Archive for June, 2010

Living on a dying delta

Our first full day in Louisiana finds us venturing south from New Orleans to Houma, a town about an hours drive to the southwest. It is from here we are to take a flight over the marsh to inspect the damage, thus far, caused by the ongoing BP oil catastrophe.

Walking into the office of Butler Aviation Services at the airport, the downtrodden mood, and accompanying anger, are palpable. Of course this is not assisted by the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Louisiana today.

“What would you tell Joe if he walked into your office,” Robbie Butler, with the flight service of his name, asks me. He then adds, “Hey Joe, lead, follow, or get out of the way. That’s what I’d tell him.”

At approximately the same time Butler is telling me of these three excellent suggestions, Biden is in downtown New Orleans inside the “command center” meeting with more than 100 BP, government and military officials inside a cavernous office dubbed “the bullpen.” In case anyone wasn’t clear about the priorities of the US government, included in Biden’s entourage are BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It was Jindal who, on June 2nd, sent an urgent letter to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding his grave concerns at the time of the administration’s decision to place a moratorium on deepwater drilling.

The lead paragraph in that letter made it very clear how Jindal’s concern is not with the ongoing catastrophic loss of ecosystems, or even the fisherpersons of his state, but with placating big oil. His letter begins:

Dear President Obama and Secretary Salazar:
I am writing to express my grave concerns regarding the severe economic impact of a six-month (or longer) suspension of activity at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, including and in particular the 22 deepwater drilling rigs currently in operation off the Louisiana coast.”

But thanks to an oil-backed judge doing away with said moratorium, and another Obama move regarding offshore drilling, Jindal need not have lost any sleep.

On June 18 Obama administration officials, despite President Obama’s promises for better safeguards for offshore drilling, approved plans for oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico with minimal or no environmental analysis. Since Jindal’s letter on June 2nd, the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has signed off on at least five new offshore drilling projects.

After an hour-long briefing in “the bullpen,” Biden was impressed with what he saw.

“I don’t think the American people have any idea” how many resources are being used to fight the spill, he said.

Butler, on the other hand, along with most folks in southern Louisiana, is not as impressed. He’s been flying people, nearly every day since the disaster began in April, over the affected areas. He begins telling me about what he is seeing.

“It’s not as bad as they show it on TV,” Butler says, “It’s worse. Much worse.”

He looks outside the window at storm clouds forming to our south, then looks back at me.

“There’s no end in sight,” he says sternly, looking deep into my eyes.

Butler Aviation does most of its business as a taxi service, ferrying people around the Gulf coast region, and their business, like that of most businesses in Louisiana now, is down. Way down.

And Butler Aviation is not alone in feeling the pinch. The US Small Business Administration is turning down 70 percent of Louisiana companies that are applying for Gulf oil disaster relief loans.

Contrary to Biden’s statement about American people not having “any idea” how many resources are being used to fight the spill, these “American people” have a precise “idea” about how many resources are being used to fight the oil disaster.

As though fate chose to underscore the vacuous remarks of the Vice President, on the front page of today’s Times-Picayune of New Orleans is a story about how US government bureaucracy is preventing large numbers of oil-skimming boats from reaching the Gulf of Mexico. For more than a week federal response officials have been pressed to streamline US maritime restrictions that would allow more foreign skimming vessels to be put to work in the Gulf.

As an example, the oil giant Shell is in negotiations to allow BP to use its 300-foot oil recovery boat that is sitting idle in Seward, Alaska. But in recent weeks, BP has declined to bring it to the Gulf.

“Nothing would prevent it from working right now in the Gulf of Mexico,” states Curtis Smith, a spokesperson for Shell Alaska, “It remains available in the event that BP reconsiders.”

According to BP, there are 433 vessels collecting oil in the Gulf, but less than a third of them are boats designed specifically for oil skimming. Meanwhile, more than 850 skimmers are available in the southeastern United States, and more than 1,600 are available in the continental US.

We go outside and meet Charlie Hammond, our pilot who is to fly us. Charlie has more than five years in the air, literally, with more than 45,000 hours of flying time. He’s been flying this area that encompasses the Mississippi Delta most of his life.

It turns out, due to a combination of growing storms and Biden’s visit temporarily blocking off air travel over some of the area we are to fly, we have to postpone our plans for aerial photography. Nevertheless, Charlie spends some time showing us on a map how much of southern Louisiana, existing on what is the massive delta of the Mississippi River, is vanishing before his eyes.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld, © 2010

I learn that due to a combination of part of the Mississippi River having been diverted (thus stopping the natural regeneration of land from silt deposits), oyster beds being depleted in the past, oil-production infrastructure causing erosion of wetlands, and now oil from the new disaster destroying marshlands, the Cajun coast is the fastest disappearing landmass on Earth. In fact, every 30-minutes sees an area the size of a football field disappear into the Gulf of Mexico.

“I’ve seen large areas of this land, and many islands, disappear in my time,” he says, his white hair blowing in the wind, “We’re living on a dying delta.”

He goes on to describe how when he flies over the marsh that has been soiled in BP’s oil, “It looks like it’s been hit with a blow-torch.”

After visiting with Charlie, we decide to drive further south to Grand Isle, one of the areas in the state that saw some of the first oil born of the volcano gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Trees disappear as we travel southward and the marsh extends from the road into the grey horizon. Green areas of marsh appear as though they are floating atop brown waters as we pass through small towns along the way.

In one of these, on a sign outside of Austin’s Fresh Shrimp shack, is another sign that reads “Shut Down Due to BP.”

In another town a US flag flies at half-mast.

