Sunday, January 31, 2016

Occupying The Narrative Keeps Peace Candidates On Mute, Ensures War Spending Will Roll On

Jill Stein at a fundraiser in Portland, Maine October 30, 2015.
You will not see photos of Stein with a cute baby in corporate media, so I am sharing one here. 
The American Herald Tribune published David Swanson's interview with Green Party leader and presidential candidate Jill Stein this week. In it Swanson makes the audacious claim that, since Stein's platform most closely reflects the priorities of people rather than those of corporations, she has a better chance of winning than do candidates who kiss the ring of Pentagon contractors. Because a majority of people would actually vote for the platform Stein campaigns on.

But my inbox is clogged with letters and op-eds from people who should know better who are "feeling the Bern." Liberals are again hopelessly hoping for change from the Democratic Party. Why in the face of so much evidence to the contrary do they continue to be duped?

I think it's because they still get most of their information from corporate "news" -- a zone which blacks out any reference to non-corporate sponsored candidates.

In life under corporate government, it's all about hogging the narrative. Making sure people never hear from candidates who respond intelligently to what people really want.

Because people want the military budget to stop gobbling up over half the federal budget every year. They want to stop supporting 800+ military bases around the planet. The want the wars for oil and the resulting refugee crisis and the proliferation of nuclear weapons to cease.
"Refugee crisis: Pregnant woman and children among 40 victims after boat sinks off Turkish coast"  Jan. 30, 2016
People don't want the future inhabitants of the White House to have a blank check for waging war on "terror" with no geographic or temporal boundaries.

People want student debt canceled, and free university education like other rich countries have. Stein has an interesting strategy here. She told Swanson:
"I have yet to find a young person in debt who doesn't become a missionary for our campaign the minute they learn that we will cancel their debt...43 million young people – that is a plurality of the vote. In a three-way race, that's enough to win the vote."
People want universal health care like other rich countries have. Stein retired from practice as a medical doctor to promote the kind of environmental policies that human health needs dictate.

Also on board: Dr. Margaret Flowers, a Green Party candidate for the Senate in Maryland and a vigorous activist on behalf of a single payer health care system. (Actually, click here to read the article.)

People want the government to respond to climate crisis rather than continuing to pump out carbon and other pollutants at the taxpayers' expense.

People want to have a say in whether or not to live under corporate global government instead of having it shoved down their throats by fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal through Congress.
From Black Agenda Report "Ethnic Cleansing: The Ultimate Environmental Racism" by Glen Ford
People want clean food and water, and real information in order to know if they are poisoning their own children unwittingly.

People want police accountability and an end to extrajudicial killing by guns at home and air strikes abroad.

People want the government to help poor families fleeing the murderous policies engendered in Central America by CAFTA and torturers trained at the taxpayer-supported School of the Americas. People don't want migrant children handed over to human traffickers after being housed in concentration camp-like conditions for weeks or months on end.

But even more than all these things, people want to believe in something. Anything that might pull us back from the precipice. Don't think corporate media doesn't recognize this. It's very important to manage this profound need of mobs in times of crisis.

That's why the demagogue with the bad hair appeals to so many frightened working class voters. They see enormous structural problems with our system as it stands, but they also have a compelling need to blame it on someone else. It couldn't be their fault, because they feel like victims themselves. They've lost faith in corporate government and most corporate media. Only "news" outlets that broadcast scapegoats appeal to them now.

Their news feed will make sure they never hear of Dr. Jill Stein or Dr. Margaret Flowers. How about yours?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On #SuperBowl Sunday & Every Day, Occupying The Narrative Keeps Warmongers In Power Over U.S.

It is depressingly predictable how the public conversation in the U.S. becomes mired in the cesspool that is electoral politics every four years. Really, the cycle never ends nowadays, but it ramps up considerably in the months leading to an election that will make very little difference how we are governed. 

Corporate government puts on this show for you the same way corporate media puts on Super Bowl Sunday: to keep you firmly rooted in the belief that dichotomy dominates über alles, that said dichotomy is not false, and that you must develop a fervent adherence to one side or the other in order to function as a citizen.

One of the minor elements of this depressing phenomenon is that you will be roundly scourged if you do not signal that you adhere to the side deemed correct by your fellow citizens. Thus, if you are female, you must support the female candidate. Or, if you have socialist tendencies, you must support the candidate who spouts socialist rhetoric (but who is meanwhile voting in the Senate on behalf of the Boeing Corporation). 

And, you are expected to spend lots and lots of keystrokes vilifying the opposition. For instance, you must pay immediate and copious attention when a former candidate who was a terrifyingly bad joke endorses the current candidate who is a terrifyingly bad joke. You are expected to spend lots of your mental time thinking about this and calling both of them insulting names. You must do this in order to fit in with the crowd.

Occupying the public narrative with this kind of inconsequential nonsense drowns out real concerns, real issues and real suffering inflicted by corporate government.

Corporate media is good at drowning out even the minimal sounds of dissent issuing from the body politic these days. There is little room for actual discussion amid the roar of the gladiator games.

Activist Bruce Gagnon recently had this paragraph censored from his op ed reporting back on his trip to join the resistance to expansion of U.S. military presence in both Okinawa and South Korea's Jeju Island:
The Pentagon today has more than 800 military bases scattered around the world. It's well known that due to the rapes, drinking and violence toward the host people, U.S. troops are not wanted in most of these places. 
Gagnon's local paper, The Times Record, regularly runs laudatory articles about General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works where the nuclear-equipped destroyers and other warships that will dock at Jeju Island are built. The paper's editor was afraid to anger people (or most likely, advertisers) by appearing to dishonor "the troops" with Gagnon's entirely true statement. The paper does not appear to care about or even notice the suffering of women and girls raped and otherwise assaulted in the vicinity of U.S. military bases. And it doesn't want you to notice their suffering either.

Corporate media wants you to notice a candidate's bad hair. It wants you to ignore voting records and concentrate on empty promises. The fact that liberal and progressive voters are enamored of a Zionist candidate who has voted to bomb civilians in oil-rich countries leads some to wonder if they are ignorant of the facts or just not very bright. 

A cogent essay on the effect of the occupation of public narrative by David Masciota  in Slate ran with a provocative, name-calling headline and photos of the three leading candidates to have D after their names. I suspect an editor played a key role in nudging Masciota's observations back toward the Punch & Judy Show direction. But it's actually a great essay, reading in part:
Given that morality and legality seem to have no influence over American foreign policy, the end of empire will likely emerge out of fiscal anxiety and insolvency. It might be fun to blow up the world, but eventually, we just won’t have the money for it. If liberals are satisfied with that eventual outcome, and if they have the patience to sit through years of unnecessary death and destruction while the cash register slowly empties, they can continue to ignore America’s military presence around the world, and they can continue to act as if bomb craters and dead bodies amount to just one more issue for consideration alongside tax rates, standardized testing, and gay marriage.
This week Senate Speaker McConnell introduced an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS. The new authorization would leave the 2001 AUMF in place (as the 14 year occupation of Afghanistan shows no signs of ending), would not limit ground troops, and would not not limit the length of time or the geographic area for military action. Sound like World War III in the making? Hardly anyone noticed.

How much evidence do taxpayers need that the "war on terror" is never-ending and, in fact, designed to be that way? How many more bombs will they fund to kill innocent civilians in 2016 and beyond? Congressional switchboard to weigh in on the proposed AUMF with those alleged to represent you: (202) 224-3121.

But wait -- which team do you think will win the Super Bowl?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Crushed Bodies Are The Foundation For U.S. Exceptionalism, #Racism

Frank Zappa famously called politics "the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex." And I'll admit there's an element of entertainment in the chilling performance of star-spangled children dancing and spouting exceptionalist invective at rallies for the demagogue with the bad hair. The lyrics go like this:
Are you serious?
Apologies for freedom, I can’t handle this.
When freedom rings, answer the call!
On your feet, stand up tall!
Freedom's on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom face the music, c'mon boys, take them down
President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time
Far from representing a splinter group at this point in history, the demagogue has been elevated by corporate media platforms like Time Magazine to front-runner for the Republican nomination for president.

"Deal from strength or get crushed every time" is ironically well-illustrated by the crushing of Black bodies into for-profit prisons and police custody where they die regularly. I'm reading Ta-Nehsi Coates' long, meditative letter to his teenage son about fear and the impossibility of any meaningful safety for a young Black man in the USA. Between the World and Me explains what Howard University meant to Coates and his extended family as a life-sustaining "Mecca" of inquiry, wisdom and deep love. What are the chances that his Black son will also be able to beat the odds in a country that builds far more prisons than it builds universities? 

The military-industrial complex needs an entertainment division because what they do in the way of business as usual is even more chilling than celebrating racist slogans: they kill people. Lots of people

A telling victim was Prince Jones, a classmate of Coates', top scholar and future leader who was stalked and killed by Maryland police in a case of mistaken identity. Or was it? Coates argues convincingly that the Dream of white supremacy and exceptionalism celebrated in campaigns this season is built on the crushed bodies of the human beings relegated to the bottom of the pile.

