A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Monday, July 27, 2015


From Chris Hedges, a different view of the relationship between Israel and Palestine, oppressor and oppressed. As a media-influenced American, I regularly see only Israel's side of this difficult/impossible relationship. Hedges' analysis reminds me that there is always a second side to every issue. The Holy Land??

Why I Support the BDS Movement Against Israel

  Smoke and fire from an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City in July 2014. (Hatem Moussa / AP )
The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power. They are demonized. They do not have well-heeled lobbyists doling out campaign contributions and pushing through pro-Palestinian legislation. No presidential candidate is appealing to donors—as Hillary Clinton did when she sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban denouncing critics of Israel—by promising to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. Palestinians, like poor people of color in the United States, are expendable.
Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power. These institutions have surrendered to moneyed interests. Justice will come only from us. And the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works.
All Israeli products including Jaffa citrus fruits, Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drink machines, Eden Springs bottled water and Israeli wine must be boycotted. We must refuse to do business with Israeli service companies. And we must boycott corporations that do business with Israel, including Caterpillar, HP and Hyundai. We must put pressure on institutions, from churches to universities, to divest from Israeli companies and corporations that have contracts with Israel. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was long and hard. This struggle will be too. 
Gaza, a year after Israel carried out a devastating bombing campaign that lasted almost two months, is in ruins. Most of the water is unsafe to drink. There are power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Forty percent of the 1.8 million inhabitants are unemployed, including 67 percent of the youths—the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Of the 17,000 homes destroyed by Israel in the siege, not one has been rebuilt. Sixty thousand people remain homeless. Only a quarter of the promised $3.5 billion in aid from international donors has been delivered—much of it diverted to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli puppet regime that governs the West Bank. And no one in Washington—Republican or Democrat—will defy the Israel lobby. No one will call for justice or stay the Israeli killing machine. U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, at the height of the Israeli bombardment last summer voted unanimously to defend the Israeli slaughterof a people with no army, navy, air force, mechanized units, artillery or command and control. It was a vote worthy of the old Soviet Union. Every senator held out his or her tin cup to the Israel lobby and chose naked self-interest over justice.
Israel, like the United States, is poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It too is governed by a corrupt oligarchic elite for whom war has become a lucrative business. It too has deluded itself into carrying out war crimes and then playing the role of the victim. Israeli systems of education and the press—again mirrored in the United States—have indoctrinated Israelis into believing that they have a right to kill anyone whom the state condemns as a terrorist. And Israel’s most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists are slandered and censored in their own country, just as American critics such as Norman FinkelsteinMax Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky are in the United States. 
Those who become addicted to the wielding of the instruments of war, blinded by hubris and a lust for power, eventually become war’s victims. This is as true for Israel as for the United States. 
Israel’s goal is to make life a living hell for all Palestinians, ethnically cleansing as many as it can and subduing those who remain. The peace process is a sham. It has led to Israel’s seizure of more than half the land on the West Bank, including the aquifers, and the herding of Palestinians into squalid, ringed ghettos orBantustans while turning Palestinian land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Israel is expanding settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Racial laws, once championed by the right-wing demagogue Meir Kahane, openly discriminate against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ilan Pappe calls the decades-long assault against the Palestinian people “incremental genocide.”
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In Gaza, Israel practices an even more extreme form of cruelty. It employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.8 million Palestinians just above starvation. This has left 80 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza dependent on Islamic charities and outside aid to survive. And the periodic military assaults on Gaza, euphemistically called“mowing the lawn,” are carried out every few years to ensure that the Palestinians remain broken, terrified and destitute. There have been three Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008. Each is more violent and indiscriminate than the last. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that a fourth attack on Gaza is “inevitable.”
During its 51-day siege of Gaza last summer Israel dropped $370 million in ordinance on concrete hovels and refugee camps that hold the most densely packed population on the planet. Two thousand one hundred four Palestinians were killed. Sixty-nine percent—1,462—were civilians. Four hundred ninety-five were children. Ten thousand were injured. (During the attack six Israeli civilians and 66 soldiers were killed.) Four hundred Palestinian businesses were wiped out. Seventy mosques were destroyed and 130 were damaged. Twenty-four medical facilities were bombed, and 16 ambulances were struck, as was Gaza’s only electrical power plant. Israel tallied it up: 390,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, 4.8 million bullets. Most of the civilians who died were killed in their homes, many of the victims torn to shreds by flechette darts sprayed from tanks. Children were burned with white phosphorous or buried with their families under rubble caused by 2,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs. Others died from dense inert metal explosive, or DIME, bombs—experimental weapons that send out extremely small, carcinogenic particles that cut through both soft tissue and bone. The Israel Defense Forces, as Amira Hass has reported, consider any Palestinian over the age of 12 to be a legitimate military target. Max Blumenthal’s new book, “The 51 Day War,” is a chilling chronicle of savage atrocities carried out by Israel in Gaza last summer. As horrible as the apartheid state in South Africa was, that nation never used its air force and heavy artillery to bomb and shell black townships.
A report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found Israel killed and injured more civilians with explosive weapons in 2014 than any other country in the world. Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of wildly inaccurate missiles—Finkelstein correctly called them “enhanced fireworks”—into Israel was, as a U.N. report recently charged, a war crime, although the report failed to note that under international law Hamas had a right to use force to defend itself from attack.
The disparity of firepower in the 2014 conflict was vast: Israel dropped 20,000 tons of explosives on Gaza while Hamas used 20 to 40 tons of explosives to retaliate. Israel’s wholesale slaughter of civilians is on a scale equaled only by Islamic Stateand Boko Haram. Yet Israel, in our world of double standards, is exempted from condemnation in Washington and provided with weapons and billions in U.S. foreign aid to perpetuate the killing. This is not surprising. The United States uses indiscriminate deadly force in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that outdoes even Israel, leaving behind civilian victims, refugees and destroyed cities and villages in huge numbers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his last election campaign received 90 percent of his money from U.S. oligarchs such as Sheldon Adelson, has internally mounted a campaign of state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents. He has stoked overt racism toward Palestinians and Arabs and the African migrant workers who live in the slums of Tel Aviv. “Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches. Thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu routinely beat up dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the streets of Tel Aviv. It is a species of Jewish fascism.
Israel is not an anomaly. It is a window into the dystopian, militarized world that is being prepared for all of us, a world with vast disparities of income and draconian systems of internal security. There will be no freedom for Palestine, or for those locked in our own internal colonies and terrorized by indiscriminate police violence, until we destroy corporate capitalism and the neoliberal ideology that sustains it. There will be no justice for Michael Brown until there is justice forMohammed Abu Khdeir. The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. And when we stand with the oppressed we will be treated like the oppressed.

Monday, July 20, 2015


This is an extraordinary essay by Chris Hedges about the teacher who was most influential in his life, Coleman Brown of Colgate University. As an educator, I envy the impact Brown had on his students, and the special relationship that Brown established with Hedges.

Part way down the first page (below), I highlighted a paragraph in which Hedges summarizes what he thinks education is, or should be at its best. I totally agree with everything in this paragraph--so if you read nothing else in this essay, read that.

I had a teacher like Coleman Brown when I was an undergraduate at Transylvania University in Kentucky, John D. Wright, Chair of the History Department. His enthusiastic and ever-searching presentation of people and currents and trends and events inspired me to change the focus of my life, to fall in love with history instead of medicine, to see the study of the past as an opportunity to investigate every facet of human endeavor as I tried to make sense of the collective past of humankind. And through this inquiry, I began to learn about myself--a never-ending exploration, and then  chose to become a teacher myself, always using John Wright as the standard by which I measured the successes and failures of my endeavors.

And the relation of suffering and the love of mankind (end of p. 2), well that's another story.

My Teacher  by Chris Hedges

  Professor Coleman Brown in his classroom at Colgate University. (Chris Anderson)
I drove to Hamilton, N.Y., last December to take part in the funeral service for the Rev. Coleman Brown. Coleman, who had taught at Colgate University, had the most profound impact of all my teachers on my education. I took seven courses as an undergraduate in religion. He taught six of them. But his teaching extended far beyond the classroom. The classroom was where he lit the spark.
He was brilliant and slightly eccentric. Concerned one winter day that the heating system in Lawrence Hall was making us students too comfortable and complacent, he opened the windows, sending blasts of snow into the room as we sat huddled in our jackets. He had a habit of repeatedly circling words on the blackboard with chalk, leaving behind series of massive white rings and faint white streaks on his face (he repeatedly ran his index and middle fingers down his cheek as he spoke). His worn tweed coats seemed to always have a soft coating of chalk dust.
He was loved, often adored, by most of his students, whom he looked upon as an extended family. His office hours were packed. He regularly brought groups of students home for meals and evenings with him and his wife, Irene, and their four children. Three decades later, some of the most vivid memories I have of Colgate are of doggedly following him out of the classroom to continue the conversation he had begun in class, of meeting him weekly in his office, of listening to his sermons on Sunday mornings in the chapel, of dinners at his house and, finally, after my graduation, of bursting into tears in front of my parents as I said goodbye to him.
Education is not only about knowledge. It is about inspiration. It is about passion. It is about the belief that what we do in life matters. It is about moral choice. It is about taking nothing for granted. It is about challenging assumptions and suppositions. It is about truth and justice. It is about learning how to think. It is about, as James Baldwin wrote, the ability to drive “to the heart of every matter and expose the question the answer hides.” And, as Baldwin further noted, it is about making the world “a more human dwelling place.”
I wanted to learn. Coleman wanted to teach. And my education—my real education—is not discernable from my college transcript. Coleman and I met late Friday afternoons each week in his book-lined office. There and in class he introduced me to the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, William Stringfellow and Daniel Berrigan. I devoured the books he gave me, especially Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society,” which I read and reread. He gave me poems by John Donne, W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. He taught me the importance of C.S. Lewis and Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read “The Brothers Karamazov” twice in college because of Coleman, although the novel was never taught in any of my classes.
Coleman would read poems and cherished prose passages out loud as I met with him in his office. It was about the musicality of language. His sonorous voice rose and dipped with intonations and emphasis. To this day I still hear his recitation in pieces of writing and poems. He understood, as Philip Pullman writes, that “the sound is part of the meaning, and that part only comes alive when you speak it,” that even if you do not at first understand the poem “you’re far closer to the poem than someone who sits in silence looking up meanings and references and making assiduous notes.” Coleman had open disdain for New Criticism, the evisceration of texts into sterile pieces of pedantry that fled from the mysterious, sacred forces that great writers struggle to articulate. You had to love great writing before you attempted to analyze it. You had to be moved and inspired by it. You had to be captured by the human imagination. He once told me he had just reread “King Lear.” I recited a litany of freshly minted undergraduate criticism, talking about subplots, themes of blindness and the nature of power. He listened impassively. “Well,” he said when I had finished. “I don’t know anything about that. I only know it made me a better person and a better father.” 
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I would spend the week memorizing poems he had read to me—Auden’s “September 1, 1939” and “Epitaph on a Tyrant,” Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” passages of Shakespeare—and return the following Friday to recite them to him. 
Poetry, he taught me, is alive. It must be felt. It has a hypnotic power that, as Shakespeare understood, is a kind of witchcraft. And poetry, along with all other writing, is just a spent, dead force if you do not surrender to its spell. 
“If you graduate knowing how to read and write, you will be educated,” Coleman said.
I was a writer, but the two people who most influenced my life—my father and Coleman—were Presbyterian preachers and social activists. Coleman, before he went to teach at Colgate, had been a minister in an inner-city church in Chicago. As a seminarian at Union Theological Seminary he had worked in East Harlem. He was involved in the Chicago Freedom Movement, which was a tenant action collaboration with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and, like my father, he was a member of Clergy and Concerned Laymen, a group of religious leaders who opposed the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at Coleman’s church in Chicago (an event for which Coleman could not be present).
A descendant of the abolitionist John Brown, he placed at the center of his critique of American society the poison of white supremacy and the nightmare of racism that had been and remains part of our body politic. Being educated meant understanding how racism and white supremacy were ingrained in the beliefs, institutions, laws and systems of power—especially capitalism—that ruled America. And I felt, largely because of the example of Coleman’s life, that I should become an inner-city minister. I applied to Harvard Divinity School during my senior year at Colgate, an application for which my Shakespeare professor, Margaret Maurer, as she later told me, ruefully wrote a recommendation that informed the admissions committee that I had probably read more books than any other student she had taught but that “unfortunately most of them were never assigned.” This was true in a formal sense. But of course Coleman had informally assigned many of them.
When I was accepted at Harvard, Coleman announced he would teach me how to preach. He was one of the finest preachers I have ever heard. There was and is no course at Colgate University in preaching. But that spring, in the basement of the chapel, there became one, although it would never be noted in the registrar’s office. I wrote a weekly sermon. Coleman sat in a chair in front of me and took notes in felt pen on a yellow legal pad. For all his compassion and gentleness, he was possessed of an intellect that was uncompromising and intimidating. My sermons were torn to shreds under his critique. I would be sent back to do them again. And again. And again. At the end of the semester he seemed satisfied.
“Now you know how to preach,” he told me. “Don’t let anyone change you.” 
This truth did not escape my homiletics professor at Harvard, Krister Stendahl, who pulled me aside after my first sermon to the class and asked, “Where did you learn to preach?” I won the divinity school’s preaching prize.
I lived across the street from the Mission Main and Mission Extension housing project in Roxbury, the inner city in Boston, and ran a small church as a seminarian. It was one of the poorest and most dangerous projects in the city. I commuted to Cambridge for classes and went home to the ghetto. The vast disconnect between Harvard, where students went on about the suffering of people they had never met, and the poor filled me with despair. I went back to Colgate to sit again in Coleman’s office. The slants of pale, yellow light fell with a comforting familiarity on the shelves of books and the tweed jacket of my old teacher.
There was a long silence.
“Are we created to suffer?” I finally asked.
“Is there any love that isn’t?” he answered.

