Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts on the G-20

At least 200 people were arrested while protesting the G-20 over the past weekend. The G-20 is a group made up of the top twenty leaders from the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world. Their main purpose is to discuss matters of economics. Mainly, their conversations speak to how they can continue to be the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, and generally,how they can get wealthier.

Protesters for human rights, economic justice and environmental sensibility were greeted first with a bureaucratically centered process for getting a permit to protest-which is a whole other matter in itself, that of getting a permit to be able to protest-then with a police greeting that included numerous instances of gassing. The police even brought out sound canisters, which apparently marks the first time this method of enforcement has ever been used in the US.
All this to keep peaceful, non-violent protesters out of the city center!

In the end, a loose set of measures were adopted by the G-20. The most notable, unfortunate issues inadequately addressed were: dialogue surrounding "balanced economic growth" that basically means business as usual, vowing to take strong action on climate change without making any specific commitments, and saying undeveloped countries should have more of a say regarding matters conducted by the IMF and World Bank. What would that look like? A country saying "Please stop 'helping' us with high interest loans and furthering inequality through economic stratification by actually making us poor and unable to support local agriculture in our own countries?"

It seems this G-20 meeting was again business as usual, coupled with unfortunate altercations in what's been described as a scene reminiscent of police-state politics.

How is this meeting useful in the promotion of sustainability, peace or justice? No action on climate change, no deep economic analysis leading to something helpful? President Obama was quoted as saying he disagrees with protesters and believes the meeting was important for conversations surrounding "how the market is working for ordinary people".

What I want to know is how IS the market working for ordinary people? All 99% of us globally? How would ordinary people answer that question? I bet the answer would be different when juxtaposed with the same thoughts from a member of the G-20. In fact, I know it would because what we know today is what's out there is not working for the benefit of low-income, poor, or extremely rural people. It's also clearly not working for the Earth and non-human species when viewed from the perspective of rainforest and global timber stands that continue to be depleted as well as habitat loss for countless species, ocean acidification, and on and on. So when are these leaders going to listen to their "ordinary" people and let them (us) dictate and speak to matters most relevant to their day-to-day ways of life while taking into consideration the G-20's collective impact and leadership role in perpetuating ills to humanity and the Earth?
We must keep the pressure on...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nestle Defeated!

A major victory in the Northern California area was reported this morning. Nestle, the world's largest beverage and food corporation, has been fighting to tap the pristine waters of Mt.Shasta for a long time. Whenever multinationals like Nestle come to bat, it can be hard for local people to protect their community and environment. With major threats to the grater watershed, Indigenous residents in the area, and long-time locals this has been a steadfast area of struggle in Nor-Cal for years. But Nestle got beat, and there's one less operation to produce the completely unsustainable product of bottled water, which also supports the privatization of water rights that all species on Earth have an inherent right to enjoy.
Mt. Shasta is one of the most magnificent, gorgeous, and powerful mountain areas in the world. If you ever have an opportunity to visit do so, and don't forget to visit the town park where you can drink from a spring coming right from the ground- its the headwaters for the Sacramento River. And don't forget to congratulate the McCloud Watershed Council for their work, and remember to never get too bogged down with the ongoing and continued threats of human rights abuses, climate change, social and environmental injustices-ever ounce of energy towards the prevention and elimination of these oppressions will be heard, felt, and lived in one way or another. We all need to help one another, and through difficult times, many battles will be lost, but many will be won, in the war for respect, equity and justice for all life on this planet.
In Solidarity...

Monday, September 14, 2009


Active involvement is always a good means for advocation of positive social change. Although there are critiques of signing online petitions because they don't deliver or influence the amount of change many would hope, they are at least something. They do influence in many ways as well as spread education to people who are open to learning. In that light, I'm going to try and offer links to petitions I have singed, knowing it always better to write a personal letter, or make a phone call, but also knowing I support these causes enough to sign them, learn from their creators, as well as post them in hopes their message(s) carry far and wide. Keep in mind these are all diverse causes, but they also all in some way speak to promotion of sustainability as well as peace and justice. Imagine the diversity in these initiatives and how many more could be be created...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's Speech to Schoolchildren

President Obama delivered a speech yesterday to millions of schoolchildren across the US. Several school districts chose not to broadcast the speech due to partisan rhetoric. The main argument is that Obama's speech in some way would indoctrinate the students and promote "his socialized" ideals. From my perspective, Obama's remarks were basically focused on kids working hard and the importance of getting a good education. We all know the "American Dream" is a bunch of baloney as it in no way is accessible to all, in the same spirit that Obama in in no way a socialist or promoting socialism (unfortunately).

This is why I don't self-identify as a Republican, obviousCheck Spellingly, but in no way identify with the continued failures of the Democrats who arguably perpetuate the same inequality they seek to repeal but keeping faith in an inherently flawed system. And it is there in his speech, that kids can go onto a career in the military, etc. But what he is putting out there is accountability for kids to learn and tying to give'em a pep talk on a day where a lot of kids are intimidated, scared, etc. Now if his talk was about giving everyone free education and lessening the gap in stratification there, or speaking to the failures of the government, that would be much cooler. Still, even though I think some of what he says is just political crap, the point is he's addressing school kids, and I can't understand why these Republicans would make such a deal...or do I understand? In any case, food for thought, take a read at Obama's speech and tell me why Republicans would be so pissed:

"Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book.
Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon.
Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America."

Is Wal-Mart really that bad?

Yes. Although I once partially defended them because it's where a great deal of low-income people can afford to buy necessary items for day-to-day living, I still argued their business practices were horrendous as they basically just wipe any small local business out in any community they come into because they are so wealthy and big they can take hits on their profits in the short term as in the long term they know they will rebound. Also, beyond being a main supporter of slave labor and environmentally destructive products from China, you must read this article from Grist: I wrote about what Wal-Mart was doing in Alabama several weeks ago, but this article builds on that like none other- their reign of racist, economically unjust practices must be stopped!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guess who's the world's largest supplier of weapons?

The US.

For a nation to truly be the hegemonic structure that the US is, I guess being the world leader in promoting violence just adds fuel to the fire. The second largest arms dealer in the world is Italy, but the US actually supplies 10 times the amount of weapons that they do. If one were to look at all business that's done in the world regarding arms trade, the US would account for 68% of those transactions.

Put simply, it is reports like these that must be critically examined in order for peace, justice or sustainability to truly ever take root in the US or around the globe. For those that will say I just bash and bash, all I want to know is where's the accountability?
Of the close to 37 billion dollars in deals the US made last year, about 9.6 billion went to Near East and Asian countries. This means the US, while engaging in war in Iraq, Afghanistan, while bombing Pakistan and threatening to build missile bases in Europe and take over military bases in Colombia is doing what? They are spreading their reaches across the globe, as they have in the past, to spread hegemony, to continue putting out the image that the US is the supreme global leader in everything, and how does one do this? By being the largest, most powerful military in the world and ensuring other countries have enough weapons so everyone can kill everyone else. Gross Domestic product (GDP) rises with each conflict, each war, and it's no wonder the contradictions grow in their glare with each rock unturned, because imagine what would happen if the US abandoned its nuclear arsenal and stopped making the money it did off of selling weapons?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Litigation: Does it really bring about justice?

Recently, Chevron, one of the most environmentally destructive organizations on the planet has accused an Ecuadorian judge of corruption in a case involving them and the vast amount of pollution they have brought forth to make profits in the Amazon. This also includes the enormous damage they have brought about to Indigenous populations.

The suit is based on the billions of gallons of toxic waste that Chevron has dumped while extracting resources from the Ecuadorian rainforest to make their billions of dollars in profits. So Chevron has been ordered to pay 27 billion in damages, a drop in the bucket for the damages they have brought forth to this pristine ecosystem and the numerous people that rely on its bounty for survival.

What do they do? Pay for it? Of course not, they take a cue from what Exxon did with the Valdez spill, use the "wonderful" judicial system that is supposed to bring about justice, and say they have a video that shows the judge in the case taking a bribe to rule against them, among other things.

So a Chevron spokesperson calls for an investigation, and the judge of course says this is B.S., but what does this really do? It makes this case take a whole heck of a lot longer, thank you litigation.

The judge was supposed to issue a ruling before 2010. This original suit was brought 16 years ago!!!!

We have got to ask if this system works then...16 does that bring about justice? All this really does is delay the case and show the international community the courts of law are flawed as well as show Indigenous people, the Earth, and the poor are all at the mercy of big powerful corporations like Exxon and Chevron. As a sentence was just about to be handed down, the corporation buys time for itself, and those most burdened are forced to bear more impacts.

Do something...follow this case, write to Chevron, don't buy their products, let's follow Berkley's lead (link below) and contemplate a judicial system that is so flawed that measures like this can impede progress towards justice, peace and sustainability when it's actually supposed to aid it.