Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Empire falls

Who knows? Maybe we will go out with a bang.

I always thought it would be more likely that global capitalism would expire in a long, extended whimper, as the foundation slowly crumbled to the point where the whole thing would collapse of its own weight. But when the Dow Jones average falls more points than any other single day in its history, as it did yesterday, we enter a new neighborhood in Wonderland.

Capitalism has always been something of a Ponzi scheme, depending as it does on continuing “growth.” Kevin Philips, one of America’s most astute political prophets, has an excellent analysis of the crapshoot capitalism has always been historically in his 2002 book, “Wealth and Democracy,” which traces imperial economic bubbles through the ages (his most recent book takes a bead on our current crisis). Uncontrolled (or unregulated) systemic growth has more in common with negative phenomena like cancer or disease epidemics than with the organic, rhythmic seasonal process you see in the growth of a tree, for example.

Like many environmentalists, I prefer the idea of the “steady state” economy laid out by E.F. Schumacher in his influential book, “Small is Beautiful,” where systemic waste is used as a fertilizer, rather than collected in a cesspool. Under the current system, pollution is seen as a positive good, either as an asset to the corporate bottom line (because costs are “externalized” when somebody else has to clean up the mess), or as a boost to GDP when somebody is paid to do the cleanup. This is a system that deserves to fail.

As a revolutionary, I enjoy watching the adolescent discomfort of our dysfunctional and now-despised king, Alfred E. Bushman, as he tries to reassure his fellow first-class passengers on the economic Titanic (his “base,” as he once joked to a roomful of tuxedo-clad swells) and the corrupt Congressful of headless Chicken Littles, feathers flying, anxiously running around in partisan circles, frantic to rescue their biggest campaign contributors.

But where do you run, when the sky is falling?


Perhaps someone can unlock a mystery for me.

As I confessed recently, I’m kind of a Luddite when it comes to computers. The other day, I tried to load some site-tracking software, to monitor how my marketing campaign is going. As usually happens when I try something new on the computer, I got a prompt asking something like “Wxq bthuzg hrofm? Click yes or no.” So I flipped a coin and clicked something, and got the response, “Nice try, asshole, but your cookies are soggy and your javascript is melting. Go back to the end of the line.”

In my usual panic about these things, I abandoned the project until I could get some help. But I’m wondering if I caused some sort of disturbance in the Force, because none of the three search engines I’ve tried (Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com) will bring up this blog, even though the Obunny post has been reprinted at several other websites, where it’s received hundreds of hits, at least. It’s of course interesting to see what all my alter egos are doing (I’m proud to say that most Michael Hastys are productive community members, including a lot of doctors, dentists and police officers—though we do also have a bank robber and kidnapper in our midst), but even googling “Michael Hasty Radical Pantheist” won’t produce this blog in the search.

How come? Computer gurus are welcome to reply.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reflections on a lawsuit

Today's post is an op-ed I sent this afternoon to the Hampshire Review, where I used to write a column. It's about a lawsuit, in which I'm a plaintiff, against the West Virginia legislature. The WV Supreme Court hears their appeal next week.

Thanks to Online Journal and Smirking Chimp for picking up the "Obunny" post.

Next week, on Tuesday, October 7th, the West Virginia Supreme Court will hear the Legislature’s appeal in the case, Committee to Reform Hampshire County Government v. Richard Thompson, Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, and Earl Ray Tomblin, President of the West Virginia Senate. The legislature has lost three times at the circuit court level.

The suit was filed in August 2005, in response to the legislature’s failure to pass an enabling bill, which would allow the citizens of Hampshire County to vote in a referendum on the changes to county government proposed in a petition signed by ten percent of the county’s voters, and submitted to the legislature in 2003—the first time in West Virginia history that a legislature has failed to perform this required constitutional function.

The petition proposes that a county “tribunal” (an unfortunate term that we’d change to “council” if we had to do it over again, but we got it straight from the Constitution), consisting of representatives from each electoral district (eight in our case, replacing the present three at-large county commissioners), and paid $250 per meeting each (instead of the fulltime salary and benefits commissioners get now), hire a fulltime county administrator to execute the day-to-day functions of the county government.

The change would be that the county’s ruling body would function more as a part-time citizen legislature, with a representative elected from each district, and with more efficiency than the current part-time, legislative/executive hybrid. The present county commission system is left over from colonial Virginia’s aristocracy, and designed to keep the peasants in their place—as Shepherd University history professor John Stealey observed in his study of our historically altered process, “Quiet Revolution in Hampshire County.”

The change was designed to be revenue-neutral—counter to its opponents’ claims. The savings that would come from paying eight council members, per meeting, instead of paying three county commissioners full salary and benefits, is almost, in itself, enough to pay a fulltime county administrator. The rest would come from the efficiencies that would result from having a fulltime executive coordinating the activities of the existing county offices, which would retain their single-purpose autonomy. The council/administrator model is one of the most common forms of county government in America.

As a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and the only Hampshire County citizen who’s attended all three circuit court hearings, I thought Review readers might be interested in a few of my observations.

First, I will attend next week’s Supreme Court hearing with some sense of dread. We have won every question about the legislature’s responsibility presented to the circuit judge, but the Supreme Court declined to accept our petition for confirmation of the judge’s rulings. The legislature’s appeal was a how-much-spaghetti-sticks-to-the-wall laugh riot, raising issues that had never been litigated at the circuit level. The fact that the Supremes took their case is a bad sign, because our entire case is based on an earlier Supreme Court decision, Spencer v. Taylor County Commission, which gives the final word on the form of county government to the citizens of the county—not the state legislature.

The recent anti-democratic trend throughout the American system of justice (and not just in now-notorious West Virginia), like the US Supreme Court ruling about using eminent domain for private profit, for example, is also worrisome. And our biggest opponent in the legislature has been the Association of Counties, representing all those local officials who are worried that if we cut salaries in Hampshire County, their citizens can cut theirs—and judges in West Virginia are elected by local machines.

We carry the additional legal burden that our pro bono attorney, WVU constitutional law professor Bob Bastress, ran against the chief justice, who’ll be sitting on the bench Tuesday, in last May’s Democratic primary (they both lost).

Second, from the very beginning, I have been impressed by the nonpartisan cooperation that has characterized our local campaign. The plaintiffs list includes Democrats, Republicans and independents. I think it’s important to mention two in particular.

Republican Bob Shilling is no longer on the list, because he passed away last year. Bob had a gentle good humor about him, and we kidded each other about our political opinions mercilessly. As everyone who knew him (and most did) recognized, he was a tireless contributor to the community, from the teen center to the library, and he always put his “country first.” We were both veterans, so we spoke with the understanding that brings. The last time we talked was on his front porch, and he was hoping he’d live long enough to vote in the referendum. We carry on in his honor.

Democrat Frank Whitacre is still on the plaintiffs list, but come January, he’ll no longer occupy the office of county assessor, having lost the primary. Frank is the innocent victim of a crazy real estate market and his own scrupulous honesty, but the last time I saw him, he was looking forward to retirement. Frank was alone among his fellow elected officials, in having the courage and integrity to support a change in county government that he believes will make the county better, and supporting it for all the right and honest and patriotic reasons.

This brings me to my final observation. Where Frank and I agree is that this is an important case—certainly more important than the attention it’s received so far.

At the heart of this case is the most basic principle of republican government—that citizens have the right to choose the form of government under which they govern themselves in a democracy, with a level of representation in the governing body that they themselves design. Article IX, Section 13 of the West Virginia Constitution is one of the most radically democratic provisions in any state constitution in America, in putting true power in the hands of local citizens.

If the West Virginia Supreme Court reverses its own precedent in this case, another door to real democracy in America will have closed.

I’ll be writing about the Supreme Court hearing in future posts. Legal documents from the case can be viewed at the Historic Hampshire website (www.historichampshire.org).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sun Day

It’s raining again today, the third day in a row. We needed the rain, but things are getting soggy—too soggy to load up the back of my friend’s pickup with horse manure for her garden, which was the scheduled plan.

Sunday’s still a day I like to kick back, especially in the morning, which retains the aura of sanctity hardwired into me from my days as an altar boy. It may be a 24/7 world out here in cyberspace, but back on the farm we breathe in the eternal holiness that surrounds us, from the mountains and meadows to the ever-expanding edges of the universe, a holiness especially rich on Sunday morning, for me. Out here, we’re still living in the Big Bang. And if you pay attention, you can feel the reverberations in your breath.

Around six, I take the dogs for a walk down the little country lane up above the house. That’s when they like to get up, and on the weekends, I want to give Nancy the opportunity to sleep in. After they eat, the dogs join her in bed until it’s time to go visit the horses, their usual routine. I head for my desk, where I sit slackjawed for a couple of hours staring at a glowing box, trying to make sense of what happened yesterday in the Matrix.

The routine creates its own rhythm, which the dogs themselves are attuned to, even though it’s a human invention. They are exquisitely aware of any activity involving food, and since they get an egg on Sunday morning (for their coats, Nancy says), I can already see the Sunday light in their eyes, even as they’re bustling around waiting for me to open the door to our walk.

The rhythm of creation, human and divine, is of course incorporated in scripture in the concept of the Sabbath, the seventh day, when God rested. In the early years of imperial Christianity, they moved the sabbath to Sunday, ostensibly to celebrate the mythic resurrection of Jesus, but also to remove any taint of Judaism attached to its traditional celebration on Saturday.

I like the fact that we still recognize the sanctity of time (in a culture marked by what ecologist Jerry Mander calls “the absence of the sacred”) by keeping every day named after a god, from those old perennials the Sun and Moon, to the Roman god Saturn—the god who himself rules time and the sign Capricorn. The old man; Jupiter’s father. He’s such a stern old cuss, that it’s like a big joke that his name has been attached from the beginning to having a great old Dionysian time, from “Saturnalia” to “Saturday Night Fever.” The secret is in the hedonist’s mantra—“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!” Saturn, the Grim Reaper.

So that’s another reason to enjoy a quiet Sunday morning—to recover from the hangover from the night before.

The basic concept of the Sabbath is a principle we need to revive, if we are going to rescue the Earth from its 24/7 assault. In the Old Testament, the land is supposed to lie fallow every seventh year, so that it may rest from the work of providing human sustenance with regular cultivation. Any “volunteer” production from last year’s garden is to be given to the poor. This principle is also behind the biblical idea of the “Jubilee Year” every 49 years (7X7), when slaves are freed and all debts are forgiven. People are trying to revive the idea of the Jubilee today, to relieve the crushing bank debt of the Third World.

As much as I’d like to encourage the idea of resting on the Sabbath, however, I have to go clean house. See you on Moon Day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barack Obunny and Elmer McFudd

The thought had occurred to me before, perhaps from something that I’d read, but the image was so striking as soon as they walked out on stage to shake hands with the moderator that I wasn’t able to shake it through the whole debate: Barack Obama, long, lean and debonair, looked just like Bugs Bunny, and John McCain, the hunched-over and stumpy old man, made a perfect Elmer Fudd.

I’d also never noticed before how much McCain sounded like Elmer Fudd (without the speech impediment). His voice has the same kind of high-pitched, sing-songy raspiness as Elmer’s; and he telegraphs his plans to trap Barack with the same kind of evil glints in his eye that Elmer displayed when he was cooking up a plan for the Wascally Wabbit.

McCain is more Nixonesque than Fudd, however, something else I’d never really noticed before. I hadn’t watched the Republican primary debates at any length, but in those, McCain’s essential creepiness just made him one of the crowd. You didn’t have the focus you did in last night’s debate. I also appreciated the split screen broadcast that let us watch the reactions of the candidates when the other one was speaking.

Obama usually looked like he was standing on the outside of the garden fence, holding a bunch of carrots. McCain was either deviously calculating when he was going to spring his next pre-planned talking point, nervously chuckling at his own jokes, or frantically fuming as his plans blew up in his face, and he’s watching Bugs Obunny escape again—just like Elmer.

It wasn’t all a cartoon, though. At times I felt like I was watching one of the best presidential debates since Kennedy and Nixon (it’s heartbreaking to listen to those debates today, and hear them trying to outdo each other in how they are going to help the poor). Obama was his usual cool and highly-prepared self, unflappably handsome and intelligent. You could really see the impressive young man who made so many early admirers think of him as a future president. Obama, for all his faults, has the real potential to be one of those transformative American presidents whose name is left on an historical era.

To give McCain his due, he was also better prepared than I expected, and he showed up to fight. Earlier in the day, I had written to my niece—who was confused why McCain pulled the lamebrain stunt of trying to cancel the debate—that I thought McCain really, in his heart of hearts, wants to lose the election and retire to his houses and cars in sunny, dry Arizona. He’s an old man.

But after watching last night, I no longer think that. This was an old man who was putting up a fight, a cantankerous old codger with an inbred sense of supreme privilege—he’s owed for all those years he spent tortured in prison, the son of an admiral, no less—and on transparent display throughout the debate was the boy his schoolmates, in their childish frankness, nicknamed “McNasty.” The reason McCain pulled the debate stunt is because he’s still the same person he always was, the guy investigator Cliff Schecter calls “the Real McCain:” the Naval Academy fuckup who couldn’t keep a plane in the air, even before he was shot down.

Senator, I knew Elmer Fudd. You’re no Elmer Fudd.

Friday, September 26, 2008

About this blog

It’s raining this morning, and since I don’t like to work outside in the rain, it’s a perfect day to start regular blogging—which I hope to keep up daily. Before I get into today’s subject, though, let me do a little “housekeeping.”

First, thanks for the comments on my opening opus, “Radical Pantheism” (please don’t think that length will be repeated anytime soon; it’s actually the longest article I’ve ever written). Aside from the unsurprising fact that all the comments (so far) came from personal friends of mine, the commenters have other things in common (and the synchronicity here naturally delights a pantheist like myself): they’re all women of spiritual leanings, and each is an artist in her own genre. It felt like a blessing by the Muses—an equally delightful omen. (The book Jan recommends looks interesting, in a subject I was introduced to years ago in “The Tao of Physics,” by Fritjof Capra.)

The second thing I wanted to take care of was to note the fact—obvious to anyone under the age of thirty—that I don’t know much more about computers than John McCain. I’m hoping to remedy that in coming weeks (plus I’m getting a new computer, which will help speed things along). I’ll also get a digital camera, to illustrate (when I can) what I’m talking about—whether it’s a court hearing or the way the wind plays upon the grass—without worrying about whether I’m stepping on somebody’s photographic rights (alternative suggestions are welcome). The upshot is, I hope to add all the bells and whistles soon, including photos, videos and hyperlinks.

It was thinking about the links I’d like to refer people to that gave me the idea for today’s post.

The most attractive aspect of writing a blog, for me, is that it’s a very open medium, which allows me to write whatever I want, at any length, on any subject. All my writing in the past has been circumscribed by the editorial needs of the newspaper or website I was writing for. But as I thought about how to organize the links for this blog, it became apparent to me that my blog posts would fall into the same five general categories: Matrix, Deep State, New World, Spirit and Family.


This term is obviously borrowed from the Matrix film trilogy, whose hero discovers that the world he thinks he is living in is not the real world, but a computer-generated fantasy. I use the term to refer to the “real” world, where America is still a constitutional democracy—the world of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, the New York Times and the Washington Post and the rest of the corporate media, the world where American democracy has been replaced by a Permanent Presidential Puppet Show.

This is the world we all live in, a world of illusion which nonetheless has tragic and real-world consequences. It is a world where all communications are monitored by whatever-named agency has taken over the functions of Total Information Awareness, mining the near-infinite ocean of data for patterns that might affect the wealth and well-being of what sociologist C. Wright Mills once called “the Power Elite.” It is a world defined at its outer edges by journalists like Ron Suskind and Seymour Hersch, a world whose ways have taken a taxi to the dark side.

It is also the world of what I think of as “institutional progressives,” who generally follow the analysis of American foreign policy laid out most famously by Noam Chomsky, and still believe in the economic policies of the New Deal. These are goodhearted people who think the Constitution can be restored, but whose own goodness of heart prevents them from psychologically accepting the dark truths at the epic center of modern American history. Matrix is where I’ll link sites like Common Dreams, Buzzflash and Firedoglake, favorite sites of mine whose take on the Matrix I consider essential reading. I don’t have any real hope that Cynthia McKinney will be elected president, and in the “real” world, it is essential that Obama is. And if hope is anywhere to be found, you can certainly find it among his supporters, and on these sites.

Deep State

At the very outposts of the Matrix are journalists like Glenn Greenwald, at Salon, and Naomi Klein, author of the important book, “The Shock Doctrine.” They are reporting on the outlines of fascism that are becoming so apparent in the American (and global) system, from the collusion of the two major parties in illegal activities to the unprecedented staging of the American military on native soil. But they don’t go as far as “the other Naomi,” Naomi Wolf, author of “Letter to a Young Patriot,” in questioning the truth of the official account of what really happened on 9/11—which, if revealed, would indeed “change everything.”

I first encountered the term “deep state” in the writings of Peter Dale Scott, a Canadian diplomat turned Berkeley English professor, and to my mind the foremost authority on the assassination of JFK and its links to the American Deep State: the underworld nexus of criminal organizations and the CIA, the banking and energy industries, and the military industrial complex (including its psychological operations arm, the corporate media). Scott traces the first use of the term as a reference to the corrupt underworld behind the government of Turkey. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds says that the secrets of 9/11 can be found in the Turkish-American Council.

Deep State topics will include 9/11 and the fascist takeover of America, false flag terrorism, CIA drug-running, the Bush crime family, fishy associations and assassinations, and related subjects. A partial list of websites tracking these subterranean activities would have to include Online Journal, 9/11 Blogger, 9/11 Truth, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Want to Know, Madcow Morning News, Propaganda Matrix, Information Clearing House, and websites of people like Dr. Scott, retired Special Forces sergeant Stan Goff, Chris Floyd and Carolyn Kay, among others.

New World

I am not just a radical; I’m a revolutionary.

However, though I would commit violence in the immediate defense of myself or my family, the idea of plotting a violent revolution, under the all-seeing eye of the most intrusive surveillance state in history, is both laughable and sad. And as a pantheist who believes in the eternal cycles of history and the essential divinity of all beings, I also believe that violence is ultimately futile, and in the power of nonviolence—the best and only strategic alternative, under the circumstances.

I think America, as a political experiment, is dead. We entered a post-constitutional era when the Supreme Court handed the presidency to the dauphin at the turn of the millennium. And in the wake of illegal wars, torture, the abandonment of habeus corpus, signing statements, and an “opposition party” Congress that refuses to perform its constitutional imperative to impeach the most flagrant criminal in presidential history, America only lives on in the ideals of its citizens.

But let’s face it. We’d already outgrown a structure that was created for a population only 1/100th of America’s present size, anyway. Just look in Article I, where a representative has to have a minimum constituency of 30,000 residents. In their deliberations, the Framers rejected 40,000 as “too high.” Today, the average representative has about 680,000 constituents—more than twenty-two times what the Framers intended. We each have a little more than four percent of the democracy the Constitution was built to give us.

So I think we need a new government. The source of many of our problems is mass culture and the problem of scale, and that’s at the heart of what’s wrong with our Constitution, which was designed before industrialization changed human nature. For example, it’s absurd to think of ourselves as “independent” citizens, when we depend on a corporate food distribution system to keep ourselves alive. We’re very dependent, and we have to come to terms with these kinds of fundamental issues in any coherent redesign of American government—which is coming, no matter what we do. The Empire is crumbling, but how it ends up depends on us.

These are the kinds of things I’ll be writing about in New World, and of the efforts of people like Joel Hirschorn, who’s calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention. I also admire the work of David Sirota and the Progressive States Network. I’ve thought for a long time that state legislatures are where we should be focusing our electoral efforts, where the link between corporations and government can be most effectively broken. I’ll also be writing about my own efforts to change the local government here in Hampshire County, West Virginia (the case goes to the WV Supreme Court on October 7th; you can find the case files at HistoricHampshire.org) and other ideas about decentralizing government and building local communities.


This category will include not only reflections on divinity, and further explorations of scriptural history and ideas, like I featured in my first post, but also any discussion about art (which I know little about, although I have a lot of artist friends) and music, including the music I make with the Time Travelers, the folk/gospel group I sing with. By the way, we’re playing the Burlington (WV) Apple Harvest Festival on Saturday October 4th at noon. You’re all invited.

Practical pantheism will also be discussed under this category, as I experience it in my various interactions with the world, not only with people, but in my relationships with the fellow members of my personal multi-species tribe—with whom I spend more time than I do with other humans, including my partner Nancy. The tribe’s members include Matewan, a yellow lab who’s seventy in human years, my approximate contemporary, and getting stiff; Simone, the neurotic foundling, also a yellow lab mix; Ace, the crotchety gray tabby elder of the feline crew; Abe, his lookalike younger hunting partner; Elizabeth, the princess, Abe’s sister, a creamy orange tabby and the house huntress; Belly Button, a black cat with a big white belly, who prefers the company of the dogs; and Digger and Daisy, the draft horses (the chickens, being non-mammal, are a tribe unto themselves).

Sometimes I feel like I live in Meercat Manor. Sometimes the animals talk to me in my dreams.


This will not be one of those blogs where I’ll be discussing the intimate details of my personal family life—not only to protect the privacy of my loved ones, but to maintain a zone of privacy for Michael Hasty, the private person whose authorship of this blog is only one aspect of an otherwise full and complicated human life. It’s inevitable that the lives of Michael Hasty and Radical Pantheist, a series of mental snapshots on a webpage, will intersect on occasion, but one should never be confused with the other.

As I did with the column I used to write in the Hampshire Review, however, sometimes I’ll write about our family activities (like our annual weeklong family reunion at the beach) in a general way that illustrates my thoughts about family and the turn of the Great Wheel. I’ll also link readers to family websites, once I check with the relatives to see if they want to be publicly associated with me. For example, I have a nephew and godson, Trent Haaga, who’s a screenwriter and B-movie action hero (the protagonist in “Terror Firma,” a Troma production—doesn’t get much more B-movie than that). And my brothers are characters on “Monster Madhouse,” a cable TV show that features old Japanese monster movies. I’ll give you a full weblist once I put it together.

Well, that’s it. Certainly enough writing for today. I hope you’ll join me on this particular ride, and tell your friends. I’ll try to keep things interesting.

If you’d like to be notified when I publish a more substantive article (besides the usual daily stuff), put “email list” in the subject line of an email to “radicalpantheist [at] gmail [dot] com”—spelled like it sounds, not like it looks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Radical Pantheism

This is a long post, over six thousand words. But since it's the first post in my first blog, I wanted to try to explain exactly why I'm here. I have some work around the farm to catch up on, so I'll leave this here a while, to give you time to read, but I'll be back to regular blogging soon. Hope you enjoy it.

For most of my life, I was generally what you might call a “Christian.” I was born in 1949 and raised Catholic, went to parochial school, and was taught to look at Jesus as an older brother. This was a comfort to me, the oldest, myself, in a family of five boys and seven girls. There was always a mediator between me and what you might call “God,” someone who would understand me because he was half-human, himself. Jesus was my hero.

My only bout with atheism came at about the age of seventeen. At the time, I was regularly leaving Mass early to go outside and smoke cigarettes in front of the church. I don’t remember exactly how this change in my faith came to pass—but I went to a Jesuit high school, if that’s any clue.

At any rate, my faith in “God” returned several years later, under the influence of copious amounts of psychedelic drugs (a number of studies, most recently at Johns Hopkins University, confirm this effect on users). Of course, my faith was altered by the drug experience, and by my readings in Eastern religion and philosophy and paranormal phenomena. But although I could generally be categorized as a “New Ager,” Jesus returned to the center of my belief (although I was only an occasional churchgoer), and remained there until fairly recently. Christian fundamentalists would have probably called me a “Gnostic” (Gnosticism is the diverse and mystical branch of early Christianity, condemned as heresy by the orthodox church, with which fundamentalists associate New Age types today).

The return to “Christian” faith, combined with the ‘60s spirit of political revolution with which I was infected, led me back to the social gospel bred in me by the Jesuits and by my mother, who was raised Catholic herself (my dad converted from Methodism to marry her—the requirement for Catholics at the time—but never talked about religion much, that I can recall). My beliefs in turn led me into political activity, of various shades of both nonviolent radicalism and electoral politics, in my twenties, and I’ve remained politically active (mostly as a volunteer) ever since.

The turn of the millennium brought about transformative changes in both my politics and my faith.

At the time, I was writing a column in the oldest newspaper in West Virginia, the Hampshire Review, a “large circulation” (about 7K) weekly. The column was in a left-right format, with me on the left, and the chairman of the county Republican Party on the right. (Originally, the idea was to juxtapose me as the “transplant,” and him as the native, but it devolved into politics very quickly.) When the guy on the right ran for state senate in 1998, he was replaced by his brother—more of a wingnut. It got ugly.

