Archive for the ‘Human Nature’ Category

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.

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.

FOOD and HEALTH CARE: The Avoided Curse

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about to all of us?

The full article is here.

Eat well and try to be happy,

Pete xox

FAITH, FACT and REALIZED-KNOWLEDGE

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I like this comment from transpersonal psychologist Charles Tart. It can, of course, be taken on many levels, expanded or discarded etc. Nonetheless:

“I think we need to have deep spiritual values, and they have to come out of experiences that really teach us at a deep level. They can’t come by somebody preaching at us and telling us how we should feel and so forth. We need a spirituality in our culture that taps into what is real, and taps-in in a deep way, so it will stand up to the stress of everyday life.”

I like this one, too—it made me laugh out loud, humbly:

“We’re all idea junkies. It feels good to have a clever idea that seems to make sense of our world.”

This comes from this interview which I listened to with much enjoyment. And now, nearly two in the morning, and still not enlightened, I need to go to bed…

Sending you tons of transpersonal 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

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

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

FACING ALI in Los Angeles

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

“If you even dream of beating me you better wake up and apologize.”
—Muhammad Ali

We haven’t had any newspaper reviews yet for Facing Ali, but received three much appreciated online five star reviews from people at the Seattle International Film Festival. This is one that I could read over more than once:

(May 29, 2009) Floats like a butterfly…

By Richard Erwin

“…stings like a bee. A fantastic movie. It reminds you of what boxing is for so many who’ve attempted it—a way out of a bad life, and no guarantee that you’ll get what you seek, even when you’ve achieved it. The interviews with each of the boxers that faced Ali were each a gem in their own right, but taken together….one of the best sports, hell, documentaries about lives, and what bound them together, ever.”

SILVERDOCS

Had a great time in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC, at the SilverDocs festival. The crowd for Facing Ali was wonderfully animated. It’s really fulfilling to the see the film with a crowd. The Q&A was moderated by the very well-informed sports journalist David Dupree—and I met many terrific, interesting people. There’s another showing tomorrow night, the 22nd, at 8:pm.

I went into DC on the morning of the screening and took some archival b-roll of the city! After all, one never knows what the next project might be (but one does know archive will be expensive!), and with the White House, the Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Federal Reserve and the Capitol Dome all within a fifteen minute walk of each other (some minutes apart), and a little High Def camera in my hands, well, I couldn’t resist. Got a quick ‘don’t-do-that’ from security for using a foot long Joby tripod trying to get decent shots of the marble President Lincoln, but it all worked out. What a statue that is. It’s etched in my ol’ gray matter from Mr Smith Goes To Washington—and, yes, that film is a few decades before my time.

It was surreal to see it all. Couldn’t get within a half mile of the White House. The rumour was helicopters were landing there. Two security guys were on the roof. Well, I hope they were security guys.

It’s heartbreaking to see the names of the something like 59,000 American soldiers who were killed during the invasion of Vietnam, all engraved on the Vietnam monument. 59,000. And then to consider for a moment that something like 3.4 million people died in Indochina altogether during that horrific war (I guess horrific as an adjective for war is redundant). I say Indochina because one should never forget the horrific and illegal (wasn’t it all illegal?)—well, even more illegal carpet bombings of Cambodia and Laos.

LAFF

Facing Ali is then in LA on the 27th and 28 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and I heard there was a coming-to-theatres-soon TV commercial for the Facing Ali, which is exciting. May it come to Vancouver!

From the LAFF website:

Gorgeously shot [the Red Camera—shot beautifully by Ian Kerr] against the rich reds and browns of boxing rings, gyms and arenas, Facing Ali tells the stories of ten men who faced the charismatic, fast-talking dynamo some believe was the greatest fighter of all time: Muhammad Ali.

Using dynamic graphics [graphics by the super creative Jeremy Unrau] and gorgeous archival footage to quickly set down the facts of Ali’s life and career, McCormack delves into the history of each contest and the boxer who fought it. Forgoing testimony from sportswriters and celebrity fans [and no narration], McCormack lets these ten men tell their story and Ali’s entirely in their own words [I can't express how great and diverse the ten guys were—Cooper, Chuvalo, Terrell, Frazier, Norton, Foreman, Lyle, Shavers, Leon Spinks, Holmes].

The history they reveal is unexpectedly moving. The chance to fight Ali was life changing, and many acknowledge that boxing is a profession of last resort for the poor. The film also reveals the darker side of the confidence and drive that helped make Ali the hero he is but also may have kept him in the ring longer than he should have stayed. As one of his opponents [Ron Lyle] notes, “You can lose your life giving the people what they want to see.”

In sum, it was a thrill to be in DC and at the festival in Silver Spring—and inspiring to see people so moved and enthused and touched by these ten great boxers, who fought Muhammad Ali, as they tell their rich stories.

Looking forward to LA. I’ll be in attendance for both viewings.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

THE QUESTION: Why is the world so beautiful?

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is staggering.
—Buckminster Fuller

For the record, a sage, a yogi, says we’re never alone.

I just got home from a class on Vedic knowledge, the so-called Hindu scriptures, from Jeffrey Armstrong, who studies said knowledge all day, every day—and has been doing so for decades.

And I’m wearing a T-shirt that says Drink Chai, See God. And nearby is a pillow that says: We are inconceivably, simultaneously, one and different.

By beautiful, by the way, I think I also mean compelling—which is an inherent quality of beauty. If that wasn’t true, if the world wasn’t those things, why would we want to stay here?

Because it’s so average? This world is not average.

NON-RANDOM THOUGHTS

Nor can it be said, I think, by any deeply honest person, that it is random. Is your house random? It randomly arose? Try living randomly, even for a moment, let alone a day. You will, to be sure, end up in the wrong house, with a toothbrush in the wrong orifice, eating a shoe. And if that’s not proof enough about great non-randomness, you’ll likely get non-randomly arrested, or institutionalized, or beat up for being in the wrong house, brushing your butt, randomly chewing a shoe.

Can the world be both random and non-random? If so, what does this mean? And if it has no meaning, then saying it has no meaning has no meaning. There is, in truth, meaning in saying it has no meaning. The inherent meaning cancels the meaningless statement.

NON-RANDOM JOY

So if I can really know this, about the beauty of this place, if I can remain relaxed yet freely conscious, aware of this inconceivable beauty, why aren’t I at least more excited, overall, all the time? And if I’m not, can I consciously choose to be more excited?

Can I? If not, why carry on? Hoping I might randomly feel more joyful?

The Taoists say ‘Just smile.’ Try walking down the street just non-randomly smiling. Guaranteed it’ll make you laugh out loud, or at least smile.

Why do I get upset by totally predictable things, like change? Do I have to be?

SEEING THROUGH NEW EYES

What if something from within, some blissful understanding—known as ananda to the yogis—a joy arising from a one-pointed yet relaxed state of understanding, were to shine on whatever I’m seeing, hearing, experiencing, making it new and beautiful?

This ananda is by Vedic definition inner joy or bliss that one feels utterly independent of what is happening externally. It is what they call your true nature…

Thinking about this, I wonder what it would take to see things as they really are; life as it really is: new. How she/he/it works, moves, feels, thinks, manifests, wants, waits, needs, moves etc., is always new.

NON-RANDOM CONSCIOUSNESS

Am I forever forced to respond to such things with varying degrees of unhappiness or happiness from my experiencing them—or feel nothing? Or is there some way for my experience, my consciousness, to elevate the relationship to greater joy than I am experiencing now (in my already deeply privileged life), with whatever passes?

That is the question. To ask, remember and smile. To exhale and smile. To smile and smile. To put a smile in my eyes, in my heart, my thoughts, my smile.

Can I relax into that joyous commitment?

If the seemingly existential nature of the previous lines (I actually wrote them them with complete practicality in mind) frustrate you, anger you or bore you, try smiling instead—with joy. Do we have a choice to be joyful or sad, content or angry? Observe your next emotion and find out.

If yes, and you choose to be some unsettled emotion by what has been written, why?

I want to non-randomly practice believing, ‘Yes, I have a choice,’ and walk and breathe from that stance, that asana. Tonight, yes I can. Gosh I’m excited. Okay, I’m also tired. And you’re gorgeous, for the record, even if temporary.

Joy, in the madness. Beauty, or even belief in beauty to come, outweighs the pain. Clearly, or why would we want to stay? Wanting to be here, somehow beauty must trump everything.

May you experience big, joyous, unstoppable beauty…love. And if I go to bed hoping this changes someone, or converts them in some way, I will wake up with anxiety. None of it’s in my hands. So I’m simply going to exhale, laugh—ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!—and go to bed next to one I love very much, and try to remember to smile.

Yours transincidentally,

Yogi Barely

REFORM VIA STRANGE CIRCUMSTANCES: From Anti-Immigration/Racism to Canada’s First Drug Law

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

“…it’s misleading to say the Left has usually been in favour of a strong State and the Right a weak State [what a joke, anyway]. The question is, really, what did they want the State to do? To smash poverty, or smash heads? To break up monopolies or break unions? To end poverty or exterminate native people? Much of the Left and the Right have called for State intervention; the real question is, for what purposes?
—Mark Leier

Why do reforms happen? Well, the reasons are infinite, of course, depending on time, place and circumstance, and who knows what else (follow the money). But I was just reading about how labour movements in Western Canada, around the turn of the century, and in a noble fight for dignity (safety, fair pay etc) were so against immigration from Europe (Italians, Slavs) and even more so China, Japan and India.

The policies were for some, I am sure, pragmatism gone awry—cheap labour killed whatever power a union could get—for others, thick racism.

I thought you might find this interesting, from the year 1900:

1900 – [Mega industrialist] James Dunsmuir is elected Premier of [British Columbia], after running on a platform that focused on Asian exclusion. He took this to a level that none of his competitors could match [or afford], by promising voters that he would replace all of the Asian workers at his Nanaimo mines with Europeans.

It gets even uglier seven years later:

1907 – 7 September – A rally organized by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League and the trade unions of Vancouver was held at city hall in Vancouver to protest increasing Asian immigration to Canada.

Many white workers perceived these immigrants as threats to their jobs in the resource industries, because existing white chauvinism was exacerbated by the employment of Asian immigrants at far lower wages.

The rally, which attracted 8000 people, quickly became violent, and an attack was launched on Vancouver’s Chinatown. Thousands of dollars of damage was done to buildings as marchers smashed windows and shouted racist slogans.

The Chinese community in Vancouver declared a three-day general strike in protest, and armed themselves with rocks, sticks and guns in preparation for a return attack. A second riot did occur, a few days later, when the local papers published accounts of Asians buying up guns. The police intervened in the second riot, but not before residents of Chinatown, perched on the roofs of their buildings, rained a hail of rocks and bottles down on the invading mob.

Despite the willingness of the attacked minorities to defend themselves when it came to physical danger, they were entirely without weapons in the legislatures, courts and popular press in Canada.

The full piece is here.

This, for me, is big pause for contemplation as to what is truly behind anti-immigration laws, and the opposite, in different countries. Racism? Labour protection? Labour crushing?

Anyway, just after reading the above, I read the following excerpt from a doctoral thesis by Catherine Carstairs called ‘Hop Heads’ and ‘Hypes’: Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961 (my italics):

Canada’s first drug law was the indirect result of anti-Asian riots on the West Coast in 1907.’ [see above]

The government sent Deputy Minister of Labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King [who would later become Prime Minister of Canada], to investigate the riots and the claims for compensation.

One of the claims was by several opium manufacturers who up until that time had been operating openly and legally on the West Coast. When he was in British Columbia, members of a Chinese anti-opium league called upon King and asked for the government’s help in their efforts to discourage and prevent the manufacture and sale of opium.

King subsequently tabled a report that warned that opium smoking was not confined to the Chinese in British Columbia and that it was spreading to white women and girls. He quoted a newspaper clipping that told the story of a pretty young girl who had been found in a Chinese opium den.

His report reviewed the progress of the anti-opium movement in China [despite the British and the Opium Wars, their demanding free trade of the product!], the United States, England and Japan, leaving the impression that Canada was far behind in this international moral reform movement!

Some things really never do change.

A few weeks later the Minister of Labour introduced legislation prohibiting the manufacture, sale and importation of opium for other than medicinal purposes. The legislation passed without debate.

Three years later the government prohibited the use of opium and other drugs.

In 1911, the sale or possession of morphine, opium or cocaine became an offense carrying a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a $500 fine. There was no minimum penalty. Smoking opium was a separate offense and carried a maximum penalty of $50 and one month imprisonment. Again, there was no minimum penalty.

Racist unions, who by definition defend the little guy? The Democrats voting down the Civil Rights Act in 1965? The ‘fiscally responsible’ Reagan Republicans turning the USA from the richest creditor nation to the world’s biggest debtor nation? and so on, and on and on. The bail out in countries that claim to be free market (and have never been).

Funny how we humans yearn for words to make sense of things, when slowly, so many words have ceased to have real meaning—other than to obfuscate. Is that the right word? I don’t know—other than to confuse us.

Anyway, history I found tonight, that I thought you might find provocative.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

SUZAN MAZUR: Evolution, Epigenesis (and Epigenetics), Embryology and Funding

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Suzan Mazur, god love her, is on a relentless tear to force the media (and in some cases, the scientific community itself) to keep up and fairly and honestly promulgate the ever-expanding ideas on the Darwinian view of the theory of evolution. In some ways, evolutionary biologists have been the slowest to adjust (or maybe I just like to write that last sentence). Whatever, it’s a simply remarkable field, and Suzan Mazur is working it. Life, this wondrous life.

Suzan has written this online book—The Altenberg 16: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up?— which has wonderfully probing interviews, comments and quick exchanges in it (from Stuart Kauffman, Stuart Newman and Jerry Fodor to Richard Dawkins).

This is a revealing interview with Scott Gilbert, whose abstract from a recent paper is as follows, abbreviated:

In 1893, Thomas Huxley, wrote, “Evolution is not a speculation but a fact; and it takes place by epigenesis.” Note that evolution’s chief defender did not complete his sentence with the phrase “natural selection,” for Huxley was interested in the generation of the diversity needed for natural selection. That phase of evolution was regulated by development. Recent work has established five main mechanisms for the generation of anatomical diversity through changes in development, and this talk will review them and provide examples from the recent literature.

The short yet interesting interview with Gilbert is here.

An excerpt:

Scott Gilbert: They like the conflict theory. I found the Brooks’ article. It’s the February 18, 2007 David Brooks NYT column—and I’m quoting: “From the content of our genes and the lessons of evolutionary biology it has become apparent that nature is filled with competition and conflicts of interest.”

Suzan Mazur: Well he’s a vehicle of the economic status quo.

Scott Gilbert: Of the right. Yes. But I think that’s how evolution is taught. It comes around to what Huxley was saying about human nature, that we will use evolutionary biology to justify ourselves. And that in saying that nature is inherently amoral and self-interested—well, we’re just part of nature. We justify our doing evil things because we say our genes made us do it. Darwinian selection. We’ve been selected to be competitive bastards. We don’t usually hear about any other model, say, that we are the current pinnacle of the evolution towards cooperation.

Lots of love to you, and grand amounts of joyous, wonderful, even sexy cooperation in the complexity—and may such ideas find their way into National Geographic and the New York Times,

Pete xo

Portugal and the War on Drugs: Compare it to Mexico

Friday, May 1st, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

So ask yourself who benefits?

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

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

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

Pete

FLU OFF THE HANDLE: Gas Wars, Factory Farms and Middle East Conflicts

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

One can never predict tomorrow, in any sense of the word, except that it will most likely arrive. Here are a few adverts from the Swine Flu threat of 1976, where some 40 million people decided to get vaccinated, and no epidemic took place.

I think oil was also a big problem around that time too, with OPEC. Actually, I think that was 1973, with certain Arab countries responding to the US’s supplying Israel militarily during the Yom Kippur War (wow, some things really do never change).

Anyway, I was born in 1965, and I recall, as a kid, people saying in the 1970s that if gas every reached a dollar a gallon, there would be a revolution.

What’s it at now? And heck, water is even more expensive. I wonder where that may lead.

The only unstoppable, outrageous uprising turned out to be Exxon’s profits, while the US fought a war of protectionism, with tax-payer money, on Big Oil’s behalf. The cost? Hundreds of thousands of lives, an ever expanding debt, worldwide distrust and who knows what kind of environmental disaster and increased terrorism…

Almost entirely for a diminishing resource. That’s what I call short term planning.

What a world. What an experiment! What an opportunity to stand with dignity, and refine oneself against the madness, and the potential. Good luck and big love,

Pete xoxo

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

Gratitude and Inner Work: Being in your own Business

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Not trying to be in your business, but I read what I find to be a very important and insightful passage from Gabor Mate’s wonderful book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts:

“I can only find three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s,” says the self-work teacher Byrin Katie in her book, Loving What is…

“For me,” Katie writes, “the word God means reality. Anything that’s out of my control, your control and everyone else’s control—I call that God’s business.”

Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, “You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself,” I am in your business…I realized every time in my life that I had felt hurt or lonely, I had been in some else’s business.

[I can totally relate—and it causes dis-ease, and pain, and frustration]

If you are living your life and I am mentally living your life, who is here living mine?

Being mentally in your business keeps me from being present in my own. I am separate from myself, wondering why my life doesn’t work.”

Or, to be more gentle, isn’t working towards a calmer, more grateful place, anyway.

I find this journey/cycle happens a great deal and consistently during my work/creative endeavors. It has to do with freedom and my perception of freedom, I think.

And so much energy willed to get something done, beautifully. I can’t imagine what this must be like for parents.

But I feel so much truth in what Kate and Gabor are saying. That said, I can’t quite see clearly as to how that precisely manifests in my life. The mind is very tricky, your best friend or your worst enemy—and everything in between. But I have the same feeling, and it’s a good meditation to remember.

And learning to surrender simply (with great difficulty!) by staying in my own business, being clear, loving, and letting the rest be God’s business, if you will, is always right for me.

Whenever I want something not in my business, I get not only lonely or hurt, but also frustrated or angry. And I think it’s their fault. Ha ha ha. I first saw this explained in the Bhagavad Gita, and I am sure it is explained in many places.

But in Chapter 2:47 of the Gita, I think, it says, paraphrasing, that ‘you are in control of your actions, but not the results of your actions.

That line really floored me. No wonder we have tantrums! But to think you can control the results of your actions is to, in a sense, usurp God, which may not be for the best, Richard Dawkins’ logic notwithstanding.

What I do know is frustration almost always arises whenever I do this. I want something beyond my control, and I start doing twists and groans to get it. I am no longer within myself. And it’s a tough lesson to learn. And it can be the simplest thing/desire/thought—but the mechanism is put in motion and the same contorted old frustration or sadness or feeling of futility comes knocking on my mind’s door. It’s like a self-induced voodoo doll.

Also, the results of these desires can manifest much later, in my experience—days, months, stemming from a lack of initial clarity, courage or humble confidence. It’s very subtle.

So not to be in your business, my dear friend, but meditation on this is so valuable to me.

The Bhagavad Gita also says of these misplaced desires, paraphrasing: ‘If these desires are met, greed increases. If they are not met, frustration arises, and frustration turns to anger.

Be on the compassionate lookout!

Smart book. Deep breath. Armed with yoga, stand and fight—and laugh, and breathe, and find gratitude for this inconceivable miracle that could be no other way.

Of course, that’s all your own business.

Lots of love,

Pete xoxo

A WHALE OF A RE-PRINT? Maybe not. You be the judge…

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

My friends, I just had a good conversation about a possible Greenpeace project, about anarchism and peaceful protesting, about how to protest, and such things, and if we as a species are doing enough, or too much etc, and it reminded me of this Paul Watson post I did a while back.

The piece is longer than life, but here it is anyway, and surely the whales—those amazing giants that certainly play a massive role in this miraculous eco-system and feel joy and suffering—are worth it.

What is terrorism? What is right? How far is too far? What will be looked back upon in a hundred years as heroic? As spineless? As pointless? Or with pride as a human family? Will there be a human family?

The piece was called:

A note to PAUL WATSON of the SEA SHEPHERD SOCIETY: You’re fucking CRAZY!

I don’t like writing this way, but I’m pissed off. Let’s get one thing straight: Paul Watson, “President” of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (nice name, by the way—not!) and lover of sea-urchins, whales and conservation etc—or put another way, human-hater—is crazy.

He’s a menace to things civilized. Just like those suffragettes, or civil rights marchers—like they weren’t armed? Right. Or those people fighting for the 8-hour-work-day. Or worse, he’s like—and these guys really get my goat: abolitionists. Remember them? “We’re against slavery!” Well, hotshots, we’ve still got slave labour, slave trafficking and all kinds of stuff, so where are you now? I suppose there are people fighting to end that too. Geezuz.

But Cap’n Paul Watson?

This prick is Gandhi on crack—and everyone knows what drugs do.

Actually, you can read the rest here, and give all the comments you want.

Here’s to love and more love, and less hypocrisy…

Pete

WAR ON DRUGS in CANADA: This is the best they can come up with?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I know it’s a profoundly difficult situation for countless emotional, practical, economic and life-threatening reasons to leaders etc, I am sure, but the following approach to the so-called War on Drugs, whether somewhat necessary or not, is still symbolic of our collective myopic thinking. From the Vancouver Sun:

Tens of thousands of workers at B.C. airports and ports are among 100,000 people nationwide who may be affected by a security crackdown announced by the Conservative government.

The initiative comes through a new deal signed this week by the federal Transport Department and the RCMP to weed out organized-crime [re: drugs] operatives from restricted areas, Canwest News Service has learned.

And then this:

Government [re: state] officials were not immediately able to explain how the new Transport Canada-RCMP agreement would improve individual privacy risks, nor could they provide cost estimates of running the detailed background checks.

Of course. And then this:

The RCMP released a report last year that warned there were more than 60 employees with links to organized crime at the country’s eight largest airports, and many organized gangs were found to be using the airports for some of their activities.

No kidding.

The full article is here. My views need not be repeated. And I don’t even expect change, but I would love true and honest, non-fear based conversation in the highest echelons of power and corruption. And you can be sure, excessive drug use within a culture—including alcohol and cigarettes—is a terrible yet instructive expression of a society’s health as a whole (or lack of whole).

Gabor Mate writes, with pages explaining this on either side, before it’s sloughed off as bleeding-heart etc:

The drug addict is today’s scapegoat. Viewed honestly, much of our culture is geared towards enticing us away from ourselves, into externally directed activity, into diverting the mind from ennui and distress. The hardcore addict surrenders her pretence about that. The rest of us can, with varying success, maintain our charade, but to do so, we banish her to the margins of society.

And could it be, with this denial, our social policies fail accordingly, ongoingly, and expensively? Granted, there is no cure for all ennui, all dislocation. But should we not seek, with inelligence and compassion, it’s overall improvement?

Just imagine the military force, security, incarceration and all out war that it will take in a so-called capitalist society to shut down one of the most extreme profit-margin commodities known on the planet—oil, gambling, pornography and other blatant addictions notwithstanding? And, just as we see in Mexico today, a ridiculous portion of the society will end up scarred, killed, interrogated and violated by state edicts, by the process—common citizens, you and I, our children.

Who are we kidding? What’s the deeper purpose? Or deeper ignorance?

I will quote, once again, Kash Heed, former Chief Constable of West Vancouver, who lays out the extraordinary market potential of opium. In short, as a profit-making venture in a profit-oriented world—in a world in so many places of inconceivable inequity—the lure of narco-trafficking profits are overwhelming.:

“The price paid to a Pakistani farmer for opium is approximately $90 a kilo. The wholesale price in Pakistan is almost $3000. The North American wholesale price is $80,000. On the street at 40% purity, the retail price is $290,000 (World Drug Report, 1997)…

Hear that. Ninety dollars a kilo to $290,000 on the street at 40% purity. Heed goes on to say:

“…People making vast profits from the drug market distance themselves from the activities on the street. They do not commit the crimes themselves, they manage criminal enterprises…Cutting off the supply at times is hopeless. The drug business is simply too profitable.”

Even Milton Friedman, in Newsweek Magazine in 1972:

“Why not simply end the drug traffic? That is where experience under Prohibition is most relevant. We cannot end the drug traffic…

So long as large sums of money are involved—and they are bound to be if drugs are illegal—it is literally hopeless to expect to end the traffic or even to reduce seriously its scope. In drugs, as in other areas, persuasion and example are likely to be far more effective than the use of force to shape others in our image…”

It’s so intoxicating, if you’ll excuse the pun, vast numbers of policemen in NYC in the early 70s were paid off—and paid more—for being involved or turning a blind eye.

Do we believe this doesn’t happen today? Us against them? And non-addicts against drug-addicts? Excuse me while I have my eighth cup of coffee etc. And just wait till after work and the fun starts, so I can really forget my day, our collective predicament…

Big money is difficult to turn down, virtually impossible, I would guess, under certain circumstances of stress, envy, poverty and/or greed.

From Friedman again:

“I readily grant that the ethical issue is difficult and that men of goodwill may well disagree [i do too]. Fortunately, we need not resolve the ethical issue to agree on policy. Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse—for both the addict and the rest of us. Hence, even if you regard present policy toward drugs as ethically justified, considerations of expediency make that policy most unwise…

When I’m quoting economist Milton Friedman, I must be desperate. We are all addicts in one way or another. Some legal. Some not. Some destroying ourselves. Others praised, yet destroying relationships. Others praised and destroying the environment, and the lives of countless others. And a mix of all I’ve said.

Love more,

Pete xox

PS: The quotes from Friedman and Kash Heed, and their links, can be found here, and followed accordingly.

VEGANISM and ANIMAL SUFFERING: Talk About Outrage—the response to the article is more revealing than the article

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

There’s an article in Salon.com called Don’t have a cow! with the byline Famous animal lover Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the author of “The Face on Your Plate,” talks about why you should consider giving up the burgers—and the fromage.

That’s it. Masson talks about the suffering of animals that we should at least be aware of. He actually says there is no way this society will ever give up, for example, cheese. I would have thought for a high percentage of people, more awareness of the horrendous treatment of animals in massive factory farms would have been relevant, even desired. Alas, not really. At least not with most who commented.

And of course Masson knows the world can’t be vegetarian, let alone vegan. Too many climates and economic constraints don’t allow it (let alone personal desires and bodily needs). And, yes, in the West vegetarianism is a privileged choice. But that has nothing to do with the suffering of probably tens of millions of animals (and the negative effects on health and the environment), everyday, pervasively and relentlessly, that could be lessened.

And don’t forget that in the West, children under ten or twelve or whatever not having to work is a right, but compared to the poorest countries, also somehow a privilege. That is also, most would agree, a good thing.

Masson is pointing out that precisely like our cats and dogs, whom we would never (or seldom!) eat, pigs, cows and even chickens and fish, also have emotions and feel intense pain. In the case of pigs and cows, deep pain.

The mental effects of the factory farm/slaughterhouse cycle is brutal in every way (probably on most workers, too)—including to the environment, evidently, with waste and badly used land and so on. Rats, for example, are shown to be far more likely to become addicted under confined, uncomfortable, unnatural conditions. Why should rats care? Maybe they feel.

Again, what was so shocking are the comments. People are outraged and furious at what he’s saying. I couldn’t believe the animosity, no pun intended. So many seem to be shouting so loudly, it’s like they’re trying to drown out what he’s saying about suffering.

It reminds me of what Chomsky said in an interview about the psychology behind something like colonialism.

The psychology behind this is kind of transparent. When you’ve got your boot on someone’s neck and you’re crushing them, you can’t say to yourself, “I’m a son of a bitch and I’m doing it for my own benefit.” So what you have to do is figure out some way of saying, “I’m doing it for their benefit.” It’s like when you punish a child. “It is for your good, I have to do it. It is my responsibility.”

Some in the comments just say this is the way of the world, eat or be eaten. By a chicken? By a man-eating cow? And anyway, we’re human, from which comes the word humane. Is the degree of suffering necessary? Does it not matter?

And of course there is a difference between a dog or a pig and a cabbage. From a humane point of view, the difference, as far as humans can ascertain, is the degree of pain a dog or pig clearly feels under abject conditions. We have no real idea if a plant actually experiences pain. Geezuz. Sad, man. People probably once believed slaves didn’t feel as their ‘enlightened’ masters did.

The comments in and of themselves, and extrapolated to other possibilities, are disconcerting, to say the least—but perhaps show what happens when the most basic instincts/needs of food/shelter/tribalism etc are questioned. An aspect of human nature is deeply revealed. But before anyone gets too depressed, it is good to remember also how beautiful and noble and evolving humans and human nature is and can be.

This, for me, is always cause for hope, and makes every next step an opportunity.

The article is here. The comments are here. What do you think?

Much love, and pity the animals, whose pain can barely even be heard about—without a massive backlash—let alone lessened. May at least health and environmental concern lead us to cut back on meat a little—and suffering as a by-product…

Lots of love,

Pete xoxo

I went back and looked at some more comments. My jaw is on the ground. It’s shocking to me. One after another…