Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Work, Free Time, and the Curious Case of Modern Technology

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Unfortunately, all external means of improving our life experiences are double-edged swords: they are always good and bad. No external remedy improves our condition without, at the same time, making it worse.
—Thomas Hora

This includes the always praised ‘work.’

Two could debate—if two ever wanted to—whether or not I am addicted to my work, or production, or something related. From a yogic point of view—a view that says ultimately we are not this body, we are a soul having a ‘this body experience’—I definitely identify myself with my work compulsion. That is not optimum in terms of minimizing self-ignorance.

But work/leisure/freedom etc are such curious things.

Today, we act like we have so much more than our parents and our parents’ parents. But in fact to get on average something like one extra room per house than our parents had, we work way more—two instead of one full time job—and have massive, uncontrollable debt.

Is that freedom? Is that the dream?

Either way, has technology saved us time? The amount of time I spend figuring out programs and technology in the filming/editing/sound aspects of movie-making is staggering, and likely unhealthy. I was reading bits of Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow, and I found out this misperception/hope is nothing new (pg 188).

“Inspired by the technological breakthroughs of the latter 1700s, [Ben Franklin] predicted that man would soon work no more than four hours week.

The nineteenth century made that prophecy look foolishly naive. In the dark satanic mills of the Industrial revolution, men, women and even children toiled for fifteen hours a day.

Yet at the end of the nineteenth century, the Age of Leisure popped up once again on the cultural radar. George Bernard Shaw predicted that we would work two hours a day by 2000.”

I’m not sure who ‘we’ are, I’m not sure what exactly we’re working for, and god knows what I really think working in a certain compulsive way will accomplish long term. Heck, long term I won’t even be here. All that will remain is my nervous energy, oscillating towards some distant gallery on the wings of Bell’s Theorem. Or will that be vibes of love, trust and calmness? What can be changed? Controlled?

“In 1956, RichardNixon told Americans to prepare for a four-day workweek in the “not too distant future.”

That’s happening now, but only because of lay-offs.

“A decade later, a US Senate subcommittee heard that by 2000, Americans would be working as little as fourteen hours per week….

One in four Canadians now racks up more than fifty hours a week on the job, compared to one in ten in 1991.”

Interesting, huh? What are we working for? Who are we working for? One thing is for sure, with people working so profoundly hard, and for so much time, a large drop in civic involvement, community and communication in general must be a side-effect.

This can’t be good.

Honoré writes (190):

Technology, meanwhile, has allowed work to seep into every corner of life. In the age of the information super-highway, there is nowhere to hide from email, faxes and phone calls…I know from experience that working from home can easily slide into working all the time.

Garl darnit, me, too! I don’t feel worthy (of what, god knows?), in a sense, unless I produce something I think is of value to someone—even these blogs. It’s a knot tied inside between a compulsion and wanting to be useful. A knot that is never loosened by accomplishment or anything else. Thus, a hamster wheel—and oh how the hamster longs!

From the Bhagavad Gita (Jeffrey Armstrong translation), Chapter 2:

47. As a human being, your strength lies in purposeful action but the results of your actions are beyond your control. Do not consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities but do not retreat into a state of inaction.

48. Perform your work in a balanced state of mind, O Arjuna, without attachment either to success or failure. Such equanimity of mind during action is called Karma Yoga.

So if you have the privileged luxury to ask why you’re working so much and hard, ask also who you’re working for, and what is propelling you to work so hard. For so many of us, it is simply an insatiable hunger for consumer goods—or is it? What a thing to throw one’s freedom away for. As I’ve heard before, “Enjoy yourself, the time is later than you know.”

The Taoists have a great way to begin a meditation.

I am sitting in the lap of my Mother. I love Her and She loves me. I am exactly where I’m meant to be. Now I shall meditate.

Please love yourself more, and breathe more deeply, and sit and feel the world, and that you are part of it; part of the rhythms of nature; you have an inherent right to be here, to breathe from a relaxed space, to love, to play, to increase community. Yes, this is your right. Say it over and over again…

Pete xoxox

Hillary Clinton’s insight and then lack of sincerity on the War on Drugs

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

One might think from certain choices and statements made by politicians, they’re on drugs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Mexico, for the record, has had tens of thousands of brutal War On Drugs/drug cartel-related killings over the last few years, and 7000 murders since January alone—and we thought it was bad in Vancouver lately, with our recent killings from drug wars here. In Mexico, common citizens, folks like you and me, have been flocking to the States and Canada, trying to get away from the violence resulting from the selling of illegal drugs.

And so Hillary, arriving in Mexico at the end of March, said, rightly:

MEXICO CITY, March 25—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Mexico on Wednesday with a blunt mea culpa, saying that decades of U.S. anti-narcotics policies have been a failure and have contributed to the explosion of drug violence south of the border.

The major force of the policies in terms of tax-paying dollars are increased enforcement (enforcement-related activities in Canada’s drug strategy make up 75 percent of our anti-drug policy), literally no discussion of decriminalizing or regulating illegal drugs (except of course the big killers tobacco and booze), and increased incarceration.

The result? Massively rich criminals (and I don’t just mean politicians and the weapon builders), the funding of covert wars, vast amounts of armed killings, no decrease in drug use and a terrifying rise in incarceration, a big factor in America, the land of the free, being the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. Never forget the world includes beacons of freedom like China, Russia and the Middle East.

Clinton states:

“Clearly what we’ve been doing [our anti illegal narcotic policies] has not worked,” Clinton told reporters on her plane at the start of her two-day trip, saying that U.S. policies on curbing drug use, narcotics shipments and the flow of guns have been ineffective.

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” she added. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians.”

She even…

…acknowledged that proceeds from drugs sold in the United States—an estimated $15 billion to $25 billion a yearsupport Mexican drug gangs.

Good on her. Brave statement: Weapons. Criminals making massive profits. Bad news. Now we’re getting somewhere. And obviously, as any sincere person would do, she then at least mentioned the idea of decriminalization to, if not diminish drug use, help put the criminals largely out of business, right?

Not so fast, Mr Progressive. Hillary’s ‘change’ in policy? Well, here it is:

…two years ago, [Mexican] President Felipe Calderan unleashed the Mexican military on traffickers, a move that has contributed to an explosion of violence by drug gangs. More than 7,000 Mexicans have been killed in the bloodletting since January 2008, with the gangs battling authorities and one another for supremacy.

…[Clinton praised] Calderan’s “courage”…announcing that the Obama administration is seeking $66 million in new funding for extra helicopters for the Mexican police. She also pledged further unspecified steps to block the movement of guns southward

Hmm. Remember the old commercial: ‘This is your brain on drugs’? A revamp: ‘This is a politician’s brain. This line of thinking is a politician’s brain on drugs.’

Hillary Clinton increased the war by increasing the weapons, making weapons-dealers richer, surely making illegal drugs more expensive, thereby increasing profits to the dealers their fighting, and consequently increasing desperation and theft to support a more expensive habit for the users. And, of course, more citizens will be killed in the crossfire. Well done, Ms Clinton. Very courageous.

And here’s the rub: Clinton states that ‘America’s’ need for illegal drugs is “insatiable” but never asks why this insatiable desire exists. I don’t have a definitive answer, of course—who does?—but experts like the brilliant Gabor Mate and Bruce Alexander, both in Vancouver, ironically, sure can add wisdom to the conversation.

THE ROLE OF FEAR AND INTEGRITY

I’m going to write about it soon, but it occurred to me the other day that after having so wonderfully supporting these drug lords neo-capitalist dreams for so long, and benefiting in countless covert ways, the drug lords are currently so rich and powerful—as in Mexico—perhaps politicians are now terrified for their life to even speak of decriminalization or regulation of currently illegal drugs.

Such madness might already be here, and we don’t even know it. Wouldn’t that be a surprise in a democracy?

From an article in the Georgia Straight:

Where Canada’s war on drugs may lead to in the future worries Tony Smith, a retired 28-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department and also a LEAP member.

In Mexico, Smith noted, drug cartels have grown so powerful with profits from the drug trade that they can either buy off police, judges, and politicians or kill them at will.

“What’s really the difference here and there?” Smith asked in a phone interview with the Straight.

In the U.S., according to Smith, there’s much talk about drug corruption among law enforcers. That may not be the case in Canada, but he warned that once it starts happening here, “you won’t know which policemen are under the pay of the drug people and which policemen aren’t” and “it’s a very thin line once you approach that point.”

