Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Los Afectados 2015

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
(Hannah Arendt)

Five years ago this month the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster began in the Gulf sixty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Five years later the region is still suffering the consequences of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

In the late 1960s the Texaco Petroleum Company got the concession to search for oil in a remote region of Ecuador. Eventually some 16 billion gallons of toxic waste were dumped in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, covering approximately 1,500 square miles, about the size of the state of Delaware.

I first wrote about the Ecuadorian oil field called Ispingo-Tiputino-Tamboccocha back in 2007 and again in 2012, see Los Afectados. As well, I had lived in Ecuador in the early 1970s. It is now an old story but still a new story and one that is ongoing.

A major difference, however, is that some forty years later the size of Los Afectados (The Affected Ones) has grown well beyond Ispingo-Tiputino-Tamboccocha, the country of Ecuador and the continent of Latin America.


On March 4, 2014 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment was—regardless of its merit--the product of fraud, racketeering, false testimony and bribery instigated by the plaintiff and its lead attorney, Steven Donziger, with the defendant being Chevron Corp. The judge stated that Chevron did not have to pay anything. It was “unenforceable.”

Some people have referred to this case, which has been going on for some twenty years, as “never-ending litigation,” even though Chevron has some very deep pockets with considerable political influence. According to an analyst with, Chevron in 2013 in the fourth quarter alone made $4.9 billion.

As of April 2015 the plaintiff expects the case to come before the Canadian Supreme Court. A Chevron subsidiary is developing the Alberta tar sands. Chevron also has assets in Argentina and Brazil, which Donziger has indicated he will go after.

The way the world is

Lost in this endless litigation, political maneuvering and money exchanging hands, the fact is that no one is disputing that a large portion of the Amazon region in Ecuador has suffered serious environmental damage along with crops, soil and water having been contaminated and people getting sick.

Above all else it is the indigenous community voices in the region that may have been drowned out. Will many of them die before there is any conclusion to this case? Will their children have to contend with the same environmental damage?

A brief story

From the plaintiff—LosAfectados

From the defendant—Chevron


I got mine

Was “evil” committed in Ecuador forty years ago? I suppose it depends on your point of view. Did the executives at Texaco know the difference between right and wrong back then? Did the military junta who ran the country care about what happened in the jungle?

Texaco was well aware of “best” practices. They chose to ignore them. I doubt the generals cared at all about indigenous people in the Amazon. They wanted the money. Can Chevron be held responsible for what Texaco did? The government of Ecuador “oversaw and certified” the successful completion of remediation by Texaco. Texaco became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001. Chevron never drilled for oil in Ecuador. The case of course will play out.

The only real option is confrontation. Unless we afflict the comfortable everywhere, our actual future at the very least will be a dreary 21st century serfdom. We are Los Afectados across the globe and ultimately we have only ourselves to blame.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

So-called science: Climate change

A bit of levity regarding the minds of climate change deniers, but the ultimate consequences are likely to be anything but amusing. The question is as always how do we go about changing those minds or ignoring them completely?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

You don't need to know that

Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.
(John Adams, second president of the United States)

This video came out two or three years ago, but it's telling on so many levels that it is worth looking at more than once. The reality is that it may be even more pertinent three years later. The mere “tweaking” of the system will not change anything.

Wealth Inequality in America

The U.S. is now the most unequal of all Western nations and has a lot less social mobility than Canada and Europe. In the 2014 mid-term elections the voter turnout was as low as the 1830 elections, where only white male property owners could vote. It is in the short-term interest of the plutocracy (read globally) to keep it this way.

Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Who loves you

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trust us--it's far too complicated to explain to you. International trade benefits everyone. We understand, you don't have to. We're bringing the world together.... Do what you're told.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The authentic invasive species

Several days ago I received some material from the Sierra Club reminding me to renew my membership, which I had let lapse for a couple of years. What caught my attention however was a short letter that was included in the membership material. The letter read as follows:

“Dear Human:

Imagine that, little by little, your home was taken away from you. The forests and mountains where you once roamed freely disappeared, replaced by roads and concrete buildings.

What if politicians in suits, someplace far away, decided your fate … decided that you, your family, your friends, and neighbors had become a nuisance—a menace—to those who had invaded your home?

And so now, you must die.

Imagine these politicians rallying for your slaughter … ignoring what science has told them, encouraging citizens to hunt you down and kill you.

Imagine your family under attack. Defenseless, with nowhere left to hide, you must dodge bullets from the ground and sky, just to find food for yourself and your young children.

Imagine that, in one of these public hunts, you watched your offspring die.

Then you will know the terror that wolves face every day … and why we so desperately need your help.

After all, you and your fellow humans are the only ones who can save us. Our fate is in your hands.

So I hope you will answer this cry for help. You are our only hope. And time is running out ….”

Murder for fun, profit and prestige

The late, great comedian George Carlin once remarked that we humans can't destroy the Earth. The planet will deal with us without difficulty. I remain optimistic that after humankind vanishes (at least the current variety of Homo sapiens), the remaining life on Earth, as science writer Michael Tennesen says, “ will survive, adapt, diversify, and proliferate.”

I don't want to think that the combination of our technology, slow evolutionary development and general ignorance could actually turn our planet into an uncompromising nightmare like that offered up by the novelist Cormac McCarthy in his novel The Road.

Yet, regardless of whether or not we humans do ourselves in sometime in the future, the mind numbing misery we're inflicting on other species right now is appalling. It is conceivable that up to 50 percent of plant and animal species could have gone extinct by the end of the century. Unlike other mass extinctions, the principal cause this time will most likely be humankind. There's a reason that most scientists refer to our current geologic age as Anthropocene.

Wide areas of Asia currently, because of official corruption, greed, ignorance and even what is casually called “cultural” cuisine, are destroying plant and animal life across the planet at an astonishing rate. We humans have become like the invasive plant kudzu on steroids.

While we collectively—with some notable exceptions—have been killing and destroying most everything around us for thousands of years, it was far less noticeable before the industrial age and a global population under two billion. But now, with a population of more than 7 billion humans and increasing, we are destroying life on Earth on an industrial scale, seemingly unaware of its consequences for us.

So what ought we to do? One possibility certainly is that we may not be able to do anything in time. Fields like neuroscience and behavioral genetics have provided considerable insight in how humans think and process information and why we often do what we do ... but, the “so what” question however can't be tossed aside.

How do we confront, educate and find the resources fast enough to turn the human death cult into a manageable problem at the very least. Cowboy yahoos in the American West, clueless Chinese bourgeoisie desperate for the “bling” of ivory and other human predators are not going away anytime soon.

Maybe it does begins with trying to understand what the wolf could be thinking as he stares at his dead cub bleeding to death from the gunshot wound. Maybe we have to find better ways to talk to narcissistic Homo sapiens. Anyway, I renewed my membership in the Sierra Club. Giving up can't be an option.

For an unvarnished assessment of wildlife destruction read The Politics of Extinction. Getting angry is good but then come up with a plan. We need one right away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welfare queens in America

You know, they're just lazy, drug addicts, poorly educated, naturally inclined parasites.... The taker class.

The Best of American Capitalism

Monday, January 05, 2015

White America's secret, part 4

The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome.
(Andrea Tantaros, Fox News TV co-host, responding to U.S. Senate report on torture)

The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.
(The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)


It's the unsettling truth that may be the hardest part right now for a large portion of white America; after all, the U.S. has the oldest functioning Constitution in the world, and that might be the problem on any number of levels.

It was the brilliant James Madison, author of the United States Bill of Rights and one of the authors of The Federalist Papers who, in 1787, said, “They ought to be constituted [the nation] as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” Ah, always the dangerous mob, the rabble, a consistent yet unspoken “through-line” of the United States.

Is an 18th century document going to serve our needs in the 21st century? Most likely not. Our social and political myths—created most certainly by white America and in particular the “minority of the opulent”--have largely remained intact for more than 200 years. The last occupying foreign army in the United States was the British during the war of 1812.

The many reasons given for not voting in the recent mid-term election represent at the very least intellectual laziness, be they offered by the “millennials,” those that just find the Republican party repugnant and of course the “disenchanted” liberals. But we've reached the point where we can probably say “so what” with some qualifications. The rot has advanced too far.

The Democratic party is a feckless relic, a hollow shell; yet, it possibly could morph into some sort of sane conservative movement, at some point in the future. The handful of genuine Democratic political progressives in the party, and they are only a handful, ought to be spending their time building a new progressive movement elsewhere.

The Republican party, the party of Lincoln, at least outside the benighted Confederacy, is really about the intentional development of an authentic, nativist, totalitarian movement, what the Europeans were familiar with in the 20th century and that may be once again rearing its head in Europe in the 21st century.

Black America, more than anyone else, clearly has a compelling reason to develop an organized and disciplined movement, one capable of acquiring greater political power at the national and most definitely at the local level.

The Occupy movement demonstrated that people could come together for political change with a serious moral purpose, but Occupy ultimately floundered and became a minor irritant to the kleptocracy and the political hacks that do its bidding.

We seem to have difficulty accepting the fact at the present time, but radical change is never a brief “get together” without any clear, definable objectives. To succeed, a movement has to ultimately bring in large, diverse groups of people of all ages, who aren't going away under any circumstances.

Of course it's about power, gathering it in and confronting those who refuse to give it up. Above all, it has to be unremitting and offer an understandable alternative to the status quo. This is not something done overnight nor is it a fervent wish for some messianic vision to make it happen.

An excellent time to begin is in January 2015. There will be more than enough motivation to go around. Once again from The Great Gatsby, a novel about illusion: “Americans while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.” Well, we'll find out.

For an interesting documentary on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the use of police repression and the connections between what happened more than a 100 years ago and today, watch the video below.

Some Additional Reading and Considering Other Possibilities: