Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

MAUDE BARLOW at BOLIVIAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

“There is a cruel irony to climate change. The poorest nations that did not create the problem are the ones who are feeling its effects most.”
—Naomi Klein

That may well be true, but ultimately, eventually, is it also not true, everyone will suffer from the problems caused by climate change? We say these things, perhaps, because the privileged in the world can’t really grasp the effects of scarcity.

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Bolivian president Evo Morales said, in describing the causes of climate change, instead of the effects, as he said was done in Copenhagen, he blames, firstly, “Capitalism…”

It is remarkable and just that Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia—a sign that democracy is unfolding to a greater degree in Bolivia. The campesino and solidarity movements there that led to getting rid of the multinational Bechtel, who had privatized Bolivian water to the -nth and shameless and brutal degree, were a stunning turn of events—as was the Morales election.

But when Morales says “Capitalism” just like that (out of disappointment, I didn’t listen to the rest of the conversation), it is so clearly an ideological statement, that I find it tremendously unfortunate. Neither capitalism of socialism innately support indigenous peoples.

Of course the “nature” of capitalism—almost always the maximization of profit at the cost of the environment—is a a major cause and problem.

But Morales stands for socialism, with Chavez and that group. Although every situation varies, it seems to me that, overall, so-called socialism causes the same environmental problems as so-called capitalism. Was the USSR environmentally friendly (plus it smashed trade unions from the get-go)? How about China under Mao? Recall the famines which are a sign of environmental and blockheaded ignorance. How about the big dams and massive undertakings in India after partition, a democracy of sorts, under Nehru, when India was considered socialist—a joke, actually, seeing as 95% of the population was utterly entrepreneurial and had no safety net offered by the state whatsoever. You get my point.

The terms socialism and capitalism, coming from various mouths, are used for mass disinformation or manipulation, covering everything, and meaning nothing—which by definition, means something. Handle with care, my friends!

American rhetoric is largely anti-socialism, in theory. Meanwhile the state pays for so much, through large taxes, from massive bank bailouts (the financial sector) to the military, police, fire, education and healthcare, not to mention massive subsidies to Agribusiness and on and on. Heck, even professional sports have an owner enforced salary cap. How about a cap on their profits?

As for, say, “communist” China on the flipside? I would hardly call its treatment of millions of workers environmentally friendly, state socialism notwithstanding. I would also say it runs its economy more by the state than does America, or Canada, but all three do and don’t. And with its human rights situation being often abysmal, it is still, combining so-called state and free-market principles, a relatively booming economy. This is not at all a defense of China, whose human rights record is deplorable and soul-breaking. This is just a reminder of all the hypocrisies of these huge nation states.

Isn’t one of the big problems simply how so many humans perceive the earth, feel the earth, work with the earth—the relationship to the earth, this inconceivably remarkable planet that feeds and shelters millions of species and all else. Is she to be owned? Dominated? Or co-oporated with?

Socialism, whatever that is, anyway, exalted by ideologues, is no answer, as far as I can tell. By definition both capitalism and socialism are based, essentially if not completely, on production—the exploitation of resources from the earth, and in endless cases, the exploitation of people. The difference is, in theory, how the earth’s resources are allocated: to the owners (in capitalism), or to the producers (the workers) in socialism. But tell that to the Chinese workers, or the Russian workers in Soviet times. I’d call it a joke if it wasn’t such a nightmare.

Democracy (another word thrown around) is utterly imperfect, but Evo Morales, although democratically elected, seems to put the socialist ideology before democracy, which may be why he, as far as I have heard, is never critical within his support for Fidel Castro, despite Castro being a dictator for fifty years.

CANADA

All that aside, one endless warrior for water rights, Canadian Maude Barlow, is at the Bolivian summit. Here’s what she says about the Canadian government at present:

I’m a Canadian, and I’m totally ashamed of my government. We’re the only government in the world that signed the Kyoto Accord and then backed out and went into Copenhagen announcing that we were—intended to fail, and we won’t touch our greenhouse gas emissions from the notorious tar sands. I call them Canada’s Mordor. So we have to sound the alarm…

There’s a brand new World Bank study that says that in twenty years our global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. I mean, that is a stunning statistic, if you can try to imagine the human suffering and the loss of biodiversity behind a number like that. There isn’t enough water, if we continue to treat it this way, for all of us. And now we know who’s going to go first: it’s going to be the poor, it’s going to be the marginalized.

It’s an interview worth listening to.

As for the socialism/environmental question, Barlow widened the parameters of what I said by saying this:

AMY GOODMAN: The British environment secretary Greg Clark called President Morales’s form of activism “watermelon environmentalism.”

MAUDE BARLOW: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning?

MAUDE BARLOW: Green on the outside and red on the inside. It’s insulting. It’s insulting. And if he would come here and he would go visit the communities affected by glacial melt and global warming, I think he would—it would take his breath away. And the beauty of the people and the kindness and the tragedy that’s unfolding here and in communities around the world—if they would leave their ivory tower and their five-star hotels and their, you know, their fancy offices, and if they’d come here and they would actually meet people, they’d meet the miners or the people in the mining communities who are being so devastated by the terrible effluent, toxic effluent from mining companies—and many of them Canadian, I have to say—they might find their humanity. They might look to the core of themselves and find their humanity. That’s an insulting and racist statement, and beneath him, in my opinion.

I wish we would understand that we are bonded or not bonded (and improved) by things far more subtle and important than ideological proclamations. Unfortunately, at this moment in history that idea is excessively subtle for the political bandwidth.

Stay optimistic, stay engaged, stay informed.

Love more!

Pete

DECONSTRUCTING AN ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“If we use fuel to get our power, we are living on our capital and exhausting it rapidly. This method is barbarous and wantonly wastefull. A far better way would be to avail ourselves of the sun’s rays.”
—Nikola Tesla

I wrote the other day, in this blog:

There seems no doubt that we have to continually find ways to retrofit and reshape what we have already, with sustainable practices, technologies, actions and creative genius. What could be more destructive than smashing it to rubble, or building everything new—which takes remarkable amounts of energy? I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve read that it’s more sustainable to get full life (if we can call it that) out of your present car, then simply abandoning it and buying a hybrid—ie getting a new one built.

I still don’t know the facts with cars, but here’s a blog—the greenest building is the one already built—about the most sustainable homes (in general, of course) being homes that don’t get torn down for a long time. Tearing down and rebuilding homes evidently takes tons (or better put, decades) of energy.

It’s so difficult trying to figure out energy consumption when money (paying bills) covers our tracks—and our eyes. In other words, if we used X amount of energy, and then there was no, say, hot water left, we’d really get it. North America, if you have a little money, has this seemingly endless trough of energy, never stopping, never ending. This, of course, is false. But this is one of the reasons, among many, that the carbon tax idea is so dangerous, at least to my thinking. There is no real sacrifice involved. Just like fines for corporate polluting that are far lower than the resulting profits, it all becomes, simply, a trade off, and ultimately a hidden “tax” paid by the consumer, for as long as the consumer money is there. Clearly, Mother Earth has finite resources, although surely the sun offers us sustainable brilliance…

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ’til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
—Thomas Edison

Instead of paying for our waste, better question might be: must we create so much non-renewable waste to create a given product? Again, surely there is some sort of in-out ratio maximum and minimum that could be described as sustainable or piggy…

And here’s another site, called The Original Green. People are putting in a lot of work to figure these things out.

Sending you lots of sustainable thoughts. Love is the most sustainable thing going. And good, low-on-the-food-chain food, helps keep it flowing.

Pete xo

ANIMAL CRUELTY ABOLITIONISTS

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In the Philosophy of Civilization, Albert Schweitzer wrote:

“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

If that’s true, we’ve got trouble ahead, my dear friends. Heck, we have got trouble ahead. But hope too. And intelligence. And forced adaptation.

As for me, I eat vegan at home and vegetarian not in the home (and moving towards veganism outside the home). At the same time, I humbly understand that my vegetarianism is to a degree a privilege of financial advantage and living in the West (India or Hawaii or multi-crop places make full local vegetarianism easily possible), and my body responds easily and well to the diet. Some bodies, it seems, don’t, including the Dalai Lama’s, evidently.

Let me explain what I meant by privileged: if I lived on a local diet in the Pacific Northwest, it would be difficult to not at least eat fish in winter (assuming there are fish left). Dairy would likely provide some good things, with a well-treated cow in the backyard. In the meantime, and Copenhagen notwithstanding, bringing out-of-season vegetables and fruit (and almond milk) into Vancouver all year round is no meat-eating Hummer driver, but still less than perfect fossil-fuel wise.

That said, I unequivocally abhor the cruelty inducing aspects of factory farming and much of subsidized/state socialistic agribusiness in general. Most any air-breathing being capable of exploring the situation would surely have some problem with the relentless mistreatment of these unfortunate animals (yearly, some 49,000,000,000 [49 billion] chickens alone are pushed through this clinical meat grinder), and their lack of anything reflecting a decent or normal existence, even prior to becoming a fast food crap burger.

Some humans, of course, will be indifferent to this process, and will simply think it’s a dog-eat-dog, or rather a human-eat-livestock world, regardless of how brutally the animals are mistreated, and some will violently defend their right to be cruel to animals if they damn well feel like it.

But for one who sees the pet dog and the about-to-be butchered pig in the same light, the same spectrum of feeling and emotion, what is there to do? For one who is against the endless mistreatment of animals, what is there to do? What should their stance be? How should or could they begin? I can’t say, but personally, I think it’s personal. And within our person we develop or degrade integrity and character by the things we stand (up) for, whatever they may be. In the meantime, here’s a thought provoking piece from the Georgia Straight. An excerpt:

In a phone interview from Newark, New Jersey, [Gary] Francione pointed out that the whole raison d’être of the animal-rights movement, like all social-justice movements, is to extend compassion and respect—without discrimination based on factors like race, sex, ability, or species—to all beings.

“It doesn’t make sense to go around yelling and condemning people.…There is a very misanthropic pulse that runs through the animal-rights movement,” he said. “If I was a seal hunter, I would be highly offended and I would be saying, ‘Why are they coming after me?’ Well, it’s because I’m an easy target.

I even felt this way about Michael Vick, the quarterback who was involved and charged for his ring-leading role in dog-fighting. As wretched as that ‘sport’ is, the reflexive, blind attack on Vick’s undeniable ignorance and cruelty, even sickness, was, for me, a profound explosion of unconscious hypocrisy in the extreme. “Let’s go bitch about that bastard Michael Vick over a double bacon cheeseburger at McDonald’s.” Great.

Francione, who is a massive proponent for the rights of animals, continues.

Similarly, I will have nothing to do with anti-fur campaigns. Should women wearing fur? No. But am I interested in [targeting] women who wear fur? Not really. I’m much more interested in leather, wool—the sorts of things that are worn ubiquitously. The fur issue is so small…it just gives people another reason to go up to women on the street and give them a hard time.

“Listen, I don’t like what they [hunters and fur farmers] are doing to animals, but I don’t like what any of us are doing to animals, and so I don’t see why they should be treated differently from anybody else. We all share in this mess. We’re all responsible, and we all have to do something about it.”

He said that although these groups give us many reasons to be alienated by the animal-rights movement, they’re not giving us any reason to change the way we view animals in any meaningful way.

“Their focus on media [stunts], fundraising, and welfare reform is backwards. Welfare reform serves only to make people more comfortable with the perpetuation of animal use. What is the causal relationship between animal-welfare reform and abolition of animal use? I have been asking myself this very question now for 23 years and I’ve never found an answer. There is no empirical proof that it has worked.”

Love to hear any intelligent thoughts. Here’s to hoping all sentient beings may be treated better, even our very selves, day by day by day, be a little kinder, a little softer, a little stronger in defending the innocent, everywhere…

Pete

“[A]ll breathing, existing, living sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”
— Acharanga Sutra (Jain) at 4.1.1.

Something like 56 billion animals are killed every year by the meat, dairy and egg industries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (stats for 2007).

WHO’S ON DRUGS REALLY?: Legal Drugs, Legal Killing, Illegal Drugs, the War on Drugs and Big Pharma

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The following couple of paragraphs and the mention of Big Pharma (the Pharmaceutical Industry) are from my Open Letter to Richard Dawkins a few days ago—he hasn’t written back! And then below them, I quote from an interview with Dr Barbara Starfield.

I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that if scientists observing the same scientific data can end up in such a war of words, insults and polarized results [ie with man-made climate change], one can conclude a couple of possibilities, or a combination thereof:

One, that a scientist’s perspective on scientific data is actually alarmingly subjective—despite being considered science. Thus, one could ask, under certain conditions, of what use is it—particularly with human existence under pressure?

Or, two, if the scientific data on, say, climate change, is as undeniable as scientists say (on whichever side), then a percentage of scientists obviously can be so easily bought as to leave scientific ‘fact’ in peril—as we’ve seen perhaps with countless conscious or unconscious scientific stooges for, say, Big Pharma, or the Military Industrial Complex.

Dr Starfield published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Medical Association a study/article called: “Is US health really the best in the world?”

In it Starfield states there are in the US, yearly, 225,000 medically-caused deaths—deaths caused by the health care system—with 106,000 of those deaths coming from FDA-approved medicines that I think she said were used “not counter to regulations.”

To put that in a bigger perspective, consider these stats (from an article called “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000″, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004).

Tobacco: 435,000 deaths; Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000 deaths; Alcohol 85,000 deaths.

Illicit drug deaths (both directly and indirectly caused) was 17,000.

And deaths by marijuana are actually zero.

Zero.

Although quite a few people were late for work, some got seriously paranoid, and one choked on a Cheezie (but, evidently, recovered). And I’m sure people have died being stoned and driving, undoubtedly. So zero isn’t quite accurate, to be sure. And chronic marijuana use, in my opinion, would undoubtedly cause some problems. Inhaling smoke into the lungs etc…

But what we do know is that there are thousands of people with chronic and terminal illnesses who undoubtedly used marijuana as pain relief and to decrease nausea, where nothing else would work. And I am not condoning casual marijuana use. I couldn’t care less—but I’m not condoning it. It’s just that its criminalization is such a perverse, dismal, giant, tragic joke!

Anyway, aren’t the legal prescription drug stats something to weep about? Heck, supposedly 7,000 people a year actually die from taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Here’s an excerpt of the email interview, questions from Jon Rappaport, answers from Barbara Starfield:

Since the FDA approves every medical drug given to the American people, and certifies it as safe and effective, how can that agency remain calm about the fact that these medicines are causing 106,000 deaths per year?

Even though there will always be adverse events that cannot be anticipated, the fact is that more and more unsafe drugs are being approved for use. Many people attribute that to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is (for the past ten years or so) required to pay the FDA for reviews—which puts the FDA into a untenable position of working for the industry it is regulating. There is a large literature on this.

Aren’t your 2000 findings a severe indictment of the FDA and its standard practices?

They are an indictment of the US health care industry: insurance companies, specialty and disease-oriented medical academia, the pharmaceutical and device manufacturing industries, all of which contribute heavily to re-election campaigns of members of Congress. The problem is that we do not have a government that is free of influence of vested interests. Alas, [it] is a general problem of our society—which clearly unbalances democracy.

Can you offer an opinion about how the FDA can be so mortally wrong about so many drugs?

Yes, it cannot divest itself from vested interests. (Again, [there is] a large literature about this, mostly unrecognized by the people because the industry-supported media give it no attention.

Are you aware of any systematic efforts, since your 2000 JAMA study was published, to remedy the main categories of medically caused deaths in the US?

No systematic efforts; however, there have been a lot of studies. Most of them indicate higher rates [of death] than I calculated.

What was your personal reaction when you reached the conclusion that the US medical system was the third leading cause of death in the US?

I had previously done studies on international comparisons and knew that there were serious deficits in the US health care system, most notably in lack of universal coverage and a very poor primary care infrastructure. So I wasn’t surprised.

Has anyone from the FDA, since 2000, contacted you about the statistical findings in your JAMA paper?

NO. Please remember that the problem is not only that some drugs are dangerous but that many drugs are overused or inappropriately used. The US public does not seem to recognize that inappropriate care is dangerous—more does not mean better. The problem is NOT mainly with the FDA but with population expectations. [imagine how often eating more unprocessed food (and less processed food) and doing more exercise—walking even!—would so easily help meet and surpass "population expectations", and be self-empowering. We seem to have largely forgotten—in our all access culture—that we are simply machines, in a sense, complex energy systems in a bigger system that follows cycles and linear time simultaneously, and requires self-listening and constant maintenance.]

