Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

WORLD PEACE AT LAST! THANK YOU MCDONALD’S!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Over the years I’ve wondered deeply if there is truly any way to achieve world peace, and over the years I’ve concluded: ‘Fat Chance.’ Why? Because most of us have a war going on inside our own heads, and that’s when things are going well. From there it’s all downhill. Families often can’t even avoid screaming at each other over who will do the dishes. Kind people celebrate the person they fall in love with as the greatest human being ever, only to hate them even more than Hitler a few months later. And finally, and less importantly, limited resources. I mean who has enough oil? I sure don’t. And these are often the emotions and actions of people who don’t want war. Then there are those who like war, feed off war, make money off war etc. You know, most lobbyists. So, peace is a difficult proposition.

Alas, it turns out I was unable to see a wider scope, a bigger truth: in short, the insatiable desire of the massive masses. My friends, McDonald’s (Vancouver’s Official Olympic Restaurant, if I can use that word loosely), who I constantly criticize for producing nutritionally vacuous food, negative labour conditions and cruelty to animals via factory farms, can no longer be criticized for anything.

Why?

Because what they do, it turns out, has all along actually been a secret peace plan that means I can only describe such non-violent dreamers as Gandhi, Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Tolstoy and Dr. Phil as complete morons. Or at least naive and idealistic. “All for the good of humanity” should be McDonald’s new slogan. Yes, it’s true, for according to two retired American military leaders in a BBC article:

More than a quarter of young Americans are now too fat to fight, they said.

Writing in the Washington Post, the ex-commanders said the fat crisis ruled out more potential military service recruits than any other medical factor [including intelligence].

They want Congress to introduce laws to give US children better nutrition in schools, with less sugar, salt and fat.

John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former chairmen of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote: “Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military.”

“We consider this problem so serious from a national security perspective that we have joined more than 130 other retired generals, admirals and senior military leaders in calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation,” the commanders added.

Legislation! They’re socialists to boot!

So Ronald McDonald understood all along that kids are our ultimate hope for peace, and it’s easier to fatten them up like Christmas turkeys and make them unable to walk (thus unable to fight except for launching drone missiles from Arizona) than it is to change the way they think about violence and strangers—and, anyway, why get in the way of video game sales?

In short, my lame, depressive response of ‘Fat chance’, it turns out ironically, is the closest I’ve yet been to remotely grasping absolute truth; the closest I’ve ever been to hope, to peace, to all-you-can-eat smorgasbords.

I say now: “Pig out for peace!” Gandhi would have been a fatty had he truly stood for non-violence. Put another way, who, with his matchstick legs, was Gandhi really working for?

‘Peace in our time,’ Neville Chamberlain once promised the world after a meeting with Hitler beneath the coming clouds of World War II, but he was unable to fatten up Hitler, wasn’t he? Look what happened. Yes, I’m seeing the connection as clear as a trans-fatty acid; as sure as I’m the bastard son of Julia Childs and David Icke.

My only uncertainty now is with sumo wrestlers, who can be pretty aggressive yet difficult to describe as skinny. How can this be? Surely they’re an anomaly. After all, jolly Santa is nothing but fun! And at least sumo wrestling is basically hand-to-hand combat. Don’t get me wrong, those guys are truly tough and mean and strong, but there’s something disarming about the large diapers—at least from afar.

Anyway, I’m relieved. Thank you McDonald’s. Thank you Burger King. Thank you spineless policy makers! Thank you endless advertisements pushing for the addiction of precious little children to food that causes obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, depression due to chronic illness and, of course, motionless little peaceniks to fat to fire.

The desperate commanders also added:

“We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be.”

It’s too late, my commander friends, we the insatiable population have chosen peace. In fact, wey’re lining up for it in unprecedented numbers and at unprecedented weights. At ease, men. You deserve a break today.

I am going to sleep well tonight, full belly, and plans for a cook-out tomorrow, Sunday and every day. And to think I’d recently given up excess sugar! Why was I choosing violence? Eat ’til you swell if you love humanity.

Wait. What if I’ve said the wrong thing? What if being unable to defend the country due to excessive weight gain becomes a treasonous act? Damn. Now I don’t know who to defend. McDonald’s or the military? Maybe it’s back to my salads and vegetarian meals and, of course, the side of war that goes with it. You can’t win. And there goes my ‘Porkers for Peace’ button.

Wishing you health, laughter, and lots of self-love, whatever your body image—you’re beautiful. Undoubtedly. Undeniably.

Pete xo

AYN RAND, The Tea Party, Goebbels, Goldman Sachs, Greed and Government

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

“Goldman Sachs is a great firm—as good as you get on Wall Street and that’s the problem.”
Matthew Bishop, Business Editor, the Economist

The always amusing Matt Taibbi is again entertaining in this commentary on Ayn Rand and Goldman Sachs etc. He writes:

In the [Ayn] Randian ethos, called objectivism, the only real morality is self-interest, and society is divided into groups who are efficiently self-interested (ie, the rich) and the “parasites” and “moochers” who wish to take their earnings through taxes, which are an unjust use of force in Randian politics. Rand believed government had virtually no natural role in society. She conceded that police were necessary, but was such a fervent believer in laissez-faire capitalism she refused to accept any need for economic regulation—which is a fancy way of saying we only need law enforcement for unsophisticated criminals.

Rand’s fingerprints are all over the recent Goldman story.

Great second to last line—and how damn obvious. It’s funny what some laws leave legal. The thing for me to remember is that Goldman Sachs and the ideology are, like a plant rising up in soil, a result of the soil, the seed, the sun, the geography, the geology, the advantages bestowed, disadvantages and the whole damn matrix. Human institutions are aspects of human nature, manifested from the mind and the opposable thumb—and some would include God or the Devil, or random selection, depending on their stock portfolio. What I’m trying to say, I’m not sure. But as sure as humans write poetry, they also write institutions.

