Category Archives: Life/Animal Rights

Diet, Ignorance and the Environmental Crisis

Climate change sounds vast and impersonal, but it’s really a very personal matter; a global crisis caused by the individual actions humanity has collectively taken. All too often such actions proceed from a position of ignorance, selfishness and habit, and are undertaken with little or no understanding of the effects on the natural environment.

The debate around climate change commonly focuses on transportation, deforestation, and energy – replacing fossil fuels with renewables. This is right and urgent, and some countries are taking steps; however, what is not tackled at all is the devastating impact of a meat/dairy diet – common to 97% of humanity. According to Reducing Foods Environmental Impacts Through Producers and Consumers (RFEI), a detailed report published in the journal Science, consumption of animal produce is “degrading terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, depleting water resources, and driving climate change.”

Industrial farming of cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, plus harvesting fish, for human consumption is the single greatest cause of the interconnected environmental catastrophe; unless urgent substantive change takes place this could single-handedly lead to a polluting point beyond redemption. Misinformed, irresponsible lifestyle choices are behind the environmental crisis. The vast majority of people are unaware of the devastating effects of our collective eating habits, and from this position of uninformed ignorance disaster flows; the earth is poisoned, the climate disrupted and all manner of lives are lost.

Animal agriculture is responsible for approximately 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is more than any other sector, including manufacturing and transportation. The principal climate change contaminate is methane (44%), which comes mainly from rearing cattle – the source of 65% of all livestock GGE’s. While methane’s atmospheric life is only decades compared to centuries/millennia for carbon-dioxide (Co2) Scientific American reports that it “warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2,” before degrading to become CO2: So it’s a double whammy, an intensely damaging one.

In addition to high levels of GGE’s the meat and dairy industry is responsible for a range of environmental ills: Colossal amounts of both land and water are used to produce meat and dairy for the dinner plate a third of all the Earths fresh water is soaked up by the industry, according to PNAS, and Waterfootprint relates that over 15,000 litres of water are required to produce a kilogram of beef, compared to the 322 litres of water needed for a kilo of vegetables. In America, 55% of total water usage goes to animal agriculture, compared to 5% for domestic use.

Globally the human population drinks around 5.2 billion gallons of water and eats 21 billion pounds of food daily, the documentary Conspiracy states. Though a lot, this pales into insignificance compared to the 45 billion gallons of water the world’s 1.5 billion cows drink daily and the 135 billion pounds of food they consume.

Land: use and degradation

The demand livestock farming makes on worldwide land resources is equally alarming. Between 25% and 30% of all (ice-free) land is utilized for grazing (up to 60 times more than the combined urban conurbations of the world); add in land used to grow feed crops and the figure leaps to 45% according to the International Livestock Research Institute. This voracious appetite for land is the primary cause of rainforest deforestation (which generates 10% of global GGE, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists) as huge tracts of land are cleared to graze cattle and grow genetically manipulated soya beans and maize, which are used in animal feed.

The World Resource Institute estimates that only 15% of the world’s rainforests remain, the other 85% has been leveled, badly degraded or broken up, destroying ancient ecosystems and displacing hundreds of thousands of indigenous people; and 91% of the lost rainforest is due to farming livestock to feed human beings with meat and dairy.

Tropical rainforests are the lungs of the planet, but an acre of this most precious land is being cleared every second, and it’s increasing: In the world’s largest rainforest, the Brazilian Amazon, from August 2015 to July 2016 deforestation rose sharply, to, The New York Times (NYT) reported “nearly two million acres…. that’s a jump from about 1.5 million acres a year earlier.” In neighboring Bolivia, the Bolivia Documentation and Information Center estimates that 865,000 acres of land have been cleared every year since 2011 – a huge increase on the 366,000 acres a year during the 1990’s and the 667,000 acres a year in the early 2000’s. The reason for the increase is “a strategy by multinational food companies to source their agricultural commodities from ever more remote areas around the world.” Areas where law is weak and corporations can do as they like – all in the name of profit.

Deforestation and soil degradation/erosion leading to desertification are closely connected. The UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), records that “12 million hectares of arable land, enough to grow 20 tonnes of grain, are lost to desertification annually. With over 70% of the global arable land being used to grow crops for livestock, its clear that “animal agriculture is the leading driver for approximately 1/3 of the land lost on earth due to desertification.”

Animal agriculture is also the principal cause behind the unprecedented level of species extinction, and this because of a variety of factors: Clearing forests destroys natural habitat; wild animals are hunted to protect livestock; pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers used in the production of feed crops “interferes with the reproductive systems of animals and poison water supplies.” Together with the broader impact animal agriculture is having on climate change, this all contributes, Conspiracy relates “to global depletion of species and resources.”

The industrial farming of livestock is a multi-layered environmental disaster, a global industry worth an estimated 3.178 $Trillions per year according to the World Bank that is growing at a phenomenal rate. Over the past 50 years global meat production increased fourfold. In 1963 it was 78 million tonnes, now, Global Agriculture records that it’s around 308 million tonnes per year. It’s expected to rise a further 75% by 2050 and demand for dairy to increase by 65%. If this trend continues, research published in Nature calculate that by 2050 agricultural emissions will take up the entire world’s carbon budget, with livestock a major contributor. This would “mean every other sector, including energy, industry and transport, would have to be zero carbon, which is described as ‘impossible’.”

The enormous rise in production, of cheap low-quality food stuff is being generated through large-scale factory farming; it is how 70% of all farm animals are now reared, is the biggest cause of animal cruelty, and the source of many of the health pandemics in recent years. Livestock is regarded as human property – living commodities within a world of commodification to be used and profited from with no concern for the well-being of the animals.

Regionally, Asia produces almost half of the total meat production, Europe and America account for 19 and 15% respectively. The countries that consume most are currently the industrialized nations, Australia tops the chart of meat eaters, with, Forbes tells us, an average Australian eating “205 lbs. of beef and veal, poultry, pork and sheep meat a year”. America follows with 200 lbs. a year, then comes Israel at 189 lbs. It’s interesting to note that these countries also lead the world in wealth and income inequality.

Some will argue that even more livestock is needed to feed a growing global population. This claim is totally unfounded. Whilst the world is certainly overpopulated (7.6 billion), enough food is being produced to feed an estimated 10–12 billion people, but as FAO relates, “an estimated one-third of all food produced for human use, valued at $1 trillion, is lost or wasted each year.” In full sight of this criminal act almost a billion people are starving, whilst 1.9 billion are overweight. As the Meat Atlas makes clear, the global system for producing food is totally broken, it is a failed industry controlled by a handful of multinational corporations sitting within a dysfunctional economic system that places profit before people and the planet.

Change of Lifestyle

If humanity is to overcome the environmental crisis, a major shift in behavior is needed, including a change in diet. The RFEI report reveals that adopting diets which exclude animal products “has [enormous] transformative potential: reducing food’s land use by 2.8-3.3 billion hectares (a 76% reduction), including a 19% reduction in arable land; food’s GHG emissions by 49%; acidification by between 45-54%; eutrophication [excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water] by up to 56%.” In large meat eating societies like America, where meat consumption is three times the global average and a mere 3.5% are vegetarian, changing diet “has the potential for a far greater effect on food’s different emissions, reducing them by up to 73%.”

Awareness is the critical ingredient in change, individually and collectively. In order to raise awareness of the impact of meat/dairy production and create a well-informed society, information needs to be widely available. The lead researcher on RFEI, Joseph Poore from the University of Oxford, proposes labeling which reveals product impact should be made available. Such a step should be compulsory, so “consumers could choose the least damaging options.” In addition, Poore suggests governments subsidize “sustainable and healthy foods” while “reallocating agricultural subsidies that now exceed half a trillion dollars a year worldwide.”

These measures would greatly help, but changing behavior is extremely difficult, particularly on the scale and within the time-frame required, and it won’t happen without incentives. In 2013 a group of scientists proposed “implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions”, this “economically sound policy would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns.” Such a common-sense scheme should be implemented throughout the world as part of a set of global policies, consistently enforced, designed to change harmful behaviour and encourage responsible action. We all have a duty to do everything we can to restore the Earth to health and safeguard it for future generations and the most effective way to do this, as the RFEI study shows, is to stop eating animal produce.

Eulogizing Anthony Bourdain

For the last few days I have had to read about Anthony Bourdain and how he was such a wonderful human being. The praise in these eulogies has been laid on thick, with Bourdain being hailed as an exceptional human being who stood up for marginalized societies and championed social justice issues. I have also read post after post on social media websites by so-called “thought leaders” or vegan activists respected in the “animal rights movement,” who complain about those of us who dared criticize the actions of Mr. Bourdain. They claim that those of us who point out his cruelty to animals are celebrating the death of a decent human being. They argue that in exposing these flaws, we give the animal rights movement a bad name; that we are simply dancing on the grave of the deceased. We disliked him, they say, because he was not a vegetarian or vegan like us. Yet their claims could not be further from the truth. We are not rejoicing that Mr. Bourdain suffered and killed himself; and we did not criticize him because he was a meat eater. Our criticisms in regard to Mr. Bourdain are not about this. Rather, they are centered on exposing his cruel actions against helpless sentient beings – actions that have and will continue to cause problems for non-human animals long after he is buried. What we are trying to do is point out how his actions were contrary to what we vegans and animal right activists stand for: compassion for all life, both human and non-human. In this commitment we mirror the sentiments of Dr Albert Schweitzer, who coined the term “Reverence for Life.” This is something that Mr. Bourdain did not believe in.

In order to fairly and justly assess Anthony Bourdain as a public figure, we need to separate the mental turmoil that led to his demise from the way in which he chose to live his life without any apparent moral compass regarding how to treat non-human animals. These two issues are separate and must not be conflated into one issue.

As I have said in response to a lot of folks who appear to believe that Mr. Bourdain walked on water, it gives me no joy knowing he suffered and killed himself. Death and suffering are not to be rejoiced in. I strongly and sincerely feel sorry for his family and extend my condolences to them. I also strongly feel we should extend our compassion to Mr.Bourdain and have the heart to forgive him for what he has done to animals; on the other hand, we should never forget these actions. I would like to point out that he may have been progressive on some social justice issues, but that his progressivism did not extend to the treatment of non-human animals. Rather, he despised animals and those human beings that stood up for them. He was an anthropocentric, speciesist individual. To reiterate, my criticism of Mr. Bourdain isn’t about him as a human being but about his actions against non-human animals. Most of the people who criticize him merely point out that this so-called celebrity was no saint, that he was excessively cruel to animals. Depicting a flawed human being who was cruel to animals as some saint in human flesh is ridiculous, yet it appears to be the perspective many adherents of his have taken in the days since his passing. Pointing out that Mr. Bourdain was not the kind soul he is portrayed as – that he had real flaws, such as his mean-spiritedness and hatred for people who refuse to eat animals out of pure compassion for defenseless beings – is not itself a hateful or unjust act.

