked at his computer and before going to bed, read from one of his favorite books, Don Quixote.


Mikhail woke up the next morning, got dressed and headed down to another coffeeshop for his morning `shot’ as he put it. The downtown had five different coffeeshops and Mikhail had two favorites. While he appreciated the strong coffee that had become popular over the years, he also detested the `yuppie-scum’ as he delicately put it, who ordered coffee drinks with five ingredients. `These concoctions are the work of retired chemists in the C.I.A.,’ Mikhail jokingly mused to those who might listen, ‘meant to derange and re-arrange brain cells.’

Each drink took minutes to prepare and Mikhail was the most impatient of persons. But he was aware of his foible and had been working to improve, practicing mindfulness as his Buddhist friends called it.

Mikhail repeated the mantra he always used especially when waiting in lines, “Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue…”

He would do this until it was his time to place an order.

Mikhail walked in and saw another of his dream-dolls, fashioning specialty drinks behind the counter. ‘I don’t know why I drive myself crazy with fantasies of young chicks.’ he pondered. ‘I mean….what are my chances of scoring?’ Nonetheless, this ‘hot babe’ as he referred to her, was his current fantasy. She wore a short tight blouse which revealed her ample bosom and enough skin to draw his eyes to her round, supple figure. ‘Gawd, what I would give to lay with her.’

She looked at Mikhail and smiled. ‘Did she smile like this at everyone?’ he wondered. As it turned out, she did.

“Yeah, I’ll take a cup of your dark French Roast,” Mikhail responded, affecting disinterest. She smiled again and poured him a cup, taking his money. Surreptitiously, he perused her nimble body. He desperately wanted to say something but resisted the temptation. ‘She’d probably think I was a horny old guy,’ he worried.

Of course, this had been the story for Mikhail his whole pathetic life: a lack confidence, at least with women who were really attractive. His puritanical training has got the better of his instincts. He always ended up convincing himself that few woman would find him attractive, talking himself out of chances to engage the opposite sex.

But he knew where this trait had originated. It seemed as if his parents were asexual. Till this day, Tom could not imagine how they managed to have kids. His mother had told her sister that she thought she had become pregnant when, on a date, her boyfriend had kissed her. She had giggled openly at her own naivete. Mikhail’s aunt told that story. His mother later confirmed it much later in life.

On another occasion, she revealed that his father, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II, had gone out one night with some army buddies to what they referred to as a ‘cathouse,’ and his father had thought they were going to get milkshakes.

His military buddies had had a good laugh at that. Mikhail’s mother had told Mikhail all this in an embarrassing moment of honesty, while decrying her submissive relationship with his father, when her son was in his forties.

And then again, having three brothers didn’t exactly acquaint Tom with the female of the species. One brother was somewhere on the Aspergers syndrome, another was driven by an anxiety disorder to crazed fits of manic behavior and a third had joined a cult founded by another Indian fakir.

He and his brothers were so naive compared to their friends and mostly socially inept with women. When he thought back to all the opportunities he had missed with women, it killed him. He still fantasized about dozens of lost opportunities.

Mikhail sat down with his coffee in hand, browsing through a local paper someone had left behind. He brushed the flies away and looked up as Jerry walked through the door. Mikhail nodded his head in recognition and Jerry sat down.

Mikhail had met Jerry years earlier at a spiritual retreat, the same one his wife had joined before he left her. At the time, Jerry had broken up with his wife and was seeking solace.

Years later, he became a motorcycle aficionado, and claimed riding his chopper was the best way to attract women in this area.

“How have you been?” Jerry asked in his typical stiff fashion.

“Okay,” Mikhail said. “What’s going on with you?”

“Oh, the same old shit. Riding my motorcycle. Talking. Hanging out.”

“Not working at all?” Mikhail ventured.

“Work? Of course not. I avoid it. I’m not fit by disposition to work. I get a monthly disability check and that’s all I need to get by. Vietnam Veteran, y’know. I can’t work or else I get crazy. Work would kill me. I’m just lucky that I recognized that fact years ago else I’d be dead by now.”

Jerry said this all with conviction but seemed a bit embarrassed about this outburst. He paused, then added, “It’s not that I don’t like work. I just can’t work. I’d die. My constitution is such that I can’t handle work, psychologically. I know I sound like I’m apologizing or rationalizing but I’m just explaining what you may not know.”

Actually, Mikhail took Jerry at face value. He seemed like an honest guy. If he said work would kill him, he believed him. Work has killed a lot of people, he mused. “Hell, it’s probably killing me,’ Mikhail admitted. He sipped his coffee and thought of all the lazy people he had known. “Laziness has its merits.”

“Hell yes!” Jerry confirmed.

Suddenly, Amber, the crazy chick walked in. Mikhail saw her as did Jerry and they exchanged a quick glance, rolling their eyes. Here was this sexily dressed wild nymph, burned out on life, but looking good enough to catch the eye of any guy. She strolled up to the counter and ordered a cappuccino. Mikhail couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was dressed in a black leather skirt, tight as could be with black net stockings and a bluish blouse worn loose so that her bosom could be seen as she bent forward.

Mikhail had to admit that he was so horny these days, he could have pounced on her right then and there.

Suddenly, Amber turned and interrogated Mikhail, “Still looking for Nick?”

“No, I already talked to him.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said with some irritation. “Mind if I join you?”

Jerry looked at Mikhail like, ‘Oh shit.’ Apparently, he knew this lady also.

The muscles in Mikhail’s face tightened a little. He noticed he was thirsty.

“Sure, why not?” Mikhail said. ‘Boy, I’m going to have to put on a great show now,’ he reflected.

Amber sat down, seemingly quite poised Mikhail was thinking to myself, ‘Wasn’t she suppose to be on her way to L.A.?’

“Why’d you tell Nick I was humping other guys?” she interrogated.

‘Well, at least she got straight to the point,’ Mikhail thought and then quickly considered. ‘What are my options. I could bluff her, ask her what the hell she was talking about. Or, I could admit it and confront her about it. Or, I could apologize.’ Mikhail chose the second course.

“Look, Amber. I like Nick. But I don’t like the fact that you’re fucking guys behind his back. I know it’s none of my business but the fact is, I told Nick and I guess he told you what I said. It probably was the wrong thing to tell him and I regret it, but it’s over and done and there isn’t a thing I can do about it.”

‘There,’ Mikhail thought. ‘I did it.’

Amber stared at Mikhail as if considering what to say. Suddenly, she started to laugh. But it wasn’t your normal laugh. It was a laugh of complete disdain.

“You think I give a shit what Nick thinks?” she said venomously.

“Apparently not. Maybe that’s good enough reason to tell him.” Mikhail responded quickly, not a little shocked.

“Look, you don’t know Nick. And you don’t know what you’re getting into. So if I was you, I’d butt out.”