… Some drugs are downright dangerous; they may be prescribed according to regulations but they are dangerous.

Concerning the national health plan before Congress—if the bill is passed, and it is business as usual after that, and medical care continues to be delivered in the same fashion, isn’t it logical to assume that the 225,000 deaths per year will rise?

Probably—but the balance is not clear. Certainly, those who are not insured now and will get help with financing will probably be marginally better off overall.

Do the 106,000 deaths from medical drugs only involve drugs prescribed to patients in hospitals, or does this statistic also cover people prescribed drugs who are not in-patients in hospitals?

I tried to include everything in my estimates. Since the commentary was written, many more dangerous drugs have been added to the marketplace.

106,000 people die as a result of CORRECTLY prescribed medicines. I believe that was your point in your 2000 study. Overuse of a drug or inappropriate use of a drug would not fall under the category of “correctly prescribed.” Therefore, people who die after “overuse” or “inappropriate use” would be IN ADDITION TO the 106,000 and would fall into another or other categories.

‘Appropriate’ means that it is not counter to regulations. That does not mean that the drugs do not have adverse effects.

The full interview is here.

Intellectually arm yourself. Hope this helps.

Lots of love,

Pete

AN OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD DAWKINS: MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE or is SCIENCE SUBJECTIVE?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Dear Richard,

Hope all is well. With the Copenhagen Summit nearing its end, and little apparent consensus on anything, I read this quote from you today (from December 7, 2009):

“Whatever you think about global warming and whether humans are responsible, I think we have to salute this remarkable feat of international cooperation. Here is an account, by a Guardian journalist, of the difficult process of getting the joint editorial together.”

My wife doesn’t think I should take issue with you for saying “Whatever you think…” She’s probably right. She’s almost always right. Nonetheless, with thousands of life-forms supposedly in peril—including our own—it really pushed a button in me, and I do take issue.

For since when do you say, “Whatever you think…” about anything? With respect to believers in God, I don’t think you’d every say: “Whatever you think…” You’ve said, in fact, things like some religious believers are “pig-headed and ignorant.” Fair enough, as a passing comment.

But with climate change, and going by your scientific guidelines, shouldn’t we only “salute this remarkable feat” if it’s in support of something true? For Richard—and I don’t disagree with your condescension here either—you do not salute two million people from countless nations gathering in Rome to wave to the Pope, as “remarkable” a “feat of international cooperation” as that may be.

And, because my issue with the above quote might just be one of semantics, or a misinterpretation, I actually take issue with it in combination with this quote from you in 2008:

“I am not that well versed on climate science and don’t feel qualified to take on the deniers. I am well versed in evolution, however, and that is why I am happy to take on creationists.”

I apologize if I’ve missed a lot of your writing on the subject, but that quote just doesn’t cut it.

To the contrary, Richard, you take on creationists and spirituality and, thankfully, extremists, while actually having, admittedly, very limited knowledge about the nuance of, say, Eastern philosophy, religion and belief (not an insignificant part of the story and, admittedly, a topic of interest to me).

However, you are a scientist—a great scientist. So I wonder this: as virulently outspoken as you are against your religious opponents, when will you be similarly outspoken where your scientific colleagues are concerned—one group of which must be dangerously wrong—and state for the record what the scientific data shows to be true, or what it doesn’t show to be true, in terms of climate change?

SCIENCE WITHOUT INTEGRITY IS BAD RELIGION

Why is this important? I’ll give you my reasons, but keep in mind—and I’m serious about this disadvantage—my IQ is undeniably not nearly as high as yours.

Nonetheless, I think your integrity—your fairness and objectivity—as a human being may be dependent upon taking an aggressive stance, not to mention vital to a portion of world perception, with regard to so-called man-made climate change.

Also, can you please explain how the lay-person is to understand the so-called rationale and clarity of science, when all these scientists, often with access to the same “incontrovertible” facts, are truly at each others’ throats with insults and accusations?

Further, you are considered one of the world’s most important intellectuals and you are undeniably brilliant in the field of evolutionary biology. I have read several of your bestsellers, as well as your largely ‘non-evolution’ book The God Delusion. Are religious fundamentalists in fact an utter disaster for humanity? Dangerous? To be sure, some are.

But from your point of view—and mine—fundamentalists are known to be irrational, and religion tends to be pathologically speculative.

But scientists and science? Is that not all about being rational? Impartial? So if we are truly in danger of mass extinction by our actions, why aren’t you becoming “well versed in climate science” to aggressively oppose those scientists who deny man-made climate change?

I fear your hatred for religion combined with your unstoppable belief in science has stopped you questioning if in fact science can deliver all you promise it can deliver.

Let me explain.

SERVING LIFE, SERVING DEATH

Only a fool would deny that the way human beings have come to understand and interact with the planet, through science and scientific advancements, is jaw-dropping in the extreme—I’m talking a jaw dragging on the floor, where once only our knuckles dragged. That I am right now alive thanks to modern medicine and using a small machine in my office to write this open letter, and then with one click of a button will post it to millions (well, in my case, hundreds) of other humans, is mind-boggling.

But similarly, only a fool (or a liar) would deny the mountains of experimental and experiential evidence of human carnage that proves scientists have produced and continue to produce the most hideous yet mind-blowing array of military weapons and environmental poisons imaginable, seemingly forever unsatisfied with their previous subsidized models of utter destruction.

Indeed, some of the greatest scientists of the 20th century gathered during World War II in Los Alamos to relentlessly pursue and capture the secrets of atomic fusion and fission, and created weaponry capable of destroying the species. Some still argue it was the right thing to do.

MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS

And here we are with so-called man-made climate change, which according to many scientists, threatens the species as we’ve never been threatened before. For the record, but only via the news and my limited understanding of science and the data, I tend to agree with this thesis—I’ve even written for desmogblog.com—and it makes me scared for myself and all species on the planet.

I also fear that the monstrous size and nature of this ugly debate, and its resulting confusion, may be pushing to the fringes utterly undeniable environmental disasters. For example, the increasing lack of potable water for billions of humans; or the pending disaster (or ingenuity) that will arise with the continued depletion of fossil fuels.

Further, as the deniers of climate change become more persuasive—and they are, evidently, thanks to scientists and the media—I believe a side-effect of this polarized debate is oozing into a significant percentage of the masses and suggesting that all loud environmental concerns are likely exaggerated Left Wing/ New World Order conspiratorial ploys. And you think you had problems with religious fanatics? This is devastating to intelligent life.

SO WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT SCIENCE?

I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that if scientists observing the same scientific data can end up in such a war of words, insults and polarized results, one can conclude a couple of possibilities, or a combination thereof:

One, that a scientist’s perspective on scientific data is actually alarmingly subjective—despite being considered science. Thus, one could ask, under certain conditions, of what use is it—particularly with human existence under pressure?

Or, two, if the scientific data on, say, climate change, is as undeniable as scientists say (on whichever side), then a percentage of scientists obviously can be so easily bought as to leave scientific ‘fact’ in peril—as we’ve seen perhaps with countless conscious or unconscious scientific stooges for, say, Big Pharma, or the Military Industrial Complex.

Both conclusions, incidentally, seem to be anathema to your belief that the scientific method is the ideology to live by if we are to survive as a species.

As you have said:

“Science is actually one of the most moral, one of the most honest disciplines around—because science would completely collapse if it weren’t for a scrupulous adherence to honesty in the reporting of evidence.”

At this point, Richard, while the species waits to see if what you say about science is accurate—or accurate enough—I’m more worried that what will “completely collapse” is the biosphere.

And there may be “a scrupulous adherence to honesty” in the science behind creating, say, nuclear weapons—one of untold science-driven inventions of devastation—but I’d be hesitant to use the word moral.

MAN-MADE MAN

So where are you, Richard? Are you even a little bit aware or even ashamed, if not of science, of the limits of character and integrity within your scientific family, plagued as they seem to be by dishonesty and confusion—not unlike all others in all other facets of human existence? It’s obvious the exhausted George Monbiot is wringing his hands in lonely desperation. But George is a mere journalist. You are a scientist who declares science to be our only real hope. If we are truly in peril as a species, and being a scientist of great renown, shouldn’t you be a lot louder than George Monbiot?

THE EXTERNALITIES OF FREE SPEECH

In short, Richard, as of late 2009, most solidarity-inducing forms of listening, trust, debate and kindness between people of differing views but similar vulnerabilities seem to have gone to the dogs.