Shrimp boats line the bayou paralleling the road, tied to shore, empty of crew, waiting…

Down in Grand Isle, a small town right on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, signs of local discontent abound.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld, © 2010

We come upon a sort of make-shift cemetery for “All that is Lost.”

My partner Erika promptly becomes immersed in taking photographs of the rows of white crosses, as each symbolizes some part of the culture or wildlife that has been decimated by this ongoing, growing catastrophe that threatens to annihilate the entire Gulf of Mexico if it is not stopped.

A large cross stands out front of the rows of smaller crosses. Upon it is written, “Our Soul.” In the background stands several empty crab traps arranged in the form of a cross.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld, © 2010

Some of the things locals have written on these crosses: Family time, crabs, white trout, camping, diving, walking the dog on the beach, sea shells, sea turtles, dolphins, BBQ shrimp, sharks, sand between my toes, boogie boarding, mullet, marsh, palm trees…

Later, as we drive back north towards New Orleans, I feel a seething rage towards BP and the US government. It is easy to vent my frustrations towards this giant oil company with the worst safety record on the planet. It is easy to rage at the US corporate-controlled so-called government. They are both easy targets for our rage.

I also think of my own hypocrisy, and how much gasoline we’ve used whilst driving today. I think about how riding my bicycle around my small town, composting and growing our own vegetables is not enough. I watch darkening storm clouds, full of rain, while I wonder what else I can do. And I think about how, with enough collective will and passion, we could use this growing tragedy as a pivot point towards weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.

** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

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As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

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“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism



Oil Industry Lobbied Against Blow-Out Preventer

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Five hundred grand is chicken feed for the likes of BP/HALLIBURTON. That’s how much a blow-out preventer would have cost BP. But the U.S. oil industry ‘lobbied’ against laws mandating their use.

In psychotic denial, BP asserts its innocence; oil giants remain united against regulations of any type requiring that they be responsible, regulations that would in fact require them to pay damages as a result of incompetence, greed or indifference! This record is unconscionable and follows from a lie called “corporate personhood’ –an evil, pernicious doctrine recently espoused and ‘made law’ by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If ‘corporations’ were truly ‘persons’ as the ‘Supreme’ court has said they are, then BP and Halliburton would have already been arrested, charged, jailed and awaiting trial on numerous charges. Perhaps it is not too late to lock them all up –board chairman, members of the board, voting stockholders! Lock them all up!

Five ideologues who presume to ‘judge’ us are, I believe, bought and paid for by a handful of corporations who presume to own the world. I can think of no other explanation for the worst decision since Bush v Gore and Dred-Scott. If the rule of law is to be restored, the current SCOTUS must be expunged, reformed, by revolution if need be! Lock up the corporate criminals on the U.S. ‘high’ court!

In the meantime, relatives of workers presumed dead claim that BP and rig owner TransOcean violated “numerous statutes and regulations” issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. According to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located.

…Sen. Lisa Murkowski [has] blocked a bill that would have raised the maximum liability for oil companies after a spill from a paltry $75 million to $10 billion. The Republican lawmaker said the bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would have unfairly hurt smaller oil companies by raising the costs of oil production. The legislation is “not where we need to be right now” she said.Murkowski’s move came just hours after Washington’s top oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API) expressed vociferous opposition to raising the cap. It argued that doing so would “threaten the viability of deep-water operations, significantly reduce U.S. domestic oil production and harm U.S. energy security.” API’s membership includes large oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP America, as well as smaller ones.–Murkowski, Oil Lobby Block Effort To Make Industry Fully Pay For Spills

In an article for The Washington Post of June 24 2010, ‘Beyond the BP Oil Spill, A Case of Chronic Pollution,’ author Steve Tracton, states,

‘According to government estimates, as of yesterday anywhere from 39 million to 111 million gallons of crude oil has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico (that excludes captured oil)…2.5 million gallons more continue to spill each day — that’s an Exxon Valdez spill (nearly 11 million gallons total)… every four days.’

Read more at Suite101: BP Oil Spill, BP Shares Plummet as the Environment Is Massacred

‘Lobby’ is a euphemism for the corporate ownership of the U.S government, indeed, corporate ownership of any government, be it Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain. Corporations –recently created ‘persons’ by SCOTUS –are not above the law despite the worst efforts of Scalia, Roberts and the other extremists on the U.S. high court. International law, in fact, obligates states to ‘regulate’ offshore drilling.

Considered to be a “Constitution for the ocean”,10 and adopted by over three-uarters of the 192 member-States of the United Nations,11 the LOSC is the primary, overarching, legally binding, global instrument on the law of the sea. According to the preamble, its Parties intended “to settle all issues relating to law of the sea” and to establish “a legal order for the seas and oceans,” bearing in mind “that the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole”. The LOSC is not a “framework treaty”; it does not depend for its implementation on the development of annexes and protocols, and “its provisions form an integral whole.”12 It governs all activities, including geoengineering projects, which involve or affect the marine environment.–Geo-engineering, the Law of the Sea, and Climate Change,The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, [PDF]

States have a responsibility, perhaps a ‘duty’ to “adopt laws and regulations” to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment. States are required to utilize all means ‘…at their disposal’ to address every issue relating to the marine environment. As stated in the above cited material: “Doing nothing about marine pollution is not an option..!” But as the gulf catastrophe continues to unfold it would appear that little is done but PR and posturing.

Yet relatives of workers who are presumed dead claim that the oil behemoth BP and rig owner TransOcean violated “numerous statutes and regulations” issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a lawsuit filed by Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane, a deck floor hand, was thrown overboard by the force of the explosion and whose body has not yet been located.

Both companies failed to provide a competent crew, failed to properly supervise its employees and failed to provide Rushto with a safe place to work, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The lawsuit also names oil-services giant Halliburton as a defendant, claiming that the company “prior to the explosion, was engaged in cementing operations of the well and well cap and, upon information and belief, improperly and negligently performed these duties, which was a cause of the explosion.”

BP and TransOcean have also aggressively opposed new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling — which were prompted by a study that found many accidents in the industry.–Big Oil Fought Off New Safety Rules Before Rig Explosion

BP: It’s not our fault
The Video BP & Big Oil Don’t Want You to See

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No Iran Attack Until Oil Futures Spike

There can be no war in the Persian Gulf until Wall Street gives its final say so.

If they knew war was going to break out next week the price of oil would soar this week.

Iran has sufficient weapons to protect itself against a conventional attack. They have SS-N-22 and SS-N-26X anti-ship missiles. They have 150 kilometer range rocket artillery. The Iranians also have the Chinese HQ-9 anti-aircraft missile. They can sink the US fleet. The US has troops from US Central Command and AFRICOM stationed in two dozen Muslim nations who would all be slaughtered within days.

The only attack that makes sense would be to launch 100 missiles with 220 kiloton warheads and air burst them so no Iranian missiles can be launched, none of their  planes could fly and none of their rocket artillery can be fired. The second wave would be used against the remaining surface targets and the third wave against hardened underground production facilities.

Only that kind of attack would work well enough to prevent the sacrificing of the American fleet and protect the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf.

But that kind of attack has problems. America’s War Machine is financed by the kindness of strangers. China could say NO at any time. Why would they concede Iran’s oil to America so they can be ruled by Washington? Why would 1.3 billion Muslims permit genocide? Why would the the world community permit the Americans to irradiate their children?

If I were the President of China, I would sell ten billion dollars of US Treasuries and buy ten billion dollars of oil and of gold and silver bullion. Then I would say call me when you feel like talking to me as if I were an adult and negotiating a solution. If they did not call after the first hour, I would repeat the sale of the Treasuries and the purchase of bullion and oil. The Americans would call to surrender by the end of the second hour because every American with more than ten dollars in the bank would have called someone in Washington and screamed.

by dan fey



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By Carolyn Baker

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 June 2010 )


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ Mary Oliver ~

In some spiritual and psychological circles we often hear unambiguous proscriptions against the emotion of anger. However, in many indigenous traditions, anger is not experienced with the same suspicion one finds in Western psycho-spiritual circles. While ancient teachings regarding anger do not condone aggression, they do not unequivocally assume that feeling the emotion of anger will lead to hostility or violence. In fact, they tend to revere anger as an innate human emotion which may be utilized on behalf of the earth community without inflicting harm. Ancient teachings often include practices for “uploading” the raw emotion of anger to higher chakras or physiological energy centers on behalf of preserving boundaries or protecting the innocent – – both of which are characteristics of the non-aggressive warrior.

Anger is one of the Five Stages of Grief articulated by the death and dying researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As I noted in Sacred Demise, in the context of those stages, anger shows up in reaction to a loss. First we feel shock and denial, then move into anger which may include frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrassment, and shame. Subsequently, we move into depression and grief, followed by bargaining, then acceptance and re-investment in our lives. As Kubler-Ross emphasizes, none of the stages are neatly detached from the others. We tend to move through them fluidly, with each stage somewhat blurring into the next stage or containing remnants of the last one.

In the process of preparing emotionally to navigate the coming chaos, it is crucial to examine each stage of grief, to note where we have been in the process, to look at where we are in the moment, and to honor each emotion along the way. Many people today are stuck in anger because they have not allowed themselves to move through it into mindful grieving. In fact, I believe that the United States, and many nations throughout the world are currently mired in anger. In 2009, author and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, stated in her article “An Epidemic of Global Anger“: “We are a community of nations on fire with anger. And we are getting angrier by the day. Whether we look at the increase in uprisings occurring around the world or at the escalating tension brewing in America, what is becoming more apparent is that we are witnessing a rapidly increasing rate of global anger, so much so that it qualifies as an epidemic.”

Many Americans are enraged at their government. Some who have been researching the demise of the current paradigm and understand the self-destructive aspects of corporate capitalism, the limits of economic growth, and the unsustainability of a civilization dependent on fossil fuels feel angry because their leaders refuse to acknowledge what is so. As their minds have been awakened, so have their emotions, and anger has been part of the process. But as they have come to understand that industrial civilization itself is collapsing, they are likely to have stopped wanting to repair and improve it and have begun to entertain a larger picture of how they could join with allies in constructing a new paradigm and a new culture.

It is likely that for these individuals, anger metamorphosed into deep grief or despair as a feeling of powerlessness to “fix” civilization set in. Implicit in the emotion of anger is the sense that something can or must be done to alter the that has evoked anger. As one comes to understand the inevitability of the unraveling of industrial civilization and the futility of attempting to prevent it, one may in fact experience a sense of relief that collapse is beyond control and proceeds in its own way, in its own time. One grasps that our mandate as a species is to move with the demise, not against it, and find within the unraveling a greater purpose than the one civilization has offered, proceeding with the work we came here to do. At that point, even though we may carry some residue of denial or anger, and even though our willingness to see what is so puts us directly in the path of deep grief, the embrace of our purpose and our role in the collapse process, is in itself a re-investment in our lives and the well being of the earth community.

However, the individuals I have just been describing do not comprise the vast majority of those in the United States or the world who are fixated in anger because they are also fixated in denial. One cannot move through the Five Stages of Grief if one does not move beyond denial. Refusing to see what is so guarantees that the journey through the stages will not occur. So whether one is an enraged Muslim suicide bomber or a vitriolic white, middle class Tea Party enthusiast, one’s emotional state and behavior belie an inordinately diminished perspective of reality, resulting in a desperate need for vituperative scapegoating. In other words, fixation in anger.

The Mary Oliver poem above about loving the world which in part means reveling in the sensual delight of nature which means becoming “accustomed to savoring that which is momentous, concealed within bare bones simplicity.” It also means a profound gratitude which the poem describes as “mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here.” The world has given us stupendous gifts which Oliver says causes her to “stand still and learn to be astonished.”

But does our gratitude for the world mean that we should never be angry about the injustice or self and eco-destruction its inhabitants have perpetrated upon each other and the earth community? Certainly not, but being deeply connected with our purpose in the world provides perspective that buoys us and allows us to keep moving forward when the magnetic pull to become fixated in anger may feel irresistible.

When we are intimately familiar with our purpose, we understand that the world is not paradise, it is not a vacation resort, and it is not a place to which we have come to live in perpetual bliss. Rather, the world is comprised of both the magnificent wonderment and extraordinary beauty depicted by Mary Oliver as well as the horrors engineered by a species about to become successful in its incalculable attempts to commit suicide.

Author and spiritual teacher, Marshall Vian Summers, writes in his book Greater Community Spirituality:

Be without judgment of the world. If the world were a perfect place, you would not need to come here. If the world were a place that functioned harmoniously, without friction or conflict, this would not be the place for you….The world is your place to work and to give. Its pleasures are small but real. Its pains and difficulties are great. The world cannot give you what you seek, for what you seek you have brought with you from beyond the world.

That which we have brought with us from beyond is something greater than our personality or human ego. Summers refers to it as Knowledge, and others use terms like the sacred, spirit, the Self, the divine within. However we choose to name that part of ourselves, it comprises our core. I believe that the more intimately familiar we are with it, the less we expect from the world, and the more we are willing to serve the world in order to imbue it with the sacred. Loving the world, as Oliver names it, is not about sentimental emotion, but about a commitment to the work we came here to do which by definition, serves the earth community.

The mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme, in his extraordinary lecture series, “The Powers of The Universe“clearly articulates this concept. Cataclysm, he notes, is one of the inherent powers of the universe, and “it is currently happening on our planet. The choice before us is whether we will participate consciously.” Participating means that “as all the structures that are destroying the earth are collapsing, they are releasing us into the essential nature of who we are.” While this awareness does not remove our anger or our anguish, it brings us face to face with the deeper meaning of the collapse of industrial civilization and our purpose in it.

I believe that the world of the future will be a chaotic world which will be, among other things, an angry world, especially in the initial stages of the demise of the current civilization. In a December, 2009 article “America The Traumatized” , Adele Stan argues that a series of events that occurred in the first decade of the twenty-first century have made us a PTSD nation–and that was before the BP oil disaster of 2010. Until we understand trauma and post-traumatic stress, the need to blame the traumatizing event or person(s) who inflicted it is exceedingly compelling. When we do grasp the magnitude of trauma and its consequences, we come to understand how futile is our rage in the face of an inundation of horror.

I write these words more than two months after the BP Gulf of Mexico cataclysm. Am I angry as I witness the horror? Am I enraged at the lies of BP with regard to its prior knowledge regarding the safety of the Deepwater Horizon rig? Am I livid when I hear the stories of people who tried to warn the corporation that its bypassing of standard international safety regulations would result in catastrophe? Does white hot rage pulse through my body as I witness BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, taking a yachting trip and begging to “get his life back” as the entire world lays the blame for this debacle at his door and as the entire ecosystem is now in the path of the destruction visited upon it by a multitude of corporations and CEO’s of BP’s and Tony Hayward’s ilk? Am I incensed when I see millions of people immersed in an epic blame-fest, pointing fingers and mouthing incessant sentences beginning with “they shoulda, coulda, woulda”?

The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes”, and from the moment the catastrophe was first made public, I realized the probable scope of it, and I saw the word t-r-a-u-m-a writ large all over it. What purpose at this point will my anger serve? How could I be seduced by the inherent assumption in my anger that the there is a possibility that the situation can be remedied? In my opinion, the BP oil disaster of 2010 is nothing less than 100 Hurricane Katrinas in slow motion. It is an unfathomable game-changer-perhaps the tipping point in humanity’s destruction of this planet. As I witness countless animals dripping and dying from disgusting quantities of crude oil resembling raw sewage suffocating their bodies; as I consider that perhaps 40-50% of the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico will soon be covered with petroleum; as I reflect on the spread of the spill into other oceans and the death of plankton and the ultimate devastation of the food chain; as I consider the economic devastation of a section of the country that comprises about 20 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, and as I speculate that perhaps the entire Gulf Coast region may become uninhabitable, I see, hear, and feel nothing but trauma. Furthermore, if the entire population of the United States were not already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, it is now.

Yet what I have personally discovered about my anger over the years is neither that I shouldn’t have anger or that I should discharge it whenever I feel like it, but rather, to approach my anger mindfully. A stellar article by Holistic Psychologist, Jennifer Franklin, entitled “Mindfulness In Practice: Anger Management” defines mindfulness this way: “To be mindful is to be conscious, more awake, more informed about how one lives one’s life.

Being more mindful, therefore, allows us to make more awake or informed choices in every moment. Our words and actions would be more mindful if we were more awake or conscious in those moments in which when we choose them.” According to psychotherapist Richard Pfeiffer, quoted in the article, anger is a neurological response process that essentially prepares us to fight or flee.

We have many options for creating more mindfulness within ourselves. Meditation is, of course, one of the principal tools for strengthening mindfulness, even if the meditation is not the specific technique called “mindfulness meditation.” It is important to remember that mindfulness isn’t so much about becoming mindful of the world around us, although that generally accrues from a meditation practice, but rather, mindfulness is about being mindful of ourselves. It helps us become centered observers of our own process.

For example, the Dr. Franklin’s article offers the classic example of road rage and how it can be handled mindfully instead of reactively:

When you exercise mindfulness, you exercise non-reactivity or the capacity to stay centered, grounded, and unshaken in response to a stimulus. Now, don’t confuse non-reactivity with non-feeling. Let’s use road rage as an example. You’re driving, and someone cuts you off, and in response to being cut off you flip the driver the bird. You’ve just behaved reactively.

Contrast that with what non-reactivity would look like in that scenario: You are cut off by the driver, and rather than focusing your attention on the event itself, you focus it on you. You focus it on the sensations you are feeling in your body, most likely a fast heart rate, perhaps a tightness in the chest, or constricted breathing. Then you shift your attention to your breathing, sending the breath into the parts of your body that are feeling the anger-your heart, your chest-wherever it is for you. In the time it took you to do this exercise, you never even thought about flipping the driver the bird because you were too busy focusing on your reaction; that driver has probably gone on his or her merry way by now. This is non-reactivity.

Non-reactivity allows us to feel all of our feelings but not react to them. We feel them until we organically feel something else or until we decide mindfully, with awareness and choicefulness, that either we want to focus on something else or we want to act.

As I sit with the BP disaster, other emotions course through my body-deep, deep grief; fear, despair, and helplessness, and I have to wonder about the emotions of the earth itself. And since I believe that Gaia is a living, breathing organism, I must correct my use of “the earth itself” and state unequivocally that I believe she must be very, very angry. Within the past two years prior to the BP disaster, we have witnessed what many believe is an unprecedented number of natural disasters. Although officials from the U.S. Geological Survey insist that the number of earthquakes has not increased in recent years, many question that conclusion. Is Gaia “working through” her Five Stages of Grief? And if she is angry, what might she do next?

Perhaps those questions feel too anthropocentric to the reader, so I refer to the natural process of homeostasis which is “the ability of a system or living organism to adjust its internal environment to maintain a stable equilibrium.” When a system is out of balance, some internal process attempts to adjust the imbalance and return it to a state of balanced functioning.

In a 2008 interview with C-Realm Podcast, Albert Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of The Essential Exponential for Our Planet, stated, regarding population and unlimited growth, “If we don’t stop it now, then Nature will stop it through a big die-off.” Bartlett argues that population and growth spell annihilation for the planet if humans do not radically change their ways of occupying our planet.

One might argue that if Bartlett’s theory is so, it is all a matter of simple physics and that speaking of earth’s anger is pure anthropocentrism. Yet the distinguished doctor of medicine and biophysics, James Lovelock, who penned the book The Revenge of Gaia, argues in that work, as he does in many places, that humans have created out-of-control global warming and climate change which are now wreaking revenge on our species. Lovelock too may be indulging in rampant anthropocentrism, but if the earth itself has conscious self-awareness, both Bartlett and Lovelock may be onto something.

While we cannot validate with certainty earth’s anger, we can certainly attest to our own in the face of humanity’s devastation of the ecosystem. And while I do not concur with some in the field of psychology who argue that anger isn’t really a fundamental human emotion but a kind of mask for other feelings such as fear and grief, I do believe that in the case of our anger toward members of our species who are committing ecological suicide, it is crucial that we connect with our grief and terror regarding the state of the planet and the dire consequences of the project of industrial civilization which we are now beginning to experience.

In the short term, anger may be useful in motivating us to act-to prepare for the coming chaos, to help raise the awareness of others, and to inspire others to prepare, but if we allow ourselves to fully grasp the calamitous reality of the future into which we are moving, I believe that our anger will soon be eclipsed by fear, grief, and despair. My forthcoming book, Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Toolkit for Inner Transition, provides an extensive array of options for utilizing all emotions we might encounter in a world unraveling in order to sustain and protect ourselves.

Among the myriad reactions I hear to the BP disaster from the folks with whom I interact, the one that overshadows all others is anguish. We hold hands across the sand and bodies of water, we pray, and we talk to our friends, but fundamentally, we are absolutely powerless to remedy or reverse what occurred on April 20. We knew our planet was in a state of full-blown collapse, but we didn’t expect it to unfold this way. As one friend recently said to me, “It’s just a matter of time now.” I could have said, “Until what?” but I long ago learned not to ask questions I already know the answer to. My friend and I could just as well have been standing on the deck of the Titanic having the same conversation.

In an angry, chaotic world, it will be important for us to read the deeper emotions that underlie the rage we are likely to see erupting in society and in our communities. We will need to fortify ourselves emotionally and logistically from the collateral damage that myriad wounded-animal outbursts from others could inflict upon us, and even more importantly, not allow our egos to succumb to the momentary pleasure our own indulgence in rage might afford. At the same time we validate the rage our fellow humans feel, our compassion must penetrate the vitriol and understand the shipwreck that any human soul might become after years of sailing the waters of dogged denial and unwarranted faith in the American dream. If you are reading these words, it is likely that you have awakened from the dream or are in the process of doing so. Millions more never have and never will. How will we hold all of our emotions in the face of the rage their sense of betrayal will evoke in them? How will we go on loving the world?

**Portions of this article are excerpted from Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Toolkit For Inner Transition, By Carolyn Baker,  which will be submitted for publication in the fall of 2010.


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The Cheap Cost of Cheating the Lowest Paid

Her baby will soon be due, so Modesta Toribio has to grudgingly admit she may not soon make her current career goal — New York’s supposedly mandatory $7.25 minimum wage — that she has been routinely denied for the past five years. She inched her salary up to $6.60 an hour from the starting $5 at a cut-rate Brooklyn clothing store mainly by pestering her bosses. Ms. Toribio has a brassy knack for that, but she has learned it takes a lot to best scheming employers.

Editorial Series

Academic studies estimate that unscrupulous employers in New York City keep an extra billion dollars a year by defying New York State’s weak labor law and cheating timorous and ill-informed immigrant workers.

Ms. Toribio was both when she arrived from the Dominican Republic 10 years ago. But she evolved into a word-of-mouth investigator and organizer for the Make the Road New York community group. The organization has successfully worked with committed state inspectors to wring wage-theft judgments against scores of employers — $28,000 for a gouged fruit-stand peddler, $70,000 for 99-cent store workers, $400,000 from moguls squeezing the payroll at a sneaker chain.

New York needs a strong labor law like Arizona’s. Arizona is rightly notorious for its abusive anti-immigrant law. But its labor law seriously penalizes employers who retaliate against outspoken workers, and it provides confidentiality for whistle-blowers and faster, bigger damages for employers who ignore wage-theft judgments. A bill to toughen New York’s law awaits action by the Legislature, which is in its closing days, when the good and the ugly elbow for attention.

“Albany could stop an awful lot of injustice,” Ms. Toribio says prayerfully. Her voice had a steely lilt on Friday when she talked other wage-cheated workers into going with her to Manhattan to picket a grocery store. She knows a “scared guy” there, a Mexican immigrant who earns $5 an hour with no vacation or overtime allowed in his 70-hour week. “The boss,” she says, “has to understand a worker is not alone.” FRANCIS X. CLINES

A version of this editorial appeared in print on June 27, 2010, on page WK9 of the New York edition.

Editorial Notebook
Published: June 25, 2010


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Gulf of Mexico Bracing For Tropical Storm

NEW ORLEANS — Beleaguered officials in oil-hit states are bracing for the possibility that a tropical storm could descend on the Gulf of Mexico and delay spill recovery efforts in the area.

The National Hurricane Center said the first tropical depression of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season formed Friday in the western Caribbean.

The depression had sustained winds of 35 miles per hour and was moving west-northwest on a path that could take it over the Yucatan Peninsula and then into the Gulf of Mexico, where BP officials are battling to contain the nation’s biggest oil spill.

It’s still too early to tell exactly where the storm might go and how it might affect oil on and below the surface of the Gulf. Most models show it traveling over the Yucatan Peninsula this weekend and heading back into the southern part of the Gulf by Monday. After that, some models have it heading toward the spill while others do not.

Coast Guard officials told NBC News that they will likely need to remove people from rigs if the storm develops and moves toward south Louisiana. The shutdown process would begin 120 hours before winds of 40 mph or more strike. staff and news service reports
updated 2 hours 28 minutes ago


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We Are All BP Now

Militarizing the Gulf Oil Crisis

In the Gulf, the forever spill has become the forever war. A calamity of untold magnitude is unfolding and, alongside it, a strange militarization has emerged, as the language for managing the crisis becomes the language of war.

War-talk is firing from the mouths of local officials, TV pundits, the Coast Guard and journalists. Campaigning frantically to protect Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal urges the TV cameras: “We need to see that this is a war….a war to save Louisiana…a war to protect our way of life.”

Billy Nungesser, indefatigable President of the Plaquemines Parish, implores anyone who will listen: “We will fight this war….We will persevere to win this war.”

For Ragin Cajun, Democratic strategist, James Carville: “This is literally a war… this is an invasion…We need to hear someone say ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches….”

Retired Gen. Russell Honore, who oversaw the Katrina debacle, insists: “We need to act like this is World War 3. Treat this like it’s an invasion…equal to what we decided about terrorists. We’ve got to find the oil and kill it.”

Find the oil and kill it? This is truly strange talk, this talk of war and killing oil. Even President Obama tried to fire up the nation by invoking 9/11, couching the spill as an invasion, a siege, an attack by terrorists. The militarization of the disaster has become the invisible norm, so much so that it is hard to see how misplaced and dangerous the analogy to war actually is.

Visit the BP site (one of the more surreal Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass internet experiences) and you will see the word “kill”–BP’s favored, faux-techno buzzword–appearing with ritualistic incantation. Kill the well, killthe leak, kill the oil, which morphs into “kill mud” (the mud that will kill the leak) and “kill lines” (the lines that follow the pipes to kill the leak). All this kill-talk has a jaunty, we-know-what-we-are-doing tone, but accumulatively it borders on the bizarre, culminating in the “junk shot”–the weird slurry of car tires and golf-balls that BP fired at the leak to ‘kill’ it–as if, by throwing enough sacrificial detritus of our oil-soaked leisure activities into the maw of the oil-god, we could stop it spewing death.

There is a lot of verbal killing going on here, and indeed the Gulf does seem to be bleeding: a vast, streaky, orange-red smear stretching to the horizon. Sixty three days and counting, and the oil eruption gushes unstoppably past 100,000 barrels (BP’s secret, original estimation), past 400,000 barrels and up…We really haven’t a clue how much. In this, our summer of magical counting.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer gazes at the grey Louisiana horizon and declares: “It looks like a military campaign…heavy lift helicoptors taking sand to the frontlines of the battle against the oil.” I do look, but it doesn’t look like a military campaign to me. Certainly, a few Blackhawk and Chinook helicoptors drop sandbags into a filthy, yellow-brown sea overflown by a few hapless gulls, but a war front it really isn’t. This is, in fact, as unlike a war front as one can imagine. The Louisiana marshes lap quietly with brown ooze; solitary birds heave and flail in the middle of nowhere under the oil’s slow embrace; dolphins gape open-mouthed on beaches; a dead whale washes ashore. No, this is not a war. Only a tremendous failure of the imagination can see this as a war.

So why are people calling the calamity a war and why does it matter that they do?

Calling the oil the ‘enemy’ helps us not to question who was culpable in the first place. Calling the response ‘a battle front’ helps us not ask who, other than the military, should be in charge. Calling the spill an ‘invasion’ helps us not to see that our global culture of militarization is what got us into the mess in the first place. Calling the spill a ‘war’ only fuels the pervasive militarization that produced the crisis in the first place. And calling the oil the enemy helps us not admit how much we, the consumers, having awakened the oil from its ancient slumber to fuel our gas-greedy lives, are the most complicit of all.

A fateful circularity takes shape as the spill is managed in the same terms that produced the spill: that of war. Most critically, militarizing the catastrophe as a war becomes a cover-up for seeing the environmental catastrophe of war.

An unsettling verbal alchemy is at work in all this military talk. “Jindal has declared war!” cries the Florida Pundit. But on whom has Governor Jindal declared war? The murderously irresponsible BP? The Obama government for failing, really, to do anything? The increasingly invisible, but culpable Halliburton? (Wherever there is Halliburton, there is pain). The Sunday Herald, for one, pleaded with Congress not to blame BP: “The oil is the enemy,” it urged, “not each other.” Admiral Allen described the oil as “an insidious enemy that keeps attacking in different places.” Viewed through the prism of war, oil and nature are seen as the enemy, for they have erupted beyond our control. Adopting a warlike stance toward nature is not new. A long-established discourse on conquering the wilderness is ready to hand to justify our rapacious assault on the life-forms around us. Dill, baby, drill. Then, when it all goes horrendously wrong, kill, baby, kill.

And if all this seems merely metaphoric, there is Rush Limbaugh to rely on, for whom the doomed rig explosion was not just a metaphor, but an actual act of war. Limbaugh says the rig was probably attacked by “a foreign government,” with culprits ranging from “Muslim terrorists to the Red Chinese, Venezuela and beyond.” Michael Savage began simultaneously peddling the same story, but with North Korea behind the ‘attack.’ Cherry-pick your terrorist of choice–whatever–it is war.

The war talk of Limbaugh, Savage & Co would be laughable if it didn’t converge with the broader militarization of the spill. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) is calling for the actual military to take charge. But what part of the military’s mission and expertise, I wonder, leads Nelson to believe that the army could stop the oil billowing from the ocean bed, let alone take charge of the massive response? Do we actually have the military hardware to stave off this thing in the first place? Sure we do. We can send in a Predator Drone, point the Oil Vaporizing Missile at the leak, hit the “If-we-dream-hard-enough” button and…hotdamn. Thing works like a charm.

A painful irony is obvious: we can’t send in the army because it is already overstretched by fighting two ruinous wars abroad, both wars fought precisely to secure the dwindling oil we need to lubricate our profligate lifestyles and keep our global military mobile. But the military can barely manage these wars abroad, let alone cope with environmental catastrophes back home, stretched so thin as it is that soldiers return home with post-traumatic stress so severe they commit suicide at the harrowing rate of eighteen a day.

Couching the catastrophe in the language of war conceals the political void at the heart of the clean-up. The administration’s systematic failure to regulate BP, Halliburton et al before the explosion is matched only by its stunning impotence after the explosion. We’re into the second month and Nungesser is still begging to know who is in charge. Even Admiral Thad Allen told reporters: “To push BP out of the way would raise the question of: Replace them with what?” The robust, accountable civilian agencies that should be responsible have been gutted by decades of deregulation. This is what the far right wants. In the last decade, Republican calls for limiting government have given way to calls for dismantling government, in favor of a system run and policed by the very rapacious energy and fiscal barons who caused the crises in the first place.

In a world of promiscuous deregulation, oil giants like BP take obscene risks and rake in undreamed-of bonanzas. BP, the third largest oil company in the world, has an annual profit of $14 billion; it made $17 billion last year, and $9 billion in the first quarter of this year alone. BP’s top CEO before Tony Hayward, Lord John Browne (at $11 million a year the highest paid CEO in the UK) was so addicted to profit that he cut safety costs at all costs. BP has long been known as the top-ranking safety violator globally. Last year alone, according to OSHA, BP racked up over 700 violations, that is, over 10 violations per day. BP’s Regional Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf was so makeshift it included references to walruses and sea-otters, neither of which inhabit the Gulf.

The oil bonanzas are so vast that when the companies are fined for spills, the fines often amount to just a few days annual profits. Exxon Valdes’s fines were reduced by Justice Roberts’ Supreme Court from $5 billion to $500 million and not one company official saw the inside of a jail. So why bother following safety regulations? And when safety regulations are systematically violated, well, stuff happens. Like a dead ocean.

And when stuff happens, what do we do? Who is in charge? Gov. Jindal cries out again: “This is a war. We’ve got to be adaptable.” The trouble is, there is precious little to be adaptable with. Skimmers, sandbags, shovels. Antiquated barges with makeshift vacuums trying to suck up an ocean that is turning black. On TV, I watch men in white overalls hold a puny vacuum-cleaner nozzle to the gargantuan oil slick. Cajun engineering, some wryly call it. Absurd, if it weren’t so awful.

The wildly unregulated oil industry is profit-driven to such a degree that no R and D has gone into developing any clean-up technology for the last forty years. Not since the Santa Barbara disaster in 1969, that is. Not since everyone was still using typewriters. The oil industry has the technology to drill to fabulous, sci-fi, Jules Verne depths, but is still using hopelessly outmoded methods like booms, wetmats, and spades to clean-up after them. Skimmers lumber ineffectually back to shore carrying only 10% oil to 90% water. Kevin Costner’s save-the-day machines are not yet in action. The booms get tangled up in every squall and are laid out with little or no knowledge of the shoreline. I watch as men swirl mops in the ooze.

Where is the R and D for clean-up technology? As I write this, I wonder: I can touch my ipad and in a few seconds beckon from the ethers an invisible book that speeds unseen through the starry skies to materalize magically into print between my fingers. We can pull off this breathtakingly wondrous stunt, but are stumped by the task of scooping up the oil we ceaselessly spill? Why?

It’s not as if there aren’t enough bad spills to warrant spending some serious R and D cash. The sheer untruth of Obama’s claim in April that “oil rigs generally don’t cause spills” could hardly be rivaled. In fact, as much oil is spilled in the world every seven months as was spilled from the Exxon Valdes. In Nigeria’s oil-devastated delta alone, where oil companies operate outside the law, where writer-activist, Ken Saro Wiwa was executed for opposing them, more oil is spilled every year than so far in the current Gulf spill.

But who cares? These spills occur slowly, every day and far away, out of range of the U.S. media’s sensation-driven gaze, evading the disaster-packaging of prime time news. So that Doug Suttels, BP chief, could lie to NBC’s Tom Costello, saying that BP hadn’t developed any remedial spill technology because “there have been so few big spills.” And when warned by a BP engineer that the Deep Horizon was a “nightmare rig,” another BP official responded in an email: “Who cares? It’s done… We will probably be fine.”

We aren’t fine, but perhaps by calling this a war we stave off feelings of helplessness by giving familiar symbolic shape to an unforeseen chaos. Perhaps fear is militarized and given a reassuringly violent form. Certainly, Americans are particularly prone to deploying the language of war to deal with social crises. We pretend to wage war on a lot of things that we can’t wage war on: the war on drugs, on crime, on poverty, on AIDS, the forever War on Terror, and now on oil. The militarization of our culture has become so pervasive that every crisis of neo-liberal capitalism rolling in is seen as the next war.

Very early into the spill, the militarization of the Gulf extended even to journalists being prevented from covering the disaster by a motley alliance of BP contractors and Coast Guards, on the grounds that the Gulf was a war zone. After protests, Admiral Allen assured the media that they would have “uninhibited access,” but the blockades only increased, flyover permits were revoked, photography on public beaches was banned, and cleanup workers were silenced. National guardsman blockaded even CNN from filming oil-damaged birds. The question remains why President Obama, who campaigned on the promise of government transparency, would collude with BP in the media blackout, refusing to let even the New York Times fly over “Ground Zero”–a blatantly militarized reference to an industrial disaster? One Coast Guard official referred to journalists as “media embeds,” but embeds in what, precisely?

All this war talk would be understandable, defensible even, were it not for a fatally circular, feedback loop. BP would not be in the Gulf drilling deeper than it knows how to drill were it not for its uniquely profitable relation with the US military war machine. The United States Department of Defense buys more oil than any other entity on the planet. The protection of overseas oil is now so unquestioned that even Defense Secretary Gates warned against the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. And to fuel this militarization, the Pentagon uses 75% of the oil bought by the DOD for its jets, bombers, drones, tanks, and Humvees. And in order to keep buying this oil, the military has to keep protecting our regional oil interests, two thirds of which are now in conflict prone zones. US military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan use a staggering ninety million gallons a month. And to garrison this vast, global gas-station, the DOD keeps expanding, which means buying more oil.

From whom? In 2009, BP was the Pentagon’s largest contractor at $2.2 billion. The DOD has a longstanding, multimillion dollar business relation with BP, which it says it has no intention of relinquishing, even now, in the aftermath of the Gulf disaster. Despite knowledge that BP has racked up 97% of all flagrant safety violations. In 2005, the DOD paid BP $1.5 billion. Indeed, last year 16% of BP’s profits came from sales to the Pentagon alone.

Keeping this in mind, we would do well to remember that militarization is the number one cause of environmental destruction in the world, and that military production facilities, which are exempt from environmental restrictions, are the most ecologically devastated places on earth. We drill, we spill; nature pays the bill.

Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit our complicity as consumers in the slow-mo, chemical slaughter we have unleashed on the planet. Blaming BP means we don’t have to look too hard in the rear-view mirrors of the cars we drive, or too deep into the plastic water bottles we drink. Last year Americans drank enough plastic water bottles to stretch around the world one hundred and ninety times. Blaming BP means we don’t have to admit how our oil-addiction keeps U.S. foreign policy in thrall to petro-despots and oligarchs.

BP would not be drilling in the Gulf in the first place were it not reaping ungodly, monster profits from our luxurious oil-bingeing. A gas-pedal-to-the-metal nation, we American consumers are especially complicit, our profligate lifestyles devouring 30% of all raw materials used by people globally every year. We Americans siphon 25% of all the earth’s black oil into our cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, mega-malls and military bases. Every one of us who drives one, two, three cars is complicit. Every one of us who shops with plastic bags is complicit. Every one of us who strolls through malls heated to a permanent tropical summer in winter, is complicit. We are all complicit in this calamity. We are all BP now.

Anne McClintock is the Simone de Beauvoir Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at UW-Madison. She is the author of Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, which was republished online by the ACLS E-Humanities Book Project. McClintock has written short biographies of Olive Schreiner and Simone de Beauvoir and a monograph on madness, sexuality and colonialism called Double Crossings. She has co-edited Dangerous Liaisons with Ella Shohat and Aamir Mufti, as well as two special issues of Social Text: one titled “Sex Workers and Sex Work,” and the other titled “Queer Transexions of Race, Nation and Gender.”

:: Article nr. 67344 sent on 25-jun-2010 05:33 ECT


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