Parting Words for '06

"What remains of democracy is largely the right to choose among commodities. Business leaders have long explained the need to impose on the population a 'philosophy of futility and 'lack of purpose in life,' to 'concentrate human attention on the more superficial things that comprise much of fashionable consumption.' Deluged by such propaganda from infancy, people may then accept their meaningless and subordinate lives and forget ridiculous ideas about managing their own affairs. They may abandon their fat to corporate managers and the PR industry and, in the political realm, to the self-described 'intelligent minorities' who serve and administer power."

- from noam chomsky, hegemony or survival

Marijuana Shamanism

December 26, 2006
Global warming may be thawing out the planet and threatening the lives of us and a host of other living species, but some things of interest are popping up as well. In 2003, a mummy of what is believed to be a shaman was found in the northwestern part of China. According to a story in the Peoples Daily Online (China):
Chinese scientists are conducting laboratory work hoping to identify a 2,800-year-old mummy presumably of a shaman in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The well-preserved mummy of a seemingly Caucasian man with a Roman nose and deep-set eyes was unearthed from a cluster of ancient tombs in 2003 and research work has been going on ever since.
Archeologists found the mummy most intriguing because a sack of marijuana leaves was found buried alongside the corpse.
The mummy remains intact in its original outfit despite the passage of time: leather hat, heavy coat and boots, huge earrings of copper and gold, a turquoise necklace, a copper laced stick in the right hand and a bronze ax in the left, according to Li Xiao, head of the heritage bureau in Turpan.
There are a few interesting things here: the mummy is "seemingly Caucasian"; he has a "sack of marijuana leaves"; and most of the outfit sounds slightly out of place. However, regardless of these conundrums, I would like to bring the marijuana to the forefront. Here is just another example of how long this plant has been a part of the human experience. The presence of the plant with an ancient shaman (who probably used it in religious/healing rites) further points to its potential value as well.
May we all have the chance to know the usefulness of this ancient plant...

National Nothing To Do Day

From Creative Outbursts (a PA e-zine):

In case you were not aware, this Monday, December 25th is National Nothing To Do Day. Banks, schools, and government buildings will be closed in observance of this wonderful day. In fact, most everywhere will be closed, save for a few lame stores that maybe should be closed instead. Chinese restaurants do not observe the holiday either. The Department of Homeland Scrutiny will be keeping its eye on them.
Ordinarily, I'd waltz downtowne to the local coffeeplace to waste time and harass lame baristas on my off-day. Monday, however, will call for a change of plans, a la the Nothing To Do tradition. An alternative set of plans... involving eggs, karo syrup, and an oven timer. There is only so much time and so many nativity scenes to vandalize.
Of course I kid. Vandalizing nativity scenes means Something To Do, not keeping in the holiday spirit at all. And now if you'll excuse me, I have nothing in the oven and all weekend not to share it.



After a bit of a hiatus...
I thought I would share this conference with people...
Technology, Entertainment, Design
...with some really interesting speakers. Who are these people and what are they doing holding a conference with one another?

You may not have what you want....

Below is a link that will take you to a simulated pizza order in the not too distant future. Could this country - or world even - be headed to such a "Big Brother" existence? Some may argue that it's the only way we can go in this age of increasing globalization and continuing colonization. Even now, in the U.S., the amount of electronic information that exists about each of us is unknowable - unfathomable even. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until the powers that be summon each of us for assignment of our new national id numbers... and the pizza place asks not, "would you like meat on that?" but, "can you have meat on that?"

The Yes Men Strike Again...

US Trade Representative to Africa, Governor of Nigeria Central Bank
weigh in at Wharton

Text, photos, video:
WTO Contact: Hanniford Schmidt (
Conference website:
Conference contacts:

Philadelphia - At a Wharton Business School conference on business in
Africa, World Trade Organization representative Hanniford Schmidt
announced the creation of a WTO initiative for "full private
stewardry of labor" for the parts of Africa that have been hardest
hit by the 500 years of Africa's free trade with the West.

The initiative will require Western companies doing business in some
parts of Africa to own their workers outright. Schmidt recounted how
private stewardship has been successfully applied to transport,
power, water, traditional knowledge, and even the human genome. The
WTO's "full private stewardry" program will extend these successes to
(re)privatize humans themselves.

"Full, untrammelled stewardry is the best available solution to
African poverty, and the inevitable result of free-market theory,"
Schmidt told more than 150 attendees. Schmidt acknowledged that the
stewardry program was similar in many ways to slavery, but explained
that just as "compassionate conservatism" has polished the rough
edges on labor relations in industrialized countries, full stewardry,
or "compassionate slavery," could be a similar boon to developing

The audience included Prof. Charles Soludo (Governor of the Central
Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Laurie Ann Agama (Director for African Affairs
at the Office of the US Trade Representative), and other notables.
Agama prefaced her remarks by thanking Scmidt for his macroscopic
perspective, saying that the USTR view adds details to the WTO's
general approach. Nigerian Central Bank Governor Soludo also
acknowledged the WTO proposal, though he did not seem to appreciate
it as much as did Agama.

A system in which corporations own workers is the only free-market
solution to African poverty, Schmidt said. "Today, in African
factories, the only concern a company has for the worker is for his
or her productive hours, and within his or her productive years," he
said. "As soon as AIDS or pregnancy hits--out the door. Get sick, get
fired. If you extend the employer's obligation to a 24/7, lifelong
concern, you have an entirely different situation: get sick, get
care. With each life valuable from start to finish, the AIDS scourge
will be quickly contained via accords with drug manufacturers as a
profitable investment in human stewardees. And educating a child for
later might make more sense than working it to the bone right now."

To prove that human stewardry can work, Schmidt cited a proposal by a
free-market think tank to save whales by selling them. "Those who
don't like whaling can purchase rights to specific whales or groups
of whales in order to stop those particular whales from getting
whaled as much," he explained. Similarly, the market in Third-World
humans will "empower" caring First Worlders to help them, Schmidt
said. (

One conference attendee asked what incentive employers had to remain
as stewards once their employees are too old to work or reproduce.
Schmidt responded that a large new biotech market would answer that
worry. He then reminded the audience that this was the only possible
solution under free-market theory.

There were no other questions from the audience that took issue with
Schmidt's proposal.

During his talk, Schmidt outlined the three phases of Africa's 500-
year history of free trade with the West: slavery, colonialism, and
post-colonial markets. Each time, he noted, the trade has brought
tremendous wealth to the West but catastrophe to Africa, with poverty
steadily deepening and ever more millions of dead. "So far there's a
pattern: Good for business, bad for people. Good for business, bad
for people. Good for business, bad for people. That's why we're so
happy to announce this fourth phase for business between Africa and
the West: good for business--GOOD for people."

The conference took place on Saturday, November 11. The panel on
which Schmidt spoke was entitled "Trade in Africa: Enhancing
Relationships to Improve Net Worth." Some of the other panels in the
conference were entitled "Re-Branding Africa" and "Growing Africa's
Appetite." Throughout the comments by Schmidt and his three
co-panelists, which lasted 75 minutes, Schmidt's stewardee, Thomas
Bongani-Nkemdilim, remained standing at respectful attention off to
the side.

"This is what free trade's all about," said Schmidt. "It's about the
freedom to buy and sell anything--even people."

Coming home to roost...

And the shit appears to have hit the proverbial fan this week. Congratulations to all of you who believe a switch to the dems will make a difference. At least a statement was made that the current republican administration has seen its better days...

Trouble in Oaxaca

Below is a press release that I recieved from the Chiapas Media Project:

As independent journalists working in Mexico, we are outraged by the brutal murder of one of
our colleagues, Brad Will, at the hands of plainclothes police officers and local government
officials in the State of Oaxaca. Brad's death is now being used as a pretext by the Mexican
federal government to launch a military incursion into Oaxaca City. The logic behind this police
action represents a total distortion of the facts as we have been reporting and we are urging the
media to more carefully scrutinize recent events. It is our hope that you, our colleagues, can help
prevent bloodshed in Mexico.
Yesterday, Brad was reporting from a protest encampment in Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca,
when it came under attack from several individuals in civilian clothing who shot pistols and high
powered rifles at the protesters. Brad was filming the siege when one of the assailants fatally
shot him twice in the abdomen. According to local residents and the Mexican newspaper El
Universal, the attackers have been positively identified as municipal police officers and
government officials of Santa Lucia del Camino.
The current conflict began on June 14th when Oaxaca's governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz sent in state
police to break a teachers' strike that was camped out in the center of Oaxaca City. Gov. Ruiz
had already alarmed international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International,
for atrocities committed before the June 14 police violence. The actions on June 14th further
ignited people’s anger throughout the State who responded, by forming the People's Popular
Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) who reinforced the teachers' encampment in Oaxaca City. The
single demand of the APPO has been the resignation of Gov. Ruiz. In the last five months, at
least 12 people have been killed by police and paramilitary forces connected to Gov. Ruiz.
Major media outlets, worldwide, have erroneously implied that teachers and members of the
APPO are to blame for the violence, including the death of Brad Will. Repeated calls on
Mexican television for the restoration of "law and order" are disturbing because they fail to
recognize that the recent spate of targeted killings have been traced to the State government, and
that the fundamental necessity to restoring peace in the state is the immediate removal of Gov.
Ruiz. This is a conclusion that we, as journalists, have reached after studying the facts carefully.
A siege of the city is expected to begin tonight. Most observers agree that it will be impossible
to dislodge the protesters without bloodshed. We are calling on all responsible
journalists to cover this impending crisis, and help to shed light on the facts before more
innocent lives are lost.

recycled lives....

my life...

resonance with the past.

and the


i am here -

at one moment

thinking of love...

at most moments thinking thereof.

but at others....

a time in school...

graduate ‘training’ that should have




i am in two or three worlds these days.

maybe four.

five even.

who knows really.

but the ones that hold my attention





i have left certain things behind.

my soul for instance.

can i even pinpoint


day that

i left it.

sitting there.


and wondering what the fuck?.?.?...


there are so many things in life. i have so many moments. so many memories. parts of me that exist only in my head. parts of me that i can turn to at any given time. i can even



a breath

in the morning

can change




the mind is a crazy thing. there are infinite things that can exist. what you can imagine can come to be in almost infinite forms. you can’t always choose the form.


the cosmic joke.


my name is many things. i imagine a point in time. a point that exists. and so it does.

am i talking bullshit here?

i am consumed to a certain degree. my thoughts drift to love. the one that holds my heart. am i too easy in giving it out. there it is out there. it has been for a couple weeks now. it’s been dropped already. maybe even stepped on.

tripped over.


it has also been held.

looked at.

loved back.

imagine that. it’s happening and neither of us know it.

maybe i do now. maybe she does too.

i can only



it hurts to think that i must leave things to the universe.

has it been there for me before?

i would say absolutely.

and i seek to understand myself.

through myself may i know the universe.

maybe i am cheating the world.

cheating myself.

cheating my love.

part of me is.

i have created a shield of brightness...

of conceived notions of what i’m doing.

it really is a big fucking show. if i can present the show that people want to see i cruise along.

i present a show that people think they should see.

even this






and along with that...

what i may have to offer the universe.

what i may have to offer others.

fellow seekers.

fellow friends.

fellow lovers.

fellow humans.

is there a space for this type of thing.

what is it even?


War and Reason

From Jonathan Swift's 1726 satire, Gulliver's Travels. This conversation takes place between Gulliver and his teacher, a Houyhnhnm, a "horse" of Houyhnhnmland, a land where horses are superior to their Yahoo slaves (humanoids drawn from travel accounts of uncivilized "savages" and conflated with civilized Europeans).

He asked me, “what were the usual causes or motives that made one country go to war with another?” I answered “they were innumerable; but I should only mention a few of the chief. Sometimes the ambition of princes, who never think they have land or people enough to govern; sometimes the corruption of ministers, who engage their master in a war, in order to stifle or divert the clamour of the subjects against their evil administration. Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more. Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.

“Sometimes the quarrel between two princes is to decide which of them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, where neither of them pretend to any right. Sometimes one prince quarrels with another for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a war is entered upon, because the enemy is too strong; and sometimes, because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbours want the things which we have, or have the things which we want, and we both fight, till they take ours, or give us theirs. It is a very justifiable cause of a war, to invade a country after the people have been wasted by famine, destroyed by pestilence, or embroiled by factions among themselves. It is justifiable to enter into war against our nearest ally, when one of his towns lies convenient for us, or a territory of land, that would render our dominions round and complete. If a prince sends forces into a nation, where the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully put half of them to death, and make slaves of the rest, in order to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living. It is a very kingly, honourable, and frequent practice, when one prince desires the assistance of another, to secure him against an invasion, that the assistant, when he has driven out the invader, should seize on the dominions himself, and kill, imprison, or banish, the prince he came to relieve. Alliance by blood, or marriage, is a frequent cause of war between princes; and the nearer the kindred is, the greater their disposition to quarrel; poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance. For these reasons, the trade of a soldier is held the most honourable of all others; because a soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill, in cold blood, as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can.

“There is likewise a kind of beggarly princes in Europe, not able to make war by themselves, who hire out their troops to richer nations, for so much a day to each man; of which they keep three-fourths to themselves, and it is the best part of their maintenance: such are those in many northern parts of Europe.”

“What you have told me,” said my master, “upon the subject of war, does indeed discover most admirably the effects of that reason you pretend to: however, it is happy that the shame is greater than the danger; and that nature has left you utterly incapable of doing much mischief. For, your mouths lying flat with your faces, you can hardly bite each other to any purpose, unless by consent. Then as to the claws upon your feet before and behind, they are so short and tender, that one of our Yahoos would drive a dozen of yours before him. And therefore, in recounting the numbers of those who have been killed in battle, I cannot but think you have said the thing which is not.”

I could not forbear shaking my head, and smiling a little at his ignorance. And being no stranger to the art of war, I gave him a description of cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols, bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats, attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea fights, ships sunk with a thousand men, twenty thousand killed on each side, dying groans, limbs flying in the air, smoke, noise, confusion, trampling to death under horses’ feet, flight, pursuit, victory; fields strewed with carcases, left for food to dogs and wolves and birds of prey; plundering, stripping, ravishing, burning, and destroying. And to set forth the valour of my own dear countrymen, I assured him, “that I had seen them blow up a hundred enemies at once in a siege, and as many in a ship, and beheld the dead bodies drop down in pieces from the clouds, to the great diversion of the spectators.”

I was going on to more particulars, when my master commanded me silence. He said, “whoever understood the nature of Yahoos, might easily believe it possible for so vile an animal to be capable of every action I had named, if their strength and cunning equalled their malice. But as my discourse had increased his abhorrence of the whole species, so he found it gave him a disturbance in his mind to which he was wholly a stranger before. He thought his ears, being used to such abominable words, might, by degrees, admit them with less detestation: that although he hated the Yahoos of this country, yet he no more blamed them for their odious qualities, than he did a gnnayh (a bird of prey) for its cruelty, or a sharp stone for cutting his hoof. But when a creature pretending to reason could be capable of such enormities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might be worse than brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident, that, instead of reason we were only possessed of some quality fitted to increase our natural vices; as the reflection from a troubled stream returns the image of an ill shapen body, not only larger but more distorted.”

...thoughts from the past

Of relevance to the new direction being sought here is this short passage from dwight macdonald. macdonald was an american anti-marxist thinker, contemporary of trotsky active in the 30s until his death in 1982.
the revolutionary alternative to the status quo today is ... some kind of anarchist decentralization that will break up mass society into small communities where individuals can live together as variegated human beings instead of as impersonal units in the mass sum.
this is just one of many examples of how thought can transcend time. an example of thought as a starting point. for growth.

the NIWP

What is the New Intellectualist Workers Party?
For now it is a small group of people - thinkers, workers, players, and the like - who seek to influence change in the world for the better - to the benefit of all.
With the less than satisfactory ideology of communism drawing what appear to be its last breaths around the globe, capitalism is beginning to face its own problems as well. With a lack of a true 'enemy' or competitor, the capitalist doctrine has been used to ruthlessly and selfishly enrich the few while offering only deteriorating conditions to the masses. While a dramatic change does not appear to be in the immediate future, we believe that there must be dialog - and this is occurring in many circles in many parts of the world. We only seek to contribute to this dialog - in hopes of enabling a better life for all on this tiny planet earth.

A Little Diddy (About Jack and Diane)

The land of opportunity, the melting pot that sits waiting to be filled – America’s marketing pitch. America is the land of the new. Seeking new frontiers, entrepreneurial industriousness, inventions. There’s something of the fighting spirit in newness, always up for a challenge, never backing down. And the proverbial underdog that pants on the floor (in front of the stove, just to keep my metaphor going), overcoming the obstacles we all know he will.
Maybe the flame got too high. Maybe we left the stove on as we rushed out the door to begin our day already stamped with banality. When things get overcooked, they get tough, sticky, mired in their own juices, and even a little pathetic. They lose their flavor, and jilted intentions fall victim to condiments. Bar-b-que sauce, ketchup, soysauce, A-1...smoothed and smothered over the inedibles. The caserole is passed off as dinner, but its hesitant onlookers know something’s amiss. But we eat it anyway, in the spirit of trying something new, knowing all the while that what we’ve been served is a poor imitation of what we deserve.

Whiteness Studies?

The past few months I've been reading a lot to do with "whiteness studies," and, at first, I was somewhat excited about the possibilities I saw in this line of inquiry - at least, I found the intersection of whiteness and blackness in terms of consumerism really interesting - and it seemed a refreshing take on things. In particular, I came across a quote that struck me: "making whiteness visible works 'to dislodge them/us from the position of power'" - which would seem to be a valuable, provocative, and productive interrogation of white identity. And another question I came across - "what makes you think I'm white?" as a challenge to the universality of whiteness - brings into question the whole social constructedness of race.
Apparently, "whiteness studies" is a field that used to be subsumed under "ethnic studies," but over the past decade or so has now claimed its own separate identity. So does anyone else see this shift in status as somewhat contradictory and disturbing - an expression of its popularity with uncomfortable implications?

