Links of the Month: October 2020

cartoon by Reza Farazmand at

In my dream you were beautiful, backlit, noble. In the low light of the window you were leaning on the edge. The high rises and billboards for perfume and call girls, the steam above the dark road, the smoke around your head. And I knew you by description, the tall tales, the pictures, your short hair and your lipstick, the smell of coming rain. And I wanted to remain there, a voyeur, a stranger, below you in the night air, just waiting to be changed. And eyeliner and nylons, the calm upon your face drawn, revealing next to nothing, and a deal you don’t believe. A bible in the locked drawer, the past you gave it up for, the hymnal and the comfort in exchange for living free. And lined up with the laundry, your slacks and all your stockings, silk jacket and the soft things you dance in when you dream. And the neighbours never mention the woman they see leaving is the man who works the morning shift selling gasoline. In my dream you were stone still, shadowed, half filled, a masterpiece of pure will just waiting on the world. To gaze upon your body, a razor on a rough cheek, a blaze of burning beauty, the saved and the worth saving, a hallelujah waiting to raise the heavy curtain, a play with no good ending, a prayer that never mentioned that the glory of the question and the answer is the same.  —  Anna Tivel, The Question


cartoon in the New Yorker by Jeremy Nguyen

Biodiversity on the verge of collapse in one fifth of world’s nations: The collapse of biodiversity and the collapse of stable climate are two of the main elements of ecological collapse, the accelerating great extinction of life on earth. A new map shows where biodiversity collapse is happening first, and now. The Guardian gives the highlights of where collapse is happening; the map showing collapse areas in red is here. These areas include most of Australia, India and the Mideast; much of China, central Asia, southern and Saharan Africa, central US, Mexico, eastern South America and the Arctic.

Yet another unheeded indigenous warning:Your civilization is killing life on earth.”


photo by William Smith from the Frans de Waal Facebook page

The new faces of old growth activism: Profile of the heroes risking their health and safety to fight the BC government’s outrageous continued logging of BC’s last old growth forests. Both of BC’s largest parties in the upcoming election continue to support the practice. Time for some new faces and new voices.

Bonnie Henry acts on fentanyl poisoning as government does nothing: After furious pleas to the BC government to address the street drug poisoning epidemic that’s killed three times as many people this year as CoVid-19, BC’s senior public health officer went ahead on her own and authorized nurses to prescribe safe alternatives, a bold move to try to stem the crisis that has received international attention. She has also called for decriminalization of all drug possession. Neither of BC’s largest parties has agreed to do this, and the reactionary BC “Liberal” party pledges to replace the paltry existing public health programs dealing with substance dependence with “abstinence-based” programs, which will make the situation unimaginably worse. If only we could have real leaders like Dr Henry making all our laws.

David Graeber on the bold experiment of the Syrian Kurds: Amidst the chaos and bloody civil war in Syria, its stateless Kurdish citizens try an anarcho-feminist solution, and it works brilliantly until the Turkish army marches in and slaughters everyone.

Roger Hallam is in jail: The UK, which continues to imprison and torture Julian Assange, has arrested and is indefinitely holding the brilliant and inspiring XR founder Roger Hallam. The British government apparently doesn’t like freedom of expression any more than it likes freedom of information. Roger, Julian and Edward Snowden are all showing the world what we will have to face if we want to speak truth to power.

Something to hold on to: A moving short video by novelist John Green, whose suffering from OCD is particularly excruciating as CoVid-19 endures, explaining how he manages from day to day.

The difference a smile makes: A project on how we project ourselves, and how that is received by others. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link, and the links in the two items that follow.

The magic of “steward-ownership”: A new form of business organization protects people-over-profit enterprises from corporate takeovers. It might prevent takeovers like the sell-out of Canada’s beloved MEC Coop, to a private US corporation connected to military ordnance, no less. (PS: Unincorporated community-run initiatives can be part of the solution too.)

Preparing to stop a coup: If you’re worried about the US election being stolen,  here’s how you can be properly prepared if it is. And the Atlantic describes how such a coup might come to pass.


cartoon from the New Yorker by David Sipress

Will incompetence destroy the NYT?: The venerable paper is still reeling from a seemingly endless series of mind-boggling errors, mostly around current management’s insistence on “both-sidesing” issues to the point it has, among other things, published right-wing screeds full of misinformation encouraging violence against protesters and defending racism. It is seemingly relying more and more on sensationalizing and muckraking, the kind of attention-grabbing it has long criticized the tabloids and Faux “news” outlets for. More and more of its headlines are from the same un-cited “US intelligence sources” that used misinformation to stir up support for the outrageous Iraq War, and are now stirring up anti-Russia paranoia. Now, a brave article published (astonishingly) in the paper itself by reporter Ben Smith reveals that much of the paper’s coverage of ISIS in recent years, notably its signature series Caliphate, was absurdly exaggerated or completely fabricated, largely due to the irresponsibility of reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who relied enormously on a Canadian “ISIS informant” now arrested in Canada and found to be a fake “terrorist” who invented his entire narrative and has never even been in Syria. Ben wonders aloud if the newspaper can credibly survive this latest blunder.

Why the fires are burning: Contrary to the regurgitated forest industry propaganda, most of the ghastly Oregon fires this fall occurred in clear-cut areas, not “under-managed” forests. The cause of the fires is climate change, compounded by an unprecedented sudden shift in winds from west to east that burned areas that would normally never be threatened by high-altitude mountain fires. Here’s a thread with a more complete explanation of what has produced this year’s catastrophic fires. Thanks to John Abbe and Peter Kaminski for the links.

More David Graeber, on why the US dollar benefits from wars and US-caused crises: A fascinating and irreverent explanation from 2017 of the corporatist intrigue between real estate and financial interests in the US and Europe. Want to know about how and why economic and regulatory decisions are made, watch this, probably a couple of times because in this video David talks fast. Also a great perspective on 45: “Even though he’s an evil racist bastard, if anyone is going to be able to dismantle the [corrupt and dysfunctional] American empire, it would have to be a right-wing populist.”

Anti-environmental witch-hunt commissioner says he doesn’t have time to fact-check: A disgusting campaign to discredit and disrupt environmental organizations, propagated by Alberta’s lunatic-fringe premier, has run into problems, because, and I’m not making this up, the commissioner says he needs more time and money if he’s expected to actually fact-check what people are saying to him. In the same vein, in the US, Faux News lawyers have successfully argued that their news mouthpieces can’t be charged with slander because they’re in the entertainment business not the information business — no one should believe anything they say is credible, so it can’t be slander.

The sorry state of BC politics: With an election two weeks away, and (see items in previous section) the two leading parties both in the pockets of corporate/ development interests, the alternative left has completely imploded. After a federal Green Party campaign to replace the incompetent ditherer Elizabeth May blew up (with two strong leftist candidates disbarred at the last minute and other disasters), the party lost what little credibility it had left after it had purged, in 2017, all its leaders who dared to support (along with 85% of its party members) sanctions against Israel for its atrocities in Palestine. The Federal Green Party ultimately voted for meddling Elizabeth May’s hand-chosen conservative successor over any of the truly leftist candidates. That left only the new BC Ecosocialist party’s Stewart Parker standing. He explained how the complicity of BC Greens (which he once led) in fracking and the Site C mega-dam were completely contrary to the party’s own platform. But — it gets worse — he was then charged with being transphobic for his support of JK Rowling’s position on women-born-women’s right of association and assembly, and forced to resign from his new party. Utter madness.

Banksy mural, from the XR website

NIH PR official secretly works to undermine NIH and badmouths Dr Fauci: In the “hard to get good staff” department, it would be hard to top the story that Bill Crews, while taking money as a salaried NIH exec, used a pseudonym on social media to criticize his employer and promote CoVid-19 conspiracy theories.

The US white supremacy fascists are getting ornery: In addition to attempting a kidnapping and coup in Michigan, right-wing nut-groups also planned in advance to create and foment violence in Portland, including using bats, mace, frozen paintballs and stun guns, and plotting assassinations.

The $47T heist: A new study suggests that if US tax rates had stayed where they were in 1975, the 1% would have paid $47T more in taxes since then than they have — $47T that should have gone into the pockets of the 99% and into public services for everyone’s benefit.

The man who refused to spy: This is chilling: The FBI tried to recruit an Iranian scientist working in the US as an informant. When he refused, he was threatened, abused, blackmailed, deprived of due process, and repeatedly jailed on trumped-up charges, and finally deported. No one has been charged for the multiple crimes committed against him. And they wonder why so many people are nervous about visiting the US!


original source unknown

The key to the pandemic is super-spreaders: This is precisely why I said we all need to keep our eye on Zeynep Tufekci. This woman is not only extraordinarily brilliant, she has a stunning capacity to see patterns that few others can see. I’ve had a hunch that there is more to super-spreaders than we thought — the disease occurrence has Pareto written all over it. I think identifying super-spreaders may be as important as finding a vaccine. The fact that one woman in Korea infected 5,000 others during one megachurch gathering, almost a quarter of all the reported cases in Korea, should have been a wake-up call. Thanks to Tom Atlee for the link. Excerpt:

In study after study, we see that super-spreading clusters of COVID-19
almost overwhelmingly occur in poorly ventilated, indoor environments
where many people congregate over time — weddings, churches, choirs,
gyms, funerals, restaurants, and such — especially when there is loud talking or singing without masks…  prolonged contact, poor ventilation, [a] highly infectious person, [and] crowding — as the key elements for a super-spreader event. Super-spreading can also occur indoors beyond the six-feet guideline, because SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, can travel through the air and accumulate, especially if ventilation is poor.

More bungling and outrages by underfunded and politically compromised US public health authorities: Last month we had the announcement and retraction of the CDC bulletin (ghostwritten by the incompetent HHS) discouraging testing for the asymptomatic. This month we have the CDC reporting, and then retracting, a claim that airborne transmission of CoVid-19 is possible at distances well beyond six feet. Since this is not news to anyone following the science, the retraction was clearly the result of more political interference. And then we discover that Michael Caputo, a Trump-appointed exec at HHS with no health background or experience whatsoever, is taking a “leave of absence” after reports of his attempts to “take over and muzzle” CDC CoVid-19 releases, and a video he made on his personal Facebook page warning that scientists are “conspiring” against Trump and that there will be “shooting” on November 4th. Maybe he can get a job working with Bill Crews at NIH (see earlier section).

“Test, trace and… what?”: Things aren’t much better in the UK, where the grossly-underfunded NHS is doing its best under trying conditions, but when it comes to the UK’s citizens, “adherence to test, trace and isolate behaviours is low… identification of COVID-19 symptoms is also low”. What this report says is that fewer than half of British citizens interviewed know the symptoms of the disease well enough to even roughly self-diagnose, and fewer than one in five contacted as possibly infected are actually adhering to assigned test, trace and isolate behaviours essential to keeping outbreaks in check. But apparently they have “good intentions” to do so in future.


New Yorker cartoon by Kendra Allenby

Living under totalitarianism: Legendary Canadian interviewer Eleanor Wachtel talks with the extraordinary Masha Gessen about what it’s like living in a totalitarian state, what it was and is like living in Russia, what Vladimir Putin is really like, the struggles of non-binary people, and why she predicted Trump would win the 2016 election.

The seventh great extinction?: The Carnian-Pluvial event 233 mya is now being considered as coinciding with a sixth great known historical extinction of life on earth, so that the current human-caused one might now be more accurately described as the seventh. The extinction seems to have resulted from massive volcanic eruptions in what is now Alaska and British Columbia, causing sudden global warming that wiped out much of life on earth and ushered in the age of dinosaurs.

Been around a long time: On the heels of the discovery of interbreeding between Andean and Polynesian peoples 30,000 years ago, and Indigenous Australian art that dates back 100,000 years, comes the new discovery of Mexican settlements that are more than 30,000 years old. We are just starting on a journey that I think will completely demolish the established story of human origins and migration paths. (And no, no UFOs are involved, just parallel evolution.)

Macro/Micro Worlds: Stunning nature photography, close-up and close-in.

Robert Sapolsky on Free Will: Scientific American talks with the neuroscientist and biologist about the biology underlying our behaviour, about free will, and about the folly of prison as punishment. If you like it, read his wonderful new book Behave.

Ani DiFranco reminds you to vote: Ani’s joyful new song “Do or Die” will have you dancing all the way to the polls.


The flight, photo by Simerpreet Cheema on Pixabay

Julian Jaynes on the epiphenomenon of consciousness and the self: From his book The Origin of Consciousness:

The [helpless spectator] doctrine assures us consciousness [aka the ‘self’] does nothing at all, and in fact can do nothing. Many tough-minded experimentalists still agree with Herbert Spencer that such a downgrading of consciousness is the only view that is consistent with straight evolutionary theory. Animals are evolved; nervous systems and their mechanical reflexes increase in complexity; when some unspecified degree of nervous complexity is reached, consciousness appears, and so begins its futile course as a helpless spectator of cosmic events. What we do is completely controlled by the wiring diagram of the brain and its reflexes to external stimuli. Consciousness is nothing more than the heat given off by the wires, a mere epiphenomenon. Conscious feelings, as Hodgson put it, are mere colors laid on the surface of a mosaic which is held together by its stones, not by the colors. Or as Huxley insisted in a famous essay, “we are conscious automata.” Consciousness can no more modify the working mechanism of the body or its behavior than can the whistle of a train modify its machinery or where it goes. Moan as it will, the tracks have long ago decided where the train will go. Consciousness is the melody that floats from the harp and cannot pluck its strings, the foam struck raging from the river that cannot change its course, the shadow that loyally walks step for step beside the pedestrian, but is quite unable to influence its journey.

Frank describes nothing and everything: Frank McCaughey, the guy who interviewed dozens of people who had apparently lost all sense of themselves being real and separate from everything, somehow finally lost himself this year (just a coincidence that it was shortly after he interviewed me, though my self is still infuriatingly around). Here’s how he now expresses the radical non-duality message. Excerpt:

There is a communication available. Its words appear to describe something radically alternative to the story of me, my life and becoming a better me… This description suggests that there is no you doing or choosing anything… No you and no me… No you that can feel less anxious. No you that can become a better you… This communication suggests there is no time, no location, no place, no here or there. Just what is. And in this what is, all the stories can unwind and what’s left is ‘something appearing to happen’. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, anything and everything appearing to happening… This alive heart-thumping communication can be heard as horrible, boring, dull, disgusting, nihilistic or utterly liberating. It’s heard how it’s heard. The suggestion is, there is no one doing that hearing or that reaction. Just the reaction… ‘What is’ cannot be avoided, negotiated with or accepted. What is cannot be lost or found. What is cannot be owned, bargained with, exchanged, shared or even explained. What is cannot be attained or a state that can be held on to. And yet any of those attempts is also what is. It’s this. Already. In, of and as what is happening.

Nothing needs to happen: Ryan Otis interviews Jim Newman.


Lana Finck’s brilliant Literoji from the NYT. Click on image for larger size and zoom in; it’s hilarious and well worth exploring

From 45, in a widely-reported recent ABC interview asserting CoVid-19 will soon disappear even without a vaccine:

“It would go away without the vaccine George,” he said speaking to ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos. “With time it goes away. And you’ll develop like a herd mentality. It’s going to be herd developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.”

Next Links of the Month will be after both the US and BC elections. Please vote, even if you have to hold your nose while wearing your mask.

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