Sunday, December 31, 2006

Is Everything for Sale?

I just finished watching the 2004 documentary, The Corporation. I would suggest it for any of you who need to sober up quickly after a night of New Year's Eve imbibing. While I didn't learn much of any new information from the film -- since I'm already well-versed in the evils of globalized-corporatism -- it underscored for me the motivation to stay active in trying to create a more sustainable world.

Of the volumes of quality information presented, there's at least one aspect of the corporate monster that I believe too few people are aware of: patenting of seeds.

In this documentary, the producers focused on Monsanto and their drive to patent seeds. (It should be noted that Monsanto is not the only agribusiness to pursue this strategy.) It would be bad enough if companies like Monsanto merely were patenting strains of crop seeds that they had developed through their own research, but they are bringing suits against farmers who retain seeds from non-Monsanto seeded crops AND the seeds they are creating have a built-in mechanism to ensure that the new crop doesn't produce any need seeds itself.

So, in essence, they are building a market for their product by ensuring it only has a one-time use. Farmers who get duped into this process must now buy their seeds each and every season.

What on earth could be the rationale for this set up (other than greed and profit)? How does this strategy benefit anyone other than Monsanto or like-minded companies?

The short answer is -- It doesn't.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Private Grief in Public View

In November 1963, I was a 1st grader in Mrs. Thrall's class at Hale Cook Elementary School in Kansas City, MO. I had just turned 6 years old the previous month. Life seemed good...until one fateful Friday afternoon.

I certainly don't remember what we were doing in class that day, probably immersed in discussions of Dick and Jane or working on critical theorems like 1+2= 3. At some point, however, the principal showed up and asked our teacher to go out into the hall. While we couldn't hear the conversation, I do remember hearing Mrs. Thralls' gasp.

When she returned to the classroom, she was in tears. This was probably the first time most of us had seen an adult, other than maybe our parents, cry. In a barely audible voice, she told us that the president was dead. Now we were all crying.

The import of this event was lost on us. Yes, we vaguely knew that John F. Kennedy was the president of our country, but that fact doesn't mean a helluva lot when you're only 6 or 7 years old. I believe that our anguish was motivated by our teacher's obvious anguish. If she was upset, then the president's death must be a really bad thing.

The bus ride home from school that day was surreal. It was the only such bus ride I can remember in which there was no yelling and screaming, and nobody acted up. We all sat quietly in our seats, awaiting our time to disembark.

For the next 3 days or so, the Kennedy assassination and proceedings dominated our small television screen. I remember watching the casket of the slain president moving its way slowly up Pennsylvania Avenue. I remember the state funeral and the flag-draped coffin.

More than anything else, I remember the public view of the Kennedy family's private grief. There, for all the world to see, stood Jackie, Caroline & John Jr., grappling with their own personal loss while light bulbs flashed and video cameras rolled. Even worse were the ridiculous questions posed by the various reporters to members of the Kennedy entourage -- "So, how are you feeling about now? I bet the president's death must have come as a shock to you."

These echoes, whispers and images came bubbling up to the surface this afternoon as I briefly watched the service for former President Gerald R. Ford. There, in the glare of the camera spotlight, was Betty Ford. Just like Jackie Kennedy before her, she was trying to keep a stiff upper lip and not completely breakdown.

Whether one agrees with the politics of a president or government leader, on a base human level, my heart goes out to their families during their time of grief. It's hard enough saying goodbye to a loved one; it's quite another thing to do it with millions of people watching.

1 + 1

For the past 2 years The Rambling Taoist has been the labor of love of one solitary individual. However, as we move into our third year, my younger brother is joining the blog and hence The Rambling Taoist has become The Rambling Taoists.

From my perspective, this is a grand development. One of the central ideas in Taoism is that there are as many different paths as there are different people. To date, this blog has featured the wanderings along only one path. From this point onward, readers can now glean the wanderings of two paths.

While my brother and I certainly agree on many things, there are things we don't agree on or take a slightly different run at. So, the interchange of thought will be a welcome mosaic.

I could say that this change is our way of welcoming in a new year, but I personally view the change from December to January as insignificant. Time is a human construct and, in the overall scheme of things, I don't think any other beings or entities care one wit about moving from one "year" to the next.

Like everyone else, I look forward to Sean's first post here at The Rambling Taoists.

Hang Over

It should shock no one to learn that Saddam Hussein is dead. While there seems to be a lot of jubilation in various parts of the US, a great many Iraqis greeted the news with a shrug of the shoulders. It doesn't mean a lot to them, except maybe even more gratuitous violence.

As I watched CNN, a lot of the talking heads seemed puzzled as to why the former Iraqi dictator was executed tonight. Several pointed out that the crime he was found guilty of -- the executions of about 140 men and boys as a reprisal against an assassination attempt -- paled in comparison to the slaughter of at least 100,000 Kurds. Why didn't they execute him AFTER he was found guilty of this horrendous crime?

I have a theory: The US (i.e., Dubya, Cheney, et. al.) didn't want THAT trial to go forward because it might have proven embarrassing to the US administration. As I hope many of you will recall, the US government was aware of the Kurdish slaughter and voiced little outrage at the time. In fact, this slaughter took place during that period when Saddam was looked on as a friend of US interests (he was at war with the "hated" Iran). I have even read some reports that the US had some complicity in this act of atrocity.

You can be certain that the Hussein defense team would have dredged up these facts and you can be just as certain that Team Bush wanted to avoid this kind of spectacle at all costs.

So, they decided to "kill two birds" at once. Hussein is dead and now the case of the Kurdish massacre most likely is too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All Wet

When my wife & I moved to Aberdeen from Salem, people told us to be prepared for more rain. That was quite okay with us as we like the rain. Still, this year has been phenomenal. Eighty inches per year is not atypical, but this year -- even for soggy Aberdeen -- it seems we've set a waterlogged record.

We passed 100" for the year two days ago! That's a lot of rain, folks. And there's still a few days and at least one more storm to go.

The stats themselves mean nothing, but it certainly does illustrate how a difference in climate can alter one's outlook or daily routine. When we lived in Pendleton, 14 inches of precipitation for the year -- most of that in the form of snow -- was considered a deluge. We received nearly that amount -- almost ALL in rain -- last January.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I'd Rather Be Wise

My brother and I were talking last night about the group, Mensa. It's a social group for eggheads. There's only one requirement for membership -- an IQ in the top 2% (148 or more). My brother believes that I would qualify. Me thinks he is overestimating his elder brother's mental capabilities.

I'm not suggesting I'm a dummy. As a youth in elementary school, I was placed in the accelerated classes. Yes, I was a youthful egghead. In 6th grade, our class studied college algebra, among other things.

Unfortunately, I was only a minimal egghead. I occupied the bottom rungs of my class. I struggled to keep up. I missed many a recess period while I stayed behind with Dickie Henderson & Nathan Metzger, the three of us struggling to master the most basic elements of algebra or trigonometry.

Years later I told my parents how I wished they would have left me in regular classes. Instead of being one of the dim bulbs, I could have been one of the scholastic stars. Who knows? I might have been at the top of my class!

But that wasn't in the cards for me. Every team needs to have that one last player on the bench -- the one that NEVER gets sent into the game -- and that was me. So, if nothing else, I did serve my classmates by playing a most important role: intellectual doormat.

Of course, I've always followed the beat of a different drummer, even during my earliest days. Consequently, maybe I had the highest IQ of our group. Who knows and, for that matter, who cares?

Personally, I think rote intelligence is greatly overrated. I know a great many gifted individuals who have about as much commonsense as a heap of cow dung (ok, maybe that's being a bit unfair to the dung). I also know many other extremely bright people who, though they exhibit a good amount of commonsense, seem to completely lack compassion for others or even a modicum of ethics.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather keep company with people of average intelligence who possess compassion, ethics and commonsense. Not that intelligence is a bad thing, but it's certainly not THE important thing.

In fact, intelligence can only get you so far in life; wisdom is what will lead you the rest of the way.

That's why I'd rather be wise, than smart.

Monday, December 25, 2006

More Humbug

It should be more than obvious by now that I'm NOT a big fan of the Christmas season. It irks me to no end that a lot of my favorite radio stations switch over to full-time holiday music this time of year. I mean, how many renditions of Jingle Bells and O Holy Night should any person be subjected to?

You can't open the newspaper or turn on the TV without being barraged with glitzy ads selling products that few people truly need, but most everybody wants. (One of my favorites, from year's passed, was the hot dog cooker. All this crazy contraption would do is cook hot dogs, nothing else.)

Everywhere you go people are wishing, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", yet their words are superficial, at best. It's like when the cheery sales clerk or casual acquaintance says, "How ya doing?", but doesn't really give a flip how you're REALLY doing. Most times, they don't even wait for an answer before turning to another customer or launching into a long monologue about whatever is on their mind.

Despite how it may appear from my recent posts, I'm not anti-joy or anti-festive. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to laugh and I do it quite frequently. My chief gripe with this holiday season is that the joy on display is too often artificial. It follows the societal form without getting anywhere near the substance. It's as if too many of my fellow brethren are following a strict recipe, "Add 2 ho-ho-hos, sprinkle in a salutation or two, wish someone you despise 'Merry Christmas', then simmer for 20 minutes."

What's even worse, for me, is that many of the people who are pushing the orthodox Christian version of this one-day observance of "Joy to the World" are the very same people who support the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, the building of a fence along the southern US border and any law that seeks to separate them from anyone who thinks, looks, believes or acts differently than they do.

One day platitudes just don't cut it! If they truly believed in the words of "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "The Little Drummer Boy", then they'd realize that you can't encapsulate love and peace in one day or one season per year. You've got to practice what you preach 365 & 24/7.

But, alas, they don't seem to get this at all! In essence, then, the yuletide season turns into nothing more than a salvation-based form of mental masturbation. It's quick. It's easy. And then you can get back to hating everyone different than you in the wink of an eye.

Humbug! I Say

Though I no longer celebrate the Christmas holiday -- there's no decorated tree, holly or tinsel in our house nor ANY depictions of a bunch of vagabonds standing around a barn looking at a newborn -- the one vestige of the holiday season I still keep is watching Scrooge (1951), starring the great British actor, Alastair Sim. However, as I've aged, the message I get from the movie is far different than when I was younger.

Throughout the early portion of this film adaptation of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", our title character runs around saying, "Humbug!" to anyone who will listen. Now, according to this tale, he later realizes that there's no humbuggery at all to Christmas and turns over a new leaf which embraces this "giving" season.

Personally, I think he had it right the first time around! Christmas, as it is typically celebrated in this country, comes close to the definition of "humbug".

According to my New World Dictionary, humbug is defined as "something made or done to cheat or deceive; fraud; sham; hoax." And doesn't that pretty much sum up Christmas in our profit-driven world?

Christmas is all about unfettered consumerism -- buy, buy, buy. Buy early and often. If you don't purchase the things your children or other loved ones covet, then you obviously don't carry the meaning of Christmas within you and you should be strung up in the town square.

So, while we're told that Christmas is all about giving, it's really about filling the pockets of the big brass of the Walmarts of the world.

Now, I know some of you out there will say that Christmas is all about the baby Jesus and the anniversary of the little newborn's birth has been hijacked by these commercial interests. While I might agree that is the origin of the holiday, things change and, I'm sorry, but that's not what most people are celebrating today.

So, just let me say, Humbug!

But while the consumerism of our society rubs me the wrong way, I've come to realize that the story of "A Christmas Carol" isn't even all it's cracked up to be. In fact, in my estimation, the moral is rather pathetic.

When Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley, does this cause him to have a change of heart? No way.

How 'bout when the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit? The answer is still no. The Ghost of Christmas Present doesn't do the trick either. While these two spirits do move him emotionally, neither is able to melt the cold fortress of his heart.

What then finally brings him to the gates of redemption? It's the Ghost of Christmas's Yet to Come. Put in the simplest terms, it's fear that moves him to change his hard ways.

In my book, that's one of the worst reasons in the world to do the right thing. If you do something positive only in order to avoid some sort of future recrimination, your focus is on you and NOT the person you aim to help. You're still behaving as a selfish little wretch. Your heart hasn't really changed at all -- only your outward behavior or actions have.

And to that, I shout HUMBUG as well.

If Only Trees Could Fly

According to a recent AP-AOL news poll, over 80% of Americans believe in angels and I don't mean the kind who play pro baseball in Southern California! Not surprisingly, nearly 97% of self-defined white evangelical Christians believe that angels are for real. Not that many have ever seen one, mind you!

What is it about our species that causes so many to believe in what they can't see, explain or possibly know, yet they don't seem to believe in so many things that stare them in the face every day? Yes, most people believe in winged cherubs, but try to convince them that trees or butterflies are sentient beings and all they do is shake their heads and run away from you.

We can see this disconnect in the way our overall society operates.

Take a tree. Far too many folks don't see a living being; they see profit or utility. Some have no qualms whatsoever about mowing down every tree in sight, if it means that someone will hand them buckets of greenbacks.

Do you think such people would so readily strike down a tree if they thought its spirit might hang around? The ghost of trees of chopped down past?

I could make this same kind of argument for a multitude of beings -- rocks, streams, the sun, our air. These are entities we see or interact with daily. In fact, all of these entities sustain us. Without them, there would not be life -- at least as we know it.

Despite this tangible reality, people believe in winged-spirits flitting around the cosmos trying to ensure we stay out of harm's way.

If only trees could fly...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Santa's List Myth

I'm sure most of us know the story about the morbidly obese man who doles out gifts and trinkets around this time of year -- each and every year. It's about this same time when people start discussing and debating the various myths that encompass the secularized Christmas holiday.

While most folks concentrate on the quantum physics angle of the jolly elf and his team of flying Cervidae, I want to focus on the list.

As the story goes, St. Nick tabulates this never-ending list of who's been naughty and nice -- according to legend, he checks it twice -- so we are all need to be "good for goodness sakes".

The mistake that most Americans seem to make is that they draw a parallel between the words "nice" and "good" when, in actuality, the true parallel that this Claus fellow obviously is making is between the words "naughty" and "good".

Under the capitalist system, nice guys (and gals) finish last. When capitalism is fused with fundamentalist Christianity, the word good takes on a whole different meaning that what you or I might suppose. People who are rich and powerful are good. People who are poor and powerless are bad.

Consequently, since the American ethos is about being #1, it stands to reason that being naughty -- the opposite of nice -- will lead to a good result and, thereby, the naughty people are the good people.

Taking this one step further, the story of Santa Claus makes it clear that being "good for goodness sake" equates to behaving in a ruthless (i.e., naughty) manner by squashing everyone under the weight of our mighty boot on the road toward power and wealth (i.e., goodness).

A recent article posted on Common Dreams underscores the fact that many capitalists have understood this connection far longer than most of the rest of us. To wit,
The richest 2 percent of adults in the world own more than half the world's wealth, according to a new study released by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University. The study's authors say their work is the most comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken. They found the richest 1 percent of adults owned 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85 percent of the world's total. In contrast, the assets of half of the world's adult population account for barely 1 percent of global wealth.
Something to think about as you enjoy a cup of nog with the family.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Tale of Physiology & Football

With the college football bowl season in full swing, it hearkens me back to my pigskin glory days. Ah yes, the roar of the crowd, the parties after the game and any cheerleader I wanted...Oh wait, excuse me. Those must have been someone else's glory days -- I didn't play college football (I earned my varsity letter on the college Bowling Team) nor did I play high school or even junior high school football.

In fact, the only time I played quasi-official football was on my 5th & 6th grade YMCA flag football team. I played the center position. The quarterback was always several yards behind the line of scrimmage -- shotgun formation.

Every play had the same script. I'd look back between my legs trying to figure out how far I had to hike the dumb ball. The quarterback would call out his cadence and, if I happened to remember the snap count correctly, I'd hike the ball at the appropriate time. After snapping the ball, the defensive lineman across from me would give me a big push and I'd land on my keester. While on the ground, I'd stick my legs out hoping to trip a defender or two rushing to kill the quarterback (who I didn't like anyway).

You see, in YMCA flag football, the officials rarely called any penalties. As an offensive lineman, about the ONLY way you'd get called for a penalty is if you tackled someone on the defense, you pulled his hair or bit him! Holding or tripping your adversary was par for the course. And I was a darn good tripper!

While I didn't play on my junior high team, I did go out for it. I soon learned that, in this league, the officials frowned mightily on holding and tripping. I was going to have to learn to block people with proper techniques.

Since I was a robust lad, I stayed on the offensive line, but fortunately was moved to the guard position. This meant that I no longer had to have my head between my legs on every offensive play. I thought this was a good deal.

However, I soon learned that I wasn't cut out for football. You see, according to our gruff line coach, the proper way to block someone was to give them a right uppercut around the Adam's apple and then, while they gasped for air, push 'em down on the ground and maybe stomp on them.

In drills, the coach was constantly in my face because I wasn't employing his chosen technique. "What the hell is wrong with you, Smith?" he would scream. "You got make your opponent hurt!"

And you see, that was my problem. I was okay with blocking someone, but I had no interest whatsoever in consciously hurting anybody. Needless to say, my peaceful sentiments didn't sit well with the coach nor with most of my teammates. I soon after left the football team and became a soccer goalie (we won the city championship, though no thanks to me).

Nearly two decades later I learned I had Klinefelter's Syndrome (KS). One of the telltale traits of KS is the body's inability to produce adequate amounts of testosterone and it's testosterone that creates much of the aggression in males.

So, while most of my classmates were dealing with testosterone-fueled puberty in junior high school, I missed this phase completely. I simply didn't have the physiological make-up at that time to exude aggression and to have the will to impose physical pain on others.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Great Deflector (with apologies to The Platters)

Oh yes, I'm the great deflector
Pretending that I will stand true
The need is such I deflect so much
To ensure that most states remain blue.

Oh yes, I'm the great deflector
World peace is the name of my game
I'll stand so tall until near the Fall
and then my resolve becomes lame...
I'm showing my age here. Of course, this is a parody of The Platter's 1956 #1 hit, "The Great Pretender". In my version, the song is sung by none other than Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

As most of you have probably heard by now, Kucinich has decided to launch another bid for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Supposedly, his move is being made to give greater voice to anti-war supporters, but, after watching Dennis fold up his tent in 2004 by parroting the party line afterwards, I think there is a far different motivation at work.

Instead of being a champion for peace, I think Kucinich's true motivation is to attempt to deflect the possibility of a third party anti-war candidate garnering as much support as they might. His campaign will attract most of the support and money because people will say that Dennis has the most viable shot at winning. My response is that Kucinich has as much chance of securing the Democratic nomination as I do of spewing gold doubloons from me arse!

No, it's far more likely that we'll see a repeat of his 2004 performance. In the earliest days of the campaign, he'll come out swinging by speaking the tough talk. As the campaign gets into full swing, he'll tone down his rhetoric a tad. Once the primary season is ushered in and he finds himself coming in near the bottom in each state, he'll promise to push ahead all the way to the convention and to ensure that anti-war voices aren't ignored in the party platform. At the convention, he'll be a virtual no show and next to none of us campaign planks will appear in the party platform. In the end, being a good party man, he'll urge his supporters to back the pro-war Democratic candidate -- just like Washington state's own Mark Wilson!

The anti-war movement doesn't need a part-time candidate! We need to support someone who will carry the banner of peace and justice from Day 1 all the way to Election Day -- just like our own Aaron Dixon. And we need someone who will champion the environment, solar energy, labor rights, universal healthcare, gay marriage, progressive taxation and host of other issues.

Dennis Kucinich has already proven he is not the right person for this important job.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Three Cheers for Lust, Gluttony & Sloth

For reasons I can barely fathom, my wife likes to watch the TV show 7th Heaven. In tonight's episode -- of which I watched very little as I finished my supper -- TV dad Rev. Stephen Camden gets a glimpse of what heaven will be like. In one scene, he's offered all the various foods he's had to give-up due to a heart condition. He gobbles down every last morsel.

From the many Christians I've known and spoken to over my life, this brief scene sums up what most believe heaven will be like -- all the trappings of this life with none of the guilt!

Yes, all of the things that we have been told are bad for us or to stay from are now fair game. You like to engage in sexual indulgence? No problemo! Choose any partner you want or as many as you want (and don't worry about pregnancy or STDs). You've earned it, bud. You're in heaven now!

Are you a gambler? Bet the family fortune every time -- You can't lose!

Tired of housecleaning or picking up after yourself? Don't worry 'bout it! What do you think them angels are for?

On and on and on...

For me, this kind of thinking is completely irrational (and more than a bit self-indulgent). If some omnipotent entity informs us that certain acts or behaviors are bad or negative, what difference does it make where you happen to be? I mean, if these activities are big no no's on earth, wouldn't it also follow that they'd be doubly bad in heaven -- in the house of the Father?

It just appears to me that too many folks view heaven as nothing more than an adult-rated Romper Room.

Good thing I don't believe in the concept of heaven at all.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Looking Back...Or Not

I've always looked far younger than my years. Once, when sent to purchase wine for a party (a rather interesting choice since I don't drink and know absolutely nothing about wine), I got carded. The clerk looked really embarrassed when, after examining my driver's license, she figured out she had carded a 38 year old.

I mention this story because the other day I had a similar experience related to someone being astonished about my youthful appearance (though it didn't involve purchasing an item). The young man asked me if I had entered my mid-life crisis. "No," I replied, "I think I'll skip it."

Many of my contemporaries like to spend time strolling down memory lane. Most are able to laugh about missed opportunities and questionable decisions, but most everyone I know has regrets.

I spend little time looking backward and, though I've made my share of mistakes and missteps, I don't regret them at all. Everything that has or has not happened to me to this point makes me who I am today. If I had not made this mistake or that mistake, I might be a different person altogether.

Besides, each of us could have trod down any number of paths. When we each come to a fork in the road, none of us has the power to see where each road will take us. Some roads look dismal and harrowing, yet bring us into the light. Other roads look easy and well lit, but lead us into darkness.

In essence, life is a crap shoot. Sometimes you roll boxcars and sometimes it's snake eyes. Consequently, for me, it's not that important to analyze the cards you're dealt, how you play the hand is more important and, once each hand is completed, you move on.

I'm certainly NOT suggesting that each of us shouldn't learn valuable lessons from our missteps and misdeeds, but nothing good comes from wallowing in the mud of regret. What's done is done; no amount of grousing, regretting or self pity will change that.

So let go of it and cast your gaze forward.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Who's Who?

Over the course of the last 2 years, I've written several times about a strange enterprise -- Linda Christas. It's supposedly an educational institution, but, from my own personal research, it seems to be nothing more than a well put together scam.

The only reason why I return again and again to this topic is because the people from this organization keep returning to my blog and many first-time readers find this blog as a result of a Google search.

So, today, I decided to visit their website again. If you go to their Board page, you'll see a few names that ring a bell like Pat Boone, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. or Sue Grafton. Beyond those names, however, are people who have little, if any claim to fame.

Here's the interesting part. Several of these people are described using words like "pioneering surgeon", "publisher" or "respected education consultant". Yet, if you do a search on (ZoomInfo, the premier summarization search engine, delivers fresh, comprehensive information on over 33 million business professionals and 2 million companies across virtually every industry), the ONLY reference you will find on any of these individuals is...Linda Christas.

What are the chances of that happening? You'd think that at least 1 or 2 of them would pop up with references to professional boards in their field or a published article or something of this nature.

Even more interesting is the fact that, when you type the name of the 3 prominent board members into Google and you add "Linda Christas", the only hits you find refer back to Linda Christas itself or they come from remarks made by others. In other words, these three famous people don't mention their supposed association with Linda Christas on their own websites nor is it reported in any way by the media.

That simply seems really strange to me. If this is such an upstanding organization, why is it so difficult to find any information on their so-called board members?

To review my previous postings about Linda Christas use the following links:
Looking for a Few Good Saps
Getting Out the Heavy Lumber
The Continuing Linda Christas Saga
My "Friends" at Linda Christas

It's a Bioregional Thing

I thought that, once the election season had come and gone, I would have more time to devote to blogging. It seems that I forgot about what would be utilizing most of my time AFTER Election Day -- serving as Coordinator for a bioregional conference and retreat. Maybe I can finally get back to blogging regularly after December 3.

Here's what we have posted on the Green Party of Washington State website:

The Power of Green: Peace & the Post-Oil Economy

In conjunction with our fellow Greens in
British Columbia, Idaho, Northern California & Oregon,
GPoWS will host the
1st Annual Cascadia Greens Conference & Retreat.
This event will establish the foundation for greater
communication and networking among the Green Parties in our bioregion.

When: December 1 - 3
Where: Cornet Bay Retreat Center at Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island

A committee made up of representatives of the participating Green Parties is hard at work developing the framework for a weekend of workshops, presentations, and social time aimed at engendering green solidarity across boundaries of all types.

Some of the programs we've lined up thus far include:

  • "Nonviolent Direct Action in a Nuclear World: Responsibility and Consequences" presented by Sister Jackie Hudson of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action;
  • Canadian-Style Health Care presented by Fergus Gibson of the Green Party of British Columbia;
  • A yet untitled workshop presented by the Puget Sound Network for Compassionate Communication;
  • A yet untitled presentation on Energy Issues presented by GPoWS member and energy consultant Steve Garrison
  • Internalized Racism, a workshop presented by E. Mandisa Subira of the Conscious Thought Network
  • What Greens Can Learn from the Black Panther Party, a presentation by members of the Aaron Dixon 4 US Senate Campaign Team

In addition to featuring issue-based programs, we are also going to have several Green Party Nuts 'N Bolts sessions which will provide members with important tools to take back to their communities to increase their effectiveness of their local parties and/or chapters. Here are the Nuts 'N Bolts sessions we have lined up thus far:

  • Media - Publicizing What We Do (Make Gills, GPoWS & Joanne Cvar, PGP)
  • Fundraising in a Corporate-Based World (Trey Smith, GPoWS Treasurer & PGP Fundraising Coordinator)
  • Strategic Planning (Suzanne Nott, Facilitator of the South Puget Sound Green Party)
  • Creating a Bioregional Internet Cafe (Erik Douglas of Cascadia)
  • Bioregional Governance (Janet Jordan, GPoWS Secretary)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fire & Rain...And Oil

As a species, human beings are quite odd. We spend our lives trying to control everything around us and yet, the few things we're are able to genuinely control are quite insignificant. All the big stuff is truly beyond us.

In Southern California, there have been several major fires as of late. What the folks down there would do for just a scant amount of rain!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are being inundated with a deluge of precipitation. For example, in the Aberdeen area, 12.5" of rain is the average for the month of November. We exceeded our average on November 11 (13.07"). We now find ourselves less than 4" away from the [recorded] record for the month.

Now, if we humans could control things as we like to think, we would dispatch some of our rain down south to quell the raging fires. Of course, we don't have that power, so southern Cal will continue to burn, while we paddle through the streets to work.

Since we really have no control over the things that truly matter, we seek to control lesser the price of oil.

Has anyone else noticed that, since Election Day has come and gone, the price of gas has magically started to climb? In the past week, the price has risen 11 cents which reverses the pattern for the previous 6 months.

Before the election, many wondered if the appreciable decline in gas prices was the Republican's way of trying to dupe voters into believing our economy was turning around. When many suggested such a gambit, conservatives got all in a huff and denied the connection. The connection seems really clear now!

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Fickle American Consumer

American consumers are fickle, probably more so than any other nationality. For years -- while scientists warned of impending oil shortages and ever-increasing prices -- far too many American consumers thumbed their noses at this reality and purchased, in record-numbers, gas guzzling SUVs, over-sized trucks and spacious luxury cars.

Over the past few years (as had been predicted), gas prices started to climb. These same people started dumping their gas guzzlers and demanded to be first in line for gas-efficient hybrids.

Now that gas prices are falling again -- it's quite interesting that said prices are falling precisely as a lead up to the mid-term elections -- these same people are trading in their fuel-efficient vehicles for a variety of spiffy gas guzzlers. GM and Ford are reporting increased sales as result of the consumers return to the higher priced models.

Of course, this revolving door is bound to repeat itself again as prices will -- at some point -- start their climb upward.

Regardless of the price of gas, fuel-efficient vehicles make sense for the consumer, our society and planet. But try explain this fact to the fickle!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Some Difference!

In most areas of life, lying gets you in trouble. Lie to your parents and most children receive some degree of punishment. Lie in school and you're liable to wind up in the principle's office. Lie in the workplace and you're apt to find yourself looking for a new job. Lie in a lot of other facets of life and you may find yourself in court.

But lie in the political arena and...well...nothing much happens. In fact, lying is par for the course!

Some politicians lie so often that they wouldn't recognize the truth if it fell into their lap.

It doesn't seem to matter which side of the corporate aisle the party calls home. Both Republicans and Democrats lie in equal measure.

Here's but one example. Democrats are having a field day criticizing the Bush administration's folly in Iraq and their campaign ads tell voters that a Democratic Congress would have and will handle things far differently, YET, the vast majority of incumbent Democrats voted in FAVOR of granting the Bush administration carte blanche permission to do whatever it thought best in terms of Iraq.

Aah, but there's even more. Most of these same Dems are saying that, if they knew then what they know today, they wouldn't have supported this blank check to begin with. If this were true, then explain to me why these very same politicians voted unanimously in the Senate and with only 21 nays in the House IN FAVOR of last year's Iran Freedom and Support Act?

It grants the Bush administration the same nebulous leeway which may well lead us toward another foolish war with Iran.

So, how are the Dems any different than the GOP?

Monday, October 2, 2006

Side Effects

Back when I was a wee lad, the air waves weren't inundated with advertisements for prescription drugs. No, I grew up in a time in which "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz...Oh what a relief it is" and Excedrin headache #12 was about as innocuous as it got. Today, however, you can find an ad for almost any condition that ails you.

Suffering from erectile dysfunction? Migraines got you down? Embarrassed by recurrent acne? Have a weak bladder or too much cholesterol? It doesn't matter what your problem is -- there's a drug to fix it!

Unfortunately, many of these drugs have serious side effects. Often, the side effects are far worse than the original problem.

The pitch goes something like this: Acne got you down? Then ask your doctor about zycloprofen. In just 2 weeks, your acne worries can be a thing of the past. Please note that zycloprofen can cause heart attack, stroke, nosebleeds, fallen arches, genital lesions and/or blindness in some people.

Hmm. Some medicine indeed!

There's one side effect though that I have yet to figure out. There are several drugs being advertised to help one sleep. I don't remember their particular names. What side effect do you think they all share in common?

Drowsiness -- a sleep aide that makes you drowsy.

How is that a side effect? Isn't that the whole point?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Of Cake & Eating Habits

I'm sure we're each familiar with the phrase, "Having your cake and eating it too". While almost everyone is guilty of this from time to time, mainstream politicians seem to immerse themselves in it. It really doesn't matter if one is a Democrat or Republican -- both seem to enjoy large pieces of cake and gorging on it to the point of choking.

Bill Clinton is a famous "cake" eater. He was one of those rare campaigners who could address two opposing sides in the same day, yet have both sides certain that he agreed with their stance or point of view. I'd like to put Dubya in this category too, but he's simply not smart nor savvy enough to pull it off.

Here in Washington State, incumbent Democratic US Senator Maria Cantwell genuinely is wanting her cake and eating it too. She voted for the Iraqi "war". She's voted for every one of the Bush administration's appropiation bills in support of the war. She even voted against the Kerry bill this summer that would have set a deadline to bring US troops home.

DESPITE all these facts, she's trying to convince Washington voters that HER position on the topic is somehow different than our erstwhile president. Lately, she's been blathering about wanting 2006 to be a "transition" year. What in the heck does that mean?

As mentioned above, she COULD have supported the Kerry bill, but she didn't. So what has she done to create this nebulous "transition"? Nada, except repeat it in stump speeches.

Let's face it, Cantwell's position isn't that much different than her Republican opponent Mike McGavick.

However, it IS different than the Green Party's Aaron Dixon. Aaron supports the immediate withdrawal of US troops. And that's why I'm voting for Aaron and why I hope Cantwell loses miserably!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Stress of Expectations

When I started The Rambling Taoist in late January 05, my expectation was that I would contribute an entry on most days. I met this expectation for the first few months. I then stepped away from everyday writing for about six weeks and then resumed my old frequency of writing.

Of course, as this marks my first entry in over one month, it's obvious my expected frequency has again fallen off. When I went through my first down period, it caused a lot of stress. I actually felt guilty for not writing daily. I knew that I had a regular readership and I felt that I was letting people down.

This time around there is no guilt.

One of the key lessons in Taoism is to give of ourselves WITHOUT expecting any particular outcome for it is our expectations that most often cause stress in our lives. We perform some act and then expect a particular reaction. Since we cannot know if this expectation will be met -- and most often they aren't -- we are setting ourselves up for pain and suffering.

It's a difficult lesson to incorporate into any human life because expectations seem to be part and parcel of the human psyche. We're socialized to EXPECT.

Still, if we can teach ourselves to undo this lesson, then life becomes a lot less stressful.

So, here sits my blog stripped clean of any expectation. There may be times I write a lot and there may times when I write nothing in this space. The Rambling Taoist is like a river -- sometimes the water is placid and sometimes the water will flow like a torrent.

I am content to let the words flow of their own accord without any expectation of when or where they MIGHT flow.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The House that You Live In

One of the big stories in the Harbor concerns the fish smells generated by Ocean Protein fish meal plant. Folks in the neighborhood adjoining the facility have been complaining since last year (when the plant opened). A local judge recently ordered the company to shut down the plant.

You can go to the link provided above to read about the sordid details. My concern centers on many of the comments in the Letters to the Editor section. A recurring theme is that people who live in said neighborhood -- which is in an industrial area -- shouldn't complain because, if you buy a house in such an area, you should expect to put up with pollution, noise and the traffic problems caused by big trucks.

What troubles me is the fact that I'm sure most of the people who live in this particular neighborhood didn't have very many choices when it came time to purchase their small slice of the American Dream. You see, when you're poor, about the only houses you can afford are in the least desirable locations. Consequently, I'm sure that few of the families that live in this neighborhood specifically chose it over other homes in more attractive environs.

The other factor that seems to be flying over most people's heads is that situations like these often are the result of poor land use planning. Why, in the first place, is there a residential neighborhood nestled within an industrial zone? Shouldn't there be some type of zoning buffer?

The easy answer is that, of course, a residential neighborhood shouldn't be situated within a stone's throw of an industrial area. Unfortunately, the people of the Harbor seem altogether oblivious to the very concept of land use planning.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let Peace Begin with Me!

Amidst all the news reports of the continuing and growing violence that grips the Middle East, a song I learned in 5th grade chorus keeps popping into my head.
Copyrighted Lyrics for “Let There Be Peace on Earth
By Jill Jackson and Sy Miller

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.*

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

*Copyrighted alternate lyric:

With God our Creator
(His) Children all are we,
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony

Copyright 1955 by Jan-Lee Music. Copyright renewed 1983. All rights reserved.

Note: If in your venue you do not choose to use the word “God,” you may use the phrase, “With Earth as our Mother, her children all are we.”
Yes, it's simplistic. Yes, it's a bit pollyanna. And yet, there is a universal truth in its simplicity. Wars can't be fought if no one strikes back!

Aggression -- whether you start it or I respond to it -- is the key. This is one of the central ideas behind the martial arts, how to turn someone's aggression onto itself to negate it. It is also a key element in the philosophy of pacificism. One person's aggression does not cause an aggressive response.

If nothing else, it's something to think about...particularly today.

Let peace begin with each of us.

Monday, July 3, 2006

The Ten Key Values

As I've mentioned before, I haven't had a lot of time to blog as of late because of my involvement with the Green Party. One or two of my regular readers recently asked what the Green Party is all about. The easiest way to answer that question is to list the 10 Key Values shared by Greens the world over. (If Taoists had a political party, I think we'd list similar values.)

Respect for Diversity
We honor the biological diversity of the Earth and the cultural, racial, sexual and spiritual diversity of its people. We respect the dignity of all individuals, and their right to access and fully participate in all aspects of our society.

Feminism and Gender Equity
We are committed to gender equity in all aspects of our society. We wish to replace top-down domination with cooperation, compassion, communication and understanding.

Social Justice
We oppose systemic global injustice and poverty. All oppression including that based on race, class, gender, age, citizenship or sexual orientation must end.

Grassroots Democracy
The influence of big business and big government combined is undermining genuine democracy. To help overcome this, we promote public participation at all levels of government. We believe that electoral systems need reform to enable full and more equitable access by all people.

Violence is shortsighted, morally wrong and ultimately self-defeating. We must develop effective alternatives to society's current patterns of violence. We will work globally to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

Ecological Wisdom
We support a sustainable society that utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit from the practices of our generation. We seek to protect ecological diversity and balance.

Decision-making in our social, political, and economic institutions should reside at the individual and local levels, consistent with ecological sustainability, civil rights, and social justice.

Community-Based Economics
We seek a new economics based on global ecological sustainability, livable wages, sufficient social safety nets, and democratically accountable businesses. Balanced local economies create more equitable and stable communities.

Personal & Global Responsibility
We seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster peace, economic justice, and the health of our planet. We take personal responsibility in upholding our values.

Future Focus
As did the Iroquois, we strive to create a society where the interests of the Seventh Generation are considered equal to the interests of the present.

To learn more, here are a few links:

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Standing amidst wide-eyed children and scores of military veterans, this intrepid pacifist and peace activist ventured to Bowerman Field in Hoquiam on Friday to get a rare opportunity to explore two pieces of our nation's military history. For a mere $8, I was able to stand inside a B-24 & B-17 "Flying Fortress".

Named "Witchcraft" and "9-0-9" respectively, both aircraft were here in the Harbor as part of the Wings of Freedom touring exhibit.

While I'm fairly certain many of the older veterans came to see (and re-live) part of their own personal histories, I went in memory of Gregory Peck AND as a favor to my dad (who lives in Bend).

One of my favorite movies growing up as a child was Twelve O'Clock High. Made in 1949 on the heels of WWII, it starred Peck as Brig. Gen. Frank Savage. One of the important messages of this movie is that -- unlike so many other films of the time -- it did not glorify war. In fact, a great deal of the plot had to do with the terror most crewmen felt at flying these bombers over Germany.

Standing next to the ball turret, I could easily see why the men assigned to such planes were terrified. Aside from freezing off their gonads in temperatures nearing -40 F, they were sitting ducks for any stray bullets that might happen to fly by. In fact, one of the many aspects of both planes was how thin the metal covering appeared to be. It seemed like one could easily poke a hole with nothing more than a .22 rifle.

Another interesting aspect was the crampness of both planes. Standing outside of both, they looked rather large. However, once inside, I felt like I was trying to turn around in a VW Beetle. I can just imagine the claustrophobia some of the flight crews must have felt.

For me, the best part of my experience was getting the opportunity to see both planes land and the B-24 take-off. For a scant moment, I felt like I was in England or the Pacific Theater.

While I abhor war and violence, I made this brief sojourn because I'm a student of history. For good or bad, the US took part in WWII. I relished this opportunity to stand face-to-face with this history.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What Makes a Difference?

It's been over 1 1/2 weeks since I last posted anything here on RT. It's not that I haven't had anything on my mind during this period, it's just that I haven't had a block of time on any given day to collect my thoughts and write something halfway cogent. Instead of writing on this blog, I've been coordinating fundraising for two state Green Parties plus doing database entry and general records management.

I know that a lot of people would say to me -- Why bother? The Green Party is small compared to the Republicans and Democrats. The Green Party holds very little, if any, power in the US (though this is certainly NOT true in many European countries). Why commit all this effort and time to an entity that not enough people even know about?

This is where I think I differ from many of contemporaries. For me, trying to make a positive difference makes a difference. If everyone tried to better society and our small place on this planet, we'd be in a lot better shape because the act of TRYING changes each of us and changes each of us for the better.

And that, my friends, makes a difference!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Send God Packing

Here's a snippet from an excellent article from Intervention Magazine on the evils of the various Gods.
Religious fanaticism in all its forms leads inevitably to bigotry, hatred, and, too often, violent confrontations. Let's end it like reasonable human beings. How many more Crusades, Jihads, Holy Wars, whatever you want to call them, must we live through to see the light? Let's put belief in a personal God, who tells us that only we are right and that everybody else is wrong, on a dusty top shelf, out of reach, where it belongs.
I realize many of the religious will argue that there's nothing wrong with God -- it's how some people interpret him/her/it. Frankly, it doesn't matter whose fault it is. Religion spawns fanaticism and fundamentalism. There's no escaping this.

Therefore, if we jettison the concept altogether, we certainly wouldn't be any worse off than we are today.

Monday, June 5, 2006

It's All Subjective!

On Saturday, at one of our local grocery stores, I got into a discussion with one of the courtesy clerks about religion and philosophy. When the clerk learned that I'm a Taoist (a what?), she wanted to know more. After I provided a 5 minute explanation, she looked at me in an odd way and said, "That sounds like a very self-centered philosophy". She went on to talk about people needing direction from others and a rock solid guidance system (i.e., the Bible).

If you think about it, Christianity -- her belief system -- is a lot more self-centered than [philosophical] Taoism. By and large, Christians tell other people what they should think, how they should believe and the forms these beliefs should follow. That's about as self-centered and egotistical as a person can get -- thinking that you know better than another as to how someone else should view the world!

Taoists don't pretend to tell others how or what they should think or believe. We leave it up to each individual to figure out for themselves. There are as many paths to enlightenment as there are people.

The idea that the Christian Bible offers a rock solid guidance system is laughable. If the message contained within is so concrete and definitive, why are Christians always disagreeing with each other on how this rock solid guide applies to the important issues of the day?

In Sunday's Daily World, there is an article about the contentious nature of church alignment over an anti-gay rights initiative that may appear on the Washington ballot this Fall. To wit:
The contentious debate over a new gay civil rights law has carried over to the pulpit, with some churches citing the Bible to exhort voters to repeal the measure, while others cite the same text to argue for its preservation.
As with ALL things human, understanding the Bible is wholly subjective. A myriad of variables impact how each believer will interpret and/or understand any sentence written in this tract. Consequently, it's about as rock solid as quicksand!

Since Taoists don't countenance any dogma nor possess any holy texts, we completely avoid these kinds of raucous debates. The only rock solid edifice in our lives is the world within and around us. And we recognize that each individual will interpret and/or understand the universe in different ways.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Both Sides Now

One of the stories making the news in this area --– across the nation too --– was the week long anti-war protests at the Port of Olympia over the past few days. The impetus for the protests occurred when military convoys arrived and the U.S. Naval Ship Pomeroy docked to transport the equipment overseas.

One of Olympia'’s City Council members attended many of the demonstrations as an observer. He was later castigated by many in the community. One of the many critiques came from a military veteran. Upon learning that said Council member had never served in the armed forces, this person wrote in an email, "When it comes to war, leave it alone. I read your biography and notice you never served. This doesn't surprise me since about 95 percent of protesters haven't."”

This comment harkened me back to Salem, Oregon, 2 or 3 years ago. I was standing on a downtown street corner holding a sign protesting the war in Iraq. A gentleman came up to me and asked if I had ever served my country in the armed forces. No, not me, I replied. He then launched into the same kind of diatribe.

I just smiled at him. I found his comments amusing. He was stomping around telling me that no veteran would be wasting their time as I was. Unbeknownst to this gentleman, the two men standing on either side of me were indeed veterans, one having served several tours in Vietnam and the other served in Desert Storm. Both were vocal critics against the war in Iraq.

This incident underscored for me the fact that people jump to too many conclusions on how THEY believe a particular person might feel about any given subject. Just because an individual is a military veteran does not mean they will be in favor or against our current military endeavors.

While many current anti-war protestors have never served a second in military service, this same fact is also true of the vast majority of the individuals who support the war!! It's very apparent then that military service does not, in and of itself, determine a person'’s point of view.

This is equally true for almost any topic one can think of. There are many Republicans who have become outspoken critics of the Bush Administration and it seems just as many Democrats who vote the Bush line.

In fact, from my perspective, one of the greatest examples of a person'’s political position not seeming to match up with their "“label"” is borne out by Gay Republicans.

That one is hard for me to wrap my brain around!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Everything is Political

I've been involved with alternative party politics for many years now -- I'm currently the State Treasurer of the Green Party of Washington State and used to serve in this same capacity for Oregon's Green Party. It always amazes me how far too many people believe they can divorce themselves from the realm of politics.

For them, "politics" is something that is external from themselves. It's the bastion of government and government officials. And, even more amazing, they genuinely believe politics has little, if any, influence on their daily lives.

Politics is nothing more than the set of power relationships that govern social interaction. There is political intrigue in every marriage or partnership. Children campaign their parents for reduced sanctions or increased privileges. Almost every job a person holds throughout their life involves political negotiations with their co-workers, bosses and competitors.

Even for the Taoist, politics intersects in our relationships with the Tao and nature. Every step we take to try to achieve balance involves relinquishing power or taking power. And that, my friends, is the very definition of politics.

The politics that involves governance is merely personal politics elevated to a larger scale. Because it affects masses of people, it dictates who controls of what kinds of decisions and this affects how we each view ourselves and how we routinely live.

Right now, the United States (most other nations too) govern in a very non-Taoist way. We are headed down a non-sustainable path and the notion of balance is nowhere to be found. I am both a political activist and Taoist because I want to see society move in a different direction -- one that honors our seventh generation as much as we value our own.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Realities of War

As we inch toward the mid-term election season, the Democratic Party is trying to market itself as the quasi anti-war party. With Dubya's approval rating plummeting toward the Mendoza Line and support for the war following suit, the Dems are starting to believe they have a legitimate chance to pick up several seats in both houses of Congress.

There's just one problem here -- The Dems are about as hawkish as the Republicans!! From Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dems voted en masse to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many, such as Hillary Clinton & Cantwell, seem hell bent on supporting a similar incursion into Iran.

In fact, if you look at the history of the US, the art of invading foreign countries has been perpetrated by Presidents on both sides of the aisle. We entered WWI under President Woodrow Wilson. WWII came about on FDR's watch. Nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan under Harry Truman's watchful eyes. We became bogged down in Vietnam under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

All of the aforementioned US presidents were Democrats!!

More importantly, most of the wars the US becomes involved (ensnared?) in have little to do with specific military objectives. While our invasion of Iraq offers a current example, a recent revelation shows that the war against North Vietnam fits the same bill.

According to,
Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger quietly acknowledged to China in 1972 that Washington could accept a communist takeover of South Vietnam if that evolved after a withdrawal of U.S. troops - even as the war to drive back the Communists dragged on with mounting deaths.

The late U.S. president Richard Nixon's envoy told Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai: "If we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina."
Of course, such a statement seems to fly in the face of the "we need to protect the world against Communism" argument foisted time and again on the American public. If we could accept a Communist government in Vietnam, then why in the hell were we there in the first place?

The sad answer to that question is that imperialistic powers -- and the US certainly fits the definition -- need to have an enemy. Enemies allow the hegemonic powers to funnel millions and billions of dollars to the military-industrial complex which, in turn, funnel money back to insure those same political leaders stay in power. Enemies also divert public attention away from all the shortcomings of any given administration -- things like poverty, woeful health care, the theft of basic civil rights and lackadaisical education.

It turns out that Vietnam, like Iraq, wasn't anything like our leaders told us it was. So, if you think electing a slew of Democrats this November will change the tenor and direction of this nation, you haven't been paying close attention to history.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Swede-Heart of a Deal

We Americans like to think we are the leaders in innovative thinking and ingenuity. It's part and parcel of our national mentality (psychosis?). Yet, now that we are faced with rising gas prices and peak oil on the near horizon, what are we doing to remedy the situation? Not a hell of a lot!

Vehicle fuel efficiency standards have remained stagnant for a decade or more. Funding for alternative sources of power/fuel is meager, at best. And we're engaged in a senseless war so that we can control the ever-decreasing flow of crude. So much for innovative thinking and ingenuity!

We should look to Sweden for a better way to tackle the problem. According to a report in Yes! Magazine, Sweden has decided to go oil-free.
Sweden has announced plans to be the first oil-free country in the world by 2020. Plans call for renewables -- including biofuels, wind, and wave power -- to replace fossil fuels. The country has already committed itself to phasing out nuclear energy.
Some of you cynics will say this is just political grandstanding. You will note that there is no penalty for missing the target date. While both of these assertions may indeed be true, the article notes that Sweden has already converted over 25% of its energy usage to renewable sources.

By setting a national goal, Sweden will definitely be far along the path toward being oil-free by 2020. Even if compliance is not at the 100% level, chances are they will be at the 50 - 80% level. And that's truly impressive!!

Compare that to U.S. goals. It's a hard comparison because we don't really have any.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A New Recruitment Strategy?

I must be a glutton for punishment. For reasons unknown, my wife & I decided to watch to the [p]Resident speak to the nation tonight about his proposed immigration policy. Aside from his usual smirking face, his little address wasn’t altogether that remarkable as he made sure to mention the words “national security” several times. However, it is something he made reference to indirectly that caught my wife’s attention.

Dubya was talking about a wounded GI who happened to be an illegal immigrant from down south. (Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear any reference to illegals from any other direction…hmm.) Dubya lauded this soldier for his service to the United States Armed Forces and suggested that, because of his service, his application for citizenship would be expedited.

Though not stated directly, my wife immediately caught his drift. It goes something like this:
Ladies & Gentlemen, we’re having a great deal of difficulty recruiting Americans into our perpetual military machine. Because of this sad fact, I can’t wage war against made-up enemies who had nothing to do with 9/11. We need to increase our troop numbers. So, I’ve come up with a great new plan.

Since we already (wink, wink) allow those brown skinners from south of the border to do the kind of crappy jobs that no self-respecting American would want to do, why don’t we recruit them to fight our wars for us too? We can wave the carrot stick of “expedited citizenship” in their faces and many will jump at the chance to be slaughtered for it.

This great new plan of mine will serve several purposes: 1) I can continue to wage endless war and reward the military-industrial complex with rich deals funded by YOUR taxpayer dollars; 2) You can be patriotic and support my wars WITHOUT having to send YOUR sons and daughters to die on distant battlefields; and 3) It’s a great way (snicker, snicker) to get people off our welfare rolls.

So, how ‘bout it America? You with me? (To aides, thinking he’s off camera, “Who the hell cares what these yo-yo’s think? I’m king of this country and I can do whatever I damn well want.)

Letting Go of a Dream

My younger brother recently began a program to earn a certificate as a paralegal. His first love is doing public and/or community radio, both announcing and the development angle. Unfortunately, unless you land a job in one of the major markets, radio barely pays enough to make ends meet. He should know; he's tried to make it work for years!

While I'm certainly pleased that Sean is working toward a career that will allow him to get a better economic footing in today's world, I also lament that he has had to choose to let go of his passion. He is a damn good DJ. He also has a marvelous talent that allows him to be a good volunteer coordinator and to develop fundraising programs that are both successful and creative.

None of these talents will be needed in paralegal work. In that sense, it's a crying shame!

We live in the kind of world that too often squelches people's true talents -- turns them into wage slaves. If a person isn't driven to smash and step on others on their way to the top, the only option available is to become the fodder for others who have no problem whatsoever with smashing and stepping. There seems to be no place for those of us not driven to grab for the almighty gods of capital and power.

While I believe my brother will develop in to a quality paralegal, I bemoan the fact that the world around us would be better served if he could follow his passion AND survive while doing it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Forests, Trees & Thuds

If a tree falls in a forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is the kind of philosophical question my younger brother and I often discuss in our phone conversations. While there are many ways to ponder and answer this question, my brother Sean & I have come up with an even more thought-provoking one:

If you are alone in a forest -- totally preoccupied and completely oblivious to your surroundings -- and a tree suddenly falls on you (thereby smashing you to bits and leaving you quite dead), does it make a sound?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stand Tall for What You Believe In

In my book, one way I judge if a person genuinely believes that what they do and say is in the right is how they do or say it. My criteria is universal -- it doesn't matter what side of the political aisle a person chooses to stand on. It doesn't matter what religious or philosophical belief a person calls their own. It doesn't matter if your name is George Bush, Saddam Hussein or Mother Teresa.

If believe something to be true, stand tall in your belief. State up front why you believe your opinion is the right thing to do or way to act. By standing tall, you prove your belief or opinion is real -- not necessarily correct -- but what you truly believe in.

The recent revelations that [p]Resident Bush has signed over 750 Signing Statements which quietly announce his intentions to subvert federal law are a prime example of NOT standing tall. In public, Dubya says one thing; in private he often does the exact opposite!

According to an April 30 article in The Boston Globe,
Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
What this tells me is that Dubya KNOWS what he's doing ain't right. He doesn't have the balls to do it in the light of day; he does what he does under the cover of darkness.

In essence, we have a coward in the White House!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

George & Tom -- A Striking Similarity

He came. He entertained. The town went wild. He left. This represents the briefest of descriptions of Tom Cruise's visit to the Harbor. As I had predicted, there was a front page story in The Daily World about Tom Cruise for 8 consecutive days! In the nearly 6 months my wife & I have lived in Aberdeen, no other story -- no matter how important -- has dominated the news like Tom Cruise.

One sentence in the "Tommie was here" recap article caught my eye. It reminded me of the many articles I've read over the past 5 years in which Dubya was the central character. It was mentioned that, amongst the thousands upon thousands of fans, there was ONE protestor. An unidentified woman brought a sign which condemned Cruise's belief in Scientology.

It seems that she was not allowed to stay for very long. Security personnel removed her from the area long before Mr. Cruise and his fiancee made their appearance at the South Shore Mall. Consequently, just like the many appearances of Dubya, free speech was suspended.

What is our world coming to when any person is not allowed to express their opinion openly?

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Cruise 'N the Harbor

One of the big differences between living in a small town versus a small city (Salem) or a large metropolis like Chicago or New York City can be found on the front pages of the area newspaper. (Of course, another difference is the number of newspapers itself.)

The big story in Aberdeen's The Daily World is of no international or national significance. It isn't political or scientific. No, the BIG story that has predominated our front page for the past 5 days and will continue to show up there until, at least, Wednesday is that movie actor Tom Cruise is coming to Aberdeen.

It seems a local man won some on line contest in which he will get to see a private screening of the latest Mission Impossible flick with the star himself. The screening will take place at our half-dead South Shore Mall on Tuesday. People from as far away as Portland and Seattle plan to descend on our area to catch a glimpse of this so-called sex symbol.

I suppose the excitement is understandable. Towns like Aberdeen -- far off the beaten path -- aren't used to feting movie stars and the like. Heck, it's a big deal when the governor or a member of the Seattle Mariners comes to town. Still, Tom Cruise is just a guy who acts in movies. It's not like he's an important role model or world leader.

It amazes me what seems to excite people. I know I certainly won't alter my general routine come Tuesday night.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Oils Well that End Swell

In a categorically unsurprising manner, [p]Resident Bush Rejects Tax on Oil Companies' Profits.
President Bush on Friday rejected calls by some lawmakers for a tax on oil company windfall profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent gains into finding and producing more energy.

"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "The answer is for there to be strong reinvestment to make this country more secure from an energy perspective."

With gasoline at over $3 a gallon in some areas, Bush said there was "no evidence" of price-gouging of consumers.
Price-gouging? Why would ANYONE think that? Could it be because the petroleum industry is reporting not only record earnings but records profits?

Basic economics dictates that, if the wholesale price goes up, then the cost of the product will rise too. Basic economics also informs us that, if a company maintains its market share, then rising prices will mean higher earnings.

However, in a situation such as this, higher earnings don't USUALLY mean higher profits. To be sure, you are bringing in more dollars BUT you concurrently are incurring more costs to produce your product.

OBVIOUSLY, the oil industry isn't being completely honest. It's readily apparent that they're charging more than the increased cost. Just like the Robber Barons of old! (Sort of brings sentimental tears to your eyes, doesn't it?)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why Mr. or Mrs. Smith Won't Go to Washington

In the 1939 Capra film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, an idealistic Jefferson Smith (played by James Stewart) is sent to the nation's capitol and runs headlong into the corruption and "good 'ol boy network" of the US Senate. He stands tall and fights for what is right.

In present times, voters often decry professional politicians who live and breathe inside the beltway. One often hears the sentiment that more average citizens should run for elective office because they would be more likely to serve the interests of common citizens, not corporations.

As State Treasurer of a small political party, I can well tell you WHY Mr. or Mrs. Smith have no interest at all in going to Washington. The rules one must navigate to put together a campaign committee are ten times worse than anything a taxpayer faces on April 15!! How many average people have the knowledge of a lawyer, an accountant and a marketing guru all wrapped into one brain?

This situation is far worse for political party committees. Not only do we have to deal with our state elections office but we concurrently have to to navigate the rules and procedures of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It would be one thing if the rules between states and the feds were congruent, but, sadly, they aren't.

And this offers an apt explanation of why I've been blogging only sporadically as of late. I'm having to learn a new set of state rules (having moved to Washington from Oregon) concerning political party activity, while refreshing my knowledge of ever-changing FEC rules and policies.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Managed Forest

Today, while my wife & I drove our dogs toward a needed run on the beach, I passed a sign that read, "Managed Forest". It got me to thinking, "How does one MANAGE a forest?" Forests seem to manage themselves quite nicely...without any assistance nor hindrance from human beings. In fact, if we left them alone, I'm sure they can manage rings around us.

According to the Wikipedia,
"Management" (from Old French menagement "the art of conducting, directing", from Latin manu agere "to lead by the hand") characterises the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible). Early twentieth-century management writer Mary Parker Follett defined management as "the art of getting things done through people."

One can also think of management functionally, as the action of measuring a quantity on a regular basis and of adjusting some initial plan, and as the actions taken to reach one's intended goal. This applies even in situations where planning does not take place. From this perspective, there are five management functions: Planning, Organizing, Leading, Co-ordinating and Controlling.

Management is also called "Business Administration", and schools that teach management are usually called "Business Schools". The term "management" may also be used to describe the slate of managers of an organization, for example of a corporation. A governing body is a term used to describe a group formed to manage an organization, such as a sports league.
A forest is merely one facet of a complex and interdependent ecosystem. In fact, ecosystems are so complex that we mere humans seem wholly incapable of understanding them. Therefore, if we don't truly understand them, what business do we have EVEN imagining that we could manage them?

We should learn from them. They can teach us what it is to be part of the one reality.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What's in a Name?

The other day -- while labeling a slew of postcards for a GPoWS mailing -- I happened to be watching the 'ol boob tube. Amongst the gazillions of tv commercials was one that actually got me to thinking -- not about the product, mind you -- but about something altogether different.

The particular ad concerned a car or truck, I don't remember which one. It was one of the newer models and its name was derived from a city. I soon realized that a great many models of various types of vehicles are named after geographical locations. Here are a few that came to mind.
Tahoe (NV)
Cheyenne (WY)
Mailbu (CA)
Bel Air (CA)

Aspen (CO)
Daytona (FL)
Durango (Mexico)
Monaco (Country)

Seville (Spain)
Eldorado (KS or AR)

Catalina (CA)
Le Mans (France)

Yukon (Canada)

Tacoma (WA)
Anyhow, I got to thinking about which towns will never, ever have a vehicle model named after them; the kind of towns with a weird name that doesn't conjure up the kind of imagery that, say, Malibu or Seville does.

Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here's what I came up with. Please feel free to add to the list.
Toad Suck (AR)
Humptulips (WA)
Tittybong (Australia)
Bumpass (VA)
Dogpatch (AR)
Knob Noster (MO)
Chugwater (WY)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Split Personality

In a manner of speaking, we all suffer from schizophrenia. Our personalities fragment into different people going different directions, often simultaneously! One moment we're a lover, the next the employee or employer. Amidst all this we are also the brother/sister, mother/father, child, and all other assorted roles and persons.

For much of the past year, I've been the blogger, The Rambling Taoist. Almost every day, I would spend at least 2-3 hours in this role, both reading blogs and writing here. It was the predominant part of my personality.

This has changed somewhat. This past weekend I was named the State Treasurer of the Green Party of Washington State. I'm also in negotiations with Oregon's Pacific Green Party to serve as their Interim Fundraising Coordinator (a position I've held twice before). Consequently, I've had less time to function in my role as a blogger.

For the next few weeks, I may not post as "religiously" as before. I need to spend time boning up on Washington's various laws and regulations pertaining to political parties. If I am selected to fundraise for Oregon's party, that will occupy a good portion of my time too.

Besides, I tend to write in spurts. There are weeks and months that I don't need to think much about what to write on any given day; the ideas spurt up on their own! At other times, the ideas seem to be on holiday. I'm learning to let the ideas themselves control when I write and when I don't.

As a Taoist, this is called going with the flow. Don't force the process through a manner of will. Practice wu wei and things will take care of themselves.

Friday, April 7, 2006

A Most "Lovely" Day at the Beach

One of the great perks about living in Aberdeen, Washington is that we're only 18 miles or so from miles of beaches on the Pacific Ocean. During the work week in Spring, you can go down to the beach and see few, if any, other people. In other words, it's sort of like having the whole beach to yourself!

Today my wife & I loaded our 3 dogs in the pickup and headed to Twin Harbors State Park Beach Access outside of the tiny hamlet of Westport. We drove down onto the beach and saw only 1 or 2 other folks. Our dogs ran around like they were in their own private paradise. Della & I collected interesting looking rocks and just gazed out at the roaring ocean. We had a great time until...

We began the quest to head home. We got stuck in the sand! However, after about an hour of digging ourselves out, we started to make some progress. It began to look like we were going to get out of our predicament until...

The truck, all of a sudden, wouldn't start. We had a mechanical problem with our truck earlier in the week. We suspected the problem was with our starter. We had the truck towed to a highly-recommended local repair shop. After testing the starter, they informed us the problem was merely some wire coming off the battery. They fixed it and sent us on our way.

For two days, we encountered no problems. No, the problem didn't reappear until we were stuck in the sand on the beach.

I had to hike out 2 miles to get to the nearest phone -- a two mile walk is a loooong way for a person with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. To make this long story short, the repair shop owner drove from Aberdeen to Westport and got us, the dogs and the truck back home without charge.

His technicians then determined the problem was indeed the starter and replaced it. That part did cost money, but the price was fair.

I'd write more, but I now need to go recover from our most "lovely" day at the beach. I think I'll be recovering for many days.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

We're Becoming Little Glow Wormz

Here are two disturbing articles about the dangers of nuclear power. As I've stated in this space before, I am categorically opposed to nuclear power. It creates byproducts that are extremely lethal and NO ONE has yet to figure out how to store said byproducts safely. The continued use of all things nuclear poses one of the greatest dangers to life on planet earth.
Uranium bombing in Iraq contaminates Europe
San Francisco Bay View
by Bob Nichols

Nine days after the start of the American president's 2003 "shock and awe" uranium bombing campaign in Baghdad, an invisible radioactive uranium oxide gas cloud swept through Britain's towns and countryside and throughout Europe.

Respected scientists reported on the unrevealed gas cloud after conducting research on specialized high volume air filters in England. Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan stunned Europe in a Sunday Times of London article on Feb. 19, 2006. Their scientific paper, released March 1st, 2006, proved the event. With all the vigor of delusional drunkards, British nuclear and military spokesmen predictably denied the reality of an invisible radioactive cloud.

The military claimed that a Chernobyl-like event in the area was probably responsible, but no explosive meltdowns of operating reactor cores have been reported or observed in 2006 anywhere in the world. Evidence of the truth of the gas cloud panicked the military into frantic, irrational, ludicrous denials. The military spin was later refined and the new Chernobyl claim quietly the rest of the article.

Radiation Found To Be Harmful in Any Amount
United for Peace of Pierce County
By John LaForge

More news arrives daily of the ever-deadlier damage to the body by exposure to allowable “low doses” of radiation from nuclear reactors and radioactive waste. The findings -- if widely recognized -- could provoke a rewrite of guidelines for “allowable” exposures and bring an end to reactor operations in the U.S: Operating them so their emissions didn’t kill anyone would be too expensive. This is why critical scientists are pushed out of academia and industry and their studies ignored or suppressed.

In 2003, a dissenting group of British scientific experts found that internal exposure to plutonium is 100 to 1,000 times more dangerous than officially estimated (See p. 5). Their finding was cut from the official record and had to be published independently.

The National Research Council reaffirmed last summer their position that all radiation exposure carries the risk of cancer. The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII (BEIR VII) report explicitly refuted the “hormesis” theory -- propounded by professors Todd Allen and Paul Wilson of the Department of Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin -- that a little radiation is good for you. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said BEIR committee chair Richard Monson of Harvard.

This November, a study published in Radiation Research by U.S. and Russian scientists blamed excess cancers in the Ural Mountains in central Russia on chronic exposures to low doses of radioactivity leaked from a weapons factory 50 years ago. Science magazine calls the new report -- along with a large scale study revealing an elevated cancer risk in nuclear industry workers around the world -- “the strongest direct evidence yet of chronic, low-dose health effects.”

In 2002, British researchers also published in Science their finding that low level radiation from Soviet bomb test fallout caused genetic mutations in families living nearby, mutations that can be passed to future generations. The rate of mutation was found to be 80 percent higher than in the corresponding generation in the control group.

In 2001 the National Cancer Institute was forced to reveal its finding that atomic bomb testing in Nevada, which spread radioactive fallout across every state in the union, has caused at least 15,000 cancer deaths and up to 212,000 nonfatal thyroidcancers. The 67 bomb tests blown off between 1946 and 1958 were said at the time to be safe.

A two-year government study in 1990 found a marked increase in leukemia deaths among people living near the Prairie Island nuclear power reactor in SE Minnesota. The “significantly high” risk of leukemia death appeared among residents between the ages of 40 and 59, the National Cancer Institute said. Northern States Power, now Excel Energy, which runs the reactors, said, “Power plants have releases that are so low that one would not expect to see any health effects at all.” That was then.

The journal Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology reported in 2000 that infant mortality rates around five U.S. nuclear reactors dropped almost immediately after the reactors closed. In areas surrounding five reactors shut down between 1987 and 1995 (Genoa, in Wisconsin; Rancho Seco in California; Ft. St. Vrain in Colorado; Trojan in Oregon; and Millstone in Connecticut), infant death rates dropped an average of 18 percent in the first two years. The average drop elsewhere in the U.S. was 6.4 the rest of the article.

[Note: Article originally published by NukeWatch. You can download of a pdf of the article here.]
Addendum: Just after finishing this post, I received the following article from TruthOut. Talk about serendipity!
The Bush administration on Wednesday unveiled a blueprint for rebuilding the United States' decrepit nuclear weapons complex, including restoration of a large-scale bomb manufacturing capacity.

The plan calls for the most sweeping realignment and modernization of the nation's massive system of laboratories and factories for nuclear bombs since the end of the Cold War.

Until now, the nation has depended on carefully maintaining aging bombs produced during the Cold War arms race, some several decades old. The administration, however, wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, as the Pentagon retires older bombs that it claims will no longer be reliable or safe.

Under the plan, all of the nation's plutonium would be consolidated into a single facility that could be more effectively and cheaply defended against possible terrorist attacks. The plan would remove the plutonium now kept at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by 2014, though transfers of the material could start sooner. In recent years, concern has sharply grown that Livermore, surrounded by residential neighborhoods, could not repel a terrorist attack.

But the administration blueprint is facing sharp criticism, both from those who say it does not move fast enough to consolidate plutonium stores and from those who say restarting bomb production will encourage aspiring nuclear powers across the globe to develop the rest of the article.