And this leads me to the refugees pouring out of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Or dying in the rubble thereof.

The Washington DC think tank Council on Foreign Relations published a study of how many bombs my country dropped on the mostly Muslim, mostly brown-skinned people of the oil-rich countries in western Asia last year:

Sources: Estimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics; Information requested from CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office, January 7, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).
Source: Council on Foreign RelationsEstimate based upon Combined Forces Air Component Commander 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics; Information requested from CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs Office, January 7, 2016; New America Foundation (NAF); Long War Journal (LWJ); The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).
The people of the U.S. tolerated this level of bombing civilians and even, in many cases, celebrated it. Because they've been led to believe that killing "them" over there means not having to kill "them" over here. Islamophobic ranting by demagogues suggests that Muslims are a threat to "our" security, and the corporate media reinforce this message 24/7. 
Meanwhile, law enforcement and the judicial system handle the killing over here of those perceived as a threat merely by virtue of their skin color. Upstanding scholars and devoted Christians like Prince Jones look the same as hardened, violent criminals in this context: if they're Black, it's imperative to preserve the power structure that they be held back. 

The U.S. elected its first Black president seven years ago, yet racially-motivated violence has shown no signs of slowing. Like the alleged socialist running for the Democratic nomination this time around (an oxymoron if there ever was one), Obama promised to address poverty and income inequality yet these problems have also grown worse on his watch. 
A recent essay by Michael Glennon in the Boston Globe offered an explanation of why Barack Obama couldn't stop or even slow the wars he campaigned against, or prevent the start of a couple more. "Vote all you want, the secret government won't change" explains that the military and security[sic] bureaucracies are now far more powerful than Congress and the executive branch of government combined. I believe these agencies answer primarily to the corporate interests that fund the entertainment division, and they have momentum that appears to be unstoppable. 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Black leader assassinated by the USA and whose birthday we celebrate on Monday, said in a 1967 speech against the ongoing war on Vietnam, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Amen to that, brother.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Vying To Be The Biggest Loudmouth Racist, Maine's Governor Fulfills Corporate Agenda

Coverage of Maine's loudmouth governor spouting racist epithets has traveled far and wide. Even the BBC had picked up the story of my governor's remarks earlier this week. 

In case you have been living under a rock this week, here is what he said -- on camera:
These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.
The governor is in his second term and will be term limited out of office at the end of it. His most recent remarks are offensive on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin in responding. Early on, just after he became governor, he said that the NAACP could "kiss my butt" when a reporter asked why he had not responded to an invitation to an event his predecessors usually attended. 

Listing all the offensive things this man has said while in office would take a long time. I'm more interested in why he feels it is politically expedient to say such things or, more to the point, why those who put him in office in the first place find it expedient for him to play the role of a dumb bigot.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers are behind the scenes of his rise from mayor of a small, aging mill town to governor. Changing the sign at our border with New Hampshire to read "Maine -- Open For Business" early on
was a telling act signalling that corporate interests would be well-served by this administration. Access to mining rights, water rights and trampling on the ancestral fishing rights of the Penobscot peoples have all been vigorously pursued in his pro-corporate agenda. Dredging harbors and rivers to ship fossil fuels and nuclear equipped warships out, and bringing toxic construction debris for profitable landfills in are also among his administration's pet projects.

What does this have to do with flagrant racism? Very little. The flamboyant racism is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex (paraphrasing Frank Zappa here).

In both elections where Mainers found they would be governed by a man that most did not choose, the vote was split by a third party self-made millionaire named Eliot Cutler. Cutler's resume signals the presence of Chinese capital hungry for the resource colony that is the Maine seen through corporate eyes. (The rest of us see a tourist mecca once known as "Vacationland" whose trout and salmon are now unfit for human consumption.) Cutler dumped tons of money into online ad campaigning and peeled off enough liberal voters from the Democratic candidate to deliver two consecutive victories to the Tea Party.

When I compare our governor with the demagogue with bad hair whom the corporate press have anointed the front runner for the Republican Party nomination for president, I see similarities. Both are nakedly opportunistic politicians with track records of boorish, bullying behavior. Based on comparing their words with their actions, their convictions appear shallow. 

They are race-baiting because it serves their interests to pander to disaffected white working class and low income voters with no prospects for economic progress. In other words,  people in need of scapegoats on whom to blame their condition.

Hate language is not a new development, but its increasing momentum frightens this history major. Viewed along with the 21st century U.S. version of the Beer Hall Putsch, where angry white men with guns defy the federal government in Oregon and get away with it, it's downright terrifying. 