‘Hm?’ Mikhail thought to himself. Probably a good idea. “Yeah, Psycho-Babe, I agree. I should refrain from pushing your schizoid brain too far.”

Mikhail didn’t know what made him say that. It just came out. He couldn’t help myself. Not very tactful, he admitted but no one ever accused him of being less than blunt. He had always wondered why people said honesty was the best policy. Shit, honesty had gotten him in so much trouble his whole life. In fact, the whole thing about being honest was the biggest bunch of bullshit ever pushed by the virtuous, Mikhail thought.

“What do you mean? Are you saying I’m crazy.” Amber stared at Mikhail with bewitched eyes. She could have turned into a lizard and Mikhail would have thought it within her power.

“Lady,” Mikhail intoned, “you’re crazier than a loon. I’ll call a spade a spade. If you don’tlike it, don’t get in my face. You’re a space-chick if I ever saw one. You’re probably a Venusian or Martian. I don’t know which but if you bother me again, I’ll call the military.”

Oh, man! That did it. She freaked out so bad that Mikhail had to flee. After she stood up and started screaming, upsetting the table and spilling the drinks, Mikhail decided that he’d had enough.

After exiting, he walked up the street pausing to look back. No Amber. At the corner Mikhail took out a cigarette and lit it, enjoying a drag as he continued walking up the hill. Out of breath, he rested upon a wall on a property where an empty Victorian House stood. He took a drag and sat, casually taking in the small town activity.

Across the way, an old lady worked in her garden. She must have been eighty. A few kids played outside too near the street. A girl of eleven or twelve held a baby no more than ayear or so while two other kids scampered along behind her.

He continued to watch and was concerned about the younger kids safety for some reason. Maybe it was because the cars descending the hill were traveling too fast. That and the fact that the two kids scampering about weren’t being supervised very well by the other girl who had her hands full caring for the baby.

Suddenly, Mikhail noticed Amber walking up the sidewalk on the other side. She just walked up the street then she stopped in front of the kids, being really friendly and all. Meanwhile, Mikhail started to get this nervous feeling and he thought, ‘something ain’t right here!’ Suddenly, Amber took the eleven year old girl by the hand and led her with her the baby back down the street. The two other children tagged along behind.

‘Wow! Mikhail thought to himself, ‘What the hell is going on here? Does Amber know this kid? I better tag along to see that all is on the up and up.’

So he followed back down the street watching as Amber turned the corner with all four kids following her. She continued down the street and suddenly stopped. Watching from across the street, Mikhail saw her reaching in her pocket for something. Then she bent down and began drawing on the ground.

Mikhail was a bit relieved. ‘Oh, she’s just doing some drawings. He finished his cigarette and watched for a while. The kids seemed fascinated while Amber continued to draw.

Mikhail decided he’d had enough, that he was just being a bit paranoid and returned back up the hill toward his apartment. When he got back in, the phone rang, but he let it. He didn’t feel like talking to anyone at the moment. He couldn’t get his mind off of Amber. He found himself going back down the street toward town.

Mikhail had decided there was a moral obligation to check back on those children. He ran down the street, huffing and puffing. stopping a few times to catch his breath. Somebody in a car whizzed by and shouted “Hi, Tom!’ But he didn’t pay any attention, wrong name in any case.

Finally, he got back to the corner and saw no trace of Amber or the kids. He walked to where he had seen Amber drawing on the sidewalk. Mikhail looked down. He couldn’t believe it. Amber had drawn, in chalk, absolutely gorgeous drawings of each of thechildren. Tom studied them a few minutes before he remembered his mission.

He looked around and thought he’d better check the coffee shop first. Maybe someone in there had seen them. He entered the coffee shop and saw all four kids seated around a table and Amber talking to them. She had her back to him so he quickly moved to theside so she couldn’t see him.

“So always listen to your Mom and do what she says. Your Mommy knows best.”

All the kids were eating cookies and drinking chocolate milk.

Again he heard Amber’s voice. “I’ll see all of you tomorrow, okay. I’ve got to get you back to your Mom’s. Come on, finish up and let’s go.”

Mikhail hid around the corner and watched as they all got up and left. He didn’t follow. It was obvious that Amber knew the kids quite well.

Suddenly, Amber reentered the coffee shop, caught sight of Mikhail, laughed contemptuously, grabbed her sweater from the chair where she had left it, and exited, her ass swishing so close to Tom’s face that he felt her skirt brush his cheek.

Mikhail felt exhausted and slightly ill. He sat down, closed his eyes and took some deep breaths and when he reopened them, he was staring at a painting on the wall of the coffeehouse, some kind of mandala, very colorful, very complex.

The Zombification of America

Mikhail Branski
Merida, Mexico
copyright 2015

Zombification is the cruel consequence of unbridled consumer capitalism which has now become the economic model for the modern age. The American brain has withered before the onslaught of media images seeking to glorify a hedonistic, narcissistic, material lifestyle. The ‘selfie’ (I cringe to even say it) is the ultimate in ego-centrism. Critical thinking has all but disappeared before the tsunami of the glorification of the God of Consumerism.

Contrary to what Americans have been taught about totalitarian regimes, indoctrination is even more insidious in America, the hallowed nation of ‘freedom’. That freedom which was once so noble has turned itself into an excuse for licentiousness run rabid, perverting and corrupting the American psyche. So too, that other supposed American virtue, Individualism has morphed into Narcissism or Ego-Centrism. (Thoreau, Whitman and Emerson would puke and gag if they were alive today).

Our forefathers, so often praised for their genius, would be aghast at the present state of American society. Imagine, if you would, Jefferson, Adams or Washington being teleported to modern times. Do you really think they would be admire the current state of affairs? Can you imagine what they would think, these men of the Enlightenment, if they watched television for 24 hours? Forget the political system. Jefferson would be calling for a revolution.

Drugs and medication have narcotized the population because the ‘mental (read emotional) health’ of the population has been very seriously impacted. Half the population is depressed or suffering from anxiety disorders and the other half suffers from unrealistic expectations and an infinitude of desires that can never be satisfied….all fodder for the pharmaceutical companies and the rest of corporate culture ready to fill those ‘needs’ with drugs, trinkets, fashionable clothes, suave hair-dos, cars, the latest in home-entertainment, packaged vacations, etc.

And this is no accident, really. The power of socialization under our consumer-capitalist system….creates zombified creatures which it requires to spend money and buy stuff. Critical thinking, responsible, psychologically healthy beings will NOT behave that way. So, zombification is required. It takes brain-washing to a whole new sophisticated level. Consumerism preys on feeding base instincts and exploiting psychological weakness. It promotes infantilization. It mesmerizes the population into believing the way to success or happiness is just a possession away.