The entire article in the Guardian is here. For the record, I too have never been able to get through a page of Ayn Rand, or a page of Das Kapital, for that matter. Terminally boring and over-wrought for my little brain. Hmm.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

PS Here’s that crude yet somewhat useful description of an aspect of what passes for legal—and, hey, for all I know, may be, in the words of the Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, “God’s work.” Hasn’t God got enough troubles with Hitchens and Dawkins breathing down his aged neck?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And here’s a tongue-in-cheek bluesy, rock ‘n roll thing I wrote back in the 90s (remember them?) about conspiracy and/or truth, you be the judge: What’s Going Down. Some young video-savvy huckster/whippersnapper on line put this together and made a video out of it. The solo is actually Robbie Steininger playing the always raucous twelve string mandolin.

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

THE TEMPESTS WE LIVE IN: Pornography and pornographic news, and the habit-forming world we live in

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.
—Jerry Seinfeld

A few thoughts. And as I’ve often said, it’s not easy being human. Yet it can be remarkably beautiful and wonderful.

I was thinking about some truly dangerous and brutal events taking place in the world these days, and I guess forever—endless war, economic distress, mass inequality etc.—and all the strange and “pornographic” or at least trashy news that comes out simultaneously, and is ubiquitous. I’m talking, for example, about the countless affairs, involving all of these famous married people, burning up the airwaves and our mind space, triggering our own “lower chakras.” And, ironically, do either really “inform” us—or put another way, improve or empower us? Both are largely non-contextual, yet relentless.

I have a liberal definition of news because I think news can be what excites people. I’m not very sanctimonious about what news is and isn’t.
—Diane Sawyer

Indeed.

I was thinking this: don’t you think that it is actually unsurprising that all of this happens—so many sort of out of control affairs—given we are in a world so blatantly, endlessly, repeatedly pornographic? That’s not even a judgement, my friends, just a statement. It’s everywhere, by all accounts, and the addictions or at least behaviours that are unfolding, I think in greater numbers, are somewhat predictable, no? But no one ever seems to talk about their “mistakes” in a way that could be constructive for the whole conversation about sex. Imagine the following instead of the usual shame-filled propaganda spun confessions:

“Yeah, here’s a big part of the problem: I like a lot of sex, I have a naturally robust sex-drive, and I am compelled by certain types of interactions (ie images—two dimensional or three dimensional) to get a sufficient or really big pleasurable response. I am driven by these images, and by the build up and the response. This drive, this connection, has developed and increased and focused over time. Being a temporary yet powerful pull and pleasure—which subsides for a time when relieved or experienced, and then overtakes me like a wave—I am ashamed when caught by my wife [or, less so, husband], and even at other times, and perhaps even wish I wasn’t compelled, but the reality remains powerful and relentless, and the momentary effect is hauntingly pleasurable and one of the biggest, most focused experiences in my life. And we all believe in freedom, right? So, any thoughts? Anybody else want to come clean?”

Imagine that statement coming out.

ALAS, NO…

And why not? Perhaps on some level because we just don’t really want to know about ourselves. Knowing about our deeper selves, not just our addicted impulses, works against current consumer ideology.

Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way—by finding that it is a means of satisfaction.
—Juliene Berk

All these folks come out once caught—from presidents to athletes—say how ashamed they are, and never make any real mention of how their bodies appear to function, or explore why their bodies work as they do. Why don’t we tell deeper truths? I don’t know, but I think it has often something to do with our collective cultural ignorance, and also because the confessors are branded commodities whose “value” cannot be risked by truth-telling, consciously or unconsciously. Also, because the parameters in the conversation are so narrow, this is also the speech/strategy used to save the primary relationship.

The women (generally) the men are involved with are rarely mentioned—have you noticed that? All are dehumanized further by this (and no one cares because we too dehumanize them). These woman have been bought and used—not to say they don’t have their own responsibility, of course. They too were simply objects, commodified. The confessors, so-called, virtually never talk about the truly addicted nature evident and resulting from and in repeated behaviour.

Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.
—Spanish proverb

Who can’t relate in some aspect of their life, to addiction? Food. Sex. Drugs. Money etc. These confessors, god love them, act like their shame cures the issue at hand.

But the truth is we are led by these big emotions (whatever they are), these compulsions, that trigger the brain (or vice versa). They can get out of hand, and do. Freedom. Possibility. Access. Entitlement. Relentless longing. Who knows what combination?

Before the relationship in reality happens, a relationship between the brain and the cues all around us has to take place. Shame, it seems, cannot remove such intense imprinting to the brain—no matter how earnest and ragged the apology. And whatever else happens, as the public we never learn anything about the truth: pornography (and so many addictions) is a massive problem. At the same time, people have wildly varying natures and desires. And are we free, as partners, to talk about them? Do we understand that so much is simply nature, energetics? These natures are acted upon by outside stimuli. This is, for example, the objective of advertising—and the reason advertising works.

We cannot, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime.
—Gandhi

It seems obvious to any thinking person that repeated behaviours resulting in big, physically pleasurable emotions, imprint to the brain, intensely. The brains of some sex-addicted folks, when shown pornography, supposedly light up like a cocaine addict’s brain.

One of the wonderful things about free markets is that the path to greater wealth comes not from looting, plundering and enslaving one’s fellow man, as it has throughout most of human history, but by serving and pleasing him [and his addictions].
—Walter E. Williams

I would disagree with the “not from looting, plundering” etc line. Nonetheless, with a little extra cash, creating addiction in a consumer is Power.

It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that unfulfilled desires lead first to frustration, then anger, then memory loss (we forget who we are). Fulfilled desires, alternatively, lead to greed.

NO REAL CALORIES IN SOUND-BYTES

But just as we won’t, politically or media-wise, in significant amounts, talk about “pornographic” (degraded) food as the biggest problem with our health care systems, it’s at least instructive that we won’t, as a culture, talk about sex selling everything—and pornography being everywhere in various degrees—as likely having a real physiological effect on the human brain. We are what we eat: what we see, hear and all else. The images, evidently, cue the brain. Trigger a response. The mass marketing cues of greasy, fat, sweet and salty foods work in a similar way. The cues trigger emotions.

Habit [addiction] is a fixed tendency to react or respond in a certain way to a given stimulus; and the formation of habit always involves the two elements, the stimulus and the response or reaction.
—Edward O. Sisson

Isn’t our relentless, mass consumerism a sort of “pornography”? Is that just a cliche comment? What does it mean that everything is commodified, or a system believes that all things should be commodified? That this is freedom. Is that a sort of a “pornography”? I’m off topic, but you get my question. And isn’t it profoundly weird that we hear about these affairs at all? Front page.

But imagine if we could speak candidly about the context, the true nature, of these cheap and ugly (yet compelling) headlines.

MASS DEBATE

Pornography’s real arrival, according to scholar Robert Jensen, began in earnest—to use the wrong term—after World War II. As so-called “indecency laws” relaxed in the 70s, pornography became more pervasive, degradation and racism became more extreme. With the internet, the amount of available porn (by all accounts) has mushroomed like a nuclear explosion. It is said that internet porn is the crack cocaine of sex addiction.

“Why is our free-enterprise system so strong? Not because it stands still, frozen in the past, but because it has always adapted to changing realities.”
—Lee Iacocca

It also shapes and changes, or works on, current realities.

Addiction, where the insatiable senses of the body are now running the show, brings to mind this prose from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not that I knew this quote. I read it and it brought the thought of such “pornographic” news that we’re fed, to mind.

“These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and
 are melted into air, into thin air. And, like the baseless fabric of vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve. 
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
 as dreams are made on, and our little life
 is rounded with sleep.”

Ah, Shakespeare! All these intensities, these compulsions, these beautiful and not so beautiful desires, and yet we’re all eventually to be “melted into air, into thin air,” our “little life…rounded with sleep.” Ah, the insanity and mystery of it all. Is addiction natural?

All I can say (with no real proof as to why) is love more, then more again, expand more, and really contemplate the meaning of freedom. What is freedom to you? What do we really choose, free of our compulsions, our addictions?

By the way, I’m addicted—at the top of my list—to a compulsive search to fully understand what can never be understood. It sounds like a noble addiction, but it has its problems, its contractions, its own side-effects. A pursuit of something untenable seems to me to undoubtedly be a denial of something tenable, something beautiful. Who am I trying to reach? What am I trying to solve? What is the motivation of the compulsion? Deeper breathing and consciously trying to love more, help a lot.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

The Devil Has Landed: Ciudad Juarez, The War on Drugs, the Military Industrial Complex, and Mass Murder

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Last year, of those 2,600-plus murders in [Ciudad] Juárez, there were thirty arrests. Not solutions, just arrests.
—Charles Bowden

See Bowden’s The War Next Door.

The dangerous, mass murder capital of the world, Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-USA border, is in the news today after two American consulate workers were tragically gunned down there.

Who are we kidding? This place is a war-zone—how dissimilar from Afghanistan or Iraq, or even Darfur or the Congo? I don’t know, but this may be the worst place—or at least the most dangerous place—in the world to live. The CBC documentary show the Passionate Eye called the Ciudad Juarez “hell on earth” and “the most murderous city on earth”.

I think Ciudad Juarez offers the bystander (bystander way out of the city, thank god) the awful and life-killing mix of the military industrial complex* (90% of Mexican Drug Cartel’s arms come from the US), poverty, the abysmal War on Drugs*, and cutthroat capitalism all in high cancer mode. These potent forces all converge on this Mexican border city—Ciudad Juarez—about ten seconds (and maybe a world away) from El Paso, Texas.

See the Passionate Eyes’ Mexico’s Drug Wars (it mentions the 90% arms from the US).

It’s just atrocious and sad and desperate, and all Hillary Clinton could offer was more billions for military might in the War on Drugs—after admitting the War on Drugs was a failure! Orwell must have coughed up one of his poor tubercular lungs.

According to Charles Bowden:

The official line of the U.S. government, one most recently voiced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is that drug consumers in the United States are responsible for drug murders in Mexico. Only someone who is drugged could believe this claim. The sole source of the enormous amount of money in the drug business and the accompanying violence is the U.S. prohibition of drug use by its citizens. Since President Richard Nixon proclaimed the War on Drugs 40 years ago, there have been two notable accomplishments: Drugs are cheaper than ever, and they are of much higher quality.

Harper’s Magazine, from Charles Bowden’s very depressing, brutal and fear-inducing article called The Sicario: A Juarez Hitman Speaks, which basically describes the horror of how much endless brutality human beings willingly inflict on other human beings:

I have published two books on the slaughter of the city, reporting there from 1995, when murder in Juárez ran at two to three hundred a year, until 2008, when 1,607 people were killed. And that is only the official tally—no one really keeps track of those who are taken and never heard from again. I am a prisoner of all this killing.

Yet, in all of this, somehow—please, explain to me how!—this group, fDi (Foreign Direct Investment), in a contest with the label somewhere called, Global Direct Investment Solutions, actually voted Ciudad Juarez the fDi City of the Future for 2007/2008.

What possible planet could the people in this business group live on? What criteria must they use? This is the same mentality that leaves externalities out of standard economic statistics and conversations, including figuring out the GNP. Externalities, for the record, are by-products of economic transactions (drug commerce in Juarez, for example)—like, say, pollution or mass executions. Heartbreaking.

fDi Magazine’s website is obviously crap, but supposedly they are “…an English-language bi-monthly news and foreign direct investment publication owned by The Financial Times Business Group and edited in London.”

Well done, boys. So many of these despotic places are actually good for “business”—guaranteed cheap labour, no environmental laws, and a good paramilitary for business-to-worker relations.

For the record, I don’t want to paint Ciudad Juarez with a single brush, of course. After all, I know nothing, barely—okay, nothing—about what it’s really like there, writing from a laptop in my comfortable northern home. Further, the most challenging urban centres and even so-called slums, wherever they are, are profoundly diverse, always with many brave people fighting for social justice, for honest survival, for a chance to raise their kids in a decent way, and with widely varying politics, dreams and integrity. The word ‘slum’ can be used to inspire compassion, and with some truth, but it can also be used, and is used, as a euphemism for ‘not worth anything’; to allow the bulldozing over of areas where people have lived with great integrity but without property title or justice for generations—so building contractors can go in and gentrify, or whatever, expelling masses of people to Nowhereville. This happens in Mumbai, for example.

But the violence in Ciudad Juarez is undeniably extreme. America, the largest consumers of illicit drugs in the world, have to repair their drug policy, before fear runs everything.

WAR ON DRUGS/WAR ON CITIZENS

To everyone’s peril (other than drug trafficking cartels, smaller drug sellers and multinational weapons producers and their secondary black market sellers—and a few other fallout businesses including massive government spending), the War on Drugs just keeps bringing this violence closer to home, as we saw last summer with the drug-related shooting sprees in Vancouver. And these drug lords are now literally making the Forbes Top 100 richest or most powerful people—some grand title.

Here’s an important interview with Charles Bowden, today, on Democracy Now. An excerpt:

DEMOCRACY NOW: And can you paint a picture of Ciudad Juárez? How has it changed over the years?

CHARLES BOWDEN: Well, you know, what’s changed is—this is simple. Twenty-seven percent of the houses in the city are abandoned. That’s 116,000 units. This is in a city where people live in cardboard boxes sometimes. Ten thousand businesses have given up and closed in the last year. Thirty to sixty thousand people from Juárez, mainly the rich, have moved across the river to El Paso for safety, including the mayor of Juárez, who likes to bunk in El Paso. And the publisher of the newspaper there lives in El Paso. Somewhere between 100,000 and 400,000 people simply left the city. A lot of the problem is economic, not simply violence. At least 100,000 jobs in the border factories have vanished during this recession because of the competition from Asia. There’s 500 to 900 gangs there, estimates vary.

So what you have is you have—and then you lay on top of it 10,000 federal troops and federal police agents all marauding. You have a city where no one goes out at night; where small businesses all pay extortion; where 20,000 cars were officially stolen last year; where 2,600-plus people were officially murdered last year; where nobody keeps track of the people who have been kidnapped and never come back; where nobody counts the people buried in secret burying grounds, and they, in an unseemly way, claw out of the earth from time to time. You’ve got a disaster. And you have a million people, too poor to leave, imprisoned in it. And they’re going to be the people that the Mexican army and the Mexican police will make sure the President never meets today when he descends on Juárez for his sort of official visit. That’s the city.

Stand up for community, understand, as best you can, the profit motives for multiple parties with the War on Drugs and believe in love, and more love, and more love. Keep going!

Pete

*But don’t you think, most importantly, the War on Drugs (and how money is made) combined with the Military Industrial Complex (and how money is made) are the biggest gas-on-the-fire problems? Maybe? Of course poverty too. But the selling of two potentially horrid and soul-destroying (or at least body-destroying) creations—drugs and arms—for exorbitant and addicting profits are a problem to quality of life.

Indeed, with the Military Industrial Complex, the ghosts of former US President Dwight Eisenhower’s speech may have risen, all over the world (Eisenhower gave the famous 1961 leaving-office speech on the huge danger of the Military Industrial Complex). Those ghosts are working (fully armed) more and more close to home (and I don’t mean to downplay the effect of small arms all over the US already).

And Eisenhower, knowing the danger of the MIC, made some grand undemocratic policies of his own, particular in 53/54 at the start of his presidency. He backed the overthrow of two democratic-like governments (both for business interests). The first action was for the oil in Iran (yes, democratic Iran) and the overthrow of secular Dr. Mossadegh who was nationalizing that oil; the second was on behalf of or at least supported by the notorious United Fruit Company in Guatemala, and the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz.

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

MICHAEL VICK, BLIND HYPOCRISY and the SYSTEMIC CRUELTY of FACTORY-FARMING

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

“Just like a red-light district, I would also push all fast-food restaurants and slaughterhouses to a fast-food district, maybe call it an animal-cruelty district, and people can go there if they really can’t stop themselves.”

Every time I hear about professional football player Michael Vick, I feel both sadness and disgust at the dog-fighting racket he was a part of. Most people would. And then I feel sadness, disgust and hopelessness at the hypocrisy and blind stupidity of most of the articles written about him—that by their blindness promote mass animal cruelty.

For the record, how much of Vick’s rehabilitation was about decreasing his consumption of cruelty-produced meat? The first thing he probably did upon release was take his contrition and go to a McDonald’s drive-thru. Ah, yes, free again.

This is an article from the Boston Herald summarizing his interview on 60 Minutes.

[60 Minutes interviewer James] Brown asked, “You cried a number of nights? About?”

Vick replied, “About what I did. Being away from my family. Letting so many people down. Letting myself down. Not being out on the football field. Being in a prison bed, in a prison bunk, writing letters home … All because of the so-called culture I thought was right, I thought it was cool, I thought it was fun and exciting. It all led to me lying in a prison bunk by myself — with nobody to talk to but myself.”

Why else do we eat fast food other than “because of the so-called culture I thought was right, I thought it was cool, I thought it was fun and exciting”? It surely isn’t remotely good for us, and it runs the inherently brutal and cruel factory-farm food producing culture. Perhaps, like the undeniably sick things that were done to those poor dogs, both processes are, in different ways, addicting. We are blindly addicted.

Brown asked Vick whom he blamed for what happened.

Vick said, “I blame me.”

Yes, first and foremost, blame Vick, by all means, for the torture of those poor dogs, and then perhaps mention a culture whose biggest businesses are things like weapons that are too foul to describe what they do, drugs whose illegality support incarceration and massive wealth and privilege for suppliers, and utterly cruel animal slaughtering factories that produce the raw materials for disease-producing fast food. All this in a rich (okay, bankrupted) culture where millions of children have no health care whatsoever.

Similarly for the cruelty of fast food production, I blame first and foremost the fast food giants and their advertisements for addictive, disease-inducing food—food served in schools, no less.

And how about a political (and parental) culture that can actually continue this endless, vital, yet possibly hopeless debate about health care reform, and not mention such white elephant-in-the-room-reasons the costs are so out of control? Three main reasons: fast food (and processed food), alcohol and cigarettes.

I blame the consumer, of course, too. It ain’t easy being human.

The “60 Minutes” piece recounted the downfall of Vick, who bankrolled and participated in an interstate dogfighting operation called Bad Newz Kennels on a farm he owned in rural Virginia. Police removed 66 injured dogs and exhumed the bodies of eight more. Vick pleaded guilty to being part of an operation that engaged in a litany of cruel acts upon animals that included beating, shooting, electrocuting and drowning them.

Is this not an accurate description of at least a proportion of a massive (and thus the proportion is massive) factory farm industry that does this to multi-millions of animals everyday? Animals systemically abused for food that often is anything but healthy. Is that not, by some definition in a sane world, criminal?

Brown said pointedly [good job, James], “Horrific things, Michael.”

Yes James, they were horrific things. Please do a truly in-depth expose on factory farming, and the fast food market that is a monstrous and important reason health care reformation can never really work in America (and is difficult everywhere else)—people just do not take care of their own health. Politicians will barely, if at all, speak out against eating food that is a nutritional wasteland—indeed, supports countless ugly diseases, from heart disease to diabetes to obesity.

Imagine the outrage if a craze for putting shit into gas tanks actually swept the nation. But these aren’t gas tanks, these are consumers—I mean kids.

Vick said, “It was wrong, man. I don’t know how many times I got to say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel tremendous hurt (by) what happened. I should have (taken) the initiation to stop it all. And I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.”

Will 60 Minutes, or any major media conglomerate or newspaper, be a leader?

Brown asked if he agreed or disagreed that it showed “a lack of moral character” that he did not stop it.

Vick said, “I agree.”

I agree too. For both parties. One, evidently a damn good athlete of not that great intelligence. The other party? Well, you decide what they are, if not hypocritical, unrepentant and ignorant…

I am a freedom guy. A vice is seldom a crime. I would not criminalize hard drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or fast food. However, fast food production in a sane society actually may be a crime for what it systematically does to other sentient beings, who have no choice in the matter (this includes not only the animals, but the kids who eat them ad nauseum).

Crime or not, if I had a bigger voice, I would make fast-food cost its true cost, which would be exorbitant. Why? Just take out all tax-payer subsidies to agribusiness—which are anti-free market after all—and charge companies (and the consumer) for environmental externalities.

And just like a red-light district, I would also push all fast-food restaurants and slaughterhouses to a fast-food district, maybe call it an animal-cruelty district, and people can go there if they really can’t stop themselves.

It wouldn’t be pretty, but at least it would be more honest. Both Jim Brown of 60 Minutes and Michael Vick could do the interview there, over the factory-farm carcasses I am sure they enjoy.

Here’s to trying to support as many beings at being as happy and free as possible, in a demanding world,

Pete

Pro-God, Pro-War, Pro-Dictator, Anti-Labour (a theme, perhaps?): “The Family”—a curious Christian/Political Organization brought to you since 1935

Friday, August 7th, 2009

“The Fellowship’s reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp.”
—David Kuo, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives

There is a fifteen-or-so minute interview from the CBC show the Current this morning about the low-profile, high-impact religious conservative group called The Family. Also known as The Fellowship, the group minister and promote the elite—that is to say, in the ideology of The Family, those in power are chosen by God. And it is the Powerful whom The Family support.

They minister to the elite, and not just in America.

They are fond of dictators.

Beginning in 1935, The Family/Fellowship are to me, anyway, a deeply bizarre amalgamation of ideologies beginning with a Roman Christianity sensibility. In other words, politicized Christianity, Christianity with a fist—from so-called biblical capitalism to Union busting. Workers, by this logic, are mistreated because God wants it that way. Outgrowths have included relationships with some of the worst dictators, for example Suharto in Indonesia, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti, and Said Barre in now lawless Somalia.

Believe it or not, The Family boards American Senators at a housing complex-cum-church (ie tax exempt) in Washington DC known as C Street. Three recent live-in Senators include Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Mark Sanford. Some lived there and some even philandered there (affairs known about by The Family for months, perhaps longer, before the press was even vaguely up to speed). The Family would then counsel the cheating Senator through the affair and the fallout.

Incidentally, The Family counsels these Senators not to resign. Why? Because these Senators are chosen not by the electorate, ultimately, but by God.

The Family/the Fellowship use the biblical King David as a role model. Not for what most people admire David for—standing up for the little guy (himself), against the dreaded Goliath. But for understanding power. When David in the bible had a heavenly, to be sure, extra-marital affair, he killed his mistress’ husband. That’s power. The King is dead, long live the King.

Doug Coe, their present-day Leader, says that, paraphrasing, I think they said, ironically, it was Hitler, Lenin and Mao who, this past century, best understood the New Testament. Why? Because the New Testament was not about love, it was about power.

POWER over RELIGION

What this indicates, to me at least, is that the Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris often-very-justified attack on fundamental religion is slightly misguided—or, at least, incomplete. Power overthrows everything, and the powerful, in myriad ways, stick together. Thus atheistic communism (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot) or any other dictatorship (Barre, Duvalier, Hitler, Suharto etc), regardless of religious or non-religious affiliation, fit right in, and should not necessarily be separated.

