Saturday, February 26, 2011

Corporatists & penguins: Both poop in their own nests

I just got back from Antarctica and it was the Commute from Hell! First I had to endure three-and-a-half horrible days almost solely devoted to seasickness and fear while crossing back to Ushauaia through the infamous Drake Passage in a boat originally designed to cruise up and down the Danube. It was like being trapped in a washing machine 24/7. Terror in a Maytag.

Next came my air transportation nightmare. I mean seriously. How long can you spend in a succession of faceless terminals while trying to sleep on plastic chairs or limping from wrong gate to wrong gate on swollen feet and bad knees while living on airplane food and watching grade-B Hollywood movies through loop after loop in order to try to take your mind off of turbulence that sounds like the wings on your plane are about to fall off -- without going crazy?

And now I know the Lima (Peru) airport and the Santiago (Chile) airport and the Buenos Aires and Ushauaia (Argentina) airports intimately -- after spending three days sleeping with them, waiting for my delayed luggage and trying to find out which gate I'm supposed to be hobbling off to next.

But that's okay. The experience was worth it because of Antarctica's majestic untouched beauty, my renewed sense of urgency regarding global warming, marching with the penguins, scoring multiple souvenir T-shirts and having gained much deep knowledge learned the hard way.

So. Exactly what kind of deep knowledge did I acquire down there?

"An ice shelf is a glacier that extends out into the sea. Glaciers in Antarctica are 100 times larger than glaciers in Alaska and after they reach the edge of the land, they continue on out into the ocean and create enormous ice shelves the size of New Jersey. And two of these gigantic ice shelves have recently broken off from their bases as a result of pressures on them caused by global warming."

And these two huge ice shelves the size of New Jersey are now happily melting and floating our way. Why? Because in the last ten years alone, global temperatures have spiked up more than 800 percent higher than from their original documented baseline, set approximately 150 years ago when temperatures first started getting recorded.

And as a result of these gigantic new post-industrial temperature increases, Antarctica is melting, water levels all over the world are rising and Americans are all stuck in what Elisabeth
Kubler-Ross calls the "First Stage of Death -- Denial". And instead of trying to bail out our poor planetary ship before it's too late, we just sit around on our hands while our global Titanic goes down -- hit by an iceberg.

While on this trip, I also learned something about penguins that I had never known before. Penguins are rather smelly birds. When visiting a penguin colony, you first start to get unpleasant whiffs of it from miles away out at sea. Penguins have no latrines. They poop in their own nests. Yuck!

"Wanna go ashore and look at penguin colonies today, Jane?" No thanks.

And after coming back to America, I also discovered that the corporatists and oligarchs who now own my country are like penguins too -- pooping where they live, heaping excrement down on the workers who support them. And just how long do the corporatists actually expect this situation to last? Penguins can always migrate elsewhere. Corporatists cannot. Corporatists have pretty much pooped in every nest here in America and have also moved on to poop in every nest in the rest of the world too. And now they have nowhere else to go.

"Wanna go visit Wall Street and K Street and the Cayman Islands and the Federal Reserve Bank today, Jane?" No thanks to that either. Can't stand the smell.

PS: In every single airport that I was stuck in on the way home to Berkeley, I could always count on seeing hundreds of flashy, elegantly-designed, glamorous and fabulous posters and displays and billboards that advertised all kinds of useless consumer stuff that nobody really needed -- so much stuff!

I must have seen over a thousand ads during my five flights toward home.

In every airport I waited (and waited) in, glossy in-your-face hard-sell ads campaigns and marketing blitzes covered almost every square inch of their walls, ceilings, counter-space and aisles. "Buy this! Buy that!" Then you too will be happy.

And the oligarchs and corporatists (and us too) continue to sell and buy all this stuff and to poop in our own nests just like the penguins -- while silent, white, deadly icebergs float closer and closer to New Jersey.

PPS: If you want to donate a pizza to the heroic protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, first click here for more information:!5765822/egyptians-are-buying-pizza-for-wisconsin-protestors. And then click on Ian's Pizza FaceBook page to actually purchase the pizzas:

In America today, our government and our media have been almost completely bought out by corporatists and oligarchs -- and our unions are the only real organized voices we have left that are strong enough to stand up to these creeps. But if we silently stand by and watch our unions go down too, then we will obviously get what we deserve -- a nest filled with corporatists and oligarchs, happily pooping on us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Still in deep trouble here: Heading for Ushauaia

On the Beaufort wind scale, we are now at 9 -- 50 mph winds, huge waves, crockery flying, barf bags everywhere, Dramamine the drug of choice for sure. Generator still out, going 8 knots per hour, 140 nautical miles left to go before we reach the Beagle Channel. What an adventure! Yahoo!

The food onboard is great but who wants to eat it.

Our boat holds 100 passengers, most of whom are in their rooms, praying and turning green. But the crew is amazing, steady as rocks.

This trip has really taught me a lot about myself -- that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And I'm definitely going! To pray to the porcelein god!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Waves in the Drake Passage as high as the ship!

Here's the update I just e-mailed to my daughter Ashley:

The waves here are humongous. Our boat creaks and howls like its very nails are screaming to get out. A wastebasket and a shoe just rolled past my bed. Dramimine is causing nightmares -- I was stalked by an alien truck driver and Ruby served me with a lawsuit in the Willard Junior High School gym. Two more days of this yet to go. We look out the window and see 25-foot waves. Crawled to the bathroom on my hands and knees this morning because I couldn't stand up due to the roll. But somehow it all seems kinda fun.

The captain says that we can still plan to make our flight back on the 23rd -- but who knows for sure.

PS: Things just got a whole lot worse. I'm typing this in the ship's library with books and chairs flying across the room behind me. Two more days of this. Thank goodness for Dramamine. I'm still shaking from looking out the window and seeing nothing but water where the horizon used to be.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Update from Antarctica: Drake Passage, busted generator, gale-force winds....

The boat I'm on is having technical difficulties with its main generator, we're running on an auxiliary shaft generator and heading towards gale-strength weather in the Drake Passage. Are we having fun yet?

Who would have thought that I would be so susceptible to seasickness. Not me. Word of the day? "Drama-mean!"

Our captain says that we will get back to Ushauaia okay, going nine knots an hour in bad weather, and will be there in only two or three days. But still. I HATE being seasick. Seasickness sucks eggs.

PS: Today's scheduled tour of the ancient caldera at Deception Island is off. But that's okay. Penguin poop stinks anyway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Antarctica: The only continent where WAR is illegal

Now that we have officially outlawed war, banned war and made war illegal on the continent of Antarctica, now we only have six more continents to go.

What ever became of all those high-sounding human ideals that we all used brag about -- such as religious morality, Thou shalt not Kill, turning swords into plowshares, Democracy, the stuff that they taught us in kindergarten about sharing and/or "Peace in Our Time"? What ever happened to the freaking United Nations's ideals?

All empty promises, apparently -- except in Antarctica.

If in order to get a little peace in this world, we have to drop the temperatures all over the planet to 10 degrees below zero then, hey, bring it on! Perhaps after the blizzards in New Jersey this year, then Peace may actually be possible, eh?

In any case, I did manage to survive the dread Drake Passage on my way to Antarctica this week -- but just barely. The only sure cure for seasickness I could find was to keep my eyes closed as much as possible -- so I stared at the back of my eyelids for 48 hours and only puked three or four times. And then our ship entered a land of enchantment:

"And now there came both mist and snow; And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast high, came floating by, As green as emerald."

And now my feet are cold as ice cubes, but Antarctica's intense beauty has warmed up my soul.

PS: It turns out that there actually IS limited wi-fi available in Antarctica -- but it's really expensive.

PPS: How about those penguins? They have NO fear of humans, none at all. Plus I took an actual photo of my boot so that I could actually prove that I really did set foot on the seventh continent today. Plus I have approximately 50 penguin witnesses to this event and they will all gladly testify to that fact on my behalf.