My Teacher

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I would leave Harvard, without being ordained, to go off to war as a reporter. I would cover conflicts for 20 years in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. I would see the worst of human evil. I would come back once or twice a year to the United States. And I would almost always find my way to Hamilton to see Coleman Brown.
I have always thought of myself as a preacher. This is not a vocation one proclaims openly if he or she works for The New York Times, as I did. Preachers, like artists, care more about the truth than they do about news. News and truth are not the same thing. The truth can get you into trouble. During the calls to invade Iraq I denounced the looming war, drawing on my seven years in the Middle East and my former position as the Middle East bureau chief for the Times. My outspokenness led to me being issued a formal reprimand and leaving the paper. It was then I began to write books. I sent my drafts to Coleman. He sent chapters back with notes and comments. In one proposed chapter of the manuscript that would become “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” he drew large X’s across four full pages and wrote at the bottom of the fourth page, “Frankly, you are over your head.” In a book I was writing on the New Atheists, he sent back the opening page, which I had spent some time putting together. Every sentence with the exception of the first had been meticulously crossed out with his thick black felt pen. “Keep the first sentence and cut the rest,” he wrote. He lifted to his level many passages in my books, especially in “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” which I dedicated to Coleman and my father. My books bear the imprint of his wisdom.
His decline was long and painful. He suffered dementia and neurological damage that left him in a wheelchair. He would, on my periodic visits, rouse himself with herculean effort to connect, to summon from deep inside him the great spirit and intellect that somehow never left him. On my last visit with him before he died at 80, I came with my friend and onetime classmate from Colgate and Harvard, the Rev. Michael Granzen. We sat at the dinner table with Coleman and Irene Brown. “Now which preacher here will say the grace?” I asked of Coleman and Michael. “You will,” Coleman said.
I was ordained last October. The first time I wore a clerical collar was at Coleman’s funeral. My hand, and the hands of some of Coleman’s other students who had gone on to be preachers, rested, at the end of his service, on his coffin. I too am a teacher. I teach in a prison. My students do not, as I did not, learn in order to further a career or to advance their positions in society. Many of them will never leave prison. They learn because they yearn to be educated, because the life of the mind is the only freedom most will ever know. I love my students. I love them the way Coleman loved his students. I visit their families. I have met at the prison gate the very few who have been released. I have had them to my home. I have pushed books into their hands.
Last semester one of my most dedicated students stayed behind after the final class. This is a man who when I mention a book even in passing will find it, take it to his cell and consume it. He was imprisoned at the age of 14 and tried as an adult. He will not be eligible to go before a parole board until he is 70.
“I will die in prison,” he said. “But I work as hard as I do so that one day I can be a teacher like you.”
In the Christian faith this is called resurrection.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Tom Toles by Tom Toles

Tom Toles


This is very sad, a telling commentary on the "ethics" of big business when profits cross paths with telling the truth.  And we all pay the price in the long run--which is irrelevant to those who are most focused on increasing corporate profits and leadership's bonuses.

They Knew, They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

(Photo: Los Angeles Smog via Shutterstock)(Photo: Los Angeles Smog via Shutterstock)
Between 1956 and 1964, Bell Laboratories produced a number of television specials titled "The Bell Laboratories Science Series." The topics ranged from an examination of the Sun, to human blood, deep space, the mind, the nature of time and life itself. The programs were produced by Frank Capra, whose films include It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so the production value of the series was notably superior. Even 30 years later, schools all across the US were still showing these Bell Labs films to students.
In 1958, a chapter in this series titled "The Unchained Goddess" was broadcast. The topic was the weather, and it starred Richard Carlson and a USC professor named Dr. Frank C. Baxter. At one point in the program, Carlson asked Dr. Baxter, "What would happen if we could change the course of the Gulf Stream, or the other great ocean currents, or warm up Hudson Bay with atomic furnaces?" The "atomic furnaces" bit is a quaint throwback to the atom-crazy 1950s, but the response given by Dr. Baxter is what makes this particular film notable.
"Extremely dangerous questions," replied Dr. Baxter, "because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen. Even now, Man may be unwittingly changing the world's climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release, through factories and automobiles every year, of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide - which helps air absorb heat from the Sun - our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer. It's been calculated that a few degrees rise in the Earth's temperature would melt the polar ice caps, and if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi Valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water."
Again, this was broadcast in 1958. The fact that climate concerns were being voiced almost 60 years ago is likely surprising to many, but the history and beginnings of the environmental movement in the US date even earlier. Ten years before, in 1948, the first piece of federal legislation to regulate water quality - the Federal Water Pollution Control Act - was passed. President Eisenhower spoke to the issue of air pollution, which had killed nearly 300 people in New York City two years earlier, in his 1955 State of the Union Address. That same year, the Air Pollution Control Act was passed.
In 1962, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published, a watershed event many consider to be the official beginning of the environmental movement. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was passed. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb was published, which argued that the world's pollution problems were due to overpopulation. In 1970, President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and the first Earth Day protest - an event that included some 20 million people nationwide, then the largest protest in US history - was held.
In 1974, the first detailed scientific research connecting chlorofluorocarbons to the depletion of the ozone layer was released, and was augmented two years later. In 1979, President Carter pledged to embark upon a program to ensure that the US would get 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2000. That same year, he installed solar panels on the White House, which President Reagan removed after he took office. Reagan, in his first year, slashed the EPA's budget by more than half. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established.
The struggle to identify, diagnose and deal with climate change has been ongoing for almost seventy years, involving presidents and scientists and millions of ordinary citizens who recognized the dangers inherent in a climate affected by our actions ... which is what makes this report so thoroughly maddening.
ExxonMobil, it seems, was fully aware of the existence and dangers of global climate change as early as 1981, a fact revealed by a number of recently-released internal memos. The company was looking to exploit a massive natural gas field in Indonesia, but their pet in-house scientist warned against it, because the field was 70 percent carbon dioxide, and drilling for the gas would release the CO2, which would be dangerous to the environment.
For the next 27 years, despite knowing better, ExxonMobil spent millions of dollars to promote "scientists" and think tanks who worked hammer and tongs to promulgate the idea that climate change was a myth. Climate-deniers like Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics made mad bank by spraying scientific falsehoods into the polluted wind, thanks to the largesse of a number of energy corporations, including ExxonMobil.
They knew. They lied. They paid others to lie. They deranged the conversation, perverted bedrock science into a muddle of greed-inspired opinion-based nonsense, and maybe, or probably, humanity might have missed its window to fix all this because of the long delay they created in the name of profit.
Vast swaths of the US West, including Alaska most significantly, are on fire. Many parts of the world, including Europe, are boiling in unprecedented heat waves. California is basically out of water, with no relief to come in the foreseeable future. Half of Greenland's ice sheet is now liquid. Pink salmon, mussels, oysters, clams and scallops are about to disappear from the menu because the oceans are turning to acid. Those oceans are rising 2.5 times faster than originally estimated. Fracking persists, tar sands oil extraction continues to scar the air and the sure-to-leak Keystone XL pipeline marches inexorably toward delivering poison to the world.
People have been working for nearly 70 years to warn us of the dangers inherent in fossil fuels and the unchecked release of CO2. Since 1981 at least, ExxonMobil and other energy interests have known what these dangers represent, but spent money hand over fist to obscure the truth in order to line their pockets.
The ocean is coming. Many very smart people have been warning us of this for seven decades. As for the people who bent their shoulders to the task of denying this inexorable tidal truth for so many years that could have been spent checking and averting this looming disaster, well ... I hope their cash can act as a flotation device. They believe themselves to be so powerful, but the ocean brooks no challengers.
For the rest of us: the aftermath of lies. The tobacco companies tried this denial number, and it killed millions of people. The lies of ExxonMobil and the cohort of energy companies who paid through the nose to deny the damage they were doing may well have cashed the final check for life on Earth as we know it. They knew. They lied. How many will die for their profit margin? How many have died already?
Mind the tides. The brutal reality of consequences is coming up the beach.


Here's another article about how the major oil companies, in the name of profit, have deliberately misled the public about how burning fossil fuels alter the climate. Highly paid PR people have cleverly disguised the truth and made people doubt their own common sense and accurate perceptions.

Fossil Fuel Fraud

Carlos Osorio / AP
When Pope Francis used his bully pulpit to speak out about climate change, conservative global warming deniers were quick to dismiss him. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe said, “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.”Inhofe’s “job” has literally been to spread disinformation on behalf of the fossil fuel industry in order to stymie action against climate change.
Now, the Union of Concerned Scientists has released a damning new report on how fossil fuel companies have known the risks of climate change for years and worked actively to deceive the public. Dubbed “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” it includes a collection of secret documents and memos over a 27-year period from companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell, obtained through a variety of Freedom of Information Act requests, lawsuits and whistleblower leaks. The 85 memos, numbering a total of 330 pages, are available for public viewing.
Nancy Cole, one of the report’s authors, told me in an interview on “Uprising”that what the documents show in stark relief is that for years fossil fuel companies worked to generate uncertainty in climate science to impact public perceptions. By creating confusion among ordinary Americans, they were able to successfully derail meaningful change. “The fossil fuel companies are simply playing off the same playbook as the tobacco companies and other industries that have sought to deny and deceive the public about the harm of their products,” Cole explained.
Sowing doubt is a popular tactic used by industry groups to stave off regulation. In fact, a 1969 memo by a tobacco executive explicitly stated that “doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Just as this strategy enabled an industry that has led to millions of deathsworldwide, fossil fuel companies are spreading doubt through campaigns of disinformation that are likely to cause a similar, if not greater, death toll.
1998 memo from the American Petroleum Institute spells out that strategy very clearly: “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’ ”
As Cole noted, “They don’t have to win. They just need to sow doubt, they need to make uncertainty their product. That makes it harder for the public to rally around the solutions that we should have been working around for decades and it gives policymakers an excuse for not taking action.”
Among “The Climate Deception Dossiers” is a leaked 1991 strategy memo to the Information Council on the Environment, a front group for coal interests. Under “strategies,” the memo reads, “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” The idea was to create a series of advertisements questioning the reality of climate change through ads targeting demographic groups that the industry thought would be most receptive to such information: less-educated males and young lower-income women. And they did just that, in venues such as “The Rush Limbaugh Show.”
The deception didn’t stem from a sincere belief that global warming is a myth. Scientists working for fossil fuel companies have known for decades that climate change is a serious problem. A 1995 letter from Mobil Oil Corporation (before it merged with Exxon to become ExxonMobil) describing how global warming is a reality that “is well established and cannot be denied” is among the trove of documents that Cole and her fellow scientists analyzed. “These companies banded together and sought purposely to deceive the public and our policymakers and to undermine the potential for action,” she said.
So slimy has their behavior been, so shameful their lies, that at one point in 2009 a public relations firm hired by oil and gas companies sent letters to members of Congress purportedly from nonprofit groups with forged signatures. “The fossil fuel companies ramp up every time there is a possibility of legislation or policy being put into place that would reduce carbon emissions,” said Cole. She added that the forged letters were sent “right before a big vote in the U.S. Congress on a bill that would have begun to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S., known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, the first big federal effort to curb carbon emissions. And so they just pulled out all the stops.”
Because fossil fuel companies have successfully staved off climate action federally, it has only been at the state level that progressive, climate-friendly policies have had some measure of success. But the industry started to catch on and worked in concert with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to disseminate deception. Most of the major oil, gas and coal companies are members of ALEC. Cole sees ALEC’s role in derailing some of these state-level policies as “very frustrating and infuriating ... and disgusting.” According to her group’s report, “ALEC provides a means for major fossil fuel companies to pay lip service to the realities of climate science in their public-facing materials while their behind-the-scenes memberships and sponsorships support misinformation and block climate action.” One annual ALEC meeting featured famed climate denier Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute.
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The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a powerful trade group, has also engaged in dirty tricks and outright lies to stymie action at the state level. The scientists’ report cites includes an internal PowerPoint presentation by WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, which she presented to the Washington Research Council only last November, and which was leaked to the press. In it, WSPA boasts of the many grass-roots-sounding front groups that it has created or engaged with to manufacture opposition to climate-friendly policies.
The decades-long strategy of denying climate change by fossil fuel companies has clearly worked in their favor. There is a stark “before and after” effect. The year 1988 was a turning point, when the United Nations formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was also the year NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave historic testimony to Congress about the human impact of climate change, which generated a front-page headline in The New York Times. Today the effects of catastrophic climate change and the countless studies examining it rarely, if ever, make the front pages of any major newspaper.
Because fossil fuel companies have adopted many of the same tactics as Big Tobacco with similarly fatal consequences, perhaps they deserve the same fate. There was a time when cigarette sellers such as Philip Morris seemed untouchable. But today, they have not only been forced to pay out massive sums of money in compensation to victims, they have also had to publicly state that they were wrong. In a poetically just move, tobacco companies have been required to admit their lies and deception in advertisements, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.
Oil companies are the largest and most profitable corporations in the world. We ought to envision a time when fossil fuel companies are publicly shamed, humiliated and targeted for massive disinvestment, when oil profits are redirected toward paying for the damage done to our climate, and when, rather than derail climate action, they will be forced to admit they lied all along. Humanity cannot afford anything less.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I was surprised to learn of the source of this article in the news today--namely scholars from some of the major oil-producing nations in the Middle East. I am in total agreement with the conclusions reached by the authors about climate change and its manmade causes.

I  remain very concerned that the the ongoing successful  exploitation of shale oil in America (successful in terms of amount of production) will once again give mankind the false hope that we can continue to use carbon based resources as if there were no limits in available quantity and no harm to the environment.

Good for the Muslims.

Muslim Scholars Say Climate Change Poses Dire Threat

The sacred mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia, one of the oil-rich countries urged to refocus on the environment. (XXXshatha via Wikimedia Commons)

This Creative Commons-licensed piece first appeared at Climate News Network.

LONDON—Human beings could cause the ending of life on the planet, says a group of Islamic scholars—and countries round the world, particularly the rich ones, must face up to their responsibilities.