What if, Smith asked, somebody comes “stepping out of the line and thinks, ‘Well, you know, screw it. I’m in a bit of a problem here. I’ll just take out the policeman or the judge or whatever.’ And once that occurs, then we’ll have total anarchy.”

Not pretty. Keep your discernment sharp, and your compassion high, and your belief in freedom ongoing—including freedom from fear of violence and incarceration. Why? Because one day, maybe today, the chance to vote, stand or act will come, and solidarity, compassion and intelligence will be vital.

Love to you,

Pete xox

A little more on the indefatigable Ralph Nader, and how the only thing more important than right now is the future

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Continuing on the Ralph Nader story—the remarkable Ralph Nader, I might add.

Never forget, also, that in 2000, Nader, with a legitimate ticket to simply watch, on a remote feed in a public auditorium!, the ‘presidential’ debate between Bush and Gore, was not allowed on the premises. Period.

Who stopped him? The private Commission on Presidential Debates. They were established by—who else?—the oh so different Republican and Democratic parties in 1987, and led by Big Business. This unelected commission decides who will be in the debates. By actions such as this—but not only this—the Commission has proved itself shameful, self-serving in the extreme, and a conscious deterrent to participatory democracy. In short, no surprise to anyone.

When I say Big Business, I hate to sound cliché. A little detail. One co-chairman of the Commission is Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president and CEO of the always edifying and squeaky clean American Gaming Association which is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. This is important, because calling a limited democracy a full democracy and getting away with it is always a gamble.

The other co-chair is Paul G. Kirk, currently a lobbyist for a German pharmaceutical company. Great. Vee have vays of making you not vote—not to mention over-drugging the world and calling that legal.

Isn’t it sort of shocking to know or be reminded of this kind of, dare I say, conspiring?

Further, the commission is or has been financed by Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris (now Atria) and other multinational corporations who often pay deep respect and gratitude to Ralph Nader for his civic contributions.

I hope my sarcasm is clear.

As for Nader at the time, he was threatened with arrest and escorted off the premises of the debate by one man (on behalf of Presidential Commission on Debates) who was backed by three Massachusetts State troopers. In short, a private institution, saying who will debate, and telling tax-paid State troopers what to do—and they did as they were told.

You try this with a State trooper one day, and see what happens.

The danger of this should be obvious to anyone. It’s remarkable. This is in America—actually, the ‘surprise’ in that statement has grown beyond weary.

For the record, Pat Buchanan would have received the same treatment, had he shown up. But Fat Corporate Cats or their henchmen of some sort ordered this refusal of entry, and it was enacted.

In sum, Nader was already refused participation on the actual stage for the debate. Why? He wasn’t considered a factor. He was not a legitimate contender. Suddenly he couldn’t even watch it.

And people criticize him for running against the Democrats? Where was Gore at this moment? He should have been outraged.

Political Analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, in An Unreasonable Man, put it this way:

But if what we’re picking is a poll number [percentage, as to whether Nader would be allowed in the Bush-Gore debate] then what we’re in effect saying is, ‘Well, we’ll allow you in the debates if we think you’re a factor in the election.’

And so, in an election, in which now, the Gore world wants to say, ‘Ralph Nader lost the election for us’—I guess he must have been a factor in the election. But you [Gore!] said he couldn’t be in the debates because he wasn’t a factor in the election.

Phil Donahue, of all folks, put that Democratic sour grapes to the true test—action—and their shameful yet predictable failure says it all:

They killed [Nader] for saying that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties [Democratic and Republican]. And then the Democrats spent the next four years proving that he was right. The Democrats folded on the war. They folded on health care and No Child Left Behind. They hid under their desks.

Alan Mass put it this way:

“If only they [one of the most shameful, for me, is the Nation columnist Eric Alterman] managed a tenth of this kind of venom when talking about Republicans. But instead, their sanctimonious and humorless diatribes are directed at the man responsible for seatbelts and airbags in cars, anti-pollution laws, any number of workplace safety regulations—and the most significant left-wing electoral challenge to the two-party political system in a half-century.”

When asked, on Democracy Now, why Nader would run in 2008, he replied:

One feels an obligation…to try to open the doorways; to try to get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America and the terms of third parties and independent candidates; to recognize historically the great issues have come in our history, against slavery, women rights to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

When that’s wrong—and it will never be wrong—there isn’t anything more to say. The fight’s over. Thank god for fighters.

Lots of love to you, and lots of acting on your conscience, listening to your soul, and demanding more from those who are entrusted with your hopes, or beliefs, via the vote. And speaking of those folks, be careful…

Pete

NADER 2000, 2004: Unwanted At Any Truth

Monday, April 6th, 2009

The reasonable man adopts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—George Bernard Shaw

I know, I’m a little late in my coverage.

Nonetheless, people often bemoan Ralph Nader for losing the election for the Democrats in the American elections of 2000 and 2004. If that’s all it took, as Nader himself said, with the awfulness of Bush’s record, they didn’t deserve to win.

The consumer advocacy bills passed by Nader in the late 60s and 70s are truly astounding—think about what he did!—and the dismantling of them in the 1980s, and the pathetic response from Democrats in Washington are equally startling. Okay, they’re kind of expected, so less astounding.

Anyway, some suggest (see here the wonderful and unsanitized An Unreasonable Man) it was this Democratic spineless surrender to its dismantling more than anything else that pushed Nader’s hand to run. The victory of Bush, in this way, was sewn, to a degree, via the pathetic efforts of Democrats during the Reagan years.

Further, if one looks at how relatively close the electoral vote was for Obama in 2008 (in terms of percentage, 52.92% to 45.66%), perhaps only the deep and often immoral disaster of Bush—and I think that’s a fair assessment—could have opened the way for a Democrat, let alone, black President.

Bush was historically low in terms of popularity.

So, if you’re happy or grateful for the Obama victory, maybe consider thanking Ralph.

Anyway, here’s a quote from Nader’s speech at Madison Square Garden in 2000. Nader, on ten days notice, filled Madison Square Garden, something the other Presidents could likely never have done with all their money. And if you want to know where the establishment media stood on it, the ‘liberal’ New York Times commented on the event at the bottom of page A16, and largely (or small-ly) not even as a legitimate voice, but as the problem for Gore.

Sad but unsurprising. And now the paper, like so many others, is virtually bankrupt. It used to be a joke the idea of getting one’s news from the internet. Alas…

From Ralph Nader, imperfect, of course, but citizen extraordinaire:

The students are not learning. They’re not learning citizen skills. They’re not learning how to practice democracy. They’re not learning the creative force of their personality and idealism and imagination…

Maybe if we started talking about citizen globalization, civic globalization, instead of corporate globalization the world would move forward…

Imagine seeing people everywhere as sisters and brothers? Teaching kids deeply about civic involvement and the meaning of citizenship, where things like, say, disgusting, health destroying food wasn’t the status quo? Where the scam of bottled water under Pepsi, Coke and Nestles etc didn’t exist virtually unnoticed by the mainstream? A world where the majority of our food wasn’t owned by napalm producing companies like Monsanto and and cigarette companies like Phillip Morris (now called Altria)?

Is that not a definition of insanity, or something profoundly Orwellian?

Imagine a place where people understood what exactly money is? I still don’t, but this endless printing of paper is confusing. A world where the word Government would stop being used as a euphemism for what is really being said: tax-payer?

That’s a good thought, and a great meditation. Keep talking using words that actually have integrity and meaning, and eating food that serves the body and mind, and spending money in ways that serve the environment, as if there is some inherent truth to these actions.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

The 360th Anniversary of the Diggers…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I have some genealogical history from this time—an Uncle named Elias Ashmole, Loyalist, Astrologer and Alchemist and a collector of antiquities (always a bit dodgy)—which made this historical piece from Marina Pepper in the Guardian Online, entitled G20: In memory of the Diggers, all the more interesting.

But either way, it is timely and instructive, and just goes to show you about how with Power, ‘La plus ça change…’:

After a moving account of home displacements in Britain and around the world, Marian writes:

“[In Britain last year] 40,000 homes were repossessed; this year it could be 75,000. I’m taking action for our ‘common treasury’…

And then retells a little history:

In 1649 England’s revolution was over, the King’s head was off [Charles I] and Cromwell was mad [in every sense of the term—just ask the Irish]. The common lands, instead of being opened up for the people, fell into the hands of profiteering prototype money men [wow, that's so weird and primitive. Glad it's not like that now].

Demanding only self-sufficiency [how dare they!], suggesting land be held as “a common treasury for all” [imagine!], the Diggers occupied St Georges Hill in Surrey—where the likes of Max Clifford now play golf and tennis after a hard day making squillions.

…the Diggers were beaten and in some cases hacked to death for their troubles. Nice.

In their memory and in solidarity with the world’s diaspora, I’m taking direct action with the Black Horse at the Bank of England on Wednesday. We’re carrying pillows – a symbol of our fundamental human right to shelter, and to be used in self-defence should the coppers try to “cut us down”.

What a world. Thank god for pillow carrying activists saying, “You know, this may not be right.”

And I love this line from wikipedia, about my ol’ Uncle Elias:

“In 1646–47, Ashmole made several simultaneous approaches to rich widows in the hope of securing a good marriage.”

Fantastic!

Lots of love to you and yours, and may you have shelter and tenderness…

Pete

NOAM CHOMSKY ON DRUGS, yet again

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I actually wrote a long paper called Noam Chomsky On Drugs, about the Insite safe injection site on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, and the madness and hypocrisy of the War On Drugs. It was fascinating research. But I never heard this four-minute talk from Chomsky, largely about the perverse history of prohibition of marijuana.

Now remember, for what it’s worth, I do not use drugs. I do not even drink alcohol (maybe a sip of wine on rare occasions). But all the realities of the disaster of drug use aside (and alcohol and cigarettes are the worst), the delusion behind what we call the War On Drugs, and how we moralize against some drug use, is simply startling, fascinating and compelling in its hypocrisy.

This is from Chomsky, and he can’t even help but laugh as he describes studies in the 1930s showing the effects of marijuana on dogs—it makes them insane, evidently. One might even say barking mad. After getting stoned, all they want to do is watch TV, lick their balls and laugh at bad cat jokes (I made the last sentence up)

Here’s the kicker. According to youtube, this video is, or may be, offensive to minors! The world is insane. Have you seen the ‘kill anybody in sight’ video games minors can play with?

By the way, I hate the term minor. It’s like minor, as in not yet fully significant.

The audio is here.

Lots of love to you, and freedom,

Pete xox

George Galloway, Canadian Leaders and the Word That Dare Not Speak Its Name (in Mainstream Media)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men [or even uncertain, not particularly intelligent men like myself] is the restatement of the obvious.
—George Orwell

Unlike the American government, the Canadian government has recently decided to deny five-time democratically elected British MP George Galloway entry into the country to speak. I don’t even think Christopher Hitchens would agree with this.

Some of Galloway’s comments, including on his website his plan to “glorify” Hezzbollah, and his comments upon meeting Saddam Hussein in 1994 and praising his “courage”, “strength” and “indefatigability” are, in my opinion, putrid, and deeply ignorant or manipulative at best. With them, I am reminded of the tragic support of Stalinist communism by many on the Left in the West in the 30s and 40s.

Of course, I also think it ridiculous to glorify most any political leader.

Galloway, for the record, has said his comments have been misinterpreted, and he was talking about the Iraqi people, not Saddam Hussein.

Either way, George Galloway, like FOX and so many others, clearly understands the necessity of shock in order to get publicity. Trust me, trying to deeply see all sides as best and honestly as possible will get very few viewers. Either that or I need to shower more often.

BLACK KETTLES

All that said, it seems to me that it’s the Canadian government’s position on Galloway, much more than Galloway’s position, that reveals the extreme bias, hypocrisy and irony—and possibly subconscious racism—of the government and mainstream media, to a degree that never ceases to startle.

And with such a limited spectrum of commentary from most newspapers, editorials and elected officials, those pundits who do argue for Galloway’s right to be let into Canada suddenly end up sounding like unstoppable ‘democrats’ and ‘free-speechers,’ regardless of their political leanings.

I don’t have the answers, god knows. And I sure don’t know the hows and the whys of it all, but this, it seems to me, is absurd.

Sure, standing up for a degree of freedom is better than none. But it’s what is so obviously left out about Terror that ultimately betrays truth and sincerity.

In short, how many mainstream media outlets mention what is fairly well laid out by former US Ambassador and White House Terrorism Task Force Director Edward Peck?

This from an interview with Peck on alternative media Democracy Now, July 28, 2006:

In 1985, when I was the Deputy Director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism…they asked us to come up with a definition of terrorism that could be used throughout the government. We produced about six, and in each and every case, they were rejected, because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities.

After the task force concluded its work, Congress got into it, and you can…read the U.S. definition of terrorism. And one of them…says… “international terrorism,” means “activities that,” I quote, “appear to be intended to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”

certainly, you can think of a number of countries that have been involved in such activities. Ours is one of them. Israel is another [and this, of course, is years before the recent Gaza massacres]. And so, the terrorist, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

And I think it’s useful for people who discuss that phrase to remember that Israel was founded by terrorist organizations and terrorist leaders, Menachem Begin, who became statesmen and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

And Nasrallah [the leader of Hezzbollah] may not be the same kind of guy, but his intentions are the same. He wants to free his country from domination by another.

GOOD-GUY TERRORISM

On March 20, 2009, an article came out in the TimesOnLine, entitled Israeli soldiers admit to deliberate killing of Gaza civilians:

The Israeli army has been forced to open an investigation into the conduct of its troops in Gaza after damning testimony from its own front line soldiers revealed the killing of civilians and rules of engagement so lax that one combatant said that they amounted on occasion to “cold-blooded murder”.

The soldiers’ testimonies include accounts of an unarmed old woman being shot at a distance of 100 yards, a woman and her two children being killed after Israeli soldiers ordered them from their house into the line of fire of a sniper and soldiers clearing houses by shooting anyone they encountered on sight.

“That’s the beauty of Gaza. You see a man walking, he doesn’t have to have a weapon, and you can shoot him,” one soldier told Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy, who asked him why a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be shot.

Recall that those murdered are more than likely people just like your mother, or grandmother, or son or sister—or you and me, regardless of the worst of people in their country. They breathe and cry and hope, and as far as we know have a limited amount of time on this planet.

Here are two definitions of terrorism from the UN. The UN Security Council Resolution 1566 defines terrorism as:

criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.

A United Nations panel in 2005 defined terrorism as any action:

“…intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.”

These definitions were both taken from Wikipedia, for those who want references.

Even without the revelations above, what stops what happened in Gaza (and in so many places) being labeled as terrorism—or at least State terrorism?

The final death toll was something like 1,417 Palestinians and 14 Israelis (ten Israeli soldiers, four by that god-awful term of ‘friendly fire’). Something like 926 of the 1,417 Palestinians were civilian, 437 children under the age of sixteen, 110 women and 123 elderly men. If you can stomach it, read that over again. And recall, Israeli leaders have stated they were trying to avoid citizens. Imagine the structural damage.

By any definition, was what took place a war, a battle or even a fight? If the Palestinians could defend themselves against Israel’s remarkable technology and power, it would still be awful. But as it was, they couldn’t.

With limited knowledge, I think I understand the Israeli Defense Force objective, and the brutal history—and it is one’s prerogative to justify what happened on those terms, or for genetic or political reasons—but the massacre in Gaza was, if I am at all honest with myself, simply a legislated, killing spree of massive proportions.

AS FOR GEORGE GALLOWAY IN CANADA

One could argue that it is only George Galloway’s perverse, media-friendly bluster, combined with being a British MP, that gets him on mainstream media to speak a deeper truth about terror and terrorists—that, in Power, they are everywhere.

As for Galloway’s coming to Canada, here’s a quick back and forth on English TV between George Galloway and the Jewish Defence League of Canada’s national director Meir Weinstein.

Perhaps it is ignorance or naiveté, perhaps a mix—or perhaps accurate—but either way, I, as a Canadian in Canada, feel much more of a shake of nervousness inside when I hear the Jewish Defense League director Meir Weinstein say in the following two sentences:

“We will be looking into the organizations in Canada that have invited [George Galloway], their links to terror groups as well…”

And when George Galloway replied that if he’s not allowed into Canada, he will talk from the border, Weinstein then countered:

“Therefore, if he uses those other means [talking from the border or finding a way to talk to Canadians who want to hear Galloway], we will see to it that the Canadian government will be monitoring every individual and organization that will have anything to do with it.

“We will see to it…” Hmm.

That actually makes me—again, as a Canadian!—fleetingly aware of a nervousness to exercise free speech; the freedom to act according to my conscience, to be part of a debate without fear of harassment or being monitored, no matter how well or how non-violently I frame my comments—and regardless of how insignificant my comments are!

Galloway replied:

“These are very venal and brute threats that are being made by your guest against Christian groups and other peace groups in Canada. And that’s all you really need to know about them [the Jewish Defense League of Canada].”

And Galloway, no matter what one thinks of him, has history on his side when he says:

“[The government] will say they [Hamas or whomever] are [terrorists] today, but they won’t say it tomorrow, as you know very well.”

A tiny sample of the startlingly diverse list of accused terrorist flip-flops-and-reflops over the years include the Taliban, Muammar Gadaffi, Saddam Hussein, Menachem Begin, as mentioned earlier, Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and, of course, Nelson Mandela. And those Western states that are never called terrorist in the mainstream media, despite exercising brutal and mass terror on countless occasions, are truly many.

And at the same time I celebrate and stand up for so many great freedoms that have been fought for by average citizens, and won, in the West. The two conditions—foreign policy terrorism and domestic freedoms—somehow, are not mutually exclusive.

This is a distressing subject to write about.

I know, from six beautiful weeks in Israel in 1999, and my many Jewish friends (including my girlfriend) and mentors in North America, and from the (fewer) people I know but like very much from the Arab countries of the Middle East, that countless (and voiceless) average citizens everywhere—sisters and brothers—ache and cry and long for peace, justice, laughter, love and other righteous things.

I was recently at the funeral of a dear friend of mine—in fact I sang at the service. He was forty-four years old. Witnessing his Iranian widow grieve in literally overwhelming sobs from the depths of her body about said it all.

No matter whose side one is on, or neither, that terrifying emotion can undoubtedly be transposed onto thousands of people in Gaza right now, who can likely barely breathe for the loss of loved ones. Of course the same goes for the few Israelis who lost loved ones in this most recent bombardment.

And the same goes for all of us. We are human. Temporary. Vulnerable. Fragile. And, as Woody Allen once said, it’s all over far too soon.

May love and peace for all people, that so many desire, increase, be remembered, before we throw whatever opinions we have into the world…

Lots of love to you and yours,

Pete

KICKING IT: The Homeless World Cup

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Conn Smythe once said about hockey: “If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice.” Well in this film about soccer, most of the players live in the alley, or the street, or the slum.

Kicking It is a film about thousands of homeless soccer—football!—players from around the world competing to represent their country (there’s irony in that), and then competing for their country at the Homeless World Cup.

All I can say is I thought the Colin Farrell introduction and ending was a little cheesy, it wasn’t shot overwhelmingly well, the ESPN sportscaster announcer did not sound live, but an overdub (it may have been live) and, with all that, I loved every second of the film. I smiled virtually the whole time, sometimes with tears—and felt a few tragedies. Being human is not easy.

Thank god for grace, gratitude, love.

It reminded me that, no matter what we are doing, there’s always tomorrow, or at least tonight. It reminded me that whenever you’re so happy because you won, there’s always someone so hurt they lost, and vice-versa. There is something bigger than those feelings. Much bigger. And finally, it taught me that there’s always—and it’s just as beautiful and important—a consolation round, a B-group, a silver medal, a participation ribbon, a win after too many losses—that still feels like a World Cup win.

Ah yeah—and it reminded me that so much about Nation-states should be questioned, ignored, etc. We are sisters and brothers. So many boundaries, borders, are our own.

Life, it seems to me wonce in awhile, is this moment. Celebrate it, maximize it, observe it, be thankful for it, let it go, cause as little harm as possible, smile if you can, put your self in someone else’s football cleats, ask who you are, what you stand for—be who you are. Life will go on. Love more.

I recommend the film with great joy.

Lots of love,

Pete

NOAM CHOMSKY ON DRUGS: Vancouver and the Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

With the startling number of drug-related/gang-related shooting deaths/hits in Vancouver—ah, peaceful Vancouver—over the last couple of months, I found myself misquoting something I quoted a year or so ago in a long research essay I did called Noam Chomsky On Drugs (pg 30).

It was this:

Indeed, the criminal drug trade is protected by ‘legitimate’ society’s support for its continued criminalization. By definition, the trade would be largely defeated by decriminalization—while admittedly still not curing the problem of addiction.

Either way, in terms of profit-making ventures in a profit-oriented world of, at times, inconceivable inequity, the lure of narcotrafficking profits are overwhelming. Kash Heed, Chief Constable of West Vancouver, lays out the extraordinary market potential of opium:

“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)…

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.

A report in the National Post (Aug 17, 2007) discussed an RCMP annual report on organized crime that stated the number of gangs in Canada had increased from 800 in 2006 to 950 in 2007:

“Wherever there is profit to be made, organized crime can be found,” the study said. The illegal drug trade still makes up the bulk of organized crime activity in Canada, with about 80 per cent of all gangs involved in it.”

There’s too much money involved for the trade to be stopped, the main people aren’t stopped, disease spreads and crime continues.

Man, what does it take to see that one’s moral issue against the regulation or decriminilization of drugs (not even the legalization of drugs) is in lock-step with the drug lords and drug dealers, and war-funding hawks of the world—whether one admits that or not?

And this is just one aspect of the paradox. Ah, the disaster of drugs, on countless levels.

May you be intoxicated by life, love, and other abstractions,

Pete xox

Ivan Gayton Talk: The Farchana Manifesto, MSF, Darfur, Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Aid

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

My friend Ivan Gayton is giving a talk with slides and film this Monday (March 16) at 7:30 at the Pacific Cinemateque 1131 Howe Street, downtown Vancouver.

Ivan has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres for years as an on-the-ground project manager. He will be talking about his experiences in Chad, Darfur (Sudan) and the Central African Republic to just name a few of the places, explaining from his point-of-view individual country politics, refugee camps, humanitarian aid and all such subjects that are simultaneously compelling, painful, tragic, hopeful and confusing.

The focus of the talk, however, will be on his most recent experiences in the Farchana refugee camp in Chad, which has become, tragically, what’s called ‘semi-permanent.’

I so recommend coming to hear Ivan speak. He is very clear, experienced, informed and compelling.

MSF IN DARFUR

The hour long talk will no doubt (and unfortunately) be heightened by the recent abduction of three MSF workers in Darfur. Sudan has recently been closed to most foreign aid workers by the notorious Sudanese President Bashir. Bashir is angered at being accused of War Crimes by the ICC—and has accused those he’s thrown out for being in cahoots with the ICC. Tragically, one of the MSF aid workers, nurse and artist/photographer Laura Archer—a lovely woman, evidently, from PEI, who lives in Montreal—is a friend and co-worker of Ivan’s. They worked together in the Central African Republic. Here’s a little bit about her, and her art.

Ironically, I passed this tragic news along to Ivan today, having just read about it, minutes before Ivan was having a meeting with someone who wants to work with MSF.

Anyway, may Laura, and all three, be safe.

As for my relationship with Ivan, we met about a year and half ago, when he gave a slide-show talk at the home of a mutual friend. From there, and from his experiences and knowledge, I put together two short ten-minute films—advocacy pieces, I guess, to be more accurate.

Darfur In Ten Minutes: An Overview of the Conflict in Sudan, its title self-explanatory, is Ivan’s very clear take on the conflict in Sudan, and a great example of his intelligence. You can see it here.

At the Cinemateque, Ivan will be showing the Farchana Manifesto: Women Fighting For Refugee Rights, built, with a few spare parts, around an interview that Ivan did, and brought back from the Farchana Refugee Camp in Chad (see my previous blog). The interview was with a remarkable woman who, with a group of other Darfuri refugee women, had the immense courage to speak out against their treatment in the refugee camp.

Motivated after a night of terror in the camp, in June of last summer, the women put together a document that has come to be called The Farchana Manifesto.

Ivan will be able to add details that, for the safety of the women, were not highlighted in the film.

The show will last about an hour, and then will have a Q&A. I might even be there for a few questions, if only, by my responses, to make Ivan look even better.

Hope you can come by. Tickets are free at the door, with a whopping two dollar suggested donation to help cover the costs.

Lots of love to you, and may you be safe and free,

Pete xo

THE FARCHANA MANIFESTO: The Courage and Resilience of Women Refugees Against Despair and Confinement

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

“Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.”
—Margaret Mead

As the very gratifying Muhammad Ali film (Facing Ali) slowly winds towards finishing, finishing, finishing etc, I’ve been doing a few smaller projects.

One short film piece just posted is called The Farchana Manifesto: Women Fighting For Refugee Rights.

The piece arose from my friend Ivan (the same Ivan from Darfur In 10 Minutes) doing humanitarian work in eastern Chad last summer at the Farchana refugee camp—a camp for Darfuri/Sudanese refugees.

The camp was supposed to be transitional, like all refugee camps. Unfortunately, six months has expanded to five years, and with this prolongation comes, predictably, increased depression, oppression and hopelessness (and, it turns out, stunning resilience and courage).

The short film is here. Feel free to pass it on. Actually, please pass it on.

As for refugee status, Mahmood Mamdani offers thought-provoking ideas on what he calls The New Humanitarian Order, in a paragraph worth being re-read:

The international humanitarian order…does not acknowledge citizenship. Instead, it turns citizens into wards. The language of humanitarian intervention has cut its ties with the language of citizen rights.

To the extent the global humanitarian order claims to stand for rights, these are residual rights of the human and not the full range of rights of the citizen.

If the rights of the citizen are pointedly political, the rights of the human pertain to sheer survival; they are summed up in one word: protection. The new language refers to its subjects not as bearers of rights—and thus active agents in their emancipation—but as passive beneficiaries of an external “responsibility to protect.” Rather than rights-bearing citizens, beneficiaries of the humanitarian order are akin to recipients of charity.

Humanitarianism does not claim to reinforce agency, only to sustain bare life. If anything, its tendency is to promote dependence. Humanitarianism heralds a system of trusteeship.

What I’m about to suggest may be obvious, in a sense, but it seems to me that the longer—and I will generalize here—men are left without self-determination, a certain freedom of action, the ability to feed or protect their loved ones or the opportunity of work, then the more oppressive, depressive and non-functioning men become. What is striking, it seems to me from observation and reading, is that women (for whatever reason) are able to withstand these pressures to a much greater degree, and hold together, even rebuild, whatever remains—under shockingly distressing conditions.

This, in my opinion, should be a recognized phenomenon. It is repeatedly seen in refugee camps, under extreme poverty, external occupation, and with opportunities like micro-financing.

The wonderful Dr Erin Baines, whom we interviewed for Uganda Rising, had spent months at a time at camps in Northern Uganda, and explained an example of the despair this way:

“When the [IDP] camps were created, it completely disrupted the gender division of labour, because men could no longer work, and they certainly didn’t have a political voice in things. What happened is you had men become completely disempowered, lose their identity not only as Acholi, but also as men.

The only way they could continue to feel they had any kind of power was vis-a-vis the women. So they could at least say this is my woman and you will do this for me.

All of this is compounded by the fact in order to fill their day or despair, men have turned to drink. And there is a high prevalence of alcoholism in the camps—which women brew. Which intensifies the level of anxiety and agitation that men feel, which is then again unleashed on women and children in the form of violence.”

This profound resilience, from the Darfuri women who spoke out in Farchana, is seen in spades.

FARCHANA

But back to Ivan and his experience in Chad. One night at the camp—after a night of physical terror imposed by a group of men (refugees) on seven women within the camp (to teach a moral lesson)—a group of women who witnessed the brutality decided to speak out. These courageous women actually got together and wrote a 14-point document calling for their rights, the rights of women and the rights of refugees. It has come to be called The Farchana Manifesto.

Despite great danger, one of these women was also willing to speak on camera. Ivan filmed this remarkable moment and brought the interview back home. The interview took place in a makeshift tent, fully accompanied by the bustle of people, crying babies and shrieking donkeys (assuming donkeys shriek). I then interviewed Ivan—here, of course—and with additional footage from a few generous others, put together this ten-minute piece.

The underlying message is this: Refugee camps are meant to be transitional. When they become what are called semi-permanent locations, they become refuges for hopelessness and violence—with women facing the brunt of the violence.

This is contrary to both human dignity and the stated goals of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is to protect and support refugees and assist in their return or resettlement.

The main goal of the piece is to answer the women’s plea to “bring this message to the outside world.” It seems the least we can all do. Awareness is the first step. Awareness of the situation, we hope, will also increase the safety of those who spoke out.

The film is here. I hope you find the women and the film inspiring and informative, and a call to action and understanding,

Lots of love to you,

Pete

See also, for example, the UNHCR and Physicians for Human Rights, our Darfur In 10 Minutes on youtube and Mahmood Mamdani‘s The New Humanitarian Order.

Credits:

Ton Koene for his photos, Jacky Essombe for her voice, Karin Muller and Ivan for additional background footage, Stephen Cohen for the additional interview, thanks to Sarah Estacaille for the B-cam help, and Dr. Amin Jalloh for translation.

THE INVASION, brought to you by OMISSION, and PEPSI, and so on

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I wrote this awhile ago, but forgot to post it.

THE COMPLETELY FREE PRESS (ie no press at all)

Remember a few years back when journalists were not allowed to venture outside of the protected Green Zone in Baghdad to report on the massacres in Iraq?

Recently [well, a couple of months ago now], the Israeli Defense Forces were not allowing journalists into Gaza, to report on the massacres there.

Months before that, I believe Robert Mugabe wouldn’t let the press into Zimbabwe during the crackdown. Interesting company.

That damn television footage of carnage in Vietnam, paraded across the average American’s dinner time, inciting revolt, changed everything.

I read recently in an article on Gaza this line from legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. It felt important:

“If [a journalist] can do nothing positive, to make the world more livable or less cruel or stupid, he can at least record truly, and that is something no one else will do, and it’s a job that must be done. It is the only revenge that all the bastardized people will ever get: that somebody writes down clearly what happened to them.”

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL

People with the money or the power can put so much resources into PR, and PR is so undeniably powerful in shaping opinion and manipulating what we buy, both physically and emotionally—including the news.

On one level, it’s curious that in a ‘free market’ we’re allowed to market at all using props outside the product’s inherent use. In other words, using, say, the sexy woman who comes with the Ford Pinto (okay, not the Ford Pinto) or the happy clown who comes with the fast food meal from hell, when clearly (yet not subconsciously clearly, clearly) these props have zero relationship to the products they support.

How strange it is that any war-like group, be it the IDF or the Hamas militarist, or the American military in Iraq, or whoever, can ever be allowed to not let the press into an area, when the press, or a section of the press, would be willing to enter said area.

You’d think that upon hearing this restriction on reporting, and knowing civilians like ourselves are likely being massacred, countries with a so-called ‘free press’ would non-violently rise up in protest—particularly with the massacres our taxes pay for.

In itself, isn’t the forbidding of reporting not a sort of false advertising? A means of spin by omission? Because while that censorship happens, the press continues to report something.

FULL MARX ON THE SEPOY REBELLION

As a note on trivia, or perhaps a trivial note, in 1857 in India, there was what was called the Sepoy Rebellion (the Great Rebellion)—the uprising of Hindu and Muslim soldiers against the British invaders. The British counter-attacked with such total force that, supposedly, Delhi, a city of I think one hundred thousand people at the time, was cleared completely. It was Karl Marx of all folks who, in the New York Daily News, lambasted the British press for a dearth of coverage of British atrocities.

And to punish the British further, Marx wrote Das Kapital, which would-be Marxists actually had to try to slog through, just to be au courant and sexy to free-thinking women at the turn of the century.

Picked up an old dusty copy once. Couldn’t read a page. But I do wonder what ol’ Karl would say about the bail-out today?

Keep lovin’,

Pete

KEEPING YOGA ETERNAL AND UNIVERSAL

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I can’t express how much I agree with the following article called Yoga piracy: India shows who’s the guru:

India is going all out to save yoga—a 2,000-year-old art of righteous living, from western pirates.

Instances of self-styled yoga gurus claiming copyrights to ancient ‘asanas’, especially from the West, is now becoming rampant.

This has made 200 scientists and researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry’s department of Ayush join hands to put on record all known yoga postures and techniques that originated in India.

You would have thought centuries of colonization would have been enough filling of the coffers. Maybe the West is subconsciously bitter they didn’t bludgeon to death the indigenous culture of India altogether—alas, not by a long shot.

You’ll recall that after America invaded Vietnam, the result being 3.4 million deaths in Indochina according to Robert McNamara, and the war finally came to an end, America shortly thereafter imposed a decades-long embargo on that country—evidently for defending themselves.

Similarly, for democratically electing the ‘wrong’ government in Palestine, civilians have been murdered en masse, brutalized ad nauseum, and collectively punished ad infinitum. And this is not an apologetic for their own extremist, and extremely mad leaders.

Just a little solidarity for my sisters and brothers.

But back to beautiful yoga (and more of my sisters and brothers), it must be doubly annoying to Indians and real yogis everywhere when they see Indian ex-pats also copyrighting ‘yoga’ (ie Bikram etc).

Call me Yogi Barely, but that’s got to be bad karma.

We’ll end up having to send a donation for doing a back bend. What about variations on namaste? Are those up for grabs, too?

This should be called Bechtel Yoga. The Bechtel Corporation, for the record, pushed hard to own all the water in Bolivia—even the right to collect rainwater. In return, Bechtel finally got ran out of the country by enraged campesinos, and the first ever indigenous leader, Eva Morales, was elected.

McDownward Dog, anyone?

I’ve got to say, the sight of McDonalds in Bangalore disgusted me. Actually, it disgusts me everywhere else, too. Why isn’t it illegal to simultaneously torture animals, mistreat workers and poison children? Maybe when they’re all together they cancel each other out.

I think the final lines of the Yoga article are wonderfully conclusive:

Experts say yoga has become a $225 billion market in the West, leading to foreign quack yoga instructors claiming patents over `asanas’ at random. Nearly 16.5 million Americans practice yoga and spend about $3 billion a year on yoga classes.

What a world. You know, the asanas make a person more flexible, but a true yogi will only bend so much before, well, let me quote the Bhagavad Gita (4:42): “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.”

The full article is here.

Jai yoga! Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, lots of love, keep the breath calm,

Pete xoxo

CORNY, MAN: Swimming Against the Current (Ideology)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Michael Phelps, of course, has been dropped by Kellogg’s for smoking dope. Fair enough. A clause is a clause, I guess.

Now first off, the fact that Phelps could have drank 28 beers and passed out in his own vomit and kept the sponsorship is mildly instructive.

But the big hypocrisy is this: the fact that, because they offer money, Kellogg’s can actually hint that their breakfast cereals—corn flakes and frosted flakes!—might do anything other than promote virtually empty calories and type II diabetes is the real crime. And I know Michael Phelps eats a ton of junk food, but still…

Here are the ingredients:

MILLED CORN, SUGAR, MALT FLAVORING, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), NIACINAMIDE, IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN B12, AND VITAMIN D.

Okay, so there are a few vitamins, and evidently it’s kosher (on the Kellogg’s website), which I think means the cow didn’t bleed all over itself at the moment of slaughter. Great, it just suffered for the months prior to the slaughter.

See, this shite food is yet another corn product. And high fructose corn syrup is just the worst for type II diabetes and general ill-health.

This corn craze is crazy. Corn fed to cows pathologically ravages their stomach lining. There was a time when cows were actually grass fed. And corn is subsidized intensely in the so-called free market world, meaning cows are communist. Heck, Phelps’ bong was probably made out of some corn product. And Phelps, given his diet, is probably three-quarters corn.

Corn flakes. Frosted flakes. Marijuana? If anything, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to junk food. That’s why I don’t smoke—it might lead to Cheezies. Why isn’t really crappy food illegal?

And it’s not as though elsewhere, outside of arresting 20 million people for marijuana, we humans stress excessive love and/or nutrition for our fellow citizen: in hockey you can punch somebody in the face repeatedly, with a bare fist and get only a five minute penalty; you can take steroids up the yin-yang in baseball (okay, that’s supposedly illegal, now); you can take enough hits to the head in football to be a bumbling mess in your forties, but you can’t, well, you know…

But man that guy can swim. Imagine if he ate well and wasn’t constantly stoned. He’d probably be a basketball player.

Take care of your beautiful, beautiful body,

Pete xoxo

DARK CHOCOLATE: Flavoury or Slavery?

Monday, December 1st, 2008

We’re time beings for the time being. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but it just popped into my head.

I love dark chocolate (pretty much exclusively), and I just read (not for the first time) about how brutal the chocolate trade is, which is not a great thought to have when enjoying its taste. Actually, maybe it’s the best thought to have.

Either way, here’s a site that outlines what chocolate companies are what, and which are, for example, both fair trade and organic, which sounds pretty good to my mouth and heart. I buy Camino Cocoa a lot, in my privileged little world.

Here’s the link to the very clear site.

May the chocolate industry become as sweet as (sweetened) cocoa.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

BUSTED UP OVER ENDLESS BUSTS: Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana and the devastating Hypocrisy of the War On Drugs.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t smoke marijuana—in fact I never have smoked a joint. So other than admitting I am the world’s most boring person, I also say this as a disclaimer of non-agenda. In fact, I have zero affection for these three drugs.

However, I despise far more—and believe it to be just as dangerous (because hypocrisy is endlessly pervasive)—the political and moral hypocrisy of the fact that (from an article by Paul Armentano called 20 Million Arrests, and Counting):

“…one American [is] arrested for pot every 38 seconds.

Yet despite this massive increase in arrests—by contrast, federal statistics indicate that adult marijuana use has remained fairly stable over the past decade—the mass media and Congress continue to ignore the story.

By doing so, they ignore the plight of millions of Americans who suffer significant sanctions and hardships because of pot-related run-ins with law enforcement. These penalties include probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights; and loss of certain federal welfare benefits, such as food stamps.

Talk about disenfranchising and criminalizing a society—a mostly young society, to boot. You know, booze was once legal, too. So was hiding a fugitive slave.

And alcohol? Hardly anyone can gather at a party without bringing this hopeless intoxicant (excluding of course quality dark beer from micro-breweries). Joking. Whatever.

Look, doesn’t the obligatory bringing of alcohol ever make you take pause? Conversations with people whose company one truly delights in isn’t enough without intoxicants? Granted, real idiots can be at parties, too—but don’t they just become bigger idiots after a case of Coors? And don’t get me wrong, I am anti-prohibition. Not unlike the old saying that you only truly believe in free speech if you defend the right of people to say things you despise.

Either way, according to the book Getting to Maybe (pg 190):

“[Drunk driving] remains the single largest criminal cause of death in Canada, where approximately 1,500 people are killed each year as a result of impaired driving, a number about three times higher than the murder rate. The situation is worse in the United States.”

Killed. That excludes injured, maimed, paralyzed, brain damaged etc, which is logically much higher.

And hundreds of thousands die of smoking related diseases in North America every year—and don’t kid yourself, those deaths are often extremely violent. I watched a friend die of lung cancer. It wasn’t pretty. A beautiful, dignified person—and by the end he didn’t have the energy, strength or lung capacity to wipe himself (which wasn’t a regular problem because of the brutally constipating side-effect of taking morphine for the agony he was in.

Ah, yes. Cigarettes.

By the way, he was still, of course, incredibly dignified.

The original article continues.

Some Americans serve time for pot. Nearly 13 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates are incarcerated for marijuna-related drug violations, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. (The report did not include the estimated percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for pot-related offenses.)

In human terms, this means that some 34,000 state inmates and an estimated 11,000 federal inmates are serving time behind bars for violating marijuana laws.

In fiscal terms, this means U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.

Well done, small government.

The front-end criminal justice costs—such as the number of hours a police officer must put in to arrest and process the average pot offender—is far greater. Some researchers, such as Harvard University economist Jeffery Miron, estimate it at upward of $7 billion a year.

Heck, that’s 1/100th of the bailout. Think of the war machines you could build for 7 billion dollars.

But the financial and social costs tell only part of the story.

Up to 70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for pot are placed there by the criminal justice system, according to statistics published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It’s just an insane amount of hypocrisy—so much so that I end up defending drug use. That is really perverse. Statistics further show that 1 in 3 of those people put into rehab had not smoked marijuana thirty days prior to admission.

Geezuz. Just a little pot for thought. Stay vigilant in your critical thinking, to be sure. And love more, man. That’s the thing. And if you are spiritual-minded, so-called, you don’t have to keep looking to the sky to be closer to God: we increase our divinity by increasing our humanity. Be yourself. Cause no harm. See more and more people as sisters and brothers, until there is nobody unrelated.

Lots of love,

Pete

PAUL ST PIERRE AND THE LIBERTARIAN DAILY TIMES: Kudos To The Vancouver Sun—or someone lost a job today…

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

“1. Put no faith in any major political party. The allegedly profound philosophic differences among big parties are either trivial or imaginary. By their very nature big parties, like big newspapers, cannot lead, they can only follow what they judge to be public taste.”
—Paul St Pierre

A person after my own heart. Like ‘big newspapers’! Geezuz. Fantastic.

After having quoted a little Doris Lessing—another octogenarian—yesterday, I was shocked to read the remarkable timbre of an article in the nearly dreadful Vancouver Sun today. I say nearly dreadful because it’s better than the Vancouver Province newspaper, which is simply dreadful. Every time someone calls me on the phone and asks me to subscribe, I ask them if they sell the Guardian. They never know what I’m talking about, alas…

Anyway, today, a fantastic and bold article by Paul St Pierre, an author and former member of parliament. I don’t know how it made the paper—maybe a last favour for a former columnist. Maybe someone there just got sick of what’s normally in the paper. Page A9 is one reason it made it—because in a strange way, it’s front page news—but still, to the Sun I send kudos.

I also understand that if a mainstream rag prints a tiny slice of outer spectrum views, that brief commentary allows for the grand statement of a rich democracy, as the bullshit is plied on 99.937% of the time otherwise. By the way, I say ‘outer spectrum views’ with the qualification that most of the general population is onside with St Pierre, lacking respect or faith in either Big Politics or Big Media. In short, we all somehow know, as St Pierre points out, we are being fed, and in turn speak by rote, “bullshit.”

He writes:

That is exactly what happened, in the United States as in Canada. The Americans try to disguise their wretched state of submission to the rulers by hooting and shrieking the word freedom, tossing firecrackers around and, most recently—the supreme irony—calling unconstitutional and oppressive legislation The Patriot Act. An American must bullshit. His health demands it. If he cannot bullshit a foreigner he will bullshit himself, but he has to do it.

Print something similar, on the front page, for about a year straight, and we might even moved towards ideas that are creative, freeing, inspired and compassionate, as a community. Heck, we’re too sheltered to be truly environmentally intelligent, let alone see the bars around us.

Although St Pierre is a former Liberal, the piece here has, as is his style, a huge libertarian slant.

PARADOX: NO RUNNING FREE IN THE FREE WORLD

I was reminded immediately of how, in a bizarre sort of devolution, kids no longer are let outside to play on their own, to go where they want, to explore with freedom. Have you noticed this drastic shift? They are watched and curtailed at every turn, invariably with the best of parental intentions.

I used to think this change happened after the awful abduction and murders of children in Vancouver and area by the heinous Clifford Richard Olsen in the early 1980s. This cleared parks and playgrounds for awhile, and when they were refilled, it was with parental guidance, like life had become a restricted movie.

In addition I thought media played a big role in this no-longer-free-to-play-without-supervision world, with all their increased details and coverage of murder, abductions, and violent crime, in general.

But today I was wondering if this protection and fear of letting children (heck, and even ourselves) be more free to play, unsupervised, like we used to for hours, all day, only thirty or so years ago, is, combined with media, an internalization of the increase in laws and protection, and the subconscious dynamic of living with a subtle yet omnipresent Big Brother—to use Paul St Pierre’s use of the term.

Anyway, consider that.

AN OLD COWBOY

The fiery, courageous, pleading, last rites piece by St Pierre is entitled A Voice From The Grave’s Edge, a double entendre referring to himself and limited freedoms and increased criminality in general.

Here are a couple of excerpts, but please read the whole thing:

Our Canada is now very close to a condition in which everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. We have become prisoners of the state. Like modern jail prisoners, all our needs for balanced diet, climate-controlled shelter, approved and tested medication, mental health counselling, higher education, suitable entertainment, grief counselling and consensual safe sex are available free. The inmate lacks only freedom itself.

When I was young, Canadians were born almost free; now we are born in manacles of silk and gold.

To the recent generations, this is hyperbole. I understand that. I also understand that young people cannot be expected to miss freedom. How can you miss what you never had? But a few of the old may remember and a few of the young might feel the tug of curiosity. I hope so.

This is not entirely true, and there are grand exceptions. Many great social issues have borne greater freedom for certain groups of people (gender issues, race issues, sexual orientation issues and so on). Still…

Scarcely a day passes when our rulers do not devise some new law or regulation having the force of law, complete with fines and prison penalties. No one knows how many there are. Even the rulers couldn’t find the number when they tried a few years ago. Suffice to say there are enough that everyone is a criminal now.

Here are a few of his numbered points. Again, read the article for yourself.

5. Never forget this: Any government may lie, cheat, murder and steal, for “the public good.”

9. Fight for the Internet. It may be our last, best hope. Oppose, evade or sabotage every state attempt to control it, yes, even at the cost of permitting such obvious social evils as racial bigotry or child pornography. It is the common man’s strongest available instrument and will be the target of sophisticated attacks by all rulers.

10. Support the Canadian Civil Liberties Union. Future generations will see it as a lonely champion of liberty during long, dark years. When it supports a cause that you find obnoxious, trivial or dangerous, increase your donation.

This is written in the newspaper—a huge monopolized corporation paper filled with, well, filler!

For the record, Libertarianism is a sort of offshoot of the brutally misunderstood political idea known as Anarchism. Libertarianism has a Left and Right slant, so-called, and also both a compassionate and mean-spirited, bigoted slant of uber-individualism.

At its most compassionate and expansive, Libertarianism offers a lot. Lysander Spooner, A J Nock. Even Ron Paul.

As for the article, it offers essential food for thought. Are we as free as we think? Are we as imprisoned as St Pierre suggests?

Mr St. Pierre, at 85, I say with all due respect, thanks for the bold words and the big balls, unstoppable from a lifetime of living, and thanks for having whatever credentials needed to get the piece published.

Here’s to individuality. Here’s to solidarity. Here’s to freedom. Here’s to love.

Pete xoxo

‘TIS THE EVE OF THE ELECTION: The POLITICS of TRUST and the MANIPULATION of WORDS

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I just read an article in the New York Times by one Edward Rothstein about the collapse of not only the economy, but trust. With undeniable pessimism, the writer finishes thusly:

What is strange is that we now depend on the state to re-establish trust by rescuing and even nationalizing financial institutions, relying on the same authority that gives paper money its value. But after the events of the last century, can anyone fully believe that the state should be the ultimate standard for trust and fiscal faith?…We are in for perilous times.

Look, I don’t understand these things too well—highly complex institutions built on years of conniving, manipulation, ideology and power etc. Heck, I’m as baffled by bullshit as the next person. Nonetheless, the last paragraph, for me, is symbolic of a grand epidemic of misunderstood and incorrectly juxtaposed terminologies.

I am no authority on language, but it’s still really depressing, and I’ll try to explain why. Feel free to correct me or add to the explanation or whatever.

IT SHOULD BE CALLED THE FEDERAL UNRESERVED

Firstly, there is a sort of implied link in the paragraph (perhaps unintentional) between “the state” and said state being “….the same authority that gives paper money its value…”

This is absurd, of course. The institution that prints the money (excessively) in the United States is the largely privately run (not state run!) so-called central bank known as the Federal Reserve; it prints money and sets policy as it sees fit, and has ushered in disasters like fractional reserve banking, where a bank can have next to zero currency in its reserves, and thus lend thin air.

Although far from perfect, I’ll let the almost-Presidential candidate Ron Paul explain, and again here.

THIS IS NOTHING NEW

This central bank, also know as the Fed, founded in 1913 and run by unelected personnel, has nothing to do with being state run unless one describes the state as elite business interests in bed with big government interests, giving birth to policy as the two parents deem fit and in their own interests—using a host of neo-Orwellian terms like the market, National Interest, free market, democracy and so on. That is to say, perhaps they once had clear meaning./p>

This, we forget and have forgotten in this election, is also how it is with the Democratic and Republican parties. They are two sides of the same coin, with relatively inconsequential differences, overall (hence the bipartisan ‘yes’ for the tax-paid war (and killing field), tax-payer bailout etc etc).

MIXING METAPHORS AND METAFIVES

Also, the writer asks “…can anyone fully believe that the state should be the ultimate standard for trust and fiscal faith?” The answer is a big no. This is so obvious as to evoke tears. But why on Gods’ green earth (green as in greenbacks) does he say “the state”?

The two people putting the bailout terms together are the team of Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasure Secretary (former Goldman Sachs CEO) Henry Paulson. Hardly Bolsheviks. In a June 12, 2006 Business Week article, it stated:

“Think of Paulson as Mr. Risk. He’s one of the key architects of a more daring Wall Street where securities firms are taking greater and greater chances in their pursuit of profits.”

