Bullet points: HOWTO catch up on coronavirus fast if you’ve been living under a rock (or enslaved)

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released Mondays or so…LIKE TODAY’s! This is Week 12‘s.

“It is not your fault, I know, but of those who put it in your head that you are exaggerating and even this testimony may seem just an exaggeration for those who are far from the epidemic, but please, listen to us” — intensive care physician Dr. Daniele Macchini, in translation from Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in Bergamo, Italy, Friday 6th of March 2020. (Additional attribution information.)

Artwork possibly by Colombian Julián Valencia. I’ll try to update this info. (Source.)

Let’s say you’ve been living under a rock — or enslaved by time-consuming wage-work or an abusive chattel owner or months/years of lock up or an unhappy, exploitative marriage or other — and you exit that problem (at least partially) to simply arrive at another: everything’s suddenly different and everyone else has been talking, and continues to talk, about some sort of coronavirus deal. If you think that’s a joke, consider the number of people exiting various forms of confinement daily, not to mention the other scenarios in this paragraph.

Thankfully, you’re literate and you have about three hours on your hands, so what quality information should you read to catch yourself up on the scary COVID-19 disease caused by late 2019’s new version of coronavirus (a family of related viruses)?

Below are ten bullet points, plus a bonus eleventh, listing links to study up on, primarily — but not only — regarding the medical and practical sides of things, to help you catch up quickly on the pandemic. I’ve been reading about novel coronavirus (just a fancy way to say new coronavirus), since late February; that’s how I’m distilling down your reading to essential material. Required texts would differ regionally, of course, yet as a Seattleite previously from North Texas, I’m gearing the present post toward the United States. Seattle is also where the index case (aka patient zero) happened in this country, so compared with the rest of the US, Seattleites have had a head start on this new world. Without further ado:

1. On Friday 6 March 2020, Dr. Daniele Macchini, an intensive care unit physician at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in Bergamo, Italy, wrote a Facebook post in Italian that the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera (Bergamo edition) republished the next day, probably contributing to an English translation appearing on reddit Sunday 8 March 2020. To perceive clearly and quickly how serious all this is, read Dr. Daniele Macchini’s March 6, 2020 message in Italian or English. Epidemiologist Silvia Stringhini might have been the Italian-to-English translator (see this twitter thread of hers), but I’m not sure. I’ll try to update the translator info. Here’s a Wednesday 11 March 2020 Snopes piece providing attribution information for Dr. Macchini’s post. Here’s Dr. Macchini’s staffperson page at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital.

2. On Wednesday 11 March 2020, Dr. Tedros, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, announced, after the agency had been tracking the disease from the start, that WHO made the assessment that day that COVID-19 is a global pandemic. Though definitions of “pandemic” vary, change, and are debated (here’s the WHO’s from 2010), pandemic etymologically means all people, indicating plainly that all humans, including you and me and everyone else, are at risk of exposure. Dr. Tedros’s announcement of the disease’s global pandemic status came in his opening remarks during one of the frequent novel coronavirus press briefings WHO has been holding. His announcement is a document well worth reading, short and well written and well structured, and it should be looked back upon by future historians. Dr. Tedros called for immediate intelligent action everywhere, what his announcement terms a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach” planetwide. Also, Dr. Tedros said this is the first pandemic in history that, in his judgment as WHO director general, can be suppressed and controlled, i.e. by humans acting knowledgeably (I presume he’d say this is because of the Internet/global communications). Below, the full 59-minute video of the Wednesday 11 March 2020 press briefing. Dr. Tedros’ opening remarks are from 1 minute to 9.5 minutes.

World Health Organization Wed. 11 March 2020 daily press briefing on COVID-19, 59 minutes

3. Understand four reasons why it matters that this coronavirus is new/novel. Coronavirus is a family of similar/related viruses. It’s important to emphasize that this brand new version from late 2019 is a new coronavirus, or meaning the same thing, a novel coronavirus, because, as Dr. Francis Riedo, an infectious disease and travel medicine expert from Seattle’s EvergreenHealth healthcare system, explained during a Saturday 29 February 2020 Washington state Department of Health press conference, a) No one has immunity to it yet, b) No vaccine for it exists yet, and c) No treatment agent targeted specifically at it exists yet. I would add d) Researchers, scientists, and similar still do not have enough information about it. A-D of course exclude unusual and strange possible situations such as personalized medicine for the powerful. If anyone can forward me the raw video for that press conference with Dr. Francis Riedo, perhaps at C-SPAN, I’ll add it here and credit your name/pseudonym as you specify. Or I’ll do it myself later.

4. Understand exponential growth. Addition and exponentiation are both arithmetic operations. Here’s an addition example: 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 12. Here’s an exponentiation example: 34 = 3 × 3 × 3 × 3 = 81. That exponentiation is 3 times itself four times. It depends, but disease spread can often be more exponential than straightforward addition. Exponential because each infected person, especially prior to becoming incapacitated (but possibly even then), can infect many people, not just another single person. This Tuesday 10 March 2020 Washington Post article explains it quite well: “When coronavirus is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn’t.” Two screenshots excerpting that WaPo article:

This Friday 13 March 2020 article at USA Today explains what exponential growth means in terms of overwhelmed hospitals running out of beds in the United States: “A USA TODAY analysis shows there could be six seriously ill patients for every existing US hospital bed. No state is prepared.”

On Monday 23 March 2020, CNN journalist Ryan Struyk tweeted CNN’s figures for the United States, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country for each day in March.

5. Here’s a practical, comprehensive guide to novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. This all-in-one coronavirus guide, started Sunday 8 March 2020 and updated daily, is by Ars Technica (Latin: the art of technology), a web magazine that’s been around for more than two decades in various incarnations. Condé Nast currently owns it (they also own Wired, The New Yorker, and plenty of others). If you spend an hour slowly and carefully working your way through that guide, you’ll be in pretty decent shape in terms of catching up. Other guides include this collaborative one out of Berlin, by a hacker and an artist, with input for healthcare professionals. This document/guide for COVID-19 mutual aid and advocacy resources across the United States might also be useful. If you have any other really excellent guides, please put them in the comments to this post or email them to me at DAL@RISEUP.NET.

