Friday, August 19, 2005

Bloggence Birthday

This blog began a year ago, round about today, so an anniversary reflection seems like the right thing to do today.

This began as a felt need to communicate differently with my friends and family about my take on the world, how it affects me and how I affect it. I was struck last year about how little anyone really knows about how their own personal ideas are tangled up with the false images we are shown by a system that frustrates us. Half of what we say is factually wrong, and the other half is ethically challenged. We live within an enormous echo chamber of received ideas that effectively shuts out most of what actually happens, what has happened historically, and by cause and effect, what will happen tomorrow. Meanwhile, we are sleepwalking into an abyss.

As it turned out, this past year of blogging was not successful in penetrating the din of that echo chamber, predictably so. Yet a surprise was that particular things I wrote were linked to by people I haven't met, and a small handful of (former) strangers even wrote email to me. I added a site meter that counts visits here. The results show that this blog now serves mainly as an archive. Since I posted virtually every day, there are now about 350 items. Visitors tend to stumble on those through Google mainly, and through a number of links from other bloggers. In the interest of openness, below is a graph of visits and page views from this past month:

The total number of visits so far = 5,727. Page views is twice that. Average Per Day = 35. A modest blog.

The blogging turned out to help me keep track of some things. I'm sure that to some it seems bewilderingly eclectic, while on the contrary to others it seems always the same routinely leftist view. These two impressions are of course intimately connected. What would need explaining, instead, is why the bloggence didn't take up so many other vital issues, and why the view on these is insufficiently radical.

After today, bloggence will be updated less consistently. I will be going into exile from my exile for the next two weeks, lying lower than the low I've already reached. After that another busy season begins, and this blog may move slightly away from baring the open secrets of current events toward more theoretical issues. I always feel a slight yet definite uplift of the spirit right after I post a blog here, and thus I will try to continue into a second year.

Taxonomy of Subjection

About ten years ago, Dion Dennis published an essay in my old journal online, UnderCurrent. The essay is a critical reading of the 1992 film Falling Down about the decline and fall of a displaced military defense engineer in the post-Cold War era, and significantly set in Los Angeles, postmod capital city of the 3rd World. While ten years is about a century in Internet historicity, you can still find his essay here:

Today Dion Dennis is back with another essay online, again a timely analysis of the present. A lot has changed in the past decade! His new essay appears online in CTHEORY and is titled: The Christo-Terminator: The Unsustainable Present, the Nostalgic Glance Back as Prequels to the New American Legitimation Principle .

What should interest us greatly here today is the excerpt below from the middle of Dennis's analysis:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

In the midst of the last major legitimacy crisis (for the U.S.) that was triggered by the onset of dire economic circumstances (the Great Depression), a young Robert K. Merton tendered a theory (and a taxonomy) of anomie tied to that American context. For Merton, anomie was a macro-structural effect which emerged from a rupture between culturally prescribed ends and the conventional means for attaining these ends. At the heart of Merton's 1930s Depression-era analysis was the gap between the dominant cultural goal (of upward economic and social mobility that has been the American Dream, with its emphases on material success and social status) and the availability of conventional means for achieving this goal in 1930s America. Formulating a mid-level structural-functionalist theoretical analysis of deviance, Merton posited that when the public demand to fulfill the American Dream was greater than the legitimate means available (through jobs or education), people re-orient themselves vis-à-vie the means, the goal, or both. In his general typology of how individuals and social groups respond to culturally defined means and ends, Merton offered up five possible adaptations. Commonly taught in introductory college and university sociology courses, the table (below) summarizes Merton's oft-cited (and taught) taxonomy:

Table One: Mid-20th Century Progressive Capitalism's Mertonian Taxonomy

  Adaptive ResponseEnds

(+) (-) (±)


(+) (-) (±)

  1. Conformity++Practitioners of the Protestant Ethic: College students enrolled at inexpensive institutions, thrifty savers those who practice deferred gratification of desires, etc.
  2. Innovators+-White Collar Criminals
  3. Ritualism-+Formalistic bureaucrats, OCD sufferers
  4. Retreatism--Drug addicts, alcoholics, hermits, etc.
  5. Rebellion±±Social and Political Revolutionaries

In the table, (+) symbolizes acceptance, (-) symbolizes rejection, and ( ±) rejection and substitution of new ends and/or means.

For the next two generations, this model had considerable suasive power. Facing internal threats to legitimacy in the 1930s, and the real and imagined threats of the Soviet Union and China during the height of the Cold War, U.S. domestic economic policy, from the mid-1930s to the late 1970s, favored the growth and maintenance of the middle class, as a bulwark against domestic destabilization and as an ideological lynchpin of post WWII anticommunism. For these reasons and others, mid-20th Century progressive capitalism fortified the creation of conformist stakeholders in the American Dream, even while generating all five types of Mertonian responses to social and economic conditions.

From the early 1980s on, the major components of this configuration dissolved. As Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren has noted,

There was a fundamental change in the early 1980s, and the fundamental change was that we switched over to letting all of those little boats go it alone. And the focus moves to the two ends of the spectrum. We all thought the middle class was strong enough to take care of itself.

Neo-liberalism and its political agenda took root precisely as an avalanche of structural changes and economic events reconfigured the social, cultural, financial and fiscal makeup of the U.S. and much of the rest of the globe. In the U.S., some manifestations of these recursive changes are as follows: Wholesale outsourcing of manufacturing and white collar jobs; the rapid and discontinuous effects of the information revolution; multiple rounds of massive tax cuts for the meta-wealthy, the aftermath of the tech-stock speculative bubble of the late 1990s, the current real estate bubble of the 2000s, the obese tumescence of consumer credit card and fiscal debt, and the still-to-come tragic consequences of irresponsible domestic and international political decisions promulgated on a portable mélange of lies, self-deception, cowardice and a lust for short-term gain. Arguably, the current operative political and economic "game plan" mimics a political ideology (and class stratification schema) exhumed from the zenith of the Gilded Age, the McKinley Presidency.

The result of this amalgam of policies, practices, and ideology has been a "creative destruction" that has gutted the long-term constitutive ground for a reinvention of the American middle class during the first part of the 21st Century. James Fallows is right. Since the late 1980s, the U.S. has abandoned any substantive commitment to savings, investment, education and innovation, in maintenance of an unstable and materially voracious status quo. In that sense, the traditional notion of the Protestant ethic, with its historically defined ethos of deferred gratification, is on Schiavo-like life-support. Structurally, it has been replaced by a short-term arrangement whereby the U.S. gobbles up, on a daily basis, more than four-fifths of the world's available savings/lending capital. With a debt level accelerating toward six trillion dollars, the current frenzy is an unsustainable level of consumption, as the U.S. has become the globe's only net consumer nation. The baby-boom generation has already bequeathed a long-term fiscal, financial and political indebtedness that will consume the prospects of subsequent generations.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
{essay continues at link above]

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Drought

Harper's Weekly noted that a "study found that the worldwide percentage of land stricken by drought has doubled within the last 30 years." Some of us continue to suffer the effects of global climate change and other forms of environmental degradation, while others of us are perhaps too slow to notice.

A global drought and the social barbarity that follows in its wake is wholly imagined in a novel by J. G. Ballard, appropriately titled, The Drought. (a.k.a., The Burning World in 1965.)

The main character in this novel refers to a painting, reproduced below. "Jour de Lenteur" or "Day of Slowness" by Yves Tanguy, a surrealist painter. During a drought, time seems excruciatingly slow and objects seem isolated and ruined. In this environment, people are reduced to mere survival, and those who do survive are reduced to mundane toil interrupted only by moments of terror when outsiders stage a bloody incursion for a pail of water. These kinds of things occur today in places we try not to think about. Ballard has the audacity to think about how it might occur in the major cities of civilization.

Jour de lenteur

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Post-National Literature

The latest issue of New Perspectives Quarterly contains think pieces by novelists on globalization and literature. Salman Rushdie, Azar Nafisi, Elif Shafak, Gao Xingjian, Lillian Faschinger and others contributed essays about what literature might have to say about a globalizing world. The focus throughout remains somewhat narrowed to cultural flows in a world of collapsing borders, and how that flow affects ethnic and national identity. I wonder if creative writers are going to be able to take up the other far reaching issues of financial flows (after all this is the essential definition of "globalization" itself), ecological flows, and the impact of uneven or blocked flows.

Link to the issue of NPQ online is above.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Anthropology of Anarchy

Link above is to an interesting review of David Graeber's Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology.
Link below is to a free copy of his book as a pdf file.

The review opens like this:

"If there is any question thrown at organizers within the various tendrils of the global justice movement intended to make our efforts appear utopian and unrealizable, it would have to be 'I understand what you’re against, but what are you for?” The implicit idea being that there is no reason to believe that another world is possible in more than a rhetorical sense, or at least not examples to prove such is possible. Frequently those of us who dream of a liberated world without a market or state structures turn to anthropology for inspiration from the thousands of years of human history where such didn’t exist. Anthropologists, worried about being accused of romanticizing populations, have generally responded to these inquiries with a confused silence.

"In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology Yale based anthropologist and political activist David Graeber asks, 'what if that wasn’t the case?' Drawing from the rich history of ethnographic materials and anthropological records as well as critical theory and current practices within the global justice movement, Graeber demonstrates that there is an endless variety of revolutionary political and social organization to draw from."

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Review continues at link above. For a free digital copy of the book, click here:
Or, you can buy the hard copy of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology from the publisher: Prickly Paradigm Press

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Near Crawford, Texas, Bush supporters chant "We don't care!" to the grieving mother of a dead soldier (across the road from Cindy Sheehan). Waving the flag of imperial might, and relying on the ambiguous slogan, "support our troops" (!!??), these obedient worshipers of authority are in effect nakedly displaying all the smug contempt for goodness, truth, and beauty which lies at the corrupted heart of rightwing America.

Let's face it once and for all: they simply don't care. And in this ugly revelation of their own inhumanity, the Bush-worship crowd also reveals the hideous secret behind this kind of war: they celebrate the right to send other people to die in a war for American access to oil. They want to preserve the right to kill others in order to preserve their own careless way of life.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
P.S. As if to double the proof for the above, two days later on the night of August 15th, a rightwing-nut drove his pickup truck through the encampment, smashing the white crosses holding the names of dead soldiers. The aftermath looked like this:

5 Secrets of Business Success!

Who Moved My Ability to Reason?
by Barbara Ehrenreich

In a gleefully scathing review of self-help books for business executives, a new genre, Ehrenreich points out that they are not only short on words ("for the postreading generation") but also short on thinking skills. They typically advise one to stop analyzing, avoid any negative impression of the status quo, and to be passionately happy about beating others to the cash pile and becoming a Rich Master.

(This alone is enough to remind us of the power of negative thinking: the Hegelian negation of a negation is sometimes the best way out.)

To save you the pain of having to read all those "books", she also distills their generic message into a list of five points. I won't bother to repeat that list here, as one of Ehrenreich's observations is that such books are overly fond of lists, graphs, illustrations, empty layout, etc., of the sort that give the illusion of substance and prevent you from thinking realistically.

Her conclusion is worth quoting:

"There you have it, the five highly condensed secrets of business success. If you find them immoral, delusional or insulting to the human spirit, you should humbly consider the fact that, to judge from the blurbs on the backs of these books, they have won the endorsement of numerous actual C.E.O.'s of prominent companies. Maybe the books tell us what these fellows want their underlings to believe. Be more like mice, for example. Or -- and this is the truly scary possibility -- maybe the principles embody what the C.E.O.'s themselves believe, and it is in fact the delusional, the immoral and the verbally challenged who are running the show."

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Play Ethic

excerpt from Comedy and a Play Ethic
by Joseph Meeker

A play ethic is anything but trivial, although it may be somewhat childlike. It cannot guide us toward the acquisition of power over others or over events, and it is unlikely to create wealth or status, as the work ethic has done. Play rather grows from our sense of freedom. It produces strength and skill for the players, stimulates the imagination, and encourages agility and self-confidence.

As the Puritans articulated the work ethic, so now it is our privilege to give voice to a new ethic of play. If we were to have a Playbill of Rights, it might include the following:

  • All players are equal, or can be made so.

  • Boundaries are well observed by crossing them.

  • Novelty is more fun than repetition.

  • Rules are negotiable from moment to moment.

  • Risk in pursuit of play is worth it.

  • The best play is beautiful and elegant.

  • The purpose for playing is to play, nothing else.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Joseph Meeker's book from 1974, The Comedy of Survival is widely credited as the modern inauguration of ecocriticism, or the study of the relationships between literature and the natural environment. He is a trained scholar of ethology (animal behavior) and of literature. He is also funny. I'm now wondering if his playful comedy will convert me from my tragic disposition.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Matriarchy in China

Speaking of matriarchy, let's move from Africa to China. The Mosuo tribe is a matriarchy that venerates nature, has no monogamy, no rape, no war, and no prison. A documentary on Frontline gives the precis below:

"For nearly 2,000 years, the Mosuo (pronounced MWO-swo) have lived in the Yunnan and Sechuan provinces of southwest China, practicing matriarchal traditions. One of China's 56 designated ethnic minorities, the Mosuo population of 56,000 people is tiny compared with China's overall population of 1.3 billion.

The majority of Mosuo families live around Lugu Lake, a region that was isolated from the rest of world until the 1970s. At 8,580 feet (2,600 m) above sea level, it is the highest-altitude lake in the Yunnan province. It is also the second-deepest body of water in China . . . .

Mosuo women carry on the family name and run the households, which are usually made up of several families with one woman elected as the head. The head matriarchs of each village govern the region by committee.

The Mosuo are best known for their tradition of zouhun, or walking marriage, in which youths who have gone through a coming of age ceremony at the age of 13 are permitted to choose their own axia, or relationship. This nontraditional [thousands of years and it's "nontraditional"!?] union means that men visit their lovers only by "walking" to them at night and leaving in the morning. If a child is born from the union, it is taken care of by the mother's brothers.

The traditional Mosuo religion worships nature, with Lugu Lake regarded as the Mother Goddess and the mountain overlooking it venerated as the Goddess of Love. The Mosuo also practice Lamaism, a Tibetan variation of Buddhism. Most Mosuo homes dedicate a room specifically for Buddhist worship and for sheltering traveling lamas, or monks.

The Mosuo language is rendered not in writing, but in Dongba, the only pictographic language used in the world today.

The Mosuo language has no words for murder, war or rape.

The Mosuo have no jails."
{link above}

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Place Where Women Rule

Every few months or so I see this kind of story about a small community of women, here and there around the world, groups who form a cooperative village excluding men. They have come together, after all, to escape from the nightmares of their dysfunctional relationships with men. This particular story is about women in Kenya who flee from forced marriages and such. Interesting to see how successful they are in starting up economic activity and supporting each other in the face of male attacks. It is an instance of the matriarchy as a reaction to patriarchal domination, of the sort that must have occured here and there for thousands of years.

A Place Where Women Rule

Monday, August 08, 2005

Why the Rich Oppose Environmentalism

Why the Corporate Rich Oppose Environmentalism
By Michael Parenti

In 1876, Marx's collaborator, Frederich Engels, offered a prophetic caveat:
"Let us not . . . flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. . . . At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside of nature--but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst. . . ."
With its never-ending emphasis on production and profit, and its indifference to environment, transnational corporate capitalism appears determined to stand outside nature. The driving goal of the giant investment firms is to convert natural materials into commodities and commodities into profits, transforming living nature into vast accumulations of dead capital.