Their ideology is Power.

The religion is secondary, if necessary at all. Just a good -ism and a hatred for most common folk will suffice. But to see this truism would diminish their Religion-is-the-Problem (and it is a problem!) polemic, not to mention book sales. Attack power and religion (and what the hell, throw in unconscious science), and who will publicize your book?

In short, low grade thinking dressed up in Power will exist whether this vast topic and spectrum called religion exists or not. Low grade science is awful, too (brilliant science creating hellish poisons, weapons etc). Low level thinking in communism, socialism, capitalism, atheism. They’re all brutal on the spirit, freedom, sustainability and compassion expansion. Low Grade Thinking in High Grade Power is the shadow of this world.

Ironically, one of The Family’s main guys in Africa is Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who was a major part of the film Uganda Rising.

By the way, even the not-so-Leftist CIA called Suharto’s coup in 1965 one of the worst revolutionary crackdowns of the 20th century, killing possibly a million people.

The Family, evidently, was even inspiration for the sci-fi film The Blob, an early—very early—Steve McQueen vehicle. It’s all just plain weird, and perhaps dangerous, in an inconceivably bizarre world.

The interview is here. Press Part II, not Part I.

The good news is The Family has had very little success breaking in to Canadian politics.

Vaya con dios! Jiminy Crickets. Naw, go with love. And try to laugh, but cry if you have to! Breakfast Prayer, anyone?

Pete xo

CARBON TAX: Another Speculative Bubble Opportunity for the Banks?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

At the end of Matt Taibbi’s punishingly concise article in the Rolling Stone, called Inside The Great American Bubble Machine, he wrote:

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.

Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm’s co-head of finance.)

By most any intelligent person’s judgment, this is undeniably a tag-team; mutual special interest operations digging into a guaranteed-by-law trough of unending cash from the tax-payer. What else could trillions of virtually inconceivable bailout dollars be? But here’s the bit that I don’t understand. Actually, I barely grasp any of it, so far from my instinctual interests.

Nonetheless, Taibbi goes on to say:

And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion-dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that [Goldman Sachs] gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an “environmental plan,” called cap-and-trade. The new carbon-credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that’s been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won’t even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

Can anybody explain that, and how it would speculatively work (pun intended), or post a good link? My pre-economic mind can’t understand it. Suffice to say, it’s no surprise that anything moving toward sustainable living, not directly tied to fossil fuels and growth—in fact quite the opposite—would be co-opted by certain interests.

Keep loving, keep learning,

Pete xoxo

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

BANKS, BAILOUTS and BULLSHIT: If You’re Logical Enough, You Can Get Away With Anything

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

“By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

I read today:

President Barack Obama’s $75 billion plan to [refinance mortgages etc to] keep millions of Americans from losing their homes to foreclosure may be doomed to fail because banks simply don’t want to refinance mortgages.

That is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which found only 3% of seriously delinquent borrowers (those more than 60 days behind in their payments) had their loans restructured by lenders.

Restructured doesn’t even mean saved (or bailed out). It just means helped. Now granted, as Jenifer McKim wrote in the Boston Globe:

The lenders [banks] may have compelling reasons not to find new borrowers to help, according to the study. For example, up to 45 percent of borrowers who did receive some kind of help on their loans ended up in arrears again, the study found. Conversely, about 30 percent of delinquent borrowers are able to fix their problems without help from their lenders.

But what does this say about the clearly known idiocy of this particular bail-out ideology—tax-payer money—in the first place? Is that not fraud?

And if it’s tax-payer money, it’s by definition money from a group of people who, according to countless statistics, are already, per capita, up to their elbows in debt. What kind of sense is that?

Suddenly a bunch of tax-paying citizens, massively in debt, and against their own desires and instincts (if we have any left), are, by the continuing stroke of a fast-writing pen, turned into little public lending institutions (actually aid institutions) to help out, well, uh, big, private lending institutions.

According to the prescient Federal Reserve, in 2007, consumer debt—not including mortgage debt—was around $8,500 for every person in the US. Every person. Extrapolating, if you and your partner (or ex-partner) have, say, three kids, on average you’re $42,500 dollars in debt. Again, before the mortgage. Or put another way, before the foreclosure.

However, if one considers cumulative debt, which would be calculated as follows: all government debt + all corporate debt + all personal debt all divided by the American population of just over 300 million, then the total debt per person in the United States is about $700,000 US, or, at 2.28 people per household, $2.17 million per household.

Geezuz Murphy. Think about it—without killing yourself or stockpiling ammunitions. What the hell does that mean? Something? Nothing? Everything? World Government Takeover? IMF restructuring? A big default because the US owns all the military hardware? I need a chai.

TANGLED UP IN BLUE (I mean Red)

Isn’t it fascinating how little can be understood with regards to what the heck is going on with the economy, with the bailouts, with banks, health insurance companies and everything else? Truly astounding. I can’t even comprehend my taxes. Seriously.

One thing is for sure, whatever is happening, it is so often utterly counter intuitive to the point—and this may be the point—that we abandon any serious involvement. It’s like living within the rules of quantum mechanics and thinking therefore we don’t really hurt when we fall off a building.

Despite all the economic collapse that the Federal Reserve fellas didn’t see coming (and, yes, countless others saw it coming for years), these same Federal Reserve non-seers get put back in a position to ‘repair’ or work on what they couldn’t see coming in the first place. And they get to use tax-payer money to do it. That’s got to fit the definition of a scam.

In fact I’m going to look up scam.

Scam, noun:

1. a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, esp. for making a quick profit; swindle.

Further, there are all these ‘spooky’ things (to quote Einstein) that go on with banks, like lending nine times over the money the average-person deposits in a bank, or the blight of compound interest on loans, or offering sub-prime mortgages to countless would-be homeowners who they knew couldn’t pay back.

And I know we ‘consumers’—primed from birth—are also often moronic, believing debt has virtually no meaning. Meanwhile, consumer debt has increased in the past couple of decades beyond all other debt types (corporate and government), percentage-wise—so clearly we all have the disease. Of course, it doesn’t help that real wages have, for so many, been stagnant for a long time (there is great argument about how stagnant, and for how long, and what this means).

Anyway, back to banks and loans et al: The in-general-bubble gets so massive that it bursts, and certain banks go down (or so it seemed). So with great logic the federal government bails out these banks with tax-payer money that doesn’t exist, and with that money that doesn’t exist, puts the banks in charge of helping out the folks with bad mortgages who they already duped (or at least co-duped).

As usual, the possibly compassionate yet ultimately ineffective congressman Barney Frank put it this way:

“The problem is worse than we thought. The failure to do these modifications means the whole situation stays bad longer.”

Great. Thank you. Call a committee!

Admittedly, I don’t really know what’s going on. That silly summary is just the best I can do, loosely, trying to understand what’s going on. Either way, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston put out this study saying that the $75 billion bailout to banks to help with these foreclosure diasasters, is barely being used at all for that purpose.

And somebody is supposed to be surprised?

“Loan modification is not profitable for lenders,” Boston Fed senior economist Paul S. Willen told The Boston Globe. “If it were profitable, they would go out and hire staff.”

Willens goes on to suggest:

Instead of giving the $75 billion to banks, Willen and others believe the administration should distribute the money directly to homeowners.

Did the banks and their rational, logical, cool-minded economists mention that before they got the $75 billion bail-out for, well, loan modification?

If they did, it had no power.

The game was all but over when the bailout happened. “Here fox, look after these chickens!” “Hey, pedophile, look after these kids!” “Hey banker…!” Or should we say bankster, as in gangster, as I believe FDR did?

Now there will be (or already is) some committee and some commission to check out what might have been illegally or ignorantly done and in the meantime the money will be gone, reused, rechanneled, or spent on bonuses, holidays or prostitutes on weekends away.

Bright people in positions of power have to have known this would happen (that’s their job!). Ah, well, back to my screenplay. Why didn’t I get an education?

The full article with links to the Boston Federal Reserve study is here.

May you have a house to live in (and may it also be a home),

Pete xo

CONSPIRACY! Now All We Need Is A Sustainable Counter Conspiracy

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Cool rational, educated people often mock so-called conspiracy theories. But conspiracies really do exist. For example:

In 1949, [nearly defunct] General Motors, [brutal colonialists] Firestone Rubber, and [stronger than ever] Standard Oil of California were convicted by a federal jury of criminally conspiring to replace electric mass transit with GM-manufactured diesel buses; in a noteworthy illustration of justice for corporations, the court fined GM $5000 and forced H.C. Crossman, the GM executive responsible for carrying out GM’s policy, to pay $1.00.

Before you mock the GM executive only having to pay one dollar in 1949, remember what that dollar was worth in 1949. In fact, here’s the answer. $1.00 from 1949 was worth the following in 2008:

$9.03 using the Consumer Price Index
$7.48 using the GDP deflator
$15.13 using the unskilled wage
$26.14 using the nominal GDP per capita
$53.37 using the relative share of GDP

Isn’t that fascinating? Here’s the page that calculates such things, from 1774 to the present.

Back to the original conspiracy.

Cities where GM managed to eliminate electric/rail systems, and replace them with buses and private cars, included New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.

This also happened in Vancouver, where just after the turn of the (19th) century Vancouver had an electric car system that actually far exceeded the needs or at least the size of the city. There was a route, that still exists today I believe, from Vancouver to Port Moody. Port Moody was a toss-up loser at the time to be the hub of the burgeoning metropolis.

There perhaps is no reason to believe these companies forsaw the environmental problems. Indeed, the term externalities was barely, if at all—not unlike now—included in the corporate profit plan.

That’s too bad, because these externalities (the bad ones) have played an unmitigated, unpaid for role in damaging the environment, some say irreparably, at least for us humans—and for countless other miraculous species, now long gone.

Externalities also play a massive role in the financial sector, for example, negative like gross inflation, inconceivable debt and economic collapse via speculation, irredeemable credit (and money) and endless public subsidy (subsidy pledged although the subsidy—money—doesn’t actually exist).

But back to the car. Lord knows most of us in the West have felt the seeming and real physical freedom and benefit from having a personal traveling package (a car) to scoot around in. The farther away work got, the more essential it became. Or was that what the electric transport system would have fulfilled?

I don’t know, but the original article begins:

The automobile did not come to dominate American transportation by chance or by public choice. It happened as part of a plan by auto makers to buy up and destroy mass transit companies.

General Motors led the way.

As recently as the 1920s, many American cities and towns were connected by a network of electric railroads and interurban trolleys. Within cities, electric street railways, trolleys, and elevated trains, moved large numbers of people easily and cheaply, with minimal congestion and pollution. But steel-wheeled electric/rail mass transit systems did not serve the needs of the automobile manufacturers and their allies in the steel, rubber, glass, concrete, and oil industries.

Beginning in the 1920s, General Motors began investing in mass transit systems. According to historian Marty Jezer (and Congressional hearings held in 1974), between 1920 and 1955, General Motors bought up more than 100 electric mass transit systems in 45 cities, allowed them to deteriorate, and then replaced them with rubber-tired, diesel-powered buses. Buses are more expensive, less efficient, and much dirtier than electric/rail systems. (And of course automobiles are even less efficient than buses, by far.

The full short article from 1995 is here.

Anyway, what the conspiracy of (the nearly defunct) GM, (criminally colonial) Firestone and (stronger than ever) Standard Oil tells me, is that with the right leadership, the right intention, the right understanding, and endless, relentless citizen demand, an opposite conspiracy can develop. And evidently, the sooner the better, to say the least.

