Friday, July 29, 2011


Values and Attitude

Watching thievery and the consequential social collapse unfold, I keep coming back to values and attitude. As a cultural hippie, the solution seems obvious.

It's odd, but I was thinking of a guy I knew forty years ago who inherited a small fortune from his family that publishes the Seattle Times. It was just two years after Woodstock, and the communal spirit was still alive, so he bought a three story brick building in a neighborhood commercial zone and turned it into a hive of hippie enterprise.

We had a cooperative grocery, flour mill, pottery studio, alternative media, stringed instrument repair, and community garden. The apartment on the top floor was mine for free, as he wanted someone to live in the building, but didn't want any rent. Every day was a festival.

Today, there are many inheritors of unearned wealth in our society. Some even seem to care about what is happening. Putting their wealth to work for public good would not be that hard to do.

All you need is love.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


New Reality

Internally Displaced Persons, as defined by international institutions, generally refers to refugees uprooted by civil war or natural disasters who still remain in their country of origin, but those forced to migrate due to development practices also qualify as IDPs. While development of megadams, agricultural plantations, mines, and other industrial projects often displace indigenous populations, we have yet to apply the term IDP to those displaced by economic policies under the new world order.

As many of the areas plagued by the problems of IDPs were propelled into violent conflict by IMF and World Bank policies to implement privatization, those displaced by concurrent state austerity measures would likely soon surpass the present global estimate of 25 million conventional IDPs. Just because we haven't erected Red Cross or UN humanitarian camps and services for IDPs in the United States, doesn't mean that the concept isn't valid; it simply means that keepers of official statistics have yet to catch up with the new reality.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011



Food, shelter, medicine; pick two. That's austerity under the new world order.

And that's only true where tribal or state institutions still function. If markets have their way, even one will soon be a luxury.

So where does that leave us? Family, friends, and social networks can provide a safety net of sorts, but what happens when they're all in the same sinking boat?

My guess is that relationships between state and federal governments are going to change, because the catastrophe of corruption that has captured the federal power of the purse is devastating the ability to provide state, county and municipal services essential to our economy and environment. While the White House and Congress might dance with glee over handing the U.S. Treasury to Wall Street, I imagine most governors and mayors are appalled at the carnage they have caused.

Living inside the beltway bubble, lavished with perks and presents from lobbyists, our pain is invisible or unimportant to those involved in dismantling our society. Fortifying our networks by creating alternative forms of survival -- like we did as part of the 1960s counterculture -- may not solve our problems, but in the meantime, it is perhaps all we can do under the current circumstances.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Guild Whups Baptists

Hats off to the National Lawyer’s Guild, including Bellingham, Washington attorney Larry Hildes in our previous home town of 27 years. Seems those fundamentalist Baptists are good at dishing it out, but not so tough when it comes to taking it on the chin. Good to know that once in a while free speech wins out over flaky religion.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Cheryl Stromer Prall

Ten years ago, I mentioned to my supervisor at the college library where I worked that I wondered what ever happened to a childhood friend of mine I hadn't seen in thirty years. Having listened to my fond memories of her generosity, the librarian encouraged me to attempt to locate her. Fortuitously coming across her older brother's profile and e-mail address on an East coast university faculty page, we eventually reestablished contact, and began a distance dialogue culminating in a rendezvous years later at the Sausalito ferry landing.

Cheryl Stromer (now Prall) had come up from San Diego to Berkeley to attend her daughter's graduation from culinary school, and arranged for us to meet for lunch. Later, when her daughter was preparing to move to New York, Cheryl returned with her other daughter, and we all once again met for lunch and a stroll along the Sausalito waterfront. Both occasions were delightful, prompting me to recall some of the congenial attributes of Cheryl when growing up together, in particular her bohemian interests, such as frequenting the local coffee house poetry readings.

As these poetic pursuits preceded my coming of age after the Summer of Love and Woodstock, I recalled to Cheryl's daughter that it served as peer approval to opt out of the militaristic madness that consumed so many of our generation in Vietnam. As I remember telling her daughter, I felt that becoming a hippie was OK.

Life, of course, is too short, and sometimes too hard or unfair, but remarkable people like Cheryl -- always ready with an encouraging word and fine sense of humor -- make our travails a little more bearable. And for that I will be forever grateful to good friends like her.

In view of all the suffering in the world, it is nice to know that a poetic inclination and kind heart can still make life worth living. For friends like Cheryl, who passed on in June, that seems like a pretty good tribute.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Listening with Respect

Depression is a disabling disease, now on a trajectory to become a pandemic. And while depression can affect anyone dealing with displacement or trauma, it is particularly devastating to teens, whose minds are far from being fully developed, yet whose awareness and demands can be overwhelming.

For parents and school counselors, this is not necessarily news, but for seniors suddenly found redundant, it is possibly an opportunity to meld two generations into programs that benefit both.

Reorienting youth away from the false promises of consumerism and toward more fulfilling lives is not an easy task, but listening to them with respect for what they have to deal with in today's world is something we can do with little effort or expense. Sharing our perspectives on resiliency and philosophy might help them to endure the social pressures to conform to the market mentality. While we cannot tell them what to do, we can at least advise them as to the consequences of their choices.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Cote d'Ritz

When we first ventured forth from the rainy Pacific Northwest to the sunny shores of San Francisco Bay, we did not know what the future held in store, but celebrating our first Thanksgiving in shorts and sandals seemed like a good omen. Now, twelve years later, our sense of adventure, dignity and fulfillment here seems to have run its course. Having spent the last two years dealing with derelict landlords, while simultaneously coming to terms with a rental market that has overtaken our income, we simply haven't the resources or energy to sustain our stay in paradise.

Honest people are hurting all over the country, and many of them have to contest with horrendous weather or social backwardness, so we're not complaining about making a sacrifice to live in this benign, Mediterranean climate and cosmopolitan ambience, but we're wondering what will become of this incubator of social change as the predatory process of austerity unfolds. Without major public investment in low income housing and social programs, the Golden Gate will become a Cote d'Ritz serviced by people living in their cars.

Hard as we've tried, and much as we'll miss the redwoods and palms, it looks like our senior years will have to be lived elsewhere. Such is life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Climate of Corruption

Austerity as a symptom of systematic theft has many faces; one of those is the closure of schools, libraries and state parks. Now we have the closure of courts.

After three years of layoffs and cuts to public services following in the wake of bank bailouts, America is becoming less of a society and more of a disaster. Homeless seniors and incarcerated youth are not a sign of cohesion, but rather a result of corruption.

The corruption of governance that caused this calamity has yet to be addressed. Indeed, the only argument between the White House and Congress is how much to steal from Social Security and other social programs to cover the bank bailouts and Pentagon misadventures. In this climate of corruption, it is not only difficult to imagine a prosperous, peaceful future, it is increasingly hard to conceive of interventions capable of preventing social collapse.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Fighting Fraud

Norman Solomon challenges Obama and the GOP in defense of Social Security and Medicare.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Portents of Proxy Process

Someone once remarked that representative democracy is neither. Setting aside for the moment whether our government reflects or causes the calamity we are immersed in, the simple fact we have no say in public policy other than to respond to propaganda and press releases disguised as news, signals our vital vulnerability.

As we watch with horror the bipartisan effort to remove what little safety nets we have in the form of Social Security and Medicare, the notion of future dysfunction being an order of magnitude beyond the present isn't hard to imagine. What is hard to conceive is a route around the current impasse, one that engages our citizenry in direct involvement rather than the failed experiment in governance by proxy.

Portents of the proxy process, as seen in the collapse of social institutions targeted by the WTO, IMF and World Bank, are more than just warning lights requiring our attention; they are sirens demanding our action. Assuming our responsibilities to right these wrongs in the face of full-on fraud means abandoning our childish dreams of peace and prosperity by proxy; it simply isn't going to happen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Reefer Sadness

Obama attacks medical marijuana.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011



In its latest project, Anonymous targets the usual suspects of boundless greed.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


Wise Use Militias

Talk to Action discusses militias and right-wing terrorism in the United States. Q&A in the comments section grapples with the important difference between facts and information in the struggle for democracy within a free market state.

Friday, July 08, 2011



As Americans return from fossil fueled adventures on the highways and skyways of summer vacation, indigenous communities on the fossil frontier disintegrate in a cloud of toxic waste. Already living a Mad Max reality extending from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Niger Delta, they serve as eyewitnesses at the ground zeroes of the global carbon catastrophe. In this segment by Mother Jones, mass extinction is explored within the context of climate change on steroids--what some are calling "wipeout".

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


A Totalitarian Objective

Privatization, first and foremost, is a totalitarian objective. The goal of eradicating the public interest depends on this misanthropic philosophy.

Subjugating public institutions to market tyranny, however, involves more than just greed and the misery it ensures. Pitting the poor against each other as they grovel for life’s basic necessities also mobilizes resentment against any group perceived as benefiting from the public good.

While we’ve witnessed this dynamic in operation since Reagan glorified greed as a national virtue, its institutionalization under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations has helped to propel bigotry as well. Eliminating social services for immigrants, jailing blacks, and terminating the sovereignty of indigenous nations are some of the most visible agenda items of this bigotry.

As popular resentment against the federal government is mobilized concurrent with the implementation of privatization, outbreaks of vigilante violence encouraged by state and market interests is a given. How we respond to this coming crisis will determine whether the crisis becomes an epidemic.

The research, education, and organizing we do in advance makes all the difference in what type of community action we can expect.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Maintaining Social Bonds

Coping with transition -- be it work, age, or health related -- consumes energy, something not in abundance for those already living on the margin of stability. With the destabilization of American society brought on by banking scandals and the consequent public sector cuts to low income programs, finding a stable living environment can be challenging--especially for seniors and the disabled.

Having weathered the initial round of dislocation and relocation associated with the foreclosure tsunami that struck landlords and tenants over the last couple years, we managed to land on our feet in a unit where we thought we might be able to survive on our social security and medicare benefits. Due to unforeseen health factors involved with our apartment, that has not turned out to be the case, and we now need to muster both the energy and expense of finding and moving into a new place--our third move in less than a year and a half.

Without getting into the difficulty of chasing down a low rent apartment in an extremely competitive tenant market, the point I guess I'm making is that the process of displacing upright good citizens like ourselves and others like us, also destabilizes neighborhoods and communities. When we are forced, through no fault of our own, to repeatedly scramble to keep a roof over our heads, we no longer have the energy to invest in maintaining social bonds that keep communities strong. Apparently, that's what the CEOs on Wall Street had in mind.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Israeli Blood Diamond News

As a luxury item, foregoing the purchase of diamonds is a painless gesture, especially when many are brutally produced by forced labor in horrific conditions. But blood diamonds, as these have come to be known, are not merely a topic of human rights abuses against slave labor; they are also a growing topic of focus for global solidarity opposing human rights abuses perpetrated by the State of Israel against Palestine.

In his article on how the diamond cutting and polishing industry in Israel supports the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, Sean Clinton reports that as Israel’s #1 export commodity, blood diamonds contribute $1 billion a year to the Zionist Apartheid. Along with the $3 billion a year from the U.S. Treasury in the form of military aid, American consumers are often oblivious to their underwriting of the occupation.

Given that nearly half of the diamonds purchased in the US are from Israel, a boycott of this luxury good is a campaign American jewelers are hoping to avoid. Fortunately, as word gets out about their efforts to censor Israeli blood diamond news, consumer resentment might prove to be as effective a motivator as human rights.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Decriminalizing Consciousness

In light of the colossal failure of the world war on drugs, one might think the United Nations would step forward to end the human rights abuses and official violence associated with this misguided global project. Given the fact that psychoactive plants have provided therapeutic medicinal relief to humankind for millenia, one might imagine the senseless campaigns against entheogens like cannabis, psilocybin and peyote would someday come to an end.

But the UN is also a collection of states with conflicts of interest that prevent humanitarian perspectives from prevailing. Perhaps most prominent in these interests is the militarization of police and commercialization of militaries that undergirds the criminalization of sacred, therapeutic botanicals. The consequence of such misguided and corrupt policies, unfortunately, is the marginalization and even demonization of indigenous sacred rituals, practices and ceremonies.

As the epidemic of mental, spiritual and social affliction expands exponentially, leading the World Health Organization to declare depression as second only to heart disease as a disabling condition, it is disappointing to witness organizations like the UN International Narcotics Control Board continuing in the wrong direction on ethnobotanicals. If humankind is to find new directions in the evolution of contemporary society, ancient indigenous knowledge and modern therapeutic practice will need to inform each other.

Toward that end, the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service -- a Netherlands non-profit -- is campaigning for a more enlightened UN response. Take a look at this and other initiatives aimed at ameliorating the militaristic mindset behind the war on drugs and therapeutic botanicals.

Imagine a future where consciousness is no longer a crime.

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