PPPS: If there is one thing that I have learned from the Tunisians and the Egyptians and the penguins recently, it's this: If enough of us want peace badly enough, then peace really IS possible.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Military blues: Down & out in Argentina & Egypt

I hate air travel. If you can't sleep on a plane, then you're screwed. But on my flight down to Tierra del Fuego this week, I flew into Buenos Aires -- and learned a lot.

The first thing I learned was that you no longer have to go through those awful body-scanning machines at either SFO or LAX. "We don't have them at this terminal's security checkpoint," a really nice TSA worker told me, "but if you really want to go through one, I think there is one over at some other terminal somewhere." Er, that's okay.

Second, I once again learned that the more tired I get, the less likely I am to be able to get to sleep -- and so after three sleepless nights spent on planes and in airports, I found myself wandering around Buenos Aires like a zombie.

Buenos Aires is called the "Paris of South America". It's a beautiful European-designed city with historical architecture that will knock your eye out. And they just re-opened the famous old Colon opera house after giving it a 100-million-dollar rehab. Built in 1909, it rivals La Scala for both opulence and acoustics. Just seeing it was worth this whole trip. However, I toured it with eyes sagging and looking pretty much like a bum.

Third, I learned more about Argentina’s tragic military take-over in 1976. “After Juan Peron died," I was told, "his third wife – not the wonderful Evita but the one who used to be an exotic dancer – turned the reins of government over to the military. But while the military was good at building its power-base, it was not good at running the economy.”

Not only that but the military was used to fighting wars, and so it did what a military organization does best, and began a military operation against its opposition and started a war on Argentina's citizens -- sort of like a PATRIOT Act gone wild. And the predictable result was a reign of terror and disaster.

Eventually the US-backed Argentine military was forced to step down and then the new government cut back the military's funding drastically, so that it would never be able to meddle in Argentina's politics again.

But even in my sleep-deprived stupor, I was still able to wonder what would happen if the new US-backed Egyptian military regime also made this same mistake – and started to make war on its own citizens too.

“That will never happen,” I was told. “World-wide human rights organizations are too strong now to let a tragedy like that ever happen again. Yeah right. Just like they stopped human-rights abuses, torture and renditions from happening in US-backed present-day Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Israel-Palestine, Mubarak's Egypt and Tunisia -- not to mention former US-backed dictatorships in Iraq and Iran.

PS: I also got to visit the tomb of Evita Peron again yesterday. Back in the 1950s, she and her husband changed the entire face of Argentina by helping to develop a much larger middle class. And another of the major things that they did was to make all public universities in Argentina free for anyone who wanted to attend.

Unlike in America today, there is no war on students in Argentina.

PPS: I just learned that there is going to be no internet access when I get to Antarctica! What am I going to DO for two weeks! I'll get withdrawal symptoms! I'll start having nightmares about freelance unpaid penguins blogging for the Huffington Post!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

America's 17.5-trillion-dollar loss: Time to move Tahrir Square to Wall Street?

I'm really really glad to be leaving for Antarctica in a few days -- because America's undemocratic financial system is really really starting to piss me off. Here in land of the (once-upon-a-time) free and the home of the (
used-to-be) brave, America's elite financiers are making all the rules and raking in all the profits -- while the rest of us just shut up and pay. And pay and pay and pay.

Maybe if I spend some time down with the penguins, I'll be able to cool off.

In a recent article entitled, "Another Crash is Certain," economist Mike Whitney quotes
Nomi Prins, author of "Shadow Banking". According to Prins, "at the height of federal payouts in July 2009, the government had put up $17.5 trillion to support Wall Street's pyramid Ponzi system."

Is Prins saying that American taxpayers could possibly lose $17.5 trillion dollars to a Wall Street Ponzi scheme? Yeah, duh. You'd better bring on the penguins. Boy am I pissed.

And over in Egypt these days, people are pretty much going nuts in Tahrir Square because Hosni Mubarak had pocketed approximately $70 billion dollars from the money his country has received from American taxpayers. Just 70 billion? That's not very much -- not when you consider that we taxpayers here at home have just gotten hornswaggled into putting up 17.5 trillion dollars to cover Wall Street's latest pyramid shell game. Yet people in Egypt are royally pissed off by this blatant corruption -- while most of us Americans are just sitting around on our hands.

Where's the outrage here in America? Where are OUR protests! Where is OUR Tahrir Square!

I would love to see every single patriot in America -- right-wing or left-wing or both -- drop everything he or she is doing right now, run down to the Safeway, 7-Eleven or Piggly Wiggly, stock up on snack food and then surround Wall Street, K Street and the Federal Reserve Board (located at the Eccles Building on Constitution Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets, NW, BTW) and stay there for as long as it takes to get America's elite financial mountebanks to leave.

I'd love to see millions of us flooding these plazas, eating picnic sandwiches, taking turns using the bathrooms -- and demanding justice and OUR money back.

But if I were to actually propose such an obviously patriotic action, would I get in trouble with the FBI for trying to incite a riot? Get my phone tapped? Get put on a no-fly list? Be ridiculed by the mainstream media? Be called a kook?

I would love to propose that it's time for every red-blooded American patriot who is finally fed up with having his or her paycheck robbed by the Robber Barons month after month -- that we all go surround the American Stock Exchange, the Eccles Building and the corner of 14th and K Street, just like the Egyptians did in Tahrir Square.

And I would also propose that we stay in place and don't move until the American Stock Exchange, all corporate lobbyists and the Federal Reserve Board are completely shut down -- eliminated, kaput, put out of "business" forever.

But if I did that, would I be called a terrorist? Or, worse, would I be called a Socialist? Get my home also raided? Be put in jail? Become a pariah? Get audited by the IRS? Lose my Social Security card? Not be allowed to embed in Iraq or Afghanistan ever again? Waterboarded? Be dismissed as some weirdo with bad hair?

If American businesses need capital to keep themselves going, they can always borrow money from a bank or a credit union. Businesses don't need no freaking stock market in order to save their bacon. Wall Street alone needs the stock market. Only Wall Street itself needs it. Businesses don't need it. And We-the-People surely do not. Wall Street is nothing more than a casino -- and with all its bets hedged in favor of the house.

And don't even get me started on the Federal Reserve -- it's nothing more than a whitewashed gentrified glorified counterfeiting operation. I know that. You know that. So let's shut it down. Give us our money back!

And as for K Street? I just threw in that suggestion because the lobbyists there have pissed me off even beyond anything that sweet cute cuddly penguins can do to help. K Street owns our government lock, stock and barrel. Freaking welfare recipients. Get a real job!

But I really should just keep my mouth shut about this. And so should you. Apparently the elite financial establishment of America has us all by the balls.

However. If a few million American patriots take turns surrounding each of these three locations every single day for as long as it takes, Americans might actually start to see some REAL reform for a change, not just the whining platitudes now being paid lip service by the stooges of rich guys -- but you didn't hear all this from me. I'll be off visiting penguins.

PS: America, however, ain't Egypt in one more respect. Egyptians finally grew a pair, sure, but Egyptians also aren't having to deal with the worst blizzard of the century either. Perhaps we should wait until the spring thaw before staging our own Tahrir Square.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Birthday cake blues: "Back before there was cancer..."

I just read an interesting article about some scientists in white coats who investigated ancient Egyptian mummies and discovered that almost none of them had suffered from cancer. That's amazing. According to Ben Wedeman of CNN, cancer appears to be a relatively new phenomenon.

"Just imagine: a world without cancer. It's a tantalizing thought, recently floated by researchers at Manchester University in the UK. That world may well have existed, but in the distant past, according to their survey of hundreds of mummies from Egypt and South America. The researchers found that only one mummy had clearly identifiable signs of cancer."

Back in the day, apparently, almost nobody had cancer.

What possible cancer-causing factors do we modern humans now possess that weren't available to ancient Egyptian mummies way back then -- besides, of course, Hosni Mubarak? Hmmm. We now have the internal combustion engine, plastic, Monsanto, nuclear fallout, TSA scanners and...sugar!

Did ancient Egyptian mummies ever eat sugar? I think not. But do modern-day Americans eat sugar now? Heck yeah. The average American today eats approximately 150 pounds of sugar a year. Maybe that's why so many of us (including myself) have developed so many different forms of cancer? Perhaps I should do some further investigation here.

So in the interests of science, I trundled off to a lecture about sugar presented by Oakland's Women's Cancer Resource Center and nutrition expert Sandy Der -- and the nutritionist told us more stuff about sugar than I could ever have imagined. "Did you know that sugar is more addictive than cocaine? Sugar is as addictive as opiates." I didn't know that!

"How many people in this room are addicted to sugar?" Der asked. Almost all of us raised our hands, including me. "After lab rats had been given cocaine until they became addicted, they were then introduced to sugar." No contest there. Within just three days, the rats were no longer interested in cocaine and were off main-lining sugar.

And I bet that if you try that experiment on any little kid too (not the cocaine part, just the sugar), they too will become addicted to sugar within three short days. That's just pathetic. Only nine months old and already all-too-many American kids have already developed a jones.

And me too!

I too have become addicted to sugar. Obviously, birthday cake is the perfect food! And how about taking a break so I can run off to Fenton's for a hot caramel sundae? And don't you just LOVE eclairs? I've even done research on eclairs! Yeah I'm an addict.

"So let's navigate our way through Candy Land here," continued the lecturer. "Our cells get their energy from glucose -- but too little glucose or too much glucose can be harmful. There is a safety zone of blood-sugar levels that your body works best within." And if your blood-sugar levels are outside of that zone, there's going to be trouble.

"Perhaps even cancer?" I asked.

I would not infer that sugar causes any disease in particular," answered the nutritionist, "although it may increase risk. For instance, sugar does not cause cancer." Okay -- but I still want my Mummy!

However, according to Der, eating too much sugar can cause lows and spikes in blood-sugar levels, sending your body on a wild roller-coaster ride that could result in hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, LDL problems, loss of vision, Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, cardiovascular disease and who knows what all else. So when you stray away from the mid-range of blood-sugar levels, you could be setting yourself up for nasty stuff to happen.

"What about if we just use artificial sweeteners instead?" someone in the audience asked hopefully.

"Artificial sweeteners aren't food. They are just chemicals," Der replied. Oh. So I might as well just be eating Rogaine or Drano?

Then the nutritionist gave us some suggestions on how to become unaddicted. Go cold turkey? Visit some posh rehab center? Join Narcotics Anonymous? Just Say No? Der's suggestions were more practical and convenient.

"To start with, avoid processed foods -- because they may contain a lot of hidden sugars. But if you do eat processed foods, read the labels first in order to a
void sugars often hidden in items like salad dressing, cereals and peanut butters. Chose whole foods instead. Nature itself offers us foods that don't have a lot of sugars. Try to eat within a healthy blood-sugar range. And another advantage of eating whole foods is that you will not longer have to read labels." There are no labels on grapes and squash. "But if your food does come with a label, don't be fooled by its use of big words. If an ingredient's name ends with 'ose,' that means it is a form of sugar."

Der then stated that eating complex carbohydrates such as fruit and whole grains is better than eating straight sugars because while there are also sugars present in complex carbohydrates, it takes the body longer to break these sugars down -- due to the presence of fiber -- and for this reason, complex carbs provide a much steadier blood-sugar source.

"I would suggest limiting carbohydrates, bu if you are going to eat them, they should be of the complex variety that usually contains fiber -- which slows the conversion into glucose." Der herself is a great fan of vegetables. "Try to eat five to seven servings a day." Did mummies do that? I guess they did.

"And while protein and fats do not contain sugar per se, they are, however, an excellent energy source."
And you can get the highest quality energy from proteins contained in grass-fed animals and from healthy fats such as olive oil -- thus accessing more energy but without getting stuck with all those weird hormones, pesticides and toxins that Egyptian mummies knew nothing about.

"The key to healthier eating is in your complex carbs. You want to generate a slow release of glucose into your blood," continued Der. This will apparently help keep you from falling prey to sugar addiction. "In the beginning," while trying to kick the sugar habit, "it might be good to eat mostly frequent small meals and snacks consisting of protein, fats and complex carbohydrates." The great advantage to this strategy is that you will never have to wait a long time until your next meal!

"But you will always be tempted to fall back into your sugar addiction, so you need to develop a plan regarding how to regulate your blood-sugar."

I don't suppose that me running out to buy a half-gallon of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch right now is the kind of plan that Der is talking about. Probably not. Although she did note that eating ice cream is better than eating frozen yogurt because
the fat in the ice cream slows the conversion of sugar to glucose.

"Also, in order to kick the sugar habit you need to exercise, reduce stress, get seven to nine hours of sleep a night and drink lots of good clean water." And apparently if you can just wait out your sugar-craving for just fifteen minutes, it will go away all by itself. Yeah right.

"And if you feel yourself falling into the roller-coaster dips of low blood-sugar, you might want to eat a healthy snack to bring your blood-sugar back up. But never eat anything in excess. And also remember that eating white flour, refined carbs and highly-processed grain is practically the same as eating sugar.
Eat real food. Like our ancestors did."

Yeah but it was easier for them. They were mummies.

PS: Although I tend to be satirical, flippant and facetious on the subject of sugar, in fact even I realize how important it is to curb my sugar jones. Addiction to sugar may not kill you as fast as getting hit by a speeding 18-wheeler, but too much of it may kill you just the same. And the crucial importance of Der's lecture on sugar is inestimable to me. I'm gonna start eating complex carbs, taking smaller, more frequent whole-food meals, and stop being a sugar junkie right now!

"Sure you will," commented my daughter.

PPS: For more information on nutrition and health, please visit Der's website at She is also available for individual nutritional consultations.

PPPS: I'm leaving for Antarctica on February 9, 2011 and from what I have heard regarding the horrors of seasickness caused by crossing the Drake Passage, I won't be wanting to eat ANYTHING for a while. Here's a video of the boat I'll be going on as it got rescued last December after giant waves broke all the windows on its bridge, destroyed all its communication equipment and slowed its engine down a whole lot:

But if I do get washed overboard or something while navigating the "roughest stretch of water in the world" and don't return home alive, then I won't have to worry about being addicted to sugar any more either. "They ain't got no Snickers bars down in Davy Jones' locker."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Non-violent protests in Egypt: BRING IN THE WOMEN!

Hosni Mubarak is once again acting like the slimeball that he truly is -- shamelessly employing his mafia thugs against peaceful protesters. Even as we speak, that creep is using paid thugs on camels and horses to cut a bloody swath through the non-violent demonstrators in Tahrir Square. Mubarak is still a monster. Nothing has changed.

And faced with all this new slimy outrageousness, what should Egypt's non-violent protesters do now? Should they fight back? Absolutely not. Would Gandhi have done that? No way! He would have done something else -- but what?

These protesters need to bring in their secret weapon, their Second Line Club, their last-ditch Hail Mary play. They need to BRING IN THE WOMEN!

If Mubarak's scum-patrol also attacks non-violent women who are standing up for Democracy (they've already attacked poor sweet Anderson Cooper), then Mubarak will be truly exposed (once again) for the pond-scum lowlife that he really is.

Women hold up half the sky on this planet -- and also in Egypt. And I'm sure that if Mubarak's mother were around to see what her misbehaving son is up to right now, she would give him a rigorous timeout and send him off to bed without any supper. And then she too would go out and join the non-violent protesters in Tahrir Square. Go mom!

PS: The women of Egypt -- and the world too! -- all need to unite against violence. Lighten up, guys. As soon as the guns come out, all the fun goes away.