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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Insiders or Outsiders -- A Moment of Truth for the Re-invigorated Democratic Platform?

Via: Dean Says Kerry Is in Pocket of Lobbyists
Citing reports in the Washington Post and New York Times that Kerry had raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator in the past 15 years, Dean said the Massachusetts lawmaker was no better than Bush in that respect.

"We are not going to beat George Bush by nominating someone who is the handmaiden of special interests, " Dean told hundreds of cheering supporters at a rally in Tucson.

Kerry told reporters he had taken no money from organized groups -- only from individuals. "The only people that have contributed to my campaigns to the United States Senate are individual Americans. Now are some of those individual Americans lobbyists? Yeah, sure," Kerry said.

The Washington Post said Kerry had accepted $640,000 from lobbyists, many of them representing the telecommunications and financial services industries that had business before committees Kerry sat on.

Kerry responded: "They haven't gotten anything for it. Those guys have never, ever, ever gotten anything."

Let be preface my comments by saying that I am neither a Kerry or Dean supporter, nor am I a Democratic party member. My comment here should be taken then as an interested observer, but not one that is overly interested or invested in either side of this debate.

From where I sit, Dean's camp knows that they need a victory soon and that if Kerry is not brought down to size asap, then he will have built up such momentum that, combined with his funds, he will become unbeatable to Howard Dean. However, the Democrats are also doing their best not to divide and conquer one another such that by the time their candidate is unveiled, he is so tarnished that he becomes easy fodder for Bush/Cheney. Thus, Dean's attack here needs to be read as an offensive volley that is responding to the potentiality that a check mate is materializing and has appeared on the horizon of his campaign.

This said, let's also acknowledge that this is one of the aces Dean has held in the hole, to be played as necessary. Kerry is an insider, and so the charge by Dean and the attempt to raise this as a crucial issue for electability serves as a sort of bellweather for how progressive the Democrat's will run. Will the populace at large respond to the ethical question by demanding a meaningful response from Kerry -- "I took the money but it never, ever, ever changed a thing in my mind" is ludicrous of course. Or, has the American political psyche become so jaded and rightist that the charge of being a corporate pawn falls meaninglessly to the floor. After all, Schwarzenegger ran on an outsider platform and then immediately staffed himself with insiders capable of running a governmental machine; a la George W. Bush. Is there any reason to think that Howard Dean would do any different?

It's up to Dean now to continue this issue by making a credible case that he really would do things differently -- something that seems unlikely to my mind. And its also up to him to point out exactly the ways in which Kerry's being on the lobbyist doll has influenced his voting record and stay in Washington so far.

To do any less would be to set Democratic party progressive rhetoric back an age. With grassroots campaigns like those of Dean and Kucinich trying to insist that there is room within the two-party system for something beyond neoliberal corporatism and status-quo party politics, its times such as these that will chart the direction of the reality of those assertions. Third parties, begin to get prepared.

Posted by Richard
1/31/2004 02:32:59 PM | PermaLink

Friday, January 30, 2004

Bush wants Myers on US 9th Circuit Court

How good is BushGreenWatch?

Today, they ran a story on how, despite a highly questionable track record, poor reviews, and an ongoing ethics investigation, William Myers is set for an nomination hearing as a Bush appointee to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th is, of course, the last bastion of federal leftism being the court recently with the courage to defend the ruling against the national pledge of allegiance. It is also probably the most important judicial body for defending American environmental law -- being central in recent measures by the American government to use hi-frequency sonar throughout the oceans, a technology known to kill whales and distress ocean life generally. Having Myers, a former Mining and Ranching industry lobbyist and chief attorney for Gail Norton's neoliberal Interior policies, on the 9th is an eggregious mistake. The Democrats have 9 of their most prominent sitting on the committee, including presidential hopeful Edwards, but there are equally powerful rightists including present chair Orrin Hatch and 9 other members.

Posted by Richard
1/30/2004 01:38:22 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Woodless Paper Interest Grows

Booms in the techno-capitalization of southeastern Asian economies, with their growing mega populations, are leading to a startling increase of paper usage globally and this is having an effect on forests and habitats. Alberta, a province wrought by drought over the last few years, is apparently thinking about changing its agriculture economy towards the flax and hemp that can thrive in such conditions and meet the new market demands of non-lumber pulp paper. Now, if the conservative province of Alberta can realize the progressive future of the hemp plant -- the ultimate fiber -- then what can we expect here in the United States? Will a mainstream Democrat put this on his environmental platform? -- no, Dennis Kucinich doesn't count. Let's hear John Kerry or some other front of the pack DNP player come out with the logical and sensible defense of hemp. Will you hear it? I think not -- and its not because of the ridiculous link between hemp and medicinal marajuana plant either. These Dems want to capture the south and the American heartland -- and that means cotton, where you could have hemp, and wheat and corn where you could have flax. Meanwhile, Peter Camejo has come out with his Avocado Declaration demanding that the Greens not back down this election cycle and that they run to increase party building and as a challenge to the two-party status quo. Maybe the Greens can get hemp on the national map -- it would be a minor victory to work for during an upcoming election year that will fit a Democratic dud (out of the field so far) against the deeply entrenched power and money of the Bush gang.


Alberta's pulping sector is kick-starting a new trend that could see local farmers plant crops for paper production instead of food.

Interest in using crops such as flax and hemp as alternatives to wood in papermaking is high as rising global demand for paper clashes with limited forestry resources, said Wade Chute, manager of the pulp and paper division of the Alberta Research Council Inc.

Posted by Richard
1/29/2004 09:59:56 PM | PermaLink

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

New Paper Contrasting Western Modern Science and Other Ways of Knowing

Via: Know Sweat: Defending an Indigenous Practice as "Science"

About once a year I have the honor of journeying up about an hour or so beyond Las Vegas, Nevada, with its spectacle of simulated Greenwich Villages, Parisian towers, and Italian grottos populated with a global village of moneyed gamblers, all looking for copious amounts of booze, sex, and the collateral chance at striking it rich. My destination is the opposite of all that -- a small makeshift camp in the Nevada desert, a peace camp, just off the highway and directly across from the "entrance" to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site run by the Department of Energy, Bechtel Corporation and Wackenhut security forces. This is Corbin Harney's camp, the spiritual elder and leader of the Western Shoshone tribe, whose sacred land was illegally reclaimed and occupied during the Truman years (never to be returned), as a place to begin the extensive experimentation and development of America's nuclear science and weapons program. At the camp, all manner of activism and community goes on between a wide-variety of activists both indigenous and not; but perhaps the single most important events that take place (according to Harney) are the sweat lodges that are run there daily. As Harney speaks of in The Way It Is (Harney 1995), the lodges constitute a form of indigenous medicine (and so science) that is central to their understanding, practice of life, and relationship to nature. It is a place of community healing, religion, politics, and education altogether -- a true "science for the people," so to speak.

But with the might of 10,000 suns and a 40-odd year legacy of deadly destruction quartered just across the road, one can imagine that DOE physicists hidden in Yucca Mountain's labyrinthine underground technological complex would split their sides with laughter at the thought that "sweats" and other forms of Shoshone indigenous practice are based upon and constitute a form of "real science." The proof is in the pudding, so the saying goes, and nuclear physicists can claim that there is no disputing that their bombs obliterate nature no matter where or when one explodes them, and that those who would like to inquire as to substantiate such results are more than welcome to find that the American military-industrial-corporate complex has indeed harnessed the power of nature to an awe-inspiring and terrifying extent. That is, science relies upon the idea that "the material world ultimately judges the adequacy of our accounts of it" (Matthews in Stanley & Brickhouse 2000: 37). How can Harney demonstrate likewise that the maintaining of the sweat lodges cleanses his (or any other people) of radioactive and other toxins, or creates harmony and balance both between his people, others, and with Earth nature itself? No doubt, the more enlightened physicists might admit, Harney's lodges may work within the context of his own people's belief system -- but they are then folk practices, magical, and not the sort of systemic knowledge and practice that deserves of being considered "real science" (Harding 1998). To the physicist, medicinal sweat lodges are subjective spaces, like churches, where groups can agree to believe in and define reality however they wish, but once those groups attempt to demonstrate their knowledge in the "real world," they are revealed as being either fanatical true believers or unable to meet the methodological rigors and necessities of science. At best they are "ethnosciences" (Cobern & Loving: 54).

The sort of nuclear science done at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, then, is objective and its findings are universal -- in the minds of the physicists who practice it -- and indigenous "science" is more akin to a shared cultural belief involving aspects of faith and ritual. However, there are many reasons to defend sweat lodge practices and other forms of indigenous belief and interaction with nature as "science" -- meaning "real science" -- against the skepticism of high-level nuclear physicists and the increasingly global culture that answers to or shares their opinions. To this end, we will want to demonstrate two lines of argument: 1) the deconstruction of the claims made by Western science that it is the sole model for properly knowing the natural world and 2) the reconstruction of interpretations of indigenous practices and beliefs towards showing how they do in fact meet many of the criteria required of being considered a science anyhow.

Posted by Richard
1/28/2004 12:31:48 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Disease and the Mass Slaughter of Animals

As the television news channels display story after story of Asian nations responding to the fear of a possible widespread outbreak of "Bird Flu" virus, the screen is filled with image after image of bloody piles of dead and near-dead poultry. This is similar to the heavy-handed mass slaughter of civet cats by the Chinese after a tenuous link was made between SARS and the cats, and it was revealed that China had attempted to cover up the disease's initial existence thereby allowing it to spread globally. It is also similar to the reaction of a number of governments (including the US) to the discovery of "livestock" with Hoof and Mouth or Mad Cow Disease and deer herds with Mad Deer.

Now I am not writing to dismiss the seriousness of these diseases, and neither am I seeking to deny the terrible consequences for those animals and other nonanimal humans that are carriers -- in all cases the prognosis is generally grim. Therefore, there can be little question that the desire to treat these outbreaks seriously is socially and ecologically responsible. But I cannot help but feel that there is something wrong, if not reprehensible, about the way in which the media are unshy about displaying brutal iconic representations of the corresponding programatic animal cull but are altogether absent in discussing the policies that demand these mass murders, as well as the methods used here by state authorities to take millions of animal lives.

To date there have been 8 human deaths due to the Bird Flu throughout the entirety of Southeast Asia, but this has resulted in the over-reaction of regional governments like Hong Kong, where 1.3 million chickens are slated for destruction in a mostly inhumane manner. In China, for instance, reports of a few ducks dying on a duck farm caused the authorities to quickly exterminate approximately 14,000 poultry that resided with 3 kilometers of the ducks, which is apparently per China's Animal Epidemic policy. What makes this sort of mass slaughter truly terrible, though, is that it is part of the same policy that those poultry within 3-5 kilometers are to receive the proper vaccinations against the disease.

That is, the mass culls of animals are done mostly because of a combination of reactionary paranoia, political spectacle (one that sells the image of government's attempting to "guarantee safety"), and mostly -- economic efficiency and expediency. In other words, and this has been the line of organizations like the UK Green party for some time, while providing humane conditions for farmed animals, vaccinating where and when necessary, and quarantining under extreme conditions, would provide an ethical and effective alternative to the present kill policies, it would carve the very heart out of cattle, pig, and poultry futures and international markets.

Can 8 human lives be worth the lives of million of poultry in this way -- especially when this disease (Bird Flu) has not been demonstrated, unlike SARS, to be passed from person to person. It can be passed from bird to human -- but by using sanitary conditions and clothing, while not eating the potentially infected meat (i.e.; being vegetarian!) humans would be generally safe.

Now, I understand that this particular disease is right now striking in many regions that are both rural, impoverished, and even illiterate. I do not mean to suggest that the burden is on these regions (or people) to affect a radical change in policy that they can neither afford, nor probably even comprehend. Even the national governments involved would probably cry fiscal bankruptcy when faced with my Green proposal (though it should be noted that many of these same governments are quite able to fund large military-industrial complexes, including nuclear and space programs).

My intervention, then, is now directed against the press. What truly cannot be afforded is for the opportunity to engage in a larger public discussion about animal welfare and the ethics of mass cull policies to go unraised by the mass media. Showing images of the slaughter is not enough -- the numbers are simply too great to refuse to take this issue to the next level.

Posted by Richard
1/27/2004 02:17:34 PM | PermaLink

Monday, January 26, 2004

Whale Study Reveals Spread of Ocean Contaminants

Cetaceans already face a number of threats: nations like Japan, Iceland, and Norway that openly flout the majority international opinion that whale hunting (even for "scientific purposes") is objectionable and should be stopped, underwater explosions conducted by oil companies searching for crude, corporate freight shipping that repeatedly rams whales in the "shipping lanes" that double in another world as feeding shores, and the sort of hi-decibel, deafening sonars used by the military (for defense) and scientific operations (most recently for "whale safety"). Now it is being found that the industrial contaminants released from rivers and coastal factories are continuing their toxic legacy decades after supposed clean-ups by leaching into complex ocean food chains and pooling into the dark ocean depths.

Via: Greenwich Time

Toxins measured in sperm whale blubber indicate man-made chemicals have dispersed throughout the ocean, reaching animals far in its deeps...

Patrick Woods, development director of the Ocean Alliance, a Lincoln, Mass.-based research group, said the results indicate the spread of industrial pollution poses a problem in even the remotest parts of the ocean...

So far, biopsies of about 30 of 1,000 blubber samples gathered throughout the world showed that all contain levels of man-made toxins such as the pesticide DDT, polychlorinate biphenyls (PCBs), which are used in manufacturing, and other contaminants, Woods said.

The most common chemical identified in sperm whale blubber collected on the trip is DDT, a pesticide banned in the North America in 1972 because of its harmful effect on humans and animals but still manufactured for use in other countries...

"It was a surprise to see the prevalence of DDT as opposed to other chemicals," he said.

Posted by Richard
1/26/2004 05:09:32 PM | PermaLink

More Thanks: How to Save the World and wood s lot

I promise not to turn this forum into a self-praise vehicle, but as many readers know, I shut down, took a breather, and had my finger to the air for the last couple months. In part, this was because I wasn't sure of what worth this blog was to the various subcultures which this sort of information really serves. As I have written, I was encouraged after numerous emails challenged me to begin again. Now I want to briefly mention two blogs that I have learned a great deal from and enjoy.

First is the long-standing wood s lot -- a cultural, literary, philosophical, ecological place that is so excellent in providing thoughtful new pieces of writing on the web, undiscovered gems, and rediscovered masterworks that it is beyond belief. I would rather read wood s lot than almost all of the pretentious pay journals out there devoted to the intelligentsia. This blog is timely and poised, while remaining humble and of the best on the net! Recently he has fascinating pointers to fungi art and a wonderful story about a man in the Czech Republic who is dictated musical pieces from the fungi that he encounters on his walks. Very interesting!

Second there is Dave Pollard's How to Save the World blog -- I remember when this blog started up a while back and Dave wrote me to let me know that he was publishing his signature essay of the same name. As a blog built around this piece, it was already an item of note in the environmental blogging world. But he has built and built and built, providing utopian ideas and practical methods for building a post-capitalist world in a sustainable manner at the speed of a Bucky Fuller. Now he's up to 16 essays, with links to lots of other great pieces -- an animal rights section that should be noted, and just lots of thoughtful analysis. I really thank him for posting here the other day about his thoughts on the Sierra Club (which is deserving of an answer if I can find the time!) and for Via: posting about my return and letting the Canadian community know I'm back in business!

Posted by Richard
1/26/2004 07:35:58 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Some Press

Via: San Antonio Current

This blog and I get some friendly press in the San Antonio weekly.

Posted by Richard
1/25/2004 12:08:05 AM | PermaLink