6. Here’s the COVID-19 advice for the public section on the World Health Organization website. Study that material thoroughly. And better yet, start studying the COVID-19 section entire on the WHO’s website. It explains, among other things, that people of all ages, regardless of their other medical conditions or lack thereof, can become infected with COVID-19. All ages can die from it, again regardless of their other medical conditions or lack thereof (see also Thursday 19 March 2020 Bloomberg article). While a Monday 23 March 2020 WHO situation report says “For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild illness however, it can make some people very ill and, in some people, it can be fatal,” with the sheer quantity of “some people” — hundreds of thousands (or more) who will quite possibly become infected (hopefully not) — that means already overwhelmed hospital systems all over the planet will be in even more dangerous shape, especially countries without widespread access to healthcare such as the United States. Finally, it helps to understand the World Health Organization’s web address: https://who.int. WHO obviously stands for World Health Organization, but .INT is a sponsored top level domain that many in the United States might not be familiar with. It means international.

7. Understand soap and hand sanitizer. “Toilet soap” is the term for that category of soap everyday people are typically familiar with, such as in domestic cleaning or bathroom settings, as opposed to say industrial thickening soaps outside the realm of common experience. It depends, but regarding novel coronavirus, toilet soap may generally be more reliable than hand sanitizer (alcohol-based hand rub); however, hand sanitizer might be helpful for settings where people can’t access toilet soap: paid-workers taking hand sanitizer briefly out of their purses on public transit, for instance, or to replace toilet soap when people are at risk for certain skin reactions, including the hand dermatitis health care workers can get (and get fired for in some places) after years and years of washing their hands a zillion times on the job daily — that’s one reason why health care workers in specialized settings are often using alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizer). Hand sanitizer may also be better for those directly caring for patients. On a daily ordinary human level, use regular toilet soap such as bar soap. The corporate bar soap, including Dial products, is marketed as antibacterial. But a virus causes COVID-19; thus, antibacterial doesn’t help with coronavirus specifically (viruses and bacteria are two completely different enemies/pathogens). Further, even the US Federal Death Agency, I mean the US Food and Drug Administration, wrote for consumers in May 2019 that there’s not sufficient scientific evidence to say antibacterial soap is any extra helpful against bacteria/generally, and they also wrote it (well, soap with the ingredient triclosan) may even be harmful, and not just because of antibiotic resistance. Prior to this pandemic, I used plain ol’ Dr. Bronner’s bar soap. A subcategory of “toilet soap” is “Castile soap,” Castile referring to a historical region in Spain, but meaning in practical terms the soap is based on olive oil. For toilet soaps to work against viruses (remember, not talking about antibacterial or antibiotic), you want them to be surfactants (short for Surface Active Agents) containing amphiphiles. Instead of trying to kill all the pathogens, the point of bar soap is more to escort the viruses down the drain. That part, and the part about amphiphiles and surfactants, I don’t understand fully, but suffice to say, Castile soap — or at least Dr. Bronner’s bar soap — is a surfactant with amphiphiles, so I feel comfortable enough to continue using it during this pandemic. Finally, the good information about handwashing for 20-30+ seconds, minding to clean each finger and cut your nails etc., is getting newly amplified due to this pandemic, yay! You’ll want to wash your hands like that regularly with soap and water. The soap details, and the soap vs. hand sanitizer debate, may be a lot more complicated than this (there are even studies about what to do, when washing your hands, with the ring or wristwatch you typically wear), but my bullet point write-up is a bit of a rush job. Here are resources: 270-page WHO report from 2009 about guidelines on hand hygiene in health care (may not apply to everyday folks); 7-page 2009 WHO brochure for those directly involved in patient care; Lisa Bronner of the Bronner family, consumer education / advertising, especially this post; under-5-minutes video, by TV personality and chef Alton Brown; US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handwashing section; 13 March 2020 New York Times article praising toilet soap; World Health Organization handwashing post for World Water Day 2020. This research/writing should be continued further and may change as more is learned especially about novel coronavirus. I receive nada from Dr. Bronner’s and the Bronner family, I just like their stuff and frequently buy it myself.

8. Keep track of worldwide statistics using the following dashboards, but understand their limitations. Online dashboards give statistics for COVID-19 in different countries and their provinces, statistics such as number of confirmed cases, number of tests performed, number of deaths (often wrong since complications/comorbidities matter in determining what causes a death), and number of people recovered. However, there are lots of undetected cases, whether asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic, or very symptomatic and not counted. Asymptomatic (no symptoms) or mildly symptomatic (symptoms so mild they might not even be noticed) individuals can still be infected and transmit their infection to other people. Since the dashboards don’t track asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases, the true scale of the problem is bigger than the dashboards suggest. Further, some countries including the United States are not testing sufficently, and public health experts anywhere would presumably like to run more tests if possible. So, that means there are more people who are very sick and would count as confirmed cases if only tests were available enough — another reason the true scale of the pandemic is worse than the dashboards suggest. Finally, confinement facilities such as prisons, pretrial jails, psychiatric wards, detention camps, and others have a track record of not counting people accurately, to say the least (lockup facilities are targets for human traffickers), so that’s yet a third reason why already grim dashboards are not as grim as the full reality. On Wednesday 22 January 2020, the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering first publicly shared their dashboard (which has a frequently asked questions and an article in The Lancet). A version of the John Hopkins dashboard, at Esri/Environmental Systems Research Institute’s ArcGIS geographic information system website, might be easier to use. I also very much like https://nCoV2019.live/data, created around Wednesday 25 December 2019 by Avi Schiffmann, a high schooler near Seattle. All three of those pull data from authoritative sources and refresh very frequently. Here’s one for Canada by PhD epidemiology candidates @JPSoucy and @ishaberry2 at the University of Toronto’s public health school, with the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group curating data. There’s another, very official government dashboard for Canada, but I lost track of the URL. If you have it, please post it to the comments on this post or email it to me: DAL@RISEUP.NET. Here’s global and regional COVID-19 data from the WorldOMeters.Info website, its sources listed at the bottom of its webpage. Finally, the World Health Organization’s great COVID-19 global dashboard.

Artwork possibly by Colombian Julián Valencia. I’ll try to update this info. (Source.)

9. As this Saturday 14 March 2020 reddit post suggests, and as the World Health Organization is changing to, don’t say “social distancing,” say “physical distancing.” As I put it: Humans are unchangeably social animals, so social distancing kills us / drives us extinct. Physical distancing is accurate and encourages people to keep interacting socially, checking on each other, talking via video or email or phone call, etc. If you’re afraid of becoming unpopular as a result of saying something unusual, namely physical distancing, nobody ain’t got no time for that lifestyle anymore. As George Orwell, Heather Marsh, Philip K. Dick, and plenty of others have said over and over, language is so powerful as to be coercive (even if the effect is sometimes only short lived). Words matter. On Friday 20 March 2020, at the daily press briefing on COVID-19, Dr. Kerkhove said the World Health Organization is changing from “social distancing” to “physical distancing” (video, see 17:40 to 18:40).

10. Review quality scientific literature or other medical expert information. If you recover from COVID-19, can you get re-infected with it later, or do you develop immunity? Very likely you develop immunity; still uncertain. A Thursday 27 February 2020 Reuters report said a Japanese tour bus guide got re-infected after recovering, but that report, a Friday 28 February 2020 Wired piece raised questions about the next day. The Guardian on Monday 16 March 2020 reported experts say the possibility of re-infection after recovery is “unlikely”, though more research is needed to be sure.

Then we have this 5.5-minute video, embedded below, by Science/Business Insider, uploaded to youtube by them Wednesday 18 March 2020. The short video uses authoritative sources, including the World Health Organization, to explain what coronavirus symptoms are like day by day. Very highly recommended:

Regarding the gastrointestinal (GI) system, two peer-reviewed medical studies about novel coronavirus in the fairly high impact scientific journal Gastroenterology, authored by different sets of Chinese doctors, are worth reading: 6-page PDF from Wednesday 26 February 2020 and 15-page PDF from Thursday 27 February 2020. By now you’ve learned the new coronavirus is spread by droplets from sneezes and coughs, and even droplets from talking and heavy breathing, and that the most common symptom is fever, with the second most common symptom being a dry cough, ANY OR ALL OF WHICH CAN THEN TURN INTO RESPIRATORY FAILURE AS FOR THIS MAN IN HIS MID THIRTIES, Clement Chow, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Utah.

However, the Gastroenterology studies say the disease is also spread by the oral-fecal route (e.g., I assume, dirty diapers, oral sex, et cetera). A Wednesday 4 March 2020 research letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association disagrees, but does not cite the Gastroenterology studies. Though I’m not an expert, I say take the Gastroenteology studies extremely seriously and keep an eye on this/related research. The Gastroenteology studies also say COVID-19 can cause mild to moderate liver damage, and that some infected populations have shown less common GI symptoms — namely diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort — prior to the onset of the more well known respiratory symptoms. This all may change as further research is done, so keep an eye on this sort of thing and learn to read scientific/medical material. Yet also keep in mind the 2015 piece by Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, a piece that includes this:

‘A lot of what is published is incorrect.’ I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules. We were also asked not to take photographs of slides. Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially remain unquoted […] The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, ‘poor methods get results’.

Would you like solutions to that massive worldwide problem? Here are solutions to that massive worldwide problem: “A societal singularity” by Heather Marsh and her GetGee framework for a collaborative global data commons for public information. I’ll try to write knowledge-bridging posts to connect that material of hers to COVID-19 soon.

The above ten bullet points leave a lot out, including political and economic material, such as international borders closing for whatever duration including the US – Canada border, but there’s enough to keep many readers busy for a while.

Bonus: The final eleventh bullet point, optimistic material, which comes in two parts. First, the 14-minute Friday 13 March 2020 Democracy Now! video interview with 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann, the creator of the https://ncov2019.live/data global dashboard, who’s been programming since he was seven and says “You can learn anything online.” His site has been visited by 35 million people and counting. Avi Schiffmann’s next project is a COVID-19 vaccine tracker to keep tabs on the progress clinical trials. The transcript is here and the video is embedded below.

Democracy Now! 14-min inspirational interview with https://ncov2019.live/data dashboard creator Avi Schiffmann, a 17 year old near Seattle

Second, this Monday 16 March 2020 Common Dreams article collects short videos, mostly social media posts, of physically distancing people singing, chanting, applauding with each other across balconies during covid19 pandemic. Includes Italy, the city of Wuhan in China, Lebanon, and Spain. To finish this blog post, I’ll embed items from the Common Dreams article below.

44 seconds of singing across balconies during COVID-19 physical distancing in Spain
https://twitter.com/SupYouFoundJay/status/1239231997584826375
15 seconds of chanting across balconies during COVID-19 physical distancing in Lebanon
~1-minute video of singing across balconies during COVID-19 physical distancing in Italy
45-second video of applause/ovation for healthcare workers during COVID-19 physical distancing in Spain
https://twitter.com/UnknowTalo/status/1238979243343843328
12-second video of applause/ovation for healthcare workers during COVID-19 physical distancing in Portugal
1-minute video of residents of the city of Wuhan in China chanting “Jiayou!” meaning “Keep up the fight!” or “You can do it!”

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Bullet points: HOWTO catch up on coronavirus fast if you’ve been living under a rock (or enslaved), by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/03/23/howto-catch-up-coronavirus-fast-underrock-enslaved/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

A USian escapes the bubble: Summer 2019 adventure to British Columbia, Part 3

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released on Mondays or so. Here’s this week’s post, the one for Week 7…a few days late—try asking for a refund?

Note: This post obviously belongs, as Part 3, to a series of posts about my trip from Seattle, where I reside, to British Columbia in Summer 2019. Here’s the completed series, a USian escapes the bubble: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and (forthcoming) Part 4.

Uh, USians…are missing almost all the world

When I was preparing for my adventure, my acquaintances, much like the border g̶o̶d̶ guard, asked me what I was planning to do. Would I visit the Butchart Gardens? “It is so lovely, and it looks much better during the day than at night, and [on and on].” Years ago, planning for a different adventure, a road trip across half the United States, I was asked my take on whether the route should have us see Nature or cities. “Neither,” I said. “We should see people.”

To learn what likely simpatico people in Victoria were thinking and feeling and doing, and to bring that psychic samizdat back to Seattle, I primarily had in mind, even from the early planning phases, three missions: 1) check out the anarchist bookstore Camas Books & Infoshop; 2) check out and participate with Food Not Bombs Victoria; and 3) check out and participate with whatever alternative mental health stuff might be springing up in the city. Much of my offline activism my first few years in Seattle involved Seattle Food Not Bombs (especially as a driver!) and working with folks in or around, uh, the Seattle chapter of the, uh, Hearing Voices Network, which as you know is the oldest academic honor society in the United States complete with secret handshake, engraved golden key, and notable members including US presidents and Supreme Court justices, Ursula K. Le Guin, Henry Kissinger, and me. Aiming to improve my irl understanding of subject matters like (radical) education, food security, and replacing dumbass psychiatry, I hoped to gain a bit bigger view of the world, to escape the typically reactionary USian default me me me dolla dolla bill lol unrealistic fake news lol me me me dolla dolla bill — and also, to just interact with everyday Victoria people hanging out, the ordinary Victoria public transit system, and so on. That seemed far more valuable to me than tourist traps. In Seattle my hands have been nicely dirty with real life, so why would I not want that elsewhere?

So, this post covers those three — successful! — missions, each of which took place on a different day of my adventure. I didn’t take any photos of the missions, however, so throughout this Part 3, I’ll rely on others’ photos or funny images.

OMG no :\ (Source)

Find the real people? I’m not afraid to die! (Source)

Mission one: Camas, anarchist bookstore in Victoria (Wikipedia). They recently sent out this communiqué regarding supporting Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en camps’ resistance against proposed pipelines in the area, (Amnesty; blockades shut railways across Canada), which I unfortunately know little about. I walked to Camas from my hostel, something of a 1̶.̶2̶5̶-̶m̶i̶l̶e̶ 2̶.̶1̶-̶k̶i̶l̶o̶m̶e̶t̶e̶r̶ 2.1-kilometre hike one way. I arrived, looked around inside at several of the same books that already existed on my bookshelves back home, and got into a great conversation with a staffperson there. I told him about the drop in ambient anxiety in Victoria relative to the United States, and how I assumed that was due in part to the universal health insurance and the lack of mass shootings. He said he understood how I would perceive Victoria that way, but from his vantage point, everything seemed too calm. “Unrest,” he said, “is best.”

From the Camas Books & Infoshop website
Also from the Camas Books & Infoshop website

Camas is really cool. Relative to other anarchist bookstores I’ve been to in the United States, Camas much more strongly emphasized First Nations or indigenous related material. Were I living in Victoria, or staying for a longer duration, I’d go back to get some different books, meet people, find out about projects, etc. Camas is open daily. Fantastic. Just typing this, I miss it, and wish I were there chilling out in those chairs, reading a book, waiting for an intriguing passerby to inevitably come in and strike up conversation far more interesting than what I usually hear offline.

(In middle school, I drew anarchy signs into my handwritten name and drew them into the steam on the shower door at home. Maybe I saw them first on nineties electric guitars, or maybe on the ANSI art of bulletin board systems. That kid and this adult would get along well.)

Mission two: Food Not Bombs Victoria. Part of the global conspiracy to feed people. Gathering surplus food leftover from restaurants, distributors, and other sources, then cooking it and bringing it to a downtown park, on a shoestring budget, and sharing it with everyone, particularly people who might really need it. All the world has chapters, so if you’re looking to help someone yourself, instead of voting for someone to instruct someone to instruct someone to consider another vote or two or thousand about paying someone to instruct someone to pay someone to instruct someone to pay someone to pay someone to pay someone to maybe help someone someday — or not — and plus you can make friends and participate in your community…why then, go find a Food Not Bombs in your area or start one.

ALERT THE SEATTLE POPULATION IS SHARING FOOD ALERT
Food Not Bombs Victoria, from their facebook page

Having FNB-ed quite a while in Seattle, I got in touch with the amazingly welcoming Food Not Bombs Victoria folks, because I was curious how FNB would compare/contrast up there. And I was hungry!

At an apartment, I joined a handful of cooks. Really cool, right, here I am in another country a few days, and already I’m in an apartment with a bunch of friendly local strangers, working on a common cause. And yes, as you might remember from Part 2, everything in this apartment was likewise smaller than the objects would be in the counterpart US apartment. As I recall, even the sink water handles were smaller! The donated food was gathered, I think, primarily from a co-op grocery. With what was then my usual klutzy difficulty, I helped make a salad with sliced cucumber, carrots, a little kale, some sprouts, etc., and another person made a dressing for it with vinegar and various oils. The rest of the food made was similarly standard FNB-style cuisine. We then transported the food from the apartment to the downtown square/park, Centennial Square on the Douglas(!) street side, where the sharing is held every Sunday ⁠— also where, years ago, Occupy Victoria encamped.

At the park, the meal was held under a large tree, upon whose branches an FNBer hung an impressively large Food Not Bombs Victoria sign. The black sign had a lot of colorful graphics and words on it (sorry, no photo!). If I recall correctly, Food Not Bombs Victoria also supplied some local literature, zines, etc. About 20 individuals dined on this most scrumptious meal. That included random businesspeople passing by, various park denizens (such as skateboarders), multiple homeless or traveler or otherwise off the radar humans, plus some FNBers who hadn’t cooked with us but wanted to hang out.

FNB Victoria implemented two good ideas others might want to pick up. First, not only did FNB Victoria bring to the park a box of clean, re-usable mugs, cups, bowls, and cutlery, but also, many, perhaps most, of those sharing generally already knew to use those implements and then place them back in the box after eating. These bowls, pieces of cutlery, etc. would later be washed by FNB Victoria and used the next week. Second, the sharers mostly arranged themselves in a lazy circle around the tree. As opposed to FNBers on one side of a table and non-FNBers on the table’s opposing side, FNB Victoria’s organically emerged quasi-circle seating/standing arrangement felt very not us vs. them to me.

Movie Monday in Victoria BC, 25+ years running. Website.

Mission three: Alternative mental health. Before ferrying to Victoria, I pinged my contacts involved in that movement, seeking suggestions for my trip. To my knowledge, Victoria has no Hearing Voices Network chapter, then or now, but someone did point me to Movie Monday. It’s a weekly series of eclectic and thoughtful films, often with presentations and discussions. Free admission, donations encouraged. The 100-seat theater is in the same building as a (now closed down, I believe) psychiatric ward. In 1993, Movie Monday coordinator Bruce Saunders was held at that ward, diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Stuck there, he got the idea to show movies at the unused theater, because quality education and entertainment and conversation are as needed as food in life. He continues to coordinate Movie Monday, and it has been going for more than 25 years (listen to this seven-minute MP3 interview with him). The movies aren’t always about mental health topics and aren’t just for audiences interested in that subject. Movie Monday started that way, but has since expanded to other subject matters. When I went, we watched Six Primrose, about a food security project in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

After the movie, a short discussion took place among the audience. I learned about some resources, people, etc. for alternative mental health interests in Vancouver BC. Those I can pursue on my next adventure to British Columbia!

Waiting at the bus stop to return from Movie Monday to the hostel, I got into a conversation with a random Canadian woman also waiting for the transit ride. I tried to ask her questions about Canada, but she easily and repeatedly diverted the conversation back to the United States.

“Why,” she wanted to know, “won’t they fix their country? Or, why don’t they just leave?” (Apparently I myself had temporarily become a nomad, resident of nowhere.)

