Tax the Rich (Bastards)!

Of all the political topics that get me riled up, besides the “man-made
global warming is a hoax,” I think the myth that taxing the rich is a bad
thing pisses me off the most. I’m going through a blogger’s dry patch. It’s like writer’s block, but it’s more like a lack of inspiration to post anything. Anyway, I saw this and felt it was worth posting here.

I like Robert Reich, but I think his idea of making Capitalism work is too simplified. So regardless of my opinion of the Professor of Economics at Cal, I thought this was worth slapping up here. Happy viewing, and maybe I’ll get back to posting more stuff soon. I’ve stopped practicing yoga and now trying Pilates. That should be worth a post! Cheers.

Better Late Than Never

Smedley Butler turned against what would later evolve into the military-industrial complex after helping create it.

General Smedley Butler (Right) with Major General John A. Lejeune in camp at Frederick, Maryland in 1922. (Bettmann / Getty Images)

Smedley Butler Helped Build American Empire. Then He Turned Against It.

I remember reading Smedley Butler’s 1935 War is a Racket. It’s partly a speech the retired general was making around the US and part peace manifesto. I recall reporting my findings to my mentor and college professor William A. Dorman. He made some positive remarks about the little seventy-five-page book, then said something like, “Why is it after people do so much damage that they finally get religion.”

General Butler successfully led the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in Honduras, Central America, Veracruz, Haiti, and World War I. Throughout his military exploits, he earned two Medal of Honors and was up to his time in the military was the most decorated soldier in the American military. After that, he retired from the military and believed that the wars he had helped lead were all conflicts designed not to defend America but to profit US banks and corporations.

The link at the top is from an excellent book review from Jacobin of Jonathan M. Katz’s new book Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. It’s currently out in hardcover, but I’ll be snagging a paperback when it comes out!

New reflectors for my ride (and other boring stuff)

I picked up my Vespa from Scooter City the other day after some expensive work was done on it. Hopefully, the leaky back tire is fixed for good. I’ve been in to have this leaky tire fixed for the third time. This time I put my foot down and told Rick, my trusted mechanic, that I wanted a new back tire. I think Rick couldn’t do it, knowing the tread on the Dunlop Scootsmart was good. He overhauled the old rim this time, claiming there was corrosion in the old rim and that he believed that was the problem. Despite my initial frustration with him not charging me for a new tire, I realized, unlike some car mechanics I have had in the past, Rick can’t see replacing something in good shape and charging me for it.

He also replaced the belt and roller set, including the idle rollers. My GT 200 also got a much-needed lube job. After I okayed it over the phone, he installed the reflectors missing from the scooter when I first bought the Vespa used some years ago. The last two items (replacing oils and filters and getting reflectors) are the only things I really understand and, if I was desperate, could do them myself with the help of YouTube videos. My scooter rides like a top now, and the reflectors are an excellent and needed addition, though this old man doesn’t like riding in the dark anymore.

Reflectors on the skirts of the back fenders and tail.

The bill was steep but fair, and I got a brand new Scooter City t-shirt with it. But, hey, is that Evel Knievel on my new tee?

George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” turned 51 recently

This is an innovative music video written and directed by Lance Bangs (director of many music videos as well as the Jackass television shows) and produced by Dhani Harrison (George’s son), David Zonshine (Dhani’s manager and a record executive).

The video features appearances by: Mark Hamill, Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, Olivia Harrison (George’s widow), Patton Oswalt, Rosanna Arquette, Al Yankovic, Joe Walsh, Jon Hamm, and many others.

Two of my favorite lefties meet (remotely) for the first time.

AOC in Conversation With Noam Chomsky — Jacobin

I’m sharing a post from one of my favorite political magazines, Jacobin. Noam Chomsky was probably the first great dissident I discovered by myself. (I was already introduced to I. F. Stone, Howard Zinn, and others by my mentor in college William A. Dorman.) I later learned just how great the professor emeritus from MIT is. (Also, I don’t think Chomsky is a “leftie” or leftist; I believe he’s more of an anarchist, just to be clear.) Fast forward to 2018, and an unknown bartender from the Bronx defeats one of the biggest names in the Democratic Party. The ex-bartender’s name now can be found in several books about the small but growing progressive movement in America and the co-sponsor of the Green New Deal in 2019 and 2021 and was one of the subjects in the excellent documentary Knock Down the House. She’s also regularly derided on Fox News for just about everything she says and does, so she must be doing something right.

This is the interview hosted by progressive-minded Laura Flanders. Below is a link to an edited version of the interview. You can see the entire conversation at

Happy Thanksgiving, Pass the Smallpox Blankets

Something to chew on besides turkey.

Yeah, I know I’m a stinker. Wait ’til 9/11 comes around and I post something about the CIA overthrowing Allende’s Chile on that date in 1973. I guess that’s why no one invites me to parties anymore.

My Scooter’s Long-Lost Twin

How many years have I had my Vespa? I don’t recall exactly, but it has been around ten years. And in that time, I had never seen a Portofino green Vespa Granturismo 200L like mine. (Actually, I did see one while on a Google Maps search of Oxford, England. It was parked on a sidewalk, students from the famous university walking by it with their pixelated faces.) Now I have seen one and touched one. (Even accidentally sat on one.) Last Monday, I was walking back to my ride after working a half-day in Downtown Sacramento. The owner of my scooter’s twin parked his GT200 right next to mine, probably as a friendly gesture. If I had kept the windshield on mine, they would be virtually identical.

My scooter’s doppelganger sports a windscreen. Mine had one, but I removed mine.

My scooter’s twin has some black detail on the back fender, whereas mine is
Portofino green.

I’m a little over a month away from retirement, a month away from regularly
parking here, and my Vespa finally found her long-lost sister. Cruel irony.

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving is coming; it’s time to destroy my diet. But, of course, that’s a lie; my self-control and I haven’t been talking for years. My diets over the years have never survived the holiday season anyway. It starts when my wife habitually buys Halloween candy way too soon. So we end up having to buy another bag of “fun size” candy after we wiped out a giant bag of those little bastards, including the miserable York Peppermint Patties, Milky Ways, and the Almond Joys. Hey, someone’s got to finish off those otherwise untouchables!

Thanksgiving isn’t the time for dieting, anyway. Not with my family, at least. The Thanksgiving dinner is too good to decide whether to cry light raspberry vinegarette tears into my salad or eat the good stuff in moderation. For me, Louis C.K. said it best, “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”

Besides “hating myself,” there’s one other thing about Thanksgiving I don’t like. It’s the brief yet, for me, the seemingly endless moment before I ignore everyone in the room and get down to the business of ensuring I stay fat. It’s when all heads turn to me to lead us all in grace. A grace that everyone knows will be utterly devoid of—well—grace.

There was a time I enjoyed this preamble to stuffing my face, but that was when I was a kid and my grandfather was alive. When my grandfather said grace, it was all my brother, and I could do from breaking out in laughter. To our ears, my grandfather’s grace was utterly incomprehensible. To us, he mumbled through nearly the entire event, and it was funny as hell. We knew it was over when he finished with the flourish, “…for Christ’s sake!” The final three words—the only words I could make out of the whole prayer—were spoken not as a petition in the name of God’s only son but as if he found a bug walking over the mashed potatoes. Little did I know as I giggled through all those prayers that I would inherit, leading the family in grace around the time I could grow facial hair.

I didn’t sign up for this gig, nor did I draw the shortest straw between me, my older sister, and my younger brother. Perhaps my mother felt I should inherit the job from my grandfather partly because my dad didn’t want to do it and partly because I was her eldest son. But, in all fairness to my mother, I’m sure she thought it was an honor to be given this task. And I’m sure I felt honored to receive the mantle until I realized I didn’t have a talent for it, even after becoming a Christian.

Look up the definition of “pray” or “prayer,” and you will see such descriptives as “adoration,” “confession,” “supplication,” and “thanksgiving” (hey, whaddayaknow, thanksgiving!). The only times I ever prayed to God out loud was when I was a child/young teen. It was more of a crying bitch session than anything even remotely close to adoration, confession, supplication, and absolutely nothing like thanksgiving. I cried to him, wanting to know why he made me so horrible in sports. My brother and especially my best friend Jesse seemed like naturals at baseball, dodgeball, tetherball, anything that required hand-eye coordination. I sucked at all sports. I spent many an evening in my bed crying out loud, asking God why he made me this way. That was the only “conversation” I had with God, and it always felt one-sided, primarily when I remained the suckiest kid on the blacktop the following day.

I grew up and, after a while, stopped whining to God about my lot. However, as an adult, I remained horrible at sports on the rare times I picked up a ping-pong paddle, softball bat, or even tried to pass my driver’s test. (It may not be a sport, but I’m sure Guinness has me down as the world record holder for failing that test four times before finally passing. Even now, no one wants me to drive the car, so I ride a scooter alone.)

I recall complaining to my bride that I knew I was horrible at saying grace and didn’t know what to do about it. She recommended I write down a prayer beforehand. I had been flipping through Marianne Williamson’s beautiful Illuminata: A Return to Prayer and chose one of hers. That worked, but I got embarrassed when someone giggled, and from that point, I went back to my boring, simple prayer. I don’t think anyone at the table understood how difficult this was for me.

At church, I avoided the mid-week prayer meeting because it meant praying out loud and doing it more than once within each gathering. To the uninitiated, a prayer meeting consists of church members and guests talking about concerns and blessings with the congregation, community, and beyond (illnesses, deaths, pregnancies, births, war, travel, new jobs, and just about everything else). Then each attendee would pray over these concerns/blessings. It’s a round-robin prayerathon, and when it got to me, I stumbled through my prayer then surreptitiously glanced at the clock until it was time to go. As a result, I only attended one of these. If I had forced myself to participate in these meetings regularly, I might have become an eloquent prayer reciter, but I didn’t. So praying aloud became as awkward as fielding a hard-hit grounder or hitting a fastball: instead of sticking with it and slowly but surely getting better, I quit. 

Even without the prayer-intensive mid-week meetings, some would have thought after many years attending church and Bible studies, I would have built self-confidence and developed a style of talking to God. But, nope. I even skipped praying and instead listened attentively during communion when the deacons and elders prayed over the elements so I could evaluate the prayers of my church’s uber players. “Wow, Victor, that sounds beautiful. You stuck that one, bro!”

I feel bad about dreading saying grace when I should be honored. So in the end, I say the same tired boilerplate: “Heavenly Father, thank you for these gifts we are about to receive. In Jesus’ name.” I occasionally hear a smart-aleck crack from a family member who recognizes the same old prayer. From time to time, my wife would do a follow-up, cleaning up my lousy prayer, but she never volunteered to be the designated grace giver. My brother’s children (now grown-ups) used to say their Vatican-approved grace after my crappy one. I thought that was great, hoping my niece and/or nephew would take over the tradition. But, alas, it kept falling back on me.

As far as my faith goes, I had become more of a Doubting Thomas than I was when I was first saved. However, this doesn’t make grace any more or less easier. If I was a devout Christian, I am sure my prayers would suck just as bad as they do now. Maybe if I go all Richard Dawkins on a prayer one time, no one would want to hear my devotion to the empty void again.

The funny thing is there are not that many church-going believers at these dinners: a few Roman Catholics, my very devout wife, and me, Doubting Jack, and that’s it, I think. (Of course, only God knows who is saved, as punching the clock at a church has nothing to do with salvation.) The first person I ever heard praying at the dinner table was my grandfather. I believe he attended seminary when he was a young man, and I recall seeing photos of him as a young man holding a Bible. Then the Great War came along, and after he stepped over one too many dead soldiers, he felt God did not exist, or something like that. This phenomenon was common in modern warfare. As humans figured out ways to kill their fellow humans en masse and the dead bodies stacked up quicker, many previously religious people felt a genuinely merciful God wouldn’t allow this kind of thing to happen to his children.

I honestly couldn’t hear a word my grandfather said during those prayers, which makes me wonder if he was no longer a believer; maybe he was mumbling about high property taxes or reminding himself to take the car in for a tune-up next week. But, on the other hand, if he was mumbling no actual words, maybe I should do what he did and belatedly carry on the tradition, “for Christ’s sake!” As for this Thanksgiving dinner, it just dawned on me. It’s an odd-numbered year, so that means my wife and I will most likely be spending Thanksgiving (and Christmas) at the in-laws’ house, where my wife’s father will be doing the praying, which he does very well. Now that’s what I call grace!

Interview with Yogi Bob

Robert at Asha Yoga in Sacramento

I met Robert Hallworth in a Power Yoga class at the Capital Athletic Club in Sacramento about seven years ago. I was both impressed and intimidated by his level of practice. I was new to yoga and only took “gentle” yoga classes. After that initial exposure, I never attended that particular class again. Still, many of the students and teachers I practiced with spoke of Robert in a very respectful, almost reverent tone.

When COVID-19 hit, and my club, along with all the other gyms in Sacramento, closed, the yoga teachers who had day jobs–attorneys, teachers, and State of California employees (in Sacramento, we are legion!) may not have felt the financial hit. Still, people whose primary or sole means of income was teaching yoga, like Robert, had to become creative and turn to social media to keep the lights on. In Robert’s case: the online Yogi Bob persona was born.

When my club re-opened, the group exercise pickings were slim: the yoga classes were few, and I could only attend two that were led by Robert. While I was in the worst shape of my life, Robert was very accommodating. Mercifully, neither of his current classes are Power Vinyasa classes. However, when more people re-join the club, one of these classes could become a Power Vinyasa class. Hopefully, the club will have more classes to offer someone at my level.

In the meantime, I enjoy and learn from Robert’s practice and from his brief talks before we practice. And even if he leads the classes through many balance postures, I am doomed never to stick (thanks to being heavily medicated); I appreciate his practice. So here’s a short interview with the yogi.

BurgerScoot: I’ve always known you as Robert. How did you come up with Yogi Bob? Was it for social media?

Robert Hallworth: Yes for social media and easy to remember, but also as kind of a joke 10 years ago, of two diametrically opposite sort of personality types, one mindful, compassionate, content, low key, and the other ignorant, brash, in your face, reactionary, not cosmopolitan. In other words, a yogi redneck.

BS: When were you introduced to yoga?

RH: I was introduced to yoga at Sac City college around 1999 by Trinidad Stassi, who happens to teach Spin [cycling] at Capital Athletic Club, wonderful teacher and motivator.

BS: I know you teach some Vinyasa yoga, but do you practice any other kinds of yoga in and outside a Hatha?

RH: Well yes and as you know all physical Indian style yoga is Hatha (sun/moon) yoga, but it includes breathwork, concentration, meditation, sense withdrawal, personal and external ethics, that culminates in samadhi/ self realization. I bring all of these aspects into my classes subtly or not so subtly; but I also practice Tibetan tantric yogas and meditations, and kriyas.

BS: Do you meditate regularly? If yes, do you practice mindfulness meditation or something else like Transcendental Meditation?

RH: Yes, I meditate very regularly Shamata (tranquil abiding), mindfulness, tonglen (giving love and taking negativity), and Tibetan tantra.

BS: You teach chi Kung or Qigong and Tai chi, isn’t that correct? What are those arts? I have seen people practice Tai chi, but have never looked into it. Qigong is new to me.

RH: Yes I teach primarily Qigong which is a Chinese cultural flow modality of slow mindful/meditative movements for restoring vitality/subtle stretching. It is a very easy set of 21 movements that address all the major muscle, joint, ligament areas, as well as refining breathing and meditative awareness. On my own I’ve been practicing qigong & Tai Chi for about nine or ten years under Stan Yen, a very great practitioner-teacher here in Sacramento, who authorized me to teach his style.

BS: Do you have a guru?

RH: Well I have more than one guru (remover of ignorance) but my main or root Guru is Garchen Rinpoche and also Barbara Du Bois, both teach from the drikung kagyu Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and both live in Arizona. They both teach Mahamudra and Vajrayana which are meditative practice traditions over 1000 years old.

Robert rock climbing at Putah Creek, California.

BS: One thing you like to mention in our yoga classes is your love for rock climbing or bouldering. How did you get into that?

RH: I came to rock climbing at the same time as yoga bout 1999, as a departure from some older habits to definitely healthier and smarter habits primarily and they have helped guide me along with Buddhism since then.

BS: Do you use the same mental disciplines you have developed from yoga and meditation when climbing a rock?

RH: Yes there is such a crossover in all three disciplines as they all require mindfulness focus, strength, flexibility, and the ability to relax under duress.

BS: You combine yoga, meditation, and rock climbing on special retreats. Is this done independently or through a company?

RH: I do these retreats independently through my creation of Sadhanadventures as a way to combine these disciplines I love to share and teach on weekend camping trip excursions to special places.

BS: Thanks for doing this interview, Robert.

Robert leading a group in yoga at McKinley Park in Sacramento.

Yogi Bob, can be found on his YouTube channel and his Patreon page. And as mentioned above, he also leads groups in yoga, meditation, and rock climbing retreats

Zen and the Mud Puddle

I took my dog, Vivian, out for her morning walk yesterday. Halfway through, she lunged towards another canine across the street. I lost my balance and stepped into a deep mud puddle.

I got angry at Vivian, but it’s on me; I trained her poorly. As the walk continued, I was reminded of what a yoga teacher said at the end of each practice: “May you live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water.”

I often wish I could be like that lotus. But it’s a process, and sometimes a muddy shoe prevents you from achieving Zen.