Feed on

I waded into a discussion on abortion on Facebook and got slammed. I was called a ‘republican troll’ a misogynist, a Neanderthal, and worse. What was my sin? Was I promoting abortion’s abolition? Was I spouting pseudo-scientific apocrypha that women who are raped secrete a special chemical that prevents pregnancy? No, I was speaking honestly about my unease with late-term abortions.

Between thrown insults, one young woman said: my decision whether and when to have an abortion is between me and my doctor, period. It is not society’s business. I will fight to the death to keep that right unabridged. I asked: what if you decided to have an abortion on the date you were due? Would that be OK? I was accused of hyperbole, and of course, I was speaking hyperbolically, to make the point: there is not some magical ‘state change’ that takes place between a baby about to be delivered and one already born, so… when does that change take place, and why are abortion rights advocates so reluctant to define that line?

I was essentially asking people in the discussion to ask themselves: when does late become too late, for you, and why? What internal measures do you use to determine that for yourself? If we can all agree that infanticide is wrong, and that killing an unborn baby at term is wrong, at what point backwards in gestation does it cease being wrong to those of use who support abortion rights? And why?

I am not bothering with those who are completely opposed to abortion, often with no exceptions, even if the life of the woman is in jeopardy – as if, somehow, an unborn child is worth more than a grown woman, a moral calculus I find impenetrably immoral and viscerally repugnant. There is a divide there that I will not attempt to bridge.

I asked questions in this discussion like, could we possibly judge when a fetus’s brain wave patterns start to resemble a newborns? When they start to dream, to experience REM sleep etc?

Note that I did not ask when the fetus’s brain starts firing off electrical impulses, which is supposedly at about 2 months – this “brain wave” issue is a canard that abortion foes tout – as if a few neurons firing is equivalent to thinking. Of course the animals that many of these abortion foes eat have far, far more complex and cohesive brain activity than a 2-month-old fetus. These animals think, they dream, they feel fear and pleasure, and yet, these people slaughter and eat them without giving any thought to morality.

I was speaking to fellow pro-choicers, and I was trying to have a civil, logical discussion regarding how we decide when late is too late for an abortion. Everything I said to this group of liberal women was met with a level of vitriol from a group of liberal women that astounded me. It was as nasty and personal as anything I’ve seen from the Tea Partiers. It was, most sadly, utterly devoid of reasonable discourse.

In my mind, the biggest mistake of the abortion rights movement is that it has insisted on a ‘slippery slope’ argument against the abridgement of any abortion rights. This turns a blind eye to any moral evaluation, and, frankly, weakens the argument. I understand it, of course: any abridgement can lead to abolition, a strategy that anti-abortion forces are utilizing with great success across the country right now. However, drawing a scientifically valid line would buttress the abortion rights position for thinking people, and remove a lot of the squeamishness that many feel with the no holds barred approach that most abortion rights advocates seem to support as a default, often unspoken given.

Supporters of late-term abortions complain that the increasingly-restricted access to all women’s health services, the result largely of right-wing Republican efforts, actually force more women into late-term abortions. I say, we as a society have to help them get their abortions earlier then, not wait until we too feel that what is happening is, at best, in a moral gray area. Just supporting late term abortions because abortions are hard to get in some places is not logically acceptable.

The very angry young feminist notwithstanding, I also think that we as a society do have some say in the matter, though this position seems to enrage most of the feminists I know. I actually supported the pro-choice ‘no slippery slope’, no exceptions, party line myself until quite recently. But it has started to haunt me. Though it may be unfortunate, a woman carrying a late-term fetus may be seen as carrying a thinking, feeling human not unlike a newborn baby – that inconvenient truth forces us, as a society, to enforce some kind of moral code, as a society does against murder, rape, and many other taboos.

I would much prefer some kind of biologically logical model for abortion rights. This model would not be based on viability: because I have no doubt that eventually we will have technology that allows a 1 month old fetus to survive, ex-utero. Viability is not the issue, humanity is. If this fetus is actively thinking, feeling and dreaming in a way that is biologically hard to distinguish from an at-term baby, does it deserve more moral scrutiny than, say, a cat being put to sleep, or a cow being led to slaughter?

My approach may be flawed, I’m not saying it’s the right solution. Rather, I’m saying that the pro-choice movement would do itself a great service by owning up to the moral unease that exists somewhere within almost all pro-choice supporters, and then by coming up with a rigorous, intellectually-cohesive set of rules for when late is too late for an abortion – excluding, always, issues of the health of the woman, including incest, and rape.

This is not about controlling women’s bodies – what I was accused of in true knee-jerk fashion. It’s about we, as humans, evolving standards of what is humane, and what is right and wrong; and it is to be human.


Band Aids for Machine Gun Wounds

There has been widespread outrage in response to a video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of their dead Taliban adversaries. I’m not sure how much of the indignation is genuine and how much is pro-forma, but it’s all hypocrisy.

Don’t misunderstand: I do not find the desecration of the dead to be a trivial affair. I just feel the irony of the canard that war can be inherently civilized to be nauseating.

I could point out that the Taliban, who were among those outraged, have engaged in beheadings, torture, and other appalling acts – but that would mean that I’m justifying this behavior by comparing it to our enemy’s – a moral dead end if there ever was one. I am not justifying this behavior; I am attempting to put it into perspective. The sad, shameful truth is, American military and intelligence personnel have not only practiced torture, but our government has actually taught it to generations of Latin American military men at the infamous ‘School of the Americas’. So, is urinating on a dead body really more reprehensible than institutionalized torture?

Another point of perspective: Our men and women in uniform are shot at by snipers and blown up by IEDS. Their dead bodies have been dragged through streets and hung from bridges. They are inculcated into a warrior culture that glorifies violence and dehumanizes the enemy. It is absurd to think that some abstract concept of ‘honor’ will always rule the day in this stewpot of violence and desensitization. These abuses have happened throughout our history. I’ve seen photographs from 1900 of US Marines gleefully waving the severed heads of Filipinos like Al Queda terrorists.

Look up a timeline of the United States Military Operations on Wikipedia – this country has been in wars and skirmishes almost non-stop since its inception. Our soldiers have engaged in bloody, murderous campaigns, mostly to subdue freedom fighters, around the globe, from the Philippines to Guatemala to China to Russia. We epitomize a society of violence, not, as pro-lifers like to say, ‘a culture of life’. We are taught that we should recoil in horror at war’s excesses, like the My Lai Massacre and Abu Gharaib torture, but to accept war itself as honorable and gallant.

I’m sorry, but it’s all excessive, all morally reprehensible. I recoil at the sight of the severed limbs of dead children scattered in the streets after one of our drone strikes. The mayhem unleashed by these drones, flown from armchairs via joysticks, is once-removed, displayed on a small screen, a silent movie as seen from the air – not down on the ground with the smell of blood, feces, and urine and the screams of the dying and the maimed. The combatant is spared the visceral, first-hand knowledge of what they have done. Their killing becomes partially abstracted, sanitized, and therefore easier to perpetrate. What could be more obscene?

There is a wonderfully telling scene in the movie Apocalypse Now when a solder panics and he and his compatriots machinegun an entire family in a sampan. One woman survives, though she is grievously wounded. The main protagonist, who had not fired a shot, remorselessly shoots her, much to the shock of the rest of the solders – who had just massacred her entire family. He laments about the hypocrisy of war, the barbaric cruelty combined with moralistic hand-wringing, saying “We’d cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a Band-Aid. It was a lie.”

It is a lie. It’s a lie to think that war can be moral or honorable. Making it cleaner or more antiseptic for some of its participants through technology only makes it easier, not harder for them to partake in the most bestial carnage. And those involved on the ground are desensitized by the things they see and do in a different, more time-honored way. We wonder when some vet kills his family or a park ranger – what made them snap? It’s obvious: a system that turns a human being into a killing machine, that glorifies violence, is inhumane and inherently uncivilized. And participants in that system almost inevitably become less humane, less civilized themselves.

You worry about urine on a dead body? What about the child who still lives, though he is burned beyond recognition and limbless? What about the father who has lost his entire family? The wedding party shredded by aircraft fire? The girl gang-raped by our soldiers? You think that war in the 21st century is materially different from what it was in the 12th?

The obscenity is not only that this is not so, but that we pretend it is, and we shield ourselves, through media self-censorship and euphemism, from the truth. We do not see the photos of American bloodshed of civilians that the rest of the world sees. And NPR still calls American waterboarding an ‘Enhanced Interrogation Technique’ even though we actually executed Japanese soldiers as war criminals for the very same practice. There is no hesitation when speaking of Iranian or Taliban torture, but we insist on pretending that we never stoop to such inhumanity.

The fact is, the retail torture practiced all over the world, though truly horrific, is not any more morally reprehensible than the wholesale death America metes out on a daily basis – it is merely more personalized. Instead of going on a witch hunt after a few grunts who vented their fury at their enemies, we should aim our indignation at our entire war-economy society.

Even now, we hear of defense cuts promoted by Obama. But this is a lie too: Obama is not talking about cutting military expenditures, oh no! Our vastly bloated, economically untenable military budget still grows under Obama. He is merely talking about cutting some of its growth – slowing its monstrous expansion. Yet it is already larger than all other militaries on earth combined.

Recoil in shock and horror from that, for it truly obscene..


This is what a police state looks like.

I am mad as hell. The images of police brutalizing peaceful demonstrators with batons, concussion grenades, teargas, and pepper spray has engendered an all-consuming rage within me. I detest bullies. I detest brutality. I detest the complacency that most Americans seem to feel when someone with whom they disagree with politically is deprived of their constitutional rights. For many, it goes beyond complacency – many actually approve of the brutalization and censorship of those of a different political persuasion. They seem to forget, or perhaps never knew, what America is supposed to stand for.

But more than anything, I detest hypocrisy. I see tent citys on street corners for the consumer High Mass that is Black Friday tacitly supported by local authorities while the tents, books, and medical supplies of those who believe that the guilty who crashed the world economy should pay for their crimes, are torn up and thrown into dumpsters. I hear no soaring outrage from our president’s bully pulpit when an Iraq veteran is grievously wounded by highly-militarized police run amok. Or when a grandmother in her 80’s is basically tortured with pepper spray. Or when vindictive, abusive police wantonly assault peaceful women who are penned like cattle while trying to express their rights. Mr. Obama was quick to arrange a photo-op beer drinking session for a professor and a cop who had an altercation, but has done nothing about rogue cop Anthony Bologna, who indiscriminately pepper-sprayed peaceful protestors, nor about the Egyptian police style assault of protesters in Oakland, nor the similar assault in New York, which took place under cover of darkness with a total air and ground blockade of the media, a shockingly grievous violation of the Constitution.

While the press, our legislators, and our president laud those who occupy places like Tahrir Square, they mostly turn a blind eye, or level an accusatory one, at those who use similar tactics to promote justice and challenge a corrupt system here at home. The president is MIA and the Republicans call the unarmed Occupy Wall Street crowd thugs and rapists while praising the armed to the teeth Tea Partiers, who have been known to spit on congressmen and carry not-so-subtle signs calling for bloodletting and revolution.

Well, I support the Tea party’s right to demonstrate. I support the right of those odious ‘God hates Fags’ miscreants to demonstrate. I support your right to express yourself, and your right to free assembly, even if I hate your message.

You may point out that the occupiers are doing one thing different from all of these other domestic groups: they are occupying public and semi-public spaces. It’s true. So are homeless people, and those Black Friday zealots. And I think it’s also true that this wouldn’t be happening all over the US had the Arab Spring not happened, and had the media not praised occupiers and demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Syria and elsewhere. Occupy is a global flowering of the same consciousness, the same rebellion against a system of neo-serfdom that is built to insure the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many.

In some countries, the iron hand is more overt – you have no right to speak, you are jailed and beaten for the most minor dissent, far from the freedom of speech we enjoy here in America. But, the difference is increasingly one of style, not substance, for here in America, we have an even wider income disparity than in China. Our elites (and I’m not talking Susan Sarandon here, but folks like the Koch brothers) already own us – they have sold us a hollow American Dream that has pacified and splintered us, and so do not have to resort to the iron hand that is ubiquitous in places like Egypt, Syria and China.

But when a movement that challenges the relationship of serfs to lords in any meaningful way arises here, believe me, it will be crushed just as heavily, if need be, as anything you’ve seen in Tienamin or Tahrir Squares. If we, the people, ever truly challenge the status quo, we will be assaulted, beaten, tortured, killed. It’s already happening! You see the groundwork laid for it now: the virtual silence of our ostensibly liberal president and his Justice Department, the gradual numbing to brutality amongst the general populace as police violence is slowly ratcheted up in concert with a campaign of disparagement and dehumanization of the occupiers, who’ve even been called traitors, why I cannot fathom, except that those in power will tell any lie, make any threat, and break any person who threatens them. And they will also divide and conquer, artfully setting the tea partiers and the occupiers, who have much more in common than either camp appears to realize, against one another.

The future is here, America, and freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…


9-11 Ten Years On

The tenth anniversary of 9-11 passed, and again I mourned. I mourned the thousands killed in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington that day, but I mourned for much, much more.

I mourned the thousands of American and allied troops who’ve paid with their lives, fighting not to make America more safe, certainly not more free, but to secure Western hegemony.

I mourned the hundreds of thousands innocent men, women and children who’ve been left homeless and destitute, been tortured, terrified, traumatized, bombed, shot and killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq since 9-11.

Rational people recoil in horror when shopkeepers on the West Bank hand out sweets after terrorist bombings. And the joy in the camps of Al Queda after every successful bloodletting is equally abhorrent. Yet there were all night kegger parties when Osama Bin Laden was killed. A loud, vile, xenophobic, and implicitly racist joy was voiced by many Americans, and the final irony came to pass: We were acting just like our enemies; an apparently unarmed man was shot dead in his home without benefit of trial or council, and Americans reacted with unmitigated joy, pumping fists and bellowing ‘USA, #1!’ in that fascistic chant that always gives me the creeps.

As a country, we are less tolerant than ever before in my lifetime. Hate crimes against Muslims now comprise 10% of the total every year, yet Muslims account for only a little over 1% of the population.

We are more paranoid, more frightened, more willing to give up the freedom and tolerance that made this country special than we are willing to face down our fears, and our culpability and find a way out of endless war.

All of the things I hated about America, its provincial xenophobia, it’s propensity to shoot first and ask questions later, its role as world policeman (AKA world bully) have been exacerbated by 9-11. Bin Laden and company have remade us in their image. We have lost something irretrievable, something graceful, if we ever had it – a level of tolerance, a love of liberty, a reverence for privacy and individual rights and expression, and courage. Driven towards each other by terror, an American mob-rule group think has arisen. It considers Christians, especially perhaps white Christians, the ‘true’ Americans, and all others as second-rate citizens. It promotes the idea that the projection of unbridled American military might is a natural right of this country, no matter what immoral mayhem it causes to innocents.

Most simplistically and dangerously, this mindset presupposes that we are the victims. There is simply no room for the idea that maybe 9-11 was even partially fomented by our country’s meddling foreign policy, that it was blowback, and that, although it was unjustified, it was inspired directly by the bombings and destruction wrought by us and by our proxies, using our weapons. ‘They hate us for our values’ George Bush and many others proclaimed. No. They hate us because we give the Israelis and various dictators white phosphorus and cluster bombs, F-16 fighters and A-10 warplanes, Abrams tanks and cruise missiles. They hate us because we maintain military bases in their most holy places. They hate us because we have supported one corrupt brutal regime after another in the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Africa.

The people who died in the air and on the ground on 9-11 were victims, but we as a country are not. We were attacked due to decades of provocation on our part. Bin Laden himself said he was inspired to make the towers fall by watching Israelis bomb apartment buildings with jets and bombs made in America and essentially given to Israel carte blanche. We were attacked because our policies enslave people, because our proxies bomb and torture people, because we are the largest weapons dealer on earth, because we refuse to sign an international land mine treaty, because we pollute more, take more, demand more, than any other country on earth; Because we are an Empire. And like every other empire before us, we are starting to rot within while we are whittled away from without. Bin Laden’s masterstroke was to vastly accelerate this process; He read the braggadocio insecurity of George Bush perfectly and our Mad Cowboy president followed his script to the letter, transmuting the sympathy of the world into disgust and distrust in record time, and that too, was foreseen and even written about by Bin Laden. All he had to do was wave the red flag, and we proceeded headlong to our own goring.

America self-immolated, her freedoms and values burnt for a sense of false security and for vengeance. I mourn this loss most of all.


Noble Savage

Recently I attended a very touching world-prayer service at a church in Woodstock. Representatives of all of the major faiths spoke and prayed. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Native Americans prayed together for peace, and for the healing of the earth, especially the Gulf of Mexico.

I was very touched by the earnest and forthright prayers from all of those present, but one presentation, though equally well intentioned, stuck in my craw nonetheless.

A women who is actually from England but part of a local Native American community got up to speak. The first thing she said was that indigenous peoples the world over have always had reverence for the environment and for human dignity.

This is a patently absurd statement. Entire indigenous cultures have imploded due to overuse and misuse of resources. And, of course, there is the egregious example of the Northwest American tribes Potlatch ceremonies. These ceremonies sometimes devolved from simple giving away of goods and food (and, I might add, slaves) to the actual destruction of food – a sort of keep up with the joneses frenzy wherein two tribes tried to outdo each other in the wanton destruction of foodstuffs to prove that they were the most prosperous and powerful.

Oprah Winfrey seems very proud of her Zulu roots, though the Zulus were famous for raping and pillaging their enemies, and zealously practicing impalement and other forms of torture. Other tribes viewed them as human locusts.

The obvious truth, if one looks past a sort of paternalistic ‘Noble Savage’ reductionism that reveres anyone non-white as implicitly wiser, kinder and gentler, is that white people have no lock on evil deeds in this world, and people of color have no lock on grace, decency or environmental sensitivity. To me, such idealizations of any ethnic group are at their most benign the product of simplistic thinking, and at their most malignant, the bases for prejudice, war, and terror.

There seems to be a self-hating aspect to many white people. They see how their race’s dominance on the planet, economically and technologically, has decimated the world’s species, and caused untold human suffering and death. Yet to implicitly blame this on the color of the perpetrators skin by putting all non-whites on a sort of pedestal not only flies in the face of the historic record, but indulges in the same style of racist thinking that these same people would find reprehensible in an unreconstructed Klansman or Nazi.

Blacks seeking reparations only seem intent on getting them from the white countries involved in slaving, never from the African countries that of course made the entire slave trade possible through their collusion with whites.

A white researcher in the southwest is virtually pilloried for proving that the ancestors of the Navajo practiced cannibalism against the Anasazi. Yet all he did was find the evidence, not fabricate it; And one has only to visit places like Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly to see the evidence of a people under siege, living not on the open plain, but clinging instead to high cliff faces, walled into houses with tiny windows.

And all was not peace and love among the bloodthirsty Incans and Mayans either.

The truth is that all humanity shares linked proclivities for evil as well as for good. None are immune from the violence and hierarchical nature we’ve inherited from our primate forbears, just as we all share a divine spark capable of the most exquisite love, creativity, and caring for all living creatures.

The reductionist Politically Correct thinking that denies this universal human duality has been the cause of much suffering, whether used in the service of supporting slavery in the nascent United States, or in drumming out white farmers in Zimbabwe, which turned that country into a famine-wracked ruin.

As a Taoist I find it odd that people seem to focus on only one side of things. Some see humankind – or some subset thereof - as inherently evil, some as inherently good. I see a duality well reflected in nature itself. Look to the lioness, tenderly playing with her cubs , and ruthlessly ripping out the throat of the zebra, to see the duality of all creation manifest all around us.


Apsartame, better known as Nutrasweet, or AminoSweet, and its new cousin, Neotame, a much larger, much sweeter, and potentially even more toxic update of the Aspartame molecule, are all over the place. Virtually everything you put in your mouth labeled ‘sugarless’ or ‘diet’ contains these pernicious, toxic substances.

Nutrasweet’s original manufacturer was Searle corp. They tried to get Nutrasweet declared safe for consumption, but the body of evidence against it was too strong. In the lab, it caused the following forms of cancer tumors in cellular cultures: brain, pancreatic, breast and uterine. In more recent tests, leukemia, lymphoma and kidney cancers were discovered.

If one examines the structure of the Aspartame molecule itself, it’s easy to see why it could be so deadly. The molecule mates what is essentially a precursor to wood alcohol, the type of alcohol that causes blindness and seizures, to two amino acids, so that your body readily recognizes it as a nutrient. During digestion, this deadly methanol and also formaldehyde form from these precursor chemicals.

I happen to know a researcher who worked in Cornell’s neurochemistry program when Searle came calling with their new product. They asked the chairman of the department what percentage of people would be adversely affected by ingesting their new sweetener. When he replied that he thought that 15% could suffer ‘irreversible neurological damage’, the Searle people actually smiled. 15% was a reasonable number to these people, given that the Cyclamate artificial sweeteners had just been pulled from the market, and there was pressure to do the same with saccharine. There was just too much money to be made to let the health of a few million people get in the way.

Since those early studies were not encouraging, (and in fact the FDA was set to rule against them), Searle started paying for their own studies, and to increase their chances of getting to market even more, they hired consummate Washington insider Donald Rumsfeld as CEO. The day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, the FDA (with the hasty addition of a 6th voting member) abruptly reversed course, and legalized Nutrasweet.

Nutrasweet, Neotame and the venerable Monosodium Glutamate are all classified as Excitotoxins, toxic compounds mated to amino acids in such a way that the body sees them as nutrients and absorbs them readily. It’s like some kind of diabolical Trojan Horse, ushering in the most potent poisons masquerading as nutrients.

Many people know of the MSG headache, or the fuzziness that can accompany a Nutrasweet binge, but are unaware what these warning signs really attest too. They portend potential cellular changes, neurological destruction, endocrine imbalances, and immune system chaos.

There is striking evidence that Nutrasweet can also cause or help cause Macular Degeneration, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease (it’s been shown to produce pinholes in the brains of rats), Graves Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and several other neurological and autoimmune conditions, as well as the numerous, aforementioned cancers.

Both Searle, and their later parent purchaser, Monsanto, vociferously fought any attempts to get this highly-toxic substance off the market. Their only concern is shareholder equity; Profits, growth and dividends trump any moral qualms.

If the FDA really cared about you and I, every cow would be tested for mad Cow disease, factory farms would be forced to deal with their huge waste lagoons, cruelty to animals, and antibiotic and steroid use. Nutrasweet, Neotame, and a host of other dangerous chemicals including trans fats, Olestra, and genetically-modified crops would be illegal. Instead, we have all become unwitting lab rats, with a stew of biochemical experiments and genetically modified substances combining and recombining in completely un-knowable ways in our guts, our bloodstreams, our nerves, and in our brains.

There was a hoax on the Internet that Neotame would be allowed, unlabeled, in Organic foods. I’m very relieved to know that this is not true. But beware: Monsanto, and all of the big agribusiness companies are constantly working to weaken the USDA Organic standard to the point that it’s as utterly meaningless as the word ‘natural’ has become on food labels.

Rid yourself of these toxins. Grow your own food and get involved with your local organic food growers and purveyors, and petition the federal government to maintain and enhance the integrity of the USDA organic standard, and to return the FDA to its mandate: serving and protecting the people, instead of furthering corporate interests at the people’s expense.


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High on my special list of pathologically destructive corporations is Monsanto. Though their sins are legion, I’m going to focus on perhaps their most evil activity of all – their attempt to control virtually all farmers and all crop seeds, and to force those same farmers to use their genetically altered crops and toxic agri-chemicals.

Although this is hard to believe, farmers have been successfully sued by Monsanto when Monsanto’s genetically-modified soybean and canola plants have shown up in their fields, carried there by birds and the wind. One Canadian farmer, who had been selectively breeding his own canola plants with his wife for decades, was sued when some of these Monsanto plants were found growing in a ditch alongside his property.

This is where the entire affair, which is not unique to this one farmer, becomes positively Kafkaesque. Monsanto contended that this man had essentially stolen their seeds. They asked the court to levy a hefty fine, take all of the profits from his current canola crop, and most insidiously, they also asked the court to seize the man’s own proprietary canola breeds, the product of 50 years of careful selective breeding.

Because of a few plants found in a ditch, Monsanto not only wanted to bankrupt this farmer, they wanted to steal his intellectual property as well.

As utterly bizarre as it seems , the court upheld Monsanto’s claims in full. But this was no ordinary farmer. He appealed to Canada’s Saskatchewan appellate court, where the 3 justice panel again upheld Monsanto’s position.

He appealed once more, this time to Canada’s Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. Somewhere along the line, Monsanto must have felt the winds of change, because they suddenly agreed to an out-of-court settlement. Not only will this brave farmer keep his seeds, and not pay any fines, but Monsanto will be legally liable for eliminating any of their contaminating GMO canola that finds its way onto his land.

He has won, but thousands like him are daily being bullied, stolen from, and often bankrupted by this giant company that literally seeks control over the world’s seed supply.

Monsanto’s contracts, signed by any farmer who wants to use their seed, say it all:

The farmer cannot use his own seeds at all; he must only buy seeds from Monsanto

The farmer can only use Monsanto chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides.

Monsanto’s private investigative force, mostly composed of highly-coercive ex-law-enforcement officers is permitted to search their land whenever they want, without notice, for 3 years after they stop using Monsanto seed.

Most incredibly: The farmer can never sue Monsanto. He must waive all rights to future lawsuits for any reason.

When Monsanto and the other big GMO companies first started pushing their ‘Frankenfood’ products, they claimed that they would never interbreed with other strains, and would never ‘escape into the wild’. Just the opposite is true: all over Canada and the USA, their GMO canola can be found, spreading like an invasive weed. It’s in ditches everywhere, and it’s crowding out other strains. Indeed, it looks as if it’s now virtually impossible to grow completely non-GMO soy or canola anywhere on this continent.

And just what are their seeds genetically modified to do? In the case of their canola, it’s called ‘Roundup Ready’, which means that the plants have been genetically modified to be highly resistant to Monsanto’s toxic Roundup herbicide. This allows canola farmers to blitz their fields with heretofore unheard of levels of toxic herbicides, a sort of slow-motion agent-oranging of the entire American and Canadian heartland.

The creation of plants that will allow even more poisoning of the land, even more toxic residues in our foodstuffs, even more depletion of bees, butterflies and other natural pollinators is doubly, triply evil.

The Europeans have been way ahead of us on this, banning GMO foods. A small band of Organic farmers is currently suing Monsanto for destroying their plant strains and infecting their fields. Not only do we need to support this David and Goliath struggle, but it’s time we revisit the entire GMO question. It’s time to ban all new GMO crops, and not just from commercial use, but from research plots too. GMO wheat is growing in small plots all over the US and Canada. Wheat is, of course, a relative of grass, and spreads just as readily. The fallacy that GMO plants can be segregated has been proven over and over. It’s time to take action and petition the Obama administration to follow Europe’s lead and ban GMO crops and crop research.



Writing commentaries has turned me into a sort of semi-professional curmudgeon. It's pretty easy too, since the world does indeed appear to be going to hell in a handbasket. Nonetheless, it's getting to be a drag. So, I'm going to try something new today. I'm going to try imagining a better future for America, and, by extension, the world.

True, in imagining what could be, I will once more be underscoring how far we are from such lovely dreams. Envisioning a better future can't help but evoke a certain amount of dismay about the present. But I'm going to try anyway, because you cannot get a better future without dreaming of it. The dream, the visualization, is what engenders change. We've seen this over and over again, from Gandhi to Mandela.


Imagine if the two billion dollars a week America is spending on the war in Afghanistan were being spent to build hospitals here at home. Or schools. Or high speed rail, light rail, bridges, tunnels.

Imagine if 10 percent of what America spends on the military was spent on the arts, and another 10 percent on the sciences - what kind of cultural renaissance would we be experiencing right now?

Imagine if no one went to sleep hungry in America, or the world. We have enough wealth on this planet right now to give everyone clean food and water.

Imagine if there were hundreds of thousands of newly employed workers installing federally subsidized solar panels, wind turbines, insulation, and efficient heating and lighting in your house and mine.

Imagine if all American military bases outside the US were shut down; How much fuel we'd be saving; How much money.

Imagine if America categorically refused to provide any material aid whatsoever to any brutal regime, regardless of ideology.

Imagine if children were taught empathy, comparative religion and literature, critical thinking and non-violent conflict resolution, and real science not creationist claptrap, the world over. No more madrassas of mindless rote memorization, no more ideologically-driven curricula - whether Islamic, Christian, Hindu, or Jewish. No one ever to be taught again that their way of life, their skin color, their tribe, country, ethnic group or religion was superior to any other.

Imagine if nothing was ever allowed to become 'too big to fail', again, and every single Wall Street gambler and corporate banking hotshot paid their fair share of their losses.

Imagine if corporate CEOs still made on average only 10 times what their workers made in salary. Compared to today's lopsided ratios, that would almost feel egalitarian.

Imagine if people thought that paying taxes was patriotic because instead of funding endless wars that bloated the coffers of mega-corporations and politicians, our tax dollars were spent on the best educational and health systems in the world, and on an Apollo-style full-bore attack on the intertwined challenges of energy independence and carbon neutrality.

Imagine if carping bullies like Rush Limbaugh, histrionic febrile charlatans like Glenn Beck, sub-intelligent corporate mouthpieces like Sean Hannity and vituperative racist homophobes like Anne Coulter were laughed at whenever they spouted their slanders, absurdities and lies.

Imagine if we could all be part of a civil dialogue, one big reality-based conversation among grown ups, with the congenital liars, bullies, and misanthropes all dropped by the wayside, dead ends on our evolutionary tree.

Imagine if all racism - black, white, yellow and brown, had withered away and you and I were always judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.

Imagine if America had some of the lowest teen pregnancy and infant mortality rates in the developed world, and some of the highest literacy rates, instead of the other way around.

Imagine if sexuality was seen as a gift from god, instead of something dirty and shameful.

Imagine if there were no welfare, because if you were fit to work, society had a job waiting for you, and if you were disabled, your needs were taken care of so you could live comfortably and with dignity.

Imagine if America didn't incarcerate almost 25% of all of the prisoners on earth.

Imagine that instead of one woman in four on our planet being subjected to sexual or domestic violence, that number was none in 4 billion.

Imagine if parents never struck their children, but met their needs and tolerated their inevitable misdeeds with patient, unconditional love.

Imagine if it was OK that you believed in one god and I in another, or none at all, that I were straight and you gay.

Just Imagine!



Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It’s a cliché, because it’s true.

The massive trove of hidden data about American foreign policy that has been coming out in bunches from WikiLeaks over the last year is one huge application of disinfectant, a vast searing beam spotlighting American cynicism, malfeasance, murder, manipulation and mayhem, once again demolishing our self-righteous stand as a beacon the world over for justice, liberty, and democracy.

America has sold itself so thoroughly on its fictional status as world liberator, both at home and abroad, that it wasn’t really until Vietnam, that an appreciable number of Americans and others alike began to really understand that, far from being a force for liberation and the full flowering of human potential, America has more often than not merely been another empire, coldly, calculatingly intent on extracting as much natural and human capital as possible. But despite the pernicious reality, the fantasy America has created in order to inspire young men to be cannon fodder in unjust wars, and in order to justify wholesale theft and murder, is surprisingly robust. One can only hope that these revelations can do damage to the durable fictions we maintain about our country, because maybe then we can truly start to become what we say we are.

Since at least the 19th century, we’ve expanded our sphere of influence, often undermining democratic institutions by means of covert destabilization and outright invasion and attack.

Some people believe that this is the natural order of things. Like citizens of empires before them, they believe that their empire is preordained, blessed by God, to practice its cruel hegemony. Others are in denial; they swallow the treacle that is most American history whole, believing that all of our wars have been about freedom and democracy. They refuse to acknowledge that America has taught jihadists how to build bombs and shoot down civilian airliners, and itself assassinated democratically elected leaders, practiced torture and wholesale slaughter. Their rejection of the facts is absolute: By definition, America can do no wrong.

And then there are those of us in the middle. Like the former, we see America for what she is – an often brutal, aggressive empire, but we reject the characterization of this behavior as anything other than evil. Like the latter, we’re still inspired by the founding documents of America, the fiery speeches of Tom Paine, the witty, hypocrisy-piercing acumen of Ben Franklin, Jefferson’s stirring aspirations – but we no longer believe them.

As I’m writing this, the US government is in full damage control mode as the unprecedented diplomatic meltdown created by the WikiLeaks revelations metastasizes and reverberates around the world. While I am neither distressed nor particularly pleased about these embarrassments, I do think that their release into the light of day does more good than harm because I think that hypocrisy revealed is almost always a good thing.

However, it’s the things in the cracks that I find so deeply painful. For example, if these cables are to be believed, our Pentagon specifically and purposely targeted refugee camps in Yemen for missile attacks. This revelation harkens back to the earlier release from WikiLeaks a few months ago that revealed our conduct of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to be replete with the same kind of cynical callous brutality. I want to believe that America is a force for good in the world, but when we purposely rain bombs down on innocent men, women and children to fulfill some arcane geopolitical goal, or merely to maintain a huge empire that gorges on the world’s bounty, I can’t. My dream of America spirals off of the gritty surface of the reality of our foreign policy like sunlit frost sublimes into vapor. One minute it’s there, an apparently hard truth, the next, it’s gone, rising skyward like a vagrant dream, and once again I am left with the sad fact that my country is not the soaring force of Justice, democracy and decency I was taught it was.

My only hope is that if enough sunlight is poured onto America’s behavior, and motives, she will finally recoil in horror at what she has become, stanch the infection of empire, and grow toward the dream of herself that she holds so dear.


Obama just gets worse and worse. It’s hard for me to believe, but now our president is apparently coming out in support of fracking, the natural gas extraction technology that pollutes the air with volatile organic compounds, and ground water and aquifers with neurotoxins and carcinogens, wastes prodigious amounts of fresh water, and produces noise pollution so violent, it has caused broken eardrums among those living near fracking drill sites.

This is a palpably ironic state of affairs. First, much to my incredulous dismay, our president came out for expanding off-shore drilling, right before the BP gulf oil disaster. Then he reversed course and imposed a moratorium on all deep-water drilling, saying we needed to know the causes of the accident to assure ourselves it wouldn’t be repeated. Subsequent political pressure and judicial rulings forced him to drop the moratorium, which made little sense anyway: Deep water isn’t the issue, drilling is; The largest oil spill in the Gulf prior to the BP spill, the Ixtoc spill of 30 years ago, occurred in less than 200 feet of water and was equally unstoppable. You might think that 30 years of technological advances would make such shallow-water spills easy to cap, but an examination of the BP incident shows that the oil industry hasn’t advanced accident prevention or mediation at all in the ensuing decades. They tried the same combination of ‘top hats’, ‘top kills’, and ‘junk shots’ in 2010 that they tried in 1979, to the same negligible effect.

Given President Obama’s stated rationale for the moratorium, the lack of proven safety devices, the unknown causes of the accident, the palpable failure to stop the spill and mediate its effects, you’d think he’d apply the same logic to fracking.

As the movie ‘Gasland’ so ably demonstrates, fracking has been proven to cause water, air and noise pollution. It has caused groundwater spills, irreversible aquifer damage, and physical damage to wildlife and humans alike, from ingested pollutants, and high-intensity low frequency sound waves.

Homeowners in Pennsylvania, who were more than delighted to lease their land and sell their gas rights in the modern gold rush of the Marcellus Shale fracking bonanza, have found their livestock dead, and their water irretrievably polluted with Benzene, Methane, Toluene and other toxic chemicals. The value of their homes has plummeted. For a quick infusion of 5 to 100 thousand dollars, they’ve lost their way of life, their family farms and homes, and their investment in the future. While some New Yorkers salivate at the prospect of a quick buck for their gas rights, lawsuits against the gas companies are sprouting like toadstools in neighboring Pennsylvania. They’ve lived the dream, only to see it turn into a nightmare. Their rose colored glasses are now coated in carcinogenic slime.

Meanwhile, our president continues to give the impression that he’s a pro-business, centrist technocrat, hardly an agent of seismic change. He supports big oil and gas, and even Wall Street, effete slaps on the wrist notwithstanding. He continues to kill more civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the use of immoral drone strikes than George W Bush did during his entire eight year tenure as president. He continues to abrade our basic freedoms and respect for the rule of law by upholding Bush policies on rendition and detention without trial. But my god! I thought he’d at the very least be a decent environmental president! Yet here he is, supporting the oxymoronic concept of ‘clean coal’ – such a thing does not exist, fracking, and even Canadian-style oil-shale-sand extraction, one of the worst environmental nightmares in existence! Oh, and he’s also providing more loan guarantees and market support for nuclear power than for alternative energy.

Where is our change president? I am so sick and tired of liberals blaming the Republicans alone for our predicament! Obama’s policies, and his personnel choices to run the departments of treasury, interior, transportation and energy, speak volumes about his true allegiances. We need a viable third party. Or at the very least, we need some truth out there, not a president who lies to us, as Obama manifestly has, about the severity of the oil spill in the Gulf, the quagmire and human rights horror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and about these environmentally ruinous technologies.


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