Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

MAUDE BARLOW at BOLIVIAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANADA

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

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

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

It’s an interview worth listening to.

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

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

MAUDE BARLOW: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning?

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

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

Stay optimistic, stay engaged, stay informed.

Love more!

Pete

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

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

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

See Bowden’s The War Next Door.

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

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

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

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

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

According to Charles Bowden:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WAR ON DRUGS/WAR ON CITIZENS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And deaths by marijuana are actually zero.

Zero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full interview is here.

Intellectually arm yourself. Hope this helps.

Lots of love,

Pete

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

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Dear Richard,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCIENCE WITHOUT INTEGRITY IS BAD RELIGION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

SERVING LIFE, SERVING DEATH

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

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

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

MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS

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

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

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

SO WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT SCIENCE?

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

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

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

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

As you have said:

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

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

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

MAN-MADE MAN

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

THE EXTERNALITIES OF FREE SPEECH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOLIDARITY

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely and with affection,

Pete

Semantics Can Never Reverse Deaths in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

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

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

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

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

INVASION OR EVASION?

Alexander quotes a colleague, Mark Collins:

There was no “invasion” of Afghanistan.

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

MALALAI JOYA

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

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

But this is a lie.

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

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

Continuing the Alexander article:

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

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

RUSSIAN TO JUDGMENT

Alexander’s article continues:

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

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

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

From Wikipedia, and footnoted:

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

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

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

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

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

RABBLE AND HUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND BACK TO SEMANTICS

Alexander continues in the National Post:

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

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

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

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

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

And on December 11, 2001, from the FBI:

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a NY Times article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

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

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown asked Vick whom he blamed for what happened.

Vick said, “I blame me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vick said, “I agree.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

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

Friday, August 7th, 2009

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

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

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

They are fond of dictators.

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

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

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

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

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

POWER over RELIGION

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

Their ideology is Power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete xo

CARBON TAX: Another Speculative Bubble Opportunity for the Banks?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

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

Fast-forward to today. It’s early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs—its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign—sits in the White House.

Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

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

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

Nonetheless, Taibbi goes on to say:

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

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

Keep loving, keep learning,

Pete xoxo

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

Monday, July 20th, 2009

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

And this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their fault? Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love,

Pete

FACING ALI Academy Release July 10-16 in New York and Los Angeles

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Hope all is well. This is a blog for all those wonderful folks who have written or called or wondered where and when they can see Facing Ali. First off, I’d love you to see it! I’m not the only one. Check out this photo of ‘The Greatest.’

I’ve been lucky enough to be at full screenings in Seattle, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and I cannot say enough about how generous and enthusiastic the crowds have been. It was like family—families who really love each other. It’s also been shown in Nantucket and Maui.

For now, though, FACING ALI is opening June 10th for a limited one week engagement in LA and New York in what is called an Academy Release. This allows the film to have a shot at an Academy Award nomination. Wouldn’t that be something? That happens, and you’ll all see it.

If you happen to be near either of these two theatres, I’m so happy. If you know anyone near those places, please send an email or make a phone call.

New York:
New Coliseum Theatre
703 West 181st Street
New York, NY 10033

Los Angeles:
Laemmle Claremont 5
450 West Second Street
Claremont, CA 91711

If not, damn I’m sorry. Either way, spread the word if you’ve seen the film, or spread the word if you want to see it. You will love these ten guys who fought Ali, had their lives changed forever, and were a huge part of Muhammad Ali’s evolution. I loved ‘em.

The TRAILER is here.

And check this out for three online reviews.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

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

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

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

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

I read today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TANGLED UP IN BLUE (I mean Red)

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

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

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

In fact I’m going to look up scam.

Scam, noun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great. Thank you. Call a committee!

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

And somebody is supposed to be surprised?

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

Willens goes on to suggest:

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

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

If they did, it had no power.

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

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

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

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

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

Pete xo

CONSPIRACY! Now All We Need Is A Sustainable Counter Conspiracy

Monday, July 6th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the original conspiracy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Motors led the way.

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

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

The full short article from 1995 is here.

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

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

Pete

CANADA DAY CELEBRATION: Gratitude, Potential and Problems (oh yeah, and the inimitable Tommy Douglas)

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

“Nothing can be quite so resentful as a man who has ridden on your back for fifty years, and then you make him get off and walk.”
—Tommy Douglas

Tommy also said:

“The time has come for us to break away from the old-line parties and to elect a government that will represent all those who, with hands and brains, produced the wealth of this country.”

How can a country not be something special when the man voted ‘The Greatest Canadian‘ just a few years ago—Tommy Douglas—said such a bold statement—and actually meant it?

See some very untrivial Tommy Douglas trivia at the bottom of the page.

Tommy Douglas, for the record, was the father-in-law of Donald Sutherland, and the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland.

CANADA DAY

With my sister, her husband and two children visiting Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, on Canada Day (July 1st), and after my friend Tim yelling at me for not mentioning Easter on Easter, I must say, a day late, how incredibly fortunate I am to live in Canada.

Concerns for political and religious freedom, limiting (visible) pollution, clean water, education, civil rights, our health care system and so on, are all remarkably positive—troubles notwithstanding.

I say this with the caveat that I am not a big State person. Compassion before patriotism. Human before Canadian. Borders, boundaries and exclusions are, in all their complexity, challenging to my belief systems and my heart.

Still, citizenship in this world, depending on the country, and for better or worse, is often the difference between rights and virtually no rights. Just ask the average refugee.

COMING HOME

But as I get older—and, yes, that is happening (I now comb over my back-hair to add thickness to my head hair. Just kidding—I actually use my relentless ear hair for that). Where was I? Yeah. The older I get, no matter where I have the good fortune of traveling to in this inconceivable world—where, to me, we are all brothers and sisters—the more grateful I am to come back to Canada.

CAPTAIN VANCOUVER

That feeling is deepened when I get back to Vancouver. It is a highly privileged lifestyle for a considerable percentage of the population. At least it is for me. Canada, as far as countries go, is a great country, with much to praise.

ENERGY

I do not say that naively, I hope. Canada’s per capita energy consumption is a disgrace, and shows a lack of personal initiative and hopeless leadership. I have heard we are the largest consumers of energy, per capita, in the world. Not a good event in which to win the Gold Medal—and here we are awarded the shameful Bronze Medal, “an embarrassing 27th out of 29 OECD nations in terms of energy use per capita.” Alberta, with the environmentally disastrous tar-sands, has been said to consume two-and-a-half times the national average.

THE DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE

In Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside remains, for countless reasons, a social catastrophe. And the fact that something like 30% of the disenfranchised in the area are First Nations, indigenous, is also a disgrace.

Hopefully the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the crime of Residential Schools will continue to help a healing of which we can all gain more compassion, pride and traction. A friend of mine who works with indigenous people seeking compensation, and also works on the commission, was very happy with the three people appointed to oversee the proceedings.

Further, a First Nations person is something like nine times more likely than the rest of the Canadian population to be incarcerated in Canada. Without being able to offer solutions, I can still say this is repugnant. There was a thoughtful film on one sliver of the topic put out by Hugh Brody this year.

CAUSING MORE HARM

Our present government’s policies towards drug addiction also remain abysmal, largely backwards and still in lock-step with America’s disastrous War on Drugs Policies. Former Minister of Health Tony Clements actually called Insite, the only supervised needle injection site in North America (there are around 50 in the world), “an abomination.”

Thick ignorance—and not even fiscally pragmatic.

One of the main and most inspiring concerns and goals of Insite (and decent human beings): harm reduction. It seems to me a country’s commitment to harm reduction—perhaps even more so in deeply disenfranchised communities—is a marker for that country’s enlightenment, compassion, sustainability and leadership.

The above mentioned are some of our weaknesses. There are more, to be sure. It’s not easy being human. But there is greatness here, and great potential—as there is everywhere.

FREE SPEECH

And a mere glance at the Amnesty International magazine that comes every few months—and seeing true abominations in China and elsewhere with ten year jail sentences meted out over pro-democracy emails etc—reminds me to the core of my being the greatness (or at least sanity) of the Canadian government’s overall relative reluctance to use force against its citizens. This allows for the hope and brilliance of free speech, at least to a large degree (this freedom thanks to the efforts, over generations, of the people themselves, protesting on Canadian soil).

This freedom, earned by courageous people acting in solidarity, allows for the opportunity to have no excuse to not fight for increased social justice and freedom, here and everywhere.

And with freedom of speech, one can choose solidarity or division, all along the spectrum. One can choose love, and defending the vulnerable. How great is that? Think of the potential, even in a crazy world.

I am privileged to have grown up and live in Canada. I am grateful to be here. But at my best, my heart is with all sisters and brothers, everywhere.

Lots of love to you and yours, sisters and brothers, in solidarity. I encourage comments: agreements, disagreements and inspiring ideas and additions.

Pete

You have to check this fantastic audio recording from Tommy Douglas.

A LITTLE TOMMY TRIVIA

—Brought in North America’s first Medicare (universal health care in Saskatchewan). The mass of doctors, yes, the doctors in the province—backed up by the North American medical establishments—vilified Tommy, doing everything they could to stop its manifestation. Remember this! Showing no ability for working class moxy, the doctors abandoned their strike against universal health care after three weeks.

When Medicare passed in Saskatchewan in 1961/62—see also Emmett Matthew Hall—the rest of Canada wanted it too. A few years later, Medicare went national.

—Ushered in the first Bill of Rights (of its kind) in North America, outlawing discrimination for gender and race equality in Saskatchewan (1947), eighteen months before the United Nations! When he called for a national Bill of Rights in 1950, no one supported him.

—Balanced the budget for 17 straight years.

—Early and strongly outspoken opponent (1965) of the Vietnam War.

—Changed the liquor law to allow women to also drink in bars (Keifer, no!). Not bad for someone who was a Baptist minister before going into politics.

—Said a big fat “No” to Trudeau administering the War Measures Act (Martial Law) in 1970. In the day, this was very unpopular, but showed the measure of the man’s belief in civil liberties (geezuz, a socialist-libertarian).

—Basically brought paved roads, electricity and indoor toilets to rural Saskatchewan.

—Made employers guarantee employees a minimum of two weeks paid vacation every year.

—He brought in old-age pension.

—His Arts Board in Saskatchewan was a North American first.

And for all this he was accused of being a Bolshevik, etc etc, by the same ol’ fat cats…

Happy Canada Day!

EUGENICS ALERT!

Later in the day!

Wouldn’t you know it? After writing all of the above, I discovered an article on line from John Robson of the Western Standard talking about Tommy Douglas’ masters dissertation. Written in 1933, the paper is, evidently (I haven’t seen it), an ugly 33-page essay advocating eugenics—the sterilization of so-called “Subnormal” families (mentally disabled) to minimize the perpetuation of “morons” on society. In the paper, Robson says that Douglas also advocates physical and mental health certificates.

Eugenics was actually deeply popular at the time. Nonetheless, this is not pleasing or pretty.

Did Tommy have a change of heart afterwards and come to see the fascist nature of those ideas? I can’t say for sure, but all evidence seems to point that way. Tommy witnessed Hitler (a real pro-eugenics guy) in 1936 in Germany and called him a “mad dog.” He was also sure Hitler could not be appeased. Douglas pushed for war and offered to enlist himself.

THE KING OF DUPEVILLE

In contrast, the Canadian Prime Minister in 1937 said upon meeting Hitler:

“He smiled very pleasantly, and indeed had a sort of appealing and affectionate look in his eyes. My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow man and his country…his eyes impressed me most of all. There was a liquid quality about them which indicated keen perception and profound sympathy (calm, composed)—and one could see how particularly humble folk would come to have a profound love for the man.”

Now that’s scary.

DELIVERANCE

Once Premier of Saskatchewan, Douglas pushed for and achieved better care for institutionalized mental patients, universal health care [unheard of] and he produced in 1947 the first Bill of Rights in North America (even before the UN). The Bill outlawed discrimination due to race and/or gender. Tommy also advocated workers rights, equalized gender drinking rights, brought in old-age pension and on and on.

Although not knowing the deepest thoughts of Tommy’s heart, he seems by his actions to be a profound and progressive champion of human rights, inspiring, indefatigable and utterly trend-setting for the time.

WESTERN STANDARDS

I don’t know, but I feel that John Robson has perhaps a political bone to pick. My guess is he is repulsed by the social democrat ideal. I could be wrong. Either way, Tommy’s life remains remarkable.

EUGENICS INC.

It should also be noted that in 1928, five years before Tommy’s dissertation, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta actually enacted the Sexual Sterilization Act, the objective being to prevent mentally disabled persons from producing off-spring.

In short, at the time, Tommy’s dissertation was not even particularly radical. On the other hand, his 1947 Bill of Rights and his 1962 Universal Health Care Plan were downright incendiary, futuristic and ushered in social revolutions.

I do agree with Robson that it is interesting that the dissertation is rarely if ever brought up by Douglas’ supporters.

I guess that’s human nature (curable, perhaps, by eugenics).

But perhaps as Robson himself said in his article, paraphrasing, Douglas is barely known, anyway.

EUGENICS

In 1883, Sir Francis Galton, inspired by his half-cousin Charles Darwin, coined the term. The popularity of eugenics in the early part of the century is fascinating and disconcerting. It was commonly taught in universities at the time, and according to Wikipedia:

“From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, [of wildly differing ideologies] including Margaret Sanger [birth control advocate], Marie Stopes [birth control advocate], H. G. Wells [science fiction writer], Woodrow Wilson [Democrat president], Theodore Roosevelt [Republican president], Emile Zola [French writer], George Bernard Shaw [vegetarian playwright], John Maynard Keynes [bail-out economist], John Harvey Kellogg [prudish doctor and cereal-namer], Winston Churchill [colonizer and mostly conservative British war-hero], Linus Pauling [scientist and Vitamin C guy] and Sidney Webb [can't remember].”

Hitler [bad person], of course, is the most famous proponent—and executer. In Sweden, evidently, a eugenics program was continued until 1975.

The wonderful GK Chesterton [fat, witty and insightful] was an early opponent.

And that’s it. Love ya!

Pete

THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES, INTERNALLY PLACED PERSONS and BEING HUMAN

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pete

EL CONTRATO—Mexican Migrant Workers in Canada

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love,

Pete

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

Friday, June 5th, 2009

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

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

SPEAKING OF IDEOLOGY: Startling Juxtaposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In an interview with Noam Chomsky, he said:

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

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

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

They don’t like to be oppressed.

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

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

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

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

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

Tons of love, dignity and solidarity to you,

Pete

TRUE DEMOCRACY and TRUE ANARCHY: Clark Kent and Superman?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

I’ve been doing a little research on social movements in British Columbia, the Kootenays specifically, around the 1900s—fascinating labour struggles that are, absurdly, rarely taught, even in those places. In the process I came across this interview with Simon Fraser University professor Mark Leier (that had nothing precisely to do with the aforementioned research). Nonetheless, interesting, and ideologically related. In talking about his book on the famous anarchist Bakunin, and asked about the term Anarchy in general, Leier said:

Mark Leier:

No question, the word anarchy freaks people. Yet anarchy—rule by no one—has always struck me as the same as democracy carried to its logical and reasonable conclusions. Of course those who rule—bosses and politicians, capital and the state—cannot imagine that people could rule themselves, for to admit that people can live without authority and rulers pulls out the whole underpinnings of their ideology.

Once you admit that people can—and do, today, in many spheres of their lives—run things easier, better and more fairly than the corporation and the government can, there’s no justification for the boss and the premier.

I think most of us realize and understand that in our guts—but schools, culture, the police, all the authoritarian apparatuses, tell us we need bosses, we need to be controlled “for our own good.”

It’s not for our own good—it’s for the good of the boss, plain and simple.

I haven’t read the entire article, but that opening was compelling enough to post. Here’s the rest of the interview, in the Tyee.

Lots of love and freedom and self-rule to you,

Pete

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

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE (of truth) TRADE

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love to you,

Pete xox

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

Woody: “If life were only like this…”

PBS HIJACKED: Well, not PBS, but the PFLP, September 6, 1970

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Although some would actually say PBS has been hijacked, by lefties, commies, deviants and atheists. Others would say it’s been hijacked by right wing foundations and multinationals and undercover elites. Some national public institutions can’t win. You should see what happens to CBC radio here, under the Harper government.

