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    • The politics you’ve got
      MANDOS POST Take a look at Joe Biden—he appears to have, for now at least, considerable staying power in the Democratic primary opinion polls (although, of course, this may change as the actual primaries come through). If your model of political psychology can predict a strong core of popular support for Trump without also predicting […]
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Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?

stormIs it beyond our ken to maintain a noble purpose as we guide our battered ships of state through the dark shadows of this mild squall of an economic crisis? Whom of us will risk life and limb to keep the ships afloat? Who will cast away possessions for the same purpose? Who will act to subvert these sacrifices? How will the storm weather us, as we weather the storm?

I ask these question because these darkling foreshadows are pallid compared to those that will attend the forthcoming Category Six typhoon of environmental collapse. How will that storm weather us, if we weather the storm? Given the tendency of people to adopt default positions in crisis situations, how we perform now, should give us some indication of how we’ll perform in much more dire circumstances.

Curiously, given the introduction, the point of this post is not to delve into the ugliness which portends. The point of this post is to ask the question, “How should we behave when faced with the absurdity that the cultural virtues that we cherish undermine the existential preconditions of our culture?” In other words, what does a wine-inspired poet do, when he finds that greater amounts of drink are fueling his muse, but not curing his cirrhosis and, in fact, killing him?

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Farrah Fawcett Living Downstream

Dividing Breast Cell

Dividing Breast Cell

Farrah Fawcett’s death is both poignant and embarrassingly mundane. It is poignant because she gathered the energies she gained from being an “it” girl and used them to bring to light some common, and less common, plights of women in general. Farrah’s touch of America, brought America in touch with some of its hidden aspects.

Her death is embarrassingly mundane in the way that “The Burning Bed” examined the embarrassing mundane phenomenon of domestic violence. When we should be embarrassed by the commonality of a social practise, it is embarrassingly mundane.

Farrah’s death by cancer is merely one death in many that is the result of the societal choice to poison or chemically-load the places that provide our sustenance and give us shelter. In death, her personal struggle with cancer highlights our society’s embarrassingly mundane choice to slowly poison, or biochemically alter, ourselves, our children, and our children’s children, so that some of us can pay less for things.

Whom among us can claim a family that is untouched by cancer? How have we also been touched?

“According to the American Cancer Society, [cancer]… is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. with half of all men and one-third of all women developing some form of cancer during their lifetimes.” (The good news is that cancer rates have stabilized and even declined, since 1992, after steadily rising for many years.)

In terms of other touches, the growth in childhood asthma has reached epidemic status; the early onset of puberty in girls (precocious puberty) has become normal; and sperm counts in males, and the volume of healthy sperm produced, continues to steadily decline (due to environmental endocrine disrupters), to name a few.

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and cancer survivor, coined the phrase “living downstream” to describe the phenomenon of societies following development trajectories that lead to adverse health outcomes. The parable below is borrowed from a website tied to a documentary that is derived from her research:

There once was a village overlooking a beautiful river.
The residents who lived here began noticing increasing numbers of drowning people caught in the river’s swift current and so went to work inventing ever more elaborate technologies to resuscitate them.
So preoccupied were these heroic villagers with rescue and treatment that they never thought to look upstream to see who was pushing the victims in.
Living Downstream is a walk up that river.

One does not have to look far upstream to find Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, George Bush Jr. and the United States Supreme Court pushing their fellow citizens into the river. They’ve made, and continue to make, choices that chemically-load or poison the citizens they represent.

A mining company was given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court on Monday to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby 23-acre lake, although the material will kill all of the lake’s fish.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court said a federal appeals court wrongly blocked on environmental grounds the Army Corps of Engineers’ waste disposal permit for the mine project. The Alaska mine, which had been closed since 1928, now plans to resume operation and will dump about 4.5 million tons of mine tailings — waste left after metals are extracted from the ore — into the lake located three miles away in the Tongass National Forest.
The court said that the federal government acted legally in declaring the waste left after metals are extracted from the ore as “fill material” allowing a federal permit without meeting more stringent requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.

The ruling was rejected by 3 moral voices in Ginsburg, Stevens, and Souter.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it is “neither necessary or proper” to interpret the waterway protection law “as allowing mines to bypass EPA’s zero-discharge standard by classifying slurry as fill material.” She argued the lower court had been correct in concluding that the use of waters as “settling ponds for harmful mining waste” was contrary to the federal Clean Water Act.

Sarah Palin confirmed her status as a “pro-life without the chance of parole” candidate.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called the decision “great news for Alaska” and said it “is a green light for responsible resource development.” The Kensington Goal Mine 45 miles north of Juneau will produce as many as 370 jobs when it begins operation.

In this regard, Governor Palin pales in comparison to President Obama, who continues to provide evidence that he is merely a better looking, more articulate version of George W. Bush. Following their standard modus operendi, the Obama Whitehouse, in the form of Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, stated that Bush’s policy on mountaintop removal mining did not pass the smell test and then proceeded to hold their noses and put Bush’s policy into practice. Thankfully, the Senate may yet have something different to say.

Farrah Fawcett, like the rest of us, lived downstream from the choices of others. She touched America and America touched back. Unfortunately, some of those touches gave her cancer, like they’ve done to too many others, and like they continue to do today in many different and harmful ways. This is unlikely to change anytime soon because, as related in Steingraber’s parable, the most prominent politicians in the United States today continue to push their fellow citizens into the river.

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Immigration Reform: An Environmental Perspective

Glbal Biosphere on June 6 2009Immigration, as a policy issue, is politically explosive. It is politically explosive because it necessarily involves making choices between bad options, each of which has supporters and detractors with political power.

In advocating for their option, it is not uncommon for some supporters to engage in inaccurate and unjust accusations against their opponents, such as claiming the other is guilty of racism or traitorhood. The situation is further complicated by the small numbers of supporters on either side who are racist or traitorous.

It is unsurprising that the engagements between opponents are volatile. How could decisions about who belongs, and who does not, be otherwise? What is the best way to disentangle a complex web of family relations, personal convictions, and obligations that must be shared between citizens if they are to be a nation, all in the context of the question of how the franchise is to be extended to non-citizens, if at all? It is no wonder that the issue is avoided like the plague.

Plague-avoidance strategies that do not address the causes of the plague, or bolster the immune system against its effects, are doomed to failure, however, and the cost of failure in avoiding the plague is serious illness and death. In this sense, the lack of a workable resolution of the immigration issue endangers the health of the body politic.

At present, the lack of meaningful policy action is, in effect, backdoor advocacy for the situation as it currently stands, in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” sense. This abrogation of responsibility is dangerous beyond its obvious bad effects. It cultivates a sense of powerlessness among the citizenry, who perceive their elected governments as incapable of effecting meaningful change. History has enough examples of what happens when democratic and republican assemblies appear incapable of providing effective leadership in difficult times. This underscores why difficult challenges must be addressed to maintain the health of the body politic. If our leaders will not lead for us, they must be lead by us, if we are to avoid being lead by powered interests. This short, oversimplified post is intended to be a step in the direction of citizen leadership.

The framework that follows views immigration from an environmental perspective that takes into account citizenship within a nationalist framework. I think it practical because we are citizens in nationalist frameworks and because immigration is a normal environmental phenomenon. My intent is to propose a framework for immigration based upon the environmental concept of sustainability, which is also practical, because it is social suicide to adopt models that are not sustainable.

In this post, I shall not address anti-nationalist perspectives, despite their value, because the scope of the issues is already too daunting for a short post. Furthermore, I shall not address economic or ethical perspectives that disregard the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I consider it to be inarguable that the Earth has a more or less finite amount of non-renewable and renewable resources, in human terms, and that their availability is governed by the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Principle of Net Yield. For example, the only reason immigration is an issue is because there is competition for scarce resources. If there were plenty of everything that everyone needed and wanted, then there would be no grounds for disputes and no reason to have systems of justice, except to deal with the actions of the pathological.

The ideas that follow are predicated on the notion that there are limits to growth. The only dispute is about the extent of these limits. Living beyond these limits is not sustainable.

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