“In our age, anyone resuscitating critical theory needs to have a sense of irony. Among capitalism’s losers are millions of overworked, underpaid workers ostensibly liberated by the largest socialist revolution in history (China’s) who have been driven to the brink of suicide to keep those in the west playing with their iPads. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support.”  – Stuart Jeffries, from Grand Hotel Abyss


Still an Oligarchy—a Worse One, Actually

I’ve read a lot of things this week claiming that the election of Trump demonstrates that we don’t, in fact, live in an oligarchy. The question goes something like: “How could the entrenched, monied elites allow such an unknown to happen, if they are so entrenched, and so elite?”.

Time will tell just how much of a “shake up” this really is. Since Trump has vowed to dismantle environmental and workplace regulations, it seems like business as usual—if not business just made easier—for major corporations, who I think everyone knows are the real power-brokers in our system. They, along with the military, will most likely benefit the most—even if it’s slightly less benefit than they would’ve gotten under Clinton, who once sat on the Board of Walmart. Sounds like an oligarchy to me.

To be clear, I’m not ashamed in the slightest to say that I voted for Clinton, since the Trump coalition is categorically worse. Neither candidate would have a chance to fix our real problems, but Trump will make most problems more destructive and complex while creating a million new ones in the process. Nothing will fundamentally improve, and in the meantime people have been given a huge nod that it’s socially acceptable—nay, patriotic—to be willfully ignorant, to be gleefully mean, and to hate people whose lives they know little to nothing about. As Norman Mailer once wrote, “If one wants a better world, one does well to hold one’s breath, for a worse world is bound to come first.”

The thing is, a middle finger this large directed at the establishment sounds great, until our rivers are rendered undrinkable and we’re arrested for pointing that out (it’s “un-American”, after all, to value anything, even life, over a job). About a quarter of the population will be jubilant for a while, but the problem with unleashing a tempest at your enemies is that once it’s whirling, nobody can get it back under control, and it usually flies right back in your direction. Nature bats last, as the saying goes.

Late October Update


The little pumpkin plants are growing, but many perils await. I’m trying to cover the vines with dirt and coffee grounds, to protect against vine borers. Hopefully the shade from the wildflowers nearby will keep them safe from the mid-day sun, which is still blazing despite it being a few days until November. Maybe I’ll be able to give people pumpkins as Christmas presents?

Thank You

Thank you:

Franks sometimes has misgivings about the emphasis placed on experimentation with animal brains. Even as scientists learn more about the depth of animal thoughts and feelings, they continue to treat animals as means to human ends. It’s a concern shared by Lori Marino, whose research led to her present role as an animal advocate and activist, marshalling the science to argue for better ethics. “There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to know,” says Marino, “but I’m not going to kill a dolphin or stick electrodes in their brains or do invasive work just because I want to satisfy my curiosity.”

This quote is from a fascinating article about what humans think other animals are thinking: “Animal Minds“. It should come as no surprise to you, if you read this blog, that I think the danger of not anthropomorphising far outweighs the danger of doing so. If the worst we can say of thinking, for example, that rats are capable of empathy is that it is unscientific, then to me it’s worth perpetuating the idea, if only to save a few rats from being tortured—er, I mean, having experiments run on them.

One of the ideas debated in the article is whether or not crows can use syntax. I think it would be cool to learn that they can, but either way, it should be obvious that they’re not simply Cartesian machines, i.e. things. As such, they deserve respect, no?

“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” Reconsidered

My first thought when reading what I wrote more than three years ago about Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” is that, wow, I used to write long, convoluted sentences. Maybe I was trying too hard to be complex. Since then I’ve come to think that the beauty in any form of communication is its simplicity—its elegance.

But w/r/t the poem, it remains one of my favorites, so I’m glad it was the first one I included in my list (which isn’t final, but isn’t exactly running these days, either). There is also a place for those who stand and wait. Patience is a strange idea for environmentalists; we embed value in geologic time but also constantly attempt to combat apathy, the dirtiest of words.

Of course, the real enemy is the notion that there’s nothing we can do. I think such an enemy is insurmountable because it’s supported by overwhelming evidence.