Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beatlick Travel Report: Truth or Consequences

Date: Feb 25, 2010 3:40 PM

“There’s more consequences than truth” is the saying around here, especially when water and real estate might be the topic. Like the elephant bone yard this town is the bone yard for vintage Airstreams and they speckle the landscape. We’ve pulled into the Artesian RV Park and Bathhouse for a month. The Black Cat Bookstore has poetry readings twice a month. There is a radical underground radio station FM 96.1, political rant website (, a good library, grocery store, and cheap diners. A population of mature citizens, young upstarts ready to make a fortune when the Spaceport project of Virgin Airline’s Richard Branson’s gets off the ground, and a constant trickle of bathers and tourists all pass each other in a dusty gauzy throwback to the 1950s.

This is the closest I’ve ever come to living in a trailer park. There are 36 units here with the basic hookups then a laundry room, freezer (where we keep freezing water jugs instead of buying ice) and half-off the soaks. Plus wi-fi so we can just lay around and watch online movies all day if we want. I have a small electric heater we can use at night, plus I got a Mr. Heater portable stove that runs on propane canisters. I LOVE IT. It’s just like sitting around a little hearth. We’ve got the tent attached to the van and have received three visitors since we got here. Once we went to the Pinch and Swallow on Broadway to see Las Cruces’s favorite bluegrass band man Steve Smith. Apparently “Dr. Bob” of T or C hosts these musical soirees in the bar that served him as therapeutic exercise during a stressful time in his career. I don’t have last names or all the facts because this is just what I picked up hanging around the stage. You have to bring your own refreshments, it’s not a commercial operation. There is an enormous mural on the wall, must be forty feet long, tripped out, that the good doctor painted himself as a de-stressor. Steve Smith’s band is fabulous and much of the “mature” audience members broke into groups just like junior high. I don’t know what they put in the water around here but there is a really unique congregation of very cheerful, well-satisfied elders here.

The women danced mostly with each other in the back while the men hopped around in a mild version of a mosh pit up front. Some of their outfits were “which-way-to-the-festival-man style," layers of long and short skirts, odd hats and plenty of jewelry. The men were a little more subdued but most had long beards and looked like old Civil War soldiers. There are a lot of wheelchairs around town, there’s a nearby VA hospital, and many old-timers on their scooters going up and down the street with their flags furling dune-buggy style. I eavesdrop on the conversations around me. A group of residents down at the thrift store agree this winter has been one of the worst for longevity. “You can tell things are changing,” one ancient said, “everybody I know has a cold.”

I guess they are recalling the glory days when all the bath house cottages were new and the WPA had just laid down the town’s concrete sidewalks. Everything is out of an old black-and-white movie now. One voyager up the street who passed by on his scooter told me his parents lived here way back when and he moved here permanently in the early 90s. “Nuthin’s really changed too much around here, but the price of real estate.”

There is this boom town talk that does make me leery. All the young folks are speculators and all the old folks are skeptics. A lot of the promises of glory sound so much like the stories we’ve heard about in New Mexico’s history of boom and bust. The whole town is for sale just about and that lends a real ghost town feel to the place. Too bad somebody doesn’t come in here and set money on fire like they have done in Marfa, Texas.

The trip to T or C has been a good practice run before we turn around and go back to Study Butte. I had to interrupt our plans to have a root canal redone in El Paso. But we are back on track for Survival Camp at Astor Park in Study Butte, Texas, by the Big Bend National Park. They call it Far West, Texas, out there but I call it Far Out West Texas.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela Hirst

Sunday, February 21, 2010




By Jack Random

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me.

Tiger Woods, February 19, 2010.

Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy.

Paul Krugman, September 2, 2009.

Tiger Woods was compelled by media outcry to stand before the cameras and submit to public humiliation. For some fifteen minutes on a Friday morning the world stopped to witness the event and sit in judgment on the sincerity of his contrition. Within seconds of his scripted performance the media was clamoring for more. They feel entitled. The public needs to know. The public demands.

Tiger Woods will no doubt deliver in the fullness of time. He is no longer a golfer. He is no longer the man destined to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of eighteen major golf championships. He is a serial adulterer. He wears a scarlet letter. He will always wear it. Someday he will return to the sport in which he excels and his accomplishments may again outweigh the foibles of his private life but he will never lose the scarlet letter.

The world is not a just place. It is no more just that a golfer should make hundreds of millions of dollars and be crowned the king of a billion dollar corporation than it is for that same golfer to submit to public humiliation for private wrongs.

If not for the corporate monster that has planted itself around Tiger Woods, he would not owe the media anything. If he were just a golfer he could invoke the spirit of Charles (I am not a role model) Barkley, make amends with his wife and family, return to the game on his own time schedule, and refuse to engage the media circus any further.

When it comes down to it, golf is just a game and Tiger is just a player. He is not a public official and his judgment does not directly affect the lives and well being of anyone outside his circle of friends, family and associates.

There are plenty of people in public life who deserve the kind of scrutiny and harsh judgment that is bestowed on the world’s most famous (now infamous) athlete for they have assumed a public stance and their pronouncements and decisions have had a profound effect on the lives and well being of millions, indeed, on the welfare of the nation and the world.

They include the “experts” and officials who served as propagandists and perpetrators of the nation’s most disgraceful war since Vietnam and their names include retired Generals David Grange, Wayne Downing, James Marks and Barry McCaffrey, retired Major Generals Don Sheppard and Bob Scales, retired Lieutenant General Tom McInerney, retired Colonels Wayne Allard and William Cowan, retired Captain Charles Nash, and of course the irrepressible torturer-in-chief Dick Cheney. Virtually all of these so-called “experts” had active interests in the war machine and were serving as nothing less than lobbyists.

If anyone deserves to pay the price of public humiliation, loss of credibility and the scarlet letter of betrayal it is the government propagandist who charades under the guise of an impartial media analyst.

Tiger Woods betrayed his wife. These individuals betrayed the nation and every soldier who would come to serve in that misbegotten war. And yet they still appear as media experts without any revelation of their checkered pasts. Of course for the media to expose them they would have to reveal their own complicity in cowardly compromise and this they will not do.

Another class of media pundit that deserves an indelible mark of shame is the economist or economic expert that promoted endless deregulation of the financial markets for more than a decade and failed to foresee the inevitable collapse in the housing market, triggering a cascade of implosions that brought the global economy to its knees.

They include Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Ben Stein of commercial fame, former Senator Phil Gramm, Allan Meltzer of the American Enterprise Institute, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former Times columnist Bill Kristol, Milton Friedman, Bruce Bartlett, virtually every major bank president, every CEO of a major financial institution, and countless others. Given the bipartisan consensus initiated by former president Clinton, there are in fact only a handful of economic experts who did not get it wrong and none of them are in positions of power today. So be it. Anyone who was so blinded by group think that they could not see this train wreck coming does not deserve to be considered an expert in the field.

Tiger Woods cheated on his wife and got caught. These people helped to defraud every stock and pension holder in the world and escaped unscathed, often with multi-million dollar bonuses. If we gave these individuals the public flogging they deserve they would not be empowered to fight back essential financial institution reforms today.

The time will come when the advocates of the Afghan war and global “free” trade will also come to judgment. When it is finally determined beyond doubt that our efforts in Afghanistan are in vain and that the trade policies of neo-liberalism have created an economic divide on par with feudalism, then all those pretenders should step forward for their own public humiliation.

But we should not be vengeful. It is not punishment we desire. It is only information to which we should be entitled. We need not place a permanent mark on their brows that would force them to confront their failures in everyday life. We need only a reminder when they appear on television or in a public forum. I suggest a lapel pin (where they used to wear the American flag) with the bright red letter W.

W is for wrong. Wear it proudly or remain silent. Either way the public interest will be served.

Meantime, call off the dogs and let Tiger tend to his own life. He has brought shame upon himself but he does not deserve a constant drubbing from a media that has its own burdens to bear.


“Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” by David Barstow, New York Times, April 20, 2008.

“How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” by Paul Krugman, New York Times Magazine, September 2, 2009.