All nations indoctrinate their youth to some degree while in schools. In fact, this is the primary raison d’être for school: socialization. Patriotic holidays and celebrations also drive home the point of the grandness of being a member of some ethnic group or nation. But when patriotism is emphasized in the extreme, it is a symptom of fear and insecurity on the part of those that pull the strings: the plutocratic elements that wield tremendous influence in the halls of power. And in America, it is not hyperbole to say that we now live in a plutocracy where banksters and other white collar criminals run wild and roughshod over the rest of the population. Even a Republican intellect, Kevin Phillips, admit this (see his book Wealth and Democracy).

To secure citizen allegiance, our National Legislators have opted to utilize classic Orwellian language techniques to this end. Terms such as Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are reminiscent of fascistic-like language from the 1930s. The constant reference to those acts reminds citizens of the desire of the government to ‘protect’ us. This strategy has been extended to other domestic laws.

To secure corporate domination over the electoral system, plutocratic forces influenced the Supreme Court to allow unregulated corporate wealth to play such a huge role in American politics, again utilizing more Orwellian language: Citizens United was the name of the case brought before the Supreme Court. Really? Don’t they mean, Corporations United! (No, you fool. Please! We must be more subtle).

Language aids in controlling ‘how one thinks’ about things and this well-known fact has enabled Republicans, especially, to utilize it marvelously as the craven, helpless Democrats fall in step. Problems in the education system? No matter, the No Child Left Behind Act will fix the ‘education’ problem.


If you really study American history closely, what really stands out is the domination of the political system by plutocratic forces whose influence has grown in direct proportion to their assets. Money (or the threat of withdrawal) buys access, persuasion and real power. In many cases, it simply buys a Senate or House seat. Oh, how times have changed. One recalls Teddy Roosevelt who tried to take on these Plutocrats. Lincoln mentioned them also during the Civil War. Jackson was wary of a National Bank. Teddy’s cousin FDR too, recognized the dangers posed by Corporations and they hated him for it. FDR wrote, for example:

‘The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson — and I am not wholly excepting the Administration of W. W. The country is going through a repetition of Jackson’s fight with the Bank of the United States — only on a far bigger and broader basis.’

Even Eisenhower recognized the threat of corporations when in his last speech before leaving the Presidency, he made his now-famous comment about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

In fact, a strong argument can be made that as an increasing percentage of the population got the vote and ‘could vote’, that corporate power grew in proportion. You will recall the vast segments of American culture could not vote for the majority of our history: Negroes, Women, Immigrants (whose numbers swelled the population between 1850-1910) as well as those between the ages of 18-21. Even those without property or who paid no taxes were prevented from voting in many jurisdictions or states prior to the 1830 or even later. If you were Black, Indian or Mexican, forget it. As the percentage of voters increasingly grew and more of the population was included in the electorate, Corporate Power grew in direct proportion to influence the political machinery of governments in states and at the national level. One can even make the case that we have had a actual plutocracy within the U.S. since its inception.

The framers of the Constitution were all White men, propertied and/or professionals, and well-off or connected. In order to achieve a union of states, they had to bribe the Southern states by allowing slavery. And, in addition, the slave states could count Negroes as 2/3s of a person to allow for increased representation of said states! To speak in the parlance of contemporary times: “What the FUCK?!”

Wow, those Southern cotton planation owners were more than enough for the Northern states. Abolitionists were but an irritation then. And the Southern states were more populated with all those slaves too. Washington and Jefferson, two of our most revered Presidents bought and relied on slaves like so many commodities. Five of our first seven Presidents were slave owners.

You might not know that the right to vote was not guaranteed in the Constitution, and states could establish their own requirements. Even Jews, Catholics and Quakers were prohibited from voting in many states in the early elections. All kinds of prejudices and fears kept lots of people from voting. Workers often were told for who to vote or even had their ballots marked for them.

During the Occupy Wall St. protests that spread throughout the country, one embarrassed woman revealed that her husband, working on Wall Street, admitted to her that he was ‘told and expected to vote Republican’. In fact, some (or many) corporations on Wall Street even make it clear to their employees that they are expected to ‘donate’ money to Republican candidates.

Capitalist theory, as it is talked about in books, bares little relation to how it is practiced. Capitalism has been tamed a bit for the sake of giving damn rights to humans (that’s the real Republican moan). But the practice of capitalists the world over is to gain an advantage ‘by virtually any means necessary’. Try collusion and price fixing through speculation and the creation of new investment ideas…..that’s more how the the giant corporations and banks function. And the CEOs often become advisors for our Presidents. Goldman Sachs provides the financial wizards our Presidents depend on.

You can hear the echo of the plutocratic forces amongst super-wealthy who own most of the wealth in America. Supposedly some 400 families own more wealth than the bottom 50%. Another statistic puts the figure that .1% of the population possesses 22% of the wealth and that has grown in recent years. One percent of the population owns somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50% of the wealth. Money may not bring happiness but it sure as hell makes for power, especially in Washington D.C.

Upward mobility, once the pride of American culture, has virtually disappeared (almost). Many segments of society do not have the opportunities their ancestors (parents or grandparents) did. Real wages have not risen since 1970 (or barely so). Most families have two income streams and much of the population works at minimum wage jobs. Half of the population is dependent on subsidization of some kind to survive at a basic level.

And for Republicans, that is as it should be. One hears nary a peep from the vast majority of Democrats who have been metaphorically ‘enslaved’ by the Plutocrats who whisper behind closed doors:

‘Damn, we have to remind those politicians who really rules this country. Pay good money to do it, too.’

Democrats were compelled to seek Corporate donations to run their campaigns to compete with the Republicans. After the Reagan and PapaBush years, the Democrats sought this corporate funding to compete. Indeed, Clinton, a moderate Democrat probably only won the election because of that funding in part. Also, recall that Ross Perot ran as a third party candidate, taking some 19% of the vote, thereby preventing Bush’s re-election.

The ultimate result? Democrats moved to the ‘right’ along with the rest of the country especially with the influence of the Christian Right, Rightwing Radio and Fox News all which took a ‘no-holds barred’ strategy of dealing with Democrats who typically were not up to the task of confronting these forces. After all. Democrats were not gobbling up corporate funding as quickly as The Elephant at a water hole.

After Insider-Trading Laws were changed decades ago, it was revealed that they did not apply to our Federal legislators. And people like Nancy Pelosi, already a millionaire, a major Democratic Liberal took advantage of this. And when confronted, was miffed that anyone ‘dare’ imply she was acting just like a Republican: greedy and unethical.

These are our ‘progressive’ legislators? Once upon a time Joe Lieberman was nominated to by V-P with Gore in the 2000 election when Gore won the popular vote and was cheated out of the Presidency by the Supreme Court and shenanigans down the way in Florida where Bush’s brother was governor. Eight years later, Lieberman was transformed into a Republican supporter and became an Independent supporting McCain and Palin. Word has it that he was bitten by some creature and that accounted for the transformation.

His wife, by the way, Hadassah Lieberman, who “previously worked in communications and public affairs at two drug manufacturers, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Hoffmann-La Roche, became a “strategic counselor on health-care policy and public health initiatives” in the Washington, D.C., office of Hill & Knowlton USA, according to the New York-based company.”