It got real ugly in late 2000. I had betrayed the county Democratic Club, of which I was a member (and sometimes officer), by endorsing Ralph Nader in May—though I spent the fall attacking Bush’s lies and Orwellian campaign, and defending Gore. (Having spent a few years working for the CIA in my youth, I had studied its activities ever since, so was familiar with disinformation campaigns.) My Nader endorsement allowed me to, at first, play “neutral” observer in the Florida brawl (suggesting, for example, a Thunderdome-style match to the death, on global media, between the two naked, unarmed candidates). But it quickly became apparent that Florida was an obvious Republican theft. And when I called foul, the banshees descended in the letters to the editor, and my counterpart ratcheted up the name-calling.

For me, though, that was the moment I fell through the rabbit hole, and my point of view veered even further from the corporate media meta-narrative than when I began the column four years earlier. (Readers routinely suggested I’d be more appropriate on the Internet.)

This transparent and absolute trashing of the Constitution, abetted by Gore himself, unremarked upon except by “conspiracy theorists,” and covered up by the white noise of a corporate propaganda system so pervasive and hypnotic that the puppet-masters can allow us to say whatever we want…knocked me tumbling into Wonderland—or is it the Matrix? Either way, it’s an alternative dimension.

The events of 9/11 finally cut my ties to conventional “wisdom” completely, and turned every talking head into a Mad Hatter.

Like most people, I was shocked by the immensity and scale of the 9/11 tragedy. Like many, I spent the day calling friends and family, checking on anyone who may have been in the area of the crashes or traveling. Like most on the left, I took the Chomskyesque view that the event was the entirely predictable result of American foreign policy—though I was very careful in how I said it in the column. (It’s a Bible Belt community.) Within days, however, my now-obsessive research on the web (following links that began at Democrats.com) had immediately led me to some amazing questions that were going unexamined and unanswered.

Why did George Bush sit in a classroom, reading with children, when he had just been told the nation was “under attack?” And what exactly is his relationship with the bin Laden family?

Where exactly was Dick Cheney, when...?

Why did Donald Rumsfeld continue his routine meeting, after the towers were struck? And why did he choose to act like an EMT instead of a Defense Secretary after the Pentagon was hit? Why didn’t the new chair of the Joint Chiefs want to be disturbed from his meeting? Where was the goddamn military?!!

Soon there were other questions. Who were the mysterious people making a fortune in the stock market by betting on the 9/11 attacks? Why were so many stark warnings from so many nations’ and our own intelligence services ignored? How had the buildings collapsed so completely, and at free-fall speed?

As obliquely as possible, I started raising these questions in my column, and would return to them when something in the mainstream news would justify the comment—former congressional representative Cynthia McKinney, for example. But in the house of horrors that is the Bush era, there was never time to stay on one issue alone (except for the attempted sale of the county hospital to a crony of the president of the county commission, which needed the column’s focus).

With Bush, it’s been one anti-constitutional outrage after another, and eternal war. Hard to take, for an old peace activist like myself.

Just before the Iraq War, I was writing about the fact that Bush was lying about the WMDs. There was plenty of information—even in the corporate media—that the whole thing smelled: UN inspectors talking about the “garbage” they were getting from CIA; CIA analysts leaking about how they were being “pressured” by the White House to produce; news just before the invasion that Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, who had overseen Iraq’s WMD program, and who was being regularly quoted by Bush, had also told CIA that Saddam had trashed all his WMDs after the Gulf War—something Bush never quoted; former UN weapons inspector and Marine captain, Scott Ritter.

Things were getting tense with my editor. He was nervous about my anti-war stance, and we finally had a big fight, and I quit, just before the invasion.

I stewed for a while, and stayed active in local political activities, including helping to organize small peace demonstrations at the county courthouse. In January 2004, I started writing a fairly regular column at the website Online Journal, beginning with “Paranoid Shift,” a hallucinogenic compendium of my thoughts, at that time, on 9/11 and the secret US government behind the puppet one. It was a big success, getting over a quarter million hits, and was republished or linked at over a hundred other websites (including Tikkun, which I’m particularly proud of).

The column at Online Journal lasted about a year and a half. It gradually dawned on me that everything that needed to be said, to “change the world,” was being said, somewhere in cyberspace. I felt I was just adding to the white noise. What was missing was the action component, something more than signing an e-petition, voting and marching.

So I quit writing, other than an occasional op-ed or letter to the editor, to concentrate on local organizing.

The West Virginia Constitution has an unusually democratic provision in it—Article IX, Section 13—which allows the citizens of a county to petition to change the form of county government. As an outgrowth of the “save the hospital” campaign, some of the same organizers (including me) got a petition together. We submitted it, signed by ten percent of the voters, to the county commission in May 2003, which then passed it to the state legislature, as required, for a bill to establish a county referendum on the proposed change, at the next election. Totally pro forma.

For the first time in state history, the legislature balked at passing the bill. We re-grouped, our corrupt local delegate was replaced at the next election, and the following year we talked his replacement into re-submitting the bill (I drafted this version, mostly just editing out the bad parts of the earlier bill). Again, the legislature killed the bill—in both houses, this time.

I had been kibbutzing from the beginning with a friend of mine in the state attorney general’s office, and she suggested that I contact a constitutional law professor at West Virginia University who might have an interest in working for us pro bono, since it had become obvious that the only way we were going to get a bill was to sue the legislature.

He did have an interest, and we filed suit in August 2005. Three years later, we’ve won three times at the circuit court level, the legislature still hasn’t passed a bill, and next month, the West Virginia Supreme Court hears the legislature’s appeal. Given the Court’s reputation for counter-integrity, I’m skeptical of our prospects. Plus, last year, the legislature easily passed a bill that now makes our proposed new form of government illegal—food for future litigation, no doubt…just in case.

Perhaps it was this stonewalling and unconstitutional action by the West Virginia legislature and their allies, combined with the abject failure of any institution (government or media) to hold George Bush and his cronies accountable for their many ruthless and transparent crimes, that drove me into utter despair about the usefulness of any political activity—in an Empire that is crumbling of its own accord, but hardly fast enough to meet the urgency of what is needed if we are to in any way ameliorate the ongoing planetary “Sixth Extinction.”

The despair that I felt about my political life, however, was small compared to the “dark night of the soul” I was experiencing in my spiritual life.

When I began writing the Review column in 1996, it quickly became apparent to me how little I actually knew about religion and politics. Despite a lifetime of interest and reading in both subjects, my knowledge level felt too superficial for my new responsibility. So I dove into a journey of exploration, searching for the fundamental roots of both American government and the Christian religion—intertwined in any red state debate.

My readings in government quickly took me to economics—the true foundation of every government. The primary role of state power is protecting wealth. My readings in Christianity took me to the study of the historical Jesus, who mixed his own saliva with dirt, and placing it on my eyes, healed my blindness.

I had been interested in feminist biblical scholarship for some years before starting the column. (Did you know that the Hebrew word for “God” used in the first verse of Genesis, “Elohim,” is both masculine and feminine, singular and plural, and was originally used by the pagan tribes of Canaan to refer to their pantheon, among whom Yahweh was but a minor storm deity?) This interest eventually led me to the Jesus Seminar, a group of mostly liberal New Testament scholars, who, based on textual analysis of Scripture, see Jesus as a fun-loving, iconoclastic Cynic—a hybrid of the Judaic prophetic tradition and the Greek culture adopted by Judea’s Roman occupiers.

One of the more prominent members of the Jesus Seminar is John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest and still a “believer,” but very realistic in his exploration of the historical Jesus. He speculates, with some justification, that, like most victims of Roman crucifixion, the body of Jesus was probably fed to the dogs; and that the idea of Resurrection began in the mourning songs of his women followers—which would explain the poems and hymns at the heart of both the epistles and gospels, as well as the vast diversity of beliefs in the early Christian communities. It was a bottom-up movement.

Crossan sees Jesus as a revolutionary, standing against the ruthless Romans, a champion of the poor and oppressed and enemy of the Temple establishment, puppets of the empire. He is joined in this view by many scholars, including Richard Horsley and Neil Asher Silberman, authors of “The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul ignited a revolution and transformed the ancient world” (another book that influenced my thinking).

Until the last few years, my view of Jesus tracked fairly closely with Crossan’s—including his belief in Jesus’ divine nature, which I interpreted as a symbolic, though still unique, expression of eternal archetypes. So, for example, on those rare occasions when I accompanied a relative to church, I could say the words of the Apostles’ Creed and mean what I said (leaving out the words I couldn’t), because I was giving those words a more Gnostic interpretation.

After 9/11, like for most Americans, I suspect, faith meant more to me, and I dove more deeply into trying to understand my faith by expanding my research into the roots of Christianity.

Not long after it was released in 1996, the year I started writing the Review column, I read Robert Eisenman’s “James, the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Eisenman, who is Jewish, is considered a radical among Scrolls scholars, because he thinks the ancient documents—discovered sixty years ago in desert caves near the Qumran monastery on the shore of the Dead Sea—were produced by first-century “Christians” in the community surrounding James and the other members of Jesus’ family, rather than by another Jewish sect in multi-sectarian Jerusalem a century earlier.

What gives Eisenman’s argument such credence is how establishment Christianity has minimized the critical role of James for two millennia. Not only does The Acts of the Apostles document James’ importance in the community around Jesus—both Peter and Paul have to answer to him—but he also occupied an important office in the Temple hierarchy, as the leader of “The Poor” (also known as the Ebionites), a large faction of Essene-like monks. In that position, he had the rare privilege of entering the Holy of Holies to pray for the nation on the Day of Atonement, and he oversaw the Temple trial of Paul, who’d been accused of teaching against the Jewish law.

James’ importance was also noted by the contemporary Jewish/Roman historian, Josephus, who suggested that it was the assassination of James on the Temple steps, in 66 CE, which set off the chain of events that culminated in the final Roman destruction of Jerusalem less than a decade later. Yet establishment Christianity has largely ignored “the brother of Jesus.” I don’t remember him ever being discussed in my religion classes or in Sunday sermons.

Ironically enough, however, there is some support for Eisenman’s theory in Catholic literature. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990 edition) describes how “the similarity between Qumran life and that of the Jerusalem church described in Acts has been noted by several scholars,” and explains that, “We have presented the Qumran organization in such detail because it offers extremely important parallels for the organization of the primitive Christian church.” These parallels include the Jerusalem “General Assembly” with the Qumran “Session of the Many;” the fact that Qumran “had a special body of the Twelve” (cf. the twelve apostles); and the fact that “the Christian bishop is an excellent parallel to the Qumran supervisor…and the functions attributed to the bishop are much the same as those of the Qumran supervisor, e.g. shepherd of the flock, steward and manager of community property, and inspector of the doctrine of the faithful.”

A more important parallel between the early Christians and Qumran monks is that both groups thought they were living in the “last days,” and both were preoccupied with the Jewish ideal of “messiah”—a Hebrew word which means “anointed,” or “the anointed one,” and which New Testament writers translated into the Greek term, “Christos.”

There are two main reasons I find Eisenman’s theory that the early Christians were indistinguishable from the Qumran community so compelling.

First, Josephus—an impeccably detailed historian (though certainly one given to mythmaking of his own)—identified three main groups in Jerusalem society: Sadducees, the conservative allies of the High Priest and his family; Pharisees, lawyers and scribes (like Paul, a Pharisee), constantly debating “the letter of the law;” and Essenes, monks who dressed in white linen, took vows of poverty, and pooled their wealth together just like the Christians in Acts (“from each according to their ability; to each according to their need”). It is inconceivable that Josephus would have failed to discuss such a major movement, centered in the Temple at this critical moment in Jewish history, sending out preachers across the empire to convert Jews and pagans alike, and with an important figure like James as its bishop.

But in fact, he did discuss it—only not in terms that Christianity’s later apologists would accept. To Josephus, the Christians were identical to an important sect of Essenes present in both Jerusalem and Qumran, and instrumental in the events of the day. But at the time he wrote, he lacked the historical perspective necessary to see that a major imperial religion would grow from the seed planted in Jerusalem, nurtured by the fervent and creative passion of messianism. So he didn’t give it the emphasis the apologists would have expected.

Second, there is no doubt among New Testament scholars that there was indeed a major schism in Christianity around the time of James’ death, between the “works”-based beliefs of James and the early followers of Jesus, and the creed of “faith”-based followers of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. In the long run, Paul, with his hybrid combination of Jewish Messiah and Greek and Roman mystery gods, won. The community around James and his family—Jesus’family—fled to points north when the Romans attacked Jerusalem, eventually to Syria. Their belief that Jesus was only a mensch—a messiah, to be sure, but a wholly human one, not divine—was later named by the Roman Catholic church, the “Ebionite Heresy.”

The fact that Jesus’ own family did not think that he was “God” was a huge embarrassment to the orthodox church, and a mighty challenge to their propaganda. So of course they would do whatever they could to cover it up. And for me, it is this very obvious, centuries-long coverup, still continuing today, that lends such weight to Eisenman’s arguments.

And it was the force of his logic, eventually combined with the personal psychological trauma of world events and the proto-fascist breakdown of the American system, that finally shattered my cognitive dissonance, and I was forced to confront a terrifying question:

If Jesus isn’t God, who is?

At this point, I have to tell you something about myself that I don’t talk about very much.

Since childhood, I’ve had what you might call “mystical” experiences. The truly powerful ones have only happened a handful of times, but they all take various forms (visions, dreams, synchronous events, eternal music) and have arrived by various routes (yoga and other spiritual practices, drugs, music, dozing off in grade-school catechism class, or even just walking in the woods). I don’t think of this as anything special or unnatural, and I’m certainly no less flawed than the average human (the awareness of which flaws I unfortunately experience with the same weird intensity I experience everything else). It’s just something that happens to some people—one of infinite possibilities among our species that have made humanity such a fascinating story.

I mention this “unusual” characteristic to illustrate why it was so difficult for me to let go of the divinity of Jesus.

One late night in 1990, as my father slept in his intensive-care hospital bed, in the middle of a weeklong coma from which he would never awaken, I sat alone next to him, holding his hand. I will never forget the warmth of his hand—not feverish, but as full of life as it could be, from the intravenous feeding—and how his hand, once calloused from work, had been softened in recent years by the inactivity that came with ill health. It was about 3 am. I had been there for hours, sometimes crying, sometimes praying, and I was in the middle of silently reciting the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd…”), my eyes closed.

Suddenly I found myself in a grove of trees, darkly illuminated by late twilight. And while I held my father’s hand in my right hand and watched him reciting the Psalm with me, I was instantly aware that there was another man on my left, holding both of our hands and reciting with us. Somehow I knew that if I removed my glance from my father, or stopped reciting, the trance would end, and I didn’t want this to happen because I was afraid I would never see my father “alive” again. But I was able to “intuit” the man’s description. He was a few inches shorter than I am (6’3”) and seemed to have a swarthy complexion. He had short dark hair and a full beard, also cut short. He seemed very kind.

When I finished reciting the Psalm, the vision dissipated, and I opened my eyes. I was glowing with warmth. My first thought was that the man must have been Jesus, but how unusual his appearance was. (It wasn’t until years later that a friend of mine, knowing my interest in the historical Jesus, passed along an article with a picture titled, “How Jesus really looked,” based on archeologists’ assessment of the customs of the times. His hair and beard were exactly like the man in my vision.)

But at that point, like I say, I was a Gnostic, and “knew” that Jesus, the archetype, could take many forms. So I just prayed my thanks for the blessing of this vision, this perhaps last opportunity to be with my “conscious” father, and after awhile, went into the family waiting room to see if I could catch a couple of hours sleep on the couch.

Over a decade later, as I struggled with the revelations of Eisenman and the other historians and archaeologists I consulted to confirm the portrait of Jesus that he presents—a Jewish nationalist revolutionary with the bloodline to be a “messiah” (an entirely human concept), with no intention to start a new religion, and perhaps only a fictional creation—the Jesus of my vision was the hardest to surrender.

But no spiritual system that rejects “reality” can ever claim to represent “truth.” And an honest examination of the historical evidence confirms: Christanity is as much an imperial political invention as Judaism itself was centuries earlier, when the Hebrews sought to differentiate themselves from the other polytheistic tribes of Canaan. It is an entirely human invention.

And that’s “reality.”

You may wonder why I put “reality” in quotation marks. My explanation will (hopefully) take us to the end of this already long essay. I beg your patience.

As “reality” sank in (Eisenman’s 2006 book, “The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ,” only iced the cake for me—though I think the available evidence doesn’t necessarily justify all his conclusions), and the true reality of the magnitude of George Bush’s crimes and maddening lack of accountability became ever more apparent, I gradually found myself abandoned by the personal Jesus (and with him, the personal God) who had blessed me with spiritual strength and comfort and provided a refuge from the trials of this world for as long as I could remember. I ended up in what felt to me like a dry-as-dust form of Buddhism, where everything just is what it is, abstract and inscrutable as a sand garden. I believed things in my mind (in a still-transcendent divinity and the truth of archetypes, for example), but could no longer feel them in my heart.

Combining this spiritual desert with what increasingly felt like the futility of any political action whatever, and despair about the natural world, and a growing and lengthening writer’s block, I was getting angrier and more depressed every day. I thought about suicide often (though more as an imaginary exercise, whose unpleasant horrors served as a preventative, than a serious thought—I would never do that to my family and loved ones, no matter how utterly I had failed in my life’s purpose, which is what I was feeling).

Let me explain how stupid this suicidal impulse was. I live on a beautiful farm in West Virginia with my longtime partner, Nancy, and a bunch of dogs and cats, two draft horses and a small flock of chickens. As the cliché about rural life affirms, it can sometimes be lonely. But I also live an active social life, have lots of friends, participate in community affairs, and play music in a couple of bands. Plus, I have a large and loving family not far away. Why would I ever want to kill myself? Wouldn’t it be better to just, say, turn off the computer?

It’s hard to say exactly when my spiritual rehabilitation began. But an important moment was about a year ago, when a Palestinian Israeli peace activist visited our county seat.

As you can imagine, the community of progressives in this remote and conservative county is relatively small, so a chance to hear a community organizer from a foreign country give a public talk about local peacemaking in the Middle East is a rare event. The event had been organized by a friend of mine, who has occasionally lived in Israel. The little hippie restaurant where the talk was held was full.

The activist, Elias Jabbour, who bases his work in the nonviolence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, related his grassroots experiences getting individual Palestinians and Israelis together to talk, and urged us to pressure our government to get more involved in peacemaking in Israel. In the question-and-answer session that followed, I expressed my doubts about his description of the US as a “democracy,” because the last two presidential elections had been stolen, and we don’t have the informed public that democracy requires, since our media essentially serve as the propaganda arm of the military industrial complex. I asked him what we could really do under these circumstances that would be effective?

He admitted that the basis of my question was accurate, but looked at the bright side of the fact that, however bad it was, we still had the freedom on an individual level to speak our minds. And generally speaking, our lawmakers share the same concerns as the rest of humanity, so they can be persuaded to act rightly.

I had a chance to speak with him alone after the formal presentation. In this conversation, he added more nuance to his answer, and revealed that he was as much in despair about the global situation as I was. “But what can I do?” he said. “I can’t give up hope.”