Climate change, they say, is induced by human beings: “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour—but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.”

The views of the scholars—some of the strongest yet expressed on climate from within the Muslim community—are contained in a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August.

Allah, says the declaration, created the world in mizan (balance), but through fasad (corruption), human beings have caused climate change, together with a range of negative effects on the environment that include deforestation, the destruction of biodiversity, and pollution of the oceans and of water systems.

Natural resources

The draft declaration has been compiled by the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), a UK-based charity focused on environmental protection and the management of natural resources. The declaration mirrors many of the themes contained in a recent encyclical issued by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church.

The Islamic declaration makes particularly strong criticism of the world’s richer and more powerful countries, which, it says, have delayed through their selfishness the implementation of a comprehensive climate change agreement.

“Their reluctance to share in the burden they have imposed on the rest of the human community by their own profligacy is noted with great concern,” the declaration says.

Wealthy oil-producing countries must “refocus their concerns from profit to the environment
and to the poor of the world”

Interestingly, the draft declaration—which is still being worked on by various Muslim academics around the world—says that, in particular, wealthy oil-producing countries must “refocus their concerns from profit to the environment and to the poor of the world”. Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is located, is one of the world’s leading oil-producing countries.

Carbon footprint

The declaration says a new economic growth model should be found that recognises that the planet’s resources are finite.

It also calls on big business to face up to its social responsibilities and not exploit scarce resources in poor countries, and says that businesses should also take a more active role in reducing their carbon footprint.

The declaration says Muslims everywhere in their particular spheres of influence should seek to play a role in tackling climate change—and that other faith and religious groups should also join in realising the aims of the Islamic scholars “to compete with us in this endeavour so we can all be winners in this race”.

The declaration quotes extensively from the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, as the basis of its arguments.

Besides IFEES, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Climate Action Network International and GreenFaith have also been involved in formulating the declaration.


Here's a quickie that highlights values in America. And I love my Broncos!

The whole trip to Pluto cost less than 1 NFL stadium

The nine-year, three-billion-mile voyage of NASA's New Horizons probe is undoubtedly a testament to the genius of mankind — yet the same praise might not be raised for NFL stadiums.
You wouldn't know it from the price tag, though. In fact, sending a probe to a planet so far away that it takes light five-and-a-half hours to reach is kind of on the cheap side! It cost $720 million to reach Pluto — by contrast, the construction of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium will cost $1 billion, CBS reports. Metlife Stadium, in New York, cost $1.6 billion to build, and the world's most expensive stadium, Tokyo's forthcoming 2020 Olympic arena, could cost $2 billion (the Pluto trip was a mere 36 percent of the latter's cost). Further, the worldwide gross of Fast and Furious 7 made $800 million more than it cost to send a probe to the far reaches of our solar system (and even The Twilight Sage: Breaking Dawn Part 2 made $109 million more than New Horizons' entire budget).
And as gas prices jump during their summer spike, keep this tidbit in mind: New Horizons only costs $0.24 a mile — and it will keep going for years. Jeva Lange

Monday, July 13, 2015


Americans who are interested in the political process and how it REALLY works, should  spend a half hour viewing this Moyer's report on ALEC. It is eye-opening and disheartening, but voters should know the forces that are operating behind who actually creates the legislation that affects our daily lives. Voters also need to know which politicians are controlled by/affiliated with ALEC.  If you're like I am, you'll be surprised, shocked, and then angry.



For your summer vacation or weekend reading,  I commend two recent books that came into my library quite by accident. Both are by Matthew Crawford, a serious scholar at the Institute for Advance Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.  He is a thinker as well as a the owner of a motorcycle repair shop.  The combination intrigued me,  of course--my kind of guy.  The titles of the books and their subtitles should tempt you  as well, but only if you are also one of my kind of guys.

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming and Individual in an Age of Distraction 


Shopcraft as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Just watched Dr. Neil DeGrasseTyson, one of my favorite thinkers, lecture a congressional committee on the need for America to "dream" again. What he says, I think, also pertains to individual lives--that is, to people who see "today" and "now" and "here" as all there is for them.  Check it out.