Category: Politics

On cruelty to our beloved animals.

One just cannot ignore such cruelty as this!

I am really sorry folks but both today and tomorrow I am adding my tiny shoulder to a very large and heavy wheel. Endeavouring to make a very small difference before I leave this land of the living.

But before going on to share something that was sent to me by Scott Beckstead, the Senior Oregon and Rural Outreach Director of The Humane Society, I want to repeat something that I wrote in response to a comment left to yesterday’s Picture Parade. Because it may be seen as utterly irrelevant to today’s complex world but, nonetheless, it does explain where my love of this planet comes from.

In yesterday’s post, Yvonne of the blog Pets, People and Life left the following comment:

Those beautiful dog’s spirit lives on in the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird, the house where they lived and where ever they ran and played. I hope you and Jean feel their presence when things are rough and in the quiet of the night.

I was so moved by those words that almost without any further thought I replied, thus:

Wow! Wow! And Wow!

There is something wondrous about the nature of the human consciousness that still escapes science. Neither me nor Jean are believers in a ‘God’ or subscribe to religious ‘factions’ for so much pain, war and suffering may be laid at the feet of religions (excuse my rant!), but ….

But there is something magical in “the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird,” that defies definition. I like to think of it as a deep, connection with the planet that is our womb and sustains us.

This really smacked into me in back in the early 90’s; something that forever changed me. That something I experienced roughly about 4 days out in a solo sailing passage from the Azores to Plymouth. I came up on deck, clipped on, and looked around me. Primarily on the lookout for steaming lights that might indicate a ship in the same patch of ocean. It was after midnight. Having checked there wasn’t a ship in sight, I looked up at what was a totally cloud-free night sky.

What I saw were stars in that night sky that were visible 360 degrees around me. Not only visible in every single direction but visible right down to the edge of that black, ocean horizon. A huge celestial dome centered over this tiny me on my tiny boat. (A Tradewind 33: Songbird of Kent.)

It put into perspective, emotionally, visibly, intellectually and spiritually, how irrelevant one human being is and yet, how each of us is, or should be, the custodian of something immeasurably precious and beautiful: Planet Earth.

(Whoops! Sorry about that! Rather wandered off topic!)

OK, here’s what Scott sent me:

In the past two weeks, USDA Wildlife Services has:

1. Killed an Idaho family’s beloved pet dog;

2. Sent the family’s 14 year-old to the hospital with suspected cyanide poisoning;

3. Killed a Wyoming family’s two beloved pet dogs; and

4. Killed a protected Oregon wolf.

All of these incidents were caused by the M-44, a device used by Wildlife Services that fires a cyanide pellet into an animal’s mouth, causing a slow and agonizing death.

Wildlife Services’ greatest regret in all of these incidents is that they brought the agency more negative press – and given their history, they will probably use all of the incidents as “teaching moments” to instruct their agents to “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND U.S. REP AND URGE THEM TO ELIMINATE FUNDING FOR USDA WILDLIFE SERVICES.

Scott then included a link to an article that was recently published in The Oregonian. I am taking the liberty of republishing it in full.

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Labrador killed by cyanide device in Idaho, boy knocked to the ground.

A federal M-44 cyanide device exploded Thursday, March 16, 2017, killing a dog in Pocatello Idaho. (Bannock County Sheriff’s Office)

By Andrew Theen | The Oregonian/OregonLive
March 18, 2017 at 7:30 AM, updated March 18, 2017 at 2:20 PM

A three-year-old Labrador retriever died and a 14-year boy was knocked to the ground when a cyanide device deployed by the federal government exploded in Pocatello, Idaho.

The Idaho State Journal reported the boy, who had been on a walk with his dog Thursday on a ridge near their home, watched his dog die. According to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, the boy was also “covered in an unknown substance” when the device known as an M-44 detonated. He was evaluated at a hospital and released.

“That little boy is lucky,” Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the Pocatello newspaper. “His guardian angel was protecting him.”

The Idaho incident comes a few weeks after a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The controversial type of trap is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services crews around the country primarily to kill coyotes and other predators.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced legislation as recently as 2012 to ban the trap.

DeFazio has said he would reintroduce a similar bill in Congress.

The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in Oregon involving the protected animal and the M-44, fish and wildlife officials said.

Federal Wildlife Services officials said there were 96 M-44 devices dispersed across Oregon as of last week and the agency was looking to remove devices that were near known wolf habitat. Oregon fish and wildlife officials have said the devices were not allowed in areas of known wolf activity.

Oregon has long paid Wildlife Services to kill invasive species and specific predators. But Gov. Kate Brown’s’ recommended budget doesn’t include $460,000 typically set aside to pay the federal agency to kill animals in Oregon.

Bannock County officials described the device as “extremely dangerous to animals and humans.”

The department circulated photos of the trap. “If a device such as this is ever located please do not touch or go near the device and contact your local law enforcement agency,” officials said.

Government officials have said the number of deaths of domestic animals and non-target animals each year is low, and officials say they are conducting an “internal review” of the wolf death.

Wildlife Services killed 121 coyotes in Oregon in 2016 with M-44 devices, along with three red foxes, according to the government’s figures. No gray wolf was killed in the U.S. last year with the cyanide capsules, according to the government.

A Eugene nonprofit says the government isn’t being truthful about the number of pets and non-target animals – such as wolves – killed each year.

“Yesterday’s Idaho poisoning of a dog and the near poisoning of a child is yet another example of what we’ve been saying for decades:  M-44s are really nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if it’s a child, a dog, or a wolf,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said in a statement.

“It’s time to ban these notoriously dangerous devices on all lands across the United States.”

— Andrew Theen
atheen@oregonian.com
503-294-4026
@andrewtheen

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I will be writing about another terrible example of cruelty to animals tomorrow. One where you have the opportunity to add your name to a petition trying to have this cruel ‘tradition’ stopped.

Because as Anna Sewell (1820-1878), the English author who was the author of many books including Black Beauty is recorded as saying:

My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.

We cannot do nothing!

Searching for the Truth

Resolving the falsehoods may not be so straightforward as one thinks.

I’m going straight into this last post of my mini-series looking at the state of things. Namely a recent essay published by Professor Ronald Pies:

Professor of Psychiatry, Lecturer on Bioethics & Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Tufts University

I am a psychiatrist and ethicist affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. I write on a variety of cross-disciplinary topics, ranging from mental health to philosophy of mind to spirituality. Most recently, I have authored the novella, “The Late Life Bloom of Rose Rabinowitz;” and the poetry chapbook, “The Myeloma Year.”

Here is that post, republished within the terms of The Conversation.

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‘Alternative facts’: A psychiatrist’s guide to twisted relationships to truth

March 1, 2017

The phrase “alternative facts” has recently made the news in a political context, but psychiatrists like me are already intimately acquainted with the concept – indeed, we hear various forms of alternate reality expressed almost every day.

All of us need to parse perceived from actual reality every day, in nearly every aspect of our lives. So how can we sort out claims and beliefs that strike most people as odd, unfounded, fantastical or just plain delusional?

Untruths aren’t always lies

First, we need to make a distinction often emphasized by ethicists and philosophers: that between a lie and a falsehood. Thus, someone who deliberately misrepresents what he or she knows to be true is lying – typically, to secure some personal advantage. In contrast, someone who voices a mistaken claim without any intent to deceive is not lying. That person may simply be unaware of the facts, or may refuse to believe the best available evidence. Rather than lying, he’s stating a falsehood.

Some people who voice falsehoods appear incapable of distinguishing real from unreal, or truth from fiction, yet are sincerely convinced their worldview is absolutely correct. And this is our entree into the psychiatric literature.

In clinical psychiatry, we see patients with a broad spectrum of ideas that many people would find eccentric, exaggerated or blatantly at odds with reality. The clinician’s job is, first, to listen empathically and try to understand these beliefs from the patient’s point of view, carefully taking into account the person’s cultural, ethnic and religious background.

Sometimes, clinicians can be wildly mistaken in their first impressions. A colleague of mine once described a severely agitated patient who was hospitalized because he insisted he was being stalked and harassed by the FBI. A few days into his hospitalization, FBI agents showed up on the unit to arrest the patient. As the old joke goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you!

As strongly as she believes, it doesn’t make it true. Talking image via http://www.shutterstock.com.

When what you believe is wrong

We can think of distortions of reality as falling along a continuum, ranging from mild to severe, based on how rigidly the belief is held and how impervious it is to factual information. On the milder end, we have what psychiatrists call over-valued ideas. These are very strongly held convictions that are at odds with what most people in the person’s culture believe, but which are not bizarre, incomprehensible or patently impossible. A passionately held belief that vaccinations cause autism might qualify as an over-valued idea: it’s not scientifically correct, but it’s not utterly beyond the realm of possibility.

On the severe end of the continuum are delusions. These are strongly held, completely inflexible beliefs that are not altered at all by factual information, and which are clearly false or impossible. Importantly, delusions are not explained by the person’s culture, religious beliefs or ethnicity. A patient who inflexibly believes that Vladimir Putin has personally implanted an electrode in his brain in order to control his thoughts would qualify as delusional. When the patient expresses this belief, he or she is not lying or trying to deceive the listener. It is a sincerely held belief, but still a falsehood.

Falsehoods of various kinds can be voiced by people with various neuropsychiatric disorders, but also by those who are perfectly “normal.” Within the range of normal falsehood are so-called false memories, which many of us experience quite often. For example, you are absolutely certain you sent that check to the power company, but in fact, you never did.

As social scientist Julia Shaw observes, false memories “have the same properties as any other memories, and are indistinguishable from memories of events that actually happened.” So when you insist to your spouse, “Of course I paid that electric bill!” you’re not lying – you are merely deceived by your own brain.

A much more serious type of false memory involves a process called confabulation: the spontaneous production of false memories, often of a very detailed nature. Some confabulated memories are mundane; others, quite bizarre. For example, the person may insist – and sincerely believe – that he had eggs Benedict at the Ritz for breakfast, even though this clearly wasn’t the case. Or, the person may insist she was abducted by terrorists and present a fairly elaborate account of the (fictional) ordeal. Confabulation is usually seen in the context of severe brain damage, such as may follow a stroke or the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain.

Lying as a default

Finally, there is falsification that many people would call pathological lying, and which goes by the extravagant scientific name of pseudologia fantastica (PF). Writing in the Psychiatric Annals, Drs. Rama Rao Gogeneni and Thomas Newmark list the following features of PF:

  • A marked tendency to lie, often as a defensive attempt to avoid consequences. The person may experience a “high” from this imaginative story-telling.
  • The lies are quite dazzling or fantastical, though they may contain truthful elements. Often, the lies may capture considerable public attention.
  • The lies tend to present the person in a positive light, and may be an expression of an underlying character trait, such as pathological narcissism. However, the lies in PF usually go beyond the more “believable” stories of persons with narcissistic traits.

Although the precise cause or causes of PF are not known, some data suggest abnormalities in the white matter of the brain – bundles of nerve fibers surrounded by an insulating sheath called myelin. On the other hand, the psychoanalyst Helene Deutsch argued that PF stems from psychological factors, such as the need to enhance one’s self-esteem, secure the admiration of others or to portray oneself as either a hero or a victim.

Who cares about facts anyway?

Of course, all of this presumes something like a consensus on what constitutes “reality” and “facts” and that most people have an interest in establishing the truth. But this presumption is looking increasingly doubtful, in the midst of what has come to be known as the “post-truth era.” Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, described ours as a period in which “up is down and down is up and everything is in question and nothing is real.”

Are lies becoming our rose-colored glasses? Christian Bucad, CC BY-NC-ND

Even more worrisome, the general public seems to have an appetite for falsehood. As writer Adam Kirsch recently argued, “more and more, people seem to want to be lied to.” The lie, Kirsch argues, is seductive: “It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical.”

And when this magical transformation of reality occurs, whether in a political or scientific context, it becomes very difficult to reverse. As the writer Jonathan Swift put it, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”

Psychiatrists are not in a position to comment on the mental health of public figures they have not personally evaluated or on the nature of falsehoods sometimes voiced by our political leaders. Indeed, the “Goldwater Rule” prohibits us from doing so. Nevertheless, psychiatrists are keenly aware of the all-too-human need to avoid or distort unpleasant truths. Many would likely nod in agreement with an observation often attributed to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung: “People cannot stand too much reality.”

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With Carl Jung’s words echoing in one’s mind the reaction that does come to me and, undoubtedly, to many others, is that the time for limiting what degree of reality we can take on board is rapidly coming to a close.

Or so much more elegantly conveyed by Maya Angelou.

Back to more gentle and soft ideas tomorrow – and that’s the Truth!

Smoke and Mirrors

Let me start with a quotation:

I’m not a pessimist, even though I do think awful things are going to happen.

James Lovelock

The author of that quote is fellow Englishman, albeit a tad older than yours truly, Mr. James Lovelock. WikiPedia describes him, thus (in part):

James Ephraim Lovelock CHCBEFRS[2] (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist who lives in Devon, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.[5]

Moving on.

These times in this fine country, The United States of America, are troubling as Rebecca Gordon set out so compellingly in yesterday’s post.

But what is so terrible about these times is the failure to put integrity at the heart of every pronouncement that comes from a Government. And it would be grossly unfair to pick on the present US Government as the only example of this failure.

Because just a few mouse clicks can inform millions of us as to the real issues. Such as the effect that Climate Change is having on our health, as this recent Grist article so aptly put it in the opening paragraphs:

Here are 4 ways climate change is messing with our brains — for the worse.

We might think of climate change as purely physical: wildfires blazing through forests, rising seas lapping at the doors of coastal homes.

But those brutal conditions also affect our mental health, changing how we think and act. Mental health professionals are paying attention to the link between climate change and emotional health — and health insurance companies are, too.

Or take the issue of the state of America’s water. Recently the subject of an important essay just presented by Naked Capitalism:

America’s Hidden Water Affordability Crisis

Yves here. Grist has been doing an admirable job of keeping on top of this important yet oddly still-under-the-radar story. In the US, the big driver of rising water costs is the need to invest in aging, neglected water works. But water is going to become an issue in many places for differing reasons. As we have been saying for years, the natural resource that is projected to come under pressure first is potable water. And please don’t push desalination as a magic bullet. That costs money (both the plants and new transportation infrastructure, uses energy, plus has the not-trivial problem of how to dispose of the salt residues.

By Ciara O’Rourke, a freelance writer and 2015-16 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Originally published by Fusion and reproduced at Grist as part of the Climate Desk collaboration

When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?

Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9 percent to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million — or 8.5 percent of the country’s population — could soon face the same challenges.

Yes, integrity in politics is more, so much more, than a nice idea from this silly old Brit now living in Oregon. Here’s a post I published some four years ago that says it as clearly as it needs to be said.

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Reflections on Integrity.

Going back to basics.

Many will know the origins of this blog; a chance comment by Jon Lavin back in England in early 2007 that dogs were integrous, (a score of 210 as defined by Dr David Hawkins).

Way back in 2009, I wrote this:

“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.

When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague but knew that the Blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation. Here are some early musings,

Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …

Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….

But as the initial, rather hesitant, start to the Blog settled into a reliable, daily posting, and as the minuscule number of readers steadily grew to the present level of many hundreds each day, the clarity of the purpose of Learning from Dogs also improved.

Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.

Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is running out.

Time left to change our ways is running out.

So what’s rattled my cage, so to speak, that prompted today’s reflection? I’ll tell you! (You knew I was going to anyway, didn’t you!)

I’m drafting these thoughts around noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, 17th. At the same time, tens of thousands of ordinary good folk (40,000 plus at the latest estimate) are gathering by the Washington Monument ready to march past the White House demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action.

Do I trust the US Government to take this action? On balance, no! That hurts me terribly to write that. I really want to trust and believe what the President of my new home country says.

State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.
State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.

Here’s a snippet of what the President did say in his State of the Union speech on February 12th.

Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense.

We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.

A frank admission that the climate is changing in dramatic ways; the overwhelming judgment of science – fantastic!

The evidence that burning carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) is the primary cause of today’s high CO2 levels is overwhelming. As a recent BBC radio programme reveals (being featured tomorrow) huge climate changes going back millions of years are a natural part of Earth’s history. However, as one of the scientists explains at the end of that radio programme, the present CO2 level, 395.55 ppm as of January, is now way above the safe, stable limit for the majority of life species on the planet.

But say you are reading this and are not yet convinced?

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is among the most safest forms of transport. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft.

If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

Which is where my lack of trust of leaders comes from!

Back to that State of the Union speech. Just 210 words after the spoken words “act before it’s too late” (I counted them!) Pres. Obama says, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

Here’s the relevant section:

I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

We don’t require any more oil to be used. We are already using a staggering amount of it. Let me refer you to an essay on Nature Bats Last called Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind. Prof. McPherson wrote:

I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).

5,500 cubic feet per second” Don’t know about you but I have some trouble in visualising that flow rate. Try this from later in the essay:

Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip.

Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.

Burning a cubic mile every year! Yes, Mr. President, more oil permits is a wonderful way of taking action before it’s too late!

cubic mile
Image taken from http://www.flashevap.com/bigthings.htm

So let’s see what transpires? Let’s see if integrity is given the highest political focus. As in “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Because if there’s ever been a time when all of us, from every spectrum of society need honesty about what we are doing to the planet, it’s now!

As the tag on the home page of this blog says, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

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Going to close with two more quotations from Mr. Lovelock.

The first:

You never know with politicians what they are really saying. And I don’t say that in a negative way-they have an appalling job.

And the second one to close today’s post:

If you start any large theory, such as quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, evolution, it takes about 40 years for mainstream science to come around. Gaia has been going for only 30 years or so.

The State of the World!

Reality warning dear people!

As you all know, my world is dominated by love. My love for my Jeannie and all the wonderful creatures that inhabit this home and these few acres here in Southern Oregon. Time and time again I share with you stories and articles that I come across that underpin that loving umbrella. Time and time again I am deeply moved by your interest in my scribbles. As I said, my world is dominated by love, and your friendship across this blogging world added to Jean’s love for and attachment to me, has created a little paradise for me.

But! (And you may have sensed there was a ‘But’ coming up.)

But that doesn’t mean that I am immune to being deeply affected by other, more worldly issues, that are as far away from love as one could imagine; more accurately, as far away from love for this wonderful planet as one could imagine.

So for today and the next two days I am going to share with you the pain and angst that I do feel, and feel all too easily, at what we, as in the collective global ‘we’, are up to. Madness doesn’t even seem to touch it!

Today, I am going to republish a recent TomDispatch essay, with Tom’s very kind permission. Tomorrow, I am going to contrast what fellow Brit James Lovelock has been predicting for years with where we really are heading in terms of the future of Planet Earth. Then on Friday, I will finish up with an essay by Professor Ronald Pies regarding the “twisted relationships to truth”.

So don’t say you haven’t been warned!

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 Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, War Without End

Economic marginalisation.

For those looking for answers to the crisis in liberal democracy, this may well be it.

In yesterday’s post Tensions abound in many societies I offered a viewpoint that the ‘left’ arguing with the ‘right’ in politics was utterly inappropriate. Simply for we, as in the people who live on this planet, have to start working together if we wish to have a future for mankind on Planet Earth.

Yesterday’s post also referred to Inductive and Deductive Reasoning with me proposing that the future had to be built on a universally acknowledged relationship between ’cause’ and ‘effect’. A relationship that was built on a clear axiom, or theorem; as we see all around us in both the physical and natural worlds.

This idea does take a little time to filter through and I would be the first to say that I had to spend quite a while reflecting on the idea to fully understand the difference, the power, of deductive reasoning. Plus how something that was a behaviourial ‘law’ could be seen as much as an axiom as is, for example, the calculation of the speed of light, or the relationship of gravity to mass.

So returning to economics.

Quite recently there was an essay published on The Conversation blogsite written by Professor Andrew Cumbers of the University of Glasgow.

His thesis is that there is a direct relationship between “… about how well dispersed economic decision-making power is and how much control and financial security people have over their lives.

That relationship is the core message of his essay.

In other words, as I see it, there is an axiom, a theorem, that governs the relationship between the leadership process of a country and the degree to which that country’s society could be classed as a democratic society.

Here is Professor Cumbers’s essay as published by The Conversation blogsite and republished here within the terms of The Conversation.

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New index of economic marginalisation helps explain Trump, Brexit and alt.right

January 12, 2017 10.03am EST

Author:
image-20170111-4585-12s1o8d
“My fellow disenfranchised Americans …” EPA

If 2016 brought Brexit, Donald Trump and a backlash against cosmopolitan visions of globalisation and society, the great fear for 2017 is further shocks from right-wing populists like Geert Wilders in Holland and Marine Le Pen in France. A new mood of intolerance, xenophobia and protectionist economics seems to be in the air.

In a world of zero-hour contracts, Uber, Deliveroo and the gig economy, access to decent work and a sustainable family income remains the main fault line between the winners and losers from globalisation. Drill into the voter data behind Brexit and Trump and they have much to do with economically marginalised voters in old industrial areas, from South Wales to Nord-Pas-de-Calais, from Tyneside to Ohio and Michigan.

These voters’ economic concerns about industrial closures, immigrants and businesses decamping to low-wage countries seemed ignored by a liberal elite espousing free trade, flexible labour and deregulation. They turned instead to populist “outsiders” with simplistic yet ultimately flawed political and economic narratives.

Much has been said about the crisis of liberal political democracy, but these trends look inextricably linked with what is sometimes referred to as economic democracy. This is about how well dispersed economic decision-making power is and how much control and financial security people have over their lives. I’ve been involved in a project to look at how this compares between different countries. The results say much about the point we have reached, and where we might be heading in future.

The index

Our economic democracy index looked at 32 countries in the OECD (omitting Turkey and Mexico, which had too much missing data). While economic democracy tends to focus on levels of trade union influence and the extent of cooperative ownership in a country, we wanted to take in other relevant factors.

We added three additional indicators: “workplace and employment rights”; “distribution of economic decision-making powers”, including everything from the strength of the financial sector to the extent to which tax powers are centralised; and “transparency and democratic engagement in macroeconomic decision-making”, which takes in corruption, accountability, central bank transparency and different social partners’ involvement in shaping policy.

What is striking is the basic difference between a more “social” model of northern European capitalism and the more market-driven Anglo-American model. Hence the Scandinavian countries score among the best, with their higher levels of social protection, employment rights and democratic participation in economic decision-making. The reverse is true of the more deregulated, concentrated and less democratic economies of the English-speaking world. The US ranks particularly low, with only Slovakia below it. The UK too is only 25th out of 32.

 Economic Democracy Index, figures from 2013. Andrew Cumbers
Economic Democracy Index, figures from 2013. Andrew Cumbers

Interestingly, France ranks relatively highly. This reflects its strong levels of job protection and employee involvement in corporate decision-making – the fact that the far right has been strong in France for a number of years indicates its popularity stems from race at least as much as economics.

Yet leading mainstream presidential candidates François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron are committed to reducing France’s protections. These are often blamed – without much real evidence – for the country’s sluggish job creation record. There is a clear danger both here and in the Netherlands that a continuing commitment to such neoliberal labour market policies might push working class voters further towards Le Pen and Wilders.

One other notable disparity in the index is between the scores of Austria and Germany, despite their relatively similar economic governance. Germany’s lower ranking reflects the growth of labour market insecurity and lower levels of job protection, particularly for part-time workers as part of the Hartz IV labour market reforms in the 1990s that followed reunification.

The index also highlights the comparatively poor levels of economic democracy in the “transition” economies of eastern Europe. The one very interesting exception is Slovenia, which merits further study. It might reflect both its relatively stable transition from communism and the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and the continuing presence of active civil society elements in the trade union and cooperative movements. Southern European economies also tend to rank below northern European countries, as does Japan.

Poverty and inequality

The index provides strong evidence that xenophobic politics may be linked to changing levels of economic participation and empowerment – notwithstanding the French data. We found that the greater the poverty and inequality in a country, the lower the rates of economic democracy.

These findings suggest, for example, that the Anglo-American-led attack on trade unions and flexible labour policies may actually drive up poverty and inequality by cutting welfare benefits and driving up individual employment insecurity. While the OECD itself advocated these policies until recently, countries with high levels of economic democracy such as Norway, Denmark and Iceland have much lower levels of poverty than countries such as the US and UK.

 Far right activists in Budapest, Hungary, February 2016. EPA
Far right activists in Budapest, Hungary, February 2016. EPA

Far-right populism is on the march everywhere, including the Nordic countries. But Brexit, Trump and the more serious shift to the far right in Eastern Europe have been accompanied by diminishing economic security and rights at work, disenfranchised trade unions and cooperatives, and economic decision-making concentrated among financial, political and corporate elites.

We will monitor these scores in future to see what happens over time. It will be interesting to see how the correlations between economic democracy, poverty and voting patterns develop in the coming years. For those looking for answers to the crisis in liberal democracy, this may well be it.

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 I shall be writing to Professor Cumbers asking if my analysis of that relationship is supported by his research.

For if it is then we do have a very clear axiom that few would disagree with. That is the political consensus this world needs now.

Oh, and we will be back to dogs tomorrow! 😉

Tensions abound in many societies.

Reader alert: This has nothing to do with dogs!

Then as soon as I started to write today’s post (as of yesterday afternoon) I realised the error in my sub-title. For one might argue that this does have a connection with how our dogs behave as a cohesive group. But I’m going to be ‘an arse’ (‘ass’ in American speak) and ask you to hold out until the end of today’s post to read the ‘doggie’ connection. (Note that today’s post is Part One. Part Two continues tomorrow.)

american-gridlock_0I am in the middle of reading American Gridlock written by H. Woody Brock and published in 2012. Here’s an extract of what the book is about, courtesy of Amazon:

A sensible solution to getting our economy back on track

Pessimism is ubiquitous throughout the Western World as the pressing issues of massive debt, high unemployment, and anemic economic growth divide the populace into warring political camps. Right-and Left-wing ideologues talk past each other, with neither side admitting the other has any good ideas. In American Gridlock, leading economist and political theorist H. Woody Brock bridges the Left/Right divide, illuminating a clear path out of our economic quagmire.

Arguing from first principles and with rigorous logic, Brock demonstrates that the choice before us is not between free market capitalism and a government-driven economy. Rather, the solution to our problems will require enactment of constructive policies that allow “true” capitalism to flourish even as they incorporate social policies that help those who truly need it.

Brock demonstrates how deductive logic (as opposed to ideologically driven data analysis) can transform the way we think about these problems and lead us to new and different solutions that cross the ideological divide. Drawing on new theories such as game theory and the economics of uncertainty that are based upon deductive logic, Brock reveals fresh ideas for tackling issues central to the 2012 U.S, Presidential election and to the nation’s long-run future:

It greatly influenced me and I sat down and wrote an essay. Mainly to clarify my own thinking ahead of a meeting last Saturday of our local Freethinkers Group where the topic was “Ideas for Improving our Democratic Processes”. The “our” being the US democratic process but just as valid for many other countries.

I first set out to see if there was a clear, unambiguous definition of what a democratic society is. Surprise, surprise there isn’t one. Very quickly I came up with three:

The first:

A democracy by definition is government through elected representatives. It is a form of society which favours equal rights, freedom of speech and a fair trial and tolerates the views of minorities. Civics and Citizenship website

The second:

A DEMOCRACY IS a society in which all adults have easily accessible, meaningful, and effective ways:

(a) to participate in the decision-making processes of every organization that makes decisions or takes actions that affect them, and;

(b) to hold other individuals, and those in these organizations who are responsible for making decisions and taking actions, fully accountable if their decisions or actions violate fundamental human rights, or are dishonest, unethical, unfair, secretive, inefficient, unrepresentative, unresponsive or irresponsible;

(c) so that all organizations in the society are citizen-owned, citizen-controlled, and citizen-driven, and all individuals and organizations are held accountable for wrongdoing. Democracy Watch website

And the third:

Better democracy, everywhere.

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, where people and institutions have the desire, opportunity and confidence to participate together.

We work to create opportunities for people to become involved in the decisions that affect their lives and for them to have the skills to do this effectively. We support governments, parliaments and any organisation that wants to involve citizens in decision making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. We actively support spaces, places and processes to make this happen. Democratic Society website.

I went on to say in my essay:

Yes, there is some harmony between all three definitions but there are also significant differences in tone and language.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the book by H. Woody Brock American Gridlock. I started reading it a few days ago and cannot now put it down.

For the core message of the book is that we, as in society, must distinguish between inductive and deductive reasoning. Let me use the definitions as found on the Live Science website.

Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a basic form of valid reasoning. Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion, according to the University of California. The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories. “In deductive inference, we hold a theory and based on it we make a prediction of its consequences. That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct. We go from the general — the theory — to the specific — the observations,” said Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a researcher and professor emerita at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In deductive reasoning, if something is true of a class of things in general, it is also true for all members of that class. For example, “All men are mortal. Harold is a man. Therefore, Harold is mortal.” For deductive reasoning to be sound, the hypothesis must be correct. It is assumed that the premises, “All men are mortal” and “Harold is a man” are true. Therefore, the conclusion is logical and true.

That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct.

Let that really work it’s way through your consciousness. It’s an idea that is rooted in the great scientists and philosophers of many thousands of years ago. Think of Euclid, the Greek Socratic philosopher who founded the Megarian school of philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BCE, and was present at his death. (I cheated and looked it up.)

It was Euclid who through Euclidian geometry came to understand the principles of angles and straight lines; as in the shortest distance between two points.

Moving on:

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations. “In inductive inference, we go from the specific to the general. We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory,” Wassertheil-Smoller told Live Science. “In science there is a constant interplay between inductive inference (based on observations) and deductive inference (based on theory), until we get closer and closer to the ‘truth,’ which we can only approach but not ascertain with complete certainty.”

Even if all of the premises are true in a statement, inductive reasoning allows for the conclusion to be false. Here’s an example: “Harold is a grandfather. Harold is bald. Therefore, all grandfathers are bald.” The conclusion does not follow logically from the statements.

Inductive reasoning has its place in the scientific method. Scientists use it to form hypotheses and theories. Deductive reasoning allows them to apply the theories to specific situations.

Now for some of you this side trip into reasoning may have seen more like a complete departure. But the point is that, as American Gridlock makes so powerfully: There are two main problems to be solved if this nation is to get back on track. First, win-win policy solutions must be identified for the five real-world problems addressed in Chapters 2 through 6. Second, the Dialogue of the Deaf must come to an end, policy gridlock with it, and these solutions must be implemented. (Pages 7-8)

I closed my essay by setting out the following proposition:

Until we have a clear, universally acknowledged definition of what a democratic society is then it is impossible and utterly futile to debate the various processes including what is the best process for American society.

Is this relevant to the world outside the USA? You bet it is. For better or for worse, what the USA does today the rest of the world does soon thereafter.

And as you will see in Part Two that comes tomorrow democratising the economy is key.

For when we look at the way that dogs, and wolves, operate as a pack in the wild there are only three animals with status:

  • The alpha female who has first choice of the male dogs for mating purposes and makes the decision, as and when necessary, to move her pack to a new territory,
  • The beta dog, always a male, whose role is to keep the pack running smoothly as a cohesive group and not letting squabbles get out of hand, and,
  • The omega dog, that can be of either gender, whose role is to keep the pack happy.

All the other animals in the pack of around fifty are of equal status and work for the benefit of the pack. Now that is something we should learn from dogs!

Dogs, Goodness and People.

This makes my heart sing!

We woke yesterday on the first day of the New Year to a classic Winter’s scene: Snow!

Ben and Ranger enjoying a winter's breakfast.
Ben and Ranger enjoying a winter’s breakfast.

Not long after we were washed and dressed I let the dogs out. Typically, while all of them were quick to return to the warmth of the house, Brandy went off on one of his ‘walkabouts’. It was probably the first time he had seen snow.

Twenty minutes later, I started walking down our driveway (just visible in the photograph above running alongside the far tree line) because I knew that Brandy had walked down to the (closed) front gate to check everything out.

I saw Brandy coming back up the driveway and called to him. He looked up, wagged his tail, and I then crouched down holding my arms apart. Brandy started a wonderful, bouncy run that continued until he came right up to me and he then buried his wonderful, furry head between my thighs.

We walked together back to the house and went inside. As we walked together I was aware of a feeling of joyous happiness, a magic that was flowing from the way that Brandy chose to relate to me.

It really did make my heart sing and as I write these words some three hours later I hope you can pick up the gift of goodness that dogs, and so many other animals, offer us humans.

Plus, it couldn’t make a better introduction to a story that was published on the Care2 site on December 31st.

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Meet the Arizona Deputy Who Saved a Dog’s Life – Twice!

3197435-largeBy: Laura Goldman  December 31, 2016

 About Laura

On his way to a call Dec. 17, Deputy Brian Bowling came across a dog stumbling down the middle of an Arizona road.

The pit bull mix named Ginger had been shot in the head by a neighbor who said he felt threatened after the dog dug a hole under her backyard’s fence and wandered into his yard.

Ginger was alive, but not for long.

“She was bleeding profusely from her head and neck,” Bowling told ABC15. In addition to being a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Bowling also happens to be a trained paramedic and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. He knew he had to act quickly.

“I had a little flashback, because we had seen military working dogs over there who were blown up by IEDs and shot, and that’s what went through my head,” he told ABC15. “I thought I had to do anything to save its life.”

When he approached Ginger to move her out of traffic, Bowling wasn’t sure how the injured dog would react. “But instead of running away from me or trying to bite me, she ran right up to me and started wagging her tail,” he told FOX 10. She then tried to climb up into the driver’s seat of his patrol car.

Bowling applied combat gauze to her wound, helping to stop the bleeding, and rushed her to a local emergency animal hospital.

His quick actions saved Ginger’s life. She was also fortunate that the bullet bounced off her skull instead of penetrating it.

deputy_brian_bowling_saved_pit_bull_twice
Ginger and her hero, Deputy Brian Bowling. Photo credit: YouTube

Foster Mom Couldn’t Afford the Surgery

But Ginger’s luck seemed to be running out. When her foster mom, Hailey Miller, was told Ginger still needed surgery that would cost thousands of dollars, she made the difficult decision to have the dog euthanized. “If I had [the money], I wouldn’t even hesitate,” she told ABC 15.

Just as Bowling had saved Ginger from dying in the middle of the road, he decided he would save her from being put down.

“It just didn’t seem right for a dog that survived so much to die because the owner didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he told ABC15. He paid for her surgery himself, putting it on his credit card.

Miller, who runs the Miller Mutt Motel & Sanctuary pet rescue, was overwhelmed by the deputy’s generosity.

“If this man has this kind of empathy and love for a dog, imagine what he has for people and the rest of the world,” she told ABC 15. “There is such a lesson that can be learned from him.”

Ginger is recovering, Miller wrote on Facebook. She’s now able to walk and eat, and is “so sweet as usual.”

To reimburse Bowling, Miller has launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $6,000.

“It is my Christmas wish that with the help of all animal lovers around the world, I can pay this deputy back,” Miller wrote. “Any remaining funds will go toward law enforcement charities, animal rescues and future rescue dogs that are always coming through my rotating door. Of course the officer will be involved in choosing these charities!”

With so many heartbreaking reports about police officers shooting pet dogs, it’s heartening to know there are compassionate law enforcement officers like Bowling out there who truly do care about animals.

Photo credit: YouTube

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Deputy Brian Bowling, I, and many, many others, salute you for the goodness you have in your heart.

Let 2017 be the year that promotes the goodness in people.

If there’s any doubt ….

…. there’s no doubt!

My title and sub-title comes from commercial aviation. It’s one aspect of the safety culture that safely the millions of passengers who embark on a commercial flight each year. (IATA estimate that it will be 3.6 billion in 2016.) In other words, if the flight crew have even an inkling of an issue with the aircraft while in flight they will make an immediate decision to land.

Why I chose this title will become clearer as you read on.

The end of the Second World War so far as Europe was concerned came on May 8th, 1945. In other words: VE Day. London was not a pretty sight in 1945.

Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London.
Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. (Image taken from this website page.)

What’s the relevance of May 8th, 1945 to me? Well exactly six months, to the day, before VE Day yours truly was born in Acton which was just six miles West of Marble Arch in the centre of London.

It has been a family legend that when VE Day was announced my mother looked at her six-month-old baby son and announced that he was going to live! For those first six months of my life in London were very dangerous. From that same website page where that photograph above came from one can read (my emphasis):

Nazi Germany continued to bomb London up until 1945 using a variety of delivery methods including V-1 and V-2 rockets. In total 1,115 V-2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London, though about 40 targeted (and missed) Norwich. They killed an estimated 2,754 people in London with another 6,523 injured.

I have very clear mental images of playing in and around bomb sites near our home right up to 1953 when there was a real push to clear the sites away ahead of the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd, 1953.

German V-2 bomb damage on Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home
German V-2 bomb damage on houses in Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home. The bomb exploded on March 16th, 1945.

So what’s this all about and why do I see it as relevant to today’s world? Stay with me for a little longer.

Yesterday, Patrice Ayme left a comment to my Private Power post. He opened that comment by saying:

With all due respect, and abundant apologies for the daring image, we can’t write exclusively about dogs, lest we want to finish as dog food. As Paul is suggesting. Indeed I view seriousness in global inquiry as a basic moral duty.

Imagine Jews worrying just about dogs, while Auschwitz was being built; it’s arguably what happened, said Hannah Arendt (I’m paraphrasing; she was hated for it, though…) Some will scoff, but Kim in Korea is building one new H bomb every 5 weeks… One single H bomb, in the ‘right’ place, can kill more than Auschwitz.

On December 27th, Patrice published a post under the title of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. It started:

In the Real World, Foundations Saved Civilization Before:

The combination of imperial collapse followed by re-birth from Foundations within happened several times already, for real.

Civilizations collapsing into Dark Ages from the actions of dozens of millions of people occurred more than once. And then very small groups arose, often within the collapsing empire, and imposed new ways of thinking which enabled civilization to restart.

After I read his post I left a question as a comment: “Are you saying that our present civilization is on the point of collapse?”

Patrice replied:

Well, we are certainly tottering at the edge:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/world-war-three-by-mistake
Playing Russian roulette works only that long. Unfortunately demoncrats did not care.

I then went across to that article carried by The New Yorker. It was an article written by Eric Schlosser, author of the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety and a producer of the documentary Command and Control from 2016.

It’s a long article but an extremely important read. Here are some of the key extracts:

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World War Three, by Mistake

Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.

 A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY
A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one? PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

[Two paragraphs later]

My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election.  On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.  “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

[Going to the closing paragraph]

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes—and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.

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My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world.

Is there a dog angle to all of this? You bet! For dogs as well as people are all innocents caught up in the madness of war.

nd sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944
A policeman offering sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944. (The dog is just below the Policeman’s left shin.)

Now do you see why I entitled today’s post If there’s any doubt. there’s no doubt.

For if we were the flightcrew of the good ship Earth we would be urgently looking for a diversion airfield upon which to land; and land now!

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, if you share the concern expressed so clearly by Patrice don’t do nothing. Even if all you do is to send a message on one of the social media apps that’s far better than doing nothing. All that evil requires to succeed is for good people to do nothing!

For I haven’t a clue as to when and how my life will come to an end but, as sure as hell, I would prefer that it isn’t six months to the day after the start of World War III.

Especially if that war came about as a mistake!

Private power.

The power of corporations must never be permitted to override democratic choice.

The main thrust in yesterday’s post was a plea by , Lecturer on Anthropology, University of Colorado, Denver for our natural lands to be given the legal status of a person. Here’s how Prof. Colwell concluded his essay (my emphasis):

In New Zealand, the Te Urewera Act offers a higher level of protection, empowering a board to be the land’s guardian. The Te Urewera Act, though, does not remove its connection to humans. With a permit, people can hunt, fish, farm and more. The public still has access to the forest. One section of the law even allows Te Urewera to be mined.

Te Urewera teaches us that acknowledging cultural views of places as living does not mean ending the relationship between humans and nature, but reordering it – recognizing nature’s intrinsic worth and respecting indigenous philosophies.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, I believe we can do better to align our legal system with the cultural expressions of the people it serves. For instance, the U.S. Congress could amend the NHPA or the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to acknowledge the deep cultural connection between tribes and natural places, and afford better protections for sacred landscapes like New Mexico’s Mount Taylor.

Until then, it says much about us when companies are considered people before nature is.

Chip Colwell was alerting us, as in humanity, that our natural resources are way, way too important for them to be considered corporate assets.

The days between a Christmas Day and a New Year’s Day are frequently a time for introspection; well they are for me! A few days to reflect on what did or did not work in the year just coming to an end and to find some clarity about the important issues for the new year.

That mood of introspection, of reflection, seems to be creeping into my blog posts this last week of 2016. For following Chip Colwell comes George Monbiot and an essay he published on the 6th December, 2016, that is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

Regarding the power of corporations there are strong echoes between Prof. Colwell and Mr. Monbiot.

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The Golden Arches Theory of Decline

Why is there a worldwide revolt against politics as usual? Because corporate globalisation has crushed democratic choice.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 6th December 2016

A wave of revulsion rolls around the world. Approval ratings for incumbent leaders are everywhere collapsing. Symbols, slogans and sensation trump facts and nuanced argument. One in six Americans now believes that military rule would be a good idea. From all this I draw the following, peculiar conclusion: no country with a McDonald’s can remain a democracy.

Twenty years ago, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman proposed his “golden arches theory of conflict prevention”. This holds that “no two countries that both have McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other since they each got their McDonald’s”.

Friedman’s was one of several end-of-history narratives suggesting that global capitalism would lead to permanent peace. He claimed that it might create “a tip-over point at which a country, by integrating with the global economy, opening itself up to foreign investment and empowering its consumers, permanently restricts its capacity for troublemaking and promotes gradual democratization and widening peace.” He didn’t mean that McDonald’s ends war, but that its arrival in a nation symbolised the transition.

In using McDonalds as shorthand for the forces tearing democracy apart, I am, like him, writing figuratively. I do not mean that the presence of the burger chain itself is the cause of the decline of open, democratic societies (though it has played its part in Britain, using our defamation laws against its critics). Nor do I mean that countries hosting McDonald’s will necessarily mutate into dictatorships.

What I mean is that, under the onslaught of the placeless, transnational capital McDonald’s exemplifies, democracy as a living system withers and dies. The old forms and forums still exist – parliaments and congresses remain standing – but the power they once contained seeps away, re-emerging where we can no longer reach it.

The political power that should belong to us has flitted into confidential meetings with the lobbyists and donors who establish the limits of debate and action. It has slipped into the dictats of the IMF and the European Central Bank, which respond not to the people but to the financial sector. It has been transported, under armed guard, into the icy fastness of Davos, where Mr Friedman finds himself so warmly welcomed (even when he’s talking cobblers).

Above all, the power that should belong to the people is being crushed by international treaty. Contracts such as NAFTA, CETA, the proposed TransPacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement and the failed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are crafted behind closed doors in discussions dominated by corporate lobbyists. They are able to slip in clauses that no informed electorate would ever approve, such as the establishment of opaque offshore tribunals, through which corporations can bypass national courts, challenge national laws and demand compensation for the results of democratic decisions.

These treaties limit the scope of politics, prevent states from changing social outcomes and drive down labour rights, consumer protection, financial regulation and the quality of neighbourhoods. They make a mockery of sovereignty. Anyone who forgets that striking them down was one of Donald Trump’s main promises will fail to understand why people were prepared to risk so much in electing him.

At the national level too, the McDonalds model destroys meaningful democracy. Democracy depends on a reciprocal sense of belief, trust and belonging: the conviction that you belong to the nation and the nation belongs to you. The McDonalds model, by rooting out attachment, could not have been better designed to erase that perception.

As Tom Wolfe observes in his novel A Man in Full, “the only way you could tell you were leaving one community and entering another was when the franchise chains started repeating and you spotted another 7-Eleven, another Wendy’s, another Costco, another Home Depot.” The alienation and anomie this destruction of place promotes are enhanced by the casualisation of labour and a spirit-crushing regime of monitoring, quantification and assessment (at which McDonald’s happens to excel). Public health disasters contribute to the sense of rupture. After falling for decades, for example, death rates among middle-aged white Americans are now rising. Among the likely causes are obesity and diabetes, opioid addiction and liver failure, diseases whose vectors are corporations.

Corporations, released from democratic constraints, drive us towards climate breakdown, an urgent threat to global peace. McDonald’s has done more than its fair share: beef production is among the most powerful causes of climate change.

In his book The Globalisation Paradox, the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik describes a political trilemma. Democracy, national sovereignty and hyperglobalisation, he argues, are mutually incompatible. You cannot have all three at once. McDonalisation crowds out domestic politics. Incoherent and dangerous as it often is, the global backlash against mainstream politicians is, at heart, an attempt to reassert national sovereignty against the forces of undemocratic globalisation.

An article about the history of the Democratic party by Matt Stoller in The Atlantic reminds us that a similar choice was articulated by the great American jurist Louis Brandeis. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” In 1936, the congressman Wright Patman managed to pass a bill against the concentration of corporate power. Among his targets was A&P, the giant chainstore of his day, that was hollowing out towns, destroying local retailers and turning “independent tradesmen into clerks”.

In 1938, President Roosevelt warned that “the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.” The Democrats saw concentrated corporate power as a form of dictatorship. They broke up giant banks and businesses and chained the chainstores. What Roosevelt, Brandeis and Patman knew has been forgotten by those in power, including powerful journalists. But not by the victims of this system.

One of the answers to Trump, Putin, Orban, Erdogan, Salvini, Duterte, Le Pen, Farage and the politics they represent is to rescue democracy from transnational corporations. It is to defend the crucial political unit that’s under assault by banks, monopolies and chainstores: community. It is to recognise that there is no greater hazard to peace between nations than a corporate model which crushes democratic choice.

http://www.monbiot.com

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It’s very easy to pick out from Mr. Monbiot’s essay what the theme should be for 2017, and beyond. What each and every one of us who cares about the future and understands the huge changes that have to take place if our grandchildren are to have a viable future.

It was that compelling quotation by Louis Brandeis:

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

It’s as simple as that!

Dreams of hope

My wish for 2017, and for evermore.

One of the many things that we adore about living here in Merlin, Southern Oregon is the closeness of nature. Not just the nature of the slopes and mountains but the nature of the trees, creeks, grasses and wild plants.

Plus the awareness over the 4+ years that we have been here of how easy it is to gain the trust of wild animals. I will go to my grave holding on to the sweet sensation of a wild deer trusting me and Jean to the point where we could stroke the deer’s neck when we were feeding her.

The trust between the deer and Jean then enabled the deer to feed from Jean's hand.
The trust between the deer and Jean then enabled the deer to feed from Jean’s hand.
Then, unbelievably, the wild deer continues feeding as Jean fondles the deer's ear.
Then, unbelievably, the wild deer continues feeding as Jean fondles the deer’s ear.

(Both photographs taken in October, 2014 in the area of grassland near to our stables.)

The measure of how we, as in humanity, really feel about the only home we have, as in Planet Earth, is how we regard our planet.

The pain that we feel when we read, as I did yesterday, about another animal species possibly heading towards extinction. In this case, an item on the BBC News website about Cheetahs.

Cheetahs heading towards extinction as population crashes

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

Protected parks and reserves for cheetahs are not sufficient as the animal ranges far beyond these areas.

 The sleek, speedy cheetah is rapidly heading towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers.

The report estimates that there are just 7,100 of the world’s fastest mammals now left in the wild.

Cheetahs are in trouble because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans.

The authors are calling for an urgent re-categorisation of the species from vulnerable to endangered.

(Read the full article here.)

It’s no good tut-tutting; something different has to be done. For otherwise nature will have the last word to say about the future of vast numbers of species especially homo sapiens!

All of which leads me to the main theme of today’s post: holding nature in higher esteem as in higher legal esteem.

Read the following that was published on The Conversation blogsite on October 10th, 2016 and is republished here within their terms. The author is , Lecturer on Anthropology, University of Colorado, Denver.

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What if nature, like corporations, had the rights and protections of a person?

October 10, 2016 8.16am EDT

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The forest around Lake Waikaremoana in New Zealand has been given legal status of a person because of its cultural significance. Paul Nelhams/flickr, CC BY-SA

In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has solidified the concept of corporate personhood. Following rulings in such cases as Hobby Lobby and Citizens United, U.S. law has established that companies are, like people, entitled to certain rights and protections.

But that’s not the only instance of extending legal rights to nonhuman entities. New Zealand took a radically different approach in 2014 with the Te Urewera Act which granted an 821-square-mile forest the legal status of a person. The forest is sacred to the Tūhoe people, an indigenous group of the Maori. For them Te Urewera is an ancient and ancestral homeland that breathes life into their culture. The forest is also a living ancestor. The Te Urewera Act concludes that “Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself,” and thus must be its own entity with “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.” Te Urewera holds title to itself.

Although this legal approach is unique to New Zealand, the underlying reason for it is not. Over the last 15 years I have documented similar cultural expressions by Native Americans about their traditional, sacred places. As an anthropologist, this research has often pushed me to search for an answer to the profound question: What does it mean for nature to be a person?

The snow-capped mountain

A majestic mountain sits not far northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Like a low triangle, with long gentle slopes, Mount Taylor is clothed in rich forests that appear a velvety charcoal-blue from the distance. Its bald summit, more than 11,000 feet high, is often blanketed in snow – a reminder of the blessing of water, when seen from the blazing desert below.

The Zuni tribe lives about 40 miles west of Mount Taylor. In 2012, I worked with a team to interview 24 tribal members about the values they hold for Dewankwin K’yaba:chu Yalanne (“In the East Snow-capped Mountain”), as Mount Taylor is called in the Zuni language. We were told that their most ancient ancestors began an epic migration in the Grand Canyon.

 Mount Taylor in New Mexico, a sacred site to the Zuni who believe it is a living being. Chip Colwell, Author provided.
Mount Taylor in New Mexico, a sacred site to the Zuni who believe it is a living being. Chip Colwell, Author provided.

Over millennia they migrated across the Southwest, with important medicine societies and clans living around Mount Taylor. After settling in their current pueblo homes, Zunis returned to this sacred mountain to hunt animals like deer and bear, harvest wild plants like acorns and cattails, and gather minerals used in sacrosanct rituals that keep the universe in order. Across the generations Dewankwin Kyaba:chu Yalanne has come to shape Zuni history, life, and identity no less than the Vatican has for Catholics.

But unlike holy places in the Western world, Zunis believe Mount Taylor is a living being. Zuni elders told me that the mountain was created within the Earth’s womb. As a mountain formed by volcanic activity, it has always grown and aged. The mountain can give life as people do. The mountain’s snow melts in spring and nourishes plants and wildlife for miles. Water is the mountain’s blood; buried minerals are the mountain’s meat. Because it lives, deep below is its beating heart. Zunis consider Mount Taylor to be their kin.

There is a stereotype that Native American peoples have a singular connection to nature. And yet in my experience, they do see the world in a fundamentally different way from most people I know. Whether it is mountains, rivers, rocks, animals, plants, stars or weather, they see the natural world as living and breathing, deeply relational, even at times all-knowing and transcendent.

In my work with Arizona’s Hopi tribe, I have traveled with cultural leaders to study sacred places. They often stop to listen to the wind, or search the sky for an eagle, or smile when it begins to rain, which they believe is a blessing the ancestors bestow upon them.

During one project with the Hopi tribe, we came across a rattlesnake coiled near an ancient fallen pueblo. “Long ago, one of them ancestors lived here and turned into a rattlesnake,” the elder Raleigh H. Puhuyaoma Sr. shared with me, pointing to the nearby archaeological site. “It’s now protecting the place.” The elders left an offering of corn meal to the snake. An elder later told me that it soon rained on his cornfield, a result from this spiritual exchange.

Violent disputes

Understanding these cultural worldviews matters greatly in discussions over protecting places in nature. The American West has a long history of battles over the control of land. We’ve seen this recently from the Bundy family’s takeover of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon to the current fight over turning Bears Ears – 1.9 million acres of wilderness – into a national monument in Utah.

Yet often these battles are less about the struggle between private and public interests, and more about basic questions of nature’s purpose. Do wild places have intrinsic worth? Or is the land a mere tool for human uses?

 A Hopi elder making an offering to a snake to protect a sacred space. Chip Colwell, Author provided.
A Hopi elder making an offering to a snake to protect a sacred space. Chip Colwell, Author provided.

Much of my research has involved documenting sacred places because they are being threatened by development projects on public land. The Zuni’s sacred Mount Taylor, much of it managed by the U.S. National Forest Service, has been extensively mined for uranium, and is the cause of violent disputes over whether it should be developed or protected.

Even though the U.S. does not legally recognize natural places as people, some legal protections exist for sacred places. Under the National Historic Preservation Act, for example, the U.S. government must take into consideration the potential impacts of certain development projects on “traditional cultural properties.”

This and other federal heritage laws, however, provide tribes a small voice in the process, little power, and rarely lead to preservation. More to the point, these laws reduce what tribes see as living places to “properties,” obscuring their inherent spiritual value.

In New Zealand, the Te Urewera Act offers a higher level of protection, empowering a board to be the land’s guardian. The Te Urewera Act, though, does not remove its connection to humans. With a permit, people can hunt, fish, farm and more. The public still has access to the forest. One section of the law even allows Te Urewera to be mined.

Te Urewera teaches us that acknowledging cultural views of places as living does not mean ending the relationship between humans and nature, but reordering it – recognizing nature’s intrinsic worth and respecting indigenous philosophies.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, I believe we can do better to align our legal system with the cultural expressions of the people it serves. For instance, the U.S. Congress could amend the NHPA or the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to acknowledge the deep cultural connection between tribes and natural places, and afford better protections for sacred landscapes like New Mexico’s Mount Taylor.

Until then, it says much about us when companies are considered people before nature is.

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 emilysquotes-com-look-deep-nature-understand-wisdom-inspirational-life-albert-einsteinMy dreams of hope!