This capital accumulation process treats the planet's life-sustaining resources (arable land, groundwater, wetlands, forests, fisheries, ocean beds, rivers, air quality) as dispensable ingredients of limitless supply, to be consumed or toxified at will. Consequently, the support systems of the entire ecosphere--the Earth's thin skin of fresh air, water, and top soil--are at risk, threatened by global warming, massive erosion, and ozone depletion. An ever-expanding capitalism and a fragile finite ecology are on a calamitous collision course.

It is not true that the ruling politico-economic interests are in a state of denial about this. Far worse than denial, they have shown utter antagonism toward those who think the planet is more important than corporate profits. So they defame environmentalists as "eco-terrorists," "EPA gestapo," "Earth Day alarmists," "tree huggers," and purveyors of "Green hysteria" and "liberal claptrap." The plutocracy's position was summed up by that dangerous fool, erstwhile Senator Steve Symms (R-Idaho), who once said that if he had to choose between capitalism and ecology, he would choose capitalism. Symms seemed not to grasp that, absent a viable ecology, there will be no capitalism or any other ism.

In recent years, Bushite reactionaries within the White House and Congress, fueled by corporate lobbyists, have supported measures to

(1) allow unregulated toxic fill into lakes and harbors,

(2) eliminate most of the wetland acreage that was to be set aside for a reserve,

(3) completely deregulate the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that deplete the ozone layer,

(4) eviscerate clean water and clean air standards,

(5) open the unspoiled Arctic wildlife refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling,

(6) defund efforts to keep raw sewage out of rivers and away from beaches,

(7) privatize and open national parks to commercial development,

(8) give the remaining ancient forests over to unrestrained logging,

(9) repeal the Endangered Species Act,

(10) and allow mountain-top removal in mining that has transformed thousands of miles of streams and vast amounts of natural acreage into toxic wastelands.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
{Parenti's essay on Znet continues at link above}

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Shark Story

by Brecht

"If sharks were men," Mr. Keuner was asked by his landlady's little girl, "would they be nicer to the little fishes?"

"Certainly," he said. "If sharks were men, they would build enormous boxes in the ocean for the little fish, with all kinds of food inside, both vegetable and animal. They would take care that the boxes always had fresh water, and in general they would make all kinds of sanitary arrangements. If, for example, a little fish were to injure a fin, it would immediately be bandaged, so that it would not die and be lost to the sharks before its time. So that the little fish would not become melancholy, there would be big water festivals from time to time; because cheerful fish taste better than melancholy ones.

"There would, of course, also be schools in the big boxes. In these schools the little fish would learn how to swim into the sharks' jaws. They would need to know geography, for example, so that they could find the big sharks, who lie idly around somewhere. The principal subject would, of course, be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that it would be the best and most beautiful thing in the world if a little fish sacrificed itself cheerfully and that they all had to believe the sharks, especially when the latter said they were providing for a beautiful future. The little fish would be taught that this future is assured only if they learned obedience. The little fish had to beware of all base, materialist, egotistical and Marxist inclinations, and if one of their number betrayed such inclinations they had to report it to the sharks immediately.

"If sharks were men, they would, of course, also wage wars against one another, in order to conquer other fish boxes and other little fish. The wars would be waged by their own little fish. They would teach their little fish that there was an enormous difference between themselves and the little fish belonging to the other sharks. Little fish, they would announce, are well known to be mute, but they are silent in quite different languages and hence find it impossible to understand one another. Each little fish that, in a war, killed a couple of other little fish, enemy ones, silent in their own language, would have a little order made of seaweed pinned to it and be awarded the title of hero.

"If sharks were men, there would, of course, also be art. There would be beautiful pictures, in which the sharks' teeth would be portrayed in magnificent colors and their jaws as pure pleasure gardens, in which one could romp about splendidly. The theaters at the bottom of the sea would show heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically into the jaws of sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that to the accompaniment of its sounds, the orchestra leading the way, the little fish would stream dreamily into the sharks' jaws, lulled by the most agreeable thoughts.

"There would also be a religion, if sharks were men. It would preach that little fish only really begin to live properly in the sharks' stomachs.

"Furthermore, if sharks were men there would be an end to all little fish being equal, as is the case now. Some would be given important offices and be placed above the others. Those who were a little bigger would even be allowed to eat up the smaller ones. That would be altogether agreeable for the sharks, since they themselves would more often get bigger bites to eat. And the bigger little fish, occupying their posts, would ensure order among the little fish, become teachers, officers, engineers in box construction, etc.

"In short, if sharks were men, they would for the first time bring culture to the ocean."


Excerpt from Bertolt Brecht's STORIES OF MR. KEUNER

This and a few other sample excerpts are now online at

Saturday, August 06, 2005

US Imperialism in Iran

Empires produce violent reactions to their own over-reaching powers, particularly when those powers function to suck out economic resources back into the Capital, the belly of the beast.

Excerpt below is about how Iran figures in this general history, from " Attacking Iran: I Know It Sounds Crazy, But..." by Ray McGovern. He served as a CIA analyst for 27 years -- from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and regularly met with the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired the National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

"To remember why the United States is no favorite in Tehran [Iran], one needs to go back at least to 1953 when the U.S. and Great Britain overthrew Iran's democratically elected Premier Mohammad Mossadeq as part of a plan to insure access to Iranian oil. They then emplaced the young Shah in power who, with his notorious secret police, proved second to none in cruelty. The Shah ruled from 1953 to 1979. Much resentment can build up over a whole generation. His regime fell like a house of cards, when supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini rose up to do some regime change of their own.

Iranians also remember Washington's strong support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq after it decided to make war on Iran in 1980. U.S. support for Iraq (which included crucial intelligence support for the war and an implicit condoning of Saddam's use of chemical weapons) was perhaps the crucial factor in staving off an Iranian victory. Imagine then, the threat Iranians see, should the Bush administration succeed in establishing up to 14 permanent military bases in neighboring Iraq. Any Iranian can look at a map of the Middle East (including occupied Iraq) and conclude that this administration might indeed be willing to pay the necessary price in blood and treasure to influence what happens to the black gold under Iranian as well as Iraqi sands. And with four more years to play with, a lot can be done along those lines. The obvious question is: How to deter it? Well, once again, Iran can hardly be blind to the fact that a small nation like North Korea has so far deterred U.S. action by producing, or at least claiming to have produced, nuclear weapons. "

{Whole article at link above}

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Propaganda: "It's ridiculous."

I've discovered a new technique in PR propaganda from the White House. When pressed to respond about some absurd conduct within the Administration, they simply state that "It's ridiculous!" The quote ends there. But now we can see that this is a strategic choice of terms. Yes, everyone agrees that it is "ridiculous." Thus the White House can rest assured that their quoted statement is just as true as it is effective in stopping the conversation.
The problem, of course, is that it is not the allegations that are ridiculous, but rather the fact that the allegations are true. The White House conduct is ridiculous. Below are two key instances:

1. Here is the White House Spokesperson McClellan in a Sept. 16, 2003 press briefing on the case of Rove outing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame in order to shut down her husband's revelations of White House lying about Iraq's weapons:

Question: "Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover a CIA operative . . . . Did Karl Rove do it?

White House: "I said, it's totally ridiculous."

(OK so it is ridiculous, but it is also true, as we now know. Rove did.)

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

2. Here is President George Bush Jr. on the issue of the US planning a new war on Iran:

Bush: "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table."

The stenography record shows that the press briefing room burst out in laughter! Again, yes it is ridiculous, but then having said that, it is also true. As we now know, or if not, see e.g.:

The moral of the story is that the next time you hear the White House quoted as saying "It's ridiculous" then you know what's happening.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oil Corp Getting Spanked

A strong coalition of major environmentalist and progressive groups is now campaigning to expose Exxon-Mobil's corporate assault on our air and water. The campaign calls for a boycott and is efficiently designed for maximum corporate butt-kicking impact. Pressure is being applied for institutions to yank out their stock investments in Exxon.

You can add your signature, cash, and other help at the link above. They provide fact sheets, downloadable posters, events, and so on.

Why boycott Exxon-Mobil?

  • ExxonMobil's active support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • ExxonMobil's efforts to block meaningful action to cut global warming pollution and its funding of junk science to hide the real facts about global warming; they spent more than $15 million since 1998 to deny the existence of global warming
  • ExxonMobil's conscious decision to forgo investment in clean energy solutions -- despite their record profits at a time of rising gasoline prices
  • ExxonMobil's failure to pay the punitive damages awarded to fishermen and others injured by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Despite making a record profit of $25 billion last year, ExxonMobil is still shirking payment of the full amount it owes fishermen and natives hurt by the Exxon Valdez oil spill sixteen years ago.

While the world is gradually being dragged into an endless series of oil wars, with civilians paying the ultimate price in the battle, Exxon is taking in unprecedented profits. While the oceans gradually rise, freak storms become commonplace, and species die off, Exxon privately funds propaganda to the contrary. While we choke on fumes and pump our own newborn infants full of carcinogenic chemicals, Exxon decides the best plan is to avoid investing in cleaner sources of energy. The big issue here is whether society can pursue what it knows to be a better path, or whether society will continue to be dominated and injured by corporate decisions. Society in this case is us.

Help Wanted: Jobs?

"Is the job honest and useful? Is it a real contribution to human need?"
List of below is from Theodore Roszak's Person/Planet

Huckstering jobs: inventing, advertising, selling expensive trash to gullible customers

Busywork jobs: sorting, filing, computerizing, endless amounts of data, office memos, statistical figments

Mandarin-administrative jobs: co-ordinating, overseeing, supervising clerical battalions and bureaucratic hierarchies, many of which -- especially in government operations -- exist merely to spin their own wheels

Financial sleight-of-hand jobs: juggling cash and credit, sniffing out tax loopholes and quick speculative windfalls in real estate, arbitrage, stocks and bonds

Compensatory amusements jobs: marketing the vicarious glamour and escapist pleasures whose one use is to relieve the tedium and frustration of workaday life: spectator sports, mass media distractions, superstar entertainments, package tours, the pricey toys and accoutrements of "creative leisure"

Cop jobs: providing security against the theft and violence of society's have-nots, policing the streets, hassling the riffraff through the coursts, guarding the prisons, snooping into credit ratings, school records, personnel evaluations

Welfare processing jobs: picking up the economy's casualties, keeping them on the public assistance treadmill, holding the social discontent below the boiling point

And at the dizzy top of the heap: billion-dollar boondoggling; the cartel-building, multinational maneuvering, military-industrial back scratching -- which is the corrupted soul of our corporate economy.

The list could go on indefinitely, a spreading network of waste and corruption that touches very nearly everybody's work life. . . . My own profession of university teaching has fattened enormously over the past generation by educating (or training) the personnel who have become the executive functionaries and white-collar rank and file in this flourishing surplus economy. . . ."

--Theodore Roszak 1978

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fish Species Halved since 1955.

"The variety of species in the world's oceans has dropped by as much as 50 percent in the past 50 years, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.

A combination of overfishing, habitat destruction and climate change has narrowed the range of fish across the globe, wrote biologists Boris Worm and Ransom A. Myers of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and three other scientists." {article continues at the Washington Post at link above...}

The cause of this decimation of fish species in the world's oceans is said to be mainly over-fishing, with global warming thrown in as a secondary factor. Meanwhile, in related science news, the oceans' acidic level is rising:

Acid Buildup in Oceans Threatens Species Diversity
Industrial and auto pollution could turn Earth's oceans so acidic by the end of this century that the entire marine world will be threatened, a new report warns.

The study, issued today by the Royal Society in the U.K., documents the rise of carbon dioxide, or C02, which occurs naturally and is also emitted in the burning of fossil fuels like coal and gasoline.

"If CO2 from human activities continues to rise, the oceans will become so acidic by 2100 it could threaten marine life in ways we can't anticipate," said Ken Caldeira, co-author of the report.

"This report should sound the alarm bells around the world," said Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology. "It provides compelling evidence for the need for a thorough understanding of the implications of ocean acidification. It also strengthens the case for rapid progress on reducing CO2 emissions."

Caldeira is a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif. He did the research while at the federal government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Marine plants soak up carbon dioxide and convert it to food during photosynthesis. The CO2 is also used to make skeletons and shells, which ultimately become sediment on the sea floor. In that way, the oceans act as a giant carbon sink.

Some scientists estimate that more than a third of all human-produced C02 has been absorbed by the oceans.....

{ see rest of this at

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bullets or Ballots

Lawyers, Guns and Money
By Greg Palast

"Just put down that law suit, pardner, and no one gets hurt."

There are 200 million guns in civilian hands in the United States. That works out at 200 per lawyer. Wade through the foaming websites of the anti-Semites, weekend militiamen and Republicans, and it becomes clear that many among America's well-armed citizenry have performed the same calculation. Because if there is any hope of the ceasefire that they fear, it will come out of the barrel of a lawsuit.

And that is why a shoot-to-kill coalition in the Senate, led by Wild Bill Frist (R-Tenn) and his simpering sidekick, Scary Harry Reid (D-Nev), voted yesterday to grant immunity from law suits to gun makers.

First, the score. Gunshot deaths in the US are way down - to only 88 a day. Around 87,000 lucky Americans were treated for bullet wounds last year; 32,436 unlucky ones died, including a dozen policemen by their own weapons.

For Americans, America remains more deadly than Iraq.

In one typical case, a young man, Steven Fox, described feeling pieces of his brain fly from his skull after a mugger shot him. He is permanently paralyzed.

But, hey, that's business for you. And what a business it is. Guns, ammo and accessories are a $6 billion-a-year honey pot for several corporations: Glock, Smith & Wesson, Colt and too many others.

But, the gun-o-philiacs say, what does po' widdle Smith & Wesson have to do with a mugger who uses its gun in an unsocial manner?

This cop-out drives Elisa Barnes crazy. Barnes is the lawyer who brought the groundbreaking lawsuit against handgun manufacturers which, for the first time, were found negligent in abetting a criminal.

It's lawyers like Barnes -- and victims like Fox -- that the Senate went gunning for. . . .

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{article continues at link above}

Peasants Fight to Death to Save Wild Forests & Herds

The whole planet continues to witness peasants fighting to the death against brutal interlopers who destroy their environment: poachers, mining & logging operations, land grabs, toxic dumping.

To see this tragic drama on film, get a copy of the Keke xili (subtitle: "Mountain Patrol"). It has won several awards at film festivals. This movie is based on actual events, told from the perspective of an investigative news reporter sent from Beijing to this remote and wild mountain area, surrounded by vast high plateaus and harsh weather. Peasants in Tibet finally decided that only by organizing their own forces could they prevent the vast slaughter of antelopes by Chinese poachers with machine guns throughout their region. Their struggle was often fatal, but for now, they've been recognized, publicized, and given government assistance.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, Mexican peasants in the Sierra Madre forests continue to struggle against violent attacks from logging companies -- including the Boise Cascade corporation. Some 40% of this old forest along the coast has already been destroyed. The local peasants held off most of the logging for the past few years, but also with fatal sacrifices. Some have been jailed, tortured, and shot to death. But the group is still organized as "Peasant Ecologists of the Petatlan Sierra" and as of this month, the struggle continues to be fatal for them. They could use more international assistance, since the government of Mexico tends to side with the corporate loggers. For the dramatic details see:
Peasants Pay with Blood to Save Mexico Forest.

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See also:

For what everyone can do to help conserve old growth rainforests:

Photo of the KeKe Xili area of Tibet: