Let it ring

Cell phones are the bane of civilization.

Bane: “that which causes ruin or woe,” from the Old English bana “killer, slayer, murderer, a worker of death.”

My purpose in posting this is not to cast aspersions on cell phone users. I’m just expressing my personal preference.

I don’t own a cell phone. Never have, never will.  I’m not online all the time, I’m not connected on demand, I’m only within reach of an electronic device in the morning, when I’m working on my own projects at home, and in the early evening, Pacific Time, such as right now.

I remember, years ago, when car phones first appeared. My father, a doctor, told me, “There’s no phone call that so important that it can’t wait ten minutes until I can get to a telephone phone.” (That was in the Pager Period.) (Confession: My father has a cell phone now, which demonstrates the domination of environment over genetics.)

I agree, and I would extend that attitude to an hour, or hours, perhaps, on occasion, even days. I like to keep my telephone firmly affixed to the wall, where I can keep an eye on it, ignore it whenever it suits me, and pick up it’s heavy, black handpiece and apply it to my face on the odd and infrequent occasion when I choose to reach out and interrupt someone.

Telephonic communication is not a right nor a necessity, it is a privilege that should be cultivated and deployed with discrimination, consideration and forethought.



Whose Thanksgiving?


“Happy Thanksgiving!” we intone to one another, as we sit around the groaning dining room table and recite what we are thankful for. This uniquely US holiday is resplendent with images of turkeys, corn husks, orange pumpkins, Indian headdresses and the 1621 gathering of grateful Pilgrims and their feathered guests gathered around the table at Plymouth Rock.

This sanctimonious story is largely a myth, a point we are reminded of every year, but which, nevertheless, remains unchanged in popular culture. Children still act out the scene at schools, the Thanksgiving message is repeated from every church pulpit, politicians fervently reaffirm the theme and virtually every home celebrates the occasion with family and friends, traveling long distances at great environmental expense to carry on the sacred tradition.

When examined closely, Thanksgiving is a retelling of a story centuries older than the Pilgrims almost unsuccessful invasion of North America. It’s the story of a basic clash of cultures that started somewhere in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia some 10,000 years ago, when Sumerian peoples began cultivating cereal crops and domesticating animals. Agriculture creates a change in human attitudes toward the land and the non-human animals that inhabit it. Since agriculture requires the investment of a great deal of energy and resources, and ties the human population to its fields, those fields must be protected from wild animals and plants, and other humans, that would compete with agriculturalists for the produce.

This led to the belief that the land “belongs” to the people as property, and, as owners of that property, humans have every right to do with it as they desire. Increased productivity led to increased population, which required more land to be cleared and planted and more animals domesticated, which resulted in more food available and more population increase.

The belief that the land is property owned by humans led to the religious belief that the land and the plants and animals, in fact the Earth and the Universe, were created by the Gods for human use, that the humans are the apex of evolution, and therefor humans have dominion over all of Creation exclusively for human occupation and use and in which to enjoy fruitfulness and multiplicity.

Fast forward to 1620, and we see a people on the land of Turtle Island who are unaware of this special relationship with the gods, who see themselves as an intricately connected part of the natural world and who control their own populations so as to remain within natural cycles of resource availability. They’ve occupied this continent for 10,000 years or so, without laying waste to the roundabout thereof, without destroying the natural habitat that supports them.

The Pilgrims decanted from the Mayflower on December 16, 1620, a frigid day in the middle of the Little Ice Age, not at Plymouth Rock, which was rolled into place by local entrepreneurs in the 19th Century, but at Plymouth Harbor. Their new home was chosen on the unoccupied site of a Native village, as the land surrounding it had already been cleared and planted in corn. The Pilgrims didn’t know at the time that the way for their arrival had been prepared for them by previous tiny European immigrants, invisible animalcules carried in the bodies of European fisherman who supplemented their catch by raiding Indian villages for slaves to be sold in European slave markets. The resulting plagues killed 90 to 95% of the Native population of eastern Turtle Island, leaving their settlement and agricultural sites open for occupation by the European interlopers.

The new occupants saw these plagues as a sign from their god that they were the chosen people and this land was provided by their god to do with as they pleased, regardless of the remaining Native inhabitants trying desperately to survive in the face of a major blow to their population and culture.

So our prayers of thanksgiving these days are for the deaths of millions of Native inhabitants of this continent, the destruction of hundreds of millions of acres of natural habitat, along with the plants and animals that occupied them, all to make way for our ancestors to shove aside the locals and allow our brand of civilization to move in and take over. We thank our god for creating us as masters of the Earth and the Universe and for providing all this for us to plunder.

A note of caution – as we celebrate this cultural myth, let’s not forget that Nature bats last, that all species on this planet are bound by the law of limited competition; that is, any species that practices unlimited growth, that guards its resources from use by others and that kills off all competition for resources, will inevitably decline and go extinct as it disrupts natural ecological relationships and outstrips available resources.

Let’s celebrate this day with thanksgiving for the wondrous diversity of all of life on this planet that makes it possible for us to live as one species among the many.


Nature’s Way

I’ve not been writing much of late, at least not in this forum. Tickling these plastic keys is less esthetically pleasing than scribbling in a notebook with a proper pen and ink. What to do with it then after it is written? It rarely survives the transition twixt page and screen.

But things must be said, after all. The state of the world hovers between chaos and collapse. It’s hard to tell which way we’re headed.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen

If we’re lucky, we’ll have another recession soon, a good one, a thorough one, an economic collapse “with four part harmony and feeling.” Clear out the dross, bring down the high mucky-muck, unto the seventh generation. Everything is stretched thin and another economic blow might just break it permanently, with little resources left for recovery.

Yes, all will suffer, especially the high and mighty who have depended on this insane system of economic and environmental oppression at the the expense of trillions of living beings with no say in the outcome. Its about time. A season for everything. The pendulum swings.

We who still defend the wild and the wildlings stand on the shoulders of those who have lead the way before us. Those shoulders are dwindling, their voices stilled. And there are fewer shoulders growing up to take their places. Our voices are drowned out by the bombastic shouting of the growth maniacs and global economists, their political and military minions, and the general populace enthralled with consumerism.

Still, this too shall pass. That which cannot go on forever, doesn’t. A thousand years from now those still alive will be those who have accommodated to reality, learned to live in harmony with natural cycles, those who have settled back into living as one species among many, with no pretense of dominion over all.

It’s Nature’s Way, the only way there is.

The October Revolution

Vladimir LeninLeon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev celebrating the second anniversary of the October Revolution, 1919

October 25, 1917, the October Revolution.

The centenary of the October Revolution (the Bolshevik Revolution) will pass unnoticed by the majority of people in the United States. After decades of Cold War anti-Communist propaganda and the break-up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, thoughts and awareness of the history of Communism and Socialism have been washed from the brains of all but historians and the few remaining dyed in the wool socialists.

The failure of the Communist revolution had many fathers, chief among which, according to Leon Trosky, was Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, who seized control of the Russian Social Democratic party and drove the Soviet Union into a state of repression in order to maximize modernization and industrial production. Unable to withstand external economic pressures and the West’s policy of containment, coupled with a nascent sovereignty movement from within, the Soviet Union collapsed economically and politically in 1991.

Despite the castigation of Communism and Socialism brought about by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the imposition of extreme crony capitalism in its place, the political and cultural ideals and theories espoused by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Kemenev remain for study and reflection.

Here in the United States in the 21st Century, Communism is presumed to be dead, even though it lives on in the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. North Korea continues a form of Maxist-Leninism called Juche. Communist parties continue in several countries, notably excluding the United States which persists with an exclusive officially sanctioned two-party system.

Karl Marx and later others clearly understand patterns of development of human societies and projected those patterns into the future. Marx saw capitalism as a necessary, inescapable step from feudalism to communism, with stateless communism as the ultimate goal of human social development. (Marx was not a Marxist, nor even a socialist. These labels came later, after others took up the banner he raised with Friedrich Engels.)

Looking at the political and culture situation in the United States, I begin to realize why understanding the works of Karl Marx is essential at a time when global capitalism is collapsing. Marx saw that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, and we see those seeds coming to flower today, in our federal and state governments and even in local county and minimal governments.

Our federal government is no longer a representative republic, but has evolved into a corporate oligarchy dominated by crony capitalism and an entrenched elitist political class. Government is no longer able to maintain public infrastructure, nor to respond to natural and human caused disasters.

“Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. Industries would mechanize their workplaces. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist system—that would be disguised by the imposition of massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant. Politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism.” Chris Hedges – Karl Marx was right 

Sound familiar?

I certainly see it in the small town where I live on the Central Coast of California. Our community is overrun by what is euphemistically called “The Homeless,” who are, in reality, those who have fallen into the cracks of the decline of social services. With no mental health facilities, no economic or cultural support structure, increased drug addiction as a result of capitalist medical prescription of opioid drugs, in a capitalist economy based on tourism with no manufacturing base, those in need find themselves living on the streets. (This is not to discount the contribution of the “lifestyle homeless,” those who choose to live rough for idealogical reasons or just plain laziness.)

Our county and state governments no longer have sufficient budgets to maintain and repair existing infrastructure. Based on constrained property and declining sales taxes, the local economy is unable to provide sufficient funding for simple structural maintenance of existing roads and public buildings, and for continuance of even the most elementary social services. Yet they continue to build more, because capital construction is funded by grants, which, by the way, provide overhead for a bloated departmental bureaucracy.

Politically, the bizarre circus atmosphere in our nation’s capital makes federal government increasingly remote and unapproachable. Fewer and fewer citizens participate in the obviously corrupt and manipulated national electoral process, dominated by an official two party system that excludes all other political affiliations. Increasingly, citizens, if they vote at all, prefer to focus on local politics where they can have real influence.

Increasing public dissent and resistance across the country gives me hope that all least someone is paying attention. Even so, there is no hope of a popular insurrection at any time in my increasing short life span. The system of repression, distraction and control of public opinion developed in past decades is successful in diverting and diffusing organized political opposition, through control of media, infiltration and isolation of organizers and outright militarized police oppression of Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of assembly and speech.

This is not a call to rise up and storm the barricades, it’s just observations of what is arising of itself in the United States and the rest of the capitalist world.

We do not call for revolution.

Revolution calls for us.

Soviet suppression of science returns – in the US

In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics science was strictly controlled to be in concordance with historical materialism and Communist ideology. Much research was banned, and scientists who were allowed to continue their research were monitored by the state and restricted to official state approved procedures and outcomes. Soviet science lagged for decades, often funneled off into unproductive and spurious pursuits, such as Lysenkoist biology, and Pavlovian denial of cybernetics.

The suppression of science lifted with Stalin’s death, at least in the Soviet Union and modern Russia. But today we see the resurgence of state controlled science with the ascendency of the Trump administration and it’s far right agenda.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly $2 million in competitive research awards, mostly on subjects related to climate science, have been revoked since February.

Source: EPA now requires political aide’s sign-off for agency awards, grant applications

Hurricane Harvey – Happenstance or Hyperbole?

Well, of course, who’d a thunk it? The climate alarmists are climbing on the inundated Houston bandwagon to claim that “Climate Change Worsened the Impact of Hurricane Harvey“, in 24 font headlines. No big surprise there. Everyone from Michael Mann to the neighborhood paperboy is drooling over this “proof” of the devastating effects of climate change, the New Normal™. Of course, this is absolutely, completely, unequivocally wrong. There is not the slightest bit of evidence to support this claim.

Houston itself was founded in 1836, in a swamp called Buffalo Bayou, and in the past 181 years has grown to encompass 670 square miles, 639 square miles of which is land (albeit squishy) and 28 square miles (and counting) is water. The human population of this swamp now stands at over 2,399,000 people (over 6 million in the greater Houston metropolitan area), once they all return when the water subsides.

This article by Angie Schmitt on Streetsblog USA points out the inconvenient truth that the Houston area has developed and paved over “166,000 acres of mostly former coastal prairie since 2001,” reducing the land’s ability to absorb rainfall, and exacerbating runoff into the city’s sewer systems downslope from the aforementioned development. The current flooding in Houston, hyperventilated in the press, is the result of a medium sized hurricane stalling out over the heavily developed and populated Texas coast, and Texas’s largest city. The rainfall still falling on Houston, as on any impervious surface, has no where to go but up, as the inadequate runoff infrastructure is incapable of handling the increase.

Michael Mann’s screed cites “sea level rise, sea temperatures, stalling due to weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea” as climate change factors that contributed to the flooding.

Mann’s conclusions rely on vaguely referenced climate modelling results rather than observations of the real world beyond the walls of the supercomputer center. He conveniently ignores the evidence that the flooding in Houston is caused by the rain, not by a storm surge, so sea level rise is not a factor.

Mann states “Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than the ‘average’ temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5 percent more moisture in the atmosphere. That large amount of moisture meant the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding.”

This argument ignores the fact that energy driving a hurricane does not come from warmer ocean temperatures. Hurricanes are fed by the energy of increased evaporation due to low relative humidity over the ocean within an atmospheric low pressure system. The facile equation: warm ocean yields big hurricane has no basis in reality.

Furthermore, hurricanes have not increased in severity or frequency over the past “few decades,” even over the past century. In fact, the worst hurricane in Texas history hit  Galveston, Texas in 1900, almost twelve decades ago, with winds of 150 miles per hour, leaving 6,000 to 12,000 dead among a much smaller population than exists today (Houston’s population was 44,600), the deadliest natural disaster in US history.

Mann trots out the usual disclaimer: “… we cannot say climate change ’caused’ hurricane Harvey… we can say that it exacerbate (sic) several characteristics of the storm in a way that greatly increased the risk of damage and loss of life,” but then gives it all away by claiming, without the slightest bit of evidence, that “Climate change worsened the impact of Hurricane Harvey.”

Climate change alarmism is mired in 17th Century Cartesian thinking, exacerbated by reliance on numerical climate models which cannot incorporate the physical realities of a chaotic, nonlinear, closely coupled ocean/atmosphere system. This results in prognostications of sophomoric linear relationships which only exist in computers and the vapid political aspirations of self-proclaimed climate experts.

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was the result of a chaotic natural phenomenon occurring by happenstance at a location where humans have congregated and built homes and cities highly vulnerable to high winds and heavy rains. Climate change hyperbole had nothing to do with the outcome.