We’ll see what happens. Either way, start a positive conspiracy with love and language. Just do it. You deserve a break today.

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 RUSE of FREE MARKET MYTHOLGY: BILL GATES, SR, on PUBLIC SUBSIDY and PRIVATE PROFIT

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Way back I was engaged in a debate based on the idea that tax-payer subsidies in research and development have helped create a lot of wealth for private individuals.

Noam Chomsky in What Uncle Sam Really Wants (1991, pg 13) put it this way:

“The government has the public pay for research and development and provides a state-guaranteed market for waste production. If something is marketable, the private sector takes it over. That system of public subsidy and private profit is what is called free enterprise.”

In my original pieceDOES NOT COMPUTE: SUBSIDIZED HIGH TECH and the GATES to the FUTURE—I was referring to how public subsidy played a significant role in the development of the computer, I think, which went on into more private hands to make trillions, and be a marvelous machine for personal use in the process. Just today in fact I was at a wedding where a business associate of mine married his Blackberry.

Oh, ‘Gates to the Future’ was a play on Bill Gates’ name.

Anyway, I got flack for an idea that I really believe is statistically undeniable, and thus countered those comments here.

But was I right to hint that Bill Gates’ vast fortune isn’t simply the result of personal ingenuity and free market capitalism, but indebted to tax-payer R&D along the way? I don’t know—and believe you me I’m often wrong—but either way the point was echoed explicitly in the film The One Percent by none other than Bill Gates, Sr., of all people:

“People who have been enabled to accumulate very, very large wealth, have an indebtedness to society for having made that possible. They live in a place which generates individual wealth…[inaudible] for the micro-processor, the human genome, research—the Internet. None of those things would exist but for the 90 billion dollars that the federal government [the tax-payer] spends every year on basic research.

People don’t really see the role that, the use of tax-dollars, plays in making our economy so vibrant.”

And I don’t quote this in support of bigger taxes, at all. And god knows I am against a bigger State. I write it simply to reiterate what appears to me utterly obvious, regardless of dogma: free market is a euphemism for something that is often deeply—in many ways—subsidized and protected.

By the way, The One Percent is directed by Jamie Johnson, one of the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson mega-empire.

Bill Sr. can be seen below, starting around 4:10, being honest regardless of his son. Actually, clearly his son knows this too—and god love him for the hundreds of millions he and his wife have relentlessly poured into desperate causes:

FREE (of truth) TRADE

From, say, the criminal sugar subsidies out of Florida, punishing, (to the rest of the world) Agribusiness subsidies (massive, and deathly for the small farmer), the opening and/or protecting of markets through war (the oil market, for example—and remember opium? Ah, British free trade) and on and an and on—oh yeah, those free market bail-outs!—and the mix of, say, weapons and free trade that China is vilely exporting into Africa, I get truly sad endlessly hearing this talk of the so-called free market. Heck, I can’t even work in the States. Some free market.

And I think this manipulative mythology has contributed to the blindness that has prevented us from seeing the inconceivable debt madness and economic heist of the present day. In this climate of so-called free market we actually saw this lethal combination: grand subsidies and massive deregulation. In short, those who knew how to really play the game and find the loop-holes and send the lobbyists and fix the books (even legally), they got a virtual free-for-all—and I do not exclude from that group the piggy-ness of we middle-class consumers, whose debts ballooned pathologically over the last fifteen years.

Or to quote Mahatma Gandhi, loosely, because I see a lot of different versions of this quote:

“The Lord gave enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

But I do believe, slowly, maybe, we’re learning by thinking, as best we can, of the life of our great, great grandchildren.

Lots of love to you,

Pete xox

PS Getting Bill Jr.’s dad to back my thoughts about Bill Jr. and his computer fortune is a bit like this Marshall McLuhan moment in Annie Hall. And all that said, it doesn’t make it true—and it sure as heck won’t change public opinion. Nonetheless:

Woody: “If life were only like this…”

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

The ADDICTION of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Insite and the Seeking of Insight on the War On Drugs

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

If it wasn’t for Insite or Onsite, I guarantee I’d be dead for sure. There’s no question about that. I didn’t see any future in my life. Now things are working out for me…We’re all human beings just trying to find our little spot in the world. And some people have got dealt cards that aren’t the greatest. Today I’ve got a choice, and before I didn’t see the choice. For me, the choice is never to use again, no matter what.
—Guy, 39, recovering addict. Started doing heroin at 16. He’s also had long term jail sentences for armed robbery.

As the Federal Government—still in direct line with American and Bush policies on the failed-miserably War on Drugs—goes to court to fight the judges’ ruling (I believe that Insite can continue to operate), this article from the Courier.

As I read how some of these people live utterly miserable lives on the streets or in bed-bug infested hotels, and desperately stick needles full of tainted heroin into veins in the head or neck (also, see the first chapters of Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, if you dare), I can’t believe anybody thinks these actions are done by choice, in any sane sense of the word.

The Courier article is here.

Imagine for a moment if medications/painkillers for all life-style induced diseases were made illegal—like Type II diabetes (80-90% lifestyle induced according to the WHO), smoking or fat-eating induced heart disease, or alcohol induced organ disease, to name only some obvious medical and medical system disasters? Big Pharma would go broke.

Severe drug addiction often has root causes that the rest of us would flinch and cringe even hearing about, let alone having to experience. It seems to me that harm reduction is a compassionate and pragmatic objective.

In 1875, US Constitutional expert Lysander Spooner wrote:

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property.

Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.

Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

In vices, the very essence of crime—that is, the design to injure the person or property of another—is wanting.

Unless, of course, we criminalize the vice. Then the side-effects of a person’s vice begin to reach all of us in much larger amounts.

More love and compassion to you and yours, whether warm in bed, dreaming peacefully, or brutalized by the mere experience of being alive—and all else in between,

Pete xox