To give some examples of the extent of his cruelty:

Bourdain once chewed on the head of a live octopus while it thrashed and struggled to get away from him. Mr. Bourdain was trying to eat his/her brain, thus killing the defenseless animal in a cruel act of torture. While with a fellow chef, who stuck his hands up a duck’s inside and ripped out the bird’s intestine, he once said “this gives them their fresh taste.” On another occasion, Bourdain sliced open the throat of a live goat and then proceeded to drink the goat’s blood, He participated in cutting out the beating heart of a live snake. One time, he was filmed shooting a deer and stated that he could do this all day. In another video Bourdain is heard saying: “first you have to kill these things and collect their blood;” soon after, someone smeared his face with the blood of a newly killed deer, while laughing. Here, one can view footage of Bourdain stabbing a tied-up, screaming pig:

Most of these cruel and unnecessary actions were filmed live. Some have argued he was just respecting the eating habits of cultures he visited. My response is that participating in grotesque acts of cruelty and taping these acts with apparent excitement and joy is not what I expect from someone of his stature and background.  He also once said, while being asked by someone who accused him of eating dog meat, that “20 more seconds of this I’m going out and shooting a puppy in the fucking head.” Another time, he posed nude with a big animal bone with meat hanging, covering his groin. Mr. Bourdain exhibited his hatred for animals in many more ways. The ones I described above are just a sample of the many statements, sentiments and actions that were customary for him. He even hated people who refrained from eating animals, and once said of Vegans and Vegetarians: “Vegans are disgusting and loathsome. I’m often asked why vegans are the enemy of everything good and decent and must be hunted down and destroyed so their genes don’t pass onto future generations.” He once said people who don’t eat cheese should kill themselves.

Bourdain inarguably relished eating defenseless, exotic and in some cases endangered species like the Ortolan bird, a tiny bird that was prepared for his consumption by drowning the bird in a vat of Armagnac before cooking. He described his experience as being orgasmic and close to ecstasy: “With every bite, as the thin bones and layers of fat, meat, skin and organs compact in on themselves, there are sublime dribbles of varied and wondrous ancient flavors: figs, Armagnac, dark flesh slightly infused with the salty taste of my own blood as my mouth is pricked by the sharp bones.”

Repeatedly throughout his journalistic career, Mr. Bourdain had shown contempt and hatred for animals and total indifference to their suffering. He often gleefully participated in their suffering and torture. His gruesome killing of defenseless animals on worldwide television helped desensitize people to the suffering of other sentient beings and made it okay for foodies and chefs – as well as common folks – to seek out and hunt down endangered, exotic species for consumption. He gave support to all the psychos, or future mass murderers, who enjoy torturing animals to start or continue doing so. He has made the work of activists, in the countries where he toured and participated in the gruesome killing and devouring of innocent animals, extremely difficult. Activists who toil year after year trying to convince people in their respective countries to go vegan see their efforts evaporate within days after an American celebrity chef visits their country and when his actions are televised showing the killing and consumption of animals. This signifies to locals that it is right to mutilate and consume animals.

So why no outcry?  Why would otherwise caring, levelheaded people sing the praises of this man? The answer is speciesism, which assigns different values, rights, or special consideration to particular individuals solely on the basis of their species membership.

Just like racism and sexism, the underlying commonality between these “isms” is the idea or concept that one group is better than another, that one group is superior due to its species, racial or sexual membership. In the case of speciesism humans are considered superior to other nonhuman animals, whereas in the case of racism members of the white race consider themselves superior to those of other races.

In all these cases what makes these attitudes and beliefs possible is the use of force. The forceful ability to exert one’s will allows the dominant group to kill, rape, and/or mutilate the dominated group.

These are the power dynamics that allowed Mr. Bourdain to mutilate and torture nonhuman animals. The same speciesism allows people like Mr. Bourdain not to think twice or have a scintilla of compassion for their victims. For Mr. Bourdain they were like inanimate objects that can be tortured with no moral consequences. The same may be said for the sexist who sees nothing wrong in treating women as property to be used or abused, or the racist who sees enslaving and abusing a person of color as acceptable.

For this same reason, millions of people all over the world – including so-called vegans and animal rights advocates – praise and celebrate his work but say nothing about his incomprehensible and unacceptable cruelty. Speciesism is pervasive in societies all over the world, just like racism and sexism. It is even deeply embedded in the psyche of the most ardent animal rights advocates; a result of the indoctrination of human beings, who think we are the center of the universe. It’s hard to let go of anthropocentric memes handed down through generations and decades of subtle or not-so-subtle, intentional or non-intentional, indoctrination by parents, educational systems, religious institutions, and the media.

Let me be clear: I am not against people mourning Anthony Bourdain’s death, or appreciating his support for marginalized societies and cultures. I am not against praising him for the other good things he may have done in his life. What I am asking – no, demanding – is for the truth to be told. Let all of the information circulating about him and his life work provide a balanced depiction of his deeds that include the good, the bad and the ugly. Let the true nature of this flawed and tortured human being be exposed. Not so we can insult him, belittle him or celebrate his death or his suffering, but to show him in his totality so that people know who he really was and to let them decide if he should be eulogized in such glowing terms. People should know that it is not okay to mistreat and abuse defenseless sentient beings for gustatory delight, for ratings or for the sheer pleasure of killing. They should also know that there are millions of compassionate human beings who say “no” to such gruesome acts. Anthony Bourdain was not one of them.

Justice, for the animals Mr. Bourdain tortured and killed, demands it.

Local Autonomy: A Key to Protection of the Ecosystem

When Europeans first visited the east Atlantic seaboard, the hyperabundance of cod would not go unnoticed. In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the peninsula, where the Nauset and Wampanoag people lived, Cape Cod after its fish stocks.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank of Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were immensely rich fishing grounds that were plundered by the early 1990s. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on the fisheries in hopes of recovery.1

In the case of the Grand Banks, one analysis laid the blame squarely on technology, draggers, factory trawlers and “the expansionary dynamics of capitalism [that] caused Canadian vessels to scour the seas for ever increasing profit…”2 “[O]verfishing, primarily driven by the capitalist ethic, was one of the major causes of the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishery.”3,4

In his book, The Plundered Seas, Michael Berrill called the Grand Banks and Georges Bank maybe the saddest story of overfishing.5 Berrill recognized the problem of protecting straddling stocks, as projections of the Grand Banks were outside Canada’s EEZ; moreover, Spain and the EU ignored the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization quotas.6

Worldwide, Berrill pointed to a peak in captured fish stocks in 1989, that signaled a maximum sustainable global catch having been approached.7 The FAO concurred, finding that “unregulated fisheries were often leading to resource depletion.”8 Given that the global fisheries are considered important for the food security and nutritional needs of the world’s population9 this should be a cause for concern.

Berrill’s solution was the management of Large Marine Ecosystems.10

There is much evidence for the efficacy of marine reserves and site management. In one study, for example, crab fishery data from 1996 to 2013 indicated that the decrease in catches after closure to trawling and gillnetting was significantly greater outside than inside closure zones.11

In the face of uncertainty, adherence to the precautionary principle seems prudent.12 Prudent and logical, but not easy.

“Fishers, like most other people, don’t like to be managed at all,” Berrill noted.13 Consequently, rules to protect the environment and its ecosystems are faced with difficulties posed by cheating, lack of enforcement, and insufficient funding.14

To overcome this these challenges, Berrill advocated that the marine reserves for protecting fish stocks should be managed by local communities.15

Community management of the Apo Island marine sanctuary

Apo Island seen from Negros

Among the over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lies Apo Island, a diminutive tropical island, nestled at the bottom of Cebu and southeast from nearby Negros. A sign on Apo Island’s main beach informs that the island is 72 hectares of protected landscape and 619 hectares of protected seascape.

The seascape includes 106 hectares of coral reef. The reserve lies on the south-eastern side of Apo Island and was established in 1982 as a no-take area. It consists of 22.5 hectares along a 0.45 km stretch of the island that represents about 10% of the coral reef. Fishing is the major income-generating activity in the area.

The island is distinctive. There are no roads or motorized vehicles. You get around by walking. Electricity is available only from 6 PM to 10 PM each day. All the lodgings are simple backpacker style. To some this island is paradise.

Main thoroughfare on Apo Island

But people in paradise must not be complacent as a sign affixed to the side of a thatched bamboo hut warns. Titled “Threats to Philippine Biodiversity,” those listed were deforestation, mining, hunting and wildlife trade, pollution, population growth, lack of education, and illegal fishing.

Apo Island is very dependent on fishing for sustenance. But over the years, a decline in catch was noticed and fishers were having to venture farther offshore to catch fish.

Apo Island found a solution: the establishment of a marine sanctuary. This venture was led by Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine scientist from Silliman University. Apo Islander Mario Pascobello, owner of a family-operated diving and homestay business, told of the sensitive negotiations undertaken to persuade fisherfolk to accede to a sanctuary and dissuade them from deleterious fishing practices — among them dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, muro-ami, and using nets with overly small mesh.

Pascobello related that initially the islanders agreed to 10 percent of the waters being designated a marine sanctuary. When they results turned out favorably, with an increase in near-shore catch, the Apo Islanders agreed to expand the sanctuary.

Pascobello noted that the Apo Island success has led to the establishment of over one thousand marine sanctuaries throughout the Philippines. Pascobello even was invited to Bunaken Island in Indonesia to share the Apo Island experience that helped lead to the setting up of a marine reserve there.

Blue sea star on Apo Reef

Apo Island is indeed a picturesque underwater realm. This I experienced on several dives, from swimming over a sandy plain speckled with gently bubbling vents that belied the volcanic origin of the island to admiring the kaleidoscopic color provided by nature’s marine garden of hard and soft corals — all this backdropped by a clear blue seascape. There are a multitude of sea creatures to be encountered. Anemonefishes danced in their namesake homes, sea snakes poked their heads under coral ledges in search of a meal, sea turtles glided by in ungainly fashion, while schools of big-eye trevallies and barracuda rode the currents of the outer reef. Apo Island is a testament to restoring a vibrant fishing ground, preserving the environment for future generations, and creating economic opportunities through tourism.


Turtles abound in the waters surrounding Apo island

Pascobello averred that community leadership, community monitoring, and education are the keys to the success of the marine reserve.

A 2018 UBC study suggests caution, finding that destructive illegal fishing practices still persist in the Philippines. It seems increased vigilance along with continuing education are ever more needed.

Nonetheless, Apo Island is a testament to land and marine sanctuaries as a winning proposition for the entire community.

