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Litquake Begins

Litquake--the West Coast's pre-eminent literary arts festival--kicked off Friday night at San Francisco's Herbst Theater with readings from and by Bay Area writers.

The night marked the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's reading of the poem "Howl" at the Six Gallery--a legendary event in what subsequently became known as the San Francisco Renaissance

At last night's event, I shared the stage with writers Michael McClure, Armistead Maupin, Amy Tan and actor Peter Coyote for readings that focused on local writers. Naturally, I read an excerpt from one of Jack London's works. He not only lived in Oakland but ran for mayor twice.

In 1902, a 25-year-old Jack London went to England to investigate poverty in London's notorious East End. Clad in thrift store clothes (with a gold piece sewn into his jacket for emergency purposes), London roved the streets and took notes on what he saw.

After returning to Oakland, he finished "People of the Abyss," a moving work of social criticism that exposed the horrible poverty existing in the heart of the world's richest and most powerful empires. One hundred years later, despite wars, revolutions and endless good intentions, the gulf between rich and poor continues--in new places and in new forms but unabated.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has reminded us of the sharp contrast between the haves and have nots.

According to Jack London, the one beautiful sight in the East End was the sight of children playing. They were too young to realize the predicament of poverty, and it had not yet crushed their spirit.

"The children of the Ghetto possess all the qualities which make for noble manhood and womanhood; but the Ghetto itself, like an infuriated tigress turning on its young, turns upon and destroys all these qualities, blots out the light and laughter, and moulds those it does not kill into sodden and forlorn creatures, uncouth, degraded and wretched below the beasts of the field ... In such conditions, the outlook for children is hopeless. They die like flies and those that survive, survive because they possess excessive vitality and a capacity of adaptation to the degradation with which they are surrounded."

October 8, 2005 in Books | Permalink

Comments

Jerry-
I certainly hope that the disaster in New orleans can bring some kind of positive action regarding our society. It has become plainly clear that race is a MAJOR issue in the quality of life of American citizens. If you are black and poor, your chances are dim in finding success.

The situation is repeated in every major urban center in our nation. San Francisco, where the average redidents income dwarfs the US median income, we have Ghettos and violence that contrast so starkly with the affluent main stream.

I hope that someone, maybe yourself, can rise to the fore-front an expose the gross inequity that is really a black eye in the face of this great nation. Saddly black leaders are more concerned with blame and rheotic than the wholesale suffering of millions of Americans.

We need to toss out words like racism in this discussion or we will get nowhere. The honest truth is that things are bad, and will not get better until we wage a full scale assaut on povert and inequity.

I find it unimaginable and nearlt criminal the resources poured into 'freeing' Iraq, when so many of our citizens are in the prison of violence, poverty and prison...

Perhaps you can comment in your blog how you envision a tactical strategy to improve the lives of poor americans...The tax dollars alone from the successful and employed persons helped would easiiy offset any initial investment into our communities. That is nothing to say of the money saved on social services, prisions, enforcement, and the judicial system.

I think this issue could unite the democrats and potentially the nation, but maybe I am naive...

Have a great week

Posted by: Ethan | Oct 10, 2005 1:32:32 PM

Tonite on the evening news on Columbus day an unemployed Latin man set fire to his home in San Jose after stabbing his 5 month pregnant girlfriend and killing their two other children.

Femi-cide as it's known is a growing phenomenon in this country, particularly it appears in California across all racial and class lines but particularly when men become unemployed and lose their jobs.

Hitherto this has been unknown in our country.
Why is this so?

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 10, 2005 6:44:48 PM

Just before Jerry won office, I complained that the "Where Green meets Gold" Mission Statement was oh, unintelligable let's say, and suggested it be rewritten. My last communication with his honor went "Were one to find a vein of gold, it might be better to bury it, never tell a soul, and forget it".

I believe today's income disparity is enabled by city planning that devotes an undue attention to motor car mobility. If the American motorist, for whatever reason, were no longer able to travel as freely between home and far-flung occupation, retailer, institution, services, etc, investment in local economies would be a necessity.

It is irksome that Oakland support an expanded Bay Bridge and a 2nd Transbay Tube to even more voluminously access San Francisco's latest, bigger marketeering schemes.

More needs met nearby via the architecture of infill development in a literal multitude of local economies, connected to the regional economy via BART station area development, would build higher, healthier and more equitable standards of living.

Consider the car a "Constitutional Inequity". When a city's built environment and transportation system are overwhelmingly dedicated to motorcars, their menacing presence is an impediment to other means of urban/suburban mobility - walking, bicycling and mass transit. The 20th Century motorcar environment impedes the development of local economies and culture.

Art Lewellan, Lotilivo@peoplepc.com
(author, The Seattle Circulator Plan, a low-cost, low-impact monorail proposal blacklisted in Seattle since 2000)

"Education is the sleeping pill that makes dreams happen" - Peggy Hill

Posted by: Sirkulat | Oct 10, 2005 8:48:44 PM

The 'problem' of poverty is first and foremost spiritual poverty, which material poverty feasts upon. In the Gospel of John (12:8) Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you, but you don't always have me." And it is for us to feed both the spirit and the stomach, to help build shelters and dwellings while at the same time building character and spirituality.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 11, 2005 11:24:18 AM

Bro. Bartleby,

Yes, poverty of spirit--greed and lack of compassion-- can affect the comfortable and affluent as well as the poor. However, economic poverty does not need to exist in this day and age.

There is enough technology to provide for all. It is a skewed marketplace and skewed economic system that has paid farmers Not to produce and to destroy food rather than give it away.

There need be no hunger nor want nor deprivation in this world at all although backwardness and ignorance and poor education may remain.

To believe that the poor will always be amongst us is a fatalist philosophy and a convenient one for those who wish to cling to extreme privilege at the price of the poor.

It's a sad commentary on American society today that the rich who are richer than they have ever been have moved away from philanthropy and instead build temples and monuments to themselves--i.e., the vulgar Paul Getty museum in southern California.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 11, 2005 5:59:57 PM

You say, "Yes, poverty of spirit--greed and lack of compassion-- can affect the comfortable and affluent as well as the poor."

I do think you are selling 'spirit' short. Is spirit abundance and compassion? For me my Christian beliefs are my spiritual foundation, from which all else is built upon. The sad commentary that you speak of, in some cases, is that wealth in and of itself is amoral. Just as capitalism is amoral. And when we educate our youth in all areas of material life, leaving the spiritual training for the home or more often than not, leaving spiritual training out of the picture, then it is as simple as Darwin's evolution to see that the unspiritual youth become the material capitalist, and more often than not, view philanthropy in terms of profit/loss, as public image. Yes, Jefferson wrote in a letter about separation of church and state, and for the most part keeping state out of religion and religion out of matters of state keep society in working order. But when church, or spiritual education, are such a tiny part of the life of our youth, and for the most part their parents, then matters of faith are a non-issue. Material/capital/abundance becomes the religion of choice. And from that God-less philosophy of life, springs the fruits of Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. Of course Jesus was not a fatalist, but called us all to care for one another. But for the past 50 plus years, Jesus has been quieted in
America, at least in government, in education, in the news media, so that whatever economic model at the moment becomes the religion, and currently that is Capitalism.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 12, 2005 7:14:04 AM

Bro Bartleby,
No basic disagreements with what you have written.

But I don't think capitalism is amoral as so much immoral. It is not lacking in values--it values greed above all which it teaches widely throughout the land--not only in the workplace but on TV daily-in the current Survival series and thru the revionist history peddled in our educational system and most of all on Fox News where the "godless" and the bad Christians are daily bashed.

Yes, plenty of talk of Christianity and plenty who scream Jesus in the churches but it is now a new form of Christianity where Jesus would have no place-Christian capitalism.

Anyway, the good news is that Pat Robertson's outfit is not only morally bankrupt for all to see, but now we read financially broke as well.

But there are other new mini fifedoms of the modern day (latter saints?)Christian capitalist evangelicals sprouting up all the time now like the ones headed by Dobson and others.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 12, 2005 9:08:58 AM

So now a study comes out to explain the obvious. Hopefully someone with influence will comment on a vision to end this, and of course I don't mean to pressure Jerry - but really any politician with a concious and integrity. This is a human rights tragedy that has unfolded for the better part of 30 years (actually 300)....

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/10/12/poverty.study.ap/index.html

Posted by: Ethan | Oct 12, 2005 9:20:11 AM

I would posit that the cause of poverty in the 21st Century is value based, and not economic based. So too morality and ethics (as opposed to Marxist thinking). Capitalism as an economic theory is amoral, and as a working model it far surpasses all other models in producing material goods (ask any Shanghai merchant). So too a corporation -- amoral. Now those who operate within this economic system are either moral or immoral folks. A corporation can be driven by moral folks who use this amoral system to do morally good things. From Christian teachings, Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject in the Gospels. For the most part He taught money itself is amoral (how one accumulates money can be honestly or dishonestly), but what is important is how one uses the money. In the end it all comes down to individual humans -- a corporate president, a world leader, a city mayor, a scientist, a musician, a homeless fellow, a university student, a fast-food worker -- they all have the choice to live morally or immorally. And if a society doesn't teach values to its citizens, if a society doesn't even know what values are, then I suppose we are no different than the animal kingdom ... and can expect a similar kingdom.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 12, 2005 10:15:46 AM

Bro Barleby,
I think you know better.
I think you know that corporations like Exon are organized for specific purposes--to make money.

I think you know that the Republican Culture is now not called the "culture of corruption" for nothing.

I think you know better than to say that Mayors and the homeless have equal opportunities to make moral choices. I think you know that Mayors operate within certain confines--the confines of the economic system they seek to govern in.

I heartily disagree that the capitalism system is amoral or as you say "valueless". A person does not have to be a Marxist nor peddle Marxism to understand how corporations function and how the bottom line for shareholders is dividend returns.

I think you know better than any of us that these dividiend returns depend on exploitation in the third world and first and foremost on sweatshops.


The sad fact is that as Al Gore recently sad, our
current "marketplace of ideas" is in its lowest place ever.

Unfortunately and tragically, American cannot get out of its anti-communism, godless heathen Marxist communist obsession.

It cannot get beyond either capitalism or communism. Everything is based on these two "isms"; everything is either black or white. Or its the third ism--Catholicism, they way they accept the bible as written by Jesus and not by mankind. The ideological blinders of the isms and I include Catholicism and the rest of the religions are all-
encompassing and blinding.

There is a reason that people cannot get beyond these boxes--it's constantly pounded into them daily on the media.
Or is the media valueless as well?

I agree with your very last statements although not for the reasons you state.

The sad fact is that humans have developed technology but not the accompanying wisdom to know how to handle it. And precious science, more so than ever before, is in the hands of profiteers and creationists--a deadly combination.

Isn't there any way that we can discuss distribution of resources, different forms of organizing the worlds resources, technology and the greatest good for all without going to the two boxes of capitalism and marxism? Christ Almighty, even Karl Marx said he wasn't a Marxist. And by that he meant he wasn't wedded to his own dogma called Marxism.

But you seem wedded to a philosphy called Catholicism. You too are in a box. A box of fatalism and acceptance of the status quo, acceptance that there will always be the poor amongst us--and once again the class of have nots is growing larger and larger--but not as you claim for objective amoral reasons. There is a reason why this is happening. Because we cannot see beyond the bottom line of profits.

It's time for another Campaign for Economic Democracy--except you cannot go backwards in history which is marching steadily forward in the hands of the Plutocrats.

If this wasn't the case, then how come there isn't a campaign to reduce the amount of CEO's salaries, shareholder returns, and to give the workers who produce these profits a greater share of their labors? Or has even promoting a higher minimum wage and unions become too radical an idea these days?

Yes, the union movement is at its lowest ebb ever because it has invested in the economic system which is presently divesting itself from its unionized workforce.

Perhaps I'm not as eloquent as Bill Moyers and not as articulate in describing the profound impact of the plutocrats who have pushed outsourcing, war, environmental despoilization and other catastrophes upon us all in the name of seeking greater profits.

The bottom line is the economic road we are on is pushing the middle class further to the brink
of collapse--and that this policy is supported by not one but two parties in this country.
The one you have now-reclaimed as your own.
The one that lost its "populist roots".

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 12, 2005 11:24:30 AM

Yes, you heartily disagree with me, and I with you. I place any hope and faith in individuals, individuals that are one with themselves, their thughts and actions are in hamony, their works reflect their faith/philosophy. I have little faith in organizations, 'isms' or governments, again, more often than not, their works fall far short of their proclamations. And these 'groups' have a nasty habit of eating their young. But, yes, here we find ourselves, creatures of organizations, and Mayor Brown may now identify with one of the most basic groups, the partners in marriage. And how even that most basic of groups, the required give and take, ebb and flow, and most of all, empathy and understanding are prime necessities for any hope of happiness. So I guess you could say I champion the 'bottom up' or the start with individuals model of change, rather than the 'top down' that ... uhhh, excuse me ... that Mao and Stalin championed. For we are all human, and must accept what that means. All the flaws and problems in that basic partnership of marriage are amplified a million times over in 'big organizations' ... and a billion times over in nations. So I too must make a choice, and my choice is to spend my limited time and energy and spirit on individuals, and hopefully a few individuals who too can make society better from the bottom up.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 14, 2005 8:05:38 AM

Unions are at their low point because they chose the instant gratification of the strike over the long term benefit of equity. Look at what happened to steel, autos and airlines. Unions thrive only in government and there only because the workers have no choice.
Trade unions, on the other hand, because they promote competency, still thrive in the face of non-union competition.
The solution to poverty? Have your daddy be governor.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis | Oct 14, 2005 10:05:17 AM

REsponse to Bro Bartleby and Walter

Bro Bartleby,
You sound like you've grown cynical only believing in individuals and not in organizations.

History has demonstrated change can come both ways and must come both ways-bottom up and top down.

A leader at the top can bring a fresh vision and fortitude. Yours is a philosphy of a person who has probably never really needed the strong leadership. You have probably not grown up in a third world country or one literally drowning in millions of poor people so you have the luxury of touting individualism and elitism. And, you can well afford not to belong to or need any organization--except the church to confer its blessings on marriage and death. The Church that has long preyed on the poor in the service of the rich and affluent throughout history. Nuf said on that subject.
As for marriage, that is well and fine but let's not get bogged down in it, okay?

Walter,
I agree with your last statements the most. But you lump steel, auto, and airlines altogether. All these industries which were unionized have very different histories and causes for going under and most certainly not because of unions and strikes.

Autos for instance. We've gone backwards. Instead of pushing for more fuel efficiency, we pushed for big SUV's. General Motors got stuck--didn't follow Japanese trend towards smaller, more fuel efficient cars and our foolish Bush administration in 200l said "conservation was not the American way." Now SUV'S have fallen 50% in sales and we had to bail out GM (not the union Walter but the company) by offering purchasers of the now obsolete SUV big tax breaks.

As for the steel industry, that's a whole other story--too long to go into here.

Bottom line is, it's not a simplistic oneliner like strikes over equity although there is merit to the idea.

I believe if workers had more say (and stock) in companies that very well might be better run. GM could start over for starters by designing more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But let me ask you this, do you think it was a mistake for us to spend our tax dollars bailing out these companies? Doesn't the marketplace require success or doom? Why are we bailing out failing companies in the first place? WE might as well nationalize and own them with the taxdollars we are pouring in or else offer them to the unions and let them buy them.
Or is that too radical an idea?

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 14, 2005 10:40:06 AM

Bro. Grassrootsdem,

You said, "You have probably not grown up in a third world country or one literally drowning in millions of poor people so you have the luxury of touting individualism and elitism."

And you are right, but at one time I spend over a year living in Asia in a small one-room house surround by rice paddies and folks who were living as they had lived for centuries, and in my tiny room I had a little charcoal stove, atop a teapot set that I used to boil water, and my luxuary was a jar of instant coffee ... and one day a fellow visited and he had been wandering from job to job, village to village, and he was marveling at what he perceived to be my riches -- a charcoal stove and a teapot and a mug of instant coffee. In those days, a couple hundred miles away, Mao had stirred up the Chinese youth in what has come to be known as the Cultural Revolution, and in my tiny room I told my new friend that I was almost embarrassed that I had real luxuary, that I could at any time 'escape' back to America. I had great empathy for him, and his daily struggle to just earn enough for the next meal. I guess I must have appeared anguished, for suddenly he laughed, a hardy laugh, and said that if he didn't have the hope of someday having his own room, and a charcoal stove, and a teapot, and some instant coffee, then he would truly find it difficult to arise each morning.

So, why am I sharing this? Because I had discovered then, and since many times over, that happiness springs from hope, and hope takes many forms. While I admire your enthusiasm, I do think that you should look again at those who you see as 'poor,' for when you actually 'walk in their shoes' you may find that they are rich in areas that you never considered, and that your solutions may in the end have dire effects upon their real happiness. I think money too is amoral, if you are wise you can help the 'economic poor' without disturbing their 'spiritual riches,' but if you are not wise, then you just create the illusion of happiness with 'sound shelters' housing empty souls.

Bro. Bartleby

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 14, 2005 3:25:45 PM

Bro Bartleby,

Arrrghhhhhhhh! The only people who say the poor have it better and "beware of disturbing their spiritual riches" are those who have never been poor and idealize them. If life was so great with only a charcoal stove and a teakettle and you were so spiritually rich, then why the hell didn't ya stay there?

Life has never been grand for the poor? What kind of bubamices have you been reading? Go back and re-read Dickens, Dosteyevski and Balzac.

Jesus H. Christ! Why do you think there was a French Revolution, Russian Revolution and a Cultural Revolution in China (a college professor of mine also fled that one) to begin with?

Do you think those tethered to sewing machines in human sweatshops around the world are spiritually rich? How about the young girls sold into slavery, sexual and otherwise, by their parents in Madagascar, Thailand and in other places throughout the world?

How about all the women who have died in childbirth and all the people who have died for lack of healthcare?

Yes, while you enjoy your spiritual and political musings and meanderings, they're dead (but they're not ducks). Some of them are mothers, fathers and children.

Millions in China died in the days of the dynasties and in Tsarist Russia the serfs were literally enslaved and virtually starved as well.

You would not trade places with them for all the charcoal stoves and teapots in China.

Be real Bro Bartleby!

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 14, 2005 3:41:18 PM

I have attempted to present one part of the equation of human happiness, focusing on the individual and the potential for good that I believe resides in all humankind. For me that potential is ignited by my Christian beliefs. And you have presented another part of the equation, the big numbers, the generalizations (which I too belief we need in order to grasp BIG problems), but I don't think it is an either-or argument. Of course the poorest of the poor need food and shelter RIGHT NOW -- wasn't it Mother Theresa who said, "what good is it to give the starving a fishing pole when they are too weak to lift it." And from the poorest of the poor, you can categorize folks into all the categories of poverty, and I understand the enormity of the suffering can only be realized with those abstract statistics. Yet we do not live in a world of big numbers, we are human and dwell in a world within our reach, and so I think we can and need to start at square one, ourselves. We need to nurture our own decency and humanity WHILE we all work to make a better world. And lastly, if I subscribe a bit of humanity and spirituality to someone tethered to a sewing machine in a human sweatshop, I don't think you can infer that I thereby accept the sweatshop, those who run the sweatshop, or those who live thousands of miles away from the sweatshop and oversee the corporation or even the retirees who have stock in the corporation. All have guilt. Yet we all wear clothes. Take a minute and check all the labels on your clothes. Honduras? Sri Lanka? Mexico? Were the hands that made that shirt the hands of a statistic? Or the hands of a real person. I say both statements are true.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 15, 2005 6:10:53 AM

MR. MAYOR. AFTER WORKING ON YOUR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN 1992, I WENT TO WORK IN THE WHITE HOUSE, AS A VOLUNTEER, IN THE COMMENTS OFFICE IN 1993. WHEN I LEFT WORK AND WENT ACROSS THE STREET TO GET A SODA, IN THE NOW INFAMOUS MCDONALDS THAT PRESIDENT CLINTON USED TO EAT IN, THAT IS IN THE SHADOW OF THE WHITE HOUSE, A WOMAN WAS BEGGING WITH HER LITTLE BOY. SHE ASKED ME IF I COULD GIVE HER ENOUGH MONEY SO HER BOY COULD GET A SANDWICH. SHE SAID HE HADN'T EATEN ALL DAY. I LOOKED OVER AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND EXECUTIVE OFFICE BUILDING, AND THEN I LOOKED AT THE MOTHER AND BOY'S FACES. I CAN STILL SEE THAT BOY'S FACE TODAY. I THOUGHT THERE IS ENOUGH MONEY IN THE WHITE HOUSE TO FEED ALL THE POOR--AND THESE TWO HAVEN'T EATEN ALL DAY. I WAS DISORIENTED BY WHAT WAS TAKING PLACE AT THAT MOMENT. IN TIME AND SPACE, WE WERE STEPS AWAY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE, BUT THESE TWO WERE IN REALITY INVISIBLE--BEING SEEN ONLY BY ME. I GAVE HER SOME MONEY AND STOOD THERE FOR A MINUTE AND THEN WENT INTO MCDONALDS FOR MY SODA. I SAW THE MOTHER AND BOY IN THE MCDONALDS GETTING FOOD. AND WE ALL SMILED WANLY AT EACH OTHER. THAT EVENT WAS SO HORRIFYING TO ME IT IS INGRAINED IN MY MEMORY AS IF IT WAS HAPPENING THIS MINUTE. THE SOLUTION TO POVERTY IS TO CARE ENOUGH. IF YOU HAD BECOME PRESIDENT, THAT MOTHER AND BOY WOULD HAVE HAD A TRUE FRIEND IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

Posted by: DEBRA STAR | Oct 15, 2005 7:29:17 AM

Bro Bartleby,

Good response!

All, Bush approval rating amongst African Americans has now dropped down to 2%. (Washington Post)

Also, Arnold doesn't want to even appear with Bush in Southern California today for fear Bush's 39% approval rating amongst Americans in general might contaminate Arnold and his Special election (Pew Poll)

Additionally, 2/3rds of American people now opposed to our involvement in Iraq.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 15, 2005 10:00:38 AM

I should add one thought in favor of your focus on the big picture -- on organizations, on governments -- all good (and bad) that we together do in our lifetime will be the foundation for those not yet born. And to think that all humans that are alive at this moment will be gone in ... I suppose I must say 116 years, but let's say 100 years. Gone. Zilch. Dust to dust. The totality of humanity. The good, the bad, the ugly. The rich, the poor, the starving. The brilliant, the smart, the clever, the cunning, the decent, the indecent, the scalawag, the murderous, the evil -- gone. But while the decent still have a breath to breathe, they still care about the foundation they leave behind for their grandchildren to build upon. And so far the reviews are mixed for what WE will leave behind. Most would say the comforts that technology creates would be our greatest gift for our grandchildren to build upon, but that gift will come with a myriad of problems, problems built-in that may be overwhelming for the coming generations. And our time is short, and our gift have grown too big to take back, so can we at least solve some of the difficulties that are sure to come. Or is it too late?

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 15, 2005 5:59:54 PM

I am disappointed to see my earlier comment had no takers. The idea that the automobile has become more a burden than a boon ought to stir some interest, or so I thought.

How about this: the hydrogen fuel cell car is a hoax. Those who believe otherwise are in for a sorry awakening. George Bush dropped Al Gore's Hybrid technology at the behest of the auto, oil and energy corporations who rightly see Hybrids' phenomenal advantages as a conflict of interest to their monopolistic control and profiteering.

I'll repeat an earlier statement about economies: "today's income disparity is enabled by city planning that devotes an undue attention to motor car mobility. If the American motorist were no longer able to travel so freely between home and far-flung occupation, retail, institution, services, 'local economies' would be a necessity".

I am disaffected by the christian church these days. Too much blatant corruption, greed, hypocricy, stupidity and raw evil. The church should not be entrusted with the responsibility of caring for humanity.

Posted by: Sirkulat | Oct 15, 2005 8:16:42 PM

Bro Bartleby,

I've had fears about things in the past l5 years-20 years that have now come to pass. These fears have centered around the loss of publically controlled science and scientific discoveries that have now become corporate-owned and corporate products rather than research serving mankind as has been the case historically for many decades in our country.


If I had raised these publically I would have been thought a crazy alarmist. I'm already pegged and labelled. A world renowned scientist Carl Sagan raised the alarm of a return to superstition and darkness before his death in his final work the Demon Haunted World.

The problem today is not only that there is no morality in our corporations, but that we, as a society, have completely lost public control of both science and its products and technology and its use in the public realm.

For example: When Monsanto Corp. can control whether a scientist who critiques the dangers of its BT corn product in a seminal paper at U.C. Berkeley gets tenure or not, we are in grave danger.

Secondly, when such scientific discoveries are labelled "product" and not subjected to regulation by our government and the scientific community, we are in grave danger.

Second example, Diebold has stated their software is their protected "product" so no one but them can inspect, monitor and verify election outcomes and results.

The scientific community, first and foremost computer software scientists from Stanford University to others across the nation have raised the alarm on a nonverifiable election process. Right here in Alameda County we invested $l2 million in Diebold electronic voting machines. Now, because of all the problems the county is considering another equally faulty electronic voting manufacturer to replace Diebold with the same flaws in the technology and process instead of simply returning to paper ballots.

Scientists themselves have stressed the process must not only be transparent, but everyone should be able to both use and verify it. Not specially trained corporate technicians.
Is it any wonder that 20% of the people are now voting absentee ballot in Alameda County?

We have now lost control of our democracy. What could be a greater threat to Americans and those around the world? This is not even to mention the corruption of the voting process, particularly in California where we see corporations and not individuals producing not only one ballot initiative after thru the intiative process, initiatives another which are too technical for most to understand and contain hidden clauses which most don't have the time to read understand ( but corporations now being able to actually "purchase" special elections and recalls. Hiram Johnson must be churning nonstop in his grave.

These concerns however lie within the human realm to correct. What doesn't lie within the human realm to correct is the degradation of our environment--massive deforestation, poisoning of our seas, rivers and ground water and extinction of many species. Ultimately this will lead to a contamination of our food sources which is already happening which is slowly if not increasingly beginning to poison our food chain. We are already seeing rising epidemics of breast and prostate cancer in the U.S. and Britain. We have highly contaminated fish in the sea and pesticide laden agricultural products.
And the total deregulation of clean air and water now being proposed by a Republican administration in complete control of all 3 branches of government--all in the name of maximum profits. Not even the mentally challenged believe the old trickle down shibboleths of economic growth. To add insult to injury, while proposing the cutting of estate taxes of the very wealthy Bush now wants to cut mortgage deductions used by middle class on whose backs he is trying to close his budget deficit as well as practically eliminating all programs which benefit benefit the poor and elderly which we will all become some day.

How people can respond and protest all the massive deregulations and controls which are taking place which took decades to achieve and all the other insanity that has been unleashed by the present administration in the face of the third greatest evil--corporate control of the media is unknown.

In my humble opinion rapacious and powerful forces have been unleashed which will be very difficult for a basically unaware, extremely politically and scientifically naive and uneducated citizenry to control and correct.

Our cultural obsession and preoccupation with our technological discoveries such as cell phones and internet and the belief of the younger generation that this makes them "more advanced" than generations past which actually had a higher standard of living as many have written over the past decade, has led to incredible arrogance, blindness and political chauvinism in the body politic. And a morally weakened and vapid culture steeped in wholesale and massive denial of reality--a political, social, economic reality which each day becomes increasing more frightening to confront.
I believe most Americans right now are in a state political paralysis.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 15, 2005 8:23:12 PM

Bro Bartleby,

As an example of my last point, Cindy Sheehan, an devout, religious and authentic Catholic, was able to "break through" and see that her salvation lay not just with her family but the larger community and her country. In her case, the community of all the Military families who had enlisted children. It came however, because of a personal tragedy which forced a rude awakening.

There are many good Catholics and decent religious ordinary citizens. But how to awaken them politically and harnass their energies, energies that we see being harnassed by evangelical leaders is the issue of the hour.

We need folks from all walks of life to enter the political arena and to enter it whereever they are and in whatever
station they are to bring a public morality that is presently absent in the political arena in our country.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 15, 2005 9:25:55 PM

Mayor Brown! Calling Mayor Brown! You are wanted in the forum ... calling Mayor Brown!

Please explain to the folks what happens when you halt freeway construction.

And, does anyone read the Bible anymore? I do believe that many Americans get a good dose of children Sunday school learning ... reach teen hood and are 'out of here' ... get a good dose of secular university education ... reach their middle years and view religion and such matters as simplistic and superstitious ... and seem to think all Christians believe what they recall from their Sunday school days: elementary school religion. Yet I would never think that my secular friends only believe what was taugh in grade school. I understand that grade school education is for grade school minds. So too religious education, one progresses in their 'Bible education' just as the child progresses from their 'times tables' to higher mathematics. Yet I often have folks asking me about my religion in grade school terms ... of course that most likely is the time they abandoned their religion, so religious matters, in their minds, are always on the children Sunday school level.

Posted by: Bro. Bartleby | Oct 16, 2005 6:43:25 AM

It is great that some of you put so much effort into responding to the blog and sharing your feelings and ideas.

But may I offer a comment?

It seems that just a few of you take up such a huge percentage of the comments here that others might be discouraged from commenting themselves. I would hope that more readers would step forward and participate and that everyone would keep their remarks--for the most part--focused on the blog topic. And remember: brevity is the soul of wit.

Posted by: Jerry brown | Oct 16, 2005 11:20:03 AM

Mayor Brown,
It's both too bad and a symptom of what's wrong in our superficial and artifical culture today that what is most valued and important is being a "wit".

One thing for sure, that certainly is NOT what Jack London was about or what he wrote about.

But I hereby defer to the "wits" who too often overlap in the category called clueless and mindless as well.

Posted by: grassrootsdem | Oct 16, 2005 7:38:05 PM

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