alternative press serving the lower columbia pacific region


GODZILLA Invades Oregon!

What a great plot for a B movie! Here comes Godzilla – that irradiated lizard that terrified Japanese crowds in the great movies and TV series starting in the 1950s – floating on a fishing dock headed straight for Agate Beach. Scientists, the military, and concerned citizens battle the great beast, and seem to kill it. But lurking in the water are more Japanese monsters, ready to threaten our way of life, and life itself here in peaceful Oregon. Anyone coming in contact with flotsam with Japanese letters on it should immediately contact the authorities, and get the heck out of there, before they are attacked, and made to carry a terrible disease into the cities of our peaceful land.

Far-fetched, you say. But wait, something like this scenario is actually happening. Here’s the June 11 headline from DOGOnews, a news website for kids: Japan’s Tsunami Debris Drags ‘Alien’ Creatures To Oregon. And here’s part of the article (by Meera Dolasia):

When the powerful tsunami that devastated portions of Japan on March 11th, 2011 receded, it carried with it all kinds of debris – ranging from over 200,000 buildings complete with belongings, to countless cars. Among the biggest were four dock floats – the size of freight train boxcars, that were ripped off intact from the fishing port of Misawa.

One the barges was recovered shortly after off a nearby island. However, the other three were not seen until this week, when one suddenly washed ashore on the white sands of Oregon’s Agate Beach. Not only had the 165-ton concrete and steel dock made an astonishing 5,000-mile journey across the world, but it had also carried with it a diverse community of organisms ranging from algae to mussels, crabs and even starfish.

The problem with the arrival of these unexpected visitors is that they are all native to Japan. If allowed to live, they could threaten the local species and even topple the existing ecosystem irreversibly. In order to prevent the aliens from taking over, the scientists had to scrape the dock clean, sterilize it with torches and even bury the one and half tons of material that was clinging to it, above a high-water line.

While that averted this particular threat, others may not be as easy to get rid of. Wakame, a species of seaweed that was previously found only in Japan, has now been spotted in Southern California, as has a new species of algae. In addition to that, a never-been-seen-before tiny species of crab is making rapid inroads around New York, whilst a new kind of starfish has been spotted all along the US coast. What other surprises will the after-effects of the Japanese tsunami bring? Only time will tell!

See, the italicized sentence above tells kids to kill the invader! Left alive, it could kill everyone! Told you it’s not so far fetched…

Still don’t believe me? Well, here’s the first couple paragraphs from an article published on KOIN6’s website on June 15:

Local, state and federal officials met Friday in Cannon Beach to discuss plans for coordinating cleanup efforts regarding Japan tsunami debris that has washed up on Oregon’s beaches and coastal waters.

“The dock that washed up near Newport is a real wakeup call,” said U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who led the work session. “We expect more and we don’t know what’s coming.”

See? More is coming. Told ya.

Of all sources, The Huffington Post (Jonathan Cooper) reports on June 28:

Find a boxcar-sized dock on the beach, or a soccer ball with Japanese symbols? The state of Oregon wants to hear from you. Just dial 211.

Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the hotline at a news conference Thursday, saying it’s an easy way for residents and visitors to report Japanese tsunami debris. Beginning Friday, the hotline will be staffed during business hours and will take recorded messages at other times.

“I just want to make sure that Oregonians understand that we are on top of this,” Kitzhaber said.

The hotline will allow the public to help keep Oregon’s beaches clean and return any missing Japanese property to its rightful owners, the governor said.

He also said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard and interim director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, will be responsible for coordinating the response and cleanup efforts among state agencies.

“It’s important to quickly collect and throw away tsunami debris to keep beaches clean and prevent the introduction of invasive species,” Caldwell said. Officials are asking that people not take home debris to keep as souvenirs, but they say there’s little chance of the debris being harmful to human health.

They always say that when there’s real danger. We’re dust. So, if you spot any sign of Godzilla, get out your cell phone and dial 211, and get the hell out of there, before the invading monster destroys you and everything else in this great country. Don’t worry – our military will protect you.

“Oh no! I think it’s still alive, sir!”

Or not.

Lively Livers

fatty-liver-painSpring is that time of the year when life is rejuvenating, Chinese medicine recognizes this as the season of the liver, and the vibrant greens of Spring remind us of good health…seems like an excellent time to review the strength and well-being of our livers. Ever experienced constipation, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, intolerance to fatty foods, alcohol, or caffeine? These may all be signs of sub-optimal liver function. If you’ve never thought of your liver, well then today’s the day!

The liver is a large organ located on the right side of the abdominal cavity; it resides under the ribcage just below the lungs and diaphragm. It has an enormous assortment of functions. It detoxifies, meaning it clears out unwanted materials in the blood. These materials are either made in the body (hormones, metabolic waste products, dead cells, etc.) or environmental/exogenous chemicals (pharmaceutical drugs, cleaning products, smoke, pesticides, etc.). It helps manage metabolism by creating and storing energy sources, namely glycogen, which can then be converted to blood glucose. The liver makes and manages blood cholesterol which helps the body to repair damage within the vasculature. It assists in digestion by creating bile, which emulsifies fat for its absorption into the blood. And this is only the big picture, this organ is the home of over 200 chemical reactions, which help our bodies survive and thrive in this world.

So what things adversely affect liver function? There are some common diseases which contribute to liver disease namely hepatitis, alcoholism, and kidney disease. There are many chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, and pharmaceutical drugs, which can be toxic to the liver when exposed in large quantities. There are lifestyle choices including the obvious of drug and alcohol abuse as well as poor dietary choices which can overburden the liver making for some types of liver disease. Other assailants to liver function may include sluggish digestion, poor nutrition, food intolerances, and infections. Your health care provider should be useful in ruling out the obvious causes with a thorough history, physical exam and simple blood tests.

What are some of the symptoms to watch for which may indicate liver dysfunction? Digestive troubles including constipation, excessive burping, or nausea may be noticed. The gallbladder which holds the bile can become inflamed or gallstones may form. Gallbladder conditions are often exacerbated by fatty foods causing right sided pain or nausea. For those who have poor tolerance to alcohol or caffeine or chocolate this may be a sign of sluggish detoxification. When the liver is not working up to speed there can be a backup of blood in the venous system causing varicose veins or hemorrhoids. Finally the most concerning signs of a more advanced liver condition would be jaundiced (yellowing) skin, pale stools or brown urine, these folks should seek medical care as soon as possible!

All livers can benefit from improved nutrition. Increasing fresh foods in the diet is an excellent source of nutrients to assist the liver in its many functions. Be inspired by the rejuvenating springtime to try a mini-cleansing diet. This is a diet of only fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, try it for a week and see if you experience any changes. Others may gravitate to the idea of fresh juicing, there are a variety of fruits and vegetables which can make delicious juices giving the liver some much appreciated nutrition and the digestion a little break. Some stimulating liver foods include lemons, beets, beet greens, radishes, leafy greens, grapefruit, artichoke, asparagus, and of course liver itself especially if it is from a reputable clean living animal. Water! This liquid of life is essential to many important enzymatic reactions in the liver. Water can help to dilute chemicals and assist the liver to detoxify. Try consuming half your body weight in ounces daily for a week (math: if you weigh 150 lbs drink 75 oz water daily) and see what a well hydrated liver can do for you.

There are a plethora of supplements that can be useful to the liver. Vitamin C and Antioxidant blends are helpers in the fight against free radicals and promote quality detoxification assistance. Other helpful detoxifiers are Alpha Lipoic Acid and Glutathione. When these nutrients are rich in the body they are doing work that helps take the load off the liver. A fiber supplement will assist with proper elimination. When the body is not eliminating daily the liver is further stressed with recirculated toxins from the bowels. Therefore adequate fiber will assure proper binding of toxins as they are eliminated from the liver and help reduce potential reabsorption. A fiber supplement should always be consumed with a large (greater than 8 oz) glass of water, so as not to create constipation.

Almost all herbs work on the liver in some form or another, since the liver is the organ that metabolizes many of them. There are, however, some shinning stars. Milk Thistle is the first. This herb has been shown to protect the liver from hepatitis and cirrhosis, which inflame and destroy liver tissue. Dandelion and Burdock roots, both common edible herbs, promote proper liver function. They stimulate the production of bile, which is the end product of liver metabolism. Nettles, a common local plant, is a gentle liver stimulant which is quite useful in the area of food intolerances and seasonal allergies. Of course the golden glow of Turmeric cannot be overlooked as both a terrific antioxidant and amazing anti-inflammatory. And finally Green Tea can be added for its powerful antioxidant effect as well. All of these herbs are safe and gentle, but as always if you have questions or concerns seek the guidance of a trained professional.

The liver is an organ to embrace; care for it and it will care for you. So please take some time this spring to enliven your liver!

DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body EVERYDAY!!

The Transformation of Women

As humanity moves closer to the fifth dimension and gains new insight daily to a higher state of consciousness, women are shifting with strong tides and an inner force that compares to flares seen billowing off Venus.

Women are feeling the energy of transformation in all aspects of their world.  Many women are reminded of the events from centuries past as they encounter similar issues today and it echoes through their cells.   There is the rebirth of the female warrior that takes a stand as she has throughout history, only this time it is for the sake of the world.

Their call to regain the balance between the male and female aspects includes the light and dark, good and bad which brings the duality to the forefront and women in the lead.

They are leading at this time because men are moving into their hearts and working through the integration of power into love.  The vibration of women moves them forward into a place of spiritual understanding that is supported from the heart center and opens up the power center.  Men on the other hand are moving from the power center into the heart and their vibration is that of a spiritual quest.

When reviewing history we are reminded of the abused power in both the matriarch and patriarchal societies.  This is why stepping into leadership women must remember the key is to become warriors of the light.  Their connection to giving birth lends to a vibration the Earth emits that females are receptive to.  As the receivers of this Earth energy it is critical that the evolution of the feminine principle has balance within that takes the aggressive warrior and battle to the environment and all things that give us life here on Earth.

That she upholds her spiritual development and chooses to help men move into their heart realm to create balance within the duality.  By doing so women gain the opportunity to acknowledge their understanding of lessons from the past, stepping into this new vibration with a fully conscious mind.

The duality has had the human species experiencing both sides of the pendulum as it swings full range throughout time and history.  Women have ruled as well as men and we are moving now into a frequency that allows us to be in balance.  Women hold the keys to the future for it is the feminine principle that will lead us to a higher vibration, a deeper understanding of the delicate balance in nature and the preservation of all life here on Earth.

Don’t Let the Bright Sky Fool You!


There comes a time in spring when dazzling dry days lure unsuspecting cyclists into ditching the rain gear. Inevitably you get a mile down the road and that innocuous puffy cloud has developed a menacing gray underbelly. A patch of blue sky remains enticingly ahead of you while the cloud bestows its blessings. That’s when you regret your impulse to forego clammy rain pants in favor of what are now waterlogged jeans.

Our coastal weather is rapidly changeable; what starts out as a clear day may transform to a full-blown storm by afternoon. The sight of Tillamook Head collecting clouds, which I glimpse from my office window, warns me to suit up for sideways rain.

As the weather warms, rain gear can become intolerably warm and you end up getting wet from inside the clothing rather than from nature’s gifts on the outside. This mini greenhouse effect can convince you to leave the waterproof stuff behind. I’d advise you to carry rain gear in your basket or bag just so you can slip it on in case the sky opens and sends you for an unexpected swim.

Water-resistant garments each fall somewhere along an imperviousness-breathability scale: maximally breathable garments are the least protective against the R Word and the most armorlike garments can become your own personal sauna. I like testing water-resistant gear on a warm but damp day, when I’m most likely to perspire beneath them and I’m not going to get critically chilly if they’re more breathable than warm. Features like pit zips (zippers that go from the chest to the forearm on jackets, allowing for ventilation in a spot that’s hard for water to reach) can assist you in striking the balance between waterproof and breathable.

Some vapor barriers require periodic re-application. Observe whether water beads on the surface and rolls off or gets absorbed into the garment (that’s time to use a spray-on or wash-in product to restore the vapor barrier). Others are part of the material and wear out over time. Some garments have taped seams. The tape wears out after a while and needs to be replaced. If you see it fraying and separating from the material, then your seams could experience a hull breach from rain, if not Romulans.

Well-made rain gear can be expensive, but I wouldn’t skimp by purchasing those heavy rubber pants or a jacket that’s basically a glorified garbage bag with holes for your head and arms. Cheap rain gear is less durable, its waterproofing degrades quickly or is insufficient, and it’s rarely breathable, leaving you just as damp as you’d be if you didn’t have any weather protection at all. You also have to hear it flap as you ride along.

Besides the obligatory jacket and rain pants, you can also accessorize with booties that zip over your shoes, gloves, and helmet liners. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to spend $50 on those rain booties, but a daily dose of foot-prunes is getting old.

The ultimate in rain protection comes with full fairings: a custom process where the bike is enclosed all around, like a small pedal-powered car. You’ll see this most often in specialized races of human-powered vehicles. It’s out of my price range, but sometimes I dream of stepping, dry and crisp, out of my bike/space capsule, wowing all those poor dripping folks who share the river-like road with me.


ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Let’s waltz the rumba,” said jazz musician Fats Waller, suggesting the seemingly impossible mix of two very different types of dancing. That’s an excellent clue for you to follow up on, Aries. I suspect that in the coming weeks you will have an unusual aptitude for hybridization. You could do folk dancing and hip-hop moves simultaneously. It will make sense for you to do the cha-cha as you disco and vice versa. You’ll have a knack for bringing the spirit of belly dance into the tango, and for breakdancing while you do the hokey-pokey.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Have you been feeling a warm fuzzy feeling in your money chakra? I hope so. The cosmos recently authorized you to receive a fresh flow of what we might call financial kundalini. Your insight into money matters should be increasing, as well as your ability to attract the information and influences you need to refine your relationship with prosperity. It may even be the case that higher levels of economic luck are operating in your vicinity. I’m not saying you will strike it rich, but you could definitely strike it richer.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Your core meditation is Oscar Wilde’s belief that disobedience is a primal virtue. Be ingeniously, pragmatically, and cheerfully disobedient, Gemini! Harness your disobedience so that it generates outbreaks of creative transformation that improve your life. For inspiration, read this passage by Robert Anton Wilson: “Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and progress, everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of someone’s refusal to bow to Authority. We would be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent.”

CANCER (June 21-July 22): “Some people tell me I’d invented the sounds they called soul,” said musician Ray Charles, “but I can’t take any credit. Soul is just the way black folk sing when they leave themselves alone.” I urge you to experiment with this idea, Cancerian. In my astrological opinion, you need to whip up a fresh, hot delivery of raw soul. One of the best ways to do that might be to leave yourself alone. In other words, don’t badger yourself. Don’t pick your scabs and second-guess your enthusiasms and argue yourself into a knot. Create a nice big space for your original self to play in.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “Where’s the most convenient place to discover a new species?” asks The Second Book of General Ignorance. What do you think the answer is, Leo? The Amazon Rainforest? The high mountainous forests of New Guinea? Northwest Siberia? None of the above. In fact, your best chance of finding a previously unidentified life form is in your own garden. There are hundreds of thousands of species that science still has no knowledge of, and quite a few of them are near you. A similar principle currently holds true for your life in general. It will be close to home that you are most likely to connect with fascinating exotica, unknown influences, and far-out adventures.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Now and then my readers try to bribe me. “I’ll give you $1,000,” said a recent email from a Virgo woman, “if you will write a sequence of horoscopes that predict I’ll get the dream job I’m aiming for, which will in turn make me so attractive to the guy I’m pursuing that he will beg to worship me.” My first impulse was to reply, “That’s all you’re willing to pay for a prophecy of two events that will supercharge your happiness and change your life?” But in the end, as always, I flatly turned her down. The truth is, I report on the music of the heavenly spheres, but I don’t write the music myself. Still, I sort of admire this woman’s feisty resolve to manipulate the fates, and I urge you to borrow some of her ferocity in the coming weeks.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes in front of the sun and blocks much of its light from reaching our eyes. On a personal level, the metaphorical equivalent is when something obstructs our ability to see what nourishes us. For example, let’s say you’re in the habit of enviously comparing your own situation to that of a person you imagine is better off than you. This may blind you to some of your actual blessings, and diminish your ability to take full advantage of your own talents. I bring this up, Libra, because you’re in an especially favorable time to detect any way you might be under the spell of an eclipse — and then take dramatic steps to get out from under it.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Some secrets will dribble out. Other secrets will spill forth. Still others may shoot out and explode like fireworks. You won’t be bored by the upcoming revelations, Scorpio. People’s camouflage may be exposed, hidden agendas could be revealed, and not-quite-innocent deceits might be uncovered. So that’s the weird news. Here’s the good news: If you maintain a high level of integrity and treat the brouhaha as good entertainment, you’re likely to capitalize on the uproar. And that’s your specialty, right?

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): If you go to a psychotherapist, she may coax you to tell stories about what went wrong in your childhood. Seek a chiropractor’s opinion and he might inform you that most of your problems have to do with your spine. Consult a psychic and chances are she will tell you that you messed up in your past lives and need a karmic cleansing. And if you ask me about what you most need to know, I might slip you some advice about how to access your untapped reserves of beauty and intelligence. Here’s the moral of the story, Sagittarius: Be discerning as you ask for feedback and mirroring. The information you receive will always be skewed.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The state of Kansas has a law that seems more confusing than helpful. It says the following: “When two trains approach each other at a crossing, both shall come to a full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone.” From what I can tell, Capricorn, a similar situation has cropped up in your life. Two parties are in a stalemate, each waiting for the other to make the first move. At this rate, nothing will ever happen. May I suggest that you take the initiative?

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Should you get down on your knees and beg for love and recognition? No! Should you give yourself away without seeking much in return? Don’t do that, either. Should you try to please everyone in an attempt to be popular? Definitely not. Should you dilute your truth so as not to cause a ruckus? I hope not. So then what am I suggesting you should do? Ask the following question about every possibility that comes before you: “Will this help me to master myself, deepen my commitment to what I want most, and gain more freedom?”

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Do you know why flamingos have their distinctive orange-pink color? It’s because of the carotene in the shrimp and other food they consume. If they change their diet, their feathers turn dull grey. That’s a dramatic example of the adage, “You are what you eat.” Let’s use it as a prompt to contemplate all the stuff you take into the holy temple of your body, Pisces. Not just the sandwiches and chocolate bars and alcohol, but also the images, sounds, ideas, emotions, and energy you get from other people. Is the cumulative effect of all those things giving you the shape and color and texture you want to have? If not, this would be a good time to adjust your intake.

Homework: I invite you to go to my Facebook page and tell me what you like or don’t like about my horoscopes:

An Inconvenient Species


Urosalpinx cinerea shells collected on San Francisco Bay shores, showing different amounts of wear and bleaching. Photo by Andrew N. Cohen.

If you’re a shellfish grower in Willapa Bay, the Willapa Bay Oyster Reserve Advisory Board needs you! According to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) press release from late May, the advisory board was “established by the state legislature in 2001, and advises the department on issues related to oyster reserve management, growing operations, and research in Willapa Bay.” Be sure to get your applications in by June 15. For more info, call Bruce Kauffman of WDFW at (360) 665-4166.

So what would you be doing on this prodigious board, you might ask. Well, recently the board decided to hire Dr. Steve Sylvester from Washington State University in Vancouver to find a way to eradicate oyster drills – snails that drill their way into the shells of oysters and other shellfish and eat them. Two kinds of oyster drill exist in Willapa Bay: the Atlantic (Urosalpinx cinerea) and Japanese (Ocinebrellus inornatus). Both species were inadvertently introduced along with imported oysters, brought into the state to replace the over-harvested native Olympia oyster. And both are examples of aquatic nuisance species.

According to the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force website, ANS are “non-indigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of infested waters, or any commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters. ANS include non-indigenous species that may occur within inland, estuarine or marine waters and that presently or potentially threaten ecological processes and natural resources. In addition to the severe and permanent damage to the habitats they invade, ANS also adversely affect individuals by hindering economic development, preventing recreational and commercial activities, decreasing the aesthetic value of nature, and serving as vectors of human disease.”

Our little snails meet the ANS definition, since they weren’t around here a couple hundred years ago, and they threaten the local oyster aquaculture industry. Sylvester claims that the oyster drill snails are “costing oystermen millions of dollars in Washington State.”

The ANS Task Force is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species, and implementing the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990. NANPCA was set up mainly to combat the spread of the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes region, but also mentions several other ANS in its Congressional findings section that “are likely to spread quickly to most other waters in North America if action is not taken promptly to control their spread”, including mitten crab, green crab, brown mussel, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, water hyacinth, and water chestnut.

Green no more. Satellite photo courtesy of Google Maps.

NANPCA was amended in 2000, after passage of the National Invasive Species Act (NISA) in 1996. It mandates the preparation of state ANS management plans, and both Oregon and Washington have them. They mainly deal with education campaigns to prevent boaters and shipping operators from bringing ANS to our coastal and inland waters. But along with NISA, NANPCA has brought resources into the Pacific Northwest to continue our battle with other species of life that are very inconvenient to local industry, agriculture, aquaculture and many of the rest of us real working people who depend on the environment to live.

Now, if you want to see the ravages of a real invasion, check out the land behind Les Schwab adjacent to Highway 101 in Warrenton. Employing giant tree-eating machines, the premier invasive species on Earth has managed to wipe out a native ecosystem in a matter of days. From the ashes of an ancient coastal woodland wetland comes…

…a dry, flattened, graveled property, “ready for sale”. And we’re worried about a tiny snail? Don’t forget to get those applications in!

Libertarianism, the Dictatorship of Wealth

Today’s libertarian movement, markedly characterized by Tea Party Republicans, stems from an anti-government revolt that exalts private property over any concept of the public good, as pursued by the people’s representatives in government. It is hostile to any government regulation of the use of private property in the public interest, as, for example, in protecting the environment which we all share. English common law, which American colonizers brought with them, posits a commonwealth or public sphere of interest that must be maintained, protected and enhanced by government. Having arisen from traditional ideals of the good of the whole, this is the truly conservative concept. In that important sense, modern libertarians are not conservatives at all, but free market anarchists. All the original colonial governments in British North America held to a concept of the common or public good and legislated to protect it. In Massachusetts, for example, this meant laws regulating the market by protecting the public from profiteering, or gouging customers on a necessary commodity.

But in contemporary radical libertarian parlance, private property, however it is held, and not the public good, is sacrosanct, and any governmental regulation of the use of property to preserve the public well being, is anathematized. For libertarians, government does not consist of duly elected people’s representatives making laws, through negotiation and compromise, to “promote”, as the Constitution puts it, “the general welfare.” For them, it exists to protect private property, which translates into giving it total license, as in the deregulation of banking, which led to unbridled speculation, crash and ensuing depression.

Earlier participants in modern libertarian pseudo-conservatism backed Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. Unlike the mainstream moderates who dominated the Republican Party during the Eisenhower era, Goldwater boldly repudiated New Deal measures to ensure the common good by protection from poverty, as in the Social Security Act. He went on to oppose legislation coming out of the African American Civil Rights Movement, such as the 1964 Civil Rights, or Public Accommodations Act. This law prevented establishments that serve the public, such as hotels and restaurants, from practicing racial discrimination. Goldwater’s fellow Arizonan, “conservative” activist William Rehnquist, who would later gain tremendous power as chief justice of the Supreme Court, campaigned against passage of that act. His and Goldwater’s opposition to such civil rights legislation was based on their belief that property owners have an absolute right to do whatever they want with their property. And if that means excluding blacks or anyone else, for that matter, from one’s place of business, so be it.

In libertarianism, the bedrock rights are individual property rights, and a property owner has the right to dispose of property in any way he or she deems fit, or profitable. No social obligation exists. This was the sentiment that underlay the Jim Crow system that marginalized African Americans and other groups, while in effect making propertied white males America’s overlords. The unfinished succession of rights movements, based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability have sought and gained new federal protections bringing groups historically facing discrimination into the mainstream. These movements have strong parallels with the modern labor movement, wherein impoverished workers gained the right to collectively bargain with their employers for living wages and benefits. They first gained these rights in the National Labor Relations Act, passed during the New Deal.

The equal opportunity New Deal liberalism came to stand for in the thirties was soon challenged by the Liberty League funded by the DuPont’s, America’s wealthiest family. Their espousal of property rights over human rights led to the corporate funded libertarianism of today. Don’t kid yourself. Libertarianism has nothing to do with the traditional American promise of equal opportunity and everything to do with dictatorship of wealth. That is what the Citizens United case means in giving money control of our elections. Americans are awakening to the fact that libertarian “free market” anarchy gives domination to the one per cent and subjugation to the ninety-nine. That is what the Occupy movement is about.

A Curse of Furze

Question: What’s just like Scotch broom but thorny, and is public enemy #1 of conservationists on the Oregon Coast?

Answer: Common gorse, whin, Irish furze, Irish hedge or Ulex europaeus.

Gorse is on the New invaders in the North Coast Cooperative Weed Management Area list which means it’s coming here, and is trying to establish itself along the coast in southern Washington as well. It’s widespread in the southern Oregon coastal counties, up to Lincoln County. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) designates gorse as a class B (“a weed of economic importance which is regionally abundant, but which may have limited distribution in some counties”) and T (“a priority noxious weed designated by the Oregon State Weed Board as a target for which the ODA will develop and implement a statewide management plan”) noxious weed. Part of the statewide plan for gorse involves the development of biocontrol agents similar to those for Scotch broom (see the June 2011 Weed Wars column).

Oregon State Parks runs a blog called Oregon Coast Gorse Control and Eradication (, where the current top post is a video showing a hummingbird nest in gorse! The blog also contains a post about a recent workshop on gorse, which included a field visit to two gorse restoration sites: Bandon Dunes McKee Preserve (a golf course by the beach!) and Bullards Beach State Park. Mark Tilton, a Florence resident who attended the workshop, said that the Bandon Dunes course used to be a gorse thicket. He was surprised that the course builders were able to remove the gorse successfully. Evidently, they used herbicides, burning, bulldozing, and lots of money to accomplish the task.

So what’s so bad about this plant that the state is devoting huge resources to try to control it? I asked that question to Phillip Johnson, executive director of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and director of their CoastWatch program.

His respone: “I can say with everyone else who has ever encountered it that it completely excludes you from anyplace it grows. It is deeply saddening to see it choking stream valleys on the south coast, blocking hillsides, turning trails into ugly mown strips lest they be lost entirely. I have particularly hated to see how the trail out to Blacklock Point in Curry County, one of the most beautiful spots on the Oregon coast, has turned from a sylvan path through a native forest to a tunnel through gorse. CoastWatch plans to develop a gorse-tracking project to trace its spread and perhaps provide alerts that enable the line to be held before it spreads into new areas.”

He continued, “Once it gets established, trying to remove it is an industrial activity. Removing it requires a scorched-earth approach, bulldozing, burning, then covering the area for a long time to kill off sprouts.” Johnson indicated that herbicides were not particularly effective against gorse, but they are used.

And then he got to the crux of the matter. “From an anthropocentric standpoint, it excludes us from the landscape where it grows, once it really takes hold. It is viciously spiny – worse to try to push your way through than blackberries or roses. And it grows very densely. Once it occupies a place, we lose our ability to roam the landscape. And, oh yes, it is highly flammable. The city of Bandon was burned more or less to the ground in the ‘30s due to gorse-fueled fire. One of these days it is going to go up in flames again.”

So, where is gorse from, and how did it get here? Well, the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon History Project ( has the answer. Its page on the 1936 Bandon fire tells us that George Bennett, founder of Bandon, brought some Irish furze with him as an ornamental shrub, which soon became a common sight in the new town. On September 26, 1936, a forest fire was driven by a sudden shift in the wind towards Bandon. Ignited by the fire, the town’s abundant gorse exploded into an inferno. The town was destroyed, and ten people lost their lives.

There are some references to people trying to use gorse oil to make biodiesel fuel, but it hasn’t been very successful. The major uses of the plant seem to be as living fencing and livestock fodder. Unfortunately, there is no write-up in Scott’s Invasive Plant Medicine on gorse. It’s evidently used as an anti-depressive and anti-stress medicine for humans and horses in various essential oil lotions.

I’ll leave you with this thought: What’s so bad about a plant that excludes humans from the area it grows in? I can think of some places that gorse would be very useful…

Lyme: US #1 Vector Borne Disease

lymeAs summer approaches and we begin to make plans to tromp around in the woods I thought it a good time to put Lyme’s Disease on your radar. AND as I have just attended an informative conference on this topic I wanted to give credit where credit’s due. I have utilized information presented by Dr Stacey Rafferty and Dr Daniel Neuman who have proven they are by far more the experts than I. So read on and be educated about a growing health concern here and throughout the country.

Why should we be thinking about Lyme’s Disease? Well it is THE number one vector borne disease in the US affecting a reported half million people across the country. It is estimated that for every one person reported, however, there are another 6-12 who are not…noteworthy indeed! Although many of you are thinking “that is a disease of the North East” I am here to dispel that myth and inform you that in fact Lyme’s Disease has been reported in all 49 continental states. There is no true endemic area of Lyme carrying ticks.

How does one acquire Lyme’s disease? The tick, specifically the Ixodes genus. These ticks carry a spirochete in their saliva and once bitten that spirochete (Borrelia sp.) is transmitted into your blood. These are interesting bacteria in that they are a corkscrew shape with a flagella (little tail). These features allow them to easily leave the bloodstream and bore into a variety of tissues throughout the body. BUT not only do we get Borrelia; along with the spirochetes come other co-infections with other organisms (Babesia, Bartonella and Ehrlichia) which infect our red blood cells. This variety of potential infectious organisms can make treatment particularly tricky! Interestingly the other spirochetsial disease you may be familiar with is Syphilis, which has a similar disease pattern and a variety of overlapping symptoms with Lyme.

Why now, are there more cases of Lyme? One is a warming climate which has contributed to increasing habitat for the hosts. There is indeed a reported increase in host populations; and the hosts are deer, Western Grey Squirrels, N. Pacific sea birds and Canadian song birds like robins and sparrows. This is coupled with a speculated inferior ability to adequately fight this infection by us the victims. As we eat less nutritious foods are exposed to more toxic pollution and have seemingly more stressful lives we weaken. As the Lyme infection festers it can potentially create further susceptibility to other infectious agents like fungi, yeasts, viruses and bacteria…a complicated picture to sort through. In fact Lyme experts see this disease potentially re-titled as Multiple Chronic Infectious Disease Syndrome due to this long-term immune deficiency to multiple organisms.

So what kind of symptoms should we be watching for? Obviously a tick bite; common symptoms following a bite are a rash at the bite site, fever, fatigue, headaches; generally flu-like. As the disease becomes more chronic there are more and more potential symptoms, up to 40!! But most common are persistent fatigue, roaming musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbances, cognitive dysfunction and any combination of neurological symptoms. This disease has some seasonal cycling being worse in winter and better summer. Also noteworthy that many Lyme sufferers are diagnosed (or mis-diagnosed) with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Lyme Disease, as true with many complex conditions, may take months or years to diagnose. Yes, there are tests for Lyme, namely the Western Blot. But there seems to be 2 camps of diagnostic criteria so depending on your doctor’s training and/or lab standards these test may be falsely negative. Treatment is complex, beyond the scope of this article, but can involve a variety of therapies from herbs, homeopathy and nutritional supplementation to numerous anti-biotics and pharmaceuticals. The more complicated and long-standing the infection the longer and more intensive the therapeutic options. But the aforementioned docs seem to have had many successes regardless of these complexities.

So let’s go back to something we can all do which is prevention. The nymph stage of tick growth is when ticks are most infectious, ironically when they are also most tricky to detect as they are quite small. But this stage occurs in the months of June/July…a time to be most vigilant of tick bites and infectious symptoms like rashes and flu-like illness following that great camping trip!?! Ticks are most prevalent in wooded areas, tall grasses and shrubby environments. Locally the areas of greatest concern are the Columbia Gorge, Mt Hood, and Southern Oregon. If you are going to be in these areas in June/July consider adding an insect repellent to your supplies! After your outdoor experience check yourself, your kids and your pets for ticks. IF you find a tick remove it with some tweezer type instrument grabbing it as close to the head as possible and pulling directly out. And if, heaven forbid, the head remains in the skin use your best techniques to remove that as well. Finally be brave and ignore your instinct to get it as far away from you as possible, but instead KEEP YOUR TICK! You can put in a dry plastic bag in the freezer for any length of time. Then they can be easily tested for Borrelia and we practitioners can implement treatment if necessary.

I was pleased to learn more about this clearly serious disease and am now excited to be able to do my part to educate my faithful readers and potentially prevent Lyme’s disease in my community. So pass along to the campers, hikers, mountain bikers, fly-fisherman and general outdoor lovers in your life, and of course enjoy the approach of SUMMER!


DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body everyday!!

Whose Entitlements?

In the midst of the senseless rhetoric that constitutes a presidential campaign season these days, one of the right’s favorite whipping boys is what it likes to call “entitlements.” One favorite object of attack is Social Security, enacted during the New Deal to keep dependence and poverty from being the common plight of the elderly. Social Security later added SSI, or insurance against permanent partial or total disability, commonly work related. And unemployment insurance has given one or more years of minimal support to workers cast off in times of economic slump like the present. Another favorite “entitlement” target of politicians on the right, like House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, is Medicare, the government health insurance program enacted in 1965 to give low cost care, including often free hospitalization and surgery to persons over sixty-five. Both Social Security and Medicare never have been programs wherein government largesse is showered on undeserving freeloaders. They are federally run insurance programs that the vast majority of working Americans pay substantial portions of their paychecks into during the scope of their entire working lives. Hence, they are not “entitlements” in the pejorative sense the right likes to use in speaking of programs that benefit ordinary or at-risk Americans. Real entitlements, the true budget busters, are given to corporations, many of which now locate chiefly offshore.

We might start with fossil fuels industries, led by big oil, which is given billions of dollars per year in subsidies. Subsidies for startup industries are not a bad idea. The US gave them to railroads when they established the first nationwide transportation and freight networks. And they began giving them to oil in the early days of exploration, as a new source of energy was being developed. But we are far beyond those days today. Railroads, now in bad disrepair, could actually use public subsidy again, to relieve congestion and pollution and offer economically stressed Americans a thrifty alternative to the automobile. Instead we subsidize the oil driven industries that have made freeway gridlock and suburban sprawl a common fact of life. This condition contributes to climate change, wetlands depletion and species extinction. But the political class, bought by fossil fuels industries, is only too happy to sweep these issues under the rug. Thus tax dollars fund oil company propaganda that alternately denies global warming’s existence, minimizes its effects, or claims it is not human caused. Let big oil pay for its own disinformation, since it’s now richer than most countries, and not in need of subsidy.

War, or “defense,” is the source of our most subsidized industries. The US now spends close to half its federal budget on defense. China, to whom we are deep in public debt, spends six per cent. When the second president Bush began the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz predicted they would run well over three trillions, and thus they have. Much of this blood money has gone to enrich weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, or war service providers such as Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root. Our wars have also greatly enriched people like Erik Prince, CEO of the private army formerly known as Blackwater. Enriching private parties through war contracts would likely have constituted illegal war profiteering in the World Wars, but not in these days of permanent resource wars, waged to ensure Western oil companies’ access to whatever petroleum remains in places like the Middle East and Central Asia.

We could go on and on enumerating the billions in taxpayer dollars given to corporations. For example, Wal Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, regularly receives public subsidies to alter vast acreage and gain the rights of way necessary to build their merchandizing behemoths notorious for low wages, poor benefits and destruction of local businesses. But as five Supreme Court plutocrats have now guaranteed, only the Big Money deserves public largesse. Real flesh and blood citizens, especially the increasing numbers of poor, do not. Whatever meager help they get is disparaged as “entitlements” and slated by the likes of Paul Ryan and his enabler, would-be -President Mitt Romney, for deep budget cuts.

Free Will Astrology — May 2012

ARIES (March 21-April 19): On the one hand, you’re facing a sticky dilemma that you may never be able to change no matter how hard you try. On the other hand, you are engaged with an interesting challenge that may very well be possible to resolve. Do you know which is which? Now would be an excellent time to make sure you do. It would be foolish to keep working on untying a hopelessly twisted knot when there is another puzzle that will respond to your love and intelligence. Go where you’re wanted.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): From an astrological perspective, it’s the New Year season; you’re beginning a fresh cycle. How would you like to celebrate? You could make a few resolutions — maybe pledge to wean yourself from a wasteful habit or self-sabotaging vice. You could also invite the universe to show you what you don’t even realize you need to know. What might also be interesting would be to compose a list of the good habits you will promise to cultivate, and the ingenious breakthroughs you will work toward, and the shiny yet gritty dreams you will court and woo.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “My father-in-law was convinced that his sheepdogs picked up his thoughts telepathically,” writes Richard Webster in his article “Psychic Animals. “He needed only to think what he wanted his dogs to do, and they would immediately do it. He had to be careful not to think too far ahead, as his dogs would act on the thought he was thinking at the time.” To this I’d add that there is a wealth of other anecdotal evidence, as well as some scientific research, suggesting that dogs respond to unspoken commands. I happen to believe that the human animal is also capable of picking up thoughts that aren’t said aloud. And I suspect that you’re in a phase when it will be especially important to take that into account. Be discerning about what you imagine, because it could end up in the mind of someone you know!

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your right brain and left brain have rarely been on such close speaking terms as they are right now. Your genitals and your heart seem to be in a good collaborative groove as well. Even your past and your future are mostly in agreement about how you should proceed in the present. To what do we owe the pleasure of this rather dramatic movement toward integration? Here’s one theory: You’re being rewarded for the hard work you have done to take good care of yourself.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): A South African biologist was intrigued to discover an interesting fact about the rodent known as the elephant shrew: It much prefers to slurp the nectar of pagoda lilies than to nibble on peanut butter mixed with apples and rolled oats. The biologist didn’t investigate whether mountain goats would rather eat grasses and rushes than ice cream sundaes or whether lions like fresh-killed antelopes better than Caesar salad, but I’m pretty sure they do. In a related subject, Leo, I hope that in the coming weeks you will seek to feed yourself exclusively with the images, sounds, stories, and food that truly satisfy your primal hunger rather than the stuff that other people like or think you should like.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): There are only a very few people whose ancestors were not immigrants. They live in Africa, where homo sapiens got its start. As for the rest of us, our forbears wandered away from their original home and spread out over the rest of the planet. We all came from somewhere else! This is true on many other levels, as well. In accordance with the astrological omens, I invite you Virgos to get in touch with your inner immigrant this month. It’s an excellent time to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that you are nowhere near where you started from, whether you gauge that psychologically, spiritually, or literally.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): “When I’m good, I’m very good,” said Hollywood’s original siren, Mae West, “but when I’m bad I’m better.” I think that assertion might at times make sense coming out of your lips in the next few weeks. But I’d like to offer a variation that could also serve you well. It’s articulated by my reader Sarah Edelman, who says, “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m batty, I’m better.” Consider trying out both of these attitudes, Libra, as you navigate your way through the mysterious and sometimes unruly fun that’s headed your way.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): The Weekly World News, my favorite source of fake news, reported on a major development in the art world: An archaeologist found the lost arms of the famous Venus de Milo statue. They were languishing in a cellar in Southern Croatia. Hallelujah! Since her discovery in 1820, the goddess of love and beauty has been incomplete. Will the Louvre Museum in Paris, where she is displayed, allow her to be joined by her original appendages and made whole again? Let’s not concern ourselves now with that question. Instead, please turn your attention to a more immediate concern: the strong possibility that you will soon experience a comparable development, the rediscovery of and reunification with a missing part of you.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Seventeenth-century physicians sometimes advised their patients to consume tobacco as a way to alleviate a number of different maladies, from toothaches to arthritis. A few doctors continued recommending cigarettes as health aids into the 1950s. This bit of history may be useful to keep in mind, Sagittarius. You’re in a phase when you’re likely to have success in hunting down remedies for complaints of both a physical and psychological nature. But you should be cautious about relying on conventional wisdom, just in case some of it resembles the idea that cigarettes are good for you. And always double check to make sure that the cures aren’t worse than what they are supposed to fix.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Outer space isn’t really that far away. As astronomer Fred Hoyle used to say, you’d get there in an hour if you could drive a car straight up. I think there’s a comparable situation in your own life, Capricorn. You’ve got an inflated notion of how distant a certain goal is, and that’s inhibiting you from getting totally serious about achieving it. I’m not saying that the destination would be a breeze to get to. My point is that it’s closer than it seems.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): When most Westerners hear the word “milk,” they surmise it has something to do with cows. But the fact is that humans drink milk collected from sheep, goats, camels, yaks, mares, llamas, and reindeer. And many grocery stores now stock milk made from soybeans, rice, almonds, coconut, hemp, and oats. I’m wondering if maybe it’s a good time for you to initiate a comparable diversification, Aquarius. You shouldn’t necessarily give up the primal sources of nourishment you have been depending on. Just consider the possibility that it might be fun and healthy for you to seek sustenance from some unconventional or unexpected sources.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): You wouldn’t want to play a game of darts with an inflatable dartboard, right? If you were a smoker, you’d have little interest in a fireproof cigarette. And while a mesh umbrella might look stylish, you wouldn’t be foolish enough to expect it to keep the rain out. In the spirit of these truisms, Pisces, I suggest you closely examine any strategy you’re considering to see if it has a built-in contradiction. Certain ideas being presented to you — perhaps even arising from your own subconscious mind — may be inherently impractical to use in the real world.

Homework: Do you allow your imagination to indulge in fantasies that are wasteful, damaging, or dumb? I dare you to stop it. Testify at

Riding Etiquette with Guillaume de Tour Landry

WHEN I was a teenager, I rolled my eyes at my elders’ paeans to the well-mannered youths of yesteryear, who never draped toilet paper in trees or used their underarms to produce bathroom noises. Now that I can legitimately begin a sentence with “Young people today…”, I still roll my eyes when I hear us ill-mannered children of the ‘70s described as paragons of etiquette. However, I have grown to appreciate good manners, especially on the road.

One night, after accidentally consuming caffeinated black tea instead of my usual herbal tea, and under the influence of a glitter ball and a bad SF novel, I discovered I’d summoned the spirit of Guillaume, Le Chevalier de Tour Landry. The medieval French knight wrote an etiquette book for his daughters, so I took advantage of his spectral presence in front of my cat-hair-covered papasan chair to ask him to share his advice on cycling etiquette. After I showed him what a bicycle was, he rose to the challenge. After that, he rose into the ether, never to be seen again, except in a mysterious pattern of tea leaves at the bottom of my ill-fated cup.

For your pleasure and edification, I have translated his remarks from medieval French.

“How wondrous are the ways of Fortune! Verily, I was tilting my lance at a target when I was unhorsed and struck my head—I had recklessly doffed my helm, which one should not do—and now I am transported in a vision to the future, where people travel about on metal-framed wheeled monstrosities! Yet even as the ways of the future are passing strange and wondrous, still we remain human and the duties of courteous life are incumbent upon us.

“In my rightful time and place, carts, horses, and pedestrians often collideth upon the roads because we travel in whichever direction we so desire. To stayeth safe upon the roads, prithee travel in the same direction as the horseless carriages do go and followeth diligently the same regulations, such as coming to a halt when the magic red light doth manifest. This renders your movements predictable to pedestrians and those who pilot the horseless carriages. It may seemeth expedient to weave between parked carriages, the syde-walk, and the road, but beware lest the 18-wheeled conveyance shalt flatten you.

“While we speaketh of that, many a high-spirited rider leapeth the curb and zippeth along the syde-walk where pedestrians do take refuge from the slings and arrows of the street. Rememberest that thou hast a vehicle and belongeth in the street. If you needs must go upon the syde-walk, I pray, dismount from your metal horse and walketh it beside the foot traffic. The exception is young children, who wobbleth too much to travel safely in the lane.

“When encountering others upon the road, whether afoot, in a carriage, or on cycles, it is well to alert them to thy presence with a bell and with devices that revealeth you to the eye, such as yonder magical lamps and bright, reflective clothing. You do not wish to surprise others.

“Betimes you come upon another cyclist who rideth slower than you do. Pray alert the other to your presence in a genteel manner and passeth safely upon the left. Some goeth around in a startling, loud manner or ridest amongst pedestrians to get around the leisurely obstacle.”

My knightly visitor then started to discourse upon the uncouthness of wearing skin-tight Lycra garments, so I was compelled to bring our interview to a close.

Becoming… Myself

THE OLDER I get, the more I seem to be “more” of my younger self. I’m not always convinced that’s such a good thing.

In my twenties, I was alone, financially stressed and pretty much in survival mode. Guess what? I’m currently alone, stressed and somewhat in survival mode.

I tend to shut down a little when stressed, which translates into watching a lot of bad T.V. All the wonderful advice I hand out to clients such as exercise, calling a friend, writing down a few easily achieved goals, fall by the wayside. Yes, sad to say, I sometimes do not follow my own advice.

Spring is here though and while I may be a dormant couch potato, I’m not dead. I respond to sunshine, flowering fruit trees and a gentle breeze. I recently bought herb seeds:. Basil and thyme and oregano get started in plastic greenhouse and are then transplanted to the outdoors or given to friends. Even though my heart wasn’t into it when I picked out my seed packets, I did it out of tradition. I  know that in a few weeks I’ll get lots of satisfaction when those little green plants burst through the potting soil. My heart also wasn’t into clearing out the knickknacks from the corner curio shelf. The process elicited many painful memories. The figurine my mother-in-law gave me on my first Mother’s Day. A framed picture that causes nothing but heartache. Cleaing them out had to be done, but it was painful.

Ever since I broke my ankle last September,  my thoughts and emotions took a shift. I thought then that I had hit a new low in loneliness, but instead I learned a different lesson. People, friends and neighbors were there for me. I resolved then that when I was back to walking, Things Would Change. I’d weed out those parts of my life – stuff, relationships, and emotions – that had evolved into deadweight.

In some sense, what I was doing – and still am doing- is planting seeds for a better future. Loss and change is always stressful, which is why so many of us stick with the status quo. My seeds – my simplifying, clarifying and acknowledging – will eventually let me be “me” at my best. Meanwhile, I’m moving a bit slowly through this process.and it feels uncomfortable.

How about you? Are you up for a personal spring cleaning? Can you shed those things that take up all sorts of physical and psychological space? Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to believe in yourself?

Something to think about…..

The Evolution of Man

The evolution of man has been unfolding for centuries under patriarchal rule.  The effects this has had on our planet Earth in development of land, natural resources, economics, and power are perceived as both good and bad.  A study of the history of humanity here on Earth shows us clearly that there was a time in which the planet was ruled by a matriarchy.  For centuries people worshipped a matriarchal Goddess, and the Earth herself was honored.    As planet Earth cycles and changes, so does the energy that prevails amongst those who inhabit her surface.  This era came to an end in a way that informs what we see today with regard the imminent demise of patriarchal society.

It is important to understand the differences in a patriarchal versus matriarchal society. The main key to understanding this male energy is; it is a part of what I refer to as ‘the duality.’  This duality is not complicated: it represents both sides of our experience, good and bad; light and dark; hot and cold; happy and sad.  Simply put, male and female aspects exist within each person. Feminine principles of sensitivity, intuition and gathering information are in each of us.  Similarly, male principles, like solution oriented processes, and action process—the part of us that disseminates information out into the world to do something with it.   We, together with and as part of the entire Universe, live within a state of duality.  We are in constant motion, trying to find balance in everything we do internally and externally.

Men are currently going through a tremendous upheaval within themselves.  This is getting expressed in all aspects of life.  Some experience a discomfort within their jobs; others in marriage; all experience tremendous lifestyle changes. The one aspect that is most challenging for men today, comes from a remnant of their neuro-biology—that of fulfilling their role as the warrior.

The big shift we all feel today, associated with the planet as she moves through space amid solar storm and earthquake, is also being felt within the patriarchic world.  Men’s hearts tend to be activated like dormant volcanoes, suddenly awakened with steam and plumes of smoke.  Like molten lava spewing into the air, men feel most vulnerable and anxious with current energy.

Old behaviors, greed and power no longer satisfy rumbling in the heart.  Men are being called to step up to a greater state of balance. Women are the ones who hold the weave of the world together and are called at this time to help mankind.

We have been here before — within each man and woman is a cellular and spiritual memory of past lives.  Women connect to these memories as we shift; and men literally experience the shift.  Men are being pushed energetically to give up the power stance they held in the fourth world. They are asked to stand in balance with feminine energy to enter the fifth dimension. There is no one side that will lead. Rather we enter this new world with balance and a state of peace within our own inner duality.

The United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal, one of our few remaining public intellectuals, dubbed us the United States of Amnesia because it is as if we have lost our collective memory. Our leaders keep telling us, for example, that we fight our endless foreign wars, presently in oil related regions, to bring democracy to some benighted country, and we keep on believing them. The fact that we prop up some of the most antidemocratic regimes, e.g. Saudi Arabia, makes no difference. We are always for democracy, as we were when we fought Hitler.

The late communications theorist, Neil Postman, pointed out in his landmark Amusing Ourselves to Death, that generations raised since the advent of television in the late 1940s do not receive a coherent view of events or the world as a whole. Generations who grew up staring at the idiot box became used to an absurd juxtaposition of images in a world of: “Now this.” Television news, which became the template for most other formats, consists of unrelated events ripped out of context: a bombing here, a hurricane there, a coup somewhere else, and a celebrity wedding in Hollywood. As is not true in history, nothing, or at least nothing complex, actually causes anything else. Events are all decontextualized. For example, if residents of Gaza are lobbing rockets into Israel, it is simply because they are “terrorists.” The history of Gaza and the Palestinian people’s displacement since 1948 and conditions that make Gaza the world’s largest open air prison camp are thoroughly ignored. In television land, Gaza is simply run by Hamas, and Hamas equals terrorists. This is the kind of oversimplification that constitutes television’s world view.

In television land the picture typically changes every three seconds, “stories” last a minute or two, and a big story may last five to seven, while all the time unrelated juxtaposed stories are continuously interrupted by the overheated chatter of corporate advertizing. This format distorts the way we see the world by destroying all continuity. It makes a jumble of events, bombards us with a welter of images usually attached to “sound bites,” or short catch phrases or epithets. Most people “learn what is happening in the world” from television, that is to say they don’t learn at all. They receive propaganda, an image, a word, a phrase calculated to elicit an emotional response, not a painstaking analysis which would endeavor to dig beneath the surface and look into the causes of a given event. Think of the continuous bombardment of the public’s senses on September 11th and its aftermath with the images of planes hitting the Twin Towers and the sound bites about Osama Bin Laden and “Islamic worldwide terrorism.” They were designed to emblazon a simplistic association on a collective public mind and elicit an emotional response, and with most people, lacking any framework for careful analysis, that is exactly what they achieved.

This brings us to similar media propaganda calculated to confuse the public during a presidential election year. In television induced amnesia, we forget that just four years ago, in the previous presidential election year, gas prices suddenly shot up on their way to five dollars a gallon, just as they are doing now, and that was the last time they did so. But those of us who remember and look deeper see that the fossil fuels industry, which benefits from deregulation and non-competition with alternative clean energies, is trying to lay the blame for a new round of soaring fuel costs on a Democratic president, whose patrons do not smell quite as oily as do those of the Republicans. The narrative they want you to believe is that Obama’s sensitivity to environmental criticism of, for example, the XL Pipeline, is making us more dependent on an unstable Middle East. Never mind that large commodities traders can spark increased speculation in oil, which drives the price up at the pump. But John Q. Public thinks, “Damned Obama and his environmentalist Democrats. If they’d stop holding up the pipeline and let them drill, drill, drill, we’d be fine.” Television never tells him that fossil fuels cause Chicago to be eighty degrees in March and kill the oceans by loading them with carbonic acid.


ARIES (March 21-April 19): Please study this testimony: “Born in a rancid, bat-infested cave at the base of the smoldering Sangay Volcano, I was raised by the half-bear demon princess Arcastia. At the age of four my training as a ninja shaman began when I was left naked and alone next to a stream of burning lava with only two safety pins, a package of dental floss, and a plastic bag full of Cheerios. My mission: to find my way to my spiritual home.” Now, Aries, I’d like you to compose your own version of this declaration: a playful, over-the-top myth about your origins that gives you a greater appreciation for the heroic journey you’ve been on all these years.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Our ancestors owned slaves and denied education to girls. What were they thinking? Time magazine asked renowned historian David McCullough if there was anything we do today that our descendants will regard as equally insane and inexcusable. His reply: “How we could have spent so much time watching TV.” I’ll ask you, Taurus, to apply this same exercise on a personal level. Think of some things you did when you were younger that now seem incomprehensible or ignorant. Then explore the possibility that you will look back with incredulity at some weird habit or tweaked form of self-indulgence you’re pursuing today. (P.S. It’s an excellent time to phase out that habit or self-indulgence.)

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “I can’t tell if I’m dealing well with life these days or if I just don’t give a sh– any more.” I stumbled upon that comment at, and I decided to pass it along for your consideration. You may be pondering the same riddle: feeling suspicious about why you seem more relaxed and tolerant than usual in the face of plain old everyday chaos. I’m here to tell you my opinion, which is that your recent equanimity is not rooted in jaded numbness. Rather, it’s the result of some hard work you did on yourself during the last six months. Congrats and enjoy!

ANCER (June 21-July 22): What excites you, Cancerian? What mobilizes your self-discipline and inspires you to see the big picture? I encourage you to identify those sources of high-octane fuel, and then take extraordinary measures to make them a strong presence in your life. There has rarely been a better time than now for you to do this. It could create effects that will last for years. (P.S. Here’s a further nudge from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it.”)

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): While browsing in a bookstore, I came across a book and deck of cards that were collectively called Tarot Secrets. The subtitle of the kit was “A Fast and Easy Way to Learn a Powerful Ancient Art.” I snorted derisively to read that claim, since I myself have studied Tarot intensively for years and am nowhere near mastery. Later, though, when I was back home meditating on your horoscope, I softened my attitude a bit. The astrological omens do indeed suggest that in the upcoming weeks and months, you just might be able to learn a rather substantial skill in a relatively short time.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Writing in The New Yorker, Joanna Ravenna paraphrased German philosopher Nietzsche: “The best way to enrage people is to force them to change their mind about you.” I’d like to see you mutate this theory in the coming weeks, Virgo. If possible, see if you can amuse and entertain people, not enrage them, by compelling them to change their minds about you. I realize that’s a tricky proposition, but given the current astrological omens, I have faith that you can pull it off.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): In 1892, when Wrigley was just starting out as a company, its main product was baking powder. Free chewing gum was included in each package as a promotional gimmick. But soon the freebie became so popular that Wrigley rearranged its entire business. Now it’s a multi-billion-dollar company that sells gum in 140 different countries — and no baking powder. Maybe there’s something like that on the verge of happening in your own life, Libra: What seemed like the main event could turn out to be secondary, or what seemed incidental might become a centerpiece. Is there something you are overvaluing at the cost of something you are undervaluing?

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): People in intimate relationships are hypersensitive to negative comments from their partners. Psychologists say it takes five compliments to outweigh the effects of a single dash of derogatory criticism. I’m sure the ratio is similar even for relationships that aren’t as close as lovers and spouses. With this in mind, I urge you to be extra careful not to dispense barbs. They would be especially damaging during this phase of your astrological cycle — both to you and to those at whom you direct them. Instead, Scorpio, why not dole out an abundance of compliments? They will build up a reservoir of goodwill you’ll be able to draw on for a long time.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Researchers report that the typical man falls in love 5.4 times over the course of his life, while the average woman basks in the glow of this great mystery on 4.6 occasions. I suspect you may be close to having a .4 or .6 type of experience, Sagittarius: sort of like infatuation, but without the crazed mania. That could actually be a good thing. The challenging spiritual project that relationship offers may be most viable when the two people involved are not electrifyingly interwoven with every last one of their karmic threads. Maybe we have more slack in our quest for intimacy if we love but are not obsessed.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): “I couldn’t wait for success,” said rich and famous comedian Jonathan Winters, “so I went ahead without it.” I love that approach, and I suggest you try it out. Is there any area of your life that is held captive by an image of perfection? Consider the possibility that shiny concepts of victory and progress might be distracting you from doing the work that will bring you meaning and fulfillment. If you’re too busy dreaming of someday attaining the ideal mate, weight, job, pleasure, and community, you may miss out on the imperfect but amazing opportunities that are available right now.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): On, Kaushalp88 asked the question, “What is the most badass thing that you have ever done, but that other people weren’t impressed by?” Here’s his own story: “I was at an ice-cream shop. At the exit, there was a small raised step I didn’t see. I tripped over it with my ice cream cone in my right hand. The ice cream ball sprung out of the cone. I instinctively lurched my left hand forward and grabbed it, but at the same time I was already falling toward the pavement. I tucked my head into my chest and made a perfect somersault, rising to my feet and plopping the ice cream back in the cone.” I suspect you will soon have comparable experiences, Aquarius — unusual triumphs and unexpected accomplishments. But you may have to be content with provoking awe in no one else beside yourself.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” So says a Swedish proverb. Can we talk about this, please, Pisces? Of course there are real hazards and difficulties in life, and they deserve your ingenious problem-solving. But why devote any of your precious energy to becoming embroiled in merely hyped-up hazards and hypothetical difficulties? Based on my analysis of the astrological omens, now is a propitious time to cut shadows down to their proper size. It’s also a perfect moment to liberate yourself from needless anxiety. I think you’ll be amazed at how much more accurate your perceptions will be as a result.

Homework: Do a homemade ritual in which you vow to attract more blessings into your life. Report results at

Riding Etiquette with Guillaume de Tour Landry

When I was a teenager, I rolled my eyes at my elders’ paeans to the well-mannered youths of yesteryear, who never draped toilet paper in trees or used their underarms to produce bathroom noises. Now that I can legitimately begin a sentence with “Young people today…”, I still roll my eyes when I hear us ill-mannered children of the ‘70s described as paragons of etiquette. However, I have grown to appreciate good manners, especially on the road.

One night, after accidentally consuming caffeinated black tea instead of my usual herbal tea, and under the influence of a glitter ball and a bad SF novel, I discovered I’d summoned the spirit of Guillaume, Le Chevalier de Tour Landry. The medieval French knight wrote an etiquette book for his daughters, so I took advantage of his spectral presence in front of my cat-hair-covered papasan chair to ask him to share his advice on cycling etiquette. After I showed him what a bicycle was, he rose to the challenge. After that, he rose into the ether, never to be seen again, except in a mysterious pattern of tea leaves at the bottom of my ill-fated cup.

For your pleasure and edification, I have translated his remarks from medieval French.

“How wondrous are the ways of Fortune! Verily, I was tilting my lance at a target when I was unhorsed and struck my head—I had recklessly doffed my helm, which one should not do—and now I am transported in a vision to the future, where people travel about on metal-framed wheeled monstrosities! Yet even as the ways of the future are passing strange and wondrous, still we remain human and the duties of courteous life are incumbent upon us.

“In my rightful time and place, carts, horses, and pedestrians often collideth upon the roads because we travel in whichever direction we so desire. To stayeth safe upon the roads, prithee travel in the same direction as the horseless carriages do go and followeth diligently the same regulations, such as coming to a halt when the magic red light doth manifest. This renders your movements predictable to pedestrians and those who pilot the horseless carriages. It may seemeth expedient to weave between parked carriages, the syde-walk, and the road, but beware lest the 18-wheeled conveyance shalt flatten you.

“While we speaketh of that, many a high-spirited rider leapeth the curb and zippeth along the syde-walk where pedestrians do take refuge from the slings and arrows of the street. Rememberest that thou hast a vehicle and belongeth in the street. If you needs must go upon the syde-walk, I pray, dismount from your metal horse and walketh it beside the foot traffic. The exception is young children, who wobbleth too much to travel safely in the lane.

“When encountering others upon the road, whether afoot, in a carriage, or on cycles, it is well to alert them to thy presence with a bell and with devices that revealeth you to the eye, such as yonder magical lamps and bright, reflective clothing. You do not wish to surprise others.

“Betimes you come upon another cyclist who rideth slower than you do. Pray alert the other to your presence in a genteel manner and passeth safely upon the left. Some goeth around in a startling, loud manner or ridest amongst pedestrians to get around the leisurely obstacle.”

My knightly visitor then started to discourse upon the uncouthness of wearing skin-tight Lycra garments, so I was compelled to bring our interview to a close.

Earth Song

The Earth energies continue to change and what you resist will persist.  There are so many things happening in our galaxy right now that even the Earth’s signals are like a child crying and the mother cannot hear her.  We Earthlings experience the ebb and flow of this new grid system our galaxy is acquiring while solar flares amplify the message from the sun: transform.  The Earth sends sound through her movement that is a concert of energy translating into higher frequencies.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and ocean tides all send a message from our planet out into the Universe.  The amount of noise the Earth dwellers produce is causing a static in the signals and the galaxy quickly moves to fix the problem as we weave into a higher vibration.  The Earth’s song could be heard in the days where noise was nothing more than the sound of water rushing through the creek or footsteps on the snow.  Now there are very few places on this planet where noise doesn’t dominate the environment.

The Pacific Rim is a part of this transformation.  As the Earth moves in her tectonic plates we experience earthquakes that free different parts of this magnificent rim.  When it makes the downward plié there will be a pushing up towards the sky that in time will create a new land mass. Waters are rising and the trend of a mini ice age is upon us.

These Earth shifts will happen faster as time and space shift.   Our awareness to these necessary changes will help us to adapt.  I was asked recently “do I buy a boat or get warm camping gear?”  I do not feel either is necessary.  I am watching the emotional barometer while we experience solar flares and wild weather.

The consensus across the board has been fear rising to the surface like a well-hidden secret, demanding to be cleansed before we move further into the fifth dimension.  Noticing your fears and acknowledging them is half the battle of releasing them.  The ego has a strong stance when we do not want to face what we fear.  The key is to feel safe and let the ego step aside so you can see what is plaguing you in your personal drama. Holding on to the drama of these deep seeded fears will once again allow the ego to protect you and keep you from dealing with what is at the core.

As the custodians to this great planet our first duty is to take care of what gives us life.  The next step is to release our attachments with the realization that we are all particles of Divine Love.  There is no greater freedom than to realize who you are at a soul level and surrender your attachments to earthbound things.  We are so caught up in the illusion we have lost hearing the song of the Earth and her daily message that floats up to the heavens like a warm summer breeze.  Turn off the noise in your world and listen!

Payoffs… (Why We Do the Things We Do)…

EVERY ONCE in a while, I wonder why I do some of the things I do to get through this life of mine. I work a lot. which dictates to some degree what choices I get to make. The money I make pays the bills but not enough for me to  make big changes in my life. I eat the same “mystery sandwich” everyday. I let the deli girls surprise me – hence, the mystery part to it. Why,  oh why, if some things work  and some things don’t –  why don’t I change the things that don’t.?

This is where I remember a professor from college, when I was getting my Master’s degree in counseling. He talked about The Payoff. What’s the Payoff?” And that is the question that often should be addressed. What is the particular payoff to a certain mode of behavior, be it habitual or just plain not beneficial?  He  asserted that the reason people do things, especially repeat behaviors, is that the person learns that it works to get his/her needs met.  The Payoff

The payoff in itself is not a bad thing. Everything we choose to do somehow is based on some form of a payoff…. a reward of sorts. If we work hard for an employer, the payoff may be raises, good reviews and an innate sense of having done a consistently good job. If we volunteer, we feel connected and good about ourselves.

What about those things that keep people back, impede a life, so to speak?  When we see others exhibiting behaviors that seem to be sabotaging their jobs, relationships and general self-respect,  it is natural to say, “Why would someone choose to do… X, Y, Z?”  Addictions fall into this category. Behaving badly within relationships  is another area .

Payoff. In this economic climate, I like this term. It sounds appropriate. Kids learn quickly how to get a parent’s attention, and if the appropriate efforts don’t reap a proper “payoff” – attention – then they learn that bad behavior will lead to the attention they desire.  I learned that working hard has its payoff, although sometimes not in a monetary sense. I like knowing that I have what my relatives would call a work ethic, for example. I want to know that even if something fails, its not for lack of effort on my part.

When someone consistently seems to disappoint by not following through perhaps, the payoff to that person could be a sense of power disguised as free-spiritedness, or  it could be just plain inconsideration. For that person, the payoff would be the sense of doing what they want when they want. If I, for example, put a lot of effort into excusing that behavior so that I was not personally disappointed, I would have to look at the payoff that exists for me. And is it worth it?   The payoff might be a relationship that makes me work too hard . Is it worth it?  Maybe not. I need to be willing to lose relationships that don’t work. The payoff – maintaining a dysfunctional relationship – is too high in terms of integrity and sense of self.

I believe in looking at things as they exist.  Sometimes all pieces of the pie do not fit well together. My relationships are flourishing but work is suffering. Or all is well, but I find a person has lied to me, for example, which  will immediately throw me into a pit of despair.

All the examples I gave above are creative examples. I’m fascinated with the idea of payoffs, and in my free moments, I do indeed wonder what areas of my life could be improved.. I would love to weed out the disappointments and letdowns and sadnesses that sometimes visit me. But in the world of payoffs, I look at the scenarios and learn from them. I’ve learned that sometimes one can predict a payoff (from a repeat behavior perhaps?), and if its disappointment or sadness, I don’t want it.  If that’s the case, I get to opt out. The payoff then is …. a happier me.

Contraception: Supporting a Woman’s Right to Choose

Since we are in an election year and this always seems to be a hot topic in the media I thought it a good time to revisit contraception. It is a wonderful and amazing option for women and men to be able to choose children, and to me quite disappointing that as a country we cannot come together to promote the ideas of family planning. Because the topic of abortion is so politically charged I think we forget that a secondary casualty of anti-abortion policy is the basic right and access to birth control. Preventing unintended pregnancy is a communal effort, so please pass along any or all information to someone who would benefit from being informed of their choices.

Most of us are familiar with the trusty old birth control pill. There are two main hormones in most birth control pills. Estrogen in the form of ethinyl estradiol and a progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) of which there are a great variety, and each has a slightly different activity. There are also a variety of choices with the amount of hormones in pills. Some are the same all month long, some get stronger as the month progresses which somewhat mimics our natural rhythm; and then there are some pills which have no estrogen at all and just use the progestin. All these choices give both the patient and the provider a nice variety of options to create a workable match. The major downside of pills are the side-effects (which of course all methods have), and the fact that you have to remember to take it daily.

Some of the newer contraceptive methods have unique delivery  systems, and are invaluable for those who have trouble remembering a daily pill.  My personal favorite is the NuvaRing (  This is a small (2 inch diameter, 4mm thick)  flexible ring made of an ethylene vinylacetate polymer impregnated with ethinyl estradiol and a progestin (desogestrel) which is inserted into the vagina for 21 days and removed for 7.  It delivers a steady release of low-dose hormones throughout the 21 days.  Side-effects seem to be minimal with complaints of increased vaginal discharge/ irritation, and sexual partners being able to feel it during intercourse.  Another method which offers a unique delivery option is the patch OrthoEvra (  The patch is a nude colored adhesive impregnated with ethinyl estradiol and a progestin (norelgestromin).  With this method one patch is applied weekly for 3 weeks, and week four is patch free.   Common complaints with this method are irritation/rash at the  adhesive site, breast tenderness, and trouble with patch staying full adhered to the skin.  This method has the potential for higher estrogen levels than most others, which for some women can be a problem, so consult your provider. The next method is Depo-Provera (  This is a progestin-only method; a small intramuscular injection of medroxyprogesterone acetate is given once every 12 weeks.  There are often complaints of irregular bleeding (especially the first 6 months), significant weight gain, depression, and resuming fertility can take up to 18 months after discontinuing use.   The FDA placed a black box warning on this method to inform patients and clinicians of the risk of bone mineral density loss while using this method for more than 5 years. Finally, there is once again a contraceptive which can be implanted under the skin via injecting a small rod (3mm by 40mm) into the inner upper arm. Called Implanon ( this is a 3 year progestin (etonogestrel) only method.

IUD’s (Intrauterine devices) are experiencing a come-back, and the interest in these small T-shaped systems of contraception continues to rise.  The use of IUD’s were often recommended to women who had already had children, but new guidelines have broadened potential recipients.   There are currently 2 types available.  The first is the copper IUD (ParaGard, this is a completely hormone free method offering 10 years of contraceptive protection.  The second is a progestin only containing IUS (Mirena an Intrauterine System, which offers 5 years of contraceptive protection.  The IUD/IUS must be inserted into the uterus by a licensed practitioner.  Most common complaints are discomfort during insertion, and irregular bleeding. These devices are easily removed in advance of recommended use.

The final birth control option worth mentioning is continuous use birth control.  Continuous use can be recommended for those who have problems with heavy bleeding, cramping or other PMS type issues, as well as for athletes and special occasions like a honeymoon. Continuous use can be achieved with some pills or the NuvaRing, and is basically the idea that there is no 7 day break between taking hormone containing pills or changing rings.  Research shows that this method of use is safe and effective, as well as FDA approved.  Using your contraceptive method in this manner should be done only with the approval of your health care provider.  For more information consult with your provider or visit

Now for you men, there is indeed a method for you too…vasectomy! And guess what? Federal dollars from the family planning department now include a way for you to receive a free or reduced fee vasectomy, check with your local health department or planned parenthood for details. Yes this is a permanent method. It involves a simple outpatient procedure which severs the vas deferens, stopping semen from exiting during ejaculation. There is still an ejaculatory fluid released, but no sperm. What happens to them? They get stuck at the dead end and are reabsorbed into the blood stream.

As a naturopath I get two common questions regarding birth control. What are the hormone free options and what do I recommend to women taking hormonal birth control? Hormone free options are condoms, diaphragms, ParaGard IUD, vasectomy, and Cycle Beads (these are pretty cool, an easy way to track your fertile cycle days IF you have regular periods…check out their website Any hormonal birth control method can deplete B vitamins, so I recommend a good multi or B complex vitamin to be taken daily with food.

All of the aforementioned methods have their own risks and necessary screening before use.  And of course none of these are protection against STD’s (now called sexually transmitted infections, STI‘s); for that use a condom!  If any of the aforementioned contraceptive methods are of interest to you check into the websites given as well as seeking the guidance of a health care professional versed in their use.  Two other websites worth mentioning are and, they both give a comprehensive overview of the options available. Be thankful for your right to choose!

DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body EVERYDAY!

Anekeitaxonomy and Alternative Environmentalism

Matt Chew is an assistant research professor at the Arizona State University Center for Biology & Society in Tempe. His specialty is anekeitaxonomy, a word he admitted to me he made up. It’s the study of where species belong (anekei is Greek for belongs), or where we think they belong, and how they got there, and how we have thought about it over time. The easy word for it is natural history. Chew is a critic of invasion biology, which puts him at odds with many of his colleagues in academia, and much of the mainstream political and economic establishment that have promoted the idea that certain species of plants and animals don’t belong where they currently are, and must be exterminated, before they “take over” and destroy everything. Which made him a perfect candidate to speak at the invasive species panel of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) in March at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The panel, called Weeding the World: The Destructive War on Invasive Species, was a follow-up to one called Environmentalism Gone Awry from last year’s PIELC, and featured Chew and a return visit from Syd Singer, an independent scientist from Hawaii.

Entitled Natives & Aliens – Not Even A Good Idea, Chew’s talk was originally called Law, History, Language and the Failing Paradigm of Biological Invasions, but he thought the title might scare away some prospective attendees. Showing slides of some local places from different perspectives, Chew got the audience thinking about how our concept of place fits into the real world. He went on to show slides illustrating the concept of belonging, such as a toolkit with a certain size screwdriver missing, and this exact tool laying near it. The concept of dynamism was relayed with slides of tectonic plates, wind, ocean currents, international air traffic, and cargo and freight routes. Nativeness was discussed in the context of the definitions of Darwin’s time, which are still used today. Putting all this together, Chew showed a photo of his backyard, which contains plants whose origin and distribution “is certainly a mystery to them.” Being rooted in one place, the plant has no concept of nativeness, nor even of the place they occupy, except that that’s where they are, he explained.

Blaming a plant for where it happens to grow is a personification, Chew told me, and certainly not a basis for an ecological assessment. Yet invasion biologists and ecologists do just that, he said.

Chew left his audience thinking about place, belonging, dynamism and nativeness, and he told me that discussions ensued after the session with many of the attendees. The message of the talk could be summed up with a saying from Alexander von Humboldt, the naturalist, explorer and philosopher: “human history is an overlay to natural history.”

Singer’s talk, another one crafted to make the audience think about accepted norms, introduced the concept of alternative environmentalism. In a brilliant and insightful set of analogies, Singer set forth what could be a new movement.

A medical anthropologist, Singer is co-director (with his wife Soma Grismaijer) of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease. Stretching the concept to include the environment, Singer talked about human health as analogous to environmental health, invasion biology to germ theory, and alternative environmentalism to alternative medicine.

“After all, our bodies are an ecosystem, too. I realized that the medical model is being applied to environmental healthcare, treating invasive species like germs invading our bodies. The chemical industry seems to define the approach to both. So I proposed drawing on alternative medicine as a model for an alternative environmentalism, emphasizing the strengthening of health over the treatment of disease, and avoiding chemicals (antibiotics = pesticides) whenever possible,” he told me afterwards.

It’s fitting that 50 years after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, exposing the effects of pesticides on eagles and other animals and starting the modern environmental movement in the U.S., here comes along Singer, exposing the fact that environmentalists now support applying pesticides to kill plants and animals (supposedly in order to save others).

“Hopefully, there will be a shift in the environmental focus from weeding the world to healing the planet,” Singer says. Sounds good to me.

Free Will Astrology March 2012

ARIES (March 21-April 19): At one point in his book The Divine Comedy, the Italian poet Dante is traveling through purgatory on his way to paradise. American poet T.S. Eliot describes the scene: “The people there were inside the flames expurgating their errors and sins. And there was one incident when Dante was talking to an unknown woman in her flame. As she answered Dante’s questions, she had to step out of her flame to talk to him, until at last she was compelled to say to Dante, ‘Would you please hurry up with your questions so I can get on with my burning?’” I bring this to your attention, Aries, because I love the way you’ve been expurgating your own errors and sins lately. Don’t let anything interfere with your brilliant work. Keep burning till you’re done. (Source: “A New Type of Intellectual: Contemplative Withdrawal and Four Quartets,” by Kenneth P. Kramer.)

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): If you’ve been holding yourself back in any way, Taurus, now’s the time to unlock and unleash yourself. If you have been compromising your high standards or selling yourself short, I hope you will give yourself permission to grow bigger and stronger and brighter. If you’ve been hiding your beauty or hedging your bets or rationing your access to the mother lode, you have officially arrived at the perfect moment to stop that nonsense.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): In the cult blaxploitation film The Human Tornado, the main character Dolemite brags about his prowess. “I chained down thunder and handcuffed lightning!” he raves. “I used an earthquake to mix my milkshake! I eat an avalanche when I want ice cream! I punched a hurricane and made it a breeze! I swallowed an iceberg and didn’t freeze!” This is the way I want to hear you talk in the coming weeks, Gemini. Given the current astrological configurations, you have every right to. Furthermore, I think it’ll be healthy for you.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Astrologer Antero Alli theorizes that the placement of the sign Cancer in a person’s chart may indicate what he or she tends to whine about. In his own chart, he says, Cancer rules his ninth house, so he whines about obsolete beliefs and bad education and stale dogmas that cause people to shun firsthand experience as a source of authority. I hereby declare these issues to be supremely honorable reasons for you to whine in the coming weeks. You also have cosmic permission to complain vociferously about the following: injustices perpetrated by small-minded people; short-sighted thinking that ignores the big picture; and greedy self-interest that disdains the future. On the other hand, you don’t have clearance to whine about crying babies, rude clerks, or traffic jams.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): L.A. Weekly praised the music of drone-noise band Barn Owl. Its review said that the listening experience is “akin to placing your ear against the Dalai Lama’s stomach and catching the sound of his reincarnation juices flowing.” That sounds a bit like what’s ahead for you in the coming weeks, Leo: getting the lowdown on the inner workings of a benevolent source . . . tuning in to the rest of the story that lies behind a seemingly simple, happy tale . . . gathering up revelations about the subterranean currents that are always going on beneath the surface of the good life. It’s ultimately all positive, although a bit complicated.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): In the coming days, you could do a lot to develop a better relationship with darkness. And no, I don’t mean that you should do bad things and seek out negativity and be fascinated with evil. When I use that word “darkness,” I’m referring to confusing mysteries and your own unconscious patterns and the secrets you hide from yourself. I mean the difficult memories and the parts of the world that seem inhospitable to you and the sweet dreams that have lost their way. See what you can do to understand this stuff better, Virgo. Open yourself to the redemptive teachings it has for you.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Sister Jessica, a character in Frank Herbert’s Dune books, says, “The greatest and most important problems of life cannot be solved. They can only be outgrown.” I encourage you to use that theory as your operative hypothesis for the foreseeable future. Here are some specific clues about how to proceed: Don’t obsess on your crazy-making dilemma. Instead, concentrate on skillfully doing the pleasurable activities that you do best. Be resolutely faithful to your higher mission and feed your lust for life. Slowly but surely, I think you’ll find that the frustrating impediment will be drained of at least some of its power to lock up your energy.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): A few years ago, the Hong Kong company Life Enhance sold briefs and boxer shorts that were supposedly designed by a master practitioner of feng shui. On the front of every garment was an image of a dragon, which the Chinese have traditionally regarded as a lucky symbol. To have this powerful charm in contact with your intimate places increased your vital force — or so the sales rap said. By my estimates, Scorpio, you’re not going to need a boost like that in the coming weeks. Without any outside aids whatsoever, your lower furnace will be generating intense beams of magical heat. What are you going to do with all that potent mojo? Please don’t use it on trivial matters.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): There are times in your life when you do a lot of exploring in the outer world, and other times when your pioneering probes are directed primarily inward. In my astrological opinion, you’re currently more suited for the latter kind of research. If you agree with me, here’s one tack you might want to take: Take an inventory of all your inner voices, noticing both the content of what they say and the tone with which they say it. Some of them may be chatty and others shy; some blaring and others seductive; some nagging and needy and others calm and insightful. Welcome all the voices in your head into the spotlight of your alert attention. Ask them to step forward and reveal their agendas.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The Oxford English Dictionary, an authority on the state of the English language, adds an average of two new words every day. In the coming weeks, Capricorn, I’d like to see you expand your capacity for self-expression with equal vigor. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you’re due for an upgrade in your vocabulary, your clarity, and your communication skills. Here’s one of the OED’s fresh terms, which would be a good addition to your repertoire: “bouncebackability,” the ability to recover from a setback or to rebound from a loss of momentum.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): We turn to Dr. Seuss for help in formulating your horoscope this week. He told a story of dining in a restaurant with his uncle, who was served a popover, which is a puffy muffin that’s hollow on the inside. “To eat these things,” said his uncle, “you must exercise great care. You may swallow down what’s solid, but you must spit out the air!” Drawing a lesson from these wise words, Dr. Seuss concluded, “As you partake of the world’s bill of fare, that’s darned good advice to follow. Do a lot of spitting out the hot air. And be careful what you swallow.” I expect your coming weeks will be successful, Aquarius, if you apply these principles.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): You should be like a rooster, Pisces: dispensing wake-up calls on a regular basis. You should be nudging people to shed their torpor and shake themselves out of their stupor. What’s your personal version of “Cockadoodle-doo!”? It shouldn’t be something generic like “Open your eyes!” or “Stop making excuses!” Come up with attention-grabbing exclamations or signature phrases that no intelligent person can possibly ignore or feel defensive about. For example: “Let’s leap into the vortex and scramble our trances!”?

homework: Your imagination is the single most important asset you possess. Listen to the podcast:

Invasive Spring is in the Air

After a typical Fisher Poets Gathering weekend of wind, rain, hail, snow and yes, a little sun, I woke up this morning to one of those days that makes you love living here. The sky was about to be illuminated fully by the rising sun, and there wasn’t a cloud in it. The orange hues were mixing with the totally blue sky, the snow was shining bright white on the Coast Range hills, the water glistened, and though the mercury was sitting at 32°F, the air was so dry that there wasn’t much ice on the roads, and it took forever to get the ice off my windshield.

By the time you’re reading this, there might have been more wind and rain, maybe snow and ice, but I think spring is in the air. Take a good look at the trees and bushes, and the crocuses and daffodils. They’re waking up, in the renewal phase of the annual cycle of life. If we let them live, they will go on to produce leaves, needles, flowers, fruit, wood, food and water, and most importantly, oxygen. They will take up carbon dioxide, any sunlight our sun-stingy region gives them, and water (usually not a problem), and produce not only the things mentioned above, but a spiritual sense of calm, protection and beauty.

If we let them live.

Not only the plants are waking up this time of year. So are the companies that make money from the cutting of trees, and soon, the crews that spray the roadsides for weeds. On my weekday walks to work along Irving Avenue in Astoria, the chainsaws have been disturbing the stately silence of the forested areas that have been largely left alone during the winter. Good-intentioned homeowners have been having those pesky non-native (and native) trees cut down to improve their view, tidy up their property, or just because. People are even coming out to look at their yards and gardens, thinking about what plants they’ll pick up at the nursery to make their garden look nice in case we have a better growing season than last year (not likely). And I even saw some new soil on a neighbor’s garden, probably giving fresh cover to bulbs planted last fall. I wonder whether some weed seeds are hiding in that soil, waiting to take over that garden, and then the neighborhood!

Almost exactly a year ago, I attended a panel session about invasive species at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the Univeristy of Oregon in Eugene, which became the impetus for this column. Panelists discussed how environmentalists and most of the mainstream agreed that so-called “invasive species” – plants and animals that are not “native” (another term they discussed) and cause either economic or ecological hardship (disputed by the panelists for many cases) – had to be eliminated, often at great cost. The panelists’ views seemed to be that in many cases, these plants and animals were either beneficial, or had naturalized, and should be considered part of the local ecosystem.

The 2012 PIELC is scheduled for the first four days of March, and again, there will be a panel on invasive species. The focus will be how climate change affects the picture. A complete report awaits you in April. For now, it got me thinking about the folly of controlling nature, whether that means trying to eradicate a species in a geographical area, or restore a section of land to conditions that existed a hundred years ago, or even plant a successful garden. As any field ecologist or gardener will tell you, it’s almost impossible to know what might come of your efforts. The system is just too complex to be predictable.

The science of invasive species is coming around to the conclusion that these would-be terrors actually might be relatively tame, and in an era when more and more of the planet is cleared and paved over, might actually be necessary to preserve and enhance the biological diversity of the planet (see for an example).

I like this quote from an article called Attack of the Flying Carp by Jeff Wheelwright in the March 2012 Discover magazine. “Ninety per cent of the catch in the Danube River is bighead and silver [carp],” (Duane) Chapman [carp researcher] remarked to his listeners. “They’re not an issue there; they are the fishery. If you want more biomass, or to feed more people, then it’s a great choice.” He pointed out that “invasive” was a relative term. “If you like ‘em, they’re not invasive.”

Well, I’m learning to like ‘em all. Enjoy the spring, and do what you can to preserve and enhance life of all kinds on the planet. Join in the annual chorus of renewal and sing loud and clear!

The Iran Fixation

Since the advent of the oil based economy, the US and its European allies have sought control of Middle Eastern oil fields.  The Ottoman Turks lost hegemony in the Middle East to the British and French as a result of World War One. And after the Second World War, European powers joined the US to form NATO and corner the Middle Eastern oil fields. At that time the US could rely on its own reserves for domestic use, but it formed NATO to counter supposed Soviet expansionism in Europe and elsewhere.  In reality, the Soviet Union had communized the countries at its Western border after World War Two to create a buffer against the West.  The USSR had been invaded by Western powers twice since its formation in 1917 and had lost some twenty million of its population in World War Two.  Yet our Cold War ideology held the Soviets to be the expansionist power, and expansionist American policy was always justified as countering Soviet communist internationalism, as our present empire is justified as countering Islamic “terrorism.”

In 1953, when British and American agents surreptitiously upended a democratically elected Iranian socialist government that had nationalized oil, they claimed their purpose was to counter Soviet influence.  The Shah was placed back on the throne, and Iran’s vast oil reserves were placed at the behest of Western oil corporations.  Twenty-five years later, the Islamist Iranian revolution renationalized oil. Oil rich states, Arab and otherwise, have long been aware that the only way to use their oil for their own good and not become an economic colony of America and the West is to nationalize their precious commodity.  Thus Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq also did so.  After the US passed peak oil production and its own resources began to decline sharply in the seventies, the free flow of oil became a priority not only to supply our European allies, but also ourselves. Hence we see what Hampshire College Peace Studies professor Michael Klare has predicted: continuous twenty-first century resource wars.

The overriding truth is that our two immensely destructive wars against Iraq, and our sanctions and increasing bellicosity towards Iran have nothing to do with these countries’ development of nuclear arms or other “weapons of mass destruction.” Though who could blame these oil rich countries in an era of rapidly depleting oil reserves for seeking to defend themselves from inevitable Western invasion by developing such weapons?  It is also true that just as Saddam Hussein had no “weapons of mass destruction,” neither can it be proven that  Iran’s uranium enrichment program has anything but the purpose their leaders articulate:  development of an energy source.

But just as it was useful for the US and its NATO allies to drum up a basis for invading Iraq in order to gain control of its oil, so has it been useful to do so as regards Iran.  And with this in mind Western and Israeli propaganda relentlessly portray Iran as a world threat.  Israel, never short on hyperbole, calls Iran an “existential threat,” citing its president, Ahmadinajad’s hostility to Zionism and penchant for Holocaust denial. But the Western press is forever silent concerning Israel’s own nuclear arsenal of over two hundred missiles. Israel is in fact one of the best armed countries in the world.  And its Mossad has been conducting a secret war inside Iran, including the killing of at least five nuclear scientists, as well as other Iranian civilians, by means of explosive devices.  Can you imagine how the US or Israel would react if Iran were doing such things within their borders?

We have been through all the sanctions and demonizing before in the run-up to the second invasion of Iraq. While the Obama administration lacks the ultra-imperialist Neocons to beat their war drums, they refuse to take military action “off the table,” they conduct no high level, let alone summit negotiations with Iran, and as with Iraq, they sponsor more and more brutal sanctions.

Modern Iran has never started an aggressive war. In the past twenty years alone, the US invaded Iraq twice and Afghanistan over a decade ago, where we still fight to secure a pipeline outlet for Caspian oil to the Indian Ocean. Who then is most likely to start the next catastrophic war in the Middle East?