The article also says, as if Business Week and Paulson are best buds—for everyone loves an indiscriminate capitalist:

Hank Paulson’s profound understanding of risk and reward makes him the perfect pick for the Treasury.”

That’s “Big” Hank Paulson to you. Okay, capitalist Bolsheviks, maybe.

Evidently, the bailout is one of the greatest transfers of public money—an economic coup—from the tax-payers’ pockets to private banking interests in history. Okay, Stalinists who allow free speech. And this system of public subsidy for private profit is endemic.

Anyway, this handout has very curious ‘regulations’ on how it will be distributed—hence the continued massive year end bonuses within the banks being bailed out—and how it will be ‘paid back’, ha ha, to the taxpayer.

A CHUNK O’ CHANGE

Finally, one of the huge problems of the writer using the term “the state” in this article is that he almost certainly didn’t write at the time of the collapse that either 1) this bailout should not happen or 2) if it does, that it should be a standard shareholder investment in the bank, by the tax-payer who have to pick up the tab. Not the rip-off it is.

In other words, with the bailout the state shouldn’t or won’t own the banks (and they don’t anyway), but rather the tax-paying people who bailed the banks out, because they bought it, broken, at a cheap price, like those foreclosure sales, should own a good chunk. A fair chunk. A market value chunk.

GROUCH MARX

A little too Marxist, perhaps—although I have but a rudimentary knowledge of what that word means. However, the words “worker owned” come to mind, heaven forbid.

Because why should the people who paid for the banks, pay into the banks, and bailed-out (saved) the banks, share in the ownership of the banks?

NEWSSPEAK AND DOUBLE TALK

Not much can be done about the manipulation of words, except the ongoing intellectual self-defense of having great mentors, reading good history, seeking alternative media, thinking more expansively, less-tribally, and with more compassion. Hopefully. And of course I know I’m wrong all over the place too, and lack in knowledge and clarity.

So let me state an aspect of my ideology here: my friends, I’ll take a kind conservative over a cruel liberal—or a kind liberal over a cruel conservative—every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

He we let the rest of these details divide us (even though the devil is occasionally in the details) is one of the grand idiocies of our time.

Love to my sisters and brothers, and may we all get along a little better,

Pete

HUMAN FIGHTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: HARLAN COUNTY USA

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

I just watched the 1976 Academy Award winning documentary Harlan County USA, for the first time in a long time. It is a compelling, staggering testimony to the historical—and in countless places—current fight for the rights of laborers. If anybody thinks Unions are awful, or unnecessary, watch this film and decide how you, as a worker, would fight for even minimal rights without an organized group around you.

You can’t. You’d be doomed, destroyed and dead.

In short, Harlan County USA is about the strike that took place in dirt poor Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973, over 13 months—a repeat of sorts of what had taken place there and all over North America from the late 1800s into the 30s and 40s.

Barbara Kopple was the young director, and to make an extraordinary film, she risked her life, along with the strikers, to be sure. Throw in Black Lung, foul and inhuman working conditions and wages (hundreds of feet underground), strike breakers with sticks, pistols and machine guns, strikers (also with the occasional gun), brutal poverty, a corrupt United Mine Workers Union, murder, wives with more guts than you can believe, and an utterly uncaring, brutal Big Coal Corporation, and you get yourself a jaw-dropping film.

Here’s what I think is the original trailer.

Some people—brothers and sisters, after all—have it so tough, all you can do sometimes is weep.

Lots of love to you, and may all beings be treated a little better tonight,

Pete

RAW DEAL with RAW MILK: Big Business and Big Justice—what a surprise!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

If you see a situation in a self-described democratic society where people want to drink raw milk (which has been drunk for millenia and is still drunk in, say, that wild undeveloped outpost called France), under seemingly safe and organic standards, and people are not allowed to drink said milk, look around for excessive corporate/government involvement.

Oh yes, hidden behind the auspices of safety and justice, you will find it. And it seems to me, almost always, the judge will back the Big Guys.

An excerpt from a news article:

Selling unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada and a judge had found that Schmidt circumvented the laws by selling “shares” in his dairy cows to consumers.

In finding him guilty of contempt, the judge called Schmidt’s actions “not only illegal, but completely self-defeating.” Justice Cary Boswell added that Schmidt has every right to try to make the sale of raw milk legal, but he must do so in a manner that’s within the law.

What a joke. Can you imagine this fella and a few raw milk cohorts trying to go up against the Dairy Board, Big Business, Big Justice etc? And Martin Luther King should have done the same? Just abandoned the protests of “illegal” sit-ins in segregated cafeterias and so on? He should have just appealed to the legal institution?

The judge also said Monday’s ruling had nothing to do with the sale of milk, but instead focused on whether or not Schmidt knew he was defying a court order by continuing the raw milk sales.

Schmidt and his devoted consumers claim raw milk tastes better and say they have never suffered adverse health effects from drinking it.

Health officials say raw milk can carry bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, which carry serious, and sometimes deadly, health consequences.

Schmidt has operated his co-operative organic dairy farm near Owen Sound, Ont., for more than 20 years.

I’m not even going to check, but what’s the chance that the Dairy Board or whatever it’s called is against Michael Schmidt’s selling raw milk to people who want it? That same Canadian Dairy Board that I believe fought against calcium being put into soy milk because it increased competition?

Protectionism? Subsidies to Agribusiness and the Dairy Industry? Ah, yeah.

From Agricultural Regulations and Trade Barriers, by Chris Edwards:

The federal government has subsidized and regulated the dairy industry since the 1930s. Federal marketing orders for milk were begun in 1937. A dairy price support program was added in 1949, and an income support program was added in 2002. In recent years, dairy subsidies have cost taxpayers anywhere from zero to $2.5 billion annually depending on market conditions. More important, dairy programs stifle dairy industry innovation [like, say, how to monitor the production of organic raw milk from well-treated cows?] and substantially raise milk prices for consumers.

What a farce this “free trade” is.

Okay, I couldn’t control myself and looked up the Dairy Board’s involvement. Five seconds later, an excerpt from this article called, succinctly: Got raw milk? Don’t share, Ontario dairy board warns farmer:

Jacqueline Fennell, who runs Conavista Farm near Spencerville, Ont., about 55 kilometres south of Ottawa, said she received an order Friday from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, highlighting the sections of the Ontario Milk Act that she would allegedly violate by providing unpasteurized milk…

But Bill Mitchell, a spokesman for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, said her shareholder scheme flouts a law designed to protect food safety, and which bans not just the sale of raw milk, but also its distribution and delivery.

“Cow rental or share ownership scams don’t make raw milk consumption legal in Ontario,” he said. “As soon as milk moves off the premises, it has to be within the auspices of the Milk Act.”

He added that even farmers cannot take raw milk off their properties because it is considered unsafe.

“It is the health issue that’s our primary motivation here.”

It’s sad but, given the sickness of factory farms, I have trouble believing health to be their primary motivation.

I’m not saying there aren’t potential health hazards—which evidently there are, which history (and bad conditions) have shown. I’m saying this is a country that allows, for some clear reasons, cigarettes to kill millions of people (big corporations/heavily taxed); terrible, animal-tortured fast-food/processed food blathered in corn syrups and on and on (massive corporations) to damage and kill millions (Type II diabetes, etc, etc, whose incidence is vastly reduced by changing one’s lifestyle to crazy things like exercise and real food); and alcohol (massive corporations/heavily taxed) kills millions, damages countless lives, is involved in so much vehicular homicide and family violence—and just think of the unintended pregnancies!

Put another way, a person can’t drink monitored, organic raw milk from well-treated animals, but can drink pasteurized milk from brutalized cows. A person can’t eat monitored, organic raw milk from well-treated cows, but Big Gulps the size of my thigh, literally sugar water, are fine for kids—for breakfast, in fact (my sister sees this relatively often in her 7th Grade classroom).

More from the original article:

In November 2006, Ministry of Natural Resources [armed] officials raided Schmidt’s farm and seized farming equipment and computers. He was subsequently charged with failure to obey a written order barring him from making and storing raw milk products.

Schmidt lost 50 pounds after embarking on a hunger strike in 2006 to protest the charges.

He ended the protest by bringing a cow to the steps of the Ontario legislature. He drank a glass of milk immediately after milking the cow.

He’d be dead if it wasn’t for a sense of humour. And for the record, I eat very little dairy, period. None at home, a little if I’m out. It’s the udder principle of it all.

Wishing you all great love and freedom, and may all sentient beings including the lovely dairy cow be a little happier,

Pete xox