All I know is PBS makes a lot of fascinating documentaries, and even shows a lot of them online, for free. And in the outer territories of a given country, thank the Lord for public radio.

They were actually, practically the only place, until the internet, that truly original, alternative voices were heard—voices that inspire great movements in a given place.

Anyway, the other day I saw an interesting PBS look-back film called HIJACKED. It was on the hijacking of five planes by the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—which took place in 1970, and some say birthed the concept of global terrorism. This form of terrorism, of course, is to be differentiated from local terrorism, State terrorism and World Wars, which have been going on for quite a bit longer, all of which are terrifying and deadly.

For the record, the PFLP were not a religious group. They were and I think still are Marxist in ideology.

GROWING PAINS FOR HUMANITY

Whatever the Hijacking birthed, the Palestinian question remains unanswered. Hell, I’m not even sure what the question is. Is there a different value on deaths of different peoples? Should citizens be punished in the name of a given State? A given people? What is the relative or humanistic value of a nation state? Can privilege for a select religious or ethnic group exist beside democracy? That said, what exactly is democracy? What is the difference between terrorism and State terrorism?

Whatever the deep and ultimately moral answers of such questions may be, citizens do pay the price—often the ultimate price, as we have seen in large numbers (with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian story) in Gaza and Lebanon in the last few years—across the world, and certainly some lives are more protected and defended than others.

From the PBS website:

“Thirty-six years ago a new era in global terrorism was born. Just moments after lift-off on the morning of September 6, 1970, passengers on TWA’s flight 74 from Frankfurt to New York were startled to hear an announcement over the plane’s PA system:

“This is your new captain speaking. This flight has been taken over by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Minutes later, travelers on another New York-bound plane, Swissair Flight 100, faced the same chilling reality….

Elsewhere on the site:

They commandeered a fifth aircraft three days later. Wanting to attract attention to the Palestinian cause and secure the release of several of their comrades, the P.F.L.P. spectacularly blew up four of the planes [with no people inside—these were early days].

Today the commanders who planned and carried out the attack resist comparison to the terrorists who masterminded the events of September 11, 2001: members of the P.F.L.P. were not religious extremists, but secular Marxist Leninists.

And of the almost 600 passengers taken hostage, none were killed. And yet more than three decades later, it is clear that a connection exists between the two seminal events, that September 6, 1970 gave birth to a new era of terrorism.

Incidentally, one of the hijackers was a US citizen, Patrick Arguello, who was shot and killed while the plane was in the air. His Nicaraguan roots and what he’d seen done to his country by the CIA and the Americans in the early 50s (the overthrow of Arbenz) evidently influence him towards the Sandinista movement and, later, towards his Palestinian sympathies.

Two different comments from interviewees were worth writing down—I thought, anyway:

This from a British journalist (now novelist) who was on the site in the desert in Jordan where the planes were landed. Gerald Seymour described how, after the planes were hijacked and landed, the hijackers had no real plan of what to do next, and what this means to him upon reflection.

From Seymour:

They [the P.F.L.P. hijackers] did not have the sophistication [to think through the entire mission, beyond attracting the world's attention to their cause]. Nor, let it be said, did they at that time have the ruthlessness to press home the initial attacks on the airplane by killing people. They did npt have that ruthlessness. Okay, they were to learn it, but they hadn’t got it then.”

And William B Quandt, who worked with the National Security Council for many years, said:

“Once you get started with this kind of militancy, it’s hard to turn it off [one could extrapolate this comment to a thousand places, from global terrorism, to arms build up, to colonization, to invasion for business reasons etc etc]…people begin to compete for ways of doing a more dramatic [I can’t read my writing! but I think the world might be plan].

It’s difficult to stop once you developed that as your modus operandi.”

Anyway, historical food for thought.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

INDIA: Inequalities In The World’s Largest Democracy

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

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

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

An excerpt:

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

And further:

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

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

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

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

Lots of love to you,

Pete