Friday, October 10, 2014

Goodbye Columbus

Christopher Columbus noted in his log:
They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned. . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features. . . . They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. . . . They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

Bartolomé de las Casas, as critic of Spanish cruelty wrote:
large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time . . . made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves. . . . They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of their friends and expect the same degree of liberality. . . .

When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a “vacuum.” The Indians, he said, had not “subdued” the land, and therefore had only a “natural” right to it, but not a “civil right.” A “natural right” did not have legal standing.
The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:
Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their corn wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn. . . . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the Narragansett Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:
They had commission to put to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampom for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.
The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: “The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully. . . .”
So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortés and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethnohistorian Francis Jennings’s interpretation of Captain John Mason’s attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: “Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective.”
So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: “The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam . . . brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire.” William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason’s raid on the Pequot village:
Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.
As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.
In the vision of the Mohawk chief Hiawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: “We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness.”
In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: ?No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers. . . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common.?
Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives? families. Each extended family lived in a ?long house.? When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband?s things outside the door.
Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.
The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: ?Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society.?
Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, but gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.
All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: ?And surely there is in all children . . . a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon.?
Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture: No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails—the apparatus of authority in European societies—were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong. . . . He who stole another’s food or acted invalourously in war was “shamed” by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself.
Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In 1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor’s demand that if any of them killed an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for punishment according to English law. The Indians said:
It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen, wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, with a 100 armes length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us. . . .
So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.
They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe’s, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.
John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: “Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace.”
Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that “myth.” Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stephanie McMillan was a guest on a local radio talk show the other night, discussing  her newest work, “Capitalism Must Die” . As I heard her speak my heart went out to her.  She has written:
“About Minimum Security
A group of friends vow to do whatever it takes to stop evil corporate overlords from destroying the Earth. How? They aren’t sure. They explore various strategies, but so far nothing has worked. As they build a resistance movement, those who love them the most can be their biggest obstacles.”

I am one of those obstacles. I called in and asked her to address the premise that by resisting, and opposing, “them”, she was in fact empowering them. Why didn’t she just walk away. I avoided the psycho, philio arguments that couldn’t be addressed in this little format but went on to suggest that no one was holding a gun to her head, forcing her to shop at Walmart for example. She responded with an argument that indeed they were holding a gun to our collective heads and they will seek us out if we walk away and kill us. The host pushed her further and suggested that the implications of resistance were violent and many listeners are violence adverse. She itemized many small actions people might take to support the movement without violence. What she didn’t say, what Fanon and others have said and demonstrated, that “they” use extreme violence (Occupy) and there is no way to unseat them peacefully. 

Slavoj Zizek argues in “Mapping Ideology” that the state is withering from the dominance of “mafias” that are supplanting so-called legitimate regimes at the top, and ethno-populist  aggregations are rejecting suppression from federalist authorities at the bottom. When the de-racinated us, that so smugly believe we are some how part of the great middle class, an entitled minority, come to the realization that we are no more than fodder for the consumption maw, the necessity of an alternative will be even more obvious. Disaster; eco, nuclear, will generate the the kind of crisis that will demand change. The issue for us, in the here and now, is what to do in the meantime? 

Elina St-Onge is another neo-Marxist that cleverly embraces the ideology of the left while never mentioning it head on. Her new book “How to Change the World” free here  is an inspiring thoughtful discussion of the possibilities of how to imagine a post consumption world without actually incorporating the kind of specificity that any reader needs to construct how she will manage to sustain herself in an evolutionary environment.

All of the above, and the complement of new publications like Capital, by Thomas Piketty are read and discussed within the context of business as usual. The left argues for higher wages, not the alternative to wage slavery. Advocates argue for safer cars (robotic), not the alternative public transportation. The sharing economy morphs into capitalist ventures, Uber, or become platforms for ever more marketing campaigns for ever more stuff. Piketty argues for increased taxation, not the redistribution of public wealth. (The alternative to the bank bailout was a mortgage bailout. Either solution involved the creation of public debt).

You can join a movement, elect what you imagine are informed alternatives to business as usual, and suffer the agony when it is revealed that your alternative, wasn’t. Or, you can join the outlaw band, and roll your own. Of course that will require a rigorous self examination of what you are willing to sacrifice in the process. In the run-up to a new program we are developing on a college campus I asked the principals to ask students to put their i-phones , and other Apple made gee-gaws in the trash as an example of good faith if they are indeed willing to change their ethics in the search for a common good. I mean if we are going to invoke the workers struggle we have to acknowledge that this is one of the most conspicuous exploitations of workers on the planet. They are committing suicide, leaping from the factory roofs. No takers. I can’t wait for them. Never have. 

This blog has intended to suggest, often in detail, the ways and means to secure your survival. I don’t believe that They will hunt you down. If you pull this off, they can’t recognize you. Not because you are wearing a  balaclava, but because you  are a chameleon and dress for success. Whatever that requires at the time. You have the capacity now to establish a sustainable plan that will work at least until they burn the planet. Your first move is to reimagine yourself in terms of what really counts. The next move is to take the target off your back. You cannot fashion a revolution, or stylize yourself in such a way as to be at once cool, and at the same time hope to escape the notice of the forces you oppose. You have to form meaningful alliances. Not affinity groups, or communes of like minded individuals. You have to supplant your competency with whatever else you need in a mutual alliance. This pragmatism transcends politics, religion, or sexual orientation. You have to re-establish links with the members of your immediate circle and shake off the lies of individualism and the nonsense of shame associated with staying connected with those who have your back. You have to pool your resources, private and public, and cut as many ties to stuff as you can imagine. 

Walk away. Roll your own. Don’t for a minute believe anyone cares more about you, than the ones you love.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lurching Toward Anarchy

Lurching Toward Anarchy

We are the net beneficiaries of use-um or lose-um dining points accrued by a friend, resident in a senior assisted living facility. Sunday’s brunch guests included our hostess, her daughter and son-in-law, another widow, and a widower. This group has dined before and  the only difference this time was that the widower could get more specific ( he has the failed ACA rollout to carp about) in his disdain for all things; liberal, so called progressive, and very specifically President Obama. He uses that wonderful smartest guy in the room tone when after asserting a string of Fox newsisms, he couches his remarks in the umbrella phrase, “but maybe I heard wrong.” People who only have experience with the now Will cannot conceive of the diplomatic Will, who could be and was strategic in his rhetoric, polite in his decorum, and tolerant of divergence in debate. ( I was a member of the Nixon transition team) No more. The evolved Will has no tolerance for racism or classism, or the shredding of the social contract that has the privileged waging war against the poor. The push back started slowly when hearing how most of the new beneficiaries of affordable health care were going to get it for nothing, and those who wanted to keep their existing policies couldn’t and we were going to have to pay for them.  I am not going to argue for this act, I support single payer expansion of Medicare for all, but the insidious classism expressed by the widower crossed the line. No one is going to change any minds in these rooms. That is not the point. The point for me is to stand up to the self interested for whom government is no more than an instrument to secure and further their net worth.  “ What is your alternative? Would you have them die on the street?”  He joins the debate. And now the interesting part, there is the signal from observers to shush. “We have agreed not to talk politics or religion here.” or the attempt to change the subject. 

The widower is smart. He can now chide the son-in-law, accusing him of being a socialist. He gets away with it. There is no self defense. In fact the conversation takes that turn I find so common amongst liberals, academics, and apologists. Where is civility?, they ask. “I can’t speak from the extreme another is heard to say.” They defer to the aged as if they don’t know what they are saying or are entitled to some grace, given they are members of “The Greatest Generation.” The widower actually says that his generation is the one that made America great and the benefits the poor receive are the consequence of his hard work. “What made the country, says I, was earned on the back of slaves, who worked for free.”
That tears it. I look straight at the son-in-law and put it that we have an obligation to stop these race baiters, or red baiters. He can’t, he admits. 

Who gets the bye?  We now have embedded premises that embolden the big lie. “Equal time, fair and balanced, they are entitled to their opinion” and it can become part of the curriculum.  So we give equal weight to flat earthers, climate change deniers, homophobes, misogynists, anti-semites, and racists. I speak directly to the concept of civility and suggest that it is highly abused idea: I have seen blacks exploited and abused by persons who insist, in the most civil terms, to be treated with respect, and the abused should hold their collective tongues. The young are universally repressed from speaking and acting out, all in the name of civility. The authority can utilize the most un-civil means necessary to suppress the populace and the so called informed sit silent, unable to speak to abuses.  The Greatest generation gave us the world wars, and their last vestiges continue to give us perpetual war. The rich get richer and accuse anyone who questions the ways and means of their enrichment of perpetuating class war. All of the above have been adequately spoken to. You have heard all of this before. The issue is the inability of any but the most disenfranchised to yell out.  

“We must find the middle ground. We have lost our ability to compromise”. Nah, you can have that load. It’s about time that the ugliest specters of the human beast are being given voice and the collective inability to do anything about it becomes evident. So the bullies are now filmed in the process. They are called out and nothing changes. The protectors of inequality and exploitation are now running rabid on the land and we can’t chain the beast. Every pro business supreme court decision is greeted with a kind of shock by the offended liberals and yet they genuflect before the token liberals on the court that perpetuate the myth of compromise. Every offensive police brutality that is today’s news becomes tomorrow’s relief that it wasn’t me or mine that was victimized. Or, as the widower so eloquently put it when asked to justify the wage disparity in corporate America, accurately stated the obvious that “as long as the stock price advance no one cares”. 

To this I say, God bless the person in the street. I don’t care if they are a gun toting Tea Party looney, a Muslin Brother, a Pink Lady, a transvestite, A Viet Vet on a bike, or a WTO street punk wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. It really is time to disturb the perpetrators of the status-quo and the uglier and meaner that activity gets the better. I’m dusting off the shit kickers and expect to be in the street somewhere, sometime soon. Enough of listening to the apologists. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Reading

Summer reading has been especially stimulating so far this year. The discovery of Rebecca West,  and plowing through most of her output was a source of constant amazement. This author is said to be the best "female" writer in western civ.  William Buckley referred to her in an interview as the best writer, period. For fifty years Ms West struggled with the tension of individual responsibility in community. Her work, be it novel, travel journal, essay, or reportage veers to the moral quandary of what am I to do, in the face of the Holocaust, the oppressive parent, the tradition of the tribe, the expectations of my culture. In her final, unfinished book of essays, "Survivors of Mexico", she revisits the indigenous peoples suffering at the swords of the conquistadors, and moves through the centuries of Mexican history culminating in the attempts of the muralists, in league with leftists, to dignify and edify their history.

And then I read, Things as they are, or The adventures of Caleb Williams, by William Godwin. This book is the first mystery novel in western lit {1794}and is available on line through Project Gutenberg I read the novel without knowing much of Godwin and was so blown away by the book, {no spoilers here},  that I went on to read in his philosophy. He is an early Anarchist and a Utilitarian and to the extent that I can understand what he is about, concluded that his hope for mankind was that a people rid of government could reach a high order of civilization, if, and here is the leaven, they attain high levels of education. 

Colum McCann's newest novel, "Transatlantic", fictionalizes stories of historical characters who made the crossing from and to Ireland.  In 1845 Fredric Douglas, still a slave, made the crossing to lecture across the island. Upon arrival he is witness to the early stages of the famine, and poverty so severe that he is humbled by the degradation. What an irony. Standing before large crowds demanding suffrage, bread, and freedom,  he is caught in the dilemma of joining with the forces stirring to overcome their suppression while maintaining his personal objective of advancing the cause of emancipation of black slaves. He cops to his cause, raising the funds needed to advance abolition.  

Douglas was caught in the same bind we find ourselves in today. Are we members of an interest group, a position we take because we belong in a special minority membership,  say a feminist is, because she is a woman, or, am I committed to an issue, like gun control? Most organizers believe and act as if any alignment is dilutive and argue against forming alliances with groups with which you might have an affinity. In so doing they deny us the possibility of coalition building that is going to be required to rid of us the oppressors who, without having to announce their affiliations, act as a "community of like interests". The banker who is going to finance the corporation who builds the next intelligent drone doesn't need to announce his pro-war position. It is understood. It is not so easily understood that the Gay Rights lobby has an interest in the Voting Rights Amendment. Liberals don't act as if we are in coalition. There is no rainbow nor big tent that embraces us. We are not in a community of interests. What liberal organizers have failed to appreciate is that we have the potential to get beyond issue and make ethical judgements that transcend our narrow interests. 

I could make the case by example: Some may hate the Justice Department for its pursuit against medical marijuana, its failure to indict Wall Street criminals, the persecution of Edward Snowden, or the suppression of free speech. Many of these very same people are asking the Justice Department to pursue hate crime indictments against George Zimmerman? If they indict him do we forgive and forget the ongoing cluster of behaviors that we despise? These positions represent issues to which we may or may not agree. The narrowness of these positions obfuscate the larger issue of government over-reach. Anyone on the wrong side of a gas attack from militarized "police" doesn't need to be organized in opposition to government suppression. What he or she may need to be reminded of is that I support you in your cause today, for tomorrow it will be my turn.

A more glaring example may be our reaction to a court system that conspicuously denies All of us, justice. We love the Supreme Court reversal of DOMA while we hate their gutting of the Voting Rights Act?  It appears the pr machine that works for the court is aware of the increasing disaffection of the masses and is now trotting out members that appeal to special interests. So Justice Souter suddenly appears on talk shows discussing the process. He is our liberal go to guy. He still loses 5/4 or votes "wrong" when we least expect it. And why not? He is them. What we are learning is we can't pick and choose. We applaud Obama's retreat from the active theaters of war, but we hate his use of drones. We want the economy to expand, to create jobs and "opportunity". We can't live with the downstream consequences of pollution and global warming. 

Four years ago I considered the implications of the "Double Bind" and hinted at a life strategy that might help us negotiate it.  The thinking then was that I was able to go my own way in a world too big to care about the implications of persons who chose to opt out, form clusters of like minded souls and create practical communities of interest. It won't do. What's changed? Where do you want to start?  No-one cared about a bunch of drug toking hippies living in domes in New Mexico. Governments do care about millions of underemployed, indebted, connected youth who are starting to get the fact that there is no hope for their aspirations. They are a potential force, and policy and practice is to surveil them, thwart them, imprison them, and prepare to violently oppose them. The appropriate response to their repression is to throw the buggers out. We can't be conned by the fear of what might follow. The past is not prologue. We have the ways and means to construct effective alternatives to tyranny. Most importantly we begin by accepting the responsibility of being in this together. Your fight is my fight. I'll be Trayvon Martin, you be my labor union member. I'll be your gay partner, you be my social security advocate. I'll be the parent of Malala, you be my public school advocate.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Appreciation of Saint Patrick

I adore this time of year; the clock springs forward, croci pop the earth's crust, and supermarkets compete for the lowest price on corned beef. If this is really the end of days, and beef is going to become a rare commodity, rather than migrate to the vegan option, I am going out with a smear of fat on the lip, and an extra pound on the hip. 

This behavior of mine concedes that we are locked into a pattern of self destruction.  As The Donald and his ilk fire up their private jets, single handedly offsetting whatever strides I, and thousands of others might make to conserve, it finally comes down to; I am not going to sacrifice mine so that that prick can fly off to Palm Beach without a care for the world. 

I am not content with the traditional New England boiled dinner. For me the prospect of $1.69 a pound point cut corned beef is an opportunity to reach for the divine. There is probably a shrine somewhere high in the Balkans; "Patrick passed here, on his way to Ireland from his Greek retreat". On that journey he must have experienced the bliss of the truly magnificent contribution that is attributed to Romanians, the pastrami. Clearly he lost the recipe on route.

I have discovered it, and the process of rolling my own. A pastrami is a corned (cured) beef, that is, boiled, subjected to the seasoning of a particular spice rub, smoked, steamed when re-heating, sliced thick, and piled on slabs of twice baked rye bread. It is literally to die.

A word on smoking. There is no way to convert that proud outdoor grill of yours to a smoker. Despite hundreds of instructions from so-called experts, it doesn't work. Smoking requires a low, slow, moist heat. You can build intricate smokers. For my money, you can't beat the simplicity of a Brinkmann Smoker

It comes in pieces. The base holds a good pile of brickets, started in a charcoal chimney. You add to the fire a handful of oak, apple, or wood of choice, sticks that have been soaked in water. You then place the body of the smoker on the base and place inside the water pan, filled with water. Place the first rack just above the water on the clips that will receive it. Place the meat, I get three roasts on a rack, around staying close to the edges for maximum "bark" crusty bits. Then the next rack, the rest of the beef, then put the cover on and leave alone for an hour. At that point you want to throw on some more brickets and sticks, (through the door on the side) and turn the beef around to maximize contact with the smoke. Two hours will do it. 

Now back to the basics. When shopping for corned beef you are going to have several choices. There is pink, treated with nitrites in the cure, grey untreated, and because of the fact that less is more, it costs three times what pink corned beef sells for. Then you will have a choice of flat cut, or point cut. Flat cuts are leaner and cost twice what point cuts cost. I choose point cuts BECAUSE they are fatter and can stand up to the long slow process of cooking and moistening the final product. At this time of year you are going to find stacks of 
roasts in the meat case. They are not all the same. I might examine ten before I pick the one I want. I am looking for a pointed cut with a streak of fat appearing to split the roast in two. It does. If I am going to the effort to make pastrami, I make a batch that fits the smoker. Seven roasts, about twenty pounds works for me. 

I begin by getting out the lobster pot, you can do this in stages or go in tandem with a pal, and before I slow simmer the corned beef, I score them with slashes about an  inch apart, 1/8 in deep, across the fat, the entire length of the roast. It keeps them from tightening into weird shapes. I simmer them for 2 hours (they don't need seasoning). Remove from the pot and let them cool. 

Now create a rub of 1/4 cup K salt, 1/4 cup paprika, 3 tbl crushed coriander seed, 3 tbl brown sugar, 3 tbl black pepper, 2 tbl crushed mustard seed, a scattering of crushed red pepper flakes, and either flaked garlic, or powder, or crushed cloves, say 8 cloves or 3 tbls of ersatz. Buzz in a blender or processor. Rub the cool roasts all over and let sit while you prepare the smoker. 

When the smoking is complete the shrinkage will reveal the horizontal cut, there will be a streak of fat you will follow.  You are going to make, a flat roast, and a pointy one off the top. The flat roast is ready to carve. Critical is to see the grain, it is obvious, and cut across it. This is your sandwich pastrami. 

The top cut can be chilled and used for hash the next day. When you slice the pointy cut you are going to see the chunks of fat that can easily be trimmed off and then the lean can be chopped for your hash: Home fries with lots of onion, mixed in equal proportions to the pastrami, pressed in a pan, heated, topped with a poached egg. I am now poaching eggs in my nuker. I 3/4 fill a custard cup with water, crack an egg in the water, top the cup with plastic wrap, prick hole in the top, nuke for 1 minute 5 seconds at max. Remove egg with slotted spoon. Perfect. 

I have read of yet new attempts to get rich providing meals ready to eat to civilians. The arguments goes that despite numerous hours clocked watching food channels, and morbid obsession with food, the modern has neither the time or interest to cook. So obviously the above takes time. But really, most of the time is spent waiting, and occasionally watching. During which time you can be doing all kinds of things like reading, or talking face to face with the people you are going to share this with. Or making cole slaw or apple brown betty for dessert. My triple bottom line is that for me and mine, cooking and eating is The pastime, the preferred activity and I want to hear what others run against it. "Oh, I am so busy at work, I haven't the time." Or, "When I get home I am too exhausted to contemplate cooking." That's what weekends are for. And the above beats anything you can buy eating out.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Bill McKibben is heard to say that he is thrilled to see the "kids" on campuses all over the country taking on the divestiture challenge.

Here is the local press reporting on Sterling College divesting as a way to avert global warming. 
Following up on my last post I want to note what isn't being said to the students who are pushing for divestiture on their respective campuses.
Let's start with the most basic understanding of what a divestment entails. You sell the stock of company X out of your portfolio to another buyer. The net number of shares, or capital position of the underlying company doesn't change. So you haven't done a thing to halt global warming. You have done the least you can do, a symbolic gesture that may feel good, but as I have contended, actually saps the energy and responsibility away from actions that might actually make a difference. 

The professional journal The Chronicle dealt with the issue from the perspective that divestment will not have a negative impact on its member institutions' portfolio performance. 
A letter from a faculty member (music department) in response speaks to the morality of divestment regardless of portfolio performance. 
This august organ says nothing about the underlying issue; what to do about the reduction of our carbon footprint?

As I set forth in the previous blog, production is a by-product of demand. Want to do something about the burning of fossil fuels? Stop consuming them. If one were truly interested in a mass movement that might have an impact, rather than divest (a meaningless gesture) from a consumption group, say auto manufacturers, an organizer would move to reduce sales of the vehicles of consumption. But then that organizer would run headlong into all the vested interests arguing that the economy was saved by the bailout of the auto industry. We are up against the double bind again. 
It gets worse. The colleges that have signed on to divestiture are small and remote and totally dependent on autos and trucks, burning fossil fuels, to get their students hither and yon. If their faculties were alert to the implications of divestment a grand discussion could be joined that would make visible this hypocrisy and the greater problematic (classist and racist) issues of stopping "development" in other places. Maybe some sensitivity could be stimulated for those persons who live in other remote areas of this country, or who are desperately trying to enter the 21st century as developing countries. 

Organizers of divestment movements like to point out the success of actions against South Africa in the attempt to undo apartheid. There was a commonly held agreement that apartheid was an evil practice and by withholding economic activity one could sway the government to alter its behavior. There is no parallel in selling one's stock in a fossil fuel producing firm. 

What is required, and what is feasible, is the changing of the basic patterns of consumption, of these students in particular. When I arrived in Maine to try to develop a model of how a university might create incentives for students to get out of their cars, I was informed that car pooling just wasn't part of the culture of Mainers. We couldn't even get bike sharing started without a fight. When we were students car sharing was normal. Ride to/from boards were posted in student unions all over the country to assist moving students home for the holidays or weekends. No more. On a larger scale students could and should be organized to demand the alternatives be developed. But, they should be schooled in what is practical and affordable. They should be schooled in the real costs of burning fossil fuels (throughputs) so that they can make rationale judgements about what they are willing to spend to secure their energy future. And they should never ask others to do without something they are unwilling to sacrifice for themselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Battle for the Minds of the Young

Every 16 year old in China is dreaming of owning their own car.
Traffic In Shanghai
AAA estimates that 43.6 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving weekend. Of the 43.6 million, 90 percent will drive to Thanksgiving destinations and 7 percent will fly.

When  I awoke today I upped the thermostat to 70 which kicked on the gas fired furnace in my house. I had fried eggs for breakfast cooked over my electric stove. I drove my 20 mpg auto to the market and bought 3 pounds of salmon from Norway. I watched a little of the LSU game on my LCD TV and wrote some of this post on my computer. I did a crossword puzzle under a reading lamp. The weather warmed up and we took the opportunity to visit the beach 8 miles away.  I don't intend to stop any of the above. I wouldn't presume to ask anyone else to either. I was not coerced by any corporation to consume any of the energy that sustained me today.

Bill McKibben and company have been on the road staging events intended to rally troops in a battle against the agents of climate change. They know who the enemy is: "Rogue, Criminal, Fossil Fuel Corporations." 
The following is from their web site
"We’re hitting the road to jumpstart a new movement".
"It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.
This November, Bill McKibben and are hitting the road to build the movement that will change the terrifying math of the climate crisis.
Activists and All-Stars
As he travels the country in a sustainable bus, Bill will be joined by a rotating cast of committed artists, actors, and musicians — each dedicated to spreading the message of the challenge before us. Every event will be a full evening of music, interactive video, and thought-provoking ideas. By the time you leave, you’ll be fired up and equipped with the tools, strategies, and resources you need to take on the fossil fuel industry."

Here is how this tour played out in Boston on Nov 16. 

Short bumper sticker versions of the "Do The Math" show:

We've got one chance left.  Let's not blow it.
Fossil fuel corporations are civilizational criminals.
To hit them where it counts, cut off their money supply.
We're All In This Together.

So who goes, buys tickets to these events, and joins the mob think? Reminiscent of rock and roll concerts to me. 

At the very time they were charging people $10 to get on-board, a kid in Dorchester was whipping his tricked up Scion bT with those flashing  spinners through the Micky D lot. He was looking for his squeeze, to take her to Best Buy for a pre Black Friday sale of a mobile she's been craving.
Naomi Kline, a partner in the Movement,  identified the problem source as "rogue corporations" when interviewed on Bill Moyers show.

How convenient. These hucksters of climate change have identified the bad guys, and they are "them".   I am going to find and share indy sources of counter think. 

An excerpt here:
"There is a crucial and obvious need for a real movement to tackle the climate chaos juggernaut.  But this movement will not be based on math-based reform.  Reform what?  Can we have friendly Capitalism?  Can the very markets that have led us to the brink of the abyss now provide our parachute? McKibben points out that under this system, those with the money have all the power.  Then why are we trying to reform this system?  Why are we not transforming it?
And this brings me to the final trap that McKibben falls into in his Rolling Stone piece: compartmentalization.  Scientists are trained to compartmentalize–to see things in their individual tiny boxes and not connected to anything else.  Geneticists have dangerously perfected this science.  But everything on this planet is connected to everything else on this planet, and as Dr. Smolker points out, if you focus solely on eliminating fossil fuels without changing the underlying system, then very bad things will take their place because it is the system itself that is unsustainable.  It is a system designed to transform “natural capital” and human labor into gargantuan profits for an elite few: the so-called “1%”. Whether its driven by fossil fuels or biofuels or even massive solar and wind installations, the system will continue to devour ecosystems, displace forest-based communities, Indigenous Peoples and subsistence farmers from their lands, crush labor unions and generally make life hell for the vast majority of the world’s peoples.  That is what it does.
To eliminate fossil fuels, you have to transform the system that empowers the fossil fuels industry.  In diversity is strength, any ecologist knows this, and our movements for change are no exception.  The more we understand that the roots of the issues we are fighting are intertwined, the better we can cooperate to change the system driving them.
System Change, Not Climate Change."
Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.  She has worked for climate justice since 2004, and is a founding member of the Durban Group for Climate Justice, Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action. 

When Ms Petermann speaks of transformation she doesn't go so far as to describe the impact of what she is thinking. I will. If you cut back or out of the "business"  model of human organization lots of people are going to lose their jobs, others are going to be less rich, and the catechism of growth will be erased.  These facts are understood by the "right" which vehemently opposes any change in status-quo and labels the activity socialist.
The system that underlies the "fossil fuel industry"  she identifies is utterly and totally dependent on consumption. When will we accept responsibility for the creation of the problem, and when will we begin the rather simple process of changing it? Not through mass movements, or political organization, or demonizing the so-called bad guys, but by accepting the simple truth that every drop of oil burned was bought by people like you and me who use it. 

Here is how we use it: The following excerpt gives you some perspective on the generators of CO2 emissions. Energy-Related Emissions: Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions account for more than 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. EIA breaks energy use into four end-use sectors (Table 6 below), and emissions from the electric power sector are attributed to the end-use sectors. Growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since 1990 has resulted largely from increases associated with electric power generation and transportation fuel use. All other energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (from direct fuel use in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors) have been either flat or declining in recent years (Figure 8 on the right). In 2008, however, emissions from both electric power and transportation fuel use were down—by 2.1 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Reasons for the long-term growth in electric power and transportation sector emissions include: increased demand for electricity for computers and electronics in homes and offices; strong growth in demand for commercial lighting and cooling; substitution of new electricity-intensive technologies, such as electric arc furnaces for steelmaking, in the industrial sector; and increased demand for transportation services as a result of relatively low fuel prices and robust economic growth in the 1990s and early 2000s. Likewise, the recent declines in emissions from both the transportation and electric power sectors are tied to the economy, with people driving less and consuming less electricity in 2008 than in 2007. Other U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have remained flat or declined, for reasons that include increased efficiencies in heating technologies, declining activity in older “smokestack” industries, and the growth of less energy-intensive industries, such as computers and electronics. 

Let's get more specific.
Concrete Abstract: The cement industry contributes about 5% to global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, making the cement industry an important sector for CO2-emission mitigation strategies. CO2 is emitted from the calcination process of limestone, from combustion of fuels in the kiln, as well as from power generation.

 Are you ready to tell the people of the world that they can't live in solid structures?
 A breakdown of emissions among sources shows that solid, liquid, and gas fuels contributed (for 2000–2004) ≈35%, 36%, and 20%, respectively, to global emissions (Eq. 1). However, this distribution varied strongly among regions: solid (mainly coal) fuels made up a larger and more rapidly growing share of emissions in developing regions (the sum of China, India, D2, and D3) than in developed regions (U.S., EU, Japan, and D1), and the FSU region had a much stronger reliance on gas than the world average.

Ready to tell the people of the world that they can't heat their homes?

The food industry accounts for about 25 % of the total CO2 emissions in the Western World. The CO2 emissions derive from raw materials, production, waste, energy consumption, transport, etc. If the entire value chain is included, emissions from trade, consumption and disposal should be added to the above amount as well. At the same time, consumers, retailers and authorities focus increasingly on resource utilization, ethics and environmental protection.  

Here are some numbers to consider after having just gone through our consumption orgy of Thanksgiving eating.
"This Thanksgiving, Americans will toss a whopping $282 million of uneaten turkey and about 204 million pounds of that turkey meat into the trash, attributing to the $165 billion in uneaten food Americans waste every year."
All of this copy is in consideration of one meal. Which corporation can I blame for this?  

Ready to tell the people of the world they they will starve while we throw away or burn their food for fuel?

 The headlines read; "Sandy is a wakeup call" regarding the effects of climate change. "Do the Math" people refer to Sandy and take the opportunity to demonize the fuel industry as causal agents.

I chose to live on a barrier island in Florida. I now live less than two blocks from an ocean cove on the coast of Maine. I chose to live in harms way. I have been lucky. 

These folks are not so lucky. Who do we demonize for their poor choices? These people are not working on docks moving the world's goods along a string of ports. These people were enjoying the seashore. If Sandy reinforces any message it is that people should not live in the paths of destruction. They do so at their own risk. 

This pic inspires another set of questions not considered by "Do The Math". 
Imagine they win. They deny the industry the money they need to develop the fuel we seem to need. Imagine the gas lines. Imagine the crisis. Imagine the acts of war to restore the fuel stream. 

The battle for Colton, a precious metal used in the making of cell phones, seems to be behind the war in Congo.