  • All photos by Kim Petersen.
    1. It may well be that a recovery is underway, as there are signs that the the cod stocks are bouncing back. See Aaron Beswick, “The cod are coming back to Newfoundland — and they’re eating the shrimp that had taken over,” National Post, 23 March 2017.
    2. Fred Mason, “The Newfoundland Cod Stock Collapse: A Review and Analysis of Social Factors,” Electronic Green Journal, 1(17): 4-5.
    3. Fred Mason, 7.
    4. In his book 2030: Confronting Thermogeddon in our Lifetime (Arcade Publishing, 2003), Robert Hunter told of an Atlantic fishboat captain who admitted that every country’s fishers had knowingly pillaged the east coast cod for the sake of immediate personal gain.
    5. Michael Berrill, The Plundered Seas: Can the World’s Fish Be Saved? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997): 124.
    6. Michael Berrill, 125-129.
    7. Michael Berrill, 2.
    8. FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016, 83.
    9. FAO, 200.
    10. Michael Berrill, 40-56.
    11. Kate Kincaid, George Rose, “Effects of closing bottom trawling on fisheries, biodiversity, and fishing communities in a boreal marine ecosystem: the Hawke Box off Labrador, Canada,” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2017, 74(9): 1490-1502.
    12. Michael Berrill, 55-56.
    13. Michael Berrill, 57.
    14. Michael Berrill, 38-59.
    15. Michael Berrill, 83-84.

    How Yulia and Sergei Skripal (and their cat) Saved the World!

    Ah, the “Sorrows of Empire.” Its lies these days so easily exposed. Yet, too often ignored.

    Saturday morning, April 14, 2018, the world released a collective sigh of relief after a week of anguished hand-wringing at the too-likely possibility of our own utter annihilation. US President, Donald J. Trump, a man of massive ego, reportedly small hands and apparently insignificant phallus, had failed, despite direct attempts by the Big Bad Wolf of American military madness, to blow down the retaining walls protecting human conscience… and reality.

    Or fatally damage Syria.

    Having witnessed this failed attempt to blow the world to pieces via the winds of war, we, the remaining civilized world, were instead treated to worldwide giddy, heel kicking and side-splitting laughter at the ultimate tepid US military inspired results. Yes, despite a week of US hegemonic huffing and puffing — and tweeting — many of us were amazed to actually wake up once again.

    This past Saturday, we all discovered that the latest triumvirate of self-serving, sadistic and socially-challenged world leaders (US/UK/ FR)  had suffered a storied defeat…one caused by two little pigs — guinea pigs really — and one black cat.

    Thanks to these three demur little mammals, who spoke not a word of English, but were likely – if the UK media folly is to believed-  secretly taking Russian language lessons, these three accurately summed up current Western foreign policy:

    You can fool some of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time, but… You can’t fool all of the people all the time.”

    This sage advice, of course, was not within the full understanding of Messrs. Trump and Macron, nor Ms. May who instead preferred to believe in their own weakening hearts and minds the much older capitalist mantra:

    Never give a sucker an even break!

    Having seen their laundry list of previous cunning political connivinces go almost unchallenged by their own populace in routine acquiescence, their lies became ever bolder. And inexplicable. This lulled them into a false sense of overconfidence that believed they could provide all manner of utter nonsense as long as it was alleged to be attached to the never passe “Soviet Union” better known as “Russia.” So, it was natural for these three myopic world leaders to assume their latest plot would pass easily within the shadows of their own dark souls. Instead, theirs was a comedy show that suddenly snapped the world to the realization:

    We no longer believe a fucking thing you say!

    This ultimate and fundamental realization was spawned weeks before this past Saturday’s illegal attack. In the quaint UK town of Salisbury,  former double agent and recent MI-6 participant, Sergei Skripal, had relocated to go out to pasture, retire and die. Little did he know that his long-term goals would turn out to be somewhat premature. Well, almost.

    UK Prime Minister, Theresa May was, and is, a desperate woman. So desperate is she — after her own recent David Cameron moment of parliamentary disaster — to retain power within the posh digs at No. 10 that she quite willingly proved correct all criticisms of her Conservative Party: She joined forces with the Irish Nazi party, better known as the DUP… and gave them a 1 Billion British pound mortita for their trouble. That’s desperate!

    Strangely, Ms. May could not understand why, after all this, she was still reviled by all the UK parliamentary parties and most of the British people. Having done her best to achieve Neville Chamberlain style unpopularity, she needed a distraction… no matter how amateurish the production. For she had long ago concluded, as have so many foreign leaders, that her public was just as easily controlled as watering a potted plant in the window of her number 10.

    Over arrogant, Ms. May sent in her Keystone Cops — MI-6 — to do what had worked so often before in times of political need. So easy. Indeed! As the plot unfurled on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4, 2018, the press dutifully expanded daily on the one proffered set of lies. Nice and smoothly… Russia did it! Who, but a treasonous Brit would possibly argue with such a complete lack of prima face evidence? Yes, all was going so well for Ms. May and her conspirators until their hired media minions made their first fatal and undeniable mistake.

    Enter the true hero of our story, our savior, Nash Van Drake. Cat. Black cat. Likely Russian agent and the only live witness; one who knew all too well the other fundamental slogan of political cover-up…”Dead men ( and cats) tell no tales”. The two Guinea pigs were already toast, which, of course, fit the UK narrative that the Russian sounding Novichok — quickly renamed that week from its original name, “Foliant” —  had ultimately (after the Government story changed multiple times) originated in… or on… or around the Skripal house, hence the two little Guinea pigs’ timely demise and convenient incineration. However…

    You see, Van Drake was a black cat: Persian of Arabic descent. In the UK being black and/or Arab is increasingly great cause for caution. After years of living safely curled up on the living room settee watching the daily BBC propaganda reel or evenings on former spy Mr. Skripal’s lap forever watching James Bond reruns on ITV — over and over and over again — when the strange alien-looking men in yellow suits, plastic masks, and oxygen tanks picked the lock on the Skripal’s front door, astutely Van Drake took to these years of imposed TV training and knew just what to do. Run!

    The poor caged Guinea pigs didn’t have a chance.

    Once upon a time, the secret services of the dominant world had at least the courtesy to respect the world’s intelligence quotient even when discounting their country’s own. In that era, evil political intentions did attempt to carefully cover the footprints leading to their too many false flag operations. Professional surreptitious skullduggery, however, has now given way to plots of conquest that are really ham-fisted affronts to simple mental logic followed by a near total media cover-up in favor of same.

    This has so far been all too effective, and with the similarly agendized publishers in the US and UK having control of over 90% of these “media choices,” a media black-out of inconvenient facts has been the de rigueur method of cover-up. This new methodology of political deceit relies on one single, all-important premise, one that evil minds similar to those of Trump, Macron, and May believe to their soulless core:

    We control the story and …You… are too stupid and willfully ignorant to find the truth.

    While quantitatively and historically accurate in their belief to date, unfortunately for MI-6 and their resulting worldwide television theatrical performance, Brits are also animal lovers. One might well, then, imagine the look on the faces of the conspirators when, after already disposing of the evidence of the two conveniently dead rodents and thus certifying their claim that the Skripals were poisoned at their home, they were suddenly shocked by the very first serious media question, one for which the co-conspirators collectively had only one confused, nervous, sideways looking answer… “What Cat?!”

    Like Jack Ruby seeking out Oswald, the cops were off again to fix this glaring omission. Poor Van Drake, still hiding in the dark of his own Palestine under the couch, and now revealed, never had a chance. As the yellow suited masked men dragged him kicking and screaming off to certain chemical weapons death at Briton’s own self-proclaimed Auschwitz, the secret chemical weapons facility known instead as Porton Down, the poor kitty had no way of knowing that his cremation would make him the hero of this hilarious and almost fatal — for us — tragedy. For it was Van Drake, his being alive and next dead, that snapped the world to the proper realization that: one: the highly lethal military grade Novichok/Foliant in question was approximately as deadly as Van Drake’s own flea collar, and better: Ms. May, the Cons, and the vaunted UK press were completely lying out their ass!

    Finally, it seemed the counter-intelligence services of first world hegemony had actually managed to underestimate the true intelligence of the average Briton and, apparently, the military intelligence services of most of the other nations on earth. It’s one thing to shoot Palestinians for target practice, inflict the world’s biggest cholera epidemic on Yemen while bombing its hospitals and doctors, or terrorize a few hundred thousand Rohingya into abandoning their homes for the pleasure of capitalist pursuits: all these so easily ignored by a deliberate media sedated, flag-wrapped public. But, this time they had gone too far. They had killed… a cat!

    What a fuck-up!

    Fast forward to the land — the epicenter — of nationwide mind fabrication. Just as strangely as barely-prime minister, Ms. May, the new White House presidential marionette in orange, despite having been repeatedly for a year bitch slapped into submission by his adversaries on all sides of the aisle, was still having problems with those pesky Democrats and their Justice Department, their attorneys, and this past week, their cops. Worse, to a President who craves personal approval like an American male does Opioids, his popularity ratings were down.

    What to do? To a man with a golf ball sized IQ, there was only one thing he could do. A choice that would make him popular from the boardrooms of Halliburton to the gun-toting, Jack Daniels-swilling taverns, and barrooms of Tennessee. From the dark shadowy dampness of the Israeli Knesset to the gold lined palaces of the newly anointed Saudi prophet, MBS in Riyadh: A nice “new, shiny, smart” war.

    Perfect!!

    But how to start a new war. That chemical weapons false flag rubbish had failed, one, two three… six times in the past. Oh, and that Salisbury debacle — where the Skripal’s were doing just fine all of a sudden — now makes seven failures. But, to hell with a smart guy like Einstein, why not give it another shot. Besides Trump had a specially prepared US media tool awaiting: Those ever handy and timely White Helmets; the ones who always seem better with a video camera than at performing first aid. Fresh off being handed a shiny 2017 Oscar for their star acting role in their own Hollywood propaganda film of justification, surely they could finally get it right this time?

    Thus we, the civilized world, were treated to another round of intelligence insulting western inspired theatrics. And it might have worked. Almost did. Because, hey, these are the guys who wore the White helmets. White ones. Who could argue with that?

    Needing a coalition of the willing for his new war, the logical first choice for Trump was to invite his equally flawed counterpart in London to jump into bed with him.  Apparently the salacious allegations of the Steele dossier — which the UK press failed to show as connected to Skripal senior — may be true since Trump showed a continued passion for the kinky in next going French, and inviting another similarly descending political hack to his menage a trois of war.

    Macron, whose popularity echoes his two concubines in being approximately that of Napoleon bringing the troops home from Russia, was down to his skivvies in seconds. Reduced to attacking farmers and peaceful protesters in his stated effort to bring all things capitalist to bare in traditionally socialist France, he had obviously failed to yet master the emasculation of his own media. Thus the irony of all this, applied to French Napoleonic law, was that in the eyes of his countrymen Macron was at the very least, “guilty until proven innocent.” And, good luck with that.

    So, when Washington called, followed by a short follow-up ring from Tel Aviv, Macron also knew just what to do. And, off to war it was.

    For two weeks these three frolicked in a pre-war orgy of selling the exact same pack of lies to their own nation’s public via their own controlled media; lies that continued to include the connection to the Soviet Union Russia via the Skripal chemical weapons attack in Salisbury. Of course, this Syrian attack in Ghouta was real this time. Right?

    However, in this mad three-nation ramp-up to new war many persons of rational mind and a penchant for self-preservation, persons that included world leaders still in possession of their facilities, continued to wonder about the massive logical and factual problems with the Skripal incident and “the cat.” This was shown in the universal lack of willingness of other countries to enter the fray. When Angela Merkel doesn’t willingly join an American rush to war, you know there’s a big problem. However, many leaders did save face with Israel and half-heartedly attested to the full package of lies being true by abstaining in their UN votes to stop the pending attack.

    So, our three continued to cavort in pre-war bliss despite the constant interruptions made by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, scratching and whining at the bedroom door while trying to get in. But, their orgy did continue, the glee of upcoming death and destruction being spawned from their own loins an aphrodisiac far too strong to be controlled.

    Sadly, despite the inquiries and outrage of the few sharp minds — and cat lovers — worldwide, these three Israeli concubines did finally manage to achieve coitus this past Saturday, April 14, 2018, with the Donald next indiscriminately ejaculating cruise missiles all over Syria.

    These missiles, having an unusually high mortality rate of their own (71/103), did almost nothing to Syria or Syrians who that new morning danced in streets afterward. But this charade did allow an embattled US president to temporarily forget his troubles, put his golf balls back in his sack and feel much better after having finally relieved himself.

    Not quite done, it was time for the final act: for the three to prove that, when it comes to congressional or parliamentary oversight for more war: 1) it is far easier to beg forgiveness, than to ask permission and 2) these same legislative checks on war powers are in reality as effective a deterrent as that of a Las Vegas boxing commissioner. A few more calls from Tel Aviv, soon to be Jerusalem, and the little fish in the US congress and the two parliaments were again nicely ketteled into the proper way of retroactive thinking and approving…more war.

    Well, the moral of this ages-old recurring fable of overconfident governmental, covert operations should be obvious. It should not take one dead cat and a couple of Guineas to shock us all to the proper realization:

    When it comes to the Governments of our world…it’s all a pack of lies.

    So, we the intelligent world salute you Nash Van Drake and your tiny brethren. May you all rest in peace in the service of us all. May we together pray: pray that the world quickly awakens to the terminal realizations of poor Van Drake, reluctant hero, as the steel doors of the gas chamber called Porton Down creaked open before him and he swallowed forever his last breath…

    Not a one of us has nine lives, and our governments are pretty sure that we are all… dumber than a god damn cat!

    Plastic Kills Six-Ton Whale

    In the annals of human history, modern day society is already setting records never before dreamed possible, as human-trashed plastic officially kills a six-ton six-year-old sperm whale. Yes, and it only took a total of 64 pounds of plastic to do the nasty deed.

    An autopsy of the dead whale found on a beach in southern Spain brought to light the cause of death, which according to experts at El Valle Wildlife Rescue Centre concluded the whale was unable to digest or excrete plastic it ingested.  The official cause of death is an infection of the inner lining of the stomach.

    Additionally, according to Consuelo Rosauro, director-general for natural environment of the region, this is not a “one-off” situation. He informed The Telegraph (April 6, 2018) that many animals die from the horrid “Plastic Sudden-Death Epidemic.”

    Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, the sperm whale has the biggest brain of any creature on Earth and a life expectancy of 70 years, similar to humans, except for brain size, which is much bigger than human brains… hmm! Still, it’s human thinking (“processing”) with resultant behavior, carelessly, and maybe even sadistically instinctively, tossing plastic waste somewhere on the planet, ending up in the young sperm whale’s stomach.

    It would be absolutely fascinating to connect each discarded piece of plastic to the original human hand(s) that tossed it aside. Then, maybe bring together all of those human animals to commemorate the whale’s untimely death at the spot in southern Spain where it washed ashore. And, since the authorities retrieved all of the plastic from the young whale’s stomach, insist that each of the perpetrators select their own piece of plastic, sorting it out from within the batch of 64 pounds of plastic, and take it, hold it, maybe for a couple of hours, and carry it to a proper plastic recycling facility. This entire commemoration could be filmed for posterity to honor the short lifespan of the young sperm whale. And, this will make the perpetrators feel better about themselves, maybe.

    But, it is impossible to trace the pieces of plastic back to each person that originally tossed it aside. The plastic may have come from “who knows from where?” Here’s the problem: Male sperm whales have no predetermined migration patterns. They are wanderers and travel the entire world’s oceans, which makes it all the harder to determine where the plastic originated. On second thought, plastic is found throughout the world’s oceans, making it even more difficult to understand the origin.

    The problem of understanding the origin of the plastic is further complicated by the fact that, according to National Geographic, at current rates of haphazard plastic waste disposal, by mid-century the oceans will contain more plastic waste ton-for-ton than fish. Then, imagine the problem identifying the origin of the plastic that kills another sperm whale, or by then, many sperm whales, assuming they have not already been completely wiped-out by the nasty unrelenting Plastic Sudden-Death Epidemic.

    The amount of plastic that will displace all of the ocean’s fish amounts to 5-to-14 million tons per year, the current amount of plastic waste haphazardly thrown out per year, or enough plastic end-to-end to travel halfway to Mars. That calculation comes from engineering professor Jenna Jambeck/University of Georgia.

    A human trip to Mars will likely take 6-to-8 months. So, the annual ocean plastic calculation is roughly equivalent to 3-4 months travel time in outer space. The correlation is not perfect, as the concept is awkward in the first instance, but trying to understand “plastic whale death” is so insanely screwball wacky that nothing makes sense anyways.

    Nowadays, insanity may be the only reprieve from reality.

    Especially when absorbing the thought processes behind the realization that, in January 2016, 29 sperm whales stranded on the shores around the North Sea. Necropsies (animal equivalent of autopsies) showed several stomachs filled with plastic, full up!

    These horrifying Plastic Sudden-Death Epidemic stories seem endless but sorrowfully, sea animal abundance is not.

    What to do?

    Do something!

    A good starting point for human animals that really, truly care can be found at Mission Blue, headed by the National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, aka: “Her Deepness.”

    Or, a really good alternative, don’t toss plastic into the ocean or into the street where storm sewers ultimately take it to a body of water somewhere in the world, or also a good idea, be sure to recycle.

    According to National Geographic, 90% of plastic is not recycled.

    Where does it go?

    Sperm whales!

    Really?

    Yes, really… honestly… we’ve got hard evidence!

    How Falling Down Can Lead to Waking Up

    Sonoma County, California — The organic Kokopelli Farm has been my home, as well as my main work, identity, and love, for the last two-dozen years. Then I fell into a badger hole in the ground, covered by grass, on January 15 this year. I crawled painfully uphill back into the house, as if I were a baby. This unwelcome anniversary will remain in my now 73-year old body and memory.

    The fall plunged me into deep reflections, followed by life-changing behavior. “You must change your life” is a poetry line from Rilke that kept emerging as I spent hours each day in bed, no longer able to provide “the farmer’s shadow” with daily walks on the land, so essential to good farming.

    Growing up is not always easy, even for elders like myself, closer to my death date than my birth date. Maturing can be sparked by a sudden, unexpected incident, like falling. What to do, other than feel sorry for one’s self? How can one turn an apparent loss into a learning experience and gain knowledge from it for one’s self and others?

    I began by lightening my load. I decided to give away hundreds of books, DVDs, records, furniture, luggage, dog things, etc., which I had been collecting for decades.

    “I call that ‘essentializing,’ commented Alexandra Hart of Transition Sebastopol’s monthly Elders Salon, which has been happening since 2010. “Aging makes one slower, so it means simplifying and seems to require letting go of stuff.”

    “We’ve noticed in the Elders Salon that loss almost inevitably brings some kind of gain,” Hart added.

    I’ve appreciated the smiles of friends and strangers as they load up books and other things, taking them on a journey into their lives and homes. I’m even asked to autograph some of the 24 books to which I have contributed, reminding me that I can at least still write, even though my body has been diminished. I can still grab a pen, which is how this old-fashioned writer starts every article or book chapter, only using the computer for revisions.

    The fall, though deeply painful into my vulnerable knee and neck, became a blessing in disguise. Many friends brought me chicken soup, other food, and helped lessen my isolation. I listened to their stories of having fallen, being sick, and experiencing excruciating pain. I now appreciate even more living in the small town of Sebastopol with its caring community.

    Loss. Identity, Function, and Control

    “Loss can be conceptualized along three intersecting axes: loss of control, loss of identity, and loss of relationships,” writes Dr. Barbara Sourkes in her book The Deepening Shade: Psychological Aspects of Life-Threatening Illness.

    My identity as a farmer has considerable importance to me. I farm most days of the year. After my fall, I have been unable to farm for weeks—such a loss. Among my losses have been many basic body functions and control. I have also had to change my self-image and body-image. Being more dependent on others than usual has been a stretch. I’ve had identities other than as a farmer, especially as teacher and writer.

    I’m used to having a good, solid bowel movement every morning, on schedule, which I looked forward to. Yet for two weeks after my fall I had no bowel movements and lost 15 pounds, which is 10% of my weight. What a relief when I began gaining weight and had my first bowel movements, though they came out mainly as liquid.

    “When I’m physically drained, I often don’t feel like talking,” a client told Dr. Sourkes. As an introvert, though also a public person, I sometimes feel the same. Some friends have worn me down by their needs to talk, talk, talk. “I’m all talked out,” I say at times, which can make me feel like the bad guy.

    My fall dramatically changed my self-image and body-image. I now consider myself temporarily (hopefully) disabled.  I notice others with canes and am more cautions with my movements, which have been limited. As my friend David Goff writes, “Falling is scary.”

    Friends tell their stories

    Instead of hiding my fears, I have been sharing them with friends, some of whom report their own stories. “You strike a familiar chord of vulnerability that we all face, especially in our later years,” observed body-worker Jeff Rooney. “I work with many people now older than I and a big theme is falling and fear of falling. People know from observing others that falling is often a step away from dying. A hip breaks and before you know it, the person is gone.”

    Being in bed alone for hours can be boring, oh so boring. Add some pain and it can be even worse, with sleep being difficult. At times I have felt distant and even absent from this now-broken body.

    “With my long illness I have had to reevaluate what I can do, which is tied to who I am,” writes my friend Janus Matthes. “Passing along our worldly goods is a positive action as we round third base.”

    “I chose to embrace and not fight age and what goes with aging–less energy, more simplicity, enjoy what things truly feed my soul,” she added. “We are such a youth culture in this country. As I age, I realize we all have our day in the sun and hope the youthful generations take full advantage of their time on this most amazing planet.”

    “Reflecting on my upcoming April hip replacement and the 3 surgeries I’ve had in the past 4 years has put me through many changes and changed the way I look at life, see myself and look at the world,” said my neighbor Robert Teller. “It has taken me on many journeys, altered my life style, challenged my spiritual core and offered me an inner peace that I have not known before.”

    One date stands out in my recovery: Jan. 27, which was my most painful day. I’ve never contemplated taking my life, except on that day. That extreme pain, accompanied by crying and screaming, educated me about why some people commit suicide. Fortunately, I had a strong painkiller. I took it reluctantly and was finally able to sleep. Blessed Be!

    One means of taking some control of one’s life as a person feels loosing it because of sickness or something else is to do what I am doing here—write it down.

    So what have I been learning from my fall and the subsequent shut-in? Now I know, in my body, that one day it’s going to all be over and now I am a step closer to death. I’ve been here before, in my mind, but now I feel it in my soul and in the core of who I am.

    Humans are so “fragile,” my brother Steve Bliss recently reminded me about we two-footeds. I am actually now three-footed, since I walk with a cane, to stabilize myself, but that should eventually change. “Tomorrow’s a new day,” my brother reminded me, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

    This learning experience is still evolving. So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I feel suspended between the no-longer and the not-yet.

    Or as the elder Doug von Koss recently quoted a Sufi saying, “We have three days to live, and two of them are gone.”

    “The Global Elite is Insane” Revisited

    In 2014 I wrote an article titled “The Global Elite is Insane.” I want to elaborate what I explained in the earlier article so that people have a clearer sense of what we are up against in our struggle to create a world of peace, justice and ecological sustainability.

    Of course, as I explained previously, it is not just the global elite that is insane. All those individuals – politicians, business people, academics, corporate media editors and journalists, judges and lawyers, bureaucrats…. – who serve the elite, including by not exposing and resisting it, are also insane. And it is important to understand this if we are to develop and implement effective strategies to resist elite violence, exploitation and destruction but also avert the now-imminent human extinction driven by their insane desire for endless personal privilege, corporate profit and political control whatever the cost to Earth’s biosphere and lifeforms (human and non-human alike).

    But first, who constitutes the global elite? Essentially, it is those extremely wealthy individuals – notably including the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family and the Koch brothers – as well as the world’s other billionaires and millionaires.

    Testament to their secretly and long-accumulated wealth and power, a 2012 investigation concluded that rich individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets – which excludes non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and race horses – in offshore tax havens.

    If this sum was devoted to programs of social uplift then starvation, poverty, homelessness and other privations would vanish immediately and environmental restoration projects as well as research, development and implementation of visionary sustainability initiatives would flourish instantly. The idea of an ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ national economy would vanish from the literature on Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

    In addition to these individuals, however, the global elite includes the major multinational corporations, particularly including the following – although, it should be noted, this list simplifies the picture considerably by ignoring the conglomerate nature of many of these corporations and not including many of the (more difficult to identify) private corporations that should be listed in any comprehensive presentation:

    * the major weapons manufacturers (such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics)

    * the major banks (including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan Chase, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Bank of America) and their ‘industry groups’ like the International Monetary Conference

    * the major investment companies (including BlackRock, Capital Group Companies, FMR, AXA, and JP Morgan Chase)

    * the major financial services companies (including Berkshire Hathaway, AXA, Allianz and BNP Paribas)

    * the major energy corporations including coal companies (such as Coal India, Adani Enterprises, China Shenhua Energy, China Coal Energy, Mechel, Exxaro Resources, Public Power, Glencore and Peabody Energy) as well as the oil and gas corporations (such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, Rosneft, PetroChina, ExxonMobil, Lukoil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Petrobras, Chevron, Novatek, Total S.A. and Eni)

    * the major media corporations (including Alphabet [Google owner], Comcast, Disney, AT&T, News Corporation, Time Warner, Fox, Facebook, Bertelsmann and Baidu)

    * the major marketing and public relations corporations (including Edelman, W2O Group, APCO Worldwide, Deksia, BrandTuitive, Fearless Media, and Citizen Group)

    * the major agrochemical (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers) giants (including Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont)

    * the major pharmaceutical corporations (including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline)

    * the major biotechnology (genetic mutilation) corporations (again including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer and Novartis)

    * the major mining corporations (including Glencore Xtrata, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Vale, Anglo American, China Shenhua Energy, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, and Barrick Gold)

    * the major nuclear power corporations (including Areva, Rosatom, General Electric/Hitachi, Kepco, Mitsubishi, Babcock & Wilcox, BNFL, Duke Energy, McDermott International, Southern, NextEra Energy, American Electric Power, and Westinghouse)

    * the major food multinationals (including Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Company [ADM], Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Associated British Foods and Mondelez)

    * the major water corporations (including Veolia, Suez Environnement, ITT Corporation, United Utilities, Severn Trent, Thames Water, American Water Works).

    Of course, the global elite also includes elite fora where various combinations of elite individuals from the corporate, political, media and academic worlds gather to plan their continuing violence against, and exploitation of, the Earth and its inhabitants. This is intended to consolidate and extend their control over populations, markets and resources to maximize their privilege, profit and power at the expense of the rest of us and life generally. Among intergovernmental organizations, it includes the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

    A quick perusal of the agenda of such elite gatherings – including the World Economic Forum, the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission – reveals a comprehensive lack of interest, despite rhetoric and the occasional token mention, of pressing issues ranging from the threat of nuclear war and the climate catastrophe to the many ongoing wars, deepening exploitation within the global economy, extensive range of environmental threats and the refugee crisis, each of which they generated and now continue to deliberately exacerbate. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos.

    Primary servants of the global elite include political leaders in major industrialized countries (who legislate to progressively expand elite power, profit and privilege, such as Donald Trump’s recent tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social programs), the judges and lawyers (who defend elite power using the elite-designed and manipulated legal system: ever heard of a wealthy individual convicted in court and given any serious punishment or of any major corporation genuinely held to legal account for its exploitation of indigenous peoples or destruction of the natural environment?), as well as corporate media editors and journalists, entertainment industry personnel, academics, industry organizations (such as the European Round Table of Industrialists) that represent the interests of major corporations, so-called ‘think tanks’ (such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution) and ‘philanthropic trusts’ (such as the Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford foundations) all of which justify, ignore or divert attention from elite violence and exploitation.

    Importantly too, primary servants of the global elite include those who work within elite-directed agencies, notably including those in the so-called ‘intelligence community’ (such as the US CIA, British MI6, Russian SVR RF, Chinese Ministry for State Security and Israeli Mossad), who perform elite functions in relation to spying, surveillance and secret assassinations (particularly of grassroots activists), ostensibly under the direction of national governments. But it also includes many lower-level servants such as those who work as political lobbyists or in the bureaucracy as well as the education, police and prison systems.

    So why do I claim that the elite and those who serve them are insane?

    Any dictionary will offer a simple definition of ‘sanity’ along the lines of ‘soundness of judgment or reason’ and ‘the ability to think and speak in a reasonable way and to behave normally’.

    But if we use this definition of sanity then, obviously, ‘sanity’ must be interpreted to mean that it is ‘sound judgment, reasonable and normal’ to further perpetrate the violence and exploitation that are overwhelmingly characteristic of our world. After all, most people powerlessly accept this incredibly violent state of affairs and, if they discuss it, do so in terms of its merits, politically, economically, morally or otherwise. Few people argue, simply, that violence is just insane.

    So I would like to propose a more rigorous definition of sanity: Sanity is the capacity to consider a set of circumstances, to carefully analyze the evidence pertaining to those circumstances, to identify the cause of any conflict or problem, and to respond appropriately, both emotionally and intellectually, to that conflict or problem with the intention of resolving it, preferably at a higher level of need satisfaction for all parties (including those of the Earth and all of its living creatures).

    Clearly, my proposed definition of sanity is designed to imply that any conceptions we have of ‘sound judgment’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘normal’ mean that they are qualities we associate with individuals who possess the desirable capacity to improve the overall state of human affairs, whether an interpersonal relationship or geopolitically. This means, as an absolute minimum, the capacity to reduce violence or exploitation in one context or another.

    You might, of course, accuse me of writing a definition of ‘sanity’ that serves my agenda to dramatically improve world order in the direction of peace, justice and sustainability. And you are right! But whose interest does it serve to have sanity defined as behavior that involves ‘sound judgment’ and is considered ‘reasonable and normal’ in the context of perpetuating extraordinary violence?

    Alternatively, you might argue that my definition of insanity is too broad. Surely, you might say, we can account for many of the behaviors outlined above in terms of different belief systems, ideologies and religions. Doesn’t a person who believes in killing people to win wars (or for other reasons) just have a worldview different from those who believe that people should resolve conflict nonviolently? Doesn’t a capitalist just have a worldview different from those who believe that people should share resources equally? Doesn’t a person who believes in the unlimited accumulation of wealth just have a worldview different from those who believe in ecological sustainability?

    But there is a more fundamental issue here. As I explained in my original article, cited at the beginning of this one: Do you really believe that someone who is capable of perpetrating extraordinary violence, inequity and biosphere-threatening behavior – and thus clearly incapable of experiencing and expressing the love, compassion, empathy and sympathy that would drive a nonviolent approach to the world – is sane? Given that emotional qualities such as love, compassion, empathy and sympathy are an evolutionary gift to those not seriously damaged during childhood, what happened to those individuals who do not possess them?

    Or, to explain it based on my longer definition of sanity highlighted above: Casual observation of the state of our world, including the primary threat of near-term human extinction through climate catastrophe or nuclear war clearly reveals that none of the elite is paying considered attention to the perilous state of our world, analyzing the evidence in relation to it, identifying the cause(s) driving it or responding powerfully to end it. Why is this?

    In essence, it is because one manifestation of their insanity drives them to deny reality to make huge profits from weapons production used to kill people, the burning of climate-destroying fossil fuels, environmental destruction (through, for example, mining and rainforest logging), commercial farming based on the poisoning and genetic mutilation of foods, the mass production and sale of poisoned, processed and nutritionally-depleted foods, the consumption of health-destroying and dependency-creating drugs, and control over the sale of water, once considered a human right. Moreover, insanity makes the elite do everything in its power to maintain this highly profitable state of affairs.

    Moreover, of course, there is no evidence of committed elite engagement in efforts to end the many local wars (from which they make huge profits), end corporate exploitation of human beings (which kills, through starvation alone, 100,000 people every day but from which they make huge profits) and nonhuman beings (which drives 200 species of life to extinction daily but from which they make huge profits) or end local environmental destruction in a myriad ways (from which they make huge profits).

    So, in summary, given our ongoing rush to extinction, it is clear that those who exacerbate this threat through failure to consider and act with awareness (as well as encourage aware action by others) fail to satisfy the definition of sanity that I offered above. In short: Gambling on the future of humanity is not sane.

    As an aside, it should be noted: Often enough too, the elite can rely on a largely insane population to mindlessly consume the latest consumer product, no matter how unnecessary, or they can rely on their marketing and advertising agents to persuade those of us who show the slightest reluctance to buy the latest inanity.

    So with an insane global elite and its many insane servants as well as a largely insane consumer population, what can those of us who have the sanity to respond powerfully to the many threats to our survival do?

    Well, if you want a child who is emotionally and intellectually engaged with the world and therefore capable of responding powerfully to their circumstances (which includes being able to resist the lure of serving the elite and being suckered by its marketing), then terrorizing the child into obedience is not the way to go about it. So, you might like to consider making ‘My Promise to Children.’

    If you are sane enough to investigate the evidence and to act intelligently and powerfully in response to it, I encourage you to do so. One option you have if you find the evidence in relation to one or more of the threats mentioned above compelling, is to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’

    If you are self-aware enough to know that you are inclined to avoid ‘difficult issues’ and to take the action that these require, then perhaps you could tackle this problem at its source by ‘Putting Feelings First.’ Unfortunately, as mentioned above, few of us had a childhood that nurtured our sanity.

    If you want to mobilize people to campaign effectively on the climate, war, rainforest destruction or any other elite-driven violence that threatens our future, consider developing a comprehensive nonviolent strategy to do so.

    And if you want to participate in the worldwide effort to end the insanity we call violence in all of its manifestations, you are welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

    Elite insanity, if not stopped, will drive us out of existence. If you believe that the elite and their servants will ‘see the light’ before it is too late, I invite you to seek out the evidence to justify your belief. I have found none.

    I also see no evidence that individual members of the elite will do the emotional healing necessary to be able to act sanely in response to the extinction-threatening crisis it has generated.

    So it is up to those of us who can think and act sanely to stop the rush to extinction before it is too late.

    Are you one of those people?

    The Art of Healing: Looking Back but Never Conceding Space

    Radical — a person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims.
    • synonyms: revolutionary · progressive · reformer · revisionist · militant ·
    • chemistry: a group of atoms behaving as a unit in a number of compounds.
    See also free radical.
    • the root or base form of a word.
    • mathematics: a quantity forming or expressed as the root of another.

    What does it mean to reclaim space? I know there are those who want to reclaim ancient wisdom, or reclaim the commons, reclaim ancestry, reclaim a sense of community, reclaim the city, and reclaim the rural. Reclamation projects abound in theory – water, air, soil, cultures.

    Reclaiming is also restorative, as in restorative justice or restorative ecology. That total reclaiming is a type of stewardship, and if done with radical intent – at the root seeking change or foundational purpose – then there is a social justice component. Always. Social justice leads to the rights of nature. Eventually, we have a world where replanting trees is the radical (root) approach to starting back to a reset.

    The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

    — Ancient Chinese proverb

    That radical approach can be scaled up and spread throughout the communitarian space of humanity. Imagine, while China is full bore capitalist in some sense, but, 60,000 Chinese troops will be deployed to plant trees:

    China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees and increase the country’s forest coverage. The move is part of China’s plan to plant at least 32,400 square miles of trees by the end of 2018 to help tackle pollution.

    In order to complete the reforestation, a large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army and some of the nation’s armed police force have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border, The Independent reports.

    The majority is to be dispatched to Hebei province encircling Beijing. This area is especially linked with the smog that plagues the country’s capital.

    China is currently working to increase its forest coverage from 21 percent of its total landmass to 23 percent by 2020. By the end of this year, however, they hope to replant an area of forest that is roughly the size of Ireland!

    This tree planting is such a metaphor of our times, in a world where all ecosystems are failing, all species are threatened, where earthquakes are caused by fracking, where climate chaos is scoffed at, where war is peace in the minds of Americans addicted to Grand Theft Auto.

    This piece is on education, in that round about way my essays tend to flow. Yes, education is broken, and, yes, PK12 should be revamped – a Marshall Plan sort of revamping. And, yes, college and trade schools (are there any left?) should be reorganized and re-energized. Yes, this should be tax supported, one hundred percent, from levying and tolling the rockets Tesla’s Elon Musk shoots up, to taxing every box shipped out by Amazon – the tax being put on Bezos’ doorstep. We fully fund wars, US military, spooks, DoD, and every first-class trip made by Trump and cronies, the entire higher end government; i.e., cabinet level deceits, and, well, the reader gets it how a reappropriation of wealth and fraud and waste should take place to fund, err, communities.

    But I was just on Yale 360, reading Carl Safina’s piece on how biologists – highly educated at elite schools, both state-funded and private – are going with the philosophy that extinction is part of evolution so saving species should not be a priority of conservationists. Here, more clearly, Safina:

    In the early 20th century, a botanist named Robert F. Griggs discovered Katmai’s volcanic “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” In love with the area, he spearheaded efforts to preserve the region’s wonders and wildlife. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson established Katmai National Monument (now Katmai National Park and Preserve), protecting 1,700 square miles, thus ensuring a home for bear cubs born a century later, and making possible my indelible experience that day. As a legacy for Griggs’ proclivity to share his love of living things, George Washington University later established the Robert F. Griggs Chair in Biology.

    That chair is now occupied by a young professor whose recent writing probably has Griggs spinning in his grave. He is R. Alexander Pyron. A few months ago, The Washington Post published a “Perspective” piece by Pyron that is an extreme example of a growing minority opinion in the conservation community, one that might be summarized as, “Humans are profoundly altering the planet, so let’s just make peace with the degradation of the natural world.”

    Pyron’s essay – with lines such as, “The only reason we should conserve biodiversity is for ourselves, to create a stable future for human beings” and “[T]he impulse to conserve for conservation’s sake has taken on an unthinking, unsupported, unnecessary urgency” – left the impression that it was written in a conservative think tank, perhaps by one of the anti-regulatory zealots now filling posts throughout the Trump administration. Pyron’s sentiments weren’t merely oddly out of keeping with the legacy of the man whose name graces his job title. Much of what Pyron wrote is scientifically inaccurate. And where he stepped out of his field into ethics, what he wrote was conceptually confused.

    Ahh, sometimes what I fight for – a more robust and tax-funded education system – gets derailed by the likes of a Pyron. I read his piece, but Carl Safina’s piece is humane, logical and way beyond the wise use and utilitarian attitude of today’s thinker.

    I took the plunge and went on a college tour, with a young (19-year-old) woman who is all about science and math. The act of going back to a campus and visiting it as an outsider was both interesting and triggering for me.

    So is Education Planting a Tree for Life, the Future?

    Neoliberalism is one of the greatest threats to the future of progressive education in the United States. The goal of neoliberal education policies is not to improve education, but rather to increase the profits of private corporations. Profit-driven models for education directly contrast the goals of progressive educators. The goal of progressive education is to educate students to be productive participants in democratic culture and to engage actively in critical citizenship. Such goals are not supported by neoliberal educational policy mainstays such as teaching to the test and standardized testing. Because neoliberal education policy tends to be data-driven it works against the development of a student’s ability to think critically, thereby undermining the formative culture and values necessary for a democratic society. As long as the United States continues to view educational policy and practice through the lens of market-based values, there is little hope that progressive education, with its aim of educating students for critical citizenship and social and economic justice, will survive.

    — This excerpt from the book Neoliberalism, Education, Terrorism: Contemporary Dialogues, by Paradigm Publishers, first appeared online at Truthout.

    I was just at the land grant college, Oregon State University, in Corvallis. My step-daughter is planning to embark there as a transfer junior from her current Alma mater, Mount Hood Community College. The hopefulness and energy tied to venturing away from home – Estacada, population 3,000 – to a small college town on a campus of 24,383 – was dynamic and pure in a very innocent way. Ironically, the college boasts a total of 30,058 with 4,503 coming from an “e-campus” AKA on-line and another 1,172 students in Bend, Oregon.

    The campus tour was all about amenities, and campus life. As I have written a thousand times, campuses are now looking like Club Meds or 24-Hour Fitness joints. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg looks at the gutting of the teaching class from 1985 to 2005. It’s a book looking at all the crackpot departments and staffing decisions at these private and state colleges. Ironically, the past 13 years have seen faculty hit the 76 percent mark across the USA as deemed adjunct, AKA precarious or temporary or vulnerable or job-insecure. Much of that is attributed to the rise of programs and plethora of deans, departments, non-faculty positions, and the like tied to promoting the school, and it’s not a pretty thing. Just do an internet search of “PhDs on Food stamps” or “adjuncts living out of their cars” or “faculty and freeway fliers.”

    The cost of education extends way beyond the $1.5 trillion student loan debt. But here, a small college, nothing big time, OSU Beavers, is a place to start the indebtedness. Goldman Sachs vampires love students going to college. Just for in-state fees, one year, going to OSU for those coming from outside the city but in the state is as follows: $26,341 to attend Oregon State University on a full-time basis. This fee is comprised of $10,797 for tuition (note that is 2017-18 — tuition increases are on the horizon for 2018-19!), $11,445 for room and board, $1,551 for books and supplies and $1,651 for other fees, $2,083 for miscellaneous things, and then there’s transportation. That’s 27% more expensive than the national average public four-year tuition. For out of state attendees, make that $29,457 a year for tuition, plus the other fees, adding up to over $45,000 for one year.

    This is a crime, and no matter how many scholarships, grants and other decompensations my step-daughter might receive, the idea of putting this big of a tab (or some percentage of it, times four years) onto one’s debit card; i.e., student loan agreements, is appalling. In fact, my student relative wants not just a graduate degree, but a doctorate in physics.

    Here, Alan Nasser, great economist and who is never quoted in the MSM:

    No, it’s not possible for student debtors to escape financial devastation by declaring bankruptcy. This most fundamental of consumer protections would have been available to student debtors were it not for legislation explicitly designed to withhold a whole range of basic protections from student borrowers. I’m not talking only about bankruptcy protection, but also truth in lending requirements, statutes of limitations, refinancing rights and even state usury laws – Congress has rendered all these protections inapplicable to federally guaranteed student loans. The same legislation also gave collection agencies hitherto unimaginable powers, for example to garnish wages, tax returns, Social Security benefits and -believe it or not- Disability income. Twisting the knife, legislators made the suspension of state-issued professional licenses, termination of public employment and denial of security clearances legitimate measures to enable collection companies to wring financial blood from bankrupt student-loan borrowers. Student loan debt is the most punishable of all forms of debt – most of those draconian measures are unavailable to credit card companies. (Maybe I’m being too harsh. Sallie Mae recently announced that it will after all forgive a debt under either of two conditions: in case the borrower dies or becomes totally disabled.)

    Bearing Witness Hurts But Works

    It’s almost impossible for me to go anywhere, participate in anything, whether going out to eat, hitting a movie, driving, or taking this innocuous tour without seeing the faults of capitalism; i.e., the predatory, inefficient, shallow, extremely violent psychologically and structurally, this for-profit-at-all-costs world is. New buildings on campus (business college)? My question is why?

    This is capitalism, full-bore, getting youth, a female going into STEM, no less, (science technology engineering mathematics), on the hamster wheel of predatory loans, expectations, and a world, or future (one decade out for her, maybe) that has in this casino capitalism tied to empire predicating her future employment opportunities for such a rarefied degree (she wants astrophysics, hinting at wanting to do research and be a professor, yet another pie in the sky).

    The tour took us past the football stadium, named Reser Stadium, named after donors Al and Pat Reser, owners of Reser’s Fine Foods. For most of us in the Pacific Northwest, that’s Reser’s potato and macaroni salad fame ( the couple both graduated from Oregon State in 1960, and are major donors to the university and Beavers athletics).

    The stadium has a capacity of 45,700 with plans for expansion. It’s always the football team, the season, the homecoming, the chance at a title now, is it not? In fact, the college president at OSU is also an NCAA big-wig.

    The debate about exploited college athletes takes up a lot of space, and it is a corollary here tied to the OSU event, since this president is NCAA true and through, from Shaun King of The Intercept:

    That very obvious dynamic undergirds a lawsuit filed by former NCAA athlete Lawrence “Poppy” Livers asserting that scholarship students who play sports are employees and deserve pay. The Livers case argues that student-athletes who get scholarships should at least be paid as work-study students for the time they put in.

    What the NCAA did in response to the lawsuit is as vile as anything going on in sports right now. I had to see it for myself before I believed it. At the root of its legal argument, the NCAA is relying on one particular case for why NCAA athletes should not be paid. That case is Vanskike v. Peters.

    Only there’s an important detail: Daniel Vanskike was a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, and Howard Peters was the Director of the state Department of Corrections. In 1992, Vanskike and his attorneys argued that as a prisoner he should be paid a federal minimum wage for his work. The court, in its decision, cited the 13th Amendment and rejected the claim.

    The 13th Amendment is commonly hailed as the law that finally ended slavery in America. But the amendment has an important carve-out: it kept involuntary service legal for those who have been convicted of a crime. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” the amendment says. It’s that phrase — “except as a punishment for crime” — which allows American prisons to force their inmates to do whatever work they want or need them to do.

    And yet, how many employees of OSU are coaches, assistant coaches, and all the staff tied to running athletics, and managing games, tickets, sales, promos, etc.?

    Edward John “Ed” Ray (born September 10, 1944) is an American economist who became the 19th president of Oregon State University on July 31, 2003. Prior to joining Oregon State, Ray was executive vice president and provost of Ohio State University for the previous six years. As president of OSU, Edward Ray earns a gross salary of $414,377 in 2010. He also serves as chairman of the NCAA’s Executive Committee.

    At-Will, Part-Time, Precarious Nation in the Age of Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump-The-Next-King

    Yet, as I have written so many times when I was an active faculty from 1983 to 2013 and adjunct union organizer for a stint in Seattle and Washington with SEIU, we are the backbone of education, and education and student outcomes pay the price for treating adjuncts as migrant workers. Here, a report from OSU through AAUP:

    Non-tenure track faculty members at Oregon State University often are overworked and underpaid, and they deserve better treatment, officials of the American Association of University Professors chapter at OSU said Wednesday.

    Some 68 percent of all OSU faculty members — from instructors to researchers to professional employees — are adjuncts. They work under fixed-term contracts, with none of the job security of tenured professors, and they often earn far less money, AAUP leaders said during a lunchtime presentation to discuss the findings of a campus-wide survey.

    “Like much of the rest of the American economy, American universities have come to rely on a large pool of cheap migrant labor,” said philosophy professor Jose-Antonio Orosco, president of the Oregon State chapter of AAUP.

    “OSU is not different from these national trends.”

    The study, titled “We Power Orange” in reference to an OSU promotional slogan, was conducted last spring. Questionnaires went out to 2,771 non-tenure track faculty members, with 1,262 responding.

    Top concerns varied somewhat among instructional, research and professional faculty, but in general the biggest issues were low pay, lack of job security and limited prospects for advancement.

    My own battle at just one college1,2,3,4:

    But the new normal is to have these huge pimping moments at these colleges, paying college presidents base salaries of half a million a year, as in OSU’s case, but worse is these pampered fools’ housing is paid for, so is a car, trips with families, and, most problematic, cash outs for insurance policies and severance pay in the millions.

    Look at this:

    1. Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University $1,554,058

    2. William McRaven, Chancellor, University of Texas system $1,500,000

    3. John Sharp, Chancellor, Texas A&M University system office, $1,280,438

    4. W. Kent Fuchs, President, University of Florida, $1,102,862

    5. Michael A. McRobbie, President Indiana University system $1,067,074

    6. Eric J. Barron, President, Pennsylvania State University at University Park, $1,039,717

    7. Michael V. Drake, President, Ohio State University, $1,034,574

    8. Michael K. Young, President, Texas A&M at College Station, $1,000,000

    9. Jean E. Robillard, Interim President, University of Iowa, $929,045

    10. Raymond Watts, President, University of Alabama at Birmingham, $890,000

    So, it goes without saying that walking on this campus, Oregon State University, “home of the beavers” (as opposed to the other big Oregon School, “The Ducks”) working as a social worker, with two master’s degrees, at $16 an hour to case manage homeless veterans, I want pikes and heads on those pikes. Proverbially, this entire country, from sleazy Chamber of Commerce corner to Sleazier FIRE (finance insurance real estate) corner, is run by scammers. I used to get the same hourly pay, more or less, as a college English teacher (hours put in grading and regrading drafts and final drafts of student essays and assignments).

    The social services are screwed, education is screwed, and this upside-down world of Americans all teary eyed over the shallow prognostications of shallow and infantile thinkers (sic) which are basically entertainers with a big fat Propagandist Tapped Over Their Eyes is also one of the prime slights to any thinking human being.

    Did you get that hourly rate above, being paid to me? Living in the Portland, Oregon area? Hmm? This is the best of the best, in terms of which non-profit I am working for. Big name brand.

    For veterans who are aging, getting dementia, on the streets, PTSD and all those substance abuse issues.

    Daily, I try to find something better, and in that sense, does that make sense, starting a job with a client base, and keeping one eye open for a higher paying job? Is that how the US of Israel works? We can never stay in one place because the pay is obscenely low and the rent and cost of living are obscenely high?

    Linked In Is Clueless in Seattle, et al

    I abhor social media as much as I despise mainstream media and faux left media. I just linked up with that bizarre thing called, Linked In, a business connection site, with the most despicable narratives, really, of the abusers in Capitalism – all this fawning over the CEOs, the Jeff Bezos types of the world. It’s a Whose Who of people thinking that connecting on this platform is more sophisticated than Facebook.

    But it’s the same, or worse, and the people either self-censor or lock-step into the dungeon that is Capitalism. It’s about how to sell oneself, how to make money, how to get a raise, write a cover letter, add points to one’s business profile. Typically, it’s sort of the USA Today version of the Wall Street Journal with some Forbes Magazine thrown in, and how to be a successful manager for icing on the top of the drivel.

    You write your profile, try and connect to your connections and other’s connections, for I do not know why, since my job profile is way outside any linear or even seasoned employee’s trajectory.

    I see no connections that would help me get an in into the work I really excel at – writing, editing, radical urban planning, radical social work, teaching, organizational change.

    In the end, though, I put up the Linked In as part of my unemployment insurance gig, working with a silly class on cognitive behavioral therapy – a class set up for people on food stamps or TANF, to try and get them in 12 sessions to change their thinking. Instead, the class was peopled by white males and females, all of whom had had jobs for years and then got sacked. The instructor said the grant for the course, “Rethinking Job Search,” was geared for chronically “dependent upon welfare folk.”

    The course is as bad as it sounds, the teacher terrible and infantile, and the lack of true engagement typical of today’s poverty pimps and quasi-unemployment officers. This class I attended in order to teach the class, but that was an interview from hell, and I eventually stopped going. The push for me to stop attending was when all these white people started waxing Christ and God and the Good Book – really, they yammered on how getting closer to Christianity was what was helping them through unemployment and being sacked at an older age. No matter where you go in this country, it’s the Chronicles of Narnia over and over and over.

    The final straw was when the instructor brought up some book written by some former female Facebook executive who faced the death of her bigwig husband, and our teacher said this book was a must read, truly inspirational:

    Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was on vacation in Mexico in 2015 with her husband and friends when her husband, tech executive Dave Goldberg, passed away unexpectedly of a cardiac arrhythmia.

    Sandberg, 47, was left as a single mother of her two children with Goldberg. She writes about recovering from the tragedy and working through the grief in her new book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

    I tried to convey to the instructor that this millionaire (several times over) has zero relevance to someone like me, who has been precarious all his life, who has had at-will employment, 11th hour appointments, and who has seen his careers – newspaper journalism, teaching, social work and novel writing gutted by the very people this Sandberg and Goldberg represent. I also reminded her that I was also a social worker with employment specialist as a title helping recovery clients, re-entry clients, homeless clients, clients with physical disabilities and mental challenges and felony records get shitty jobs in shitty warehouses with two-hour one-way bus trips to work at ungodly hours.

    This is the magical thinking of middling people, and Option B – finding joy – was really no option for my clients, but forced choices of poverty, food boxes, five to a room, tents in alleyways, rotting teeth, disease at age 50 were/are their only options. Clients with thousands and thousands of dollars owed to legal financial obligations (LFO’s), hospital bills for ER visits, bad credit because of bad policies. No “Finding Joy” in “Option B.”

    Nope, I was not about to hear her tell me the crocodile tears of tech executives would inspire, but alas, that is middling America – rooting for the inured K9 dog, sending in money for its surgery, while denying a panhandler a quarter. A book, no less, on Oprah, I am sure, and loving by the M & B Obama clan, I am sure (Michelle gets over $30 million for her November 2018 “memoir“, titled Becoming, another book of inspiration for incarcerated folk).

    Triggers Everywhere I Go

    I’ll end where I began – OSU. First, I did stop by the Caesar Chavez Cultural Center (Centro Cultural César Chávez)  on campus, near the stadium and Welcome Center, and I talked with a few of the Latinx folk there. In a few minutes, I was being asked why I wasn’t teaching, and that they kept insisting OSU needed teachers like me. You see, this is a daily trigger for me – young people being taught by middlings, and the radicals like me, well, they never see real Marxists and socialists in their classes, as their faculty.

    A few minutes explaining my own teaching narrative, my own life, my own perspectives, well, on one hand I felt honored and proud that the four Latinos/as thought of me as that person, that little Che in their moment on that campus. They wondered why I was not teaching anywhere.

    Again, we need me’s on campuses throughout the land. Having a Cornel West is great, but in the end, he is still celebrity, limiting in his reach. Young people need older people to teach them how to revolt, rebel, hack the system and learn a narrative that is not in their lives. I teach writing and composition and literature, and they need strong role models and writers and people who have not got the golden ticket or brass ring.

    We’ve bought into the idea that education is about training and “success,” defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.

    — Chris Hedges

    I told one of the fellows about Jimmy Santiago Baca, that he’d make a great speaker at OSU, for Poetry Month, April. The fellow asked me where he should get his news, his information, so I listed a lot of alternative sites.

    People say what distinguishes us from the animals is that we think. Well, then why the hell don’t we extend some compassion to those under tremendous duress? There’s this whole idea that you work really hard so you can deaden your soul to the universe and enjoy yourself only in ways the Sierra Club will let you. But what about enjoying yourself by getting into the whole melee of poverty and racism and violence and murder and drug addiction? Get in there, roll up your sleeves, and do something! Nobody does it.

    — Jimmy Santiago Baca

    Yes, a bit of ray of sunshine, the Cultural Center, and the Native American longhouse …. and the campus watch on Nazis and white supremacists coming to town.

    Yet, on that campus, the supposed jewel of Oregon, the student newspaper is a joke, coming out once a week, and thin as toilet paper.

    Young people have a lot to navigate now, and the conflicting messages like Pyron’s above are overwhelming. I did get to pick up the science magazine, Terra, and in that rag, of course, highlights/features of the science faculty at OSU:

    1. Energy Matters looks at public policy around how citizens engage in energy issues
    2. Bury It Deep looks at pumping carbon dioxide into underground capture sites
    3. Reclaiming Native Space is about cultural identity for Native Americans and engaging in forgotten histories
    4. Towing the Line is about 60 years of marine sciences new Newport on the Pacific
    5. The Oregon Ocean Acid Test is about citizen scientists working to track water chemistry from Astoria to Gold Beach
    6. The Giving Trees is about OSU forestry researchers helping restore forest in Haiti, Lebanon and other troubled spots

    I’m a wonky kind of guy with marine biology in my veins and an holistic interest in the sciences tied to climate, ecosystems, energy and sustainability. Good stuff, this magazine, but yet, the underlying issue in all the pieces is the lack of funding, big time, for the projects, and the lack of public engagement, lack of political will and the writing in the rag is still a bit dumb-downed and hopeful. There is no mention of feedback loops, and there is no real discussion of how all these systems have been degraded not by accident but by the policies of capitalism, and corporations worldwide.

    The irony is that the carbon sequestration piece on trapping CO2 will not solve climate change. The big irony is that the scientists working on trapping CO2 underground are the same scientists who helped the fossil fuel industry to extract black liquid from geological formations.

    The fabric of this magazine is based on spin and media control and messaging, and making OSU look good, AND not giving the public who might pick up a copy of Terra or the students at the school too much of a dismal picture of our world. About giving hope.

    Hmm, Option B, again? That hopey dopey thing, uh? Old piece from Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope:

    When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they — those in power — cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell — you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

    1. Paul Haeder. Springtime in Amerika – Bump those Adjuncts Until They Hurt, Dissident Voice, March 26, 2014.
    2. American Faculty Association. Adjunct Faculty Dr. Keith Hoeller Files Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Against Green River College and Faculty Union (AFT/NEA), November 3, 2015.
    3. Paul Haeder. Wrapping the ‘Precarious’ and ‘At-will’ labels on 150 million USA Workers, Dissident Voice, January 26, 2014.
    4. AdjunctNation. Washington Pters Allege Union Corruption & Cover Up, Ask NEA President for Trusteeship, February 9, 2013. Note: A long one about Green River Community College where I was sacked for organizing students.

    The Killing Field

    Every time we hear news of yet another mass shooting in the United States we inevitably also hear that it is the right of every American to own a gun, sanctified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. But I wonder how many people making that claim have actually read the Second Amendment, because that’s not really what it does.

    Fortunately the section is very short and pretty easy to understand. It reads, in its entirety, as follows:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    So it’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this law, which should be far more important than the actual wording, is to provide for the “security of a free state”. In the days when the amendment was written the only way this could be readily achieved was by permitting any citizen to bear arms, and to be ready to join with fellow citizens in defence of the community if it was attacked. Obviously that condition no longer applies. The US is the most powerful armed nation in the world and its existential security is no longer dependent on individual citizens bearing arms.

    In other words the infamous Second Amendment, which is routinely quoted every time another appalling mass murder takes place in the US, does NOT give an unconditional right for Americans to own guns. It strongly suggests that the right to own a gun is dependent on the necessity of a citizen being part of a well-regulated state militia which, given the fact that the US has the most tooled-up government on the planet, is itself no longer a necessity. But how many of the perpetrators of previous mass slaughters, or even the more everyday suicides and shootings that happen on average 33,000 times a year are members of well-regulated state militias? Because those are the only people the Second Amendment actually authorises to bear arms.

    Then we hear from the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade, the people who think it’s well hard to murder defenceless animals as some sort of perverted survival instinct. But the truth is that almost no one needs to kill animals in order to survive. Except for tiny isolated communities living in remote parts of the planet in the way their ancestors have always done, no one needs to kill animals to stay alive. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of human beings obtain their food from shops – much of which is slaughtered animal flesh of one kind or another – there’s also the obvious fact that we don’t actually need to eat animals at all, as millions of healthy vegans can easily prove.

    Sometimes we also hear from gun clubs, about the harmless pleasures of shooting at bits of paper. Well, here’s a news bulletin: you don’t need high-powered rifles or handguns to put a hole through a bit of paper. You can do the job very successfully with an air-rifle, or by using an archery bow.

    No, the real reason thousands of innocent Americans are destined to be gunned down every year has nothing to do with constitutional rights, or defending the need of a tiny handful of deluded people to murder defenceless animals, or standing up for people who like to put holes in bits of paper. The real reason is pretty much the same reason that’s behind every other factor that makes the United States the most dysfunctional nation on the planet: protecting the sacred right of giant corporations to make maximum profits.

    It really is way beyond time for Americans to get a proper grip of their sick government. How many more Americans must get shot by their own people before someone says “enough”? 50,000 a year? 100,000? 1,000,000?

    It’s not like it’s hard. All that needs to happen is to make it illegal to own or sell a high-powered rifle or handgun. No one needs these things. If guns didn’t exist, say, and someone just invented them, what chance would there be of being allowed to start selling them? None. Zero. Zip. So get a grip. Outlaw these things. Outlaw the people who make and sell them, and outlaw the people who make and sell the ammunition for them – because a gun without ammunition is only so much scrap metal.

    And let’s please stop hearing about this “constitutional right” to bear arms. The Second Amendment does not give that right unconditionally. Its obvious purpose is to authorise armed militias to provide security. But having the most tooled-up government on the planet, supposedly providing security, armed militias are obviously irrelevant today. This needless perpetual slaughter must stop. Come on, America. Get a grip of yourself!

    The Environmental Christmas Hangover

    Christmas may seem like a distant memory but the environmental effect of the annual consumer frenzy, over-indulgence and extravagance is lasting damage. And year on year the cost to the planet grows.

    For the best part of a week in early January the street in which I live in London was littered with mountains of rubbish and discarded Christmas trees, real and fake. The use of both live and artificial trees as decorative emblems of Christmas is ecologically damaging and, like many aspects of this materialistic pantomime, needs to be consigned to a bygone era and replaced with either a naked corner, or a rented potted tree from a garden center, which can be returned to the growers afterwards.

    In Europe an estimated 60 million live trees are bought, decorated and dumped; it’s around 30 million in America. The majority of real trees are grown specifically for Christmas so forests are not being depleted, but after the festivities most real trees are thrown away and as they decompose, methane (a greenhouse gas) is produced. Artificial trees leave their own carbon footprint due to their production and transportation. Most are made in China and amass a great many polluting air miles on route to their Western destination, and when discarded end also up in landfill sites. In order to make up for the amount of energy used in its production, according to The Woodland Trust, a plastic tree would need to be reused every Christmas for twenty years. Under the tree, of course, is to be found the Festive Icons – the presents. Worldwide, adults are said to spend on average $475 on gifts, half of which are unwanted, but in this throwaway world of ours, instead of returning them, most of these rejected trinkets are dumped in the rubbish bin and end up in a landfill site.

    Christmas and rubbish are synonymous terms in more ways than one. It’s the time of year when the largest amount of consumer waste is produced and the overwhelming bulk ends up in a hole in the ground. Over 114,000 tons of plastic waste is estimated to have been produced in Britain over Christmas and not recycled, together with “more than 88,000,000 Sq. m of wrapping paper and 300,000 tonnes of card packaging”, The Times relates. In the Capital of Consumerism, America, a colossal $10 million is spent on wrapping paper, most of which is not recyclable, and the number of Christmas cards sold requires 300,000 trees to be cut down.

    Then there’s the unbridled cruelty reserved for the animals that are raised for the festive table; around 10 million turkeys are eaten in Britain; it’s closer to 25 million in America, where the major turkey cull is Thanksgiving. The vast majority of birds stuffed and roasted are factory farmed. Their short lives are spent in appalling conditions and end when they are plunged head first into electrified stunning baths, after which they have their throats cut in the slaughterhouse. The industrial farming of turkeys is not just barbaric, like all animal agriculture it produces huge amounts of the greenhouse gases which fuel man-made climate change. Add in Christmas travel by road and air and the enormous environmental impact of Christmas begins to become clear: from 15th December to 4th January a record 52 million people in America took to the air and 97 million hit the highways. In Britain over thirteen million vehicles clogged the roads in the days leading up to the Big Day, and both Heathrow and Gatwick airports had their busiest days on record: around four million people in total, with record numbers taking long-haul flights. Aviation is a major source of greenhouse gases, and the further one flies the greater the environmental damage.

    Simplicity and Sufficiency

    Whilst the festive period allows much needed time for rest, and for some, warm family gatherings  (tense misery for others), in its current form it is little more than an exercise in mass consumerism. The ‘Christmas Spirit’, which suggests peace, brotherhood and ‘goodwill to all men’, is widely absent, replaced by an exaggerated version of how life is conducted the rest of the year; contemporary values (which are not values at all, of course) of greed and selfishness are relentlessly encouraged and to a large degree, prevail.

    The ‘consumer culture’, of which Christmas is the pinnacle expression, is an essential part of the Neo-liberal economic system under which we live. It is maintained by insatiable desire and the false notion that happiness is to be found within the Christmas wrapping paper, the Black Friday Deals or Saturday shopping outings, in ‘success’ and sensory pleasure. However, far from creating the conditions in which contentment and joy can flower, discontent and conflict is maintained, and an atmosphere created for anxiety and depression to grow. As it is currently constituted, Christmas perpetuates and strengthens this materialistic and highly damaging approach to life – for humanity and the planet. Like much of contemporary living it needs to be simplified and re-defined, not necessarily in a way that corresponds to Christian doctrine, but in a manner rooted in what we might more broadly call ‘spiritual’, or simply human values: sharing, social/environmental responsibility, tolerance and kindness to one another and, crucially, the Earth itself.

    A treeless, gift-free Christmas, where little or no travel is involved, and money usually spent on gifts is donated to an environmental charity, would be the ideal. If you can’t face Christmas without presents, then environmental considerations should be paramount when choosing what to ‘give’ – not necessarily what to ‘buy’. If we are to overcome the environmental catastrophe and reverse the colossal ecological damage, greed, selfishness and excess must come to an end, replaced by Simplicity and Sufficiency – and a new environmental consciousness urgently cultivated, at Christmas and throughout the year.