Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dear John (an open letter to Oregon's governor)

Dear Governor Kitzhaber,

Really? The public soundly rejected SB 633, so you'll just shove it down the public's collective throat anyway?

GMOs are an economic dead-end, and the companies that seek to peddle that particular brand of snake oil to the public know it. If GMOs had real commercial value, the public would be clamoring for them, not trying to get them rejected; if GMOs had anything of value for the public, companies like Monsanto wouldn't be engaged in endless rounds of expensive litigation and/or legislation involving their ill-conceived products. Allowing the planting of GMO seeds anywhere in Oregon without strict conditions attached risks irreparable harm to Oregon's agricultural industry and permanent changes to its ecology. Please, don't go there.


Phil Hanson

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Capitalism: A Criminal Enterprise

The problem with seeing the world in terms of money is that you miss the world.

Apparently, that’s a prerequisite of the capitalist mindset. Given the choice between a healthy environment and a healthy bottom line, the committed capitalist will consistently choose the healthy bottom line. If the choice is between clean, pure water that communities depend on for life support and hydrofracked natural gas to sell on the open market, they’ll go for the money, communities be damned. If they must choose between healthy ocean ecosystems that benefit all life and a temporary supply of cheap fossil energy to sell on the open market, they’ll choose the money without a thought that a collapsed ocean ecosystem will eventually doom us all. In any situation where the choices are sustainability or short-term profits, diehard capitalists take the money and run.

Such is the allure of the dollar sign, that seductive icon of wealth and power and international symbol of greed. In musing, it seems probable that dollar signs are to human eyes as blinders are to a horse. Blinders keep the eyes focused on what’s immediately ahead while allowing the wearer to avoid sight of anything in the least bit scary, disturbing or unpleasant. Dollar signs enable capitalists to ignore global warming and deny climate change while they go about their daily business of converting essential wealth into short-term profits.

Capitalism, which pits the wants of a few against the needs of the many, depends primarily on theft for its success. It starts with the theft of the land, followed by the plundering of natural resources in and on the land and in, on or under the oceans, the theft of workers’ time and labor throughout the full range of production processes and, finally, the theft of environmental services and of taxpayers' dollars allocated to clean up the mess capitalists leave in their wake. Without theft, capitalism really doesn't work very well; it’s just not profitable.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Truth of Consequences

“In the last two years, reported sexual assault cases in the military rose from an estimated 19,000 to 26,000. Last year, the number reached an estimated 71 cases a day.” ―Heidi Heitkamp

Consequences? There are all kinds of consequences, some good, some bad, some intended, some not. What are the consequences of raping a fellow soldier? Well, there’s the loss of trust, the loss of comradeship, the loss of unit cohesion, the loss of unit discipline, the loss of respect, the loss of military pride …. So many losses and not a single win. Everyone loses.

The U.S. Military is rapidly gaining a reputation for being a place where the hard-up go to get laid. Until there are real consequences for rape in the military, expect an increase in sexual assaults each and every year; without consequences, bullies with poor impulse control feel free to participate. In the meantime, military rape victims ought not hesitate to frag their rapist at the earliest opportunity. (Note: For the best outcome, this should be done in an actual combat setting to provide cover for plausible deniability.)

Assuming that all of the people who actually have the power to stop sexual assaults on fellow soldiers―the would-be rapists, military commanders and members of the three branches of government―eventually come to their senses and collectively act to end rape within the military’s ranks, what kinds of deterrents might they use to ensure compliance with anti-rape regulations among the rank-and-file? What punishment might they use to bring home the consequences to those who would victimize their comrades-in-arms?

Does life in front of a firing squad sound too harsh?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Growing Pains

''Every nation has both a right and responsibility to keep its population in balance with its resources. The notion that you can grow forever is crazy economics.'' ―Mark O’Connor

In the world outside a coal mine frogs are the canaries, and they are dying.

As we humans change the chemical composition of the atmosphere, the oceans, and of the land itself, the very planet we depend on for life support is rapidly losing the ability to support life. Scientists and other experts warn that we are fast approaching critical tipping points on numerous fronts and that mass extinctions are a likely result.

Few people seem to grasp the precariousness of our situation―the immediacy of the dangers we all face―and fewer still fully grasp the proximate causes of it. Until we acknowledge the human element at the epicenter of environmental degradation and resource depletion―until we stop thinking in terms of resource shortages and start thinking in terms of excess demand due to overpopulation―and begin an honest dialog aimed at resolving these difficult issues, we are condemned to live a “slapstick comedy” kind of existence.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Best Things in Life

Some of the best things in life are the priceless gems we take away from direct experience, deep introspection or direct observation; these are among the things that help us better understand the world we live in―or help us imagine a better one. Here’s a baker’s dozen of my personal favorites:

1) All things are connected in some way, even when the connections seem tenuous or non-existent. What affects one thing affects all things.

2) Money isn’t wealth, per se, it only represents a future claim on wealth. In essence, it’s a facilitator of trade, but it does more than just that; it also invites one or more (usually more) additional parties (middlemen) into what would otherwise be a two-party transaction.

3) In the real world, physics apply; there is no magic, only illusions; there are limits to all finite things.

4) In a rational world, knowledge supported by science trumps religion-based dogma.

5) Things aren’t always what they seem to be.

6) Sometimes things are exactly what they seem to be.

7) Complex systems create complex problems that require complex solutions and complex explanations.

8) The economy is in no way economic; it squanders resources by turning things of value into money.

9) If it’s too big to fail, it’s a criminal enterprise.

10) If government could be bought, it already has been.

11) Religion provides cover for bad behavior.

12) Advancements in technology require new advancements in technology to deal with the aftermath.

13) At some point you have to stop striving for more and start striving for better.

Got some of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments.