Money Changer’s Serenade

Too Big To Fail

What in the world is going on?

by Gerald Celente

Too Big To Fail

• Only when you follow the story from the start, stay abreast of how it develops, carefully parse the language to unspin the spin, get your information from a wide range of sources and analyze the data for what it is – rather than for what you want it to be – can you hope to arrive at an objective conclusion. When this process is followed in observing and analyzing the Spanish banking crisis, it leads us to two conclusions:

1. It is, above all else, a con game. The con artists (heads of states, chiefs of finance and assorted technocrats) will say anything, do anything and promise anything in order to instill “confidence” in the markets and mollify the people.

2. It is crystal clear and undeniable that all these leaders, authorities and experts shooting off their mouths do not have a clue as to how to solve the crisis.

Elections are little more than turf wars between political crime families. But rather than fighting it out on the streets, to give it an air of legitimacy, the battles are waged at the ballot box. Republican, Democrats, Socialist, Bonannos, Gambinos, Lanskys, the methods differed but the motivation is the same: monetary profit and personal power.

And just as the old crime bosses died, were killed or dethroned and their families dissolved, so, too, the political crime syndicate is now under threat.

The time is ripe for new parties and new systems. Will the openings be filled with something new or will the political mob continue to rule? The outcome depends upon one thing: the will and spirit of the individual. Will people take their destiny into their own hands or continue to kneel before their oppressors; their “leaders,” “lawmakers,” “experts” and “authorities?”

It is only through having a clear understanding of the timeline of events that a clear picture of where they will lead is possible. Mainstream coverage, even when done in depth, tends to obscure the big picture by concentrating on the “breaking news” details.

It is important to recognize how, with each passing day, the headline news shifts focus from one crisis to the other. First there was Ireland, then Portugal, then Greece, now Spain. Tomorrow Italy, and the next day the world.

Free Speech Zone
Out of the volumes of press coverage, an impression was created that the experts, authorities, politicians and pundits – even when they disagreed with each other – knew what they were talking about. It was only by following the story closely and referencing an array of global media sources that it became transcendently clear that they were all full of shit and making it up as they went along.

The proof was that not only were the problems not solved, they were exacerbated.

Yet, the central bankers, and grandiosely labeled “monetary policy makers” were allowed to get away with it. Political and financial royalty pontificated in voices of authority from their financial palaces and pulpits, while the presstitutes persisted in kowtowing to them. As for the general public, apart from a tiny percentage of the financially attuned, most didn’t know, didn’t care, and couldn’t tell you the difference between IMF, EU, ECB and ABC.

The Shadow knows! The shakedown

There was no solving the European debt crisis. Despite big promises made by “leaders” attending the G-20 meeting in Mexico, it concluded with no breakthrough. The buzz quickly died down and gave way to a “great deal of anxiety among investors,” according to ECB executive board member Benoit Coeuré. “Political choices have to be made,” he explained, “and it’s not surprising that markets are in disarray because they don’t know the answers.”

Of course it was “not surprising.” The markets didn’t know the answers because the G-20 politicians didn’t have the answers. These weren’t brilliant minds with proven track records. They were the exact opposite. They were no more than career politicians whose careers were littered with policy failures. “More fundamentally,” Coeuré continued, “we are now in the third year of the European crisis and coming to a point where some of the short-term fixes have been tested and exhausted, and deeper questions are being asked.”

Third year? Short term fixes? Tested and exhausted? In blunt language, what this means is that after three years and trillions spent, their quick (short term) fixes did no more than temporarily bail out banks that had made bad bets and fallen deeply in debt, while driving a number of European nations into depression.

The Banksters

The Libor scandal should have been the story of the century. The magnitude and import of the crime, and its incommensurately paltry punishment, should have been headline news. Thus, only a small percentage of the public knew about it and understood what was really going on. As for the rest of the population, even if Libor made it into “their” news, they wouldn’t know a Libor if they got hit over the head by one. (LIBOR is the London Interbank Offered Rate is the average interest rate estimated by leading banks in London that they would be charged if borrowing from other banks)

While public outrage at flagrant banking criminality was building throughout much of the world, what was not being recognized was that, in fact, banks controlled the world. This wasn’t a paranoid, Illuminati-style conspiracy theory. It was a Central Bank coup: “Democratic” governments had been taken over by the banks. The banks weren’t colluding with the government. They were the government. They were one and the same.

Billions of lives and livelihoods were affected by the interest-rate rigging scheme, which was but the most recent in a long series of high crimes and misdemeanors committed by the financial crime syndicate. The banks were literally sapping the life out of the people.

Yet, in the Summer of 2012, even with the wave of high-profile bank bailouts and bank frauds making the news, you still could not read about what it signified.

Sovereign debt crisis – Spain, Greece, Italy, Bankia, euro bonds, Libor – there was just too much going on for most people to understand what it meant for them. Both the specialized financial language used and the labyrinthine and Machiavellian business practices described were profession-specific and beyond the comprehension of those unschooled in it.

It was not that it was in any sense a secret. It had been divulged almost 200 years ago by Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild:

“The few who can understand the system will be either so interested in its profits, or so dependent on its favours, that there will be no opposition from that class, while, on the other hand, that great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that Capital derives from the system, will bear its burden without complaint and, perhaps, without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.”

And that’s precisely how the “system” has been operating ever since.

By 2012, the takeover was complete. Rothschild’s 1838 bankers’ manifesto had been realized: “Let me issue and control a Nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.”

The people had become vassals to the bankers. But they liked to call it “freedom and democracy.”

Since the “Panic of ’08,” among the countries directly affected (with the exception of Iceland, who let the banks fail) priority number one has been to save the banks at any cost – even though it was universally recognized that the banks and Wall Street were, in large part, responsible for creating the Panic. This was the precise opposite of the government’s reaction to the Crash of ’29, when banks and brokerages responsible for building the speculative bubbles were recognized for what they were and reined in and regulated accordingly.

Not only did the rich rule, they ruled by divine right (e.g., Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s famous assertion, “We’re doing God’s work”).

Regardless of their “mis-steps,” regardless of their gross failures, regardless of the widespread effects of their failures, the people calling the shots never accept responsibility for their actions. At most they express regrets and leave it to the general public to pay for their mistakes. For all the talk about reducing debt and fostering responsible economic policy, the real purpose behind the austerity measures was to wring every cent they could out of the public in order to save the banks from the consequences of their bad bets and make good their losses.

In the case of Greece, for example, this is how it worked: The citizens of the Eurozone were taxed to pay off the bad bets made by banks and to pay off debts incurred by the Greek government. Their tax money went directly to the “troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund.) The troika would then send the funds to Greece in return for Greek bonds that nobody else would buy and that the Greek government could not service.

The Greek government took its cut of the tax money and sent the balance back to the troika. Thus, the troika loaned money to the government, most of which then went back to the troika in the form of interest payments on the bonds. In this way, 75 percent of Greece’s $230 billion debt was effectively appropriated by the troika. The long and short of it was that the troika enriched itself at the taxpayers’ expense and to the peril of the economy. The harsher the payment terms, the higher taxes had to be and the greater the cuts to services and benefits. The bigger the cuts, the deeper the depression. How could it be otherwise?

By June, official Greek unemployment hit 22 percent. In other words, the bankers and assorted financiers got practically all the money, the euro-public got taxed and received nothing in return and the Greek people were reduced to penury.

What’s in a name?

Rather than seriously address, or even acknowledge, these revolutions in the making, the news media’s standard response was to apply a pejorative label, whether or not the label fit. Any party making inroads into or unseating the ruling parties’ power was linguistically marginalized, demonized, or oversimplified as “populist,” “separatist,” “extremist,” “radical,” “anti-establishment,” etc.

Perhaps it was inevitable that news organizations would view anyone or anything that stepped beyond conventional wisdom as being on the “fringe,” since the media have positioned themselves as centrist (“Fair and balanced,” “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” “The Most Trusted Name in News”). Incestuously tied to the ruling parties, the media have become part of what all those populists, separatists, extremists, radicals and anti-establishmentarians were bent upon disempowering.

Yet, the simplistic language meant to diminish these diverse, complex political movements inadvertently described what would link them: class warfare.

The Great Book of Lies

Bankia was formed by the Spanish government in 2010 through a merger of 7 insolvent banks that had bet heavily and lost when Spain’s property market bubble blew up. In the Spring of 2011, Bankia prepared a €4 billion public offering, but the IPO fell flat with global institutional investors who were unwilling to put money into it because of its risky real estate exposure.

With the smart money out of the game, the Bankia bandits and the government wise guys targeted easier marks, launching a massive and successful public relations/propaganda campaign that exhorted Spanish citizens to buy shares of Bankia as a patriotic duty to help revive the sinking economy.

It was a con game, a ruthless, money-junkie ploy. It began with a lie and ended with a lie. Initially, shares were touted as a safe investment for the risk-averse. Bankia announced a €300 million profit for 2011, only to subsequently “re-adjust” those results as a €3 billion loss! Big international investors cashed out early, while the little people went down with the near-worthless stock.

The IMF applauded, asserting the bailout was big enough to restore credibility to Spanish banks. Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, echoed the enthusiasm: the plan provided “assurance that the financing needs of Spain’s banking system will be fully met.” And in America, Treasury Secretary and financial Pom-Pom Boy-in-Chief, Timothy Geithner, called the plan “important for the health of Spain’s economy and as concrete steps on the path to financial union, which is vital to the resilience of the euro area.”

Investors, unmoved by the cheerleading, saw it as a good deal only for banks and their shareholders, but a burden for the government that would take on more debt and the taxpayers who would be responsible for paying it off. The Spanish daily, El Mundo noted that the €1.8 billion per year interest payments on the loan would “oblige the government to tighten the austerity thumbscrew even further … One thing is for sure: no one lends €100 billion without demanding anything in return.”

Days later, the yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds, an indicator of the risk of holding that debt, rose to 6.96 percent, the highest since the euro was introduced in 1999 – just a hair below the 7 percent that the financial world regards as the interest rate of no return, beyond which there is no possibility of ever servicing the debt.

The complex machinery of state – government, financial sector, media – had been set in lock-step motion, devoted to nothing other than rescuing the banks. There was no need to justify the action. The banks were sacred, holy, sacrosanct, indispensable to the life of the planet. It was as self-evident as the fact that “all people are created equal” … especially if they were bankers and investors and therefore, like George Orwell’s pigs in Animal Farm, more equal than others.

The Only Change You Can Believe In

For anything significant to change, people must stop playing “follow the leader.” But, if people stop following the leader, then who will lead them? The answer: No one! You must lead yourself.

But self-leadership cannot be bought, given, or imposed. It has to come from within. It begins with expecting nothing from your “leaders” and understanding that everything has to come from you. It means having the courage not to cower to power. The dignity to claim your rightful and sacred place on earth. To respect ourself, demand it of others and show respect to all who merit it … regardless of class or status. The integrity to keep and live by your word. And the passion to live a life of meaning and conviction; for your heart to feel what your mind knows.

This is not an “every man for himself,” manifesto. Rather it is a call for a cooperative of individuals with the courage, dignity, respect, integrity and passion to chart a future that is not dictated and imposed upon them by ruling political parties and the unprincipled and oppressive systems they represent. There is no “We the People” until “I the Person” is willing to stand up and speak for himself or herself.

For the future to change, the individual must change. When enough individuals change, everything changes.

Forecasting trends since 1980, Gerald Celente, the Publisher of the Trends Journal (www.trendsjournal.com), Founder/Director of the Trends Research Institute, and author of the highly acclaimed and bestselling books, Trend Tracking and Trends 2000 (Warner Books) and What Zizi Gave Honeyboy. Gerald Celente and The Trends Research Institute have earned the reputation as “today’s must trusted name in trends” for their accurate and timely predictions. Celente will be speaking October 13 in Vancouver at the Seed Event.

illustrations by Anthony Freda

The Bubble and Beyond

Fictitious capital, debt deflation and the global crisis

by Michael Hudson

• This summary of my economic theory traces how industrial capitalism has turned into finance capitalism. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector has emerged to create “balance sheet wealth” not by new tangible investment and employment, but financially in the form of debt leveraging and rent-extraction. This rentier overhead is overpowering the economy’s ability to produce a large enough surplus to carry its debts. As in a radioactive decay process, we are passing through a short-lived and unstable phase of “casino capitalism,” which now threatens to settle into leaden austerity and debt deflation.

This situation confronts society with a choice either to write down debts to a level that can be paid (or indeed, to write them off altogether with a clean slate) or to permit creditors to foreclose, concentrating property in their own hands (including whatever assets are in the public domain to be privatized) and imposing a combination of financial and fiscal austerity on the population. This scenario will produce a shrinking debt-ridden and tax-ridden economy.

The latter is the path the Western nations are pursuing today. It is the opposite path that classical economists advocated and which Progressive Era writers expected to occur, given the inherent optimism of focusing on technological potential rather than on the political stratagems of the vested rentier interests fighting back against the classical idea of free markets and economic reforms to free industrial capitalism from the surviving carry-overs of medieval and even ancient privileges and essentially corrosive, anti-social behaviour.

Today’s post-industrial strategy of “wealth creation” is to use debt leveraging to bid up asset prices. From corporate raiders to arbitrageurs and computerized trading programs, this “casino capitalist” strategy works as long as asset prices rise at a faster rate than the interest that has to be paid. But it contains the seeds of its own destruction, because it builds up financial claims on the assets pledged as collateral – without creating new means of production. Instead of steering credit into tangible capital formation, banks find it easier to make money by lending to real estate and monopolies (and to other financial institutions). Their plan is to capitalize land rent, natural resource rent and monopoly privileges into loans, stocks and bonds.

This leads the banks to act as lobbyist for their rentier clients, to free them from taxes so that they will have more available to pay interest. The resulting tax shift onto labour and industry adds a fiscal burden to the debt overhead.

This is not a natural and even inevitable form of evolution. It is a detour from the kind of economy and indeed free market that classical writers sought to create. With roots in the 13th-century Schoolmen discussing Just Price, the labour theory of value was refined as a tool to isolate economic rent as that element of price that had no counterpart in actual or necessary costs of production. Banking charges, monopoly rent and land rent were the three types of economic rent analyzed in this long classical tradition. These rentier charges were seen as unnecessary and exploitative special privileges carried over from the military conquests that shaped medieval Europe. A free market was defined as one free of such overhead charges.

This classical view of free markets as being free of an unearned “free lunch” was embodied in the Progressive Era’s financial and tax reforms. But the rentiers have fought back. The financial sector seeks to justify today’s deepening indebtedness on the ground that it “creates wealth” by debt leveraging. Yet the banks’ product is a debt overhead, leaving debt deflation in its wake as debtors try to pay debts that can’t be paid without drastically reducing consumption and investment. A shrinking economy falls further into arrears in a debt spiral.

The question today is whether a new wave of reform will arise to restore and indeed complete the vision of classical political economy that seemed to be shaping evolution a century ago on the eve of World War I, or whether the epoch of industrial capitalism will be rolled back toward a neofeudal reaction defending rentier interests against reform. What is up for grabs is how society will resolve the legacy of debts that can’t be paid. Will it let the financial sector foreclose, and even force governments to privatize the public domain under distress conditions? Or will debts be written down to what can be paid without polarizing wealth and income, dismantling government, and turning tax policy over to financial lobbyists pretending to be objective technocrats?

To provide a perspective on the financial sector’s rise to dominance over the industrial economy, The Bubble and Beyond reviews how classical economists developed the tools to measure how finance now plays role that landlords did in Physiocratic and Ricardian theory: as beneficiaries of feudal privileges that oblige society to pay them for access to credit as well as land. As land ownership has been democratized, new buyers obtain credit to purchase homes and office buildings by pledging the rental income to bankers. About 80 percent of bank loans in the United States, Britain and other English-speaking countries are real estate mortgages, making land the major bank collateral. The result is that mortgage bankers receive the rents formerly taken by a hereditary aristocracy in post-feudal Europe and the colonies it conquered.

Whatever the tax collector relinquishes is available for this end. This has led the financial sector to subsidize popular opposition to taxing property – reversing the ideology of free markets held by the classical economic reformers. And with the financialization of real estate providing the post-industrial model, corporate raiders since the 1980s have adopted the speculator’s motto, “Rent is for paying interest,” using corporate cash flow to make a deal with their backers to obtain loans to take over companies already in place – and bleed them.

This phenomenon is called financialization, and my book describes how it has transformed the economics of real estate, industry and pension fund saving into a Bubble Economy based on debt-leveraged asset-price inflation – leaving debt deflation in its wake. The banker’s business plan, after all, is to turn as much of the economic surplus as possible into a flow of interest payments. But this must be self-defeating. Paying debt service diverts revenue away from being spent on consumption and tangible capital investment. This causes debt deflation and imposes financial austerity. Capital and infrastructure are bled to squeeze out the revenue to pay bankers and other creditors, depleting the economy’s reproductive powers.

What is unique to the post-1980 Bubble Economy is the tactic by which austerity has been averted, by new credit creation to inflate asset prices in what is rightly termed a Ponzi scheme. (The appendix at the end of this volume defines the terms and concepts by which I describe this process.) Instead of interest rates rising to reflect the increasing risks of the debt-ridden economy, banks kept the financialization process going by easing credit terms: lowering interest rates and the amortization rate (culminating in “interest only loans), and also lowering down payments (for zero down payment loans) and credit standards (appropriately called “liars’ loans”).

The direct effect of collateral-based lending is to bid up prices for the real estate, stocks and bonds pledged as collateral for larger and larger loans. An asset is worth whatever a bank will lend against it, and easier credit terms serve to preserve the market price of assets pledged for debt. This is the case even as the economy diverts more of its income – and transfers more of its capital and future income – to the financial sector, which concentrates wealth in its own hands.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan encouraged mortgage borrowers to think of themselves as getting richer as the market price of their homes rose in the early 2000s. But the “wealth creation” was debt-leveraged, and easy credit obliged new buyers to take on a lifetime of debt to afford housing. After 2008 their mortgages had to paid even as a quarter of U.S. residential real estate fell into negative equity when market prices plunged below the level of the mortgages attached to it.

A similar phenomenon has occurred as education has been financialized. Students must take on decades of student-loan obligations and pay them regardless of whether the education enables them to get jobs in an economy shrinking from debt deflation. The magnitude of these loans now exceeds $1 trillion – larger even than credit-card debt. Instead of being treated as a public utility to prepare the population for gainful work, the educational system has been turned into an opportunity for banks to profiteer from a debt market guaranteed by the government.

The economy’s circular flow becomes a vicious circle as paying debt service leads to smaller market demand for goods. Investment and employment are cut back, government budgets move into deficit, forcing cutbacks in revenue sharing with localities and subsidies for education. Schools raise their tuition levels, obliging students and families to take on more debt, creating yet more debt deflation.

Other public infrastructure is sold off to pay down debts, and the buyers raise access prices and tolls on roads and other privatized transportation – and so on throughout the economy. Debts mount up increasingly as a result of arrears in making payments, losing all relationship with the realistic ability to pay.

What has gone relatively unremarked by economists is how financialization of the economy has transformed the idea of saving. In times past, saving was non-spending on goods and services – in the form of liquid assets. Typically on a national scale, between one-sixth and one-fifth of income would be saved – and invested in capital on the other side of the balance sheet. But since the 1980s, as banks loosened lending standards on real estate and made and the financial sector in general turned increasingly to financing corporate raiders, mergers and acquisitions, the way to create future wealth was not to save, but was to go into debt. The aim was capital gains more than current income. Indeed, after 2001 many families “made more” on the rising market price of their homes than they made in salary (not to speak of being able to save out of their salary).

Under financialization, the strategy was to seek capital gains, riding the wave of asset-price inflation being fuelled by Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve Board. Investment performance was measured in terms of “total returns,” defined as income yield plus capital gains. And the way to maximize these gains was to borrow at a relatively low interest rate, to buy assets whose price was rising at a higher rate. For the first time in recorded history, large numbers of people went into debt not out of need, not involuntarily and as a result of running arrears as a result of inability to pay, but voluntarily, believing that debt leveraging was the quickest and easiest way to get rich!

The national income accounts were not designed to trace this process. Using debt leveraging to obtain capital gains meant that bank loans found their counterpart in debt on the other side of the balance sheet, not new tangible investment. The result was a wash. So the nominal savings rate declined – to zero by 2008. Yet people thought of themselves as saving, as long as their net worth was rising. That is supposed to be the aim of saving, after all: to increase one’s net worth. The result was a financial “balance sheet boom,” not the kind of expansion or business cycle that industrial capitalism generated.

As this process unfolded “on the way up,” financial lobbyists applauded the asset-price inflation for real estate, stocks and bonds as “wealth creation.” But it was making the economy less competitive, as seen most clearly in the de-industrialization of the United States. Debt-leveraged real estate required families to pay higher prices for housing – in the form of mortgage interest – and pension funds to pay higher prices for the stocks and bonds they buy to pay retirement incomes. That is the problem with the Bubble Economy. It is debt-driven. This debt is the “product” of the banking and financial sector.

When asset prices finally collapse to reflect the debtor’s ability to pay (and the falling market price of collateral bought on credit), these debts remain in place. The “final stage” of the Bubble Economy occurs when foreclosure time arrives and debt-ridden economies shrink into Negative Equity. That is the stage in which the U.S. and European economies are mired today. Economic jargon has called it a “balance sheet recession” – the counterpart to the “balance sheet boom” that was the essence of the preceding Bubble Economy.

The process became political quite quickly. Banks and high finance sought to shift their losses onto the economy at large. As debts went bad in 2008, Wall Street turned to the government for bailouts, and demanded that the Federal Reserve and Treasury take their bad loans onto the public balance sheet. This has occurred from the United States to Ireland. The effect was to increase U.S. federal debt by over $13 trillion – without running a deficit of this magnitude, but simply by taking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac onto the public balance sheet ($5.3 trillion), by the Federal Reserve swapping $2 trillion in newly created deposit liabilities in a “cash for trash” swap with Citibank, Bank of America and other banks that were the worst offenders in making junk mortgages, and with other policies confined to the balance sheet, not current spending.

This vast increase in money and credit was not inflationary. At least, it did not increase consumer prices, commodity prices or wages. The aim was indeed to increase asset prices, but the banks were not lending, given the fact that debt deflation was engulfing the entire economy. So the traditional monetary formula MV=PT became irrelevant. Asset prices were the key, not prices for goods and services – and asset prices could not rise as long as so many assets were in negative equity. So money creation became a pure giveaway to the financial sector – a “transfer payment,” not a payment for the purchase or sale of a consumer good or investment good.

The Bubble and Beyond discusses the global dimension of “socializing” (or more to the point, oligarch-izing) unpayably high debts. The world’s money supply now rests ultimately on government debt – and the government’s acceptance of this debt as money in payment of taxes and public services. Yet there is something fictitious about all this: the debts can’t be paid!

The most obviously unpayable are those of the U.S. Government. This makes these debts “fictitious,” inasmuch as dollar holders are unable to convert their savings into tangible assets, goods or services. Gold convertibility was ended in 1971 in response to the Vietnam War’s drain on the U.S. balance of payments. Yet the dollar has remained the foundation of most central bank reserves even as the U.S. trade deficit deepened as the economy was post-industrialized while overseas military spending has escalated. This military dimension grounds the global financial system in U.S. military hegemony.

This has prompted the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to seek an alternative payments and debt-settlement system so as not to base their international savings on a system that finances their military encirclement. As it stands the dollar standard provides a free lunch for the U.S. economy (“debt imperialism”), above all for its government to create money without regard for the ability (not to mention the will) to pay.

If the dollar deficit were used to promote peaceful economic development in an atmosphere of global disarmament, the rest of the world would be more willing to see the U.S. Treasury act as global money creator on its electronic computer keyboards. But when this is done for national self-interest that other countries see as being at odds with their own aspirations, the system becomes politically as well as financially unstable. That is the position in which the world economy finds itself today.

It became even less stable when the Federal Reserve provided $800 billion in credit to U.S. banks in 2011 under the Quantitative Easing (QE2), which the banks used to make easy money on international interest-rate and foreign currency arbitrage. Given the refusal of Congress to permit China or other countries to buy major American industrial assets (e.g., as when CNOOK was blocked from buying Unocal), and financial deregulation leading to decriminalization of financial frauds (as in the “toxic waste” of subprime mortgage packages), the world’s monetary system is in the process of fracturing into regional blocks.

What is not clear is what kind of regulatory, financial and tax philosophy will guide these blocs. At best, the world will return to the debates that marked economic discussion a century ago on the eve of World War I. At issue is whether the financial sector will translate its recent gains into the political power to take debt and financial policy out of the hands of elected government representatives and agencies and shift economic planning and tax policy into the hands of a super-national central bank authority controlled by bank lobbyists.

The lesson of history is that this would be a disaster of historic proportions, because the financial time frame is short-term and its business strategy is extractive, not productive. I hope the papers in this volume will serve as an antidote to the head start that financial lobbyists have achieved in sacrificing economies to austerity in what must be a vain attempt to pay debts under adverse financial conditions that make them less and less payable. By distinguishing tangible wealth creation from debt overhead and other rentier overhead – the task of classical political economy, after all – the policy debate can be cast in a manner that reverses the financial sector’s attempt to replace realistic analysis with euphemistic lobbying efforts and what best can be characterized as junk economics rather than empirical science.

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971). ISLET engages in research regarding domestic and international finance, national income and balance-sheet accounting with regard to real estate, and the economic history of the ancient Near East. Michael acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law. He gives presentations on various topics at conferences and meetings. Google his many You Tube videos and listen to some of his radio interviews to hear his hyperspeed analysis of the geo-political machinations of global economics.


michael-hudson.com/overview-the-bubble-and-beyond/

Eating for beauty

eating healthy

by David “Avocado” Wolfe

eating healthy

The subtle energy of your food becomes your mind.
– The Upanishads

“You are what you eat” is a cosmic law. That phrase is like a zip file that was attached to our spirit when we were emailed to the planet. It seems strange that I have never met anyone who did not know the phrase “you are what you eat.” From this phrase, much can be derived.

At the most basic level, you remake yourself moment-by-moment and meal-to-meal. The food you eat becomes part of who you are. Thus, lasting beauty stems from a commitment to eating beautifying foods.

There are two ways to approach a more beautifying diet: Adding healthy foods, pure water and beautifying nutrients. Leaving out unhealthy, damaging foods and tap water.

Not sure what to leave out? The foods that disfavour beauty include processed-chemicalized foods, refined sugar, processed-cooked starches, cooked rancid oils and fried foods. Sweets, refined breads and sodas are damaging to the teeth and skin and stimulate weight gain. Starchy hybridized cooked carbs (including most common breads and grain products, as well as, potatoes) make the skin dry and pasty. “White” foods such as white bread, white rice, refined pasta, rice cakes, potato chips, French fries, soda pop and energy drinks are low in minerals and high in sugar. These are exactly the things we need to avoid. Foods like these deplete the body of minerals, create acidity and can lead to fungus, yeast and mold overgrowth and immune system susceptibility in the body.

Sugar is damaging to the skin because it attaches to collagen molecules, causing stiffness and inflexibility. This leads to accelerated skin damage and wrinkle formation. In addition, when simple sugar molecules such as fructose or glucose are in the bloodstream without the moderation of an enzyme, they can become attached to proteins or lipids (fats). This process is called glycation. Glycation creates the formation of rogue molecules called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). If a person has a high amount of sugar in their diet, they will have a high amount of AGEs in their bloodstream – and these inflammatory compounds literally prematurely age us.

Cooked and rancid oils and fats are also particularly destructive because these compounds do not dissolve in water. Since we are primarily a water-based life form, it makes metabolism of cooked and rancid oils difficult at best. Cooked and rancid oils may make it into fatty organs and tissues where they are inflammatory in nature, burden these organs and inevitably create detrimental responses in the skin’s complexion, leading to acne, wrinkles and premature aging.

Raw fats and oils are important though. Every cell in your body requires some fats and oils. When you eat healthy fats – like pure omega 3 fatty acids, olive oil, oily seeds, and avocados –your cell membranes become flexible and the cells can absorb nutrients well and respond properly to hormones. But when you eat unhealthy fats, they end up being deposited in parts of your cell membranes that take the place of good fats like a toxic impostor. These cells can become stiff and inflexible, causing both health and beauty problems. Inflexible cell membranes make it difficult for nutrients to be transported into the cells. Circulation can become sluggish, which contributes to dry, flaky skin and acne. Stiff cell membranes make your cells less responsive to important hormonal messages. All this adds up to bad news for your skin and longevity.

Sometimes skin conditions (like eczema and psoriasis) can be partly caused by nutritional deficiencies (toxic foods are also causative factors in these skin conditions). Once the deficiency is rectified and the body has what it needs as building blocks, the body can heal itself and the skin will return back to normal. Vitamins and oils that are important for good skin are destroyed by heat. These include: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and omega 3 fatty acids as well as raw saturated fats (especially coconut oil). On the other hand, nutrient-rich raw food is ideal for placing a sparkle in the eyes, lustre in the hair, radiance in the skin and a pleasant odour to the body.

Let’s face it; approaching your diet from a place of denial and discipline does not work in the long run. The easiest way to make changes is to begin by adding, not subtracting. By adding nutrient-rich foods, superfoods and superherbs, you allow your body to shift automatically at its own pace so that, eventually, processed foods will lose their appeal.

The foods we add should be as nutrient-rich and as densely mineralized as possible. Eating organic foods, superfoods and superherbs grown in mineralized soils is ideal. Over time, the goal is that every food you put in your mouth is nutrient-dense. This will go a long way towards building healthy tissues throughout the body that will have long-term implications, not only for beauty, but for longevity as well.

Another key thing to include in everyone’s diet is good, hydrating, clean, structured water. I recommend finding a natural spring for fresh, wild spring water. Water flushes toxins, transports nutrients, keeps cells hydrated and plump and prevents dry skin. Chemicals and pollution abound in our world. No source of tap water anywhere in the world (except in Iceland) is safe to drink. You have to either get a filter or your body will become a filter.

Raw food contains a lot of hydration in the form of juice. Juice makes your tissues plump and youthful. If you desire beauty, your tissues should have a juicy, hydrated quality about them. You can also get hydrating benefits from juicing fruits and vegetables and young coconut water.

Here are some important foods and nutrients to include for beautiful skin and hair:

Antioxidants to slow the oxidation of cells by free radicals (reactive oxygen). Good concentrations of antioxidants are found in berries, citrus, cacao, leafy greens and many superfoods, as well as raw fats and oils.

Enzymes to promote absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Enzymes are naturally present in raw foods and low-temperature dehydrated foods. Enzyme supplements are also recommended to improve metabolism, speed healing and for youthening.

Omega 3s are important essential fatty acids lacking in most people. Omega 3s are found in hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, evening primrose oil, algae oil, fish oil and Krill oil. They protect cell membranes and provide what the body needs for better skin hydration. They decrease red splotches in the skin and help smooth rough skin.

Saturated Fat (Coconut Oil and Raw Butter) is the dominant oil in your body and makes up over 60% of the oils in your skin. Raw saturated fats are important antioxidants that also support the nervous system.

Vitamins A and K protect against skin cancer and help the body produce sebum – an oil that serves as a natural conditioner. Good sources of both these vitamins include dark green vegetables such as: kale, broccoli, chard, collards and beet greens.

Vitamin C youthens, decreases wrinkles and plays a role in synthesis of collagen, a protein responsible for elasticity. Vitamin C is easily found in most fruits and vegetables, especially papaya, kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes, red bell pepper, oranges and lemons and limes. Botanical, concentrated powdered vitamin C sources such as camu camu, acerola, amla and rosehips are also recommended.

Vitamin E protects cells against free radicals and is commonly found in almonds, avocados, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, olives, olive oil and lettuce. Vitamin E supplements are recommended; one should consume both tocopherol and tocotrienol forms of vitamin E.

Zinc helps the immune system and digestion, improves stress levels, supports healthy hair and helps heal eczema, acne and wounds. Good sources of zinc include poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pecans, almonds and nearly all foods that are naturally black in colour.

Although topical creams and oils can help your skin and hair look more radiant, the best way to build beauty is to glow from within. Invest in delicious foods, superfoods and superherbs. Remember, the foundation of beauty is within.

David “Avocado” Wolfe has been an advocate of raw food for 20 years. He is considered by his peers to be one of the world’s leading authorities in nutrition. He is a bestselling author and world authority on raw foods and superfoods. He is the founder and the leading contributor to the Internet’s only peak performance and nutrition online magazine: www.TheBestDayEver.com See David Wolfe in Vancouver at the Seed Event, October 13, PNE Forum. www.seedevent.org


Beauty breakfast

Blend together:

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 handful of fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbs. goji berries
  • 1 tbs. hempseed oil or
  • pumpkin seed oil (Styrian)
  • 1 tbs. spirulina powder
  • 1 tsp. acai powder
  • ½ tsp. camu camu
  • 3 tbs. tocotrienols
  • (raw rice bran solubles)
  • 1 tbs. xylitol
  • 1 dropper schizandra berry tincture
  • 1 dropper vanilla stevia
  • Optional: 1 tbs. longan powder (or 1 handful of fresh de-seeded longan fruits)

photo © Konstantin Yuganov

Treating-to-Target

Aggressive approach may lead to bigger problems

DRUG BUST by Alan Cassels

• The people’s briefing note on prescription drugs

Portrait of columnist Alan Cassels

For most people, taking drugs for high blood pressure seems like the right thing to do, but is it? That’s the question I’m asking as I look ever more closely at what the research says about the wisdom of feeding pharmaceuticals to otherwise healthy people who have nothing other than a “high” blood pressure reading.

Let’s start with a parable of how things typically unroll.

Seventy-eight-year-old Mary McGillicutty is told she’s got “high” blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff reads 155 over 95 (millimetres of mercury, abbreviated as mmHG). The top number is the pressure on her artery walls when her heart contracts and the lower number is the pressure when her heart relaxes. Mary’s doctor wants to see lower numbers and he convinces her of the need to do so.

Dangerously high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Lowering that pressure, through exercise, diet modification and drugs, can reduce the risk. Right now, “normal” blood pressure is defined as being at or below 120 over 80. You might be labelled a “prehypertensive” if your blood pressure is between 120 to 139 over 80 to 89. The classic “stage 1 hypertension” is when it is between 140 to 159 over 90 to 99.

Most people don’t know that the level considered “high” has changed over the years. One physician told me that, 10 years ago, he wouldn’t do anything with a patient whose pressures were 160 over 100 but now, he says, “You’d almost feel like you were committing malpractice if you didn’t give your patient a drug.”

Our doctors are ‘trained’ to get that blood pressure down ‘to target’ – as close to normal as possible – and the concept of “treating to target” is reinforced through blood pressure guidelines, cardiologists who deliver medical education to doctors and pharmaceutical sales people schmoozing our doctors’ offices with new drug samples. Some have said “treating to target” as a concept is a creation of the pharmaceutical industry, which reinforces that message because it’s a great way to get doctors to prescribe drugs and patients to swallow them.

But back to Mary. No matter what her doctor does, he can’t seem to make her numbers much lower. He tries one drug, a diuretic, and the blood pressure drops only a little; then he tries another and after a few weeks of frustration, he adds a third.

Mary’s numbers are slowly dropping but another thing is happening: she’s not feeling so well.

A few days after the third anti-hypertensive drug is added to her regime, Mrs. McGillicutty sits up in bed one morning, feeling all light-headed and dizzy. She tries to stand and falls. An ambulance is called and by that evening Mary is in surgery for a broken hip. Her life is never the same. High blood pressure now seems trivial compared to the life-altering effects of a hip fracture. She never lives in her own home again.

I only have one word for this all too-common situation: “Harrumph.”

Was this mess started with the need, nay, the very strong push to get her blood pressures to go as low as possible? Why do we push the “treat to target” paradigm on people and in so doing risk the effects of another kind of illness, “hypotension,” (low blood pressure)?

Peter Conrad, author of the 2007 book, The Medicalization of Society, points a finger at the American Society of Hypertension, claiming its pharmaceutical-funded campaigns were behind efforts to “redefine hypertension to turn it into a broader syndrome.” The rationale was like this: With blood pressure defined as being at or over 140/90, about 65 million Americans would fit that category. Lower that to 120/ 80 and guess what? Cue the cash-register sounds as you’ve increased the potential antihypertensive drug market in the US by nearly 30 million people, overnight. And that’s exactly what they did.

If you were in a business that depended on selling drugs and visits to the doctor, you couldn’t dream up anything more successful than routine blood pressure monitoring and treatment. In fact, getting our blood pressure checked is the single most common reason for visiting the physician. Why is that? Because regardless of your definition, a lot of us have hypertension. The US Centres for Disease Control conducted a large population survey in 2010 and found that “25% of a random sample of US adults had been told on two or more visits that they had hypertension.”

Luckily for us, a new research study published in mid-August by the Cochrane Collaboration (www.cochrane.org) has found something that should revolutionize how we treat blood pressure. The Cochrane Collaboration is a highly trusted source of drug information as it is independent of funding from the pharmaceutical industry and relies on ‘gold-standard’ methods for reviewing and synthesizing only the best evidence.

Also luckily for us, the Cochrane Collaboration’s Hypertension Review Group is headquartered right here in Vancouver, with UBC’s Therapeutics Initiative. The coordinating editor of this international team of researchers, who focus their research on blood pressure treatments, is Dr. Jim Wright. Over the last few years, his group has produced many major reviews of blood pressure drugs and found that using drugs to lower blood pressure can reduce deaths and illness in people over 60 years of age and that the cheapest and oldest treatments (thiazide diuretics) are the safest and most effective. Very importantly and often overlooked is the fact the main benefits of altering blood pressures with drugs are based mostly on patients who had elevated blood pressure in the moderate to severe range (greater than 160/100 mmHg). But what if it were lower?

This new review answered that vitally important question: Does drug treatment versus no treatment ‘work’ for those people who have no established heart disease and only mild hypertension (defined as 140-159 over 90-99 mmHg)? What we mean by ‘work’ is this: Did the drugs produce any statistically significant differences in the numbers of people who died, had strokes, heart attacks or total cardiovascular events?

Drumroll please… No, they didn’t.

Looking at trials totalling nearly 9,000 patients treated for more than four to five years, this review found no evidence that these mild hypertensive patients benefit from drug therapy. Further, about one in 11 patients treated with drugs experienced an adverse effect that was bad enough to make them stop the drug. Dr. Wright concludes his review by calling for better research on who should or should not be treated for high blood pressure.

Fair enough.

But what about the millions of people like Mrs. McGillicutty who are healthy and well and yet their blood pressures have become a demon that physicians feel they must exorcize at all costs? What about people’s lives being made worse from efforts to lower blood pressures ‘to target’? Almost everyone will have higher blood pressure as they get old, but does that mean we need to automatically throw drugs at it?

Mary McGillicutty is not a victim of medical malpractice, but rather of cultural malpractice. Pharma largesse is behind the push for aggressive measuring and drug treatment, almost as if they were working under the medical equivalent of cycling great Lance Armstrong’s mantra “Go hard or go home.” Aggressive medical intervention to get to lower and lower blood pressure is a cultural phenomenon and as author Lynn Payer wrote in her book Medicine and Culture, “Even as doctors regard themselves as servants of science, they are often prisoners of custom.”

Thankfully, the truth might set us free and independent research, such as that provided by the Cochrane Collaboration, may end up being a “Get out of jail free” card.

Alan Cassels is a pharmaceutical policy researcher at the University of Victoria and author of Seeking Sickness. His next book will be about the history of the Cochrane Collaboration. Follow him on Twitter @AKECassels or www.alancassels.com

 

GM corn proves deadly for lab rats

The first-ever GM food safety study to test over the entire life span of laboratory rats (two years) was published last month and found serious health impacts from eating Monsanto’s genetically engineered (also called genetically modified or GM) corn NK603, which was approved in Canada in 2001. The peer-reviewed study also tested the impacts of consuming residues of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, the widest selling herbicide in the world.

“Health Canada has approved this GM corn and all other GM foods based on corporate tests that were too short to observe the severe health impacts that this study found,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “Health Canada has never looked past the 90 days of Monsanto’s studies. Canadians have been eating this particular GM corn since 2001.”

The study, published in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, is the first animal feeding trial conducted over the lifetime of rats (700 days). Health Canada evaluates the safety of GM foods based on industry studies, the longest of which have been 90-day animal feeding trials. The study tested three different diets: GM corn, GM corn with herbicide residue and without.

Monsanto’s GM corn NX603 is herbicide tolerant meaning it is genetically engineered to withstand sprayings of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Health Canada approved it in 2001. French media are reporting that the GM corn samples used in the study were secured from a Canadian university.

The new study observed that rats fed the GM corn, or Roundup, developed tumours faster and died earlier than rats fed non-GM corn. Furthermore, the first tumour was observed after 120 days, with the majority detected after 18 months.

The study shows GM corn can cause severe negative health effects in laboratory rats including mammary tumours and kidney and liver damage, leading to premature death:

Fed GM corn or Roundup, up to 50% of males and 70% of females died prematurely, compared with only 30% and 20% in the control group.

Females developed fatal mammary tumours and pituitary disorders. Males suffered liver damage and developed kidney and skin tumours and problems with their digestive system.

Rats fed GM corn or Roundup developed two to three times more tumours.

By the 24th month, 50% to 80% of the females had developed large tumours compared to 30% in the control group.

According to Sharratt, “Health Canada must re-evaluate the safety of all GM foods based on these results and halt new approvals until we have long-term testing and transparent regulation. Are Canadians expected to continue eating GM corn? The federal government needs to redesign the entire system that approves GM foods because our regulations are not designed to look for the types of problems these scientists have found.

“The safety of GM foods cannot be assumed, it needs to be tested. We cannot rely on science from companies to prove safety. We need to turn to the precautionary principle to keep Canadians safe and this means keeping GM foods off the shelves.”

The government of France is already calling for action in the wake of the study. The relevant ministers in France say the research confirms that European Union regulations on GM foods are insufficient in regards to the study of toxicological effects.

The study was conducted by a team led by molecular biologist and endocrinologist professor Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France and was supported by the independent research organization CRIIGEN, the Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering.

From Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (www.cban.ca)

Health Canada bans citronella

dried citronella

by John Biggs

dried citronella flakes

• For those of you relieved to have found natural products containing citronella that actually work to repel bugs – so you could avoid using Deet – you had better stock up. These products are in the process of being axed by Health Canada. Better yet, do something about it. Call your MP or protest directly to Health Canada or to the Health Minister.

The reason these safe citronella products are being ordered off the market – even as Deet has caused so many side effects and is still widely available – involves establishment manipulation of science. You see, citronella contains a substance called methyleugenol. When methyleugenol on its own was administered internally to mice – via a stomach tube – tumours arose at multiple sites. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/ twelfth/profiles/Methyleugenol.pdf Oral administration and intraperitoneal injections in rats produced similar results. The conclusion that was reached and publicized right off the top is that methyleugenol is “Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” so citronella is being pulled based on “reasonable anticipation.” But there are problems with Health Canada’s rationale. Humans applying citronella oil to their skin is obviously not the equivalent of forcing oral ingestion of one of its isolated constituents into the stomachs of mice/rats or injecting it into their body cavities, (i.e. methyleugenol). In addition to the obvious reasons, when it comes to natural substances, the whole simply doesn’t equal the sum of the parts.

To illustrate this, consider a presentation given by Bruce Ames, PhD., at the Seventh International Symposium on Functional Medicine. Bruce Ames is the scientist who came up with the Ames Test for carcinogenicity. Using this test, you can take a compound and assess its potential to cause gene mutations and based on the outcome, you can determine how likely it is to cause cancer, or not. According to Dr. Ames, you have to be careful about drawing conclusions from this and he used fruits and vegetables to make this point. He noted that, if you take any fruit or vegetable and break it down into its constituent compounds and test them individually, invariably about half of them will cause cancer (i.e. test positive), yet fruits and vegetables themselves don’t cause cancer. They are, in fact, protective against cancer. Thus, the effect of the whole cannot be assessed from the parts and you definitely can’t draw direct conclusions from one constituent.

Likewise, you can’t draw accurate conclusions about citronella by testing isolated methyleugenol. But, of course, outcomes from the Ames test on methyleugenol are being used as evidence to withdraw citronella even though methyleugenol can be found in bananas, black pepper and bilberries and the EPA in the US considers citronella to be safe (www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/3105red.pdf)

The amount of double-speak surrounding the issue is incredible. Even though topical preparations of citronella are being pulled and Canadian health stores have had product seized and verbal stop-sale warnings have been issued to suppliers, citronella’s addition to cigarettes is just fine because it doesn’t increase carcinogenicity. (See “toxicity” heading at this link: http://tobaccoinformation.bhp.doh.gov.tw/toxicfolder/011.%E5 %B8%9D%E5%9C%8B%E8%8F%B8%E8%8D%89/057.pdf ). And when talking about Deet carcinogenicity, despite Swedish human studies showing that an increased rate of exposure increased testicular cancer, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/consultations/deet/carcinogenicity.html, the conclusion stated: “Interpret the results with caution” and “These data do not necessarily suggest that long-term use of DEET could cause testicular cancer.“ Also take a look at the “Health Effects in Humans” tab at this link where it states: “Case reports of toxicity from DEET exposure have been documented in the medical literature and range in severity from mild skin irritation to death.” Death! Or as reported on ABC’s Primetime Live segment on the issue: rashes, dizziness and seizures in adults and brain disorders, seizures and even (yes) death in children from Deet. See also http://www.toxicsinfo.org/pests/lyme_deet.htm

Compare this to the documented side effects for citronella; www.webmd.com states, “Citronella oil seems to be safe for most people when applied to the skin as an insect repellent. However, it might cause skin allergies in some people.” www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-627-CITRONELLA%20OIL.aspx?activeIngredientId=627 &activeIngredientName=CITRONELLA%20OIL

Hmmm, skin allergies versus death for documented side effects – and the one that produces death is still on the market.

To approve a natural health product, Health Canada requires two human trials to approve its claim even if there is a mountain of test-tube evidence for one or more of its constituents. But to pull citronella, it is using “reasonable anticipation” that one of its constituents may pose a threat to humans. Of course, “may” automatically implies “may not” and there’s zero actual data that citronella is dangerous to humans.

But it doesn’t end there. Suppose you say, “OK, I won’t use citronella topically, I’ll just use it on patches stuck to my clothes, something many have found very effective.” Well, Health Canada is ordering these off the market as well. So I found it no coincidence when I recently saw a commercial for Johnson & Johnson’s OFF repellent clip-on device. Now, it is all starting to make sense.

Do you get the picture? The boom has come from above and multi-nationals/pharmaceutical companies have Health Canada in their back pocket. And the agency is only too willing to comply because after all, if we get another West-Nile scare, bug-repellent will be big business. Given methyleugenol’s presence in several other essential oils, such as rose, basil, anise and nutmeg to name a few, don’t be surprised if these also come under attack in the future. Once again, bureaucratic regulation based on a false premise of public protection is being used to make competition for the big boys illegal. Sound familiar? It’s happening to our supplements as well.

How far, as Canadians, are we willing to let this go, without holding our politicians and bureaucrats accountable? If this upsets you, do something about it. Call your government offices and let them know exactly how you feel, politely of course, and remember to request a response.

Find your MP using your postal code: www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/ HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC

Contact the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health at 613-957-0200 by email: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/ahc-asc/minist-eng.php,
or write to:
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
Health Canada
Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney’s Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9

Contact Glenda Yeates, Deputy Minister of Health at 613-957-0212, or www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/ahc-asc/deputy-sous-eng.php, or write to:
Deputy Minister’s Office
Health Canada
(See address above for the Health Minister)

John Biggs (BSc, NCP) is a nutritional consulting practitioner and the owner of Optimum Health Vitamins in Alberta. www.optimumhealthvitamins.com

photo © Food-micro

The Trouble With Normal

Bruce Cockburn

A new take on a Cockburn classic

by Geoff Olson

Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn - still making memes after all these years

• If kvetching was an Olympic category, I’d be up there on the podium wearing a furrowed brow and bronze medal. I can think of at least two friends who would be next to me with the silver and gold. When a group of us get together for lunch to discuss current events, it’s game on. Not only is the glass half-empty, the water quality is suspect and the drinking vessel looks dodgy, too. We can decode any cloud’s silver lining as the glint of Damocles’ sword.

As we unpack the bad craziness of the daily disaster-feed, I can always count on one of my companions to get a weary, far-away look before reciting, for the umpteenth time, a lyric from a 1983 song by Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn: “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.”

Standards are always slipping; what was once unthinkable or unacceptable is redefined as the new normal. As Cockburn put it:


Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs – “Security comes first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

The Trouble With Normal, from a synth-driven 1983 album of the same name, rings as true today as it did a quarter-century back. But does normal always get worse, as my friend insists? I may lose my pessimist’s punch card for saying this, but I don’t think it does. Not if we step back and take in a wider horizon of space and time.

To take one obvious example, for millennia, it was ‘normal’ for human beings to own other human beings as livestock. The end of officially sanctioned slavery across the globe – at least in the slave ship if not the sweatshop sense – was a case of things getting better for a great many people, in a hardcore, historical manner. Similarly, the abolition of hanging in Britain and the elimination of the death penalty in other industrialized democracies (other than the USA), introduced another new ‘normal.’

Another good example: homosexuality wasn’t removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders until 1973 and since then gay marriage has become normalized in many jurisdictions, in spite of the continuing efforts of religious fundamentalists to push back the clock. Civil rights are now commonly extended to transgendered people as well.

It also used to be acceptable for North American and European parents to strike children like gongs. Over the past half-century, “corporal punishment” has become far less acceptable. Ditto for child sexual abuse, which was swept under the rug for centuries. Today doctors, psychologists and health care workers acknowledge the reality of pedophilism. The criminal justice system often prosecutes the perps when they are exposed, addressing at least a fraction of a widespread phenomenon that was once dismissed or disbelieved. Again, normal didn’t get worse, it got better in terms of enlightened behaviour and the reduction of human suffering. The same goes for the status of women with the rise of feminism.

It’s as if ripples of compassion have grown across the world and continue to expand, encompassing beings other than older, white, straight males. There are now efforts to extend rights to nonhuman life, including mountain gorillas and cetaceans. Perhaps one day, animal rights will be as obvious to us as our own – assuming large species continue to exist in places other than zoos and picture books.

As for our understanding of space and time, it was once normal to believe the world is flat. In scripture, Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still, which was all the proof anyone needed that the whole shebang revolved around “man” – paradoxically both God’s greatest creation and His biggest disappointment. For centuries, planets were seen as embedded in heavenly crystalline gears and stars were pinpricks in the cosmic firmament. Today, it’s not considered abnormal to believe the universe extends to unimaginable scales of space and time, and that stars are vast balls of gas that cook up all the higher elements essential for the formation of Earth-like planets. Our Milky Way galaxy alone may harbour more extraterrestrial species than a Star Wars bar scene on St. Patrick’s Day. This viewpoint could be read as either an improvement over the old, anthropocentric ‘normal’ or proof of Satan’s talent at trickery.

The same applies to the present understanding of infectious diseases. We know they are caused by bacteria and viruses, not pestilent vapours, witchcraft or the “evil eye.” The average life expectancy has steadily risen across much of the world over the past hundred years, primarily through the introduction of sanitary water networks. Smallpox has been eradicated globally. Cholera and other scourges have been all but erased in the industrialized democracies.

 

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

Yes, it’s undeniable that economic hit men and their jackals have kept the global south in misery for decades through crippling debt and “structural adjustment,” following up on the colonial legacy of guns, jerks and steel. And yes, there is an imperial struggle for global control tarted up as a war on terror, which is being used to narrow or eliminate domestic freedoms.

After a half-century postwar boom, the overproduction chickens are coming home to roost while the banksters laugh all the way to their gated McCastles. Decades of outsourcing North American labour in a globalized race to the bottom are “bringing the Third World home,” as MIT media critic Noam Chomsky long warned us. Cronyism, corruption and disaster capitalism are going gangbusters, as income disparities grow to levels not seen in North America since the last Gilded Age. Electoral democracy has been reduced to spectacle: a tightly scripted reality TV series sponsored by the same fat cats who select the stars and game the outcome.

I can imagine a future paramilitary state that’s two parts Orwell and one part Huxley, with mood-altering drugs dispensed to the 99 percent to keep them from killing the remaining fraction in their sleep. These are all mad, bad trends on what writer William Burroughs called our “radioactive, run-down, cop-ridden planet.”

But let’s not forget that, in just a little over two decades, the Internet has gone from an obscure plaything for university geeks to a planetary information exchange for billions. Cyberspace is not all just online poker, sexting and cat videos, and here is the important part: this emergent novelty was completely unpredictable at the time Cockburn penned his song.

 

Emergent novelty is the wild card. Billions of years ago, life on our oxygen-free planet was limited to anaerobic bacteria and blue-green algae. If normal always got worse, these tiny Darwinian windup toys would have disintegrated back into the prebiotic soup they came from. Instead, a fraction of them joined up in multicellular Rotary Clubs because of the mutual benefits for all. If the only direction for normal was south, there would be predation and parasitism, but no symbiosis. Cutthroat competition would have trumped cooperation.

“In general, life is better than it has even been,” the writer P. J. O’Rourke insisted back in the nineties. “Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Consider this: How would you like to visit King Arthur’s dentist?” In a time when surgeons and barbers were one and the same, there was no anaesthetic or antiseptic to speak of. Need your gangrened foot to come off? “Here, drink this and bite on that while we saw it off. Off you go, then; when the stump stops bleeding, we’ll stick leeches on it and sacrifice a goat. Have a nice day.”

That was the old, bad normal. And no one knows for certain if there ever was a better normal in prior ages. In the summer of 1996, two teenagers were walking along the shores of the Columbia River in Washington state when one of them came across what he thought was a large, smooth, round rock. Deciding to spook his friend, he yelled out that he had just found a human head in the shallow water. When he picked up the “stone,” he discovered it had teeth.

The 9,300-year-old Kennewick Man didn’t have an easy life, according to archaeologists. In addition to a spear point in his hip, he had a chipped shoulder socket, six fractured ribs and a healed radial head fracture. When researchers reconstructed his facial features by applying clay musculature to a cast of the skull, they discovered that several muscles were overdeveloped, associated with a grimacing expression. It appeared the ancient Caucasian was often in acute discomfort. As one of the researchers remarked, “This guy cried a lot.”

Archaeological remains from Europe shows evidence of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers who looked elderly in their twenties, weakened by battle injuries and/or a range of opportunistic infections. At the very least, we know normal didn’t get worse across the board for all our ancestors because we’re alive to speculate about them. Neither internecine conflict nor the last Ice Age was capable of snuffing out their species-specific candle. (Disaster has a way of making humans think. The explosive evolutionary growth of the human cortex has been connected to the range of time when the western hemisphere was buried under glaciers hundreds of feet thick.)

This brings me to the touchy topic of climate science. Former NASA scientist James Hansen insists the Alberta Tar Sands “carbon bomb” means “game over for the planet.” Yet Andrew Weaver, University of Victoria climatologist and a lead author with the International Panel on Climate Change, disagrees. He insists carbon emissions from the Tar Sands will be negligible on the global climate. NASA scientist James Lovelock, another major thinker on the global warming front, has recently recanted his previous views on anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, saying his previous claims of planetary heat death were “too alarmist.”

Who’s right? Three of the biggest silverbacks in climate science cannot come to agreement on major predictions within their own field. I don’t disbelieve in global warming, but I choose to worry more about the Tar Sands for its toxic tailing ponds and moonscape legacy than its carbon emissions. I’m concerned more with overfishing and species decline than the IPCC’s changing estimates of sea level rising, just as I worry more about the literal fallout from the crippled Fukushima reactors and other aging reactors around the world (to say nothing of launch-ready nuclear weapons) than the emissions from motor vehicles in India and China.

Perhaps we’re cooked, either literally or metaphorically. Yet if civilization can survive the next 20 years, the exponential growth of solar power technology makes it very likely that renewable energy based on the ultimate free lunch – the Sun – will overtake King CONG (coal, oil, nuclear and gas), with huge reductions in global carbon emissions.

 

Ah, civilization: on one side, it’s cluster bombs, nuclear weapons and predator drones. Bad normal. On the other, its antibiotics, sanitation and solar power. Good normal. And all the ambiguous new normals in between, like plastics and hi-definition television. The terrible irony is that technology has always been the handmaiden of war. Like it or not, we owe some of our ‘advances’ in domestic living to the spin-offs of the nation-state sport of defence/offense. To give just two examples, the Internet was birthed in a Pentagon nursery for nuke-proof communications tech, and solar panels were first employed on US spy satellites.

Yet sometimes I muse that the merging of social networking, facial recognition software, CCTV cameras, GPS pinpointing, data mining and artificial intelligence signals the beginning of our surrender to the machines. (Skynet, anyone?) And occasionally I ponder the precise opposite possibility. “We stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization blink out, and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity,” said New York Times journalist Chris Hedges in a recent interview with PBS magus Bill Moyers. He sees harbingers in what he calls “capitalism’s sacrifice zones,” spread throughout the US like open wounds. Credit-strapped towns like Camden, New Jersey and Stockton, California, have been left to face bankruptcy and terminal decline after the cross-country fallout from Wall Street’s vulture capitalism.

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

 

At the risk of sounding glib, let’s say for a moment you or I had a time machine, an impacted molar and a choice. The first choice is to remain in the present, where you live in a 300-square-foot apartment in a city festooned with surveillance cameras. In choice number two, you live in a thatched hut on a feudal state in Medieval England at Christmas time. I know how I’d choose, though I might take a few microseconds longer if the first option was a corrugated steel shack in present-day Mumbai or Lagos. And that’s the terrible divide in a nutshell. A world of such great technical sophistication as ours, with billions still living in abject poverty, is an obscenity. And to qualify my earlier comments about slavery, an estimated 26 million men, women, and children around the world remain enslaved through prostitution, manual labour or enforced military service. “Normal” remains overwhelmingly bleak for these people.

Considering civilization survived the wars of the twentieth century, it would be defeatist to say normal always gets worse. But considering 160 million people did not survive the wars of the twentieth century, it would be delusional to say normal always gets better. Personally, I try not to allow every single negative trend to negate my fragile appreciation for the positive trends, which are often recognized only in retrospect. Emergent novelty is usually only seen in the rear view mirror.

I have no desire to be a Cassandra, yelling ‘were heading for the cliff with the brake-lines cut.’ But I don’t want to come across like a Pollyanna saying, ‘relax, we’ve got Sirius Radio and bucket seats.’ The biggest problem with the “trouble with normal is it always gets worse,” as a principle, rather than a song, is that it sounds like a counsel of despair and inaction. It’s a way to respond with a shrug and a sigh to corruption, contamination and collapse. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “It is an act of evil to accept the state of evil as either inevitable or final.”

In conclusion, I would amend my friend’s Cockburn-derived dictum. Normal doesn’t always get worse and it doesn’t always get better. More often than not, normal gets weirder. That’s not a principle I prefer to live by, although it’s an idea I think I can live with. It certainly doesn’t mean we live “in the best of all possible worlds,” as Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss insisted. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make some efforts to make our community, and our world, a better place, because… well, just look around. This place could use some serious work. Cockburn himself agrees. Once asked about the lyrics to The Trouble With Normal, the singer-songwriter replied, “If you don’t tackle the problems, they’re gonna get worse.”

I remain an optimistic pessimist; hence this unconvincing, print-based contortionist act. I will continue to rant along with my lunch companions, but I still count my blessings, brief and culture-bound as they may be.

www.geoffolson.com

Work, money and miracles

Portrait of MarianneWilliamson

Portrait of MarianneWilliamson

Law of Divine Compensation

by Marianne Williamson

• No matter what is happening in our lives, we choose how we wish to think about it. And the greatest gift we give ourselves is often our willingness to change our minds. Despite what might seem to be the saddest and most intractable situation, we have the power to believe that something else is possible, that things can change, that a miracle can happen.

This simple shift in how we think can make all the difference in what happens next. How we think releases an infinite number of possibilities that could not have occurred had we not believed that they were possible. Such is the power of our thoughts to attract as well as deflect miraculous breakthroughs.

Free will means you can think whatever you want to think. You cannot, however, make untrue what is true or true what is untrue. The universe does care about you. The universe is set up to work on your behalf. And the universe is capable of bringing miraculous transformation to any situation of brokenness or lack. Regardless of what has happened in your life, the universe is able and prepared to bring you comfort and repair. You are loved and your purpose is to love. From a mind filled with infinite love comes the power to create infinite possibilities. We have the power to think in ways that reflect and attract all the love in the world. Such thinking is called enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a process we work toward, but a choice available to us in any instant.

Enlightenment is the answer to every problem. In any situation where you seem to be at the effect of forces over which you have no control, remember that God dwells within your mind and there are no forces over which He has no control. Therefore, through His power within you, there are no mortal conditions over which you are powerless. Whenever your good is obscured by the appearances of a nonloving world, the universe is programmed to lift you out of that condition and return you to an abundant state.

As an expression of divine perfection, the universe is both self-organizing and self-correcting. To whatever extent your mind is aligned with love, you will receive divine compensation for any lack in your material existence. From spiritual substance will come material manifestation. This is not just a theory; it is a fact. It is a law by which the universe operates. I call it the Law of Divine Compensation.

Just as there are objective, discernible laws of external phenomena, so there are objective, discernible laws of internal phenomena. The law of gravity, for instance, is not just a “belief.” It is true whether or not you believe it. Spiritual laws are not just beliefs either; they are descriptions of how consciousness operates.

Once we know this law – that there is a natural tendency of the universe to improve all things –then we lean naturally into the arms of God and allow Him to lift us up. We surrender our thoughts, then He uplifts our thoughts, then our experiences change. The practical issue is whether we choose thoughts that activate or deactivate the Law of Divine Compensation. We activate it with every loving thought. We deactivate it when we give more credence to the reality and power of the material world than to the reality and power of love.

If our circumstances tempt us to think thoughts such as, “I must not be good enough,” “I will never have another chance,” “It will take forever for this to right itself,” or “I hate whoever is to blame for this,” then miracles, though they are programmed into the nature of the universe, cannot make their way into our awareness. With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle. It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them.

The Law of Divine Compensation applies equally to all situations. In a time of economic uncertainty – when circumstances make it particularly tempting to believe in the scarcity of the material plane over the abundance of the spiritual – our capacity to think differently is the miracle-worker’s edge. Bills stare you in the face. Foreclosure looms. Credit is wrecked. Jobs aren’t available. And with all that comes chaos on many fronts. Who doesn’t need a miracle then?

If you identify only with your body and its reality, rather than with your spirit and its reality, then you’re tempted to think that diminished material assets somehow diminish who you are. But you are not merely a being of the material world; you are a being of unlimited spirit. And in spirit there is no lack. You are not lacking just because your circumstances are.

If your core belief is “I lack” and you carry that belief with you, then you will subconsciously perpetuate or create the circumstances that reflect the belief. But your circumstances are completely malleable; they simply reflect the dictates of your mind. Regardless of what limits exist in your material world, your immutable truth is that you are an unlimited spiritual being. By remembering this, you summon the Law of Divine Compensation. You are a loving idea in the Mind of God. Circumstances should not and need not tempt you to believe otherwise. The universe showers you with love, not because of what you have done or not done, but because of who you are. Think of the universe itself as a personal love note from God to you. God is love and in sharing His love, you share His power. By aligning yourself with thoughts of infinite love for yourself and others, you gain dominion over the lower thought forms of the world.

In a material sense, your situation might indeed be bleak. You might have been given a raw deal, even been betrayed by others. You yourself might have made a huge mistake. Still, what matters is what you think now: Are you lingering in the past or are you allowing for a miracle in the present? Are you blaming yourself and others or blessing yourself and others? Are you clinging to your faith in the reality of the disaster or opening your mind to the possibility of a miracle? Realign your thoughts with the thoughts of God and in any given instant the universe is ready to begin again. The laws of time and space are more malleable than we think.

Mistakes and wrong turns need not throw us off. The capacity for correction is built into the universe, just as it is into the workings of a GPS. If you’ve programmed an address into your GPS but then take a different turn than it recommends, the GPS automatically creates a new route. And so does the universe. Perhaps you thought you’d get to where you wanted to be financially through achieving a certain credential, doing a particular job or making a particular investment. But then something happened: the economy worsened, you made a mistake or someone else did. The Law of Divine Compensation gives us the assurance that the universe will simply create a new route. What is lacking shall become abundant and what is wounded shall be healed. From “out of the blue” – or miracle-mindedness – miracles will flow forth naturally. Why? Because perfection is your eternal home, to which the universe is programmed to return you whenever you have deviated, for whatever reason, from the thoughts that get and keep you there. That is how loved you are.

Excerpted from The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money, and Miracles by Marianne Williamson. Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Spirit Bears Are Calling Us

Spirit Bears Are Calling Us

 

First Nations historic declaration to ban bear trophy hunt in the Great Bear

Rainforest honours the spirit of late Nuxalk Chief Qwatsinas “Raven Spirit”

by Adam Siddhartha Sealey

two grizzly bears
Mother Grizzly and her golden yearling cub from the cover of ‘The Salmon Bears’ Photo: Ian McAllister PacificWild.org

When I was 12-years-old and missing my mother after my parents’ recent separation, I witnessed the loss of another mother, this one much more final and tragic. Up close and personal, my sister Tanya and I experienced the sudden and accidental death of a mother black bear that had been hanging around the grounds of the lakeside fishing lodge my father had recently moved us to for a summertime management job. Years later, this experience would motivate me to become involved in helping to protect bears from the threats of trophy hunting, logging and inevitable oil spill disasters that tar sands pipelines and super tankers would cause.

At the fishing lodge, the previous managers had habituated the bears to human food by ignorantly leaving an open pit garbage dump not far from the lodge. They were not “Bear Aware.” Consequently, as always happens when this occurs, bears started coming regularly to eat the garbage and to try and get their food from campsites, cabin porches, cars, etc., exhibiting threatening behaviour towards the people staying with us. Dad didn’t mean to kill the bear and the unexpected result has weighed heavily on his heart and ours, to this day.

I’ll never forget seeing him take his rifle by the barrel and smash it on a tree trunk in the anguish and torment of regret moments afterward. After she was skinned by a local hunter who volunteered to do it, my father said he was haunted by how much the bear’s body looked like a human body. The accident happened because my dad was trying to protect the lodge, our campsite guests and the bears from a potentially dangerous encounter. The prevailing thinking of the day was that if one “dusted” a bear in the behind with birdshot, the little pellets would only cause temporary pain and deter the bears from returning. We will always wish it had gone that way, but somehow, the shot killed her instantly.

The two adorably cute, furry, innocent and heartbroken cubs spent the next few days living in a big tree just outside the lodge kitchen window. We named them ‘Andy’ and ‘Potsy’ and fed them cooked oatmeal from a big pot until the game warden took them away. I often thought of those beautiful bear cubs and wondered what had happened to them. We just didn’t know… and it hurt. As I write these words, my emotions and grief overtake me again and the tears flow. For years, I’ve felt that one day I would do something to make it up to bears, to balance the karma.

“One in 10 black bears born on the BC Central Coast are pure white, like this little cub. They are called “Spirit Bears” by many and “Kermode Bears” by others. Photo: Ian McAllister PacificWild.org

How did this experience influence my personal experience of the loss of motherhood, to some degree in my life? It has become clear to me that it had a significant effect.

My fried, Sonya Weir, Managing Editor of this magazine, and a Shamanic Coach with the Shamanic Institute says that an experience like this at that time in my life, considering what was happening with my family would have had an extremely profound effect on my psyche, the formation of my identity and personal karma and relationship with the bear medicine, the lands, waters, cultures and creatures of my home for all 45 years of my life; British Columbia. It would, of course, have a significant effect on my relationship with the feminine element of life and, of course…..especially the lens of the kingdom of the bear.

It’s now October 24, 2012, and we’re on the precipice of being rules by China in terms of our environmental policy and cultural identity and the new law, FIPPA, the Foreign Investment Protection & Promotion Agreement is set to become law on November 2nd unless there is a mass awakening in this country in the next 7 days!!

Go to http://leadnow.ca/canada-not-for-sale and http://www.greenparty.ca/media-release/2012-10-23/canada-china-investment-treaty-cannot-be-ratified-without-provinces-approva to learn what is at stake, how to take decisive actions RIGHT NOW that can and will make a difference for all of us.

We are about to lose our rightful connection to our Mother Earth, unless this kind of thinking changes FAST! Like, in the next 7 days!

Regardless of  one loses their mother it is still very difficult for a child to understand and to deal with the feelings that come up.

A few years prior to this experience, I was living with my family (my parents were still together) just south of what is now known as the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) on and around Quadra Island. We lived in deep communion with nature and all her creations where the land meets the ocean and magic happens. Where “when the tide goes out, the dinner table is set,” as the first peoples of the coast say. The ocean provided an abundance of clams, oysters, a variety of fish and, of course, the mighty salmon, including salmon that were caught in the sea or during their annual migration back up a creek or river to the place of their birth. As a 10 year-old boy, living in a place called Bird Cover on Read Island, I would lie belly-down on the creek bank and watch in wonder and eager anticipation as crimson and green Sockeye salmon swam, wriggled and splashed their way towards me. I’d reach in and try to grab one by the gills, succeeding once in awhile, throwing it over my shoulder onto the bank behind me to proudly bring it home for dinner.

The bear, wolf, deer, orcas, whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, eagles, ravens and all creatures, mushrooms and plants spoke to us and gave us life. They also filled us with wonder and inspiration, as they have for the coastal first peoples since time immemorial. Creation stories from books like The Raven and the Deer had made deep and indelible impressions upon my mind, heart and soul, for which I continue to be profoundly grateful to my parents. We only lived this way for about 10 years. Can you imagine how sacred these things are to the first peoples? Can you imagine how devastating it is for them to witness this way of life treated so carelessly? When I was 11, we left the islands for Vancouver where our family split apart and my connection to my biological mother, as well as to ‘The Great Mother’ and the Great Bear Rainforest began to fade from my everyday experience.

Amrita Singh and Kiff Archer of Nan Charters on first day at Eagle Lodge in Bella Coola Valley Photo: James Scott

On September 9th, within 24 hours of my only nephew Alex turning 9-years-old and 24 hours before the grizzly bear trophy hunt was to officially start again, I walked along Tote Road in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest with four friends and our guide hoping to have the honour of seeing a grizzly bear. To take this journey, I had to miss Alex’s birthday and I wished that he could be with me.

A few hours later, nearing the end of the hike, we had seen very fresh bear footprints and scat, but still no bears. Amrita’s foot was becoming sore so we decided to sit down at the cabin by the riverbank and have our lunch, hoping the bears might come to us. As we ate, we heard a “heated conversation” between bears taking place just upriver. The roaring of bears continued for a few minutes and a few hundred metres upriver, a beautiful, deep brown mother grizzly bear carefully walked along the riverbed, moving softly in and out of the bush, appearing and disappearing.

 

Mother Grizzly seen by team B.E.A.R. near Bella Coola. Photo: James Scott

Our guide ushered us to the riverbank where we watched quietly behind some bushes. The bear came closer and closer, seemingly not noticing our thrilled group on the opposite riverbank. Standing up tall in the river, she shook some huckleberry bushes checking for berries. After a while, her golden yearling cub appeared and we watched them both walk past us peacefully on the other side of the river. James quietly snapped photos while we got even closer looks through binoculars, exchanging smiles and excited glances. At some point, both bears became aware of us but quietly looked over as if to say, “We see you, we are ok with you, please be gentle with our kind and take care of us and our lands and waters and the life that sustains all of us.” They disappeared out of sight around the corner as they continued on their salmon hunt. What an honour it was for all of us. I wondered if Alex would ever have such an experience As they disappeared around the river bend, I felt concern for them because of the lack of salmon this year due to two years of unprecedented flooding last year and in 2010. It destroyed the spawning grounds of salmon, but in particular, those of the pink salmon run which is the primary food source for grizzly bears in late summer to early fall. Pink salmon only have a two-year return cycle, so do the math. The local people are very concerned the pink run could be wiped out for many years. My thoughts turned again to Potsy and Andy and their mother all those years ago.

A mother Grizzly bear and her golden yearling cub search for Pink Salmon which have nearly been wiped out in past two years due to major floods. Photo: James Scott

This first ever journey to the Great Bear Rainforest with the band ‘B.E.A.R.’ and friends had come together due to the music and arts community here in Vancouver that had been fundraising for the GBR in response to the myriad threats it now faces: proposed Enbridge oil supertankers, rupture-ridden pipelines, controversial logging practices called “eco-system-based management, toxic and disease-heavy industrial feed lot salmon farming, climate change and the grizzly bear trophy hunt, which is essentially the wholesale slaughter of bears for what is called “sport.” The entire region is under massive threat.

We had held two fundraisers in as many years with all profits going to PacificWild.org. The organization have been advocating for more much needed conservation on our central and north coast to support the complex and ancient cultures and creatures of the region. Pacific Wild is led by Ian and Karen McAllister, two people I regard as heroes for their tireless work to let the entire world know what is happening in the Great Bear.

My friends had started a music project called B.E.A.R. (Back to Earth Music and Re-creation) and created an inspiring new album of the same name which shares Native north American wisdom, values and stories about the bear, the salmon, the eagle and all of creator’s creatures through a truly unique and downright rocking music form.

Their music features Native chanting, drum, flute, guitar and powerful soul-stirring lyrics that get your heart, mouth and feet moving and dancing in joy and purpose. Have a listen to their title track “Bear I Am” at http://soundcloud.com/b-e-a-r/bear-i-am and see if spirit bear is calling you as it’s called us?

Adult Spirit Bear (1 in ten black bears are born white) Photo: Ian McAllister PacificWild.org

On the ferry ride up, we were treated with beautiful sunny, calm weather and a friendly crew who discovered there was a band on board singing for the Great Bear. They invited B.E.A.R. to perform at the afternoon barbeque on the sundeck. Just before the performance and after an unplanned jam session on the top deck solarium, we were visited by a group of three humpback whales that gave us a show we will never forget. They jumped right out of the water and slapped their flukes and tails on the water in a performance BC Ferries crew said they had not seen all year! It was as if they were saying to all of us; “Thanks for singing for us and our cousin, the bear!”

After a rousing performance at the BBQ, we were then visited by a school of at least 100 Pacific white-sided dolphins who swam along with the ferry, playing and jumping right into our hearts. It was magic. We felt Spirit was confirming to us that we were on the right path and we were supported and guided by benevolent forces we didn’t even know of… yet. Our group, consisting of Thilo ‘Many Bears’ Mehrhoff, Tim ‘The Mighty One’ Steinruck, Amrita “Mama Bear” Singh, James Scott (our photographer) and myself, “ Grizzly” Adam Siddhartha Sealey, had been sent off with blessings and hope for the GBR by our supportive and loving community after a fundraising event. People had written their prayers and messages for the GBR on Tibetan prayer flags in red, blue, white, green and yellow representing the five elements that support all life: fire, water, air, earth and ether. Our community wrote heartfelt messages on these flags and we collected more on the ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola.

We would later present these prayer flags to our new friends from the BC Coastal Bear and Wolf Patrol, Kiff Archer and Jason Moody, who hosted us from the moment we arrived in Nuxalk Territory. We asked them to hang the prayer flags from the trees in a place of their choosing and they agreed. Kiff is a personal trainer and martial arts coach who has been working to protect bears and wolves for decades and is captain of his charter bear viewing boat “Nan,” which means “bear” in Nuxalk and most languages of the region. Jason Moody is the son of the dearly departed and much loved and revered Nuxalk Hereditary Chief Qwatsinas ‘Raven Spirit,’ who dedicated his entire life to feeding and caring for his people and to protecting the Great Bear Rainforest from illegal clear-cut logging and trophy hunting. Just before he passed away on August 31, 2010, he and his people raised the first new totem pole on the central coast of BC in over 100 years!

Our first day in Bella Coola was spent setting up B.E.A.R. headquarters at Eagle Lodge which is nestled between two spectacular Squamish-like granite mountain ranges in the large and fertile Bella Coola Valley. Our thanks to James at the lodge for offering us his beautiful teepee for our first night sleep and later living room. B.E.A.R. performed and held ceremony that night and all enjoyed.

B.E.A.R. warming up for performance at Eagle Lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo James Scott

We had fully arrived in the Great Bear Rainforest, home of the Spirit Bear, whose snow white coat reminds us that once the land was covered in ice and snow and now that we have life we should take care of our mother earth so she can take care of us.

On our second day in Bella Coola, Kiff and Jason took us in their boat to the site of the new totem pole, in a river estuary meadow just south of Bella Coola in a place called South Bentick. We sat on the grass at the base of the totem pole with Jason and listened to stories about its significance.He told us how it turned on its own as it was being placed to face in the exact direction they wanted it to and how the community now calls it “the totem pole that turns itself.” He told us how the river estuary and the valley across the fiord are important grizzly bear habitat and how the community wants it respected. All the while as he spoke, the sound of chainsaws screaming and trees crashing to the ground echoed across the fiord. There, logging was happening with only a rubber stamp approval from the government-created band office and council, with no approval from any of the current 15 hereditary chiefs who historically would make such decisions. Being in such a beautiful and sacred place, in personal discovery and ceremony as Thilo and Tim played “Bear I am, Bear I be” and “Ayo Fire in the Sky” for Jason and the group, we were all brought to tears by the sounds of those trees falling and such a sacred place being disrespected and harmed in this way.

 

Team B.E.A.R. at site of newly raised Nuxalk totem pole in South Bentick. Pictured from left to right; Amrita Singh, Adam Sealey, Jason Moody, Thilo ‘Many Bears’ Mehrhoff and Tim ‘The Mighty One’ Steinruck. Photo: James Scott

The other form of disrespect to this place and its inhabitants comes in the form of the barbaric and cruel grizzly bear trophy hunt. Every year in the spring and fall, men from around the world descend on the Great Bear Rainforest to ‘claim their manhood’ and feel powerful by shooting a defenceless bear from a cabin or ‘bear-blind’ from a few hundred metres away. They fly in, step off the plane and end up shooting grizzly bears, sometimes females, sometimes pregnant, which is legal according to the BC Government. Shooting females with cubs or yearlings is illegal. From the scope of a rifle and without a skilled guide, how can they possibly discern which bears are mothers, other than if the bear is closely flanked by its cubs at the moment of the trigger being pulled? But the hunters likely wouldn’t care about that. Their only real worry would be that it is illegal. They also don’t seem to care that shooting the big males, which, of course, are highly coveted by trophy hunters, weakens the gene pool as it allows the weaker and smaller males to reproduce.

They then take their picture with the dead bear, cut off its paws and/or head for a trophy and sometimes take out its gallbladder to sell on the black market to Asian markets. They do this to impress their friends with how much of a ‘man’ they are and in a search of an identity through a ‘rite of passage’ type experience that is otherwise sadly lacking in our culture. There are better ways to become a man that don’t involve destroying some of our closest and dearest relatives.

As you read this article, 10 BC Coastal First Nations, none of whom have ever ceded their land or signed a treaty, are standing up on principle and saying, “We are tired of bringing people to see bears only to find the bodies of dead ones with their paws cut off lying in river estuaries.” They are declaring a ban on bear trophy hunting in their territory and declaring their own law, which, in effect, prohibits killing other than for food. And the fact is nobody eats bears. Grizzly bears are not edible. The BC government says the First Nations have no “jurisdiction” when it comes to the hunt, but this makes absolutely no sense. These people are the original inhabitants and have lived there sustainably for 10,000 years.

It’s time to end the hunt. Why is it illegal to kill a white Spirit Bear, but okay to kill a grizzly bear? Why is it ok to kill a black bear that has a one in 10 chance of giving birth to a white Spirit bear? The Spirit bear is far more rare than Panda bears. Could it be because we don’t want the world to know we allow hunters to shoot our 2010 Olympic mascot? That would be bad for our corporate image, wouldn’t it? We’re calling on our readers to help end this hypocrisy now.

Black bear with white Spirit Bear cub. Photo: Ian McAllister

 

All bears are important to our society, our history, our children and our collective morality and psychological wellbeing. According to traditional and shamanic lore, the bear represents powerful medicine and meaning for all of us, including the quality of introspection and the awakening of the power of the unconscious. If a bear shows up in your life, ask yourself some questions. Is your judgment off? How about those around you? Are you not recognizing what is beneficial in your life? Are you being too critical of yourself or others? The constellation Ursus Major, The Great Bear, in the northern hemisphere, is also known as the Big Dipper and is linked to the seven great rays of light to the divine.

If you watch a bear closely, you’ll see yourself and your children in their mannerisms and their social and family interactions. Because they are at the top of the food chain, they have never really had to defend themselves against predators (until us) so they are generally relaxed, with the freedom to roam, play, socialize and express their individuality. They also enjoy a varied omnivorous diet more similar to ours than perhaps any other mammal. They eat sustainably. They take only what they need. They are our teachers and direct relatives.

During its winter sleep, the black bear’s kidney shuts down completely. Scientists are studying this in hopes it may provide clues to more successful human kidney transplants.

In coastal peoples’ creation stories, in the first world there was the star nation and in the second world (time), the plant kingdom came to be. Then, in the third world, mythological creatures inhabited the earth, like the bear, the eagle and the orca and many more. In the fourth world, many of these creatures removed their animal costumes and became human. The T’simshian people believe bears and humans can shift form from one to another. Can we really justify killing bears for any reason knowing all of this? I, along with the majority, say “NO!”

Still another creation story says that on an island called Itsa, just west of Bella Coola, the first woman came down from the heavens and from there spread out to become all of the indigenous coastal peoples. Across from Itsa in a place called Kwatna where many bears are killed each year, a string of about 60 prayer flags, signed by people from Vancouver and other places, now hangs from the trees in the hope it will influence a coming time of peace and justice in the Great Bear Rainforest and an end to the bear hunt.

BC Coastal Bear and Wolf Patrol, with the authorization of the Hereditary Nuxalk Chiefs, and those of other nations, is now looking to enforce the 10-nation ban by bringing in additional volunteers willing to act as ‘Great Bear Sentinels.’ Teams of three to four people would camp out for a two-week shift in river estuaries where bears are routinely killed, taking photos and making videos of what is happening. They would then transmit them to Kiff and Jason at BC Coastal Bear and Wolf Patrol, who would respond appropriately. According to Kiff and Jason, hunters will often not shoot if they know they are being photographed, for fear of accidentally and illegally killing a female with cubs or yearlings.

The presence of volunteers would save many bears, including pregnant females and their offspring, from being needlessly killed. BC Coastal Bear and Wolf Patrol will train and transport people to the river estuaries and pick them up once the shift is done. People are asked to donate the fuel costs (about $300-$500 per trip) as well as their time and equipment and to pay for their own food and transportation.

This writer is seriously considering leading by example and doing a shift in late October. Who’s with me, for the bear and the memory of Qwatsinas?

BC Coastal Bear & Wolf Patrol Captain Kiff Archer gives thanks for newly hung Tibetan prayer flags in Kwatna near Bella Coola

To make this happen donations are needed to come in quickly. Contact Kiff Archer at 250-982-2274 or Jason Moody at 250-267-5384 or write them at kiffarcher11@gmail.com or jasonm.nan@gmail.com

Also, watch for the imminent launch of a fundraising campaign aimed at outfitting these volunteers with the gear, supplies and travel needed to get the job done.

It’s time we all demand a lot more respect for our precious bears by standing with the 10 First Nations and upholding their ban on bear killing. Once the hunt is stopped we’ll have those additional moral grounds to add to the argument that piping dangerous tar sands bitumen through pipes that eventually fail and shipping it out on ships that eventually spill is a non-starter.

An important lawsuit was just filed against Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, by EcoJustice on behalf Wilderness Committee, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Wildsight, for his failure to implement strategies to protect endangered species like the Pacific humpback whale along the proposed route of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. His refusal to do so violates the Species at Risk Act. This legal action by the people shows us that there is a shift in consciousness and our approach to these kinds of issues occurring and it is possible to successfully hold personally liable those individuals who ignore our laws and trample on the rights of people, animals and the environment. The proposed 5th international law of ecocide as proposed by U.K. lawyer, Polly Higgins, of www.eradicatingecocide.com seems to be springing to life in practice around our world and I’m so glad to see it happening. Believe that your voice can make a difference. It can, it is and it will!

Please give generously to Pacific Wild so the organization can continue its crucial work to stop the trophy hunt and help the whole world fall in love with the Great Bear Rainforest, its beautiful bears, countless creatures and ancient complex cultures. Pick up a copy of the incredible book The Salmon Bears (lead photo in this article) by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read (Orca Book Publishers, www.orcabook.com)

 Take action today

Write a handwritten letter to Premier Christy Clark, Minister of Environment Terry Lake and your local MLA or email her at premier@gov.bc.ca or call 250-387-1715 and ask them to stop the trophy hunt. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Consider cc’ing your letter to the media. Contact lists and a letter template with addresses can be found at www.pacificwild.org 

Also, sign the petition to end the bear trophy hunt

Today, only 50% of the Great Bear Rainforest is protected from logging. Add you voice to the campaign to put the remaining 50% off limits to logging at http://www.savethegreatbear.org/takeittaller

 

Adam Siddhartha Sealey, wildlife lover native to BC’s coast, has been following the Great Bear Rainforest story for two decades. He recently returned from an eye-opening journey to Bella Coola, in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, with Thilo ‘Many Bears’ Mehrhoff and Tim ‘The Mighty One’ Steinruck from the band ‘B.E.A.R.’ The band was touring with its new album of the same name to remind us about our deep connection to the bear.

Also on the team were Amrita Singh acting as cook and “Mama Bear” and James Scott photographed the journey. 

photos: Ian McAllister www.pacificwild.org

Kundalini awakened

An interview with Snatam Kaur
by Wendy DeMos

• Call it celestial communication, a chantfest, a musical group meditation or just a concert. Whatever you call it, an evening with Snatam Kaur is sure to be heavenly. And with a new band featuring Todd Boston, Ramesh Kannan and Matthew Shoenig, concertgoers will experience a transcendental touch of India, hallowed harmonies and even a bit of blessed bluegrass.

Wendy DeMos: Please tell us about your new band.

Snatam Kaur: I have absolutely loved everyone that I have had the honour to tour with over the years, especially my long-time musical partner GuruGanesha (www.guruganesha.com). Because of a creative shift within both myself and GuruGanesha a few years ago, we felt it was a natural time to go in different musical directions. Through very loving and honest communication, we realized we are both still very much dedicated to the same mission, of spreading the vibration of peace through music, with just a different style.

WD: What will we hear that is different?

SK: I am joined by Todd Boston (www.toddboston.com) on guitar. He very much honours GuruGanesha’s guitar style that I love, while bringing his own musical sound, which is opening up into areas of a slightly bluegrass style, mixed in with a delicate, classical Indian style. Todd really works with the acoustic elements of the guitar, with a beautiful tone and nice fluidity with the notes that he plays. Ramesh Kannan, who plays many percussion instruments including tabla, cajon, udu and symbols, has been with me for quite a few years now. I absolutely love playing with him. Not only are his rhythms so heartfelt and right on, but he also exudes an energy of joy and love that is very uplifting. What is a bit different this time is that we discovered that Ramesh is a great vocalist and so he will be adding his voice into the mix. We have also given much more space to Ramesh to open up into his different percussive instruments. This has been really fun. Probably the biggest shift we have made in terms of our elemental sound is the addition of the cello with Matthew Shoenig. This element in the mix has given us a much more full sound, with the lower notes of the cello allowing us to really soar. At times I feel that there is another vocalist right with me, singing along, and realize that it is the cello.

WD: Please talk a bit about this time of great shifts. How does your music contribute to this time of change?

SK: The sacred chant, or Gurbani Kirtan that our music carries forth into this world, is one of the most healing tools we have available to us on this planet. People talk about how it carries them through the most challenging experiences as if a light has come into their hearts and uplifted them. I totally believe in the power of these sacred words and that is why I have been touring for so many years, through thick and thin, to deliver this energy to people.

WD: Why is chanting important?

SK: The sacred chants that we share are in a simple way positive affirmations that work on a cellular level to change your vibration. You may not be feeling very happy and start chanting and after a few minutes your entire energy shifts. It happens like clockwork. It is beautiful to experience and witness.

WD: Would you talk about precise pronunciation of the chants?

SK: The pronunciation of the sacred chants that we share is very important. As you pronounce things correctly, the tongue touches the roof of the mouth in a Morse code sort of way, stimulating your glandular system, which in turn offers a very healing experience on the physical level.

WD: How much of your day includes yoga, chanting and rehearsing?

SK: I realized a long time ago when I experienced the light of my soul through meditation, chanting, yoga and the Guru’s Grace that I did not want to live one single day without this experience. As challenging as it is at times, I do a practice every day that includes Kundalini yoga, the recitation of my Banis from the Sikh tradition and chanting. I manage to get in at least an hour and half every day.

WD: How has practicing yoga contributed to your life?

SK: The practice of Kundalini yoga is a huge blessing in my life. I love it. Through this science of yoga, I have been able to remain relatively healthy, in balance and in a good peaceful state most of the time. Of course I am human so there are always times of challenges. That is when the yoga becomes really, really important. I am getting better at remembering to practice it during these times as well. As a teenager, the practice of Kundalini yoga challenged me and awakened the sense of spirit within that would carry me through challenging times. When I first got married to my husband, we were and still are practising meditations together that have elevated our communication together. When I was pregnant, I practised yoga sets that really helped my body and the delivery of my child. As a mother now, there are wonderful yoga sets and meditations I am able to practise with my daughter.

WD: Do you have any yoga recommendations? Some people are intimidated by yoga and don’t think they are fit enough to partake. What would you suggest?

SK: I suggest to anyone who has the opportunity to take part in Kundalini Yoga classes. There is a wonderful centre in Kitsalano called Yoga West (www.yogawest.ca). There are classes for all levels taught by some of the best teachers in the world, I believe. Kundalini yoga has a physical aspect to it, but also a mental, emotional and spiritual healing experience is offered as well.

WD: How does Vancouver’s Nirinjan Kaur contribute to your concert?

SK: Nirinjan Kaur will be joining us for our concert in Vancouver. I am so excited. She is one of my favourite Kirtan artists on the planet right now. We listen to her all the time at home. My three-year-old daughter calls her the “princess voice.” I also totally love her live presence as well. In everything she does, she holds a sacred connection to God and Guru that just cannot be shaken.

Wendy DeMos is a freelance writer specializing in stories about artists as well as life’s creative and spiritual dimensions. She is also a singer/songwriter and children’s performer.


Upcoming events with Snatam Kaur

October 26 Join Snatam Kaur with Todd Boston, Matthew Schoening, Ramesh Kannan and special guest Nirinjan Kaur for a night of kirtan and chanting, 7:30PM, Centennial Theatre, 2300 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver. Tickets at centennialtheatre.com (604-984-4484) or Banyen Books, 3608 West 4th Ave., Vancouver (604-732-7912) or at Yoga West, 2662 West 4th Ave., Vancouver (604-732-YOGA). Premium reserved $57/$69; regular reserved $46/$57; children 2-11 $18/$29.

October 27 Awaken the Kundalini with Sacred Chant and Yoga Workshop with Snatam Kaur. 10AM-4:30PM, Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Tickets at yogawest.ca and spiritvoyage.com or at Yoga West, 2662 West 4th Ave., Vancouver (604-732-YOGA).

October 28 Snatam Kaur performs at the 3HO Annual Gala Fundraising Dinner, Crowne Plaza, Surrey, 5:30-9 PM. Tickets available at yogawest.ca and spiritvoyage.com or at Yoga West, 2662 West 4th Ave., Vancouver (604-732-YOGA).