Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The mostly empty 737 lifted off the runway at the moment when night has bested day, and images below were barely discernible. The cabin lights were off, and I was alone in the rear section. I watched the lights of Kodiak slip under the wing and disappear behind us; and then the veil of clouds obscured the planet's surface.

I settled into a traveler's reverie supported by the distinctive combination of the jet engines' muffled roar and the air rushing past the thin metal skin around me. Inside and outside were almost equally dark, with the exception of the bright wingtip light visible in the corner of my window view. Openings in the cloud cover drifted by, appearing below as dark spaces in the gray.

Then there appeared far below, in the slow-motion movie viewed through an airplane window like a strange television show, a yellow light. As it slipped by, I could see that it was the light of a ship far below, visible through a large opening in the clouds. The view focused as I glided overhead, and I could just make out the white wake signature of two screws - giving me a clue that this lone vessel on a black sea was perhaps an Alaska State Ferry or an ocean-going tug.

I was gripped at that moment by an incredible feeling of loneliness and insignificance. I in my tiny dim space hurtling through the air, they in their small vessel racing towards who-knows-what through the incredible darkness of the sea at night. I pictured the wheel house of the ship; maybe a lone crew member peering into the darkness over the glow of the instruments. I've been there, and I could feel it.

And then it was gone.

We continued towards Anchorage. At one point the clouds below were illuminated with a strange yellow glow in large patches - the lights of a town or some industries glowing against the cloud bottom. "How strange" I thought to myself, and I drifted deeper into that place between sky and earth, darkness and light.

The bang of landing gear on pavement jolted me awake. We were down, the lights were on, people were reaching for cell phones. Welcome home weary traveler.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


A bit of background is in order here for those who don't live in the Pacific Northwest. For the past few years, an increasing number of California sea lions have been making their way more than 100 miles up the Columbia River to the area below Bonneville Dam during the salmon spawning migration season. There the sea lions feast on adult salmon and some white sturgeon. Federal, state and Tribal fish managers are concerned that the predation by these large marine mammals on fish runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will further decimate these threatened and endangered species. Commercial, recreational and tribal fishers are very upset because sea lions often steal fish from their gear. Biologists estimate that the sea lions might be eating about 4 percent of the runs of ESA-listed species. After several years of mostly ineffective hazing with noise and small explosives, the agencies are close to getting a ruling that they can selectively kill the worst of these offenders (the ruling is required because the sea lions are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.)

I was recently kayaking in the Columbia River and saw an old friend of mine, a sea lion named Sammy who visits every year when the salmon are migrating. We caught up on old times, and I let him use my pocket p.c. to catch up on the news on the internet (and, of course, to read my blog). He was very upset to learn that the federal agencies are close to a ruling that will allow them to kill sea lions. Sammy asked me if he could dictate a message to me that I would post on the blog. His message follows:

My name is Sammy C. Lyon. I live in the Pacific Ocean, and often visit the Columbia River for the annual salmon feast. I noticed that my picture was in the Oregonian the other day, kind of like a mug shot in the Post Office. According to the article, there will likely be a death warrant signed soon for me and some of my relatives.

I'm finding it difficult to comprehend this turn of events. Yes, I eat salmon, and an occasional sturgeon, while I'm enjoying the seasonal foods of the Columbia River. My ancestors have been eating these foods for many generations, and we've always followed the salmon upstream in the Columbia, historically up to Celilo Falls where we and the native people of the river shared the bounty of nature before your dams drowned the falls. But now it seems that we're taking the blame for something we really haven't caused.

I have a great sense of humor, and I chuckled when I read a published statement by the Regional Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that my eating salmon at Bonneville Dam “is a very unnatural situation that requires active intervention to restore nature's balance.” What? Restore nature's balance by killing sea lions at the base of a dam? Um, excuse me, but my relatives and I didn't build Bonneville Dam, we don't dump billions of gallons of sewage into the river, we're swimming in a soup of toxic and radioactive wastes, pharmaceutical drugs, excess nutrients and other impacts of the wonderful “balance of nature” you humans have created. And we're not responsible for global warming. I don't see your government issuing death warrants for people who destroy habitat, dump toxic wastes, over harvest fish, and take so much water out of streams that salmon can no longer live there.

Wild salmon aren't imperiled because my sea lion brethren and I eat them. And we don't “steal” fish from humans fishing in the river – the wild fish don't really belong to you. You humans have always had a tendency to blame someone else for the problems you create. Killing sea lions might save some fish, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem. As reported by the Oregonian, the huge salmon recovery industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars per year with few improvements in salmon populations.

I'm going to continue living my life, eating the foods I eat, and hope that I can avoid getting killed by the appointed executioners of your government. I only hope that there are enough people who choose to have salmon and sea lions by taking responsibility for salmon declines and making real changes in how humans affect the natural systems that sustain all of us.

Thanks Sammy - well said!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Wow - now that was some excitement last night at the ol' CNN democratic candidate debate. Barak and Hillary having at it, big time! This was some of the best name-calling, mud-slinging, accusation-flinging "debating" I've seen (not that I've watched very many of these).

So I got to thinking, "how much of this can we stand?" But then I realized that this is really good prime-time entertainment when it's such a spark-fest. These people are becoming real professionals at presidential candidate debating; so maybe there's a future in it for them - Reality TV!

Maybe I should pitch this idea to some producers. Film crews can follow Hillary and Barak around all day and night, peeking into their strategy sessions, rehearsals, bus time, meals, ups and downs. We can watch as campaign staff dig for dirt on the opposition, develop stinging sound-byte quality zingers for their candidate to memorize, rehearse their candidate in the dramatic arts, such as double-takes, painful looks, hateful glares, and righteous indignation. Each week the tension can build towards the debate, where they will be in the glare of the lights, live on-camera for the world to watch.

Hey - who needs a President when we have reality TV? Who needs real issues when we have real drama? What could be better than the innuendos of race, gender, conservativism, back-room deals, big corporate donations, and hints of possible scandal?

Sounds great, doesn't it? My only problem is, I don't watch reality TV - reality is bad enough!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


" President Bush and Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke have both endorsed the idea of a stimulus package...."

In an announcement today, Chairman Bernanke announced an aggressive plan to implement a widespread stimulus throughout America. "We have been working closely with Pfizer and Merck on this stimulus package" said the Fed Chief. "As a result, we should very soon have billions of stimulants ready to distribute to Americans, particularly the working poor and unemployed."

The stimulation package, first conceived in the office of the Vice-President, Lord Darth Cheney, is a brilliant plan that will keep ordinary Americans so doped-up that the economic woes of the country will not be a concern to them. In the meantime, the wealthiest Americans will continue to reap the benefits of giant tax breaks and unprecedented profits.

Praise the Fed, and pass the Stimulants!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


It's a rather strange and disturbing story from Kodiak, Alaska. About 50 bald eagles, symbol of America, got into a dumpster-diving frenzy in a dump truck filled with fish guts outside a fish cannery. When it was all over, about 30 eagles had drowned in the pile because they were pushed and held under by their fellow eagles who were gorging on this rotting pile of scavenger delicacies.

Nature - go figure!

I've been to Kodiak; in fact, I'll be there at the end of this month. When the canneries are working, you can see hundreds of eagles on the short drive from the airport to town. Eagles soaring overhead, dozens of eagles sitting in every tree along the road. For people who have not seen many eagles, it is an awe-inspiring site.

So maybe the eagles should wise up and learn not to disappoint us humans with behavior that is undignified for a national symbol. I mean, magnificently snatching a salmon from just below the surface of the sea with outstretched talons below wide-spread wings is a glorious sight, and one to remember. But - drowning anyone who gets between you and a pile of rotting, steaming fish guts in the bed of a dump truck seems somehow diametrically opposed to the carefully cultivated image of power and glory.

Get with the program, eagles.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Isn't it nice that things are better in Iraq? Well, anyway, that how it seems because there is much less media coverage about it. Hey, The Surge is working! Violence is down, security is up, things are getting back to normal for Iraqis. And....Hillary and McCain won New Hampshire!

How convenient for the architects of the Iraq fiasco. How inconvenient for Iraqis and members of the U.S. military.

I used to feel anger and frustration about the U.S. war in Iraq. Now the feeling that overwhelms me is shame.

I feel shame when I think that my country invaded and is occupying another nation without provocation or cause.

I feel shame when I see the estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths and injuries, in the hundreds of thousands.

I feel shame when I learn about the plight of millions of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes and their country under threat to their lives.

I feel shame when I hear reports, such as the excellent series by Deborah Amos on NPR, about Iraqi refugee families in Jordan and Syria who are not allowed to work; children who are not allowed to attend school (many have not been in school for 2-3 years); Iraqis who worked for the U.S. military, at great risk to themselves and their families, and are not allowed to immigrate to the United States.

I feel shame that my government is not making reparations to the displaced Iraqi people, or helping them rebuild their lives.

I feel shame that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have dishonorably discharged thousands of men and women who served tours of duty in Iraq and returned with mental disorders, and are no longer eligable for veterans medical benefits.

I feel shame about the thousands of American military families whose lives have been torn apart by frequent and extended deployments.

I feel shame about the conditions in military hospitals, in which wounded soldiers are ill-treated.

And I feel shame that the people of my country don't also seem to feel this sense of shame about this new kind of America.

Dennis Kucinich is correct, in my opinion, when he talks about Bush and Cheney and the other architects of this invasion and occupation as war criminals. But it goes beyond that - way beyond.

And I am ashamed that we, the people, allowed this to happen.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I wish Morphius was here to tell me if Obama is The One - our Neo.

In February of last year I wrote a piece about needing a new leader. Someone who understands that the world today is different from yesterday's world. Someone who actually has a different mind set about technology, politics, resources, etc.

For me, the speeches by the dem candidates after the Iowa results were in were very telling. John Edwards launched into his angry class warfare campaign speech - the big corporations are the evil doers. He reminded me of speeches I heard, and gave, about 30-40 years ago as a young radical. It's not that I necessarily disagree with his premise, but the class warfare rant is old politics, and I don't think it moves things forward.

Hillary Clinton was more polite than John - she actually congratulated the front-runners. But then she hit hard on her basic theme - she is the only one with experience. She's been there done that, in the trenches, in the White House, carry the good past forward, etc. Again, I tend to think we need new ideas, new constructs of global reality, new understandings.

So that leads me to Barak Obama. Does he really get it? Is he really in a different political generation than John and Hillary? Does he understand that globalization and all that it entails is a new paradigm in human history that requires a different politics?

Is he The One?

Thursday, January 03, 2008


The headlines scream it: "Iowans ready to make or break candidates." What?? This is another bizarre aspect of the whacky US electoral system. Why does the Iowa caucus make or break candidates? Do Iowans really represent the majority of US voters? I don't get it.

I listened to a report recently explaining the Iowa caucus system, and believe me, I didn't understand it. The caucus rules are more complex than any board game, card game or sport - the only word I can think of to describe it is "weird." It's basically a popularity contest where the people participating get to select first and second choices, and change their votes.

And now we'll all have to endure the constant media blitz of reports, analyses, and the parade of talking heads that will tell us what it all means. Oy - where can I hide until it's over?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


This is my first post for 2008. People typically have hopes and good wishes for a new year, and I certainly have those; however, numerous topics have been swirling about within my head since I started writing again last week, and this is what I've selected - extremism.

In many ways, the 21st Century has begun as a time of extremism. We're witnessing a growth in strength of all sorts of extremists in the world: religious, political, and nationalist among the most prominent. Islamic extremists have grabbed a major share of the headlines, but we shouldn't overlook the historic importance of the others.

To the religious extremists I have to say that your actions demonstrate the flaws of your beliefs. You jihadists who kill randomly with no regard for human life are not doing holy acts - you are the worst kind of murderers, and are despicable people who rain discredit upon your professed religion. You politicians who act "according to god's will" (yes George, including you) use the cloak of godliness to violate basic principles of humanity, wreaking havoc within your own jurisdictions and beyond. Those of you who find it acceptable to violate the human rights of others (women, homosexuals, "the other") because "the bible says it is so" go beyond acceptable in meddling where you shouldn't.

To you political extremists, both here in the USA and abroad, history will show you for what you truly are. Your use of fear and hate have brought ruin to many millions of human lives and whole societies. You care not what methods you employ to advance your extremism; you lie and cheat and pose enemies and call names - anything and everything to advance your extremist agendas.

To nationalists, at all levels, your short-sightedness poses doom for humankind. Included here are local, tribal, regional and national identifications that promote unity and hatred against "the others" because they are not you. These concepts of identification belong in the dustbin of history.

There are many unifying themes in the world today, important discussions and actions that we, as humankind, need to have. But you extremists are bent on preventing unification because your way is the only way. Can we humans get beyond primitivism? By this I mean the self-centered identifications and agendas that keep us at each others throats. On the scale of history, these are petty, meaningless things that serve no purpose for the future. Listen to the news - understand the world. Humanity has changed the physical nature of our planet's climate; we have overgrown our capacity to feed ourselves; we are rapidly losing the best and most valuable parts of the natural world out of greed; and we continue to kill each other for reasons that are beyond comprehension.

I dream of a time of great change - a global epiphany if you will - during which humankind comes to its senses and truly understands the concepts of cooperation, sustainability, respect and yes, love. Unfortunately, I know that this is most likely just a dream.

Happy New Year.