And Joe? He refused to support Obamacare and even other options. The reach of the plutocratic (corporate) forces is all pervasive. True liberals are hard to find within the Democratic Party. I mean, what is a liberal in today’s America? I myself am not sure.


It is also worth noting that nearly all Senators are multi-millionaires and you can bet the farm that if they lose an election or retire, they will find a nice job as a lobbyist or working for some firm connected to those that once contributed to their campaigns. Indeed, these same plutocrats often find jobs for family members. It’s just one big incestuous party. And the parties are so extravagant. Major entertainment stars often make appearances at gala affairs attended by our elected officials. Their wives all love it. So true.

There is, after all, an advantage in wearing an expensive suit or extravagant dress as well as a coiffed hairstyle. For most people, it is assumed that clothes make the man/woman. People with suits are, generally speaking, more trusted as the suit conveys success, money, status, trust. Try on a suit and see what I mean. You might have to practice getting into the role but practice makes perfect. People, unable to judge your character, assume that the suit conveys decency and fidelity to honor. I know, how ironic.

See, that’s how American democracy is. Clothe the plutocracy in elections and, moreover, have lots of them, and, finally, have very long election campaigns. Then, add the news-entertainment bureaus owned by the corporate media, and work to create the illusion that all that talking, interviewing, campaigning, and voting adds up to just a super-dumper democracy, made in the good ole U.S.A!! I mean its election-city 24/7. I mean, did you ever just wonder how many times you said the pledge of allegiance? Most civic meetings start with the pledge. Why? Because we need to remind everybody to hold their allegiance to the flag and what it represents, the republic and one nation under fricken God-almighty… lest you forget!!!

All sporting events have a preamble of the Star Spangled Banner to remind us that our country was born fighting for and preserving freedom! Francis Scott Key, who penned the poem during the War of 1812, did not know that his paean to America was to be turned into a song with a melody so embarrassingly difficult to sing, not to mention that so few Americans know the lyrics. The point, however, is to remind everybody at sporting events that we are good little patriots and that our military bases dotted around the globe (I’ve lost track of how many) serve to remind others of that same fact. After 911, some Major League baseball teams added the quaint tradition, during the seventh-inning stretch, of another patriotic song being sung. One just was not enough. I am not even sure what it is now that I don’t watch baseball much anymore. I think it is American the Beautiful, a song I actually like.

Now, good Americans get to stand twice and feel patriotic just in case they were thinking of getting upset at the Banksters. And if you don’t stand with hat doffed….you may just get the evil eye and even some patriot telling you that ‘people died for your freedom’! My brother was confronted by such a patriot and reminded him of freedom of speech….which did not please this particular true-blue American, with clenched teeth and cheeks flushed with rage at my brother’s insistence to sit.

And don’t forget three solid years of serious inculcation in American history told through the eyes of history books edited and published in Texas. Yes, in most states, three whole years of U.S. history are required. In California, it is in the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. And then, add another 1/2 year of civics, government, and what not; most of this taught superficially with a hardy dose of how great America is.

Still not sure you are going to be a nice little patriot who believes in the flag, mom, apple-pie, the Republic, democracy, the President, the three branches of government (ah, okay, so most Americans can not name those branches, so what!)?

The corporate news media are dedicated to presenting our people in government in their best light. And when these persons do evil things that are discovered, the news media assures us that these bad people had moral or ethical lapses…. just like the nice bankers on Wall Street or officials at Exxon….all who got away with white-collar crimes so hard to prove in court because they ‘gots the best lawyers!’ I mean who wants to spend all that time in court anyway?

Churning out good little zombies has become standard fare for the system, the institutions of which all are solidly behind the process of zombification. The education system, the entertainment system, the political system: all working together to get the correct response from most of the American voters!!! “Yes, American is great. We are a Republic. The best democracy in the world. USA! USA! USA!

Back behind the curtain, the plutocrats enjoy themselves as the zombies stroll into malls and consume all the shit that makes America so free. Free to own lots of shit. Free to choose between the variety of brands, the selection of phones and phone plans, the car you want to reflect you character and status, the home you have to have to demonstrate to the world that you are successful, the clothes you parade yourself around in to attract the attention that you were pathetically deprived of as a child.

And the plutocrats laugh and pull the strings. Good Obama. Good. That’s right. Select those who worked with the banks and the financial institutions to screw the public and put them in your cabinet. Nice job, Obama. Yo momma be proud. It’s called being moderate. And with Republican dobermans set loose, Obama (like all Democratic Presidents) realized, he indeed was NOT in Kansas nor Chicago but Washington DC (the Devil’s Concubine) so close to Wall Street, the center of power in America….the sorta beautiful. And he had to be taught a lesson. Uppity Black Man!

The voters go into the booths. They vote. They go home and watch results. They see “democracy” in action. The plutocrats toast to the voting zombie public. They laugh, they smirk, they say the right things, they remind politicians of their bribes. Ha. Ha. Ha. Yeah, I know, I have gone to far, my critics contend. I have flipped my lid. “It’s not that simple, you dummy.” Or, “Wait a minute! Are you saying that the people don’t decide who is President and who are senators and reps are?” Or, “You have their privilege to vote.” Gosh. Gee whiz. I am almost excited, NOT!

See, it’s beyond just a lot of people, even so-called intelligent and seemingly informed ones. They just do not get it. I mean, comparatively speaking, a relatively large segment of Americans have ‘The Good Life.’ They have security and everything most people could ever want. This is the Upper Middle Class, that stalwart segment that gives hope to the rest of the middle class that they, too, might have lots of stuff. And status. Once you possess your own home and have security and material things to enjoy, it is difficult to admit that America is owned by the corporations. There is no motivation to be honest about it. And, let’s face it, those that ‘have’ don’t really spend all that much time thinking about the true state of affairs in America. It’s best to believe that ‘Life is Good’ and that we really do ‘live in a democracy’.

And the Republicans? They talk a lot these days about removing the social safety net that gobbles up so much of revenues. They say they would like to get rid of social security, welfare, Head Start, and Obamacare….they want to return to the good old days before the masses shared in any prosperity.

Mostly, it is blather. What protects America from riots and rebellions are these very programs that provide some very basic care to the masses, the underclass, those who can not survive on the pittance of the wages they earn.

The plutocrats know a good thing when they see it. The whole world will consume like fucking mad, the environment will take care of itself and if it doesn’t, who gives a shit, our grandchildren? Ha! Ha! That’s a good one. By then, the little creatures will be pathetic zombified offspring of adult Zombies. And most humans will be living inside, afraid to go out, afraid of contamination of the air, land, water, rivers, oceans. I exaggerate. It is not THAT bad? Is it?

Crap man, you should see some cities in China, India, Africa!, Latin America. You can’t just plunder metals from mountains forever and dig into the earth for oil just so you have fuel or need materials to make more shit. And the clouds of contaminated air that spew out pollution?

Even in so-called ecologically minded pristine places like Costa Rica, outside the national park destinations where tourism is promoted, there are signs telling you that creeks are contaminated. Man, all you have to do is look. And it is the same in most undeveloped and even most developing or developed countries. Buying water in a plastic bottle promotes good health.

Look around you. Do you see the zombies? Do you see them shopping? Especially at the malls. Do you see them all lonely in their homes. zombied-out as they watch the zoombie-tube? Do you see them watching homogenized, zombiefied entertainment events? The Superbowl half-time show is, probably, the most infamous Zombie event of all even though I have never watched it. Turns my stomach. I get zombi-rhea. Television, entertainment, sports, politics, education, the news: the process of zombification is institutionalized. We all be zombies, or at least many of us. We don’t need no stinking Pods from outer space. We don’t need no Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or totalitarian state! No. America is the best in the world of making zombies. The cost/benefit ratio is excellent.

I know. I know. You want to argue religion is better at making zombies. Okay, I see your point. So, let’s just say that America blends social-political zombification with religious zombification to get highest rate of zombification in the world. We have highest per capita of zombies in the world. Put that statistic in your pipe and smoke it. Woo! Woo! Better than Jamaican, mon!

I mean, after all, half of Americans believe the Earth is 5000 years old and deny evolution. Talk about the power of zombiefication! Yikes.


Now, please repeat after me, the Zombie Creed:

“I pledge allegiance to the corporations of the USA and to the plutocracy which runs the show with consumerism, materialism and entertainment for all. And a big shout out to God who sent his only son, Jesus, to make sure we all would keep buying crap and, still, somehow, end up in heaven.

Progressives Plan Festival of Complaints and Questions

Radical progressives are promoting a national Festival of Complaints & Questions (FOCQ) to culminate in a conference to be held at the Washington Monument…where a select group of renowned progressive favorites will announce their top five complaints. The featured Complainers will include Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Keith Oberman, Amy Goodman, and Thom Hartmann to list only a few!

The whole event is to focus on major Complaints and Questions that Leftists have been asking for some 50 years and more. The point of the event is to crystallize the most common complaints and questions and then determine if progressives want to take their complaints and questions to the next ‘level’, i.e. ‘actually doing something’.

Talk in progressive circles is that complaining and questioning are wonderful activities in and of themselves but that ‘real’ actions are just not that much fun. One organizer put it best when he said, “I’m Jewish and complaining is a rite of passage in my culture.” Another participant chimed in that he liked to ‘question authority’ which, he declared, ’empowered’ him. When asked what to be empowered meant, he proudly displayed the T-Shirt and bumper sticker he had recently bought.

Others point to the Wall Street protests of a few years ago, the ‘Occupy Movement’ which spread throughout the country and was responsible for much yelling, screaming, chanting, drumming, singing and such. The creation of the ‘human’ microphone during this protest was probably the most significant success story in recent progressive history (that, and hand signals for ‘yes, no & maybe’…not to mention, selecting the ‘gender you most identify with’).

The Occupy Movement’s genius was to move the progressive movement forward by denying that organization, strategy, demands and an agenda were relevant or important. Instead, positive vibrations and new-age thinking have revolutionized progressive politics by focusing on elevating consciousness through experiential means especially via music and art. Ultimately, the goal is to make everybody ‘feel’ that they have accomplished something before they return to work or college.

This is what is termed protest as therapy. When you protest, you feel good. And when you feel good, all humankind benefits, somehow. And the benefits inspire real change. No one quite understands why or how but many believe it to be true. They point to quantum physics which posits that change could occur in another dimension closely related to ours. Some progressives even think that this ‘dimensional-effect’ (as they refer to it) may help reincarnated souls in the astral world. Other radicals believe that manifesting change can be accomplished through telekinesis and that ‘action’ is all but an obsolete notion. Their focus is on ‘manifested reality change’ utilizing the universal mind.

Chomsky, Moore, Oberman and Goodman will be hawking their books and each will have a signing where participants can pay just $50 for signed copy along with a T-Shirt, bumper sticker, and a personalized coffee cup with the acronym FOCQ printed on one side and a somewhat angry face on the other. The cups will come in several colors with a wide selection of faces (representing gender, ethnicity & sexual orientation) added for a personal touch. (Pre-orders can be made in advance so that those who can’t make the event can pretend they did).

Already, FOCQ has commitments from 100,000 persons who plan to get to Washington using ‘any means necessary’ including cars, buses, planes, helicopters, boats, yachts, bicycles with a few declaring they would canoe or kayak in from New York. Balloonists, sky-divers and others planning to ‘drop-in’ might be subjected to destruction by the Pentagon’s missile defense system (all aerial fanatics are so forewarned that any complaints about bias should be directed to the Pentagon’s Q &A on their website where all questions from radicals, progressives and other terrorists are taken seriously).

Participants are being asked for a donation of $25 to cover the expenses for Mr. Oberman who demanded to be put up in a penthouse and to have personal assistants to help him choose a wardrobe, cook his food, and provide him with a limousine driver. The rest of the money will be directed to paying for security and covering lawsuits that it is anticipated will be filed by some of the more revengeful radical complainers.

Several famed bands and singers have already thought about committing to the festival including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joan Baez, Paul Simon and Cher. But at this time, there is no actual confirmation that any will show up. ‘It all depends on their schedules,’ said one spokesperson, noting that age also may be a factor. Some younger bands have also promised to think about it. The theme of all songs performed will be, of course, Complaints & Questions.

New-Age psychologists as well as Tarot Card Readers will be available for ‘insight’ sessions to be offered to participants who can have their chakras examined and futures distilled. Those suffering from CCD (compulsive complaining disorders) will have access to shamans, green algae, or personal trainers to work with alleviating tension and stress. Workshops on formulating complaints and clarifying questions will be offered on a ‘need-priority’ system under the aegis of an elite group of cosmic communicators to be flown in from various UFO sites around the globe.

All those planning to attend are being asked to write down five complaints and five questions which will be dropped into two giant jars to be created by a group of progressive artists in time for the event. Mimes, dancers and actors will then enact performances based on the complaint or question selected from the jars during the week-long festival. Already, several dozen dance and acting groups have responded. The national mime association has not been heard from as of yet.

Planners have developed a schedule of all events, presentations, speeches, etc. and the information will be made available online at Special attention has been given to the design of the site and other materials which will be emblazoned with many different complaints and questions symbolic of progressive criticism from all over the country.

Members of the progressive movement can go on online to the site and vote for their favorite complaint and question. The most popular ones will be stenciled on banners surrounding the Washington monument and choirs will chant these select choices in polyphonic choruses during bathroom breaks at all events or performances.

Complaints and Questions about anything should be directed to National FOCQ Headquarters. Contact

How to remember what Ex-Dividend date means

In the term Ex-Dividend Date, think of “Ex” as “Excludes”, the first date at which the dividend is excluded.

When buying or selling a stock that pays a dividend, the Ex-Dividend date is the first date on which you will be excluded from receiving the dividend. For example, suppose a stock has an Ex-Dividend date of January 28. That means that if you purchase the stock before the market closes on January 27, you will receive the dividend but if you wait until January 28, you will not receive the dividend. Analogously, if you sell the stock before the market closes on January 27 then you will not receive the dividend but if you sell on or after January 28 you will receive the dividend.

Obama Declared Worse Than Stalin

Recent polls have confirmed President Obama’s reputation is so bad that nearly 40% of Americans believe he is worse than Joseph Stalin. When pollsters first asked the question, they found that most Americans had never heard of Stalin but, nonetheless, were sure that the President had to be worse. When given detailed background on Joseph Stalin, the figures shot up to 63%.

According to some insider sources, President Obama has made much progress in turning America into a totalitarian state. Moreover, the fact that most of the population has not noticed or realized this is substantial proof that his covert plan to institutionalize totalitarianism has made significant progress. Some Republicans, when pressured by reporters with tethered dobermans, confessed that they had undergone torture when they were forced to listen to the President, much like their children, some of whom have admitted in therapy that they were compelled to listen to the Commander in Chief during their social studies classes in California and other Socialist States.

So too, some reports confirm that Obama has begun plans for an American-style Gulag archipelago with labor camps spread throughout the country, proportionately, reflecting the number of electors per state. California is scheduled to have a total of 55 whereas pathetic Wyoming will only receive three. One journalist indicated that his sources have revealed there has been much discussion in Congress, behind closed doors, over the design of the camps with some arguing for Art Deco, others for Rococo style facilities.

This is all a part of the Reinvestment in America Act which will employ millions of Americans who will then be given permanent employment as guards, kitchen help, and other required staff, such as lawyers and investment counselors. Apparently, rumors about the jobs has already attracted hundreds of thousands of Americans who have begun enrolling in gun clubs in many communities. Republicans have expressed some doubt regarding the plan with the most cynical response coming from Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, who argued that the plan is too little too late.

Republicans, in a corollary to the Pledge to America, have suggested that Obama’s plan to incarcerate all socialists, progressives, communists, as well as assorted other persons, did not go far enough. They proposed building a fence around the whole state of California and turning it into one giant facility to house Leftists, Gays, felons, the mentally institutionalized and illegal immigrants. They point out that this makes up 80% of the California population already and the job of constructing the electrified fences will be easier since California leads the nation in alternative energy technology.

Democrats did not condemn the plan outright and Harry Reid said he would have to look at the specifics before responding to the Republican plan. Nancy Pelosi, in the spirit of compromise, told one reporter: Labor camps are a good way to deal with unemployment in these times of crisis. Every American deserves a job. When asked about whether internees would be compensated, Congresswoman Pelosi admitted as much, declaring that all those in camps will be given food, water and knitting needles.

Other critics of the President have noted President Obama has refused to respond to charges by the Tea Party over their claim of the disappearance of over 30 million Americans. Tea Party members have theorized that many Americans are unaccounted for and have maintained that there is a grand conspiracy by the federal census to hide this fact. They note, for example, that most invitations to their demonstrations go unanswered and suspect the Obama administration of complicity in these disappearances. Some have said that these 30 million persons may already have been terminated or sold into slave labor to China. Thus the comparisons to Stalin are not without some credibility.

Meanwhile a bill to declare President Obama worse than Stalin has been making the rounds in the halls of Congress and already has 257 cosigners including many Blue Dog Democrats. While some liberal Democrats scoff at such a bill, many moderates admit privately that they do see similarities citing Obama’s paranoia about the bill. Others point to accusations of Obama’s criminal past in Indonesia and Kenya which has remained hidden from most of the public. Evidence of his prior felonious activity can be found on Tea Party websites.

Finally, Fox News has reported that Obama’s refusal to appear on their Network to face tough questioning from Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity leaves the impression that this President is above the law. Spokespersons from Fox revealed that they felt threatened when a demonstration of protestors outside their corporate offices included people of color, even, they asserted, very dark-complexioned persons. They compared this activity to Stalin’s secret police.

The bill to declare Obama worse than Stalin is anticipated to come before the Senate no later than October 31.

American Kakophony, poems by Mikhail Branski

Amerikan Kakophony

© 2014 Mike Mihaljevich

Sounds of Profit

I can't escape the noise
Seeping from apartments
Enveloping me
Like a contagion
Infecting the quietude
I had nursed

How can I think poetic thoughts?
What would philosophers say
Of environs where crickets and
Frogs are hushed
By the sounds of profit?
Age of Materialism, # 3

Materialism has
Become our God
And to the future
We shall be known as
The Indifferent,
The Disdainful
Oblivious before all signs
Of the Collapse.
Nero's electronic accompanists
Playing punkish cacophonies

There will be no dispute
About these generations
Of the selfish & narcissistic
No orgy of cries will arise
To apologize for this
Mega-idiocy of men & minds
Bent on destruction
Who argue like adolescents
And sell ideas at garage sales
To a public too weary to doubt
Anxious for facile answers
Everyone in Amerika (verses #1-4)

I invited everyone in Amerika
To my home
Much to my surprise
They all showed up

I showered them with gifts and dinner
They took the gifts
Without so much as a thank-you
Fought during their repast
Then left without offering to clean up

Their belligerence and rudeness
Upset me
But I knew that it was
Simply poor upbringing
Or at least wanted to believe so

The culture disintegrates daily &

I'm a witness to a montage
Of poignant lunacy which is guzzled
By shameless millions
Robots in Coats & Ties, Version #34

Robots in coats & ties
Purvey their lies & deceptions
In the media marketplace
Vying for the best packaging
While consumers barter
Their common sense
For bits of data to be
Consumed like fast food

Tired tv images waft
Across the nation's air-waves
Wielding distorted images
As passive onlookers suffer
An onslaught of evil incantations
Incarnated into sound & visuals
Sweet words & pretty faces
Meant to sell stale stuff

Our modern-day heroes
Saviors clothed in coats & ties
False messengers of the Gods
Manipulators of mortals
Truly reminiscent of a Greek
Comedy of tragic proportions
And a very foreign policy
An Old Ritual, #2

The Indians said the White man
Spoke with forked tongue
Splitting truth into pieces
Words sliding out of mouth
Like an eel through the slime
Of evil intentions

Soldiers came with Great White Father
Proclamations bearing
Seductive gifts conveying
Warm-hearted assurances
Meant to pacify Indian anxiety
Meant to lure Indian heads into
The noose of suffocating White man ways

Words worming their way
Into the susceptible hearts of a
People unfamiliar with
Investments, profits, and greed
For whom promises need not be written
Or affixed with the signature of a
Witness nor stamped and certified
With an affidavit
Society as an Edsel

Our society is an Edsel
Careening down a disintegrating
Highway of superfluous information

Under the stress and strain
Of the twin Gods of materialism and status
Children gaze at their parents
And wonder who they are

Mom, who are you?
Dad, what are you?
Is it any wonder they reach
For symbols of alienated inhabitants
Of the ghetto

But our nobel-prize winning academics
Just don't get it
It's amazing
Adults have bought the line, hook and sinker
Something's wrong
The roof is crumbling, tumbling down
But somehow they don't notice
That the pillars are cracked

And so, we clutch onto each other
Fasten our seat belts
And race down the mountainside
To what we know not
Searching for Truth (Verses # 1-3)

I went searching for truth in newspapers
But all I found
Were the opinions of the rich
Scrawled in peasant blood

I went searching for Truth
Leafing through Newsweek & Time
Examining facts & explanations
But all that stared back at me
Were editorial decision-making
About what could be published
Without jeopardizing the myths
Of the rich & powerful

I went searching for truth
In evening newscasts,
Hoping to read
In between the lines
Of political apologists
But all I could see/hear
Were beautiful people
Repeating a mantra
Of rehearsed lines
Scripted by others
Taking home million dollar paychecks
The Bureaucrat

He orders us about
From the tormented
Cell of his soul
Lashes out at us with
Sweet word-appeals
To our idiocy and falseness
He brings out the worst in us

In his tangled mind
He weaves ideas
He has heard from others
And, smilingly, holds meetings
At which we feign attention
Then walk away wringing
From sleeves anxious perspiration

We are as marionettes
And respond accordingly
Dancing on the stage of his world
Where actions contradict thoughts

Subject to and regulated by
Rules and policies from on high
Bureaucracies are to homo sapiens
As assembly lines are to objects
Golly-Gosh-Gee Whiz Type of Guy

He was bred
To be an administrator
Smooth, diplomatic, tactful, friendly
He had gone to the
Ronald Reagan Finishing School
After attending
Richard Nixon College where
He studied Ethics and wrote a paper
On the Reconciliation of
Truth with Duplicity
For which he received a B+

He was at ease in all situations
Incapable of sterner emotions
Stuck in boyhood,
Say....about 12 years old
He had a great golly-gosh-gee whiz
Attitude that said it all
He was at home in all situations
He loved the pat on the back
The pat on the butt
The pat answer

He agreed with the majority
And convincingly so
With a sincerity
An amiableness
That pushed him to the top
Of the bureaucratic pyramid
Children of Today

Children of today
Slumbering in
A mesmerized stupor
Of evaporated Dreams
Reach out for a meaning
Where none exists

Seeking stability
In a vacuum of ideals
Taught to parley
Their thoughts into cliches
Like vulcanized Indians
They have no retort
Except to report a litany
Rehearsed in classrooms
Land of the Free

In the land of the free
There are some eighty million plus
Hostages of a peculiar mind set

During the day, they venture out
On sorties for their daily sustenance
Only to return to their
Glorified cells to hide from
The nocturnal offspring
Of Ignorance, Karma, & Poverty

In the cities, lurking in all
Neighborhoods, fear is the
Common equalizer
Neighbors are aliens
Fences, driveways demarcate properties
Symbols of private realms
Hiding inside houses
Double and triple locked
Curtains drawn even during the day
Barred windows, warning systems
Neighborhood watch signs
Watch dogs guard possessions and lives
In the land of the free &
Home of the brave
Jellyfish Eyes

It's all liquid to them
Them with the jellyfish eyes
They ogle through the ooze of their minds
And sometimes tangle with Real Thoughts
Not knowing what to make of them

If they met Jesus
They would say something like
Oh yeah, he was hip
But he had a big ego
Yeah, his truth was real deep
I mean, "I am the father"
Waycool, man

Then it's time for a mocha java
Or some yuppie drink
I don't know what the stuff is
I imagine it's made to derange
And rearrange brain cells

(and, still, the pets of materialism
are snorting and injecting goofy ideas;
downloading the latest in babbleonian
newage ideas into their brains and bladders
and spitting and spilling it over goblets
they hold like silver penises,
admiringly praising their erectile structure)
The Nouveau Consumer

I see it all now
Children of the modern aged
Industrialized, consumer-surfeited
Grow up until 7 or 13 to become
Ideal consumer junkies
That mean age required by the beast
Pre-ordained by the profit masters
Of technology

Generations bred in
Narcissistic hedonism
Brain-washed to enjoy
The freedom to buy
Virtually no struggle
Yours for the grasping
Unfettered indulgence
Freedom become license
For nonsense
Unchecked, unthought buying power

Today's freedom lovers are
Tomorrow's consumer-lackeys
Uncle Sam may one day
Want you for cannon fodder

But now needs you for the
You're our only hope: Buy or Die
Space Invaders

I surveyed my apartment
After Christmas
And noted the invasion
I have loss eight cubic feet of space

Aliens stare back unflinchingly
Anchored in terra firma
A newly acquired colony
From which there will be no uprooting

The inanimate snicker contemptuously
And eerily, suck at vital molecules of air
To which I am so slavishly attached

I curse them
They spit back
My thoughts to me
In twisted forms

They convey my addiction to them daily
I hear their whispers during the night
Reminding me of the caricature
That I am
That we all are:
Mere appendages to things
Nothing Untouched

Humans can leave
Nothing untouched
Meddling has become
A psychic addiction
With which to dance away
Life in a meaningless barbarism
Of mazes & dice

Searching for answers
In supermarkets
And entertainment jungles
Aspiring to simple
Juvenile delights,
Deliverance is sought
At the hands of
New Age pseudo-sages

Mini-minds marveling
At all things material
As if to say,

"That will make me happy
"This will make me happy
"And maybe this...
"And that also....
Ad infinitum

Stolen passwords? Not to worry. Advice about passwords.

The recent theft of a billion user names and passwords by Russian hackers is nothing to worry about as long as you understand a few simple facts and rules.

KNX News Radio Los Angeles (CBS) would have you believe pundits who sell password generator software and other nonsense. KNX is either misreporting or missing the story. They should instead be interviewing qualified representatives at Bank of America, VISA, ETrade and other financial institutions to ask them if passwords can be stolen. The answer is that passwords cannot be stolen because those institutions do not store them.

Sites such as your bank or stock brokerage do not, I repeat, do not, store your password. So no one can steal your password from your bank. What is stored is an encrypted value that is based on your password. That encrypted value could be stolen but, by itself, is useless for logging in. In other words, there is no file at your bank or other reputable financial institution that contains your password so there is nothing to steal.

How, then, is it possible for you to login using your password? The answer is that logging in works by encrypting your password and comparing the result to the stored encrypted value. If they match you get to login, if not your login attempt fails.

The beauty of this scheme, used in UNIX systems since 1969, is that the process is not reversible. Someone could publish the encrypted value on a bill board and that would still not help a hacker login. Only you know your password. The hacker would still have to effectively guess your password in order to get logged in by your bank site.

Don’t store your password on your computer nor in one of those stupid password “vaults” or password generators. Instead, memorize your password. It’s OK to write it down on a piece of paper you tuck away some place.

You should pick a good password that is easy for you to remember but hard to guess. Make it at least 8 or 10 characters long and be something that is not words in a dictionary. One trick I use is to think of a sentence then use the first letter of each word of the sentence as my password. For example “Only you know your password. Don’t store it in a file” would become: oykypdsiiaf. That password is actually fairly easy to type. The phrases I use make my passwords (I have a few) even easier to type. I use phrases about people and things I like so my phrases are almost like rhymes and easy to remember. Mine have more than 10 characters. I usually include a special character (such as a colon or asterisk) although some web sites stupidly refuse to allow special characters.

For sites that are not important (most sites) use a different password than your main passwords you use for important sites. It’s OK to use the same password for all the unimportant sites. I only have about three or four passwords, about three really secure ones (longish, hard to guess) and just one that is shorter and easy to remember that I use for ALL of the sites I just don’t care about that much if someone were to get in.

I hardly ever change my passwords since they are secure to begin with. But when and if I do, I just modify say the first three words of the phrase so it’s easy for me to remember the new password, it being similar to the old one.

There does remain a couple of things to know about as to how hackers can manage to steal passwords and how you can remain confident that you are secure.

One way hackers can steal passwords is by setting up a man-in-the-middle attack that is able to intercept communication between you and your bank. Thankfully, modern protocols use SSL (the same “S”, for “Secure”, as in the little “HTTPS://” prefix you sometimes see in your browser address bar). As long as you communicate with reputable institutions, all login communication is done using SSL which has been engineered to thwart man-in-the-middle attacks. If you ever see a message from your browser that warns you that the Security Certificate of the site you are logging to has not been authenticated, that means you should not connect to that site.

There is also the thorny issue of keystroke snooping. If a hacker can manage to take control of your computer or of the server into which you are logging in (or think you are logging in) at a level where your keystrokes can be recorded, then Houston we have a problem. Such deep attacks are rare but possible. The best way to feel confident one has not been attacked at that level is to keep your computers and devices updated with the latest security updates for your OS and only do important financial transactions with reputable web sites. Personally, I don’t use Norton or McAfee crap. Those things just waste CPU in my view. Instead, I keep my systems up-to-date, I use good passwords as outlined above, and I store important information on reputable sites.

As for LifeLock, see: Amazon not-so-good reviews about LifeLock

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
August 6, 2014

The Arab Spring has turned into Winter

I feel like a fool when I look back three years to my opinion on the so-called revolution in Libya in 2011. I was somewhat cautious and realistic that the road ahead would not be easy for Arabs who seek “democracy”. But I admit I did not foresee what has happened. Libya has now descended into what amounts to tribal warfare with no new strong man for the U.S. to support.

Yet I shold have foreseen it. It’s what the U.S. always needs. It’s not democracy that helps U.S. interests, it’s power, the power of foreign oligarchies. It’s a strong man.

Like in Iraq where the criminal Maliki was and still is supported by U.S. power and where apparently naive John Kerry, crudely paraphrased, recently stated that he was surprised by how many people don’t like Maliki.

Or in Egypt, where the Egyptian military oligarchy, unhindered and, in fact, supported by the U.S. and amazingly unquestioned by the U.S. main stream media, serves as a recent lesson. The open letter to Obama from leading Arab scholars says it all. The U.S. will ignore this letter and continue to support the Egyptian dictatorship, also supported by Israel, in order to prop up Israel and prevent true democracy from taking place in Egypt. But why?

We’ve had so many lessons. I use “we” tongue in cheek. Whenever you hear someone saying “we”, that is a bad habit of referring to the United States as if it were a unified whole with unified interests. It is not. It is an oligarchy, a plutocracy, controlled by very small numbers of very wealthy people while the masses, including immigrants and foreign labor, do the work to create American wealth that gets distributed to the one per cent.

Back to our lessons of the not so distant past… Mossadegh was assassinated in 1952 with the help of MI6 and the CIA after he committed the sin of nationalizing the oil industry in Iran. We saw what that got “us”, the ruthless shah followed by religious extremists who have become our favorite foes in the region. Democratically elected Arbenz in 1954 Guatemala was ousted with direct assistance of the U.S. Guatemala to this day lives in a legacy of military oligarchy. Similarly, democratically elected Allende had to be removed, and the dictator Pinochet supported, after that socialist bastard Allende and his democratically elected government had the temerity to nationalize our copper mines. I mean just because the copper mines are in Chile does not mean “we” (Anaconda Copper) don’t own them! And after the Vietnam Holocaust where the U.S. killed two million Vietnamese, even after the U.S. lost the war to those valiant Vietnamese, the U.S.-controlled banking system kept a boycott on banking with Vietnam for a couple more decades. Let’s not forget the Sandinistas who wanted to educate the poor and give them land so had to be fought via the illegal support of the Contras, who were in fact terrorists supported by “our” tax dollars. And that list is far from complete. We’re real nice guys, us AMERICANS. We’re so damned right in everything “we” do.

Yet, in the long run, I remain optimistic. Democracies are now emerging in South America thanks to popular revolutions and elections in Bolvia, in Venezuela, in Uruguay, in Ecuador, in Argentina, and even in Chile, which recently cut ties with the apartheid state of Israel.

“They” don’t need “us”. Unlike the advice ofThom Hartmann, a liberal who I do respect, to “give more aid to the governments of Hondurus and El Salvador and Guatemala” [in order to help them help their populace and avoid the need for the recent mass exodus of children to the U.S. border], I have an alternative suggestion. Don’t disrupt the political revolutions that are taking place there. Don’t support the ouster of Zelaya in Honduras. Instead, let the democratic socialist movements alone. Where Mossadegh and Allende and Zelaya would have perhaps succeeded were it not for our interventions against them, if we let the democratic socialist forces prosper, it may end up being they that will show us the way for our own ills here at home.

The Arab Spring was real. That Arab Spring is past, but, as with the cycle of the seasons, the Winter of today will pass and the Spring will return. It is the inevitable march of history and what is right.

Dennis Allard
Santa Moncia
July 28, 2014

Harvest of Empire – the story of Latino immigrants

To understand how European and U.S. empire and imperialism has lead to the immigration of Latinos into the United States, read Harvest of Empire (introduction and excerpts) by Juan Gonzalez .

If you are interested in and concerned by the recent surge in immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, you will be interested in reading this book. And you will find that the true history may not be what you thought it was.

You can hear Juan Gonzalez most days on radio where he co-hosts Democracy Now which airs on many radio and internet stations. Democrary Now airs on the KPFK FM Los Angeles radio stream at 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM each week day morning.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
July 25, 2014