Social media is rife with observations that if the Oregon gang were native people like the Paiute that were run off the land to begin with, or Black Lives Matter activists, they'd already have been gunned down.  These white men will likely get a slap on the wrist eventually. Hitler served 9 months in prison for his role in the failed putsch, and went on to kill millions with the help of willing executioners fired up by his racist rhetoric. 

Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in prison. It is said that time for reflection led him to the conclusion that working within the system to take over Germany would be a more effective than armed rebellion. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Interview: Cecile Pineda, Author Of Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World

My Photo
A written interview with Cecile Pineda, whose latest book I reviewed yesterday on this blog.

Q: The common thread between your two works of non-fiction is environmental peril. Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step By Step presented a picture of our world already deep in nuclear war and nuclear denial. Would you agree that your newest book, Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World, is more about causes and less about effects?

A: Indeed the concepts addressed by Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World in comparison to the emergent concepts of Devil’s Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step written in horror’s white heat following the three-meltdown-catastrophe of Fukushima, are far more remote in terms of tracing, as they do, our cultural discontents back some five thousand years. For me personally, it places our planetary dilemmas: global warming, perpetual warfare, in a much wider perspective than simply the contemporary horrors through which we must live in our times. It allows me perspective. At the same time, I suspect that our emergent problems are even more intractable than we may have assumed because they originate not in such relatively recent matters as the arbitrary partition of Iraq by the British following WW I (for example) but in pre-history.

Even before touring ten states talking about my book, Devils Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step and the threats posed by the nuclear industry to all life on Earth, I had formulated a question that much later was to give rise to the publication of Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World. That question as I posed it in Devil’s Tango went: “I am trying to understand being born to the urge to destroy, to rip mountains apart, to pour thousand-year poison into the seas, to belch soot into the sky, to kill everything that lives. Where does it start, this impulse? In what mind? What axel drives this wheel?”

It became the most-asked question by the thousands of people I addressed during those tours. From then on, the question  refused to leave me alone. To this day , it absolutely astounds me that, indeed a wheel—the wheel conjured in how I originally cast my question—along with weaponry—lies at the heart of a conquering civilization—that of the Kurgan Invaders of  Europe in 3500 B.C.—a invasion which brought us the language we speak today. English (one of Europe’s proto-Indo-European-descended languages) is universally spoken; it has become the global coin of exchange by which diplomacy and commerce are conducted the world over. The ultimate cultural articulation of white European civilization’s proto-Indo-European-derived languages is apparent in the technologically dominant civilization that pervades today’s world. The Kurgans were the first to introduce wheeled vehicles to Europe.

The implication for my assertion is simply this: the Kurgan invasion of Europe, paralleling as it does the much later European invasion of the American continents, has now reached global proportions. Its sweep has extended to the outermost reaches of our planet. But to begin with, in roughly 3,500 B.C., it was a marauding sweep spilling out of the steppe of the area that is now Russia, by a tribe of horsemen who first introduced warfare, weaponry, conquest of territory, patriarchy, hierarchy, a male sky god replacing the goddess of Earth previously venerated by almost all the world’s indigenous people, and most critically, the original language from which all but four European languages are descended:

Why is that understanding critical to understanding where to place ourselves on the continuum of the world civilizational map? Because language is the most lethal weapon of all to be introduced by the original proto-Indo-European invaders. Unlike swords, spears, halberds, and shields, language replicates itself analogously to living cells by passage from parent to child and down the long march of generations to the present day, embedding beneath its words and grammar deep cultural concepts acting like DNA, passing from one generation to the next. That DNA is something we refer to as values.

Q: You posit that Proto-Indo-European languages with their structures of control and power may be part of the problem with living sustainably on Earth. Can you give some examples of the connection between language and how humans live on their planet?

I propose a wider study of language. My January blog post takes a look at 11 small Japanese words,* none with an English equivalent, yet each evoking ways of Being in the World in more contemplative and peaceful ways.

Q: Patriarchy and militarism are addressed in separate sections of Whale but you seem to feel that they are closely related as root causes of the despoiling of Earth. Also as barriers to indigenous peoples being able to bring their wisdom to stewardship of our shared environments. How do you see these things connecting?

It seems to me the links between patriarchy and militarism are fairly obvious on the most superficial level: in white European tradition warfare has been the glorified purview of male warriors as the ultimate articulation of machismo. And winning warfare depends on rigid hierarchical discipline. A culture enshrining militaristic values discourages and precludes contemplation let alone espousal of the gentler values exemplified by indigenous recognition that all beings  are sons and daughters of our planet and not occupiers of it. The implication of being part of one’s landscape rather than owning, and presuming to control it, is that appropriate husbandry of the Earth is a way of living, not the more distancing view that Nature exists for Man’s control. But the links between  militarism, and gender equality are infinitely more elusive.

Here is Phillip Slater in A Dream Deferred: 

Some years ago I suggested… that this gender difference derives from the fact that while young girls can identify with their mothers (still the principal caretaker in most families) as part of their maturation, boys are expected to separate their lives from their mothers while retaining an interest in the opposite sex, leading to a lifelong proneness to compartmentalization.  But how much of this masculine need to separate and differentiate is derived from the residues of authoritarian culture—from the warrior’s need to make himself into a block of wood? If there was no longer any cultural demand for men to deaden themselves to “softer” feelings—if they were no longer pushed by the demands of macho tradition to deny their own vulnerability—how much of this rigid abnegation of the mother would be necessary?”

Q: The most interesting thesis of Whale was contrasting the attitudes of terrestrial beings with those of the sea. In short, those of us who walk on land need territory while those of us who don't share a common, borderless realm. Could you expand some more on how you see this playing out in the 21st century?

The imperatives with respect to territory of terrestrial beings in contrast to those inhabiting the seas is, among the many concepts offered by Apology to a Whale, probably the most problematic, one because it assumes that marine beings practice no behaviors observing concepts of territory. Marine animals, particularly cetaceans, but many others as well, observe specific locations for feeding, breeding, and migration. And two, perhaps the assumption that different clans and species practice what I have identified in the book as “arrangements” or “agreements” is also problematic, although evidence seems to indicate that such arrangements and agreements resemble the way indigenous peoples also chose to relate to one another. At best, we are swimming on shaky ground here, but applied to territory on Earth, we are seeing borderlessness attempting to play itself out with the hemorrhage of migrants from Syria where covert, collaborative US-ISIS led bombings and dronings have made living intolerable; from Africa, where despair brought about by economic hardship drives migrants to drown by the thousands crossing Mediterranean Seas, from Mexico and Central America, where the so-called “war-on drugs” and the economic devastation imposed by NAFTA have made living, actual survival, impossible.

Q: I was particularly intrigued by your mention of evolutionary biology and the possibility that Cetacean species both emerged from and returned to the oceans. Where did these ideas come from? What are the implications, if any, for the future of life on this planet?

The study of paleontology confirms that cetaceans originated as land dwelling animals.

“Fifty million years ago—long before the first primates stood erect, an awkward, ungainly animal not much larger than a cat roamed Kashmir. Indohyus had a silhouette closely resembling that of a terrified opossum. It had a bone growth pattern characteristic of a cetacean. North Pakistan was home to Indohyus’ cousin, Pakicetidae…. Its highly unusual skull identifies it as a cetacean.  After a million years or so, [fossils of] the Ambulocetus, [whose] lower jaw housed a fat pad, like that of modern whales…are always found in shoreline marine deposits.… Primates would inherit territory. Whales made another choice.”

This is a direct abridged quotation from Apology to a Whale.

You ask about the implications for the future life of this planet.  On this home of ours, anything is possible. There are even extremophiles that manage to inhabit and thrive in highly irradiated environments. Life wins every time, but the forms it takes result from the pressures exerted by survival in challenging environments.
The deepest implication I take for any future life on this planet is that human beings have absolutely no real, visceral sense of deep time. Like Darwin, product of his patriarchal Victorian times, we hierarchically assume that Man is creation’s greatest glory. As such we congratulate ourselves we don’t have to think beyond units any longer than a human life span. That short sightedness, that arrogance, has gotten us into deep trouble.
In conclusion I offer the example of the Ju/wasi, the Earth’s earliest people, identified by anthropologists until very recently as the San. The Ju/wasi still  live according to astronomical time. They alone can identify a constellation in the Southern Skies, the Greenleaf Horn. And they can do it because their racial memory goes back 60,000 years. But in terms of terrestrial time, even that vast span of Ju/wasi time occupies only 1/75,000th of the age of Earth.
* A visit to a few heavy lifting Japanese expressions might lend New Year resolutions some weightier meaning. The 11 words that follow may suggest new relationships to nature; to appreciation for others and for all things good; to recognition of beauty and transcendence from the smallest bowl to the great wheel of sky we call the universe; and to entering the realm of acceptance in life. They evoke vast complexes of meaning. English has no words for them.

Here they are:


•Forest-grazing is the clumsy English usage for what the Japanese refer to simply and elegantly as shinrinyoku. It describes that need for the wilderness in which to find peace, and the stillness that comes of experiencing deep silence.

•The Japanese use komorebi to refer to sunlight filtering through the leaves.

•Kogarashi is the name for the chill wind that announces winter coming. Unlike the classic name Boreas, the Japanese name the winds according to their gifts.


Kintsukuroi  refers to the art of repairing broken ceramics using silver or gold to join the shards, but encompasses awareness that the object becomes even more exquisite for having been broken.

*The Japanese lend mutability its correct poignancy. Monoaware literally means the pathos of things, not just their impermanence, but the soft sadness that lingers at their passing.

•Beyond words has its Japanese expression. Yuugen evokes awe and mystery beyond words of the universe itself.


Shoganai in Japanese literally means “it can’t be helped,” but far from evoking discouragement or despair, it acknowledges the need to accept things beyond human control and suggests the freedom from guilt, and regret that allows moving on.

Wabi-sabi  pinpoints a whole way of living that uncovers beauty in life’s imperfections, and leads to a path of acceptance for the natural cycle of life from its beginning to final decay.


•Before a meal, the Japanese say itadakmasu!  Although its literal meaning is I will have this! it acknowledges the person who prepared the food, the person who served the food; and it includes appreciation for nature and for life itself. (It also includes everything else related to eating, maybe even thumb sucking.)

•The Japanese acknowledge heavy lifters themselves by saying “you are tired.”  But otsukaresama embraces lots more feeling.  It recognizes the hard work that led to  that tiredness, and it expresses thankfulness for the work itself.

I am indebted to Marie Sugio who must be tired after offering such poignant insights into Living Well (see

To order Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World visit Also available on Amazon. 
Click here to READ AN EXCERPT.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review Of Apology To A Whale: Words To Mend A World By Cecile Pineda

ORDER from

I finished Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World on my granddaughter's first birthday. The delight I feel for this child's appearance on the planet is tempered with my anxiety about her future. Will Earth even be livable by the time she reaches maturity? What kind of environmental chaos and biological upheaval will she need to be resilient enough to live through?

Author Cecile Pineda is a poetic writer who turned late in life from writing novels and directing theater to researching and writing a unique form of non-fiction. Her previous book about the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactors in 2011 had a profound effect on my thinking about the mess we're in. It was interesting to me that my husband -- who has studied about and educated others about the perils of the nuclear industry for years -- also found that Tango informed and stimulated his thinking. We've both read that book more than once.

The common thread between Pineda's two works of non-fiction is environmental peril. Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step By Step presented a picture of our world already deep in nuclear war and nuclear denial. Her newest book, Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World,  seems to me more about causes and less about effects. She was inspired to write the book after watching Arctic sea ice melt and imagining for an instant that a calving piece of ice was actually a whale.
Photo credit: NASA
The intriguing thesis of Whale contrasts the attitudes of terrestrial beings with those of the sea, observing that those of us who walk on land need territory while those of us who don't share a common, borderless realm. 

Pineda speculates that even pre-patriarchal cultures who live upon Earth with respect, love, and communal values emphasizing sharing do need territories. She wonders if life on land could be lived without the boundaries and borders that carve out individuals and discrete nation-states with their aggressive, competitive tendencies. It's an interesting question to ponder.

Pineda toys with evolutionary biology and bits of evidence suggesting that species with markers of Cetacean structures (shared by whales) both emerged from and returned to the oceans. It made me wonder if life, which is said to have emerged from the primordial soup of the oceans, could still make a U-turn and head back to the seas. Are they now too carbon-loaded and acidic to make this possible? Or am I just thinking like a primate again? The author's discussion of the role of cells in evolution and of the existence of cells from one body being found in another (mother's cells in offspring, and vice versa) is also intriguing. 

Pineda writes at the intersection of science and poetry, a fertile and thought-provoking location.

Patriarchy and militarism are addressed in separate sections of Whale but they feel closely related as root causes of the despoiling of Earth. Also as barriers to indigenous peoples being able to bring their wisdom to stewardship of our shared environments. 

Pineda sees Proto-Indo-European languages with their structures of control and power as part of the problem with living sustainably on Earth. She cites Marija Gimbutas' Kurgan invasion as a possible turning point for human beings in spreading both the language family and the domineering attitudes that have led us to the brink of climate chaos and possible life extinction. 

Pineda, if I understand her correctly, would have us go back even farther than Gimbutas' gynocentric civilizations of the goddess. She doesn't say how, but she suggests that our goal must be to return to the wisdom of Mother Whale. 

She leaves us with a final image of two whales swimming along the surface, spiraling as they mate so that each has a turn to breathe. The depths below are the realm where they've lived peacefully together for eons without disturbing the environment that supports them. We would do well to emulate them.
"Eubalaena glacialis with calf". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Friday, January 1, 2016

The 5 Worst Things Last Year & The 5 Most Hopeful Things For 2016

It's time for reflection on an especially eventful, tumultuous year. From the perspective of the unseasonably warm northeast corner of the U.S., here goes:

The 5 Worst Things About 2015

1) Rampant, unaccountable police violence against people of color
You might argue that this has been going on for centuries in the U.S., and that it only seems like more of a crisis because citizen journalists with cell phone cameras have documented more police attacks. And you might be right. 

But information is a game changer, and this form of racialized injustice dominated the alternative news in 2015. For example, the video above -- which was not made by a citizen but by the city of Cleveland -- shows 12 year old Tamir Rice being gunned down for playing alone with a pellet gun in a public park. This week a grand jury declined to charge officer Timothy Loehmann for hastily shooting Tamir, or for failing to administer first aid once the child had been shot (Rice died of his injuries the following day). You can sign a petition from Rice's family demanding appointment of a special prosecutor here.

This individual tragedy was played out in various permutations again, and again, and again in 2015. Police killed an unarmed person of color or a native person, and authorities failed to respond with justice. Communities responded with #BlackLivesMatter activism and outrage, while corporate news coverage broadcast selective responses involving property damage without linking them to the police violence that caused them. Try this: ask a teenager you know about "the riots in Baltimore." Then, ask them what they know about Freddie Gray who died of a spinal injury sustained when he was handcuffed in police custody and tossed around in the back of a Baltimore police van. According to retired Philadelphia police chief Ray Lewis, this is a commonly practiced "sport" among police.

I'll leave Kareem Abdul-Jabar the last word here:

2) Rampant destruction of the planet's life support systems by corporate profiteers was unaffected by United Nations climate summit
The response to the tepid agreement generated at the Paris COP21  summit was a litmus test for which environmental organizations actually defend the planet and which ones work to uphold the status quo i.e. corporations using natural resources for profits and with little accountability. The talks were conveniently held in a city that could justify shutting down march permits and the rights of activists to assemble in the wake of spectacular violence by alleged Islamist radicals. But those who care most about the health of life on Earth came anyway.
Image: from "Official Response to COP21 Agreement"
Image: The Climate Ribbon Project

Meanwhile, Jeju Island's soft coral reef was finally entombed in concrete to make a deep water port for warships despite years of spirited resistance, and Samsung is suing the entire village of Gangjeong because they caused delays that cut into corporate profits. I could go on for days listing outrages against the environment in 2015 and alarming signs (70 degrees Farenheit in the Arctic this month anyone?) but Samsung's action provides a perfect segue to the next item on the list of bad for 2015.

3) The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was readied for Fast Track passage by the U.S. Congress

Fast Track passage means no debate and no possibility of amendment, just a yes or no vote. The TPP would codify global corporate government and severely restrict the rights of anyone seen as interfering with a corporation's "right" to profit. It would also dramatically affect freedom of expression, especially online, and is being vigorously opposed by organizations like the Electronic Freedom Frontier on those grounds. 

Lame duck President Obama has been a big cheerleader for the TPP and can be expected to sign it into law, thus joining Bill Clinton's legacy of neoliberal gutting of U.S. jobs and environmental regulations via trade agreements NAFTA and CAFTA. More child slave labor, here we come.

4) Military spending domestically remained at the 50+% level while U.S. arms sales to other countries soared
It was no surprise that Congress and the President continued servicing their campaign donors by making taxpayers foot the bill for weapons ordered by the Pentagon. Also many of the weapons ordered by vicious U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. These gifts are presented as "military aid" and do not come out of the Pentagon budget.

Aside from tax-funded gifts of weapons, the U.S. also surged ahead in 2015 in the area of simply selling weapons to other countries. Because security is always enhanced when more weapons are in circulation, right?

5) Islamophobia became a mainstream belief, and hate crimes increased accordingly
The rise of U.S.-sponsored ISIS (or Daesh, the Arabic acronym for this theatrically dramatic terrorist organization) and the highly publicized events in Paris and San Bernadino -- along with less highly publicized terror attacks by purported Islamists in Lebanon and Libya -- fueled a rise in domestic outbreaks of Islamophobia

Presidential candidates vied to see who could produce the most inflammatory hate speech. Polls showed up to one-third of respondents hating on Muslims, even to the extent of approving of the idea of bombing a fictional city with an Arabic-sounding name. Mosques were vandalized and threatened, and hijab-wearing women and girls sustained many, perhaps most, of reported attacks on Muslim individuals.
Source: Haaretz "Why I Wear a Hijab" by Saadia Faruqi, photo by Michal Fattal

Thankful that 2015 has now drawn to a close, I offer this list:

The 5 most hopeful things for 2016

1) Youth leaders emerging all over the place
From nationwide campus uprisings to demand accountability for racial injustice to the vigorous activism of young defenders of our planet as a life support system to the lead role taken by young people of color at this year's annual meeting of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, youth leadership is a hopeful sign.
"Bowdoin students stage sit-in outside president's office" Beth Brogan, Bangor Daily News 4/1/15
2) The Pentagon's carbon spew will finally be counted on the U.S. balance sheet
A bad decision in Kyoto had resulted in exemption for military carbon pollution being counted, despite the fact that the planet labors under this load whether humans count it or not. Hooray for the Pentagon, which consumes the greatest amount of fossil fuel of any organization on the planet, finally becoming part of the reckoning! Stay tuned for more news of #PentagonClimateCrime in the coming year.

3) More people became aware of how dangerous the TPP is and began pushing back

Due in part to the dogged efforts of activist journalists like Margaret Flowers on the website, mainstream labor groups like the Teamsters began to sit up and take notice of the threats posed by the TPP. As James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters wrote in the Huffington Post in October:
Beyond that, however, is the pressure the TPP will place on U.S. wages. The deal will turbo charge a salary race-to-the-bottom. Many hardworking Americans will see their jobs shipped to low-pay countries like Vietnam. Those Americans lucky enough to keep their jobs will be paid less. Promises that the TPP will help to raise labor standards in other countries will fall short; similar provisions in prior trade agreements didn't deliver. The only winner will be corporate America, which will bask in the glory of its additional billions in profits.
Lobbying pressure on Congress by groups like the Teamsters will be crucial to securing rejection of what the Obama administration hopes will be its crowning achievement. 

4) Shaker Aamer was released from the torture prison at Guantánamo Bay

Mr. Aamer spent 14 years imprisoned by the U.S. in their offshore prison on Cuban soil, despite being cleared for release back in 2007. According to political prisoner advocacy organization Reprieve which represented him, Mr. Aamer, a citizen of the UK," was volunteering for a charity in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was abducted and sold for a bounty to U.S. forces."

Seeing an innocent man reunited with his children, including the youngest whom he had never met, was a high point for me in 2015. This is despite the fact that Guantánamo remains open, and Congress added a rider to the gargantuan "defense" funding bill this year blocking efforts to close it.

5) There was an outpouring of love and support for Muslims in general and Syrian refugees in particular
Poster at a rally in Portland, Maine welcoming Syrian refugees.
Banner in London Source for image:

Scene at an airport in Germany as Syrian refugees began arriving.
Finally, here's a list of suggested actions to take in 2016 to truly make our world safer for everybody. From Manal Omar's article "As A Muslim, My Heart Freezes With Fear" on HuffPo:
Don't be a passive bystander to Islamophobia if you disagree with the fiery rhetoric. Take action. 
Sofia Al-Khan, an American Muslim born and raised outlined some tangible action steps friends of the Muslim community can take. Here are a few ones I embraced and invite you to consider. 
- If you see a Muslim or someone who might be identified as Muslim being harassed, stop, say something, intervene, and call for help. If you see people abusing authority, stand firm against profiling. 
- If you ride public transportation, sit next to the hijabi (head scarf) woman and greet them. The fear of being in public for women in particular is increasing every day. A small act of kindness can have a transformative impact. 
- Engage the Muslims in your life. Make sure you really feel comfortable standing for and with your Muslim friends, neighbors, coworkers. If you have a Muslim work colleague, check in. Tell them that the news is horrifying and you want them to know you're there for them. The concern and support I have received my colleagues is heart warming and reminds me of my place here in the US. 
- If you have neighbors who are Muslim, keep an eye out for them. If you're walking your kids home from the bus stop, invite their kids to walk with you. 
- Talk to your kids. They're picking up on the anti-Muslim message. Make sure they know how you feel and talk to them about what they can do when they see bullying or hear hate speech at school. 
- Help fill the public space with positive messaging over the hate. Write letters to the editors and be aware of your social media posts. 
- Call your state and local representatives, let them know that you are concerned about hate speech against your Muslim friends and neighbors in politics and the media. Ask your representatives to be aware of new laws on visas and other issues that would create second class citizens. 
- Out yourself as someone who rejects Islamophobia and discrimination of any kind. 
Fear is paralyzing. Terror is fear-inspiring. Let's stand up, stand tall, stand strong.

Best wishes for a love-filled year in 2016!