We lay people need you and other ‘rational’ scientists to step up with your detailed analysis of the evidence because it is vital for both the continued integrity of science and, evidently, life as we know it. And hopefully detailed analysis from outside a person’s scientific field will leave him or her less vulnerable to being sold out to big business or a rapacious desire for continued funding. Or perhaps not. Perhaps science, like politics, is to a frightening degree now run by corporations and lobbyists.

You alone have sold over two million copies of The God Delusion. Put some real clout behind the climate-change science. After all, so many of your colleagues are saying this is the greatest catastrophe in human history. Many other colleagues are saying it is a hoax. Ah, science—it’s beginning to sound like religion.

So I ask you, where do the scientist “deniers” of man-made climate change—with access to the same data as the “believers”—fit into your definition of science?

Many people undoubtedly want to know, including me, because as a non-scientist I’m truly confused by what are these days passing for science and freedom of speech—which has become a free-for-all led by the richest, rudest and most inflammatory. Are we not, all of us, unconsciously deafened by a cacophony of intentional lies, half-truths and unreason—sometimes our own?

Indeed, it is not solely the deniers of man-made climate change that make my belief in man-made climate change less stable, but also relentless boardroom manipulations like legalized theft for multinational corporations via carbon-tax speculation and the unconscionable lengths to which the financial sector will reshape reality to maximize profit.

And if the problem is largely the media—which have served your work so well—then, my god, rail against media (and use science if it helps).

SOLIDARITY

Either way, in my opinion, as surely as any decent religious person should aggressively disown foul and murderous commands within their given holy text, you are ethically obliged to come out in full force against either the fallibility of scientific consensus due to the subjectivity quotient of scientific data, or the accidental incompetence of some of your scientific colleagues, or the corruptibility of some of your scientific colleagues (on whichever side).

In comparison, your attack on religion was easy. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, you don’t by definition respect religious believers. Secondly, many aspects of religion are laughably and hopelessly irrational. But these scientists are the proponents of your ideology and your bread and butter. They may even be your friends.

Are the facts obvious or not? Or are we experiencing The Man-Made Climate-Change Delusion?

Richard, if man-made climate change is truly putting the species at severe risk, please put field selectivity aside as you have surely done before. We need your honesty, your wisdom, your integrity, your outrage and your commitment to humanity.

If not, we lay people may just resort to prayer.

Sincerely and with affection,

Pete

Semantics Can Never Reverse Deaths in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

“The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.”
Malalai Joya

And when I say death and semantics with regards to Afghanistan, I mean death in great numbers.

And I’ll begin with an apologetic qualification: I have no expertise whatsoever on Afghanistan. Nonetheless, I find it painful and morally suspect when we in our ivory (okay, cement and wooden) towers fight over semantics regarding innocent sisters and brothers—and this can also include American/Canadian soldiers—who have to live under brutal, deathly, inconceivable conditions, regardless of the rights and wrongs of said semantics.

In the National Post (which is, evidently, more than semantically bankrupt), Raphael Alexander is righteously indignant because Noam Chomsky—and countless others from many papers—describe the American military actions in Afghanistan (and I suppose the Canadian actions, too) as an invasion.

INVASION OR EVASION?

Alexander quotes a colleague, Mark Collins:

There was no “invasion” of Afghanistan.

Before the fall of Kabul to the insurgent Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001, and the consequent collapse of the Taliban regime, there were no foreign regular combat formations in Afghanistan [great, and the 15,000 military advisers Kennedy sent into south Vietnam were simply taking notes on the local flora].

MALALAI JOYA

For a different opinion on the Northern Alliance, I’d recommend Raphael at least comes to hear the remarkably courageous Afghan woman Malalai Joya talk this Saturday in Vancouver. She has stated:

“I realised women’s rights had been sold out completely…Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality towards women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime.

But this is a lie.

Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban—and now they were marching back to power, backed by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.”

I guess that’s just her opinion—maybe even semantics—but she lived there, and she’s risked her life to say it, so it should be given some merit.

Continuing the Alexander article:

The Northern Alliance did receive air support [sounds like payments from dad after a divorce] and assistance [for welfare mothers] from special forces (both U.S. and British); that however is not an invasion.

Anyone must surely understand that, whether it’s an ‘invasion’ or simply a ‘war’—decide for yourself—one army’s ‘support’ and ‘assistance’ from the most powerful forces on earth will likely be another group of citizens’ ‘hell’ and ‘massacre.’

RUSSIAN TO JUDGMENT

Alexander’s article continues:

Substantial foreign ground combat forces—including Canadian—only entered the country after the Taliban had been deposed by indigenous Afghan forces.

Those foreign troops entered with the agreement of the Northern Alliance—which was the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.

An agreement! That’s a relief! And I’m doubly relieved for the Afghan people because—using Alexander’s reasoning—isn’t it true, then, that the brutal Soviets didn’t ‘invade’ Afghanistan in 1980? After all, it is well documented that like the Americans with the Afghan Northern Alliance, the Russians also had an agreement and were repeatedly invited by the then-Marxist Afghan government to ‘assist’ and ‘support’ them against rebel insurgents.

From Wikipedia, and footnoted:

The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujahideen rebels [mujahideen—that sounds familiar. Oh yeah, freedom fighters the moral equivalent of the American founding fathers, at least according to, I believe, Ronald Reagan—while also being the ripe soil for the coming harvest of mad-men].

On April 14, 1979, the Afghan government requested that the USSR send 15 to 20 helicopters with their crews to Afghanistan, and on June 16, the Soviet government responded and sent a detachment of tanks, BMPs, and crews to guard the government in Kabul and to secure the Bagram and Shindand airfields.

This invitation to “support” and “assist” goes on and on here.

No, agreement or not, I think I’ll stick to the invasion theory of Soviet involvement.

And just as a trivial aside, the Northern Alliance may well be “the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.” And the abominable Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge held their country’s seat (Cambodia) at the United Nations—with American and British support for a number of Cold War reasons—until 1982, and then until 1993 (under a different name). In other words, with support from the West, the Khmer Rouge held a UN seat for nearly fifteen years after committing the second largest genocide of the 20th century.

RABBLE AND HUM

And although democracy is clearly irrelevant—or at least the will of the people and international opinion are clearly irrelevant—here are a few statistics on what citizens around the world thought at the time:

Public opinion at the beginning of the war also reflected this dichotomy between the United States and most other countries.

When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, a large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late September 2001, found that large majorities in most countries favoured a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: Only in just 3 countries out of the 37 surveyed—the United States, Israel, and India—did majorities favour military action in Afghanistan [Israel and India were undoubtedly, at least on some level, seeking precedence to attack without limitation their enemies—Palestine/Lebanon and Pakistan, respectively].

In 34 out of the 37 countries surveyed, the survey found many clear and sizeable majorities that did not favour military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%), Mexico (94%), and other countries.

Eventually some of those numbers would change—over time and pressure—not unlike the reversal by Congress with the Bank bailout, which was, similarly due to its ‘legality’, clearly not an invasion of the the tax-payers’ pockets. It was ‘assistance’ and ‘support’ for the bewildered rabble.

AND BACK TO SEMANTICS

Alexander continues in the National Post:

In any event, the U.S was exercising its legitimate right of self-defence against the Taliban regime that was harbouring al-Qaida, the group behind the murderous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

Again the battle of semantics, with the term ‘legitimate right,’ but it was my understanding that the Taliban—and their ideology and actions are heinous (and now their moderate faction is being negotiated with!)—asked for evidence of al-Qaida’s involvement.

The American government couldn’t supply evidence, refused to seek legal channels (as was desired by many, many countries), and went forward to “smoke [bin Laden] out”—which still hasn’t happened, and is barely ever mentioned.

And I believe that even after an eight month utterly exhaustive FBI investigation, the FBI stated they did not have conclusive evidence of who was behind the horrendous, murderous 9/11 attacks.

Our ensuing investigation of the attacks of 9/11/01—code-named “PENTTBOM”—was our largest investigation ever. At the peak of the case, more than half our agents worked to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and, with other agencies, to head off any possible future attacks. We followed more than half-a-million investigative leads, including several hundred thousand tips from the public. The attack and crash sites also represented the largest crime scenes in FBI history.

And on December 11, 2001, from the FBI:

The indictment [of Zacarias Moussaoui ] we are announcing today is an important step in the process of bringing to justice those who we believe to be connected to these violent and vicious attacks on America.