He said this with such earnest, soul-deep meaning that I could feel my heart melt. I could only agree.

This was a turning point for me, I think. After that, in my daily internal apocalyptic struggles between light and darkness, the light began winning more often. There were good days and bad days, of course. And there were the inevitable life changes and experiences that would tilt the scales in one direction or other. But I gradually became more accepting of the fact that the universe would unfold in its own way, no matter what I did. So I might as well just act in the way that seems right to me—the only thing I can really control—and, no matter what happened, trust in the eternal harmony of an infinite mystery I have no human way of understanding.

This psychological and emotional thaw opened me up to a more mystical perception of my daily life. And I began to reflect, especially when I was outside, surrounded by Nature, on a catechism question that had always perplexed me when I was a kid: if God is everywhere, why isn’t everything God?

This question had been framed in my parochial catechism classes as the difference between “transcendence,” where God is in, but not of the world, and “immanence,” which in its most extreme form is pantheism, where “the created order is understood to be the mode of God’s self-manifestation, and thus to be the body of God,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. The same question was most recently (and perhaps inadvertently) expressed in the words of the scientists conducting the research at the new atomic particle collider in Switzerland, who thought the answer was important enough to risk turning Earth into a black hole, and who framed it thusly:

“Why is there matter?”

As it turns out, as spiritual-minded physicists who don’t separate science from religion have been pointing out for decades, life in its most fundamental form is both wave and particle. This fundamental duality, expressed in religious symbols from yin-yang to the cross, is at the core of the infinite dualities found in physical existence: male and female, in and out, I and Thou, left and right, good and evil, spirit and matter…ad infinitum. Duality is the engine that keeps the universe running.

Pantheism, the belief that God is all, and all is God, has made its appearance in human religious thought from humanity’s very beginnings, and all over the world. By its very nature, it’s a radical idea: who, after all, wants to believe that Dick Cheney is God? But it does answer my childhood question about God being everywhere. And no matter what challenges and struggles life presents you, or what evil may be committed, in the name of God or otherwise, it does encourage a more forgiving and loving nature. And for me, it finally provides the same sense of spiritual comfort I had when I believed a semi-divine older brother was looking after me.

So what is reality? Simple answer—God. God is everything: you, me, Dick Cheney, my horses, trees, the bug you just stepped on, black holes, the eternal present—everything. Even Jesus is God. Just like it says in the Bible, we’re all made in God’s image and likeness. What else could that mean?

And that’s why, today, I consider myself a pantheist—which is radical enough in itself. But since I’m also a political radical, I’ll call myself a radical pantheist.

In the ancient Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, the human warrior Arjuna experiences an existential and paralyzing moment of crisis, just as he is about to enter a battle against an enemy that includes some of his own relatives. Fortunately for him, the driver of his chariot turns out to be the god Krishna, who spends the bulk of the text explaining to him that, although Arjuna (like Job in the Old Testament) may never understand the mysterious ways and purposes of divinity, the only true path open to him (or to any other human) is to live out his dharma—the duty he undertook when he incarnated.

It seems that my Palestinian friend has played Krishna to my Arjuna.

Not long after we talked, I (along with some other friends) started organizing a “9/11 Truth” event at our county library. We invited some people from the DC 9/11 Truth group to give a presentation on the question, “Was the World Trade Center Destroyed by Controlled Demolition?” I wrote some letters to the editor and did a local radio interview, and we placed some ads in the paper, and when the event took place in March, we had about fifty people show up—a very respectable turnout in a small community like ours, especially on such a controversial topic.

On reflection, I think the fact that I doubt the official story of what happened on 9/11 contributed greatly to the feelings of hopelessness I had about the efficacy of political action. What is now generally referred to as “9/11 Truth” (and its adherents as “truthers”) is a position that is ridiculed not only in the corporate media, but across the political spectrum—even though my doubts about 9/11 are shared by a significant number of very serious people.

A short list could include former CIA operative and author Robert Baer; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; progressive historian Howard Zinn; peace activist Cindy Sheehan; former Deputy Treasury Secretary (under Reagan) Paul Craig Roberts; former Minnesota governor (and demolition expert) Jesse Ventura; Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney (who I’ll be voting for in November); FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds; Lt. Col. (retired) Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the notorious Office of Special Plans and was in the Pentagon on 9/11; retired USAF colonel and decorated combat pilot Robert Bowman; and hundreds of architects, scientists and engineers. Even the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission have said that the CIA and the military outright lied to them about the events of that day.

Yet, as we all know by now, anyone who strays too far from the official reservation is automatically derided as a “conspiracy theorist.” The irony is that, beyond theory, what we’re talking about here is physical evidence: evidence of thermite, a steel-cutting compound, in the WTC dust, as reported by the US Geological Survey; of “intergranular melting” of the WTC girders (despite fire temperatures that never even came close to steel’s melting point), as reported by FEMA; of molten metal in the rubble, as reported by first responders and WTC engineers; and of explosions in the towers, as reported by numerous eyewitnesses.

So you can yell “conspiracy theory” all you want, but if you can’t give me a plausible explanation for the thermite, the molten metal, the free-fall speed of the collapses, and the mysterious explosions—and if you’re depending on the hodge-podge of disinformation, evasions and omissions in the official government reports, you can’t—then I only have two words to say…and the second word is “you.” I don’t care if you are God.

The title of my first column for Online Journal, “Paranoid Shift,” was of course a pun on the term, “paradigm shift,” a concept introduced to public discussion in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn in his book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” The term refers to the process by which, historically, “crises” in scientific understanding which arise when the theoretical framework underlying an idea is contradicted by new evidence, are resolved by a relatively sudden intellectual shift into a new “paradigm,” or framework. Since the book’s publication, the concept of paradigm shift has been broadened to include other, non-scientific changes in public consciousness.

Recently, I decided to start writing a blog. I continue to think that, despite the seeming hopelessness of our global situation and the impossible urgency of the task required to correct it, all the information we need to change the world and our nation for the better is already circulating out there in cyberspace, and I’ll just be spitting into a teeming ocean of information.

But call it an act of faith—another voice crying in the wilderness. Who really knows what straw will break the fascist camel’s back, or what new idea will suddenly cause the paradigm to shift? The answer, as Barack Obama replied recently when he was questioned about when human life begins, is “above my pay grade.”

All I can do is write. And hope.

And be still, and know that I am God.