Although I don’t know all the answers to her questions, perhaps you reading know some of them for yourself. The best I can do for motivation at the moment is to compare my whole adventure to the excitement expressed in the amazing 2015 song “Go!” by the band Public Service Broadcasting, about the spaceflight that put the first humans on the Moon. Listen, and I’ll keep trying to talk USians into traveling with Part 4 of this series next week!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, A USian escapes the bubble: Summer 2019 adventure to British Columbia, Part 3, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/02/20/summer-2019-adventure-british-columbia-part-3. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Kamala Harris tweet meets Reality Winner truth

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released on Mondays or so. Here’s today’s post, the one for Week 6.

Today, US senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted:

Reading Jonathan Simon’s Code Red or Bev Harris’ Black Box Voting or the Brennan Center for Justice’s “The Machinery of Democracy” impresses upon you the full knowledge that votes in the United States are typically captured (by touchscreen, optical device scanning ballots, or other) and counted (by Dominion, Command Central, or other) in pitch dark: by corporations and contractors running without transparency, with closed source. Often, not even election administrators can audit details.

Unlike Australians, Germans, the Dutch, and others around the world who vote on hand-marked paper ballots hand-counted in public, and who have successfully fought off the recent far-right electoral wave, basically nobody in the United States these days receives any hard evidence at all that their ballot scribbles/tappings mattered. If on Election Day your goal is to change electoral outcomes, rather than to merely perform a civic religion ritual, then of course informed action is required to safeguard election systems, though continuing to replace the whole current governance system itself would be wiser and here’s how that’s already underway.

Exceptions aside, securing elections means securing both vote capture (i.e., how your vote is recorded) and vote counting (i.e., how your vote is added to the totals, nowadays in secretive faraway computer systems) — so that there is hard evidence of both how your vote was captured and how it was counted. Interestingly, and unfortunately, in her tweet today Harris mentions only the vote capture part, and not the vote counting part.

With the topic of safeguarding elections likely to keep bubbling up throughout this year, it helps to keep in mind writer Jennifer Cohn’s advice that election integrity advocates diligently put the adjective “hand-marked” in front of the noun phrase “paper ballots” because:

Kamala Harris’ tweet reminded me of Russiagate whistleblower Reality Winner now behind bars, because in the past few years, public interest in the topic of elections integrity and hand-marked paper ballots (public interest partially required for a major politician to take on any subject) has certainly increased, partly a result of Winner leaking to the media intelligence revealing Russian military hackers executed cyberattacks against US election systems just days before November 2016’s voting. You can learn more about Winner’s case and supporting her clemency petition here or watch this CSPAN video to see how her deed kept Russiagate and elections integrity in the public discourse.

What most of all strikes me about today’s tweet from Kamala Harris is that the Bureau of Prisons, who currently confines Reality Winner, has denied journalists, such as CNN and me, access to interview her in person behind bars — so, who oversees the Bureau of Prisons (part of the Department of Justice) — the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the latter of which Kamala Harris sits on!

“critical role in providing oversight of the Department of Justice…agencies under” such as the Bureau of Prisons

So with Kamala Harris’ tweet juxtaposed against Reality Winner’s story, we have:

1. US senator Kamala Harris calls for incomplete elections integrity reform

2. While the Bureau of Prisons is silencing the whistleblower who helped make that conversation possible in the first place

3. The senator in question, by virtue of sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is tasked with overseeing the Bureau of Prisons, and hasn’t done anything for Reality Winner (not that I’m aware of)

4. Even though I told the senator face to face about the Bureau of Prisons silencing Reality Winner at Harris’ September 27, 2019 event in Seattle

Underneath the glitzy world where a top senator grabs thousands of retweets by offering an incomplete solution to a problem, without assisting the whistleblower confined in silence for pointing the issue out … a public who knows better daydreaming that the thoughts and prayers of evidence-free voting will somehow victoriously sneak-attack presidential administrations tearing apart everything else, so why would they refuse to further corrupt the vote captures and vote countings …

Even though voting landslides might win elections (by overpowering whatever rigging is done), it’s still completely mandatory that we achieve public, observable vote counting, as WeCountNow offers, insofar as the failed concept of millions trying to come to consensus on topics that often don’t affect them much or at all and that they often don’t know much or anything about, is to continue. Help WeCountNow and/or join others in continuing to implement new concepts?

As for Reality Winner: open, participatory governance means none shall be silenced and all must have the right to communicate. Otherwise, not everyone is included, not everyone’s input is available. Since the Bureau of Prisons has blocked journalists from interviewing Reality Winner, preventing the public from hearing her at scale, the current within-the-system remedies remaining are: apply again for interview access (the Bureau of Prisons told me they consider each interview request separately), try the judicial branch (lawsuits etc), or pressure the federal legislature (members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee seem the right place to start).

I’ll post more about my efforts toward interviewing Reality Winner in a few weeks. If anyone else makes related efforts, please let me know in the comments!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Kamala Harris tweet meets Reality Winner truth, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/02/10/kamala-harris-reality-winner-tweet/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

A USian escapes the bubble: Summer 2019 adventure to British Columbia, Part 1

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released on Mondays or so. Here’s today’s, the fourth of 52.

Note: Here’s the completed series, a USian escapes the bubble: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and (forthcoming) Part 4.

Last summer I took a trip alone from Seattle, where I reside, to British Columbia. That was my first trip by myself to another country. Gauging by the stress that multiple acquaintances say they experience when considering just looking at the passport application form, I am not the only USian for whom exiting the bubble of THE ONLY COUNTRY ON THE PLANET ACCORDING TO THE ONLY COUNTRY ON THE PLANET feels overwhelming. Thus, instead of immediately plunging into an overnight quest to visit all 190-odd countries in the world and get to know all seven billion non-USian human souls, I decided to start small: merely ride a Clipper boat northward and sleep in a Victoria hostel for a week, then voyage homeward via same ferry southbound.

Yeah, um, how do we pronounce USian, y’all?

Propaganda against leaving the States is everywhere, and conversation about doing so is nearly never heard, so the overwhelm among us peons is understandable. Stuffing my single backpack for the trip with shirts and books and cotton swabs, I feared the metric system itself might attack me: tape measures extending murderous meters, test tubes spilling lethal liters, and the foreign atmosphere itself pressing down on my skull with the weight of killer kilograms. After all, just watch this stunning FOX News revelation of “the global tyranny of the metric system.” I demand the United States give up the huge portion of its military using the metric system, its fully metric Big Pharma dosages, and its fully metric dollar amounts!
James Panero trying to keep from laughing at 0:27 ?

If scientific units of measurement weren’t going to undo me, maybe I’d get frozen to death by the National Igloo that Mike Huckabee as Arkansas governor sincerely congratulated Canada on preserving:

However, I was ready to resist such fictional terrors. If dastardly, freezing decameters came at me hard, malevolently enlarging into subzero deca-space, I could defend myself, sweating wildly, swinging swords of middle school math, the unit converter app on my phone, or the Metric Act of 1866, which legalized the use of the metric system for weights and measures in the U.S. when President Johnson signed it, probably drunk and well on his way to becoming the first impeached very stable genius presiding over the world’s most sacred, most beautiful coun… Okay, I’ll stop shooting fish in a barrel saving fish in a peril and move on to the next crushing calamity faced by all USians who dare dream of, say, searching for paid-jobs north of Seattle by oh about 241 kilometers ⁠— I’m sorry! I’m sorry! 150 miles! 150 miles! I’ll be good! Stop threatening bodily harm to metric system advocates, fellow residents of the only intelligent country that has ever existed, the only intelligent country that will ever, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin…William Whipple? Uh yeah, also William Whipple, whoever he was…the founders, the Founders!

A slightly more highbrow fear came from the Hollywood-esque stories of beefy border agents versus millionaire heartthrob journadoodles — here’s the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2018 documentation of dozens of cases of U.S. border dudes’ suspicionless searching and interrogating of journalists who color outside the (map) lines, most not wielding Oscars — but I took whatever precautions I could implement in the time frame I had, because an even worse fate would be hiding under the bed for the rest of my life. Further, beyond the glare of edutainment re: suffering journadoodles — JOURNALISTS, THE ONLY VICTIMS ON THE PLANET ACCORDING TO JOURNALISTS, THE ONLY VICTIMS ON THE PLANET — there are the almost 20,000 people since 2014 trying to cross borders who died in the Mediterranean Sea, to take one sole region recently, so cowardice would have been unjust to all of them. Think about it. Out of those twenty thousand people, imagine one who had really amazing sketch art to share, a fantastic decade-long relationship with an awesome cat to tell you about, hopes of walking around France, and that’s just .00005% of the individuals who died without a Committee To Protect People With Awesome Cat Stories Amazing Sketch Art and Hopes of Walking around France. Obviously the churnalism fan club will primly retort “First they came for the journalists, and after that, we don’t know what happened” which is as laughable as Huckabee’s Canadian National Igloo because once you turn off the roar of corporate media and the USian ‘anarchists’ who amplify corporations all day every day, you can hear your friends who are already trying to tell you what happened, to have a conversation about what’s happening you don’t need professional trade association membership or a New York Times subscription (to defeat their paywall, use your public library’s website, or simply turn off javascript). God, next, people are probably going to tell each other it’s unrealistic to go back to the days before individuals had to buy a credential for permission to tell someone Hi. Solutions should solve problems not for a guild but for everyone, and we can all already stop waiting around for a ZuckerBernie messiah, and just go right ahead, write teach speak learn sing cry laugh help heal hug. POINT BEING, in light of the much more serious injustices done to many more border-crossers around the globe, I made up my mind to just deal with any awful border shit that might happen and stop obsessing over encrypting my socks. [Note added 4 February 2020: This paragraph is a bit muddled, so just to clarify what I’m saying. Considering both the US-Mexico and the US-Canada borders, and both inbound and outbound crossings, there are definitely more than a million border-crossings per day. Yet from informal conversations, USians are scared to cross the borders because of news reports of border agent searches, seizures, and interrogations. Both the fear of crossing borders and the agent behaviors are getting worse. That strongly implies the news reports are not solving the problem, though they might be slowing down its worsening, which is about as exciting as the ‘healthcare cost climb slow down.’ With a million border crossings per day, why not just go, fade into the huge numbers? Life is short. The authorities wrongfully seizing good journalists’ encrypted laptops, and the celebully journalists blaring about how awful it was they got asked some questions at an airport, plus the pathetic fan clubs reflecting both sides in perpetuo, drowning out others’ far worse border-crossing problems including death are just causing audiences to hide under their beds. Regarding solutions solving things for everyone, obviously regional variations are required; I just want to point out that journalists must not be gods with special border blockbuster movies or special snuggly beds to hide under. Free speech for everyone. Might lose my FOIA fee waivers for saying that someday, but the docs should be leaked and hacked out and otherwise publicized anyway.]

Hidden by mental walls, but clear as day, near downtown Seattle, the Clipper awaits

My alarm blasted me off early one Thursday morning in July, and after a giant breakfast, I walked to a bus stop, then rode the bus to the terminal. There the Clipper staff made sure I and everyone else had our passports. At the destination waited the real border security. The vessel was pretty empty, just a few folks on it, including me. Seated, I stored my backpack in front of my legs. It’s startling how central your backpack becomes to you (or at least me) on a trip like this: suddenly, it’s your mobile house, and everything about it quickly takes on outsized significance for creature comfort and safety. After a while, we were off into the Salish Sea, headed toward Canada.

Finally getting underway, for real, felt thrilling. I’d just walked a ways, got on a bus, walked a bit more, and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of the fucking ocean sailing to another country. Stuck-minds of a species that once migrated thousands of miles on foot insist invisible borders are absolutely real and natural and necessary, not just partitions for economic markets, then go escape into video games where they fly across mountain ranges in airships, then at night asleep, they dream of rocketing into outer space. Perhaps for many people, the biggest mental reference point for the concept of going on an adventure is video games. My trip certainly felt like one at times.

Departing the U.S. via the Clipper, July ’19

Scene from Final Fantasy 6 (Japan) aka Final Fantasy 3 (US)

One of the first super intriguing sights I saw: beyond, in what I think were international waters, container ships sat anchored out, waiting their turns to dock at ports. Usually you imagine some commodity, maybe a jar of pickles or a pile of steel, just magically existing wherever sold, no backstory to it at all, but now with my own eyes I was seeing these gigantic cargo ships floating in the middle of the ocean circulating commodities in containers around the world. A former U.S. Navy sailor told me later that years ago, newspapers printed shipping timetables for people on shore to find out when boats would arrive or leave (whatever newspapers were).

Approaching Victoria BC, via the Clipper, July ’19

Crew tied Clipper off so it stays put

Docking fascinated me. It took a sturdy crewmember two or three tries to throw the pictured cable to the sturdy guy on land so they could tie off the boat. That way it’d stop moving and we could disembark. The voyage of this high tech vessel weighing hundreds of tons that just sailed nearly three hours crossing m̶i̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶i̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶m̶i̶l̶e̶s̶ kilometers and kilometers and kilometers, still came down to a burly guy tossing a cable to his burly counterpart standing nearby. Once they finished, we headed into the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint.

