Sonoma’s new oligarchy

The City of Sonoma has always had oligarchs, powerful people of great wealth and the inclination to use it. First among these was General Mariano Vallejo, the Mexican General who owned much of Northern California, including the town of Sonoma. He laid out the city, subdivided the land and was, by all … Read the rest

Ubu Trump

In 1895, Alfred Jarry’s play entitled Ubu Roi (The King Ubu) was performed in Paris for its first, and until very much later, its last time. Public reaction to the farce was so extreme that a riot ensued. Jarry, who never wrote another play, had no idea that a century-and-a-quarter later his theatrical… Read the rest

Game Over

By the measuring stick of capitalism, Donald Trump has won the game. He has attained the pinnacle of American business success, namely power; his finger on the nuclear button, Donald Trump is now the most fearsome businessman in the world. He has vanquished all enemies and proven his top-predator status;… Read the rest

$elling $onoma

A pervasive belief within Sonoma’s tourist serving businesses is that we must constantly compete for the attention of tourists. The recently formed Tourism Improvement District (TID) is spending $450,000/yr. on advertising of all sorts to “brand” Sonoma; placards on BART trains, billboards, … Read the rest

Guiding the hand of government

The wealthy and powerful expect to get what they pay for, and most often they do, spending billions on lobbying and campaign donations to guide the hand of government. Though lip-service is paid to the free market, tax rules, land-use law and public policy all favor “big money,” and for these reasons … Read the rest

All politics is internal

There is a yogic practice in Tibet that takes place in a charnel ground, or what we call a graveyard. Graveyards in Tibet, which is mostly rock, are not the neat and grassy parks we have here in America. Tibetan charnel grounds are bone-scattered yards where the dead are dismembered and their body parts… Read the rest

Citizenship in the 21st Century

New American citizens

A tremendous amount of energy and attention is focused on providing a path to citizenship for America’s many immigrants, and appropriately so. Citizenship provides, first and foremost, the protections of the Bill of Rights and laws granting access to legal representation,… Read the rest

I like Ike

Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

An economy in shambles with persistently high unemployment; wide income inequality; increasingly belligerent saber-rattling by political parties; street demonstrations accompanied by vandalism and violence on the part of both demonstrators… Read the rest

The Sellout

Watching old films of the 40’s and 50’s explicitly reveals the underpinnings of our American cultural narrative. Produced before the rise of contemporary comic irony or social satire, these post WWII films feel more like “educational” dating or coming of age films that were shown in high school. Commentary… Read the rest

Making peace becomes a crime

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled that any action which can be defined as “material support” to an organization deemed “terrorist” is a federal crime. Material support, says the court, includes discussion and/or consultation about non-violence or peace, making… Read the rest

What I meant to say

Now that we are in the midst of an election year, our political foibles are on great display. Not a week goes by that the lies or deceptions of one candidate or another hit the airwaves, and we voters are subjected to yet another round of “what I meant to say.”

I know what the pressure of a campaign can bring;… Read the rest

Not leading by example

As nuclear weapons technology has proliferated in non-western countries, Europe and the United States fulminate against authoritarian regimes viewed as a threat to peace and security. In some cases, like Pakistan, which is responsible for the spread of nuclear technology to the likes of North Korea,… Read the rest

The domino effect revisited

A Vietcong tunnel entrance in Hanoi, Vietnam

My daughter and her husband are on their honeymoon. They didn’t go to Paris or to London or to Rio de Janeiro. They went to Vietnam.

For those of you too young to remember, Vietnam is the place that many link to America’s only lost war and greatest military humiliation.… Read the rest

On ‘muttness’

At his first post-election news conference, President-elect Barack Obama referred to himself as a “mutt.” Specifically, he said, “We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On … Read the rest

A rose by any other name

Words have meaning rooted in social custom, usage and culture, therefore their meaning shifts and alters as culture evolves. Before the modern age this metamorphosis of language occurred organically as people traveled and interacted with others, bringing new concepts and words along with them.… Read the rest

Paying the piper

In the fairy tale about the Pied Piper, the townsfolk of Hamelin find themselves paying dearly for their lack of foresight. In case you don’t remember, in order to rid the town of rats, the townsfolk hastily enlist the services of the Piper, who, using a flute, entices the rats to the river, where they drown.… Read the rest

War used to be hell

The word “war” used to mean something; its invocation shook the heart, set us atremble, brought forth tears and darkened our vision. “WAR!” The word itself seemed enormous and foreboding; after all, death always prospers during war. Its declaration was the biggest news… Read the rest

Thoughts on the ‘surge’

I entered adulthood protesting and criticizing war, and it seems that I will leave it that way. As I enter senior-citizenship I can’t help but wonder why the world needs to learn the same sorry lessons over and over again. It’s not like there are no historical records; WWII was well covered by the press,… Read the rest

The politics of green

A rather miraculous thing has happened: all the politicians have turned green. In the past, such a statement would have meant “green with envy” or “green like money” or “turned green with disgust.” Today, however, it means “pro-environment.” At least, that’s how it sounds.

There was a time, not long… Read the rest