I don’t doubt al-Qaida’s involvement in some large or small way, but the FBI’s evidence, by their own admission, was inconclusive.

What we did know from the FBI investigation and press release was that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi Arabian, and Wahabbi schools—supposedly often terror encouraging and anti-West in their teachings—had for years been largely financed out of Saudi Arabia.

Hence, days after 9/11: the American invasion of Saudi Arabia.

Oops, I mean, barely even a conversation. Meanwhile, the ‘House of Bush I & II/House of Saud’ money, resource and business connections et cetera are massive—and even in bits, available for anyone to research.

And here’s the real rub and the grand agony: the largely non-existent media and political attempts to seek out, let alone publicize, what the citizens of Afghanistan actually want. And what they want can be discovered. And call me cynical, but responding to Karzai’s requests—not to mention his suspected drug-smuggling brother—should not necessarily constitute the will of the Afghan people.

From a NY Times article:

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

The above certainly supports Joya’s bold claims of “warlords, drug lords and criminals” being all through the so-called democratic Afghan government.

Anyway, I’ve said too much. I just can’t stand it when that obvious final question isn’t asked: what do the people want—those who are suffering from the invasion/war/operation/occupation, or whatever you want to call it, as thousands die? Any true democrat would agree that what the citizens of Afghanistan want is the one question that ultimately really matters.

I’ll let the remarkably courageous Malalai Joya finish. Although she cannot speak for her entire country (although she was elected), she’s surely more important than some questionable battle of semantics:

We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by, and for, the West, to legitimise its future puppet in Afghanistan. It seems we are doomed to see the continuation of this failed, mafia-like, corrupt government for another term.

The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the rampant corruption of Karzai’s “narco-state” (his own brother, Wali Karzai, has been linked to drug trafficking in Kandahar province) and the escalating war waged by Nato. In May of this year, US air strikes killed approximately 150 civilians in my native province, Farah [in 2005 Malalai, representing Farah, became the youngest person elected to the new parliament].

More than ever, Afghans are faced with powerful internal enemies—fundamentalist warlords and their Taliban brothers-in-creed—and the external enemies occupying the country.

Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.

In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home [also a profound and heart-breaking tragedy]. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.

I believe that if the ordinary folk of Afghanistan and the NATO countries were able to vote, and express their wishes, this indefinite military occupation would come to an end and there would be a real chance for peace in Afghanistan. But today’s election does nothing for that.

Here’s to peace, love, hope that we may ask the right questions, honesty, and as few deaths and as much integrity as possible in Afghanistan—integrity in the papers, and from my heart (because I truly have so little knowledge, but this report just got my goat). And without doubt, in life sometimes you have to fight. That goes both ways.

Pete

FOOD and HEALTH CARE: The Avoided Curse

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”
—Hippocrates

These days, truly eating nutritiously and consciously is not only good for you, it’s a political act. If we are what we eat, then we’re highly processed and a lot of vacuous calories. We are junk food. If it’s not real food, are we then not real people? Or mostly corn syrup?

I still think, like a red light district, we should have a fast-food district. Vacuous, environmentally-hateful food need not be prohibited, just put in its place, a sort of decriminalized zone where johns and food producers who despise nutritional food and don’t care what our children eat can hang out. Instead of this, the food owners—from Philip Morris to Kraft to Nestle to Pepsi—perversely rule massive chunks of our politics, our (un) consciousness and our (ill) health.

If they didn’t, wouldn’t bad food (fast food, processed food) be brought up—like it should be—as perhaps the biggest cause of spiraling health care costs? We need harm reduction on the Downtown Eastside to be sure, but how about with ourselves?

Our food habits are so bad, that even our staples have gone to hell: brown rice to white rice, whole wheat bread to white bread, tons of sugar, endless corn and corn syrup and most everything processed.

Our basic food choices, and even the foods doled out as charity (let alone at public schools—now that’s criminal) I think teach us a lot about the hatefulness and control over our lives that we ignorantly surrender to bad-food makers—the fast food/agribusiness ignorance/addiction to short term profit.

Anyway, this report from the Tyee reminds me of at least a portion of what is at the bottom (of the barrel) of our unpreventive medicine, our health care problems, and the simultaneously perverse combination of being obese and suffering from malnutrition—not to mention being artificially sweetened.

Poor nutritional health is one of the major contributors to sickness in low-income neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside, and socio-economic status is among the most important factors associated with health disparities in Canada. For Stephanie, an unhealthy diet will soon take its toll. The Hepatitis C, which limits her liver’s ability to absorb nutrients, will further rundown her immune system and reduce her body’s ability to respond to HIV-related infections. This means increased hospital visits and additional strain on the public purse.

The financial cost is borne by every Canadian who pays taxes. Health-care spending in Canada is roughly $120 billion a year [I have read—but can't verify, politics being politics—diabetes in the States costs $176 billion].

According to a 2004 study by the Health Disparities Task Group, the poorest 20 per cent of the general public (people like Stephanie) accounts for 31 per cent of health spending on people who aren’t institutionalized. That’s double the average spent on the richest 20 per cent.

Because a fifth of health-care spending can be attributed to income disparities alone, the study maintains that big savings could be had by raising the health status of low-income Canadians to middle income levels.

How about to all of us?

The full article is here.

Eat well and try to be happy,

Pete xox

BANKSTERS (as in bankers/gangsters): MUST, MUST, MUST READ

Monday, July 20th, 2009

“Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.”
—Woody Guthrie

And this:

After the oil bubble collapsed last fall, there was no new bubble to keep things humming — this time, the money seems to be really gone, like worldwide-depression gone. So the financial safari has moved elsewhere, and the big game in the hunt has become the only remaining pool of dumb, unguarded capital left to feed upon: taxpayer money. Here, in the biggest bailout in history, is where Goldman Sachs really started to flex its muscle.
—Matt Taibbi

If you re-read that paragraph a few times, you can really get a sense of the disease that is taking place—the all-pervasive cancer. At the most obvious—ignoring all the ills that got to this point—the symptom of the disease is this ongoing public (tax-payer) bailout of crap fiat money for the economies’ collapsed financial sector.

Maybe it’s not even paper money. Maybe it’s just magic, punched into a computer. Who knows? Whatever it is, it is of no inherent value, and yet devalues whatever ‘money’ means now. That actually also describes cancer cells multiplying.

This symptom (bail-out) is simultaneously the sickest form of so-called socialism (financially) and the sickest form of capitalism (outright theft—stealing rapaciously from public funds and still calling it a free-market). And from inside cancer itself comes a now even poorer, blinded citizenry, and a richer elite, which at some point defines a feudal system, or a dictatorship (even with so-called democracy, as Honduras is showing).

But enough of my clap-trap. A must read from Matt Taibbi’s Inside the Great American Bubble Machine.

And listen to the video, too, please. Of course this is a one-sided piece, but how many people list Hitler’s strong points?

To me, this may be simplified, but how else can the average person, like myself, understand any of what goes on with economic heists? For example, people got hopeless sub-prime mortgages they couldn’t pay back.

Their fault? Sure.

But the problem is caused or instituted or continued because of…

“…banks like Goldman Sachs who found ways to chop up crappy mortgages [if some Wal-Mart worker in Boise should have known they were crap, surely Goldman Sachs...] into little bits and then sell them off as securities to unwitting pensioners.

And there’s nothing ordinary people can do about that stuff. People who are in this business have trouble with a lot of this stuff. It’s enormously complicated, even for insiders….

And if you don’t understand it, if you don’t get it, there’s no way to vote on it sensibly. There’s no way to demand your congressman take action, and that insulates these people from any kind of action…”

Let’s be honest: like lawyer talk, heretofore, wherein and screw you in perpetuity, the whole thing is mystified and complicated, at least partially, with the plan to blind with bull***.

Just appalling. Democrats, Republicans (in fact Democrats big time, in case anyone was feeling smug). My old man has been describing this, through other utterly marginalized economic experts (and still marginalized), for twenty years. Meanwhile, the same perpetrators keep cycling through the system, no matter how bad or even heinous their policies.

These major bankers knew everything. But like a person caught up in, say, drugs or an affair—the rush so great, and these money grabs are an addiction—they don’t notice or literally can’t stop. They literally can’t be ethical: “It was bigger than both of us…” etc.

And President Obama, by posting these people to continued high positions, and the list would be comical if not so tragic (as Taibbi painfully points out), is simply further institutionalizing the sickness.

Seeing as Goldman Sachs ‘donated’, ha ha, more money than anyone else to his campaign, period, he likely believes them. It’s like disowning dear old dad if he paid for where you are. Difficult.

Fast-forward to today. It’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

If Obama does have good intentions, I sure feel sorry for him.

But those insider banksters and then bankers in government and at the Fed knew and know what they are doing—that’s why and how they made the moves, deregulations, regulations, policy changes etc., they made and continue to make. It’s called uber-maximization of profit, regardless of the cost, the externalities, and it’s where the system ultimately collapses into an abyss of human aberration, greed and emptiness (but tell that to those getting this year’s bonuses).

Really, it’s just a free-for-all and a real picture of human nature, human greed, in the extreme. Why? As Clinton said about his White House indiscretions (and you can include Robert Rubin with Monica Lewinski), paraphrasing, ‘I did it for the worst possible reason: because I could.’

In the end, Monica was brushed off without a mention of her name, or the mental distress caused to her, while Clinton described Robert Rubin as the “greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton.”

Many do actually question Hamilton’s competency. Thomas Jefferson supposedly considered Hamilton aristocratic and unprincipled. How Rubinesque! Thank you, Bill Clinton.

And do you think most bankers really care if the credibility of their profession is at this point more or less nil? At $700,000 bonuses for Goldman Sachs employees after record quarterly profits in the multi-billions—mere months after the public bailout—and a 1% tax rate last year (seriously), I am sure they care not a wit. After all, it’s simply a good investment on their Obama stocks (formerly Bush, formerly Clinton stocks).

I am sure the theories are not exactly correct. How could they be? But please, have a read, educate yourself and others a little more via something not utterly complicated. And from there, stand for your rights, your intelligence, your grandchildren, and yourself with every new day, as best you can. It’s not easy. We’re all human, after all,

Lots of love,

Pete

BILL MOYERS, WENDELL POTTER and UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I haven’t had a chance to comment on this—I just read it—but it is certainly worth reading, and comprehending in a wider, all-system sense. It reveals, in stunning detail, the pernicious way in which not just health care, but so many institutions/policies/corporations are run: profit over human rights, supported through, for example, sold out Congresspeople (so many!) via their lobbyist friends. Speaking of lobbyists and shameless PR folk, see my previous blog on Honduras.

And this leads us to a Bill Moyers interview with former CIGNA health insurance PR man Wendell Potter—a real insider. He is like a Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life, had Mr. Potter changed his position. This present-day Potter has had what is sometimes called a metanoia—a change of heart.

It’s just a shame, and shameful, what is often done relentlessly, recklessly, and without any concern for life-stealing externalities, on behalf of profit. The interview is here.

An excerpt:

I picked up the local newspaper and I saw that a health care expedition was being held a few miles up the road, in Wise, Virginia. And I was intrigued…I borrowed my dad’s car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn’t know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health—booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they’d erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases—and I’ve got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee—all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

WENDELL POTTER: It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost—what country am I in? I just it just didn’t seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.

I hate to say it, but it sounds like a dust-bowl Woody Guthrie song, or some post-colonial disaster in the Third World. This cannot bode well for the future. Painful.

Lots of love and hopefully some fairness,

Pete

The Cult of Current Economic Policy and the dream of Post-Autistic Economics

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

“It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Yet another great article from Deborah Campbell. An older article (2004), but given the recent brutal outcomes of long term disastrous economic policy, something very worth hearing about: Post-Autistic Economics.

This is the moniker (is that the right word?) designated by some of the brightest university economic students in the world to describe an economics beyond the neo-classical religion currently preached. What is interesting is this protest movement—a movement demanding not the end of neo-classical economics, but simply the inclusion of other (sinful) economic ideas in course materials as well—did not begin in 2009, after the recent economic collapse. It didn’t begin after 9/11, in 2001, either.

Nay, it began somewhere around 2000.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay that has very little to do with the defining of Post-Autistic Economics. But it sums up the mentality of the current rapacious policy based on, in my opinion, the lie of so-called free market principles and infinite growth (in a finite world). And given the excerpt, it’s quite sad how I mindlessly always applaud people who are accepted to Harvard (and it’s not their fault)…

Harvard President Lawrence Summers illustrates the kind of thinking that emerges from neoclassical economics. Summers is the same former chief economist of the World Bank who sparked international outrage after his infamous memo advocating pollution trading was leaked in the early 1990s.

“Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCS [Less Developed Countries]?” the memo inquired. “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that . . . I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted . . . ”

And we think the Scramble for [the polluting, stealing and crushing of] Africa is over! This is the head of Harvard, for the love of the Union—and former chief economist of the World Bank.

Brazil’s then-Secretary of the Environment, Jose Lutzenburger, replied: “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane . . . Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in.”

I can’t even see the “perfectly logical” part. The whole thing seems if not insane, hopelessly racist and cruel (I guess that is insane); a sort of sickness from which we are covered in varying degrees. May I be so pretentious as to quote Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man as if his words were on the tip of my tongue? They were not. I barely know his writing, yet he is quoted in a book I’m reading:

“…the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment [of, say, neo-liberal economic policy]—even if they are not the raison d’etre of this society, but only its by-product: Its sweeping rationality [for example the math of neo-liberal economics], which propels efficiency and growth, is itself irrational.”

And this was written in 1964. Boy, he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. And back to the Harvard president:

Summers later claimed the memo was intended ironically, while reports suggested it was written by an aide. In any case, Summers devoted his 2003/2004 prayer address at Harvard to a “moral” defense of sweatshop labor, calling it the “best alternative” for workers in low-wage countries.

I gave my arguments against these types of ideas here, a few years ago.

Anyway, Deborah’s full article is here. Food (if you can afford it) for thought. And if you ask me, hope. People care—all over the place, people care; people seek creativity; people seek freedom. People even practice or express altruistic behaviour, regardless of what people who don’t practice altruistic behaviour say.

Lots of love, solidarity, hope, and alternative thinking,

Pete

THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES, INTERNALLY PLACED PERSONS and BEING HUMAN

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

In June 2008, after a night of terror in a refugee camp for Darfur refugees in Chad (terror perpetrated by refugees living there), a group of courageous women living there decided to speak out. They created a document that has come to be called the Farchana Manifesto.

This short piece tells their story and discusses some of the problems with long-term refugee camps, a lack of refugee rights, a lack of citizenship, IDPs (internally displaced people), the treatment of women and the pressures and demands on the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

At the end there are a also a few more refugee/IDP statistics (footnotes to the right of the piece) from around the world. The numbers of Iraqis forced from their homes since the American invasion of 2003 is worth knowing, and its interesting to see which countries are willing to take in the most refugees.

There’s an informative interview on Iraq refugees from the wonderful journalist Deborah Campbell on Democracy Now here, from 2008.

Ivan Gayton, the friend I interviewed at the beginning of the piece (and who interviewed the unnamed and inspiring and courageous refugee woman above), is as far as I know in a deeply disrupted Pakistan right now, I think Peshawar, doing humanitarian work. I emailed him a week or so ago, I will try again today, and I’m hoping to hear back soon. if I hear from him, I’ll offer what updates I can.

Wishing you, and all sisters and brothers, lots of love, awareness, compassion and freedom,

Pete

EL CONTRATO—Mexican Migrant Workers in Canada

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Continuing from the previous blog, here’s a revealing and provocative film called El Contrato from the national Film Board of Canada. It is about the challenges facing Mexican migrant farm workers shipped to Canada from Mexico on eight month work contracts. Although the film only gives the side of the workers, the film is still very worth seeing. The conditions these brothers (I didn’t see any women) work under are often brutal and degrading and abusive—and who can be against giving a voice to the almost always voiceless? Not me.

The 49 minute film can be seen in its entirety here.

Workers who have left their family and sometimes children in Mexico and sign contracts in Canada have them being paid $7.50 an hour, working ten hours a day, seven days a week for eight straight months. Then something like a quarter of the paltry wage they make goes to government taxes and other payments. Perhaps it is better than what could be made in Mexico, but it is against the labour laws of Canada, that have been fought on behalf of human dignity and rights for for a hundred years or more.

Here’s to remembering how important it is that people, communities, continue to come together…

On that note, and speaking of Mexico, it is important to remember that the fight of the indigenous people in Chiapas continues unabated. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the numbers, but I have heard a third of Mexico’s military forces remain stationed in Chiapas, and human rights abuses and State terror continue. A friend of mine is traveling there soon to offer her expertise in helping those who have suffered terrorism and torture. See Nettie Wild’s film A Place Called Chiapas, from the mid 1990s.

Lots of love,

Pete

SALT OF THE EARTH: The Endless Struggle for Human Dignity Continues

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Lately researching the remarkable mining history and Union history in the Kootenay regions of British Columbia, Canada, and reading about the conditions of migrant workers in the farms in the Lower Mainland of wealthy British Columbia even today, the information continues to be eye-opening, disconcerting and heart-breaking—and these people deserve our support, for the love of god.

But reading about and remembering and seeing the vigilance and determination of people over centuries up to this very second, risking everything to live lives of dignity and anything resembling equality is endlessly inspiring.

SPEAKING OF IDEOLOGY: Startling Juxtaposition

In 1954, On The Waterfront (portraying longshoreman, and thus Unions, as corrupt) came out perfectly (and not coincidentally, I am sure) in time with McCarthyism and the ongoing House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. It received countless accolades (the movie, I mean, from most people, and the House Committee from many—and vitriol, too).

The director Elia Kazan, who was “…among the first to cooperate with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in 1952, which led to the blacklisting that ruined many careers in Hollywood because of their political beliefs”, won Best Director at the Academy Awards and Marlon Brando’s famous lines were uttered: “I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum

In life’s remarkable irony, and inherent counterforce, another movie was made that same Cold War year of 1954. It was called Salt of the Earth. It was banned in both Canada and the States—which is shockingly hard to believe.

Salt of the Earth‘s director was Herbert Biberman, one of the so-called Hollywood Ten, blacklisted and jailed for over six months for not naming names—of friends—as Elia Kazan had.

It was put together by black-listed writers and directors. Post-production services, evidently, wouldn’t even help them, likely, often, for fear of reprisals. The film was was paid for, at least in part, by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. It was based—I don’t know how closely—on the real-life and brutal strike by Mexican-American and “Anglo” miners against the appalling conditions imposed by the Empire Zinc Company.

I just saw it. My heart broke the entire time.

It is deeply worth watching, for its historical significance, the fact that it was banned, its use of professional and unprofessional actors, its (light) description of racism even within the Unions and the effect of hammering the Union men unintentionally pushing further the Women’s Rights movement.

Also, as a note, Will Geer (who played the Grandpa in the Waltons when I was a kid) play the sheriff.

Humans is as humans are, but the struggle for dignity, rights and something resembling equality will never end.

In an interview with Noam Chomsky, he said:

We don’t know anything much about human nature except that it’s rich and complex and common to the entire species and determines everything we do. Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation.

But a look at history and perception of what we see, does, I think, lend some credibility to a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment—it is at the core of liberalism, the ideals we are supposed to honour but disregard—which says that fundamental to human nature is a kind of instinct for freedom, which shows up in creative activities.

This is actually the core of Cartesian philosophy, the core of Enlightenment political thought. And I think we see plenty of examples of it: people struggling all over the world for freedom.

They don’t like to be oppressed.

Are Unions perfect? Far from it. Were they racist in the past? Often. Are they monolithic in the present? In so many ways. Would there be the human rights we have today without them—the eight hour day, minimum wages, child labour laws, safety labour laws, health benefits, maternity leave? Not a chance.

NOT A CHANCE; NOT A PRAYER; NOT A HOPE. I try to always remember this fact.

And nothing, nothing, from my reading and observation, drove people towards so-called radical socialism, and into Unions, and nothing pushed women towards so-called equality, more than the extreme greed, oppression and self-defined superiority of so-called industrial capitalists, and their earlier incarnations.

The two live off each other, and define the other—and one lives a lot better off than the other. They have been used by despots and barons and tyrants since before their names were known.

Again, on many levels, I can’t recommend the film enough. Banned. Geezuz.

Tons of love, dignity and solidarity to you,

Pete

NOAM CHOMSKY on the RE-TELLING/SELLING of HISTORY, PAST and PRESENT

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Noam Chomsky, who is 80 now, has undoubtedly had a very difficult year. A few months ago his wife Carol, a brilliant woman in her own right, died from cancer. They had known each other forever, since Carol was five, and the two had been married for 60 years. I often hope he’s able to push on, having been such a remarkable source of information for so many, in multiple fields—and that he remembers and is energized by the important gift of his great intellect and work ethic.

Anyway, he wrote a powerful and sobering article that was published on his site the other day, and elsewhere. Even if you largely disagree with Noam’s political stance, it is highly recommended for the little reminders of historical facts that it gives—before such facts fall down the memory hole.

Entitled The Torture Memos, an excerpt:

Let us then turn to “reality itself”: the “idea” of America from its earliest days.

The inspirational phrase “city on a hill” [to describe the common American ideal of her own birth] was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation “ordained by God.” One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony established its Great Seal. It depicts an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On it are the words “Come over and help us.” The British colonists were thus benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is a graphic representation of “the idea of America,” from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom.

The current difficulties of indigenous people in both America and Canada (in Canada, an indigenous person is nine times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-indigenous person) may also be a reflection of curious “benevolence,” past and present.

And another:

In a 1980 study, Latin Americanist Lars Schoultz found that US aid “has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens…to the hemisphere’s relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights.” That includes military aid, is independent of need, and runs through the Carter years.

Broader studies by Edward Herman found the same correlation, and also suggested an explanation.

Not surprisingly, US aid tends to correlate with a favorable climate for business operations, and this is commonly improved by murder of labor and peasant organizers and human rights activists, and other such actions, yielding a secondary correlation between aid and egregious violation of human rights.

These studies precede the Reagan years, when the topic was not worth studying because the correlations were so clear. And the tendencies continue to the present.

Small wonder that the President [Obama] advises us to look forward, not backward—a convenient doctrine for those who hold the clubs. Those who are beaten by them tend to see the world differently, much to our annoyance.

The man is still going strong, unstoppably, speaking as he does for the “wretched of the earth”, and whomever isn’t heard. I appreciate it—and learn from him—greatly.

The full article is here.

I had the privilege of interviewing Noam a few years ago. That interview is here.

Lots of love, and remembering, and action,

Pete

DR. PAUL FARMER, Partners In Health and Global Health Equity

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Every time I read Paul Farmer or about Paul Farmer (of Partners In Health), I get both inspired and I learn a lot. I was reading Pathologies of Power this weekend.

Farmer works predominantly in a Boston teaching hospital and in Haiti, among the worlds very poor, and he points out the painful unethical avoidance of global health equity by medical ethics boards. From Pathologies of Power (pg 203-305):

“These [ethics] consults [on which he sometimes serves] are [in the West] often about too much medical care. That is, we are called to explore cases in which care is painful, expensive, and prolonged well beyond the point of efficacy…

But being a clinician who works in both a Harvard teaching hospital and rural Haiti, I can’t help but make connections between the surfeit on one side—too much care—and the paucity on the other…

What does bioethics have to say about this, the leading ethical question of our times [the right to health care for all]? Almost nothing…

One gets the sense, in attending ethics rounds and reading the now-copious ethics literature, that these have-nots are an embarrassment to the ethicists, for the problems of poverty and racism and a lack of national health insurance figure only rarely in a literature dominated by endless discussions of brain death, organ transplantation, xenotransplantation, and care at the end of life.

When the end of life comes early—from death in childbirth, say, or from tuberculosis or infantile diarrhea—the scandal is immeasurably greater, but silence reigns in the medical ethics literature.

Isn’t that revealing? Surely a sickness in itself, if not of the body our collective heart and mind.

Here’s a little thing on youtube on Farmer and Partners In Health:

And this:

Lots of love to you—and here’s to greater equity, gratitude, and the seeking of greater justice and health for all, regardless of their birthplace…

Pete

Hugh Brody, the Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village, and The Meaning of Life.

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

There is a correctional institute in British Columbia (Canada) called the Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village (good luck pronouncing that)—a remarkably progressive, alternative and controversial penal facility, and simultaneously limited in terms of numbers. Kwikwexwelhp is a fifty bed facility.

At its heart Kwikwexwelhp is a minimum security facility, with even less restrictions, whose healing/rehabilitation practices are inspired by indigenous cultural and spiritual practices. Its inmates are generally prisoners who, over time, have ‘cascaded’—a term used by the director of photography after the film—from maximum security, to medium security, to minimum security, and through their own initiative and courses taken, qualify for Kwikwexwelhp.