Crossing a border checkpoint alone for the first time in my life, I stood wearing my backpack in a very white room with humans sorted into lines, cameras staring at us, and a handful of y̶a̶r̶d̶s̶ meters forward, several CBSA border agents sitting up high on a dais-like structure, separated into little booths so they could interview us aspiring incomers individually. Behind me, a father tried to quiet his talkative children: “Shh! This is very serious!” I waited in line, doing my best to appear casual and calm. With all the earnest seriousness everywhere, a rogue thought suddenly impinged on my mind. What if — what if I yelled, “There’s a b̶o̶m̶b̶ balloon!” Everyone would break out into a panic as the b̶o̶m̶b̶ balloon e̶x̶p̶l̶o̶d̶e̶d̶ expanded through the very white walls, turning all into f̶i̶r̶e̶ fun! I started to giggle. I started to giggle some more. I kept giggling, and then I saw my hero, my savior. Along the very white wall to my right hung a clear plastic box from which brochures advertised to tourists. Immediately I grabbed one and began reading it with scholarly focus. Did you know the Butchart Gardens began in 1904? My giggles subsided. Did you know its Rose Garden has 280 different varieties of roses? I was breathing again. Did you know that for the safety and enjoyment of all visitors to the Butchart Gardens, selfie sticks are NOT permitted? Now it was time for the CBSA guard to interview me.

I walk forward.

I peer upward at the uniformed g̶o̶d̶ guard staring down at me. In a gruff voice, he asks me routine questions. Occupation, destination, duration of trip, how do I plan to leave Canada? Everything goes straightforwardly until I mention I plan to stay a week in Victoria and then return home the same way I got here, via the Clipper. Why, he wants to know, am I just visiting Victoria? Why not go elsewhere also? YEAH, DOUG, WHY NOT? Bewildered, I stand there. What even is the appropriate answer? My mind flashes to Aristotle’s four causes, four different ways to answer a Why question according to the long-ago Greek philosopher who traveled across countries himself, thousands of years ago:

  • Material cause: Indeed, my legs could transport me elsewhere, to another place outside Victoria, maybe even to the National Igloo

  • Efficient cause: His question was stimulating me to consider journeying to Vancouver also

  • Formal cause: I was trying to take things one step at a time, and wasn’t in any particular hurry to see each and every place

  • Final cause: The objective was a successful trip; would leaving Victoria and encountering scary road signs with kilometers on them impede or facilitate that?

I said something, quite truthfully, about how I was also considering checking out Vancouver BC. He stamped my passport and granted me entry.

Another gub’ment! With Anglophilic buildings

I exited the border station into another country. But what was this? Something was decidedly different in Canada, or at least Victoria. Evident instantly. Not just me; something radiating from the people around me as well. Everyone, so calm. Everything, so chill. The people were even walking more slowly. This immediate drop in ambient anxiety, relative to the United States. Was I in some strange dream world? Were Canadians or Victorians all on Valium or Ativan and not telling outsiders? Or is tranquility just what universal health insurance, next to no mass shootings, and the metric system result in? What on Earth was going on here?

I’ll continue the story with Part 2 next Monday. But in the meantime, you might enjoy the excellent talk below, just under an hour and a half, by punk singer Henry Rollins encouraging people to experience life in other countries. The video would be a fantastic one to show students or really anyone interested in this subject. Until next week!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, A USian escapes the bubble: Summer 2019 adventure to British Columbia, Part 1, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/01/27/summer-2019-adventure-british-columbia-part-1/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

My letter (and yours!) supporting Russiagate whistleblower Reality Winner’s clemency petition

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, to be self-published every Monday. Here’s today’s, the second of 52.

Note: This post was updated Tuesday 4 February 2020, mostly to incorporate an updated version of my support letter. I changed “unusually severe” to “unduly severe” to better match the clemency consideration standards, I changed the reference to US citizens to US residents, and I added a line about our right to communicate, in order to connect Winner’s case with everyone else’s who’s being silenced anywhere in the world.

Reality Winner climbing a tree in Texas, Christmas 2015. Photo by Brittany Winner, her sister (Source)

Especially in light of current news, you should remember Russiagate whistleblower Reality Winner, the Air Force veteran who in 2017 as an employee for a National Security Agency contractor leaked classified intelligence to The Intercept regarding Russian military hackers, in 2016, executing cyberattacks against more than 100 local election officials in the United States and against at least one U.S. supplier of software used to manage voter rolls in multiple counties. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, wrote in a June 9, 2017 post on his website that the cyberattacks disclosed by Reality “illustrate the real threats and vulnerabilities facing our elections, and they point to solutions.” These cyberattacks also constitute evidence in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s “12 Russians” indictment from 2018 and in his Mueller report from 2019.

For The Public, an online and print news outlet in Buffalo, New York, I reported in person from Reality’s final, August 2018 hearing in Augusta, Georgia where she was sentenced to 63 months in prison, the longest term ever imposed on a federal defendant for a disclosure of national security information to the media. That article of mine tells a great deal of her story and explains the importance of her deed. It quotes human rights activist and author Heather Marsh explaining that evidence in the leak helped generate the public support necessary for the investigation into not just Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election but more broadly into the nature of the world’s democracies today, an investigation that “could have quietly disappeared and the public would never have been any wiser.”

Reality Winner's sketch art, from prison, of the Augusta federal courthouse

Reality Winner sketch art, from prison, of the Augusta federal courthouse. (Source)

Now, about halfway through her prison term, 28-year-old Reality Winner will very soon be filing a petition for clemency. If granted, clemency would result in her early release from prison, similar to whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s successful clemency petition. Reality is a vegan and is amazingly maintaining that while locked up, in the face of oppression; her release would mean, among other things, that she could once again access healthy food in line with her beliefs. Because there’s a long line of clemency petitions to be considered, and because Reality’s release date is at this point 23 November 2021, it is unclear which president(‘s staff) will consider her petition and when.

I wrote a letter in support of Reality’s clemency petition. Below, I’ve embedded my one-page, signed letter as a PDF. Further below, I’ve put the body of my letter with links added. The embedded PDF of my letter doesn’t include links, and it isn’t possible to clipboard-copy text from it, so if you want either, please refer to the further below section of this post where the body of my letter is repeated. Reading my letter will give you more information about her case and why I think clemency is justified. Also I describe briefly how Federal Medical Center Carswell, the prison in Fort Worth, Texas where she is housed, has blocked my efforts (and CNN’s) to interview Reality in person behind bars.

Best of all, you can write a letter in support of Reality’s clemency petition. On 11 January 2020, her team had 4,206 letters of support, a little more than 84% of the way to their goal of getting 5,000 letters. Reality was the subject of Chris Hayes’ weekly podcast on 7 January 2020, which hopefully should assist with getting her more letters.

You can either quickly sign online a pre-provided letter at the StandWithReality.org website by giving your name and email address, plus your county and state, or you can write your own letter and email it in to Liz Miner. Instructions and more information about both options are available here: StandWithReality.org: Letter of Support for Clemency. To share that webpage quickly, you can use this shortened URL, which leads there: Bit.ly/RWSupportLetter.

In her 1973 short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” Ursula K. Le Guin describes a utopia built on the suffering of a single imprisoned person, and utopia residents who must confront that suffering only once and then decide whether to keep living in the wonderful city or leave. To a large extent, the Russiagate investigation is likewise built on a single individual now imprisoned. There remains an ethical imperative that this person, upon whose shoulders so much has rested, not continue to be ignored by so many and silenced and caged by the Bureau of Prisons.

LetterSupportingRWClemencyPetition_DouglasLucas_Updated2

Re: Reality Winner Clemency Petition

Dear Mr. President,

I write in support of the clemency petition of Reality Leigh Winner, a Bureau of Prisons inmate, register number 22056-021. For The Public, a news outlet in Buffalo, New York, I reported in person from Ms. Winner’s August 23, 2018 hearing in Augusta, Georgia where Chief District Judge J. Randal Hall imposed a 63-month prison term on Ms. Winner. Department of Justice attorney Bobby L. Christine described the punishment as the longest sentence ever imposed on a federal defendant for a disclosure of national defense information to the media. This unduly severe punishment resulted from Ms. Winner, an Air Force veteran and intelligence contractor with no prior criminal record, sending to the media classified intelligence describing cyberattacks by Russian military hackers against over 100 local election officials in the United States and at least one U.S. supplier of software used to manage voter rolls in multiple counties. The cyberattacks took place just days before the 2016 U.S. elections. With great idealism, Ms. Winner gave everyone information required for self-governance, gave everyone necessary knowledge otherwise unavailable. That includes any voting vendor staff who, without clearances, would not have been able to access such protective classified information unless it appeared in the public discourse. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, wrote in a June 9, 2017 post on his personal website that the cyberattacks disclosed by Ms. Winner “illustrate the real threats and vulnerabilities facing our elections, and they point to solutions.”

Ms. Winner’s unduly severe sentence and unfair treatment behind bars is unjust to her and indeed, to all. She has a long, admirable history of public service: donating to poor families, volunteering for Athletes Serving Athletes, and more. Her ongoing confinement blocks her from continuing this service to the wider world. She is unjustly denied broad communication with the public by Carswell Federal Medical Center staff, including Warden Michael Carr. The staff has forbidden journalists, such as CNN and me, from interviewing her in person. They have provided no meaningful explanation for her isolation from the mass media. For months, my requests for meaningful details, and my requests for negotiations to meet any Carswell Federal Medical Center concerns, were ignored or subjected to run-around. In her allocution, Ms. Winner demonstrated her intelligence and perceptiveness. Caging her incommunicado harms her and deprives the public of her gifts. Everyone globally, in prisons or whatever other cages, must have the right to communicate, including to appeal for help from the world, as directly as possible.

Ms. Winner took responsibility for her action’s criminality at her final hearing. While sentencing her, Judge Hall indicated he saw no evidence she will become a repeat offender: “the Court has no sense […] that there is a need to protect the public from any further crimes of the defendant.” As an inmate, Ms. Winner has pursued studies toward her college degree and has worked several jobs within the Carswell Federal Medical Center system. She has served roughly half of her 63-month sentence already, and she has not had a single infraction.

I firmly believe a commutation of Ms. Winner’s sentence is in the best interest of the United States, U.S. residents, and justice. She and her loved ones suffer each day she is kept locked up. I ask you to grant Reality Leigh Winner’s clemency petition and her immediate release from prison.

Sincerely,

Creative Commons License

This blog post, My letter (and yours!) supporting Russiagate whistleblower Reality Winner’s clemency petition, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/01/13/letter-supporting-russiagate-whistleblower-reality-winner-clemency-petition. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice

Note 1: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, to be self-published every Monday. The first, today’s, is a day late, but you get the idea. :)

Note 2: Until now, I haven’t experimented with this new WordPress “Bebo” version and its Gutenberg block-editor, so there may be formatting / appearance / ux issues at the start of this 2020 series. Please bear with. :)

Note 3: I don’t receive any compensation whatsoever from the ingredients peeps or from the restaurants, stores, etc. that I’m linking. They’re here as examples, and I use all of them myself and recommend them except where otherwise specified.

Good news is everywhere. The anarchist daughter of the GOP’s gerrymandering mastermind just dumped all his maps and files online for public use (Vice, NPR, tweet and tweet by her). Correctly losing trust in sociopathic institutions and replacing it with trust in each other as a result of such inspirational stories, more and more folks involved in the peer support movement or on their own are refusing (conventional) psychiatry, slowly and successfully withdrawing off psychotropic pills after decades of Big Pharma occupation, then telling everyone about it, including last week in the Washington Post. There are even opportunities for celebrating and bonding in these new freedoms: after prison time in Russia a few years back for anti-Putin protest, Moscow-based anarchists Pussy Riot recently released their awesome new song “Hangerz” and announced dates for their first US & Canada tour, in March April May, benefiting Planned Parenthood. Especially with the Internet connecting individuals worldwide like never before, it feels as if there’s never been a better time to create networks and supports for prosocial, expansive lives.

Bad news is everywhere. In the words of multiple Holocaust and/or Auschwitz survivors in 2019 (Rene Lichtman, Ruth Bloch, Bernard Marks), ICE is equivalent to the Gestapo, their current ‘detention centers’ are really concentration camps where genocidaires crush minorities, and those at risk should leave the United States or stay to die. Exiting might not be so easy, however, as an example of the challenge from the past weekend shows: according to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, more than sixty US residents, many of them US citizens, attempting to return home from foreign travel (a portion of them after attending a pop concert in British Columbia), were, while entering Washington state, interrogated for hours and hours by border patrol regarding their political views and loyalties; some were denied entry, and one activist says a migra source explains that this is a countrywide directive from above. Though exploring outside The Wall remains absolutely advisable for US residents, the threats are truly global, as a firsthand account Friday from Australