Sunday, February 25, 2007


In case you haven't noticed, the world is different now. Nothing is, or ever will be, the same as it was before. Human actions have changed the earth's climate, terrorism has changed geopolitics, the Internet has changed communication and commerce, economic globalization has changed the boundaries between state and corporation, international transportation has changed the dispersal patterns of disease. These new realities are difficult to understand and accept, but we need to put aside our old ways, and adopt (and adapt to) new ways.

Old style leaders using old ways of thinking aren't what we need. Their time is over; their ideas and methods don't work anymore and are actually doing more harm than good. We know this; it's in the news every morning, it's the topic of our conversations every day.

Who will our new leaders be? Who actually understands the new realities of the world? Who can articulate the new realities in ways that help us understand and accept them? Who has the ability to translate this awareness into new paradigms for moving ahead and thriving in a new world?

In the USA we already have a number of announced candidates for President (even though the election is almost 2 years away!). I look at this field of politicians and see mostly people who are part of the old way, and by their statements and positions let me know that they can only think in that old mind set. Those who are closest to my particular politics say things that sound good, use the right buzz words and phrases, and identify the right issues, but it really all sounds the same, and I've heard it all before. I'm actually hoping that Senator Obama, because of his age and not-yet-solidified connections to the old politics, might be the candidate who breaks away from the old paradigms and presents us with a new set for a different world.

I honestly don't have a lot of hope that things will change in this world the way I know they need to change. This lack of hope is based on experience - after all, U.S. voters elected George W. Bush not once, but twice! Elections aren't based on reality, they're based on hype and spin, and who does it best. I hope someone surprises me this time around.


Unfortunately, the fact that this question is asked means that we're not ready. If this is truly a democracy, why does it matter what gender, color, religion, etc. a candidate is? I wonder if this would even be a question if the media didn't keep hyping it. Perhaps we need to get beyond gender and color and religion identity, and just talk about candidates in terms of their qualifications, experience and positions on critical issues. I look forward to the day when the news isn't that so-and-so is the first woman or black such-and-such, and the focus is on the real story.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Such a great word, really, but not one that is often heard in public. But now scrotum joins the ranks of many other august terms as a rallying cry by some (not all) of the Protectors of Young Minds - school librarians.

Scrotum appears in this years Newbery Award childrens book. The NY Times tells the story, and that the 10-year old boy in the book hears someone say that his dog was bit by a rattlesnake on the scrotum (ouch!). A number of school librarians have pulled the book off the library shelves because scrotum, I guess, is a word children should not know. Is there a better word for a scotum than scrotum?

I have to say here that I like the word scrotum. It's a great word, a fun word. I imagine a scene from a movie in which Mel Gibson ( I think he has one) and a horde of blue-and-white face-painted men in skirts brandishing swords and battle axes and clubs are charging across a windy plain, holding high a banner with a curvy "W"-shaped icon, and screaming, in a Welsh or Scottish brogue "SCROTUM - SCROTUM; FOR THE HONOR OF SCROTUM." Or something like that.....

So what's the problem here? Don't all kids know the words "penis" and "vagina?" Shouldn't they? So why ignore scrotum?

One school librarian quoted by the NY Times had this to say: “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship, but you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.” Well, maybe she should worry more about sticking her nose where it doesn't belong.

So I say, why pick on scrotum, it's a nice word, a fun word, a playful word - and it's a real body part, too. Don't be afraid of scrotum, use the word proudly and often, fight back against the anti-scrotumers of the world. Scrotums of the world - unite!

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Excuse me for a moment while I go find my crying towel. The oil industry, specifically the gasoline refinery companies, are resisting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) efforts to impose limits on benzene in gasoline, a substance harmful to human health. The refiners are crying that these proposed limits, which would become effective in 2015 or even 2030, will cost them too much money to meet. I find it difficult to sympathize with the oil industry on this one, after reading yesterday about the all-time record net income recorded by Exxon Mobil of $39.5 billion in 2006.

An article in The Oregonian today listed three refiners that met with federal officials to push for less strict rules; Tesoro, Sinclair Oil, and Giant Industries. Each of these three firms owns multiple oil refineries. Tesoro had a 2006 net income of $801 million, up about $300 million from 2005. Sinclair, a privately owned firm, had 2005 sales of $5.6 billion. Sinclair owns 3 refineries, about 2,600 gas stations in the U.S., and numerous upscale hotels and resorts. Giant Industries (love the name) had $104 million net income in 2005 from $3.6 billion revenue.

These companies are putting profits before people. The long-term health effects of benzene exposure (source: CDC) include: effects on the blood (harmful effects on bone marrow, decrease in red blood cells, excessive bleeding, immune system effects); leukemia (cancer of the blood-forming organs); possible birth defects (demonstrated in animal studies). This is particularly bad news for people in the Pacific Northwest states, where benzene in gasoline is much higher than the US national average.

The Core Values of Giant Indutries, Inc. are: "Do your best. Do what's right. Treat others the way you would like to be treated." Tesoro Corporation touts it's social responsibility, including environmental responsibility. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world indeed if these were more than words from these industrial giants. Real responsibility would be to step up and say "the health of people is more important than the magnitude of our profits." Don't hold your breath for this to happen - but do hold your breath if you live near automobile exhaust.