I just saw a simple, provocative and moving documentary (DOXA) on it by the wonderful Hugh Brody (I didn’t know much about him until two friends filled me in—thank god for friends), called The Meaning of Life. At the core of so many of the inmates’ original fracturing are those shameful, horrendous, racist residential schools. My god, the damage—the structural violence—inflicted by some of the people in that god-forsaken institution. Of course, the past doesn’t by necessarily absolve a crime in the present (it does in some places, politically), but it sure as hell is good to know the nature of cause-and-effect in a deeply fractured world.

Here’s a newspaper link about the film.

Really worth seeing.

Structural violence, institutional violence, happens in countless, faceless ways. Eduardo Galeano (as quoted in Paul Farmers’ Pathologies of Power) sums up one form of institutional violence here, from his South American viewpoint. Perhaps the view can be extrapolated worldwide:

The big bankers of the world, who practice the terrorism of money, are more powerful than kings and field marshals, even more than the Pope of Rome himself. They never dirty their hands. They kill no-one: they limit themselves to applauding the show.

Their officials, international technocrats, rule our countries: they are neither presidents nor ministers, they have not been elected, but they decide the level of salaries and public expenditure, investments and divestments, prices, taxes, interest rates, subsidies, when the sun rises and how frequently it rains.”

And these decisions, by whom is left out, result in what Dr. Paul Farmer and others call ‘structural violence’—where limited options lead to violence, violence against the person with painfully limited options.

Galeano continues:

“However, they don’t concern themselves with the prisons or torture chambers or concentration camps or extermination centers, although these house the inevitable consequences of their acts.

The technocrats claim the privilege of irresponsibility: ‘We’re neutral’ they say.”

And the more privileged, the more affluent the country, would it be fair to say the more these sins are all of ours?

I don’t know the answer, but more compassion is always called for. Compassion with discernment, with love.

And here’s to all of us who are not (which is everybody), as Sister Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame) once said, ‘the worst thing we’ve ever done.’

Lots of love to you,

Pete

Portugal and the War on Drugs: Compare it to Mexico

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I’m not exactly sure why the War on Drugs so intrigues me, but I think it partially has to do with the disaster of extreme addiction being somehow related to all of us, in some subtle way. Further, our fear and sometimes hatred of harm reduction for others (and ultimately ourselves) reminds me so much of our human limitations on compassion and self-exploration.

Incidentally, this harm reduction limitation reveals itself everywhere, including our relationship to the health care system and our tolerance of and even support for feeding children food that encourages sickness, among countless other places.

Anyway, a provocative article here in Time magazine on Portugal’s approach to drugs and addiction. These statistics from Portugal, of course, are neither definitive nor the answer to a varied and profoundly difficult complex, but they are instructive, to say the least.

With a compassionate eye, at the bottom of the article, check out the photos on the hell being paid in Mexico and across the border—for citizens, plain ol’ folks, no different than you or I—for the abject failure known as the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs policies appear to foster an increase in five crucial, social disasters: 1) a climate of excessive incarceration, 2) astronomical wealth for illegal activities, 3) property crime via the users, 4) the temptation of pay-offs to police and government through threat and bribe, and 5) violence that ensues from all four. Further, it does so little, if anything, for limiting drug use, as US statistics of drug use seem to show.

So ask yourself who benefits?

The above also tend to further marginalize disenfranchised groups, as is seen with indigenous peoples in Canada, and blacks in the States.

And finally, the underbelly of the War On Drugs has helped fund covert and even less-than-covert wars.

Here’s to intelligent, pragmatic and compassionate harm reduction (which expands to harm reduction for society) for anyone in psychic or physical pain,

Pete

TOO CHICKEN TO SAY IT

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I really don’t know how Al Gore could not mention animal husbandry and factory farming in an Inconvenient Truth, except perhaps that his family made part of their fortune in cattle (and perhaps still do). I know tobacco was mentioned, and another big crop on his family’s farm.

Anyway, our factory farms are not only serving up cruel and unusual punishment in the name of greater profits, but are literally an utterly effective and dangerous breeding ground for disease.

I believe this video is from the Humane Society of the United States, and worth a glance in case you’re considering fried chicken tonight over a vegetable stir-fry.

It’s just not environmentally intelligent, even if profits beg to argue. And even if this isn’t the cause of possible pandemics, it still can’t be right. It’s just not right.

Here’s to not being chicken, and not being too chicken to really love,

Pete xo

Derrick Jensen: It’s Tremendous Fun To Fight Back

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I don’t even know who Derrick Jensen is, but this interview with him in Briarpatch: Fighting the War on Error is really wonderful, and gets, I think, to the heart and soul of many matters. It was sent to me by my lovely friend Buddy. He’s in his late 80s now, and just keeps on fighting.

From the interview:

Any way of living based on non-renewable resources won’t last. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about copper or iron or oil, because a finite amount of it is eventually going to run out.

But that’s not all. Any way of living that’s based on the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources won’t last, either. If fewer salmon return year after year because they’re being overfished, eventually there won’t be any left.

In fact, I would say that any way of living that’s based on resources won’t last, either. “Resources” don’t actually exist: salmon don’t consider themselves a fishery resource, and trees don’t consider themselves timber resources. They’re just trees and they’re just fish.

And this doozy:

It’s stunning how ignorant we are about the land bases that support us. I can talk about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and probably most people will know who I’m talking about, but do you know the indigenous name for the place where you’re sitting right now? An American five-year-old can recognize hundreds of corporate logos, but I can’t name 10 species of edible plants and fungi within 100 yards of my home. That’s insane.

We must recognize that the culture is a culture of occupation. The planet needs to be defended against this occupation. You know, if there were space aliens deforesting the planet or releasing tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, we would know what to do: we’d use any means necessary to stop them.

That’s fantastic. If I consider how short the time would be for survival, if left to my own devices, if food in the city stopped coming in (without stealing or begging), the answer is not pretty. About three days. I barely know a fungi from a fun guy, or how to plant my own garden, where waste goes, water and so on—let alone where my food and clothing comes from or how it is made, and how the people who made either were treated.

And think about this. A kid from wherever in 1500 may not have known the world was round, but he knew where his waste went, where his water came from, how his clothes were made, his food, and how to survive on his own, period. I have only slightly more than a clue, and like my tax forms, the whole process is cryptic and confusing to the point of inaction.

Ah, life. So much to learn. And you can’t just find some things out online or in a book. Eventually you have to get your hands dirty—that is, in the soil—and your mind clear. And talk to the trees. Just try it. And the water.

“Excuse me, tree, how can I help?”

The full interview is here.

Lots of sustainable love to you,

Pete

INDIA: Inequalities In The World’s Largest Democracy

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

“India is that place where the common man is perpetually looking for justice. There is no justice here, no justice at all.”
—A cab driver in Hyderabad

India is about to have an election that involves 714 million voters. Isn’t that unbelievable? But all is not celebration. This is a short and interesting op/ed sent to me by my friend Sue, and written by Professor Ananya Mukherjee Reed, York University, Toronto.

An excerpt:

Underneath this fractured polity, lies of course, a deeply exclusionary and unequal material reality. Some 200 million are chronically hungry, more than 90 percent of the workforce have no option but informal work with abysmal wages and no security; 80 percent live under $2 a day; 70 percent depend on agriculture for their livelihood; 182,936 farmers have committed suicide; and so on.

And further:

The wealth of 40 richest Indians have come to equal about 30 percent of its trillion-dollar GDP. Of the 47 Indian companies that have made it to the Forbes List of the Global 2000 this year, the sales of each of the top two equal the GDP of India’s poorest 12 states taken together. In a list of the top 50 economic entities in India—comprising of Indian states and Indian corporations—28 are corporations. Reliance Industries, the corporation that tops the list, has an annual revenue that exceeds the gross domestic product of Kerala by about $2-billion.

All of which makes the statement in the following piece about how something like half of India’s top 1,500 corporations don’t pay any tax at all, all the more ludicrous.

And life goes on, and on, and on—sometimes inconceivably beautifully…

Speaking of Kerala, the men pulling in the nets, among other scenes, are from Kerala. Never forget good fortune, that somehow, as one yogi said, ‘all moments are auspicious’, and try to speak out against injustice, especially where you can make change.

Lots of love to you,

Pete