Monday, July 31, 2006


by SCOTT STEVENS TOKYO "Now you fold the paper this way, and then you fold it over like this -- and then, if you've done it right, you will barely be able to concentrate!" So exclaimed Miraka Yong, demonstrating the ancient art form she made famous in her Japanese best-seller, Origasmi -- The Sensual Art of Folding Paper. "Paper is like a lover, very soft, very sensual," Yong told Weekly World News. "Yet it has a cutting edge if you mishandle it. The secret to achieving sexual gratification through paper -- as with a lover -- is to handle it slowly, building the tension and then press -ing down firmly to take control." Origasmi is becoming so popular with young Japanese women that government officials are worried about a population fall-off. "Young Japanese women arebored with Japanese guys who spend all their time working, playing video games or entertaining clients in karaoke bars," said a member of Japan's Ministry of Social Trends, who insisted upon anonymity. "Now they're taking matters into their own hands." As can be expected, many Japanese men are quite upset by the fad. "My girlfriend replaced me with rice paper," said Toby Akiro. "I've lost all respect among my friends and colleagues. Except for Akira, whose wife left him for a piece of corrugated cardboard. He said she liked it rough. He understands." According to Yong, Origasmi began centuries ago, when Japan was ruled by warlords. "While the men were away fighting, the rulers gave the women paper so that they could write to the soldiers and improve their morale," she said. "But not all women knew how to write, and as they folded the paper to make tokens for their men they found the experience stimulating." The paper industry is under- standably ecstatic about Origasmi. "With the growth of e-mail and the Internet, paper use has been way down," said Barry Cobbs, a paper magnate. "This has made paper sexy again -- in a whole new way." As Yong put it, "Origasmi would definitely be something to write home about -- if I wasn't so busy using the paper for another purpose."

Truth, Beauty, Goodness

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Quote by DH Lawrence....

"They threw off their clothes, and he gathered her to him, and found her, found the pure lambent reality of her for ever invisible flesh. Quenched, inhuman, his fingers upon her unrevealed nudity were the fingers of silence upon silence, the body of mysterious night upon the body of mysterious night, the night masculine and feminine, never to be seen with the eye, or known with the mind, only known as a palpable revelation of living otherness." -D.H. Lawrence - Originally published by M. Secker (1921), Women in Love, "They" are Rupert Birkin and Ursula Brangwen.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nomads Land Films - The Art of Flight - Documentary on Sudan, Darfur Refugees

"...a harrowing and introspective documentary... an act of redemption..." - Kevin Thomas, The Los Angeles Times "...a terrific-looking, polished exposé..." - Variety World Premiere - International Documentary Competition - AFI International Film Festival, Hollywood International Premiere - First Appearance Competition - International Documentary Festival Amsterdam Asian Premiere - Documentary Competition, Bangkok International Film Festival DVD Available: Original Soundtrack Available on iTunes The Art Of Flight is a guerrilla documentary that was shot illegally in Egypt on camcorders and a laptop. The film serves as a back story to the 2006 massacre of Sudanese refugees in Cairo. The filmmaker was nearly arrested three times during the course of shooting. The film essentially summarizes the events leading up to the January 2006 killing of protestors outside UNHCR's office in Cairo and the brutality inherent in the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The Art Of Flight features artwork of Sudanese painters living in exile. In addition to paintings from Sudanese artists and torture victims, the film also features an original soundtrack by Al-Khafiyeen, a musical ensemble of refugees who played together for a single night to score the film.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love. There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game It's easy. There's nothing you can make that can't be made. No one you can save that can't be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time It's easy. All you need is love, all you need is love, All you need is love, love, love is all you need. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love. All you need is love, all you need is love, All you need is love, love, love is all you need. There's nothing you can know that isn't known. Nothing you can see that isn't shown. Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy. All you need is love, all you need is love, All you need is love, love, love is all you need. All you need is love (all together now) All you need is love (everybody) All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thanks Again Miss Anne Thropic

* Sting, Fragile *

Surfing the Web with nothing but brainwaves

by Chris Taylor Kiss your keyboard goodbye: Soon we'll jack our brains directly into the Net - and that's just the beginning. SAN FRANCISCO Two years ago, a quadriplegic man started playing video games using his brain as a controller. That may just sound like fun and games for the unfortunate, but really, it spells the beginning of a radical change in how we interact with computers - and business will never be the same. Someday, keyboards and computer mice will be remembered only as medieval-style torture devices for the wrists. All work - emails, spreadsheets, and Google searches - will be performed by mind control. If you think that's mind-blowing, try to wrap your head around the sensational research that's been done on the brain of one Matthew Nagle by scientists at Brown University and three other institutions, in collaboration with Foxborough, Mass.-based company Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems. The research was published for the first time last week in the British science journal Nature. Nagle, a 26-year-old quadriplegic, was hooked up to a computer via an implant smaller than an aspirin that sits on top of his brain and reads electrical patterns. Using that technology, he learned how to move a cursor around a screen, play simple games, control a robotic arm, and even - couch potatoes, prepare to gasp in awe - turn his brain into a TV remote control. All while chatting amiably with the researchers. He even learned how to perform these tasks in less time than the average PC owner spends installing Microsoft (Charts) Windows. Decoding the brain Nagle was able to accomplish all this because the brain has been greatly demystified in laboratories over the last decade or so. Researchers unlocked the brain patterns for thoughts that represent letters of the alphabet as early as 1999. Now, Cyberkinetics and a host of other companies are working on turning those discoveries into real products. Neurodevices - medical devices that compensate for damage to the brain, nerves, and spinal column - are a $3.4 billion business that grew 21 percent last year, according to NeuroInsights, a research and advisory company. There are currently some 300 companies working in the field. But Cyberkinetics is trying to do more than just repair neural damage: It's working on an implantable chip that Nagle and patients in two other cities are using to control electronic devices with their minds. (Check out this demonstration video). Already, the Brown researchers say, this kind of technology can enable a hooked-up human to write at 15 words a minute - half as fast as the average person writes by hand. Remember, though, that silicon-based technology typically doubles in capacity every two years. So if improved hardware is all it takes to speed up the device, Cyberkinetics' chip could be able to process thoughts as fast as speech - 110 to 170 words per minute - by 2012. Imagine issuing commands to a computer as quickly as you could talk. But who would want to get a brain implant if they haven't been struck by a drastic case of paralysis? Leaving aside the fact that there is a lucrative market for providing such profoundly life-enhancing products for millions of paralyzed patients, it may soon not even be necessary to stick a chip inside your skull to take advantage of this technology. What a tale your thoughts could tell Brain-reading technology is improving rapidly. Last year, Sony (Charts) took out a patent on a game system that beams data directly into the mind without implants. It uses a pulsed ultrasonic signal that induces sensory experiences such as smells, sounds and images. And Niels Birbaumer, a neuroscientist at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, has developed a device that enables disabled people to communicate by reading their brain waves through the skin, also without implants. Stu Wolf, one of the top scientists at Darpa, the Pentagon's scientific research agency which gave birth to the Internet, seriously believes we'll all be wearing computers in headbands within 20 years. By that time, we'll have super fast, super tiny computers that make today's machines look like typewriters. The desktop will be dead, says Wolf, and the headband will dominate. "We already know we can trigger neurons mechanically," he says. "You can interact directly with the brain without implanted electrodes. Then the next step is being able to think something and have it happen: Flying a plane, driving a car, operating household machinery." Controlling devices with the mind is just the beginning. Next, Wolf believes, is what he calls "network-enabled telepathy" - instant thought transfer. In other words, your thoughts will flow from your brain over the network right into someone else's brain. If you think instant messaging is addictive, just wait for instant thinking. The only issue, Wolf says, is making sure it's consensual; that's a problem likely to tax the minds of security experts. But just think of the advantages. In the office of the future, the conference call, too, will be remembered as a medieval form of torture.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The tempest calmed after bending the branches of the trees and leaning heavily upon the grain in the field. The stars appeared as broken remnants of lightning, but now silence prevailed over all, as if Nature's war had never been fought. At that hour a young woman entered her chamber and knelt by her bed sobbing bitterly. Her heart flamed with agony but she could finally open her lips and say, "Oh Lord, bring him home safely to me. I have exhausted my tears and can offer no more, oh Lord, full of love and mercy. My patience is drained and calamity is seeking possession of my heart. Save him, oh Lord, from the iron paws of War; deliver him from such unmerciful Death, for he is weak, governed by the strong. Oh Lord, save my beloved, who is Thine own son, from the foe, who is Thy foe. Keep him from the forced pathway to Death's door; let him see me, or come and take me to him." Quietly a young man entered. His head was wrapped in bandage soaked with escaping life. He approached he with a greeting of tears and laughter, then took her hand and placed against it his flaming lips. And with a voice with bespoke past sorrow, and joy of union, and uncertainty of her reaction, he said, "Fear me not, for I am the object of your plea. Be glad, for Peace has carried me back safely to you, and humanity has restored what greed essayed to take from us. Be not sad, but smile, my beloved. Do not express bewilderment, for Love has power that dispels Death; charm that conquers the enemy. I am your one. Think me not a specter emerging from the House of Death to visit your Home of Beauty. "Do not be frightened, for I am now Truth, spared from swords and fire to reveal to the people the triumph of Love over War. I am Word uttering introduction to the play of happiness and peace." Then the young man became speechless and his tears spoke the language of the heart; and the angels of Joy hovered about that dwelling, and the two hearts restored the singleness which had been taken from them. At dawn the two stood in the middle of the field contemplating the beauty of Nature injured by the tempest. After a deep and comforting silence, the soldier said to his sweetheart, "Look at the Darkness, giving birth to the Sun." Khalil Gibran

Georges Bataille - Supervert

From the Introduction to The Bataille Reader, which Dirtnap & Osmosis so kindly sent to me: Batailles texts could be subdivided under numerous disciplinary categories: literature, criticism, philosophy, art history, numismatics, history, anthropology, economy, sociology, eroticism, theology, among many others. While contesting and transgressing boundaries and styles of different disciplinesm Batailles nonetheless addresses, with rigour and consistency, the sacred elementals of erotic,mystical and economic activity so that his writing has been said, by Jean Baudrillard, to constitute "a single mythic thought" For Roland Barthes, Bataille exemplifies the excessive object called "Text".... ....the Text does not stop at (good) Literature; it cannot be contained in a hierarchy, even in a somple division of genres. What constitutes the Text is, on the contrary (or precisely), it's subversive force in respect to the old classifications. How do you classify a writer like Georges Bataille? Novelist, poet, essayist, economist, philosopher, mystic? The answer is so difficult that the literary manuals geerally prefer to forget about Bataille who, in fact, wrote texts, perhaps continuously on single text... * Bataille Quotes: A judgment about life has no meaning except the truth of the one who speaks last, and the mind is at ease only at the moment when everyone is shouting at once and no one can hear a thing. * Crime is a fact of the human species, a fact of that species alone, but it is above all the secret aspect, impenetrable and hidden. Crime hides, and by far the most terrifying things are those which elude us. * Each of us is incomplete compared to someone else - an animal's incomplete compared to a person... and a person compared to God, who is complete only to be imaginary. * Eroticism is assenting to life even in death. * I believe that truth has only one face: that of a violent contradiction. * Intellectual despair results in neither weakness nor dreams, but in violence. It is only a matter of knowing how to give vent to one's rage; whether one only wants to wander like madmen around prisons, or whether one wants to overturn them. * Life has always taken place in a tumult without apparent cohesion, but it only finds its grandeur and its reality in ecstasy and in ecstatic love. * Naturally, love's the most distant possibility. * Pleasure only starts once the worm has got into the fruit, to become delightful happiness must be tainted with poison. * Sacrifice is nothing other than the production of sacred things. * Sanity is the lot of those who are most obtuse, for lucidity destroys one's equilibrium: it is unhealthy to honestly endure the labors of the mind which incessantly contradict what they have just established. * The anguish of the neurotic individual is the same as that of the saint. The neurotic, the saint are engaged in the same battle. Their blood flows from similar wounds. But the first one gasps and the other one gives. * The essence of morality is a questioning about morality; and the decisive move of human life is to use ceaselessly all light to look for the origin of the opposition between good and evil. * The sovereign being is burdened with a servitude that crushes him, and the condition of free men is deliberate servility. * To place oneself in the position of God is painful: being God is equivalent to being tortured. For being God means that one is in harmony with all that is, including the worst. The existence of the worst evils is unimaginable unless God willed them. *

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How can we stop all this crazyness, Ajax?

christ, who knows, we're deep in the grip of these fascist pricks and getting their claws out is going to be no easy task. I would say the first step is to become awakened to the situation we are in and to become aware of the brain washing you are subject to everytime you turn on a TV set. When I say fascist media proganda brothels I'm not trying to be cute, it's the truth, they're everywhere, on every channel and they try to scrub your brain clean 24/7. Accept a few basic truths and be aware of them in you daily life: 1) Truth and the knowing of it is good. 2) There are those who wish you to be their slaves to satisfy their greed for riches and power. 3) To question authority is the duty of a thinking person. 4) Do not allow newspeak to define your view of the world, death is death, suffering is suffering, those trying to destroy your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are doing just that regardless of the newspeak they try to use to convince you otherwise. Trust in well founded examples of good and evil, good is kind, generous and empathatic to others evil is cruel, greedy and uncaring, regardless of what it says or what names it gives its actions. Choose good and know what is evil. 5) The enlightened person walks in today's world very much alone, be brave and walk enlightened in this world around you because it's the Cool Hand Luke thing to do. * Posted by: Ajax at July 24, 2006 08:43 PM * They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.


2 Swans

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Three-Faced, by Robert Graves

Who calls her two-faced? Faces, she has three: The first inscrutable, for the outer world The second, shrouded in self-contemplation; The third, her face of love Once for an endless moment turned on me. *

According to this book I'm reading, Robert Graves was "raging with grief and jealousy of imagined rivals.." when he wrote that poem.

It was about one of his muses, named Margot.


Lovers of Democracy

The Problem Everyone loves the idea of democracy - a genuine union of true individuals - but there are very few lovers of democracy -- people devoted to achievement of the democratic ideal who possess deep knowledge of the meaning of democracy-in-action with a clear perception of a viable means to achieve this goal. The Goal To develop a community engaged in the building of 21st Century Agoras of the Global Village through teaching, learning, and practicing the SDP methodology. The Plan In only five hours over five days this independence season learn how everyone everywhere can Harness Their Collective Wisdom & Power. Free Trial For Five Groups of Ten Persons. A Global Boundary-Spanning Dialogue, all together in the world of Cyberspace, at different local times and places

Tonights Game Is Called Let's Debate the Jews for Hours on End....

The coup attempt that started a war: Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, its causes and consequences. By Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar 16 July 2006 Posted: 20-07-2006 , 12:39 GMT ...On June 8, the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others. On June 13, an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics. On June 20, the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack. On June 21, the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children. Then came the Israeli capture of two Palestinians. The next day (June 25) militants raided the Israeli army post at Kerem Shalom near Gaza and captured an Israeli soldier. They demanded the release of Palestinian women and children in Israeli jails in exchange for the Israeli soldier. Israel refused to negotiate and responded with an overwhelming show of force, destroying bridges, electric power generators, and generally, heavily damaging the civilian infrastructure of Gaza. Later the army invaded Gaza and cut it into half. Now the stage was set for a Palestinian coup. Already by July 7th the news media were reporting of the Israel’s moves to remove Hamas by force. According to Israeli military analysts the move into Gaza and the arrest of Hamas legislators were the first step in an Israeli plan to induce the collapse of the Palestinian government. Among those arrested were eight members of Hamas' 23-member Cabinet and 20 of the 72 Hamas members of the 132-seat parliament. Posted by: dada at July 21, 2006 02:21 PM

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Challenge of Mondragon

by George Benello In the Beginning . . . . The Basque region of Spain has, in recent years, seen the rise of a system of cooperatives that is unparalleled in its dynamism, growth, and economic impact on a region. The system, which spreads throughout the surrounding Basque region, is named after Mondragon, a town in the mountains of Guipuzkoa Province near Bilbao, the place where the first cooperatives started. Since its start over thirty years ago, it has gained an international reputation, with similar models now being developed in England, Wales, and the United States. While its explicit connections to the anarchist tradition are unclear, the Mondragon system is an example of liberatory organization which, like its predecessors in the Spanish Civil War, has achieved success on a scale unequaled in any other part of the world. The Mondragon network was founded by a Catholic priest, Don Jose Maria Arizmendi, a man who had narrowly missed being put to death by Franco as a result of his participation in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. With the help of collections from citizens of Mondragon, he founded an elementary technical school in 1943. The first graduates numbered among them five men who, in 1956, founded a small worker-owned and managed factory named ULGOR, numbering initially 24 members, and given to the manufacture of a copied kerosene stove. This cooperative venture proved successful and developed into the flagship enterprise of the whole system which later was to come into being. At one point ULGOR numbered over 3,000 members, although this was later recognized as too large and was reduced. The structure of this enterprise served as the model for the latter enterprises forming the system. Following the Rochedale principles, it had one member-one vote; open membership; equity held by members and hence external capitalization by debt, not equity; and continuing education. Additional Principles It adapted and added additional principles which are responsible for its dynamism and success, in contradistinction to almost all industrial cooperatives which preceded it. The additions can be summarized as follows: 1. It developed a system of individual internal accounts into which 70 percent of the profits (a more accurate term is surplus) of the cooperative were placed. Each member had such an internal account. 30 percent were put into a collective account for operating capital and expansion, with a portion of that being earmarked for the community. The individual internal accounts noted receipt of the potion of the surplus earmarked for it, but this was then automatically loaned back to the cooperative, with interest paid. Upon leaving, members receive 75 percent of the accumulated funds credited to their internal account, while 25 percent is retained as the capitalization which made the job possible. This system essentially allows the cooperative to capitalize close to 100 percent of its yearly profit and gives it a capacity for internal capital accumulation unequaled by any capitalist enterprise. It also establishes an ongoing flow-through relation between the individual and collective portions of the surplus. 2. A membership fee was determined, now about $3,000, which represents a substantial investment in the cooperative, and which could be deducted from initial earnings. This too is credited to the internal account. Both the membership fee and the share of the surplus represent methods of ensuring commitment through financial incentives. Unlike older cooperatives, which often determined the membership fee on the basis of dividing the net worth into the number of shares, hence making the membership fee prohibitive, the fee is arbitrary and fixed at an affordable amount. 3. Unlike traditional cooperatives, members are considered to be worker-entrepreneurs, whose job is both to assure the efficiency of the enterprise but also to help develop new enterprises. They do this in their deliberative assemblies and also by depositing their surplus in the system's bank, described below, which is then able to use it to capitalize new enterprises. There is a strong commitment on the part of the membership to this expansive principle, and it is recognized that the economic security of each cooperative is dependent on their being part of a larger system. 4. A probationary period of one year was instituted, to ensure that new members were not only appropriately skilled, but possessed the necessary capacity for cooperative work. Whereas in a capitalist enterprise workers are considered factors of production, in a cooperative they are members of an organization with both the rights and duties of membership, sharing also in the ownership of the organization. Thus while there is open membership, members must be able to participate not simply as hired hands but must be able to discharge their membership duties by sharing in the management of the enterprise. This requires a capacity for responsibility and group participation that in turn implies a certain level of maturity. 5. The anticipo or earnings that would in a conventional enterprise be considered as wages, was fixed at prevailing wage levels, minimizing conflict with other local enterprises. Also, the wage differential - the difference between the lowest and highest wage - was set at 1 to 3. This ensures an egalitarianism between workers and the management (selected by the General Assembly of workers) that makes for high morale. Wage levels are determined by a formula which takes into account the difficulty of the job, personal performance, experience, and interpersonal skills. Relational skills have been given greater weight recently out of a recognition that in cooperative work they significantly affect group performance. (Editors' note: the wage differential was subsequently increased.) 6. Above all, Mondragon represents a systems approach to cooperative development. In addition to the base-level industrial cooperatives there are a set of so called second degree cooperatives which variously engage in research, financing, technical training and education, technical assistance, and social services. In addition there are housing and consumer cooperatives which collectively are able to create a cooperative culture in which the basic activities of life take place. Members can operate within a context of interdependent and cooperating institutions which follow the same principles; this makes for enhanced efficiency. A Credit Union is Added To continue the story, three years after ULGOR was founded, Don Arizmendi suggested the need for a financial institution to help fund and give technical assistance to other start-up cooperatives. As a result, the Caja Laboral Popular (CLP), a credit union and technical assistance agency was founded. The CLP contains an Empressarial Division, with a staff of over 100, which works intensively with groups desiring to start cooperatives or in rare cases to convert an existing enterprise. It does location studies, market analysis, product development, plans the buildings, and then works continuously for a number of years with the start-up group until it is clear that its proposal is thoroughly developed and financially and organizationally sound. In return, the CLP requires that the cooperative be part of the Mondragon system, via a Contract of Association, which specifies the already proven organizational and financial structure and entails a continuing supervisory relation on the part of the CLP. The surplus of the industrial cooperatives is deposited in the CLP and reinvested in further cooperatives. This close and continuing relationship with the financial and technical expertise of the CLP is both unique and largely responsible for the virtually 100 percent success rate within the system. The CLP is considered a second degree cooperative, and its board is made up of a mix of first level or industrial cooperative members and members from within the CLP itself. In addition to the CLP there are a number of other second degree cooperatives: a social service cooperative which assures 100 percent pension and disability benefits, a health care clinic, and a women's cooperative which allows for both flex-time and part-time work; women can move freely from this to the industrial cooperatives. Also there is a system of educational cooperatives, among them a technical college which includes a production cooperative where students both train and earn money as part-time workers. This, too, is operated as a second degree cooperative with a mixed board made up of permanent staff and students. Mondragon also features a large system of consumer cooperatives, housing cooperatives, and a number of agricultural cooperatives and building cooperatives. Today the total system's net worth is in the billions. Mondragon consists of 86 production cooperatives averaging several hundred members, 44 educational institutions, seven agricultural cooperatives, 15 building cooperatives, several service cooperatives, a network of consumer cooperatives with 75,000 members, and the bank. The Caja Laboral has 132 branches in the Basque region and recently opened an office in Madrid. This is significant, since it indicates a willingness to expand beyond the Basque region. The CLP's assets are over a billion dollars. Mondragon produces everything from home appliances (it is the second largest refrigerator manufacturer in Spain) to machine tool factories and ferry boats, both of which it exports abroad. It represents over one percent of the total Spanish export product. With its 18,000 workers, it accounts for about 15 percent of all the jobs in Guipuzkoa Province and five percent in the Basque country. Although a major part of its products are in middle level technologies, it also produces high technology products. Its research institute, Ikerlan, regularly accesses U.S. data bases including that of M.I.T., and has developed its own industrial robots for external sale and for use in its own factories. This is typical of its approach to technology, which is to assimilate new technologies and make them its own. Mondragon has spent considerable time studying and implementing alternatives to the production line; its self-managed organizational system is now being complemented with the technology of group production. The internal organization of a Mondragon cooperative features a General Assembly which ordinarily meets annually and selects management. In addition there is a Social Council which deals specifically with working members' concerns. There is also a Directive Council, made up of managers and members of the General Assembly, in which managers have a voice but no vote. This system of parallel organization ensures extensive representation of members' concerns and serves as a system of checks and balances. Mondragon enterprises are not large; a deliberate policy now limits them to around 400 members. ULGOR, the first coop, grew too large and at one point in its early history had a strike, organized by dissidents. The General Assembly voted to throw the ringleaders out. But they learned their lesson: size of its own accord can breed discontent. To obtain the benefits of large scale, along with the benefits of small individual units, Mondragon has evolved a system of cooperative development. Here, a number of cooperatives constitute themselves as a sort of mini-conglomerate, coordinated by a management group elected from the member enterprises. These units are either vertically or horizontally integrated and can send members from one enterprise to the other as the requirements of the market and the production system change. They are able to use a common marketing apparatus and have the production capacity to retain a significant portion of a given market. This system was started initially by a set of enterprises in the same market banding together for inter-enterprise cooperation. Now Mondragon develops such systems from the outset. Effectiveness of Mondragon If one enters a Mondragon factory, one of the more obvious features is a European style coffee bar, occupied by members taking a break. It is emblematic of the work style, which is serious but relaxed. Mondragon productivity is very high -- higher than in its capitalist counterparts. Efficiency, measured as the ratio of utilized resources (capital and labor) to output, is far higher than in comparable capitalist factories. One of the most striking indications of the effectiveness of the Mondragon system is that the Empressarial Division of Mondragon has continued to develop an average of four cooperatives a year, each with about 400 members. Only two of these have ever failed. This amazing record can be compared with business start-ups in this country, over 90 percent of which fail within the first five years. I have seen a feasibility study for a new enterprise. It is an impressive book-length document, containing demographics, sociological analysis of the target population, market analysis, product information -- just about everything relevant. When a new prospective cooperative comes to Mondragon seeking help, it is told to elect a leadership. This leadership studies at the Empressarial Division for two years before they are allowed to start the cooperative; they thus learn every aspect of their business and of the operation of a cooperative. Mondragon is not utopia. While it does not produce weapons, useless luxury goods, or things that pollute the environment, it does produce standard industrial products using a recognizable technology of production. It does not practice job rotation, and management is not directly elected from the floor -- for good reason, since experiments elsewhere that have tried this have not worked. Members vary in the nature of their commitment. In fact there is something of a split in Mondragon between those who see Mondragon as a model for the world and those who prefer to keep a low profile and have no interest in proselytizing beyond their confines. Mondragon has also been faulted for failing to produce mainly for local consumption. It is in the manufacturing, not community development business, and, while it creates jobs, its products are exported all over the world. It has exported machine tool factories to eastern European countries, to Portugal and to Algeria; a Mondragon furniture factory is now operating in New York State. Mondragon does not export its system with the factories however; they are simply products, bought and run by local owners. In general, it makes little attempt to convert the heathens; at present, it is swamped by visitors from all over the world, and it finds this hard enough to deal with without going out and actively spreading the word. Mondragon has awakened worldwide interest. The Mitterand government in France has a special cabinet post for the development of cooperatives, the result of its contact with Mondragon. In Wales, the Welsh Trade Union Council is engaged in developing a system of cooperatives patterned after Mondragon. In England, the Job Ownership Movement along with numerous local governments, developed both small and large cooperatives on the Mondragon model. Progressives in the Catholic Church, seeing Mondragon as an alternative to both capitalism and communism, have helped establish industrial cooperatives in Milwaukee and in Detroit; and in Boston this writer worked with the local archdiocese to develop a system of cooperatives based on the same model. Why does Mondragon work so well? Part of the answer lies in the unique culture of the Basque region. Members of the staff of Mondragon with whom I have talked (those of Ikerlan, the research institute, and of ULARCO, the first of the mini-conglomerates) have doubts about whether the model can be exported, arguing that the cohesiveness and communitarian traditions of the Basque culture alone make it possible. But Anna Gutierrez Johnson, a Peruvian sociologist who has studied Mondragon extensively, believes that basically it is the organizational pattern that makes the whole system work, and that this is exportable. I share her opinion, but also believe that in the United States our culture of individualism and adversary worker-management relations is a major impediment. Workers have little ideological consciousness in this country; moreover, they have very largely bought into the capitalist system and often see work as a ticket into the middle class. But their lack of ideology is nonetheless a plus in one way, for the secret of Mondragon is, above all, organizational, not ideological: it is how-to knowledge that makes it work. Knowledge, for example, of how specific industry sectors work, of how to facilitate cooperation between the CLP and worker-entrepreneurs, of how to ensure that individual enterprises are integrated into the Mondragon community. Mondragon has revolutionary implications, primarily because its structure of democratic governance, with worker ownership and control, challenges the capitalist system at its very heart. Where capitalism awards profit and control to capital and hires labor, Mondragon awards profit and control to labor. In the process, it has developed a worker-centered culture which, rather than infantilizing, empowers. Mondragon members are citizens of a worker commonwealth, with the full rights that such citizenship confers. This can be seen best in the steps that have been taken to make the formal system of participation into a working reality: different systems of leadership have evolved, and with them, a growing sense of teamwork. For example, a furniture factory now operates completely through work teams. Thus the formal system has led to the ongoing evolution of a democratic process which is the real indicator of its success in revolutionizing the relations of production. Also, Mondragon has created a total system where one can learn, work, shop, and live within a cooperative environment. (On such total systems, see Antonio Gramsci.) In such an environment motivation is high because members share an overall cooperative culture which integrates material and moral incentives, and which extends into every aspect of life, work, community, education, consumption, and family. A member of the Empresserial Division has underlined the uniqueness of Mondragon viewed as a total system, pointing out that this system goes far beyond what can be found in the Basque culture. The proof of this is to be found in the efforts needed to socialize new workers into the system; the simple fact of being Basque is hardly enough to guarantee effective participation. Lessons of Mondragon Perhaps one of the most brilliant achievements of the Mondragon organizational system is the way in which it has combined collective ownership with the incentives of individual ownership in a mixed system which recognizes both the individual and the collective side of human motivation. The system of individual accounts with automatic loan-back, along with the partitioning of the surplus into an individual component and a collective component, represents a method of giving the worker a sense of individual ownership along with a sense of collective participation in an organization which provides more than simply a meal ticket, even as it expects more than simply job performance. A strong argument can be made for the importance of creating more networks like Mondragon, if one is to move toward social liberation. Its systems approach to job creation confronts the problems of economic organization and development head-on, managing at once to create freedom in work and enough jobs to have a powerful impact on a regional economy. Until it happened, it was easy to write off experiments in economic democracy as marginal and unrealistic utopian ventures, totally irrelevant to the task of affecting any sizable portion of an existing economy. This can no longer be said, and hence both state socialist and capitalist arguments for the economic necessity of oppressive work are given the lie. Moreover, Mondragon contains an important lesson: it demonstrates that to achieve freedom in work, a high level of organizational skill is needed, and that when such skills are present, the traditional opposition of democracy and efficiency vanish, and the two reinforce rather than oppose each other. Mondragon is important because it serves as a model of how this can be done. Here, ideological debate gives way to concrete know-how and another false dilemma bites the dust. Centralization in concert with modern technologies, entirely apart from the further coercions of capitalist ownership, contains pressures toward an oppressive machine form of organization. This is true both because of its large scale and its productivity requirements; these pressures are greatest in the case of mass production. Taming this contemporary organizational beast thus represents a challenge which must be met if one is to create freedom in work. This type of organization, moreover, is central to advanced industrial societies. It would be nice, utopian fashion, to simply be able to leap over the problem and go back to small-scale craft production, thereby, admittedly, eliminating piles of semi-useless junk. But the first step in deciding what is to be produced or not produced is to regain control of the system. What should or should not be produced is after all not a given but a decision to be democratically arrived at. If the control is there, people may indeed decide in good time that mass production simply is not worth the effort -- or they may not. With control of the production process one can then at least begin the process of educating consumers to better products, or less products, or craft products, or whatever one happens to feel is an improvement over the present system. Moreover, one cannot change a whole culture in a day; if one wishes to wean people from an over-dependence on cars, for example, one way is to build better trains, which is at least a step beyond building more fuel-efficient cars. The fact that one cannot do everything should not be made into an argument for doing nothing. I recall a debate a few years ago in the pages of Social Anarchism where Len Krimerman described his efforts to create a poultry processing cooperative. In the main his anarchist respondents were horrified: he had borrowed money from the government (the Small Business Administration)! Also, he had foremen and supervisors, rather than pure and total self-government! He trafficked with capitalist distributors! The whole thing was a desecration of anarchist principles, being centrally involved with capitalism, hierarchy, and the state. This is of course an old debate, but it is reminiscent of the Marxist's argument that, until the objective conditions for revolution exist, nothing can (and hence need) be done. One can indeed preach purity, but talk is cheap, and moreover, people know that. The significance of Mondragon is twofold: it represents a positive vision of freedom in work, a community that is democratically controlled by its members. The ideal of democracy, to which everyone gives lip service, is actually practiced here. But it also represents something that works, and that in turn constitutes a statement about human nature, establishing beyond controversy that people can manage complex social tasks via democratic organization. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an effective working model is worth at least a thousand pictures. Probably the most frequent criticism of utopian thinking is that it flies in the face of human nature, which has powerful propensities for evil as well as good. This argument is not one that can be settled in the abstract. The value of Mondragon is that it speaks to the claim of the weakness and fallibility of human nature in specific and concrete ways. Whereas the Webbs and others have long argued against the viability of worker cooperatives on the basis that they tend to degenerate into capitalist enterprises, Mondragon has clearly shown that this is not true. Not only does Mondragon work, but it works a lot better than its capitalist counterparts, and it grows faster. By showing that one can combine democracy with efficiency, it gives the lie to a basic article of capitalist dogma about human nature: that people are naturally lazy and irresponsible and will work only when given the twin incentives of the carrot and the stick. Another objection has been raised: Structure is brainlessly equated with hierarchy and bureaucracy, and hence the complex organizational structure of a system such as Mondragon is written off out of hand. But structurelessness breeds tyranny: informal cliques develop, hidden leaders emerge who wield power behind the cloak of an espoused equality. Mondragon is worth studying because it works, and the argument can be made that utopian theory must always confront the practical since the burden of proof is on the theorist. The problem with capitalism and, more generally, with coercive industrial systems of whatever persuasion, is not that they don't work; they do deliver the goods, but in the process grind up human beings. The only answer to this state of affairs is to prove that a better system also works; theory alone simply will not do. And, if we wish to claim that something better than Mondragon needs to be built, then it is incumbent on us to do it. * Related

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ok, I Have To Say Something Outloud Finally

Pretentious people bug. Big time. Liars bug. Also big time. =End Transmission=

Friday, July 21, 2006

Israel violating law on US weapon use in Mideast

by Thalif Deen Israel is in violation of U.S. arms control laws for deploying U.S.-made fighter planes, combat helicopters and missiles Israel is in violation of U.S. arms control laws for deploying U.S.-made fighter planes, combat helicopters and missiles to kill civilians and destroy Lebanon's infrastructure in the ongoing eight-day devastation of that militarily-weak country. The death toll, according to published reports, is over 200 people -- mostly civilians -- while the economic losses have been estimated at about 100 million dollars per day. "Section 4 of the (U.S.) Arms Export Control Act requires that military items transferred to foreign governments by the United States be used solely for internal security and legitimate self-defence," says Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco. "Since Israeli attacks against Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and population centres clearly go beyond legitimate self-defence, the United States is legally obliged to suspend arms transfers to Israel," Zunes told IPS. Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate with the Arms Trade Resource Centre at the World Policy Institute in New York, is equally outraged at the misuse by Israel of U.S.-supplied weapons. "As Israel jets bombard locations in Gaza, Haifa and Beirut, killing civilians (including as many as seven Canadians vacationing in Aitaroun), it is worth remembering that U.S. law is clear about how U.S.-origin weapons and military systems ought to be used," Berrigan told IPS. She pointed out that the U.S. Arms Export Control Act clear states that U.S. origin weapons should not be used for "non-defensive purposes." "In light of this clear statement, the United States has an opportunity to stave off further bloodshed and suffering by demanding that its weaponry and military aid not be used in attacks against Lebanon and elsewhere, and challenging Israeli assertions that it is using military force defensively," she added. That would demonstrate the kind of "utmost restraint" that world leaders called for at the G8 Summit of the world's most industrialised nations, which just ended in St. Petersburg, Russia. The 25-member European Union has said that Israel's military retaliation against Lebanon is "grossly disproportionate" to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers last week by the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which is a coalition partner of the U.S.-supported government in Beirut. Israel has accused both Syria and Iran of providing rockets and missiles to Hezbollah, which has used these weapons to hit mostly civilian targets inside Israel. Israel's prodigious military power -- currently unleashed on a virtually defenceless Lebanon -- is sourced primarily to the United States. Armed mostly with state-of-the-art U.S.-supplied fighter planes and combat helicopters, the Israeli military is capable of matching a combination of all or most of the armies in most Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The air force has continued to devastate Beirut and its suburbs with no resistance in the skies during six days of incessant bombings, causing civilian deaths and infrastructure destruction. "The Israeli Air Force now flies only U.S.-origin fighters, a mix of F-15s and F-16s, and the rest of the service's fleet is almost completely of U.S. origin," says Tom Baranauskas, a senior Middle East analyst at Forecast International, a leading provider of defence market intelligence services in the United States. While in earlier years Israel bought from a variety of arms suppliers, with the French in particular being strong sellers to Israel of such items as Mirage fighters, over the past couple of decades the United States has developed into Israel's preponderant arms supplier, he added. "The U.S. domination as Israel's arms supplier can be seen in the Congressional Research Service's (CRS) annual study of arms sales," Baranauskas told IPS. He said the latest CRS survey shows a total of 8.4 billion dollars of arms deliveries to Israel in the 1997-2004 period, with fully 7.1 billion dollars or 84.5 percent coming from a single source: the United States. A major factor in this trend was the rise in U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) -- outright U.S. grants to Israel -- which now totals about 2.3 billion dollars a year paid for by U.S. taxpayers. By U.S. law, Baranauskas said, 74 percent of FMF assistance to Israel must be spent on U.S. military products. This U.S. assistance has now become the main source of financing for Israel's major arms procurements, especially its fighter planes. From a historical perspective, he said, U.S. assistance to Israel during 1950-2005 has been staggeringly high: Foreign Military Financing (FMF) amounting to 59.5 billion dollars; 27 billion dollars in Foreign Military Sales (FMS) mostly government-to-government arms transactions; and eight billion dollars in commercial arms sales by the private sector. Berrigan of the Arms Trade Resource Centre said the United States is undoubtedly the primary supplier of Israeli firepower. In the interest of strengthening Israel's security and maintaining the country's "qualitative military edge" over neighbouring militaries, the U.S. Congress provides Israel with annual FMF grants that represent about 23 percent of its overall defence budget. Israel's 2006 military budget is estimated at 7.4 billion dollars. According to the Congressional Research Service, FMF levels are expected to increase incrementally by 60 million dollars a year to a level of 2.4 billion dollars by 2008 compared with 2.2 billion dollars in 2005. "Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid every year since 1976," Berrigan said. Additionally, the United States provides Israel with billions of dollars worth of weaponry. She pointed out that recent military sales to Israel include propulsion systems for fast patrol boats worth more than 15 million dollars from MTU Detroit Diesel; an eight-million-dollar contract to Lockheed Martin for high-tech infrared "navigation and targeting" capabilities for Israeli jets; and a 145-million-dollar deal with Oshkosh Truck Corp to build more than 900 armour kits for Israeli Medium Tactical Vehicles. In December of last year, Lockheed Martin was awarded a 29.8-million-dollar contract to provide spares part for Israel's F-16 fighter planes. Berrigan also said that Israel has one of the world's largest fleets of F-16 fighter planes, made in Fort Worth, Texas and also in Israel by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Israel has a total of over 378 F-16s, considered one of the world's most advanced fighter planes -- besides 117 F-15s, 94 Skyhawks, 110 Phantoms -- all supplied by the United States. IPS News


Yonatan Shapira, on Democracy Now

Yonatan Shapira, a former Captain in the Israeli Air Force Reserves. In 2003 Yonatan initiated the group of Israeli Air Force pilots who refused to fly attack missions on Palestinian territories. He is also one of the founders of the organization Combatants for Peace.

... JUAN GONZALEZ: What was it that brought you to that conclusion during your time of service? What were the particular incidents or situations that you can confronted that led you to conclude that?

YONATAN SHAPIRA: You know, it’s a long process. And I give lectures here in the United States and in Europe and in Israel, sharing my process of transformation and realizing that in order to contribute to the security of my country and to the security of all the people who live in this region, I must refuse. I can talk to you about that for hours and hours. But if I have to put some particular events, it was the assassination policy that was led by Prime Minister Sharon and the same general who is now the commander of the Army, General Dan Halutz, who was the commander of the Air Force. And they started to use my friends and my fellow pilots in the F-16 pilot squadrons and Apache squadrons, in order to assassinate suspects in Gaza and in the Judean-Samarian Occupied Territories.

And that process brought us to the situation where we finally understood that we are just part of this circle of mutual violence, circle of revenge. And once you understand that you are part of this circle, you understand that there is no much difference between the terror that you are suffering from and the terror that you are involved in. And it’s a very, very hard thing for one to understand and to go through. It involved personal crisis sometimes, and it involved with a lot of things that now connecting to each other, not just in the issues in the Middle East, but all over the world.

But now the idea is we believe that people like us who were part of the Israeli Army, who were part of the core of the Zionist enterprise and still care about their country and their people and love Israel, and I’m talking out of love to my country and my family. I’m going to be back there in a few days. I have friends that are now sitting in shelters and all this kind of stuff. I know the suffering also of my people. But we believe that it’s our obligation now to shout this and to call the world: if you care about my country, if you care about the Israeli people, as well the Palestinian and the Lebanese who are now suffering, you must put massive pressure on the Israeli government, and putting pressure on the Israeli government means putting pressure on your government. ...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dieting? Watch this.

FuckTard molests the German Chancellor

Lebanon Israel Facts the Media Isn't Telling You
Chomsky explains the facts about Lebanon, Israel Gaza Hezbollah and the Palestinians Noam Chomsky reveals facts like the abduction of the two Gaza civilians June 24, BEFORE the Israeli soldiers were captured. Learn other background facts that the mainstream media doesn't report.

Like Snow, by Robert Graves

* She, then, like snow in a dark night, Fell secretly. And the world waked With dazzling of the drowsy eye, So that some muttered 'Too much light', And drew the curtains close. Like snow, warmer than fingers feared, And to soil friendly; Holding the histories of the night In yet unmelted tracks. *

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Feline Femme
by Dan Vita

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Coming Age of Ecological Medicine

by Kenny Ausubel Human and environmental health are inseparable. Among the many immigrants who arrived in New York City in the summer of 1999, none made a name for itself more quickly than West Nile virus. Traced to a virus spread by mosquitoes, the disease had never been seen in this country, or even in the western hemisphere. It first struck birds, then people, killing seven and sickening dozens more. The city hoped to control it by killing the mosquitoes with malathion, a pesticide chemically related to nerve gas. Though many protested, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani insisted the spraying was perfectly safe. Within months, scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were debating just how wrong the mayor had been. The EPA was on the verge of declaring malathion a “likely” human carcinogen when its manufacturer protested. The EPA backed off, saying malathion posed no documented threat, though some in the agency continued to insist the dangers were being downplayed. More suspicion was raised upon news of a massive die-off of lobsters in Long Island Sound, near New York City. Malathion is known to kill lobsters and other marine life, but officials denied the connection. Though no direct causal link can yet be drawn, some infectious-disease experts say anomalous outbreaks such as that of West Nile may be tied to human impacts on the environment, which have resulted in climate change and the destruction of natural habitats. Dr. Paul R. Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, has noted, “West Nile is getting veterinarians and doctors and biologists to sit down at the same table.” What they are unraveling is a complex knot linking human health and the state of the natural world. Welcome to a preview of the health issues awaiting us in the twenty-first century. Indeed, we’re already living at a time when vast social and biological forces are interacting in complex ways—and with unpredictable results. War, famine, and ecological damage have caused great human dislocations, which in turn have transformed tuberculosis, AIDS, and other modern plagues into global pandemics. Even more disturbing, many of our efforts to fight disease today are themselves symptoms of a deeper illness. Spraying an urban area with a substance whose health effects remain unknown is one glaring example, but there are many others. Think of certain compounds used in chemotherapy that more often kill than cure. Or the 100,000 people who die in hospitals every year from drugs that are properly prescribed. Or the many IV bags and other plastic medical products that release dioxin into the air when they are burned. That last example contributes to perhaps the most heart-breaking metaphor for our environmental abuse and its unforeseen consequences—the discovery that a human mother’s milk is among the most toxic human foods, laced with dioxin, a confirmed carcinogen, and other chemical contaminants. All of these cases suggest our culture’s deep dependence on synthetic chemicals and our long refusal to acknowledge how profoundly these have disrupted our ecological systems. There’s a widespread sense that mainstream medicine is blind to this reality and is even part of the problem. Growing disillusion over this, coupled with the fact that high-tech medicine costs too much and often doesn’t work, has led to a widespread public search for alternatives. One result is the rise of complementary medicine, which combines the best of modern health care with other approaches. Add the immense new interest in traditional healing methods, herbs, and other natural remedies, and you get a sense of how much the health care paradigm has changed over the past thirty years. What I see happening is a deeper shift that all of these approaches are edging us toward, even if we don’t fully realize it yet. It’s a new understanding of health and illness that has begun to move away from treating only the individual. Instead, good health lies in recognizing that each of us is part of a wider web of life. When the web is healthy, we are more likely to be healthy. But the environmental illnesses we see more and more of these days—rising cancer rates spring to mind—are constant reminders that the web is not healthy. How did we reach this tragic place? And more to the point, where do we go from here? The first step toward a healthier future, I believe, lies in ecological medicine. Pioneered by a global movement of concerned scientists, doctors, and many others, ecological medicine is a loosely shared philosophy based on advancing public health by improving the environment. Its central idea is that industrial civilization has made a basic error in acting as if humans were apart from, rather than a part of, nature. Just as the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, human and environmental health are inseparable. And in a biosphere that is rampantly toxic and woefully depleted, a mounting number of our health problems can only be understood as part of a larger pattern. Ecological medicine could well emerge as a dramatic force for cultural change. It proposes to reshape how industrial civilization operates, in part by redefining the role that the public plays in making the decisions that affect all life on earth. Simply stated, improving human health is inextricably linked to restoring ecological well-being. The interconnectedness of all life is a fundamental biological truth. What’s more, all life is under threat. There simply is no “elsewhere” to dump the hazardous by-products of industrial society. Eliminating them from our production systems is the only real solution, and a well-informed public is absolutely crucial to realizing it. In the words of Carolyn Raffensberger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), a “truly holistic medicine extends beyond the mind-body connection to the human-planet whole.” Here are some basic tenets of ecological medicine: * The first goal of medicine is to establish the conditions for health and wholeness, thus preventing disease and illness. The second goal is to cure. * The earth is also the physician’s client. The patient under the physician’s care is one part of the earth. * Humans are part of a local ecosystem. Following the ecopsychological insight that a disturbed ecosystem can make people mentally ill, a disturbed ecosystem can surely make people physically ill. * Medicine should not add to the illness of humans or the planet. Medical practices themselves should not damage other species or the ecosystem. The main tool for putting these ideals into practice, ecological healers say, is what they call the precautionary principle. As articulated by Raffensberger and others, the precautionary principle basically argues that science and industry must fully assess the impact of their activities before they impose them upon the public and the environment. Societies around the world have begun to incorporate some version of the principle into law, hoping to rein in bioengineering and other new technologies. That science should objectively prove the safety of its own inventions might seem like common sense, but that’s not how most science operates today. For decades, the scientific and medical communities have operated on the principle that a certain amount of pollution and disease is the price we have to pay for modern life. This is called the risk paradigm, and it essentially means that it is society’s burden to prove that new technologies and industrial processes are harmful, usually one chemical or technology at a time. The risk paradigm assumes that there are “acceptable” levels of contamination that the earth and our bodies can assimilate. It also allows a small, self-interested elite to set these levels, undistracted by the “irrational” fears and demands of the public. The “science” behind it is driven by large commercial interests and can hardly be considered impartial or in the public interest. Viewed with any distance at all, the risk paradigm is at best a high-stakes game of biological roulette with all the chambers loaded. There is a global effort afoot today to replace the risk paradigm with the precautionary principle, which is based on a recognition that the ability of science to predict consequences and possible harm is limited. The precautionary principle acknowledges that all life is interconnected. It shifts the burden of proof (and liability) to the parties promoting potentially harmful technologies, and it limits the use of those technologies to experiments until they are proven truly safe. The idea is not new—a version of it first appeared in U.S. law back in 1958 in the Delaney Amendment, which governed pesticide residues in food and set standards for environmental impact statements—nor is it radical. At its essence, the principle harks back to grandma’s admonitions that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and that we’re “better safe than sorry.” The model is already used, in theory, for the drug industry, which is legally bound to prove drugs safe and effective prior to their use. Critics call it anti-scientific; they say it limits trade and stifles innovation. Advocates disagree. “The precautionary principle actually shines a bright light on science,” says Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of SEHN. “It doesn’t tell us what to do, but it does tell you what to look at.” Germany and Sweden have incorporated the principle into certain environmental policies. The United Nations Biosafety Protocol includes it in new guidelines for regulating trade in genetically modified products, its first appearance in an international treaty. As people and their governments face ever more complex scientific decisions, the precautionary principle can serve as what some have called an insurance policy against our own ignorance. After all, we can’t predict next week’s weather or the economy a year out, much less the unfathomable complexity of living systems. The Greek physician Hippocrates urged doctors to “do no harm,” yet our medical practices often pose serious environmental threats. In 1994, for instance, the EPA reported that medical waste incinerators were the biggest source of dioxin air pollution in the United States. Dioxin finds its way into our food and accumulates in our fat; it’s been linked to neurological damage in fetuses. Even a simple thermometer contains mercury, another potentially deadly neurotoxin. The medical waste problem does not stop there. Along with generating radioactive waste from X rays and other treatments, the medical industry is now the source of a new peril: pharmaceutical pollution. Creatures living in lakes and rivers appear to be at special risk as antibiotics, estrogen, birth control pills, painkillers, and other drugs find their way into the waste stream. Fish are already affected; intersex mutations (in which the fish show both male and female characteristics) have been reported in various species around the world. And humans are not immune. The war on drugs may soon take on a new meaning as entire populations are subjected to constant low doses of pharmaceuticals in the water supply. Groups like Health Care Without Harm have made it their mission to halt or curb such damaging medical practices, especially the use of mercury thermometers and the industry’s reliance on burning its waste. Health Care Without Harm, with 443 member organizations in 52 countries, has made great strides in this area, in part by directly confronting companies that engage in environmentally harmful practices. Another group, Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, has published a report with the Clean Water Fund, “In Harm’s Way,” that documents the many toxic threats to child development. Ecological medicine suggests first doing no harm to the environment, then going further, creating a medical practice that itself minimizes harm. Like virtually all earlier healing traditions, it emphasizes prevention, strengthening the organism and environment to avoid illness in the first place. (Ancient Chinese healers, for instance, expected compensation only if their clients remained well, not if they got sick.) But an ecological approach to healing also looks to deeper tenets embedded in nature itself and how it operates. Again, the new vision reveals itself to be in many ways an old one. It borrows from the insights of indigenous healing traditions, many of which are now being confirmed by modern science—including the fact that nature has an extraordinary and mysterious capacity for self-repair. However resilient the biosphere may be, it’s crucial to understand that the planet’s basic life support systems are in serious decline. From climate change to plummeting biodiversity to gargantuan quantities of toxic wastes, ecological stresses are reaching dangerous thresholds. Much of the damage can be traced to the twentieth century’s three most destructive technologies: * Apart from helping induce potentially cataclysmic climate change, the petrochemical industry has unleashed 80,000 or so synthetic compounds that now permeate our land, water, and air, as well as our bodies. While some may be benign, the truth is that most have never been tested adequately enough to ascertain their safety—and even fewer have been measured for their cumulative effects on people and the environment or how they interact with other chemicals as they occur in real life. * Nuclear energy use has led to the spread of radioactivity and virtually indestructible toxic-waste products into living systems worldwide. While public dread may focus on catastrophic accidents like the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, other ill effects may come from steady exposure to low levels of radiation. * Genetic engineering is introducing biological pollution that literally has a life of its own, a gene genie that cannot be put back in the bottle. In addition to instructing healers first to do no harm, Hippocrates counseled physicians to “revere the healing force of nature.” For years, that’s been my quest: to work with nature to help nature heal. I founded the Bioneers Conference in 1990 to bring together people exploring ways of doing this—biological pioneers from many cultures and disciplines, and from all walks of life. All had peered deep into the heart of the earth’s own living systems to understand what we can learn from 3.8 billion years of evolution. Their common purpose was to heal the earth. Their basic question: How would nature do it? They were using their knowledge of living systems to devise solutions to our most pressing environmental and societal problems. These people are modern healers too. As their work repeatedly illustrates, many of the technologies we need to retool our industrial system already exists. Many of the Bioneers show how we can replace existing industrial practices with sustainable alternatives that run on clean, renewable energy sources and eliminate toxic emissions. Government has a role to play in this process too. Several years ago Sweden imposed a steep tax on pesticides, a measure that greatly reduced their use. Europe recently banned four antibiotics from animal feed. On the other side of the equation, governments are looking to promote tax subsidies for benign alternative technologies such as chlorine-free paper production and organic farming. (The city of Munich pays German farmers to grow organically in the watershed that supplies the city’s drinking water.momma The ecological medicine movement proposes to green the practices of the health care industry and help mainstream medicine become safer. The ethic of preventing harm that prevails both in environmental protection and ecological medicine will continue to spread, but what about existing messes? Many treatment methods modeled on living systems have shown dramatic capacity for bioremediation—that is, for detoxifying land, air, and water. Visionary biologist John Todd’s “living machines” mimic natural ecologies by utilizing bacteria, fungi, plants, fish, and mammals to purify water and industrial wastes. The work of mycologist Paul Stamets has show that fungi can help digest diesel spills and even chemical and biological weapons components, Similar success stories are found across many fields. By looking into the principles of ecological healing to restore the earth and ourselves, we create not only the conditions for individual health but also the basis for healthy societies and robust economies. Biology is not rocket science. Rather, it is the superb art of relationships in the fantastically complex web of life. By mimicking nature, these approaches foster the healing that is the essence of living systems. Consider again the relationship between a nursing mother and her child. Despite the toxins that are now found in mother’s milk, it is still the best food for babies. Children fed breast milk are healthier because it confers immunity and unmatched nutrition. Which brings us back to the essence of ecological healing: In the wisdom of nature also lies the solution. Alternative medicine is arguably the single largest progressive social movement of our era. As it becomes ever more mainstream, those working to advance public health are increasingly collaborating with those working to restore the earth’s ecological health. Growing public awareness of the direct links between our personal health and environmental health is arising as a potent force in global politics. As suggested by Michael Lerner, founder of Commonweal, environmental health could well emerge as the central human rights issue of our age. We have the right to be born free—free from poisons. As human beings, we have a remarkable ability to reinvent our societies very rapidly. Our task now is to create an earth-honoring culture founded in the sanctity of life and the sacred human-nature relationship. Along with many others, I herald for this new century a Declaration of Interdependence flowing from the simple recognition that all life is connected. At its heart is ecological medicine, teaching us that we are the land and water and air. By restoring the earth, we restore ourselves.

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