Stories from Tungurahua...

Volcano Tungurahua in the Ecuadorian Andes has been active since 1999, but over the last couple of months it has really come to life - affecting the lives of thousands in the region. Following is an email from University of South Florida anthropologist, Dr Linda Whiteford, who has been working in the region with those affected by eruptions that occurred in July. While there are many news stories on the current eruptions, there are really very few details about the enormity of the events. This email offers a unique view of someone there on the ground.

Quito Saturday 19th August

The volcano, Tungurahua, erupted violently this week with devastating pyroclastic flows, lava flows, and emissions of various size tephra that included volcanic bombs, pumice pellets, and huge quantities of ash that covered an extensive area of the country. A state of emergency was called.

We went into the field on Monday and worked around the volcano all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning to see the effects of the July 14th eruption. That earlier event had created all sorts of problems for many small communities - however less than twenty fours hours after our visit they were all gone. We had planned doing interviews in Banos on Wednesday (Banos sits at the base of the volcano) but were called by the vulcanologists at the volcano observatory and told to leave immediately. The volcano had been rumbling all morning (and continued for the next 16 hours or so) and the explosions rattled windows as far as 20 kilometers away. We took their advice and evacuated to the observatory where we watched some more very violent eruptions. Probably the most frightening was seeing the pyroclastic flows cascade down the mountain destroying the villages we had been in the day before, and all the time hoping that the residents had heeded the warning to get out. All of that, of course, is the subject of further research.

The eruptions continued all that afternoon and evening, and into the next day destroying the lives of many. The impacts can be seen everywhere; agriculture throughout a wide area has been damaged extensively, roads are gone, a river blocked by pyroclastic flows, electricity is out in some areas and we know that four villages no longer exist. Thousands have been evacuated and several people are dead with many others missing.

On Thursday, we found everything covered in ash and had serious problems getting around. Anyway, we managed to conduct interviews with some evacuees in the shelters and heard some terrifying stories. We eventually got out of the area riding in trucks, farm vehicles and walking; we were covered in ash. Yesterday we arrived back in Quito, safe and sound, where we were debriefed by the National Civil Defense. We should be home tomorrow...

shit man...

death by jello seems highly unlikely.

and i a’m sitting here

watching the sun shine through the rain drops.

trying to get some work done.

but not really interested.

and lacking motivation.

later maybe.

my mind is elsewhere.

with a girl.

of course it is.

that is my life.

also thoughts of the other night.

when i can'’t remember anything after my second drink.

with colleagues too.


and what am i really here for?

questions like this continue to swirl about

in my mind.

where is that pull? that special thing?

why do i feel so empty here?

like nothing really is for me.

like i am here only to wander.

only to do random stuff.

how long has it been this way?

World AIDS Day Coverage...

I thought I would post a bit from Reuters that offers further links to coverage of the 16th anual International Conference on AIDS. After five months of research looking at how AIDS is affecting populations in Southern Africa, this is especially refreshing for me, as it presents a major call for a shift in how the problem should be approached.

AIDS focus shifts to women and prevention

Reuters - Mon Aug 14, 3:23 PM ET

TORONTO - Researchers, activists and major funders have agreed to a shift in the fight against AIDS to focus on prevention and especially helping women protect themselves. With big pharmaceutical companies making their HIV drugs available cheaply to developing nations and with generic drugs available, speakers at the 16th International Conference on AIDS agreed the focus needs to move to preventing new infections.

News Stories

On Shopping

What is it about shopping that makes people feel better? Buying new clothes, new gadgets...for the more comfortable, new cars and new houses. We, of course, are inundated with advertising all the time - on every possible surface or screen, on every object we own we will find the strategically placed and designed company trademark, and we even find advertising on ourselves as we become walking advertisements for our favorite stores. So now that we are so far removed from recognizing that buying something is an act independent of our mental health, have our brains become corporatized as well? Has retail therapy bought out all the room in our conscience? What would it take, then, to de-shop ourselves?
We all confer power on the things we own. There are those that we endow with independent life, that win the prized spot in the living room, those that travel with us through life, and those that stay boxed away somewhere for future trips down memory lane. We all take up more space than our body allots, as we are all sums of our material possessions; our identities derive from its accessories.
So perhaps having our own cache of enchanted objects saves us from corporate takeover; perhaps those early twentieth century advertisers, in conceiving our current consumer climate, also provided us with a loophole. It is when we stop having a relationship with the things we consume that we suffer, thus the success of retail therapy.

Facts and Fictions

THURSDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- "Alcohol abuse by minors results in almost 3,200 deaths a year -- four times more than deaths due to all illegal drug use combined, a new study finds.

"Underage drinking also costs the United States $62 billion each year, the researchers found.

"Despite these numbers, policymakers remain focused on the impact and prevention of drug use in minors, rather than alcohol, the study's authors said. The budget for anti-drug use by America's youth is nearly 25 times that of public funds earmarked for the prevention of alcohol use.

"'Alcohol-related traffic crashes, violence, teen pregnancies, STDs, burns, drownings, alcohol poisoning, property damage and other risks take a human and economic toll that's much greater than illegal drugs. Yet, we spend so much more on youth drug abuse,' study author Ted Miller, director of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), said in a prepared statement.

"Miller's team at the PIRE Public Services Research Institute in Calverton, Md., found that a large number of minors are drinking great quantities of alcohol. In fact, the study showed that underage youth consume at least 16 percent of all alcohol sold in the United States, a number the researchers called conservative.

"The costs of underage drinking come from a variety of sources, with expenses linked to traffic accidents alone totaling roughly $13.7 billion per year.

"'Drinks in bars, drinks in cars, drinks stolen form Mom's liquor cabinet: The average harm from a kid's illegal drink is $3," said Miller. "That's far more than the 85-cent price tag those drinks carry. It dwarfs the 10 cents in taxes we collect or the 40 cents in profit the alcohol industry reaps,' he said.

"Miller said poor legal enforcement is a major factor in the underage drinking epidemic, and that stricter regulations and inspections of institutions where alcohol is sold would cut the amount of alcohol getting into minors' hands. Improvements in identification and age-verification, driving curfews, zero-tolerance laws and regulations placing liability on parents who allow underage drinking in their home would also help control the problem, he said.

"The study is published in the July issue of Journal of Studies on Alcohol."

drugs, drugs, drugs...

A nice article by Tony Newman on Alternet concisely explains the multiple problems with the U.S. War on Drugs. There are also a bunch of interesting comments following the piece. Here are his 10 points (11 actually) which he further explains in the article:
1. Drugs are everywhere.
2. Different people have different relationships with different drugs.
3. People use drugs for joy and for pain.
4. Drug abuse does not discriminate, but our drug policies do.
5. Relapse happens.
6. Smoking five cigarettes is better than smoking 20. Using marijuana is better than using heroin.
7. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.
8. Prohibition doesn't work. Prohibition is responsible for most of the violence associated with drugs.
9. Drugs and the drug war touch most families.
10. We have to learn how to live with drugs, because they aren't going anywhere.
*Bonus point: The public is ahead of the politicians.

Get Drunk

(a poem in prose)
You have always to be drunk. That is everything: the only question. If you would not feel the horrid weight of Time, that breaks your shoulders, bending you toward earth, relentlessly you must get drunk.
Well, then; but on what? On wine, or poetry, or virtue, as you will. Only, just get drunk!
And if, someday, you should awake upon a palace stair, or lying in the green grass of a ditch, or in the dreary loneness of your room, and you should find your drunkenness already lessened or quite gone, then ask of the wind, of the wave, of the star, of the lark, of the clock, - of all that flies, or rolls, or moans, or sings, or speaks - "What time is it?" And the wind, the wave, the star, the lark, the clock will answer, "It is time to get drunk! If you would not be the martyred slave of Time, get drunk, and never stop! On wine, or poetry, or virtue, as you will."
a poem by Charles Baudelaire

Continuing the Tradition in Colombia

A recent article by Peter Gorman posted on WWIV Report exposes the developments occurring in Colombia as being scarily similar to the abusive authoritarian regimes of the Latin America of the past. A combination of events over the last year or so spells danger for peasants, indigenous, and other marginalized groups in the country - including the so-called 'members' of FARC - all for the benefit of American corporate interests. Gorman offers the events:
1) the discovery of oil in the region controlled by FARC
2) the decision by Colombian Congress to allow Uribe to run for yet another term as president
3) the approval of the Free Trade agreement with the US
4) the indictment - in the US - of 50 members of FARC as being major players in the cocaine trade (claiming they are responsible for up to 50% of the world cocaine trade)
5) the appointment of Gen. Montoya - trainee and instructor at the infamous School of the Americas - to head the Colombian military.
To quickly sum how these events are related... Oil is discovered in FARC territory - apparently large fields of it. Uribe pushes for permission to run again (and receiving it), combined with the likelihood that he will win again, assures that he will be around to make sure things go as planned. Uribe then pushes through Free Trade agreement granting US companies rights to said oil (in essence at least). Now they need to get rid of the FARC and anyone else who might be on the land on top of the oil. So, they step up fumigation efforts in the name of the War on Drugs, clearing massive swaths of jungle and displacing those who live there. The US indicts what amounts to basically the entire FARC leadership as drug runners, and Uribe appoints one of the most evil, inhumane military leaders in its history to hunt them down. While other countries throughout Latin America have moved beyond this kind of authoritarian leadership and abuse of human rights, Colombia appears to be stuck in the past, trying to live out the glory of the corrupt, law breaking, inhumane leaders from decades ago.

Meet Bob

Research on bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, has discovered that they develop their own unique signature whistles when they are young. As they mature, relatives and non-family members identify them by their whistle, setting them apart from other non-human mammals. I think I agree with Tom Robbins that dolphins have proven themselves the superior mammal by choosing water over land. Imagine if every person whistled instead of talked!


awake in the morning.
or is it
where am i again?
at least
i can hear
the birds.
at least
i can dream
i cannot have.
what is this?


Here's a link to the video that's been mentioned around the web about the 1986 World Series of baseball. The NY Mets -vs- the Boston Red Sox, game 6, 10th inning, Boston up 5-3, and the Mets come back to win with the help of the infamous 'Bill Buckner play.'
Oh... the video is a recreation of the scene using the old-school Nintendo game from the era...
It's pretty funny so enjoy....

is this not coruption?

Check out this article in the bbc. The guy - Larry Silverstein - who is building 4 of the 5 new towers at the 'ground zero' site signed a 99 year lease 2 months before the buildings were destroyed.
'Larry' received a $4.6 billion insurance settlement after the destruction.
Does this not smell like something fishy?
If it smells fishy...

Free Drugs?

In one of the most beautiful large cities in North America, Vancouver, they are considering a plan to start a drug maintenance program in efforts to 'clean up' the city for the 2010 Olympics. Apparently, the program would provide free drugs to addicts. The mayor, Sam Sullivan, says, "The goal is to protect women addicts forced into prostitution and to deal with Vancouver's crime and social disorders." The program also has an anonymous donor who has offered $500,000 to get it started. The mayor also says that he is not convinced that law enforcement or treatment for addicts are the best ways to deal with the drug problem, and treatment Check out the short article in the Toronto Sun.

the oil kings...

Here's the NYTimes article about the excess earnings of the oil barons of today. These guys make more than most countries, yet people continue to starve and die due to the policies that support these fuckers...

For 13 years as chairman and chief executive, Lee R. Raymond propelled Exxon, the successor to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust, to the pinnacle of the oil world.

Under Mr. Raymond, the company's market value increased fourfold to $375 billion, overtaking BP as the largest oil company and General Electric as the largest American corporation. Net income soared from $4.8 billion in 1992 to last year's record-setting $36.13 billion.

Shareholders benefited handsomely on Mr. Raymond's watch. The price of Exxon's shares rose an average of 13 percent a year. The company, now known as Exxon Mobil, paid $67 billion in total dividends.

For his efforts, Mr. Raymond, who retired in December, was compensated more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Brian Foley, an independent compensation consultant. That is $144,573 for each day he spent leading Exxon's "God pod," as the executive suite at the company's headquarters in Irving, Tex., is known.

Despite the company's performance, some Exxon shareholders, academics, corporate governance experts and consumer groups were taken aback this week when they learned the details of Mr. Raymond's total compensation package, including the more than $400 million he received in his final year at the company.

Shareholder advocates point to what they describe as stealth compensation arranged for Mr. Raymond but not disclosed in proxy filings. Consumer groups complain that while last year's rise in global oil prices left many consumers feeling less prosperous, oil executives have become a lot richer from the higher prices. And some corporate governance experts argue that much of Mr. Raymond's pay came from easy profits generated by skyrocketing oil prices.

"It's entrepreneurial returns for managerial conduct," said Charles M. Elson, the director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. "Exxon was there long before Mr. Raymond was there and will be there long after he leaves. Yet he received Rockefeller returns without taking the Rockefeller risk."

Exxon says that Mr. Raymond's compensation and retirement package was tied to the company's stellar performance. According to the company proxy statement, filed Wednesday, the package recognized his "outstanding leadership of the business, continued strengthening of our worldwide competitive position, and continuing progress toward achieving long-range strategic goals."

Through an Exxon spokesman, Mr. Raymond declined to comment.

Mr. Raymond certainly distinguished himself as an oil executive. Exxon is known in the business as a disciplined and tightly focused company with an obsessive attention to the bottom line. In 1999, Mr. Raymond pulled his biggest coup by taking advantage of a slump in oil prices to acquire Mobil in an $81 billion merger, at the time the largest ever.

Thanks to his strategy, the company each day produces 2.5 million barrels of oil — more than Kuwait — and the equivalent of 1.5 million barrels of natural gas. It is the world's top refiner and controls 22 billion barrels of oil reserves, the most among its publicly traded peers.

Other oil executives have also benefited from the doubling of oil prices over the last two years. For example, Ray R. Irani, the chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, received about $63 million in total compensation last year, an increase of more than 50 percent over 2004. Over the last three years, Mr. Irani has reaped more than $135 million, mostly in options and restricted stock.

David J. O'Reilly, the chief executive of Chevron, received nearly $37 million in salary, bonus, stock and stock options last year. The stock and options vest over multiple years. Mr. O'Reilly already owns stock options valued at $34 million.

Still, Mr. Raymond's package for 2005 stands out, even stripping the $98 million lump-sum value of his pension plan. He received $19.9 million in salary, bonus and other incentives for 2005. He made $21.2 million on options he exercised last year. And he was awarded 550,000 restricted shares, bringing the total he owns to 3.26 million, with a value of $199 million, at $61 a share, an average of Exxon's share price since March 1. Some of the restricted shares vest in 5 and 10 years. He owns more options that hold a value of $69.6 million.

While generous, the other major oil companies have been much more restrained with their top executives.

At BP, Lord Browne received $14.8 million in 2005, a mix of salary, bonus and the value of restricted shares that vested in February 2005 and 2006. Jeroen van der Veer, the head of Royal Dutch Shell, received $4.33 million in base pay, bonus and other benefits, a 33 percent increase from the previous year, and received shares worth another $4.5 million.

Still, the record for total compensation in one year goes to Steven P. Jobs, who received $775 million, mostly from stock options, in 2000 from Apple Computer. Michael D. Eisner, the former head of the Walt Disney Company, took home $577 million in 1997, also largely from stock option exercises.

The Coca Leaf...

Curious about what all the talk about the coca leaf in South America is about? Check out this BBC aricle for what they have to say.


Well... it's been a few weeks since anything has been posted here. I've been especially busy lately, and recycled minds was put on the back burner for a while.
But I'm interested in this whole civil war and rebel business. The U.S. is still in Iraq, and the word on the street has been that it's civil war there. The so-called terrorists are really just rebels, struggling for a voice, a new way, their way, independence... who really knows what people want in Iraq? We certainly don't know in the U.S....
But this is getting away from my point. Rebels are also active in India and we all know what's going on in Colombia. That country has been at war with itself for decades. Mexico has the Zapatista movement, which has threatened to get violent, but seems to be on a different, yet effective path. Numerous conflicts in Africa can be characterized as between rebels and the powerful - or those in power.
Really, my point is this: has this spirit died in the U.S.? We may protest (meekly I might add), and make attempts at organizing around a new political party (the Greens, or even the new(ish) face of the Democrats), but the idea of rebellion is unheard of. Meanwhile, one of the most openly corrupt administrations has hijacked most of the branches of the government, basically changing the face of politics and policy of the whole country for years to come.
The citizens sit by and watch.
Could there be a rebel movement in the U.S.? A movement that strives for equality and justice; to spread the wealth of the richest country on the planet; to make life better for everyone, everywhere; to treat people like fellow humans and not like enemies or consumers.
Where is this movement?

Spring Equinox!

In celebration of one of the earth's holidays, I offer these pics from the BBC of the ancient pyramids among which lies the Pyramid of the Sun, where the sun aligns perfectly with the top just two times per year - on the days of the equinox.
Happy days...

And check out this AP article from yahoo that helps to explain the importance of water (see the previous post) - something that was once plentiful around the pyramids mentioned above, but now is virtually non-existent...

Water, Water, Water...

With the World Water Forum taking place in Mexico City right now the battle over access to and control of water has taken center stage not only in the international media, but also in the minds of the people who are fighting for access to this newly precious resource. An article by the AP highlights the protests occurring during the pay to play forum. An article from the BBC also describes the 'mostly peaceful' protesting, but includes a snippet that reveals who does suffer to supply water to the rich:
Large numbers of peaceful protesters included indigenous groups whose water is being diverted to supply big cities and those forced to live with sewage pollution.
And finally, an article in the NYTimes describes the water crisis in the once wet city of Mexico, where the forum is being held. Check out this article for some eye-opening problems that may be part of the future of many cities around the globe.
It seems that by fighting in the Middle East over access to oil, the U.S. may be ignoring a much bigger problem that appears to be looming on the horizon.

The New Bolivia

As has already been posted here, and as anyone with a sense of Latin American politics knows, Bolivia recently elected the country's first indigenous person to the presidency - Evo Morales. While his election made international headlines (even in the U.S.), not much has been reported since. Well, I found an article by an online service from Cuba that offers an update on what's going on down in Bolivia. The article reports on Morales' proposal calling for the election of a constituent assembly that will 'refound' the nation, and "free the country from neoliberalism." Morales explained:
the Assembly'’s function is to change the structures of the state, to unite and integrate national territory, eliminate discrimination, recover Bolivia'’s natural resources and transform the republic's history of discrimination, plunder and submission.
About the process and possible affects:
After winning over the opposition in at least three new departments of Bolivia: Beni, Pando and Tarija, which had threatened to block the project, Morales achieved national unity and a majority approval in Congress. The election is scheduled for July 2.

The Bolivian government affirmed that the enactment of the law marked a great day of vindication for the indigenous peoples that would lead to a new era of justice and plenitude.

And finally, Morales announced his new nationalization plan:

The Bolivian government has announced its plan to recover control of the large state companies that were privatized between 1995 and 1996 during the first term of ex-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

The nationalization plan will affect 10 companies: three oil ones, three electric, two railroads, one telecommunication and one airline, reported ANSA.

In order to assume control of these10 companies, Minister of Planning Carlos Villegas announced that the state is to assume 51% of the shares of each, by adding the purchase of 1% of the shares held by private associates to the 50% base that already belongs to the state.

"We want to buy (that 1%), but if they do not want to sell it, we will take decisions of another nature in order to ensure that the Bolivian state can exercise its right to 51% ownership," explained Villegas.

The process dubbed "de-capitalization" that occurred during 1995 and 1996 involved the five main state entities of that period, some of which, in association with private capital, created another five companies according to their specialization within the sector.

The private investors received partial administrative control of each privatized company as a guarantee on their investments.

Once the majority of the shares are recovered by the state, it will have the capacity to make decisions within each company.
With these major fundamental changes being proposed, Morales must definitely be on the radar of the U.S. - along with his friend Chavez in Venezuela. Because Bolivia has a population composed of a majority of indigenous, he has the popular backing of the people. However, his moves must be making waves among the elite who have traditionally controlled the country (as in the rest of Latin America). One can only wonder how long Morales will last as a head of state before outside intervention comes into play. On the other hand, perhaps this is just the beginning of a movement to equalize the economic playing field - not only among nations, but also among the people.
Finally... check out this link for some more up-to-date goings on down in Bolivia

Ayahuasca for Americans

In another follow-up post, I offer this article from National Geographic describing the author's (Kira Salak) experiences down in the Peruvian Amazon drinking ayahuasca with an - *gulp* - American shaman. To be fair, the ceremonies were also attended by an old Indian shaman who had trained the American over the course of many years. Now the guy brings other Americans down to be healed by the powerful drink. The article details the physical experience, and offers an example of one of the many possible benefits for westerners - ayahuasca proved the most efficacious at treating the author's struggles with depression. Thanks to contributor re-mind for the heads up on this one...

A New Chapter in the Drug War

In what I see as quite a surprise, the US Supreme Court declared it legal for a group in the US to consume a mind-altering tea, a version of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has been used by indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It is considered a sacred drink that is consumed by both shamans, and lay people in ceremonies devoted to healing. Shamans have insisted that the plant speaks to them, and consider it the voice of the vine. This 'voice' apparently has provided shamans with information concerning the vast world of plants in the Amazon and their myriad uses.
In Brazil and other places, the tea has been co-opted by religious groups who perform group ceremonies for healing/religious purposes in the modern setting of the city. This type of group had formed in the US, and the ingredients for the tea were confiscated by the DEA. According to a BBC article:

The hoasca tea is considered sacred to members of the group, O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. In its ruling, the court said the government must allow the use of the tea under religious freedom laws. Roberts wrote that federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the tea.

Perhaps this signals a shift away from harsh and unjustifiable drug laws that have criminalized the use of sacred substances that have little to no possibility for abuse. Either way it is a surprise that the conservative court has ruled in favor of this group who now may continue to "understand god" without fear of the feds breaking down their doors.

Here is the NYTimes article about the decision, which goes into a bit more detail...

A Nation of Indians?

Indians in Brazil and 4 other nations joined together in a call for an independent nation of indigenous peoples. In an AP article posted a few days ago, the Indians reportedly called for a "resurrection" of the Indian nation. According to the article:

Thousands of Indians belonging to what they call the "Guarani nation" walked three hours from Sao Gabriel do Sul, 900 miles south of Rio de Janeiro, to the site where chief Sepe Tiaraju was killed in 1756 at the hands of Portuguese and Spanish soldiers.

The marchers carried signs saying "Our forefathers illuminate our path for the recuperation of the Guarani land" and "Memory and resistance." The Guarani were the dominant people in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and northern Argentina before the Europeans arrived
Today, despite the promise of land from most national governments, indigenous people throughout the Americas continue to lose their lands to the pressures of development and natural resource extraction. Perhaps the only way to stop this is to grant indigenous peoples their own sovereign nations in the varying regions of South and Central America. This would be the least modern nations could do for the original inhabitants of these lands.

The Wonders of Technology

Despite the negative aspects of the western, capitalist, technology driven culture that is slowly taking over the world, one can't deny the positive benefits that often result. A BBC article describes the use of podcasts in rural Peru to give tips to farmers. According to the article:
UK charity Practical Action has married old and new technology to podcast twice-monthly updates to eight information centres in the Cajamarca region.
These telecentres, many of which are run on solar power, automatically download the programmes onto CDs to rebroadcast them on local radio stations.
The charity has found it effective to distribute audio material to local people, who prefer listening in their own dialect to being sent the written word.

Farmers are getting tips on topics ranging from cattle husbandry to growing grapes, and apparently the local interest in the technology is high. Locals are now being trained on how to create their own podcasts, which could lead to innumerable topics for broadcast.

Morales Spreads the Money

Thanks to a heads up from our contributor - Sapere-aude - I caught this small development down in Bolivia. The newly elected president held true to a campaign promise (is this a first for a politician?) that he would cut his salary in half. In fact, he cut it by 57% to about $1800 per month. Morales also urged the Congress to cut their salaries as well, as by law in Bolivia, nobody in the government can earn more than the president (this according to a BBC article). He said that the money would be used to increase the number of doctors and teachers in the country. Check back, as recycled minds will continue with updates on further developments in Bolivia, Latin America, and beyond. Here's a link to a BBC article that tells of the paycut.
And how about this photo of Evo Morales (on the right) with superstar soccer player, Diego Maradonna, wearing a classic t-shirt with a message that has huge support around the world.

From Someone Who Knows...

It turns out that unbeknownst to me, a friend of mine has worked at both WalMart and WholeFoods. While I detest WalMart, I appreciate the fact that WholeFoods provides one of the bigger markets for alternative earthfriendly products, so it was disheartening to see the two compared. Anyway, here's my friends response to the previous post along with the article on Alternet:

I want to address the recent article that appeared on Alternet comparing Whole Foods to Wal-Mart. The idea behind the article is that people who work for low wages at Wal-Mart can’t afford the food they sell there while those who work at Whole Foods struggle with the same thing. I’ve worked for both companies spending two years as a deli worker and then stir-fry chef at Whole Foods and a year and a half as an unloader at Wal-Mart. From an employees standpoint the two companies are night and day. Wal-Mart wastes so much stuff because they refuse to give it out to employees. In some instances they will sell food that is about to expire at a lower rate but the food is never given out. At Whole Foods I took home shopping bags full of produce and baked goods every night. What wasn’t taken by the employees was then donated to organizations such as food not bombs or soup kitchens so that they could give it out to their customers. Wal-Mart would never do this, never. About the pay I started both jobs making seven dollars an hour. Within a year at Whole Foods I was moved to eight dollars and then within four more months I was moved to nine dollars an hour. At Wal-Mart the raises have consisted of forty cents here and forty cents there. Only when I moved to a higher paying region and started working at a Supercenter did I get an hourly wage remotely similar to what I was making at Whole Foods. But and this is a big but there is no mention in the article about the bonus checks Whole Foods pays each month to their employees. The checks are based on how much profit is left over at the end of the month and would usually turn into a dollar per hour worked or an extra one hundred and sixty dollars a month for a full time employee. Over the course of a year that is an extra two thousand dollars. That on top of the free food they allowed their workers to have makes Whole Foods a far better employer than Wal-Mart. Of course that’s not all. Whole Foods also provided merit benefits and opportunities to win gift certificates by learning about the products. They took the form of quizzes and each month the person with the highest percent of questions answered correctly would receive a twenty five dollar gift certificate. The scores were kept over a period of four months and the one with the highest total during that period was given a hundred dollar gift certificate. Needless to say for eight months in a row I was the highest scorer and that translated into an extra four hundred dollars in gift certificates. Now I could keep going about the fact that while illegal immigrants worked at Whole Foods they were paid similar wages to the other workers at the store and because of that these workers made more than they would anywhere else but I’ll save you the details. Take it from me, Whole Foods may be overpriced (although most health food stores are) and it may have its faults but it should not in anyway be compared to Wal-Mart.

It sounds like there really is no comparison.

Whole Foods = High Prices

Here's an interesting article posted on written by Stan Cox, who has done previous work demonstrating that a full-time WalMart employee could not afford to shop for basic needs at Walmart. Well, guess what? Whole Foods - the natural foods giant - falls under the same roof. The article lays it all out, but the bottom line is a new hire working the check-out lines can not afford to buy his/her basic needs at Whole Foods - even without food taxes and after an employee discount! It is fairly obvious that the real problem here is not product, but corporate ownership. When the bottom line is all important, the worker is left behind trying to survive - even if the product is supposedly earth friendly and feel good.

Chile Adds a Voice for the Left!

Times are a changin' down in South America. It looks like Chile is the next in line to elect a left-leaning/socialist president, and to top that off, it's a woman! Oh how far the U.S. truly has to go. Michelle Bachelet is set to become Chile's first female president. An AP article calls her a "socialist doctor, and former political prisoner" from the days of Pinochet. She beat out a billionaire businessman who was hoping his ties to the right-wing would carry him to victory. It looks like those days might be over in South America.
Also check out this NYTimes article that gives a little background on Bachelet and how she came to be president.
Check back here at recycledminds for more on what plans Bachelet may have for the skinny coastal country of Chile.

Chomsky on the U.S.

One of my personal favorite political analysts, Noam Chomsky, recently provided an interview to the Seattle-based journalist Geov Parrish for Chomsky spoke about the current state of the U.S. and some of the important issues that face the country. Notably, he begins by commenting on the weakness of the Democratic party, and how in reality, they are not an opposition party to the Republicans:
"George Bush would be in severe political trouble if there were an opposition political party in the country. The striking fact about contemporary American politics is that the Democrats are making almost no gain from this. An opposition party would be making hay, but the Democrats are so close in policy to the Republicans that they can't do anything about it."
Chomsky also talks about the war in Iraq (of course) and the U.S. foreign policy in general. He states that there really is no War on Terror, and that the U.S. is really out to control natural resources, namely oil.
If you have not read Chomsky before, this is a fine example of his style of critique. If you have, check out this interview as one of his most recent. And finally, a happy belated birthday to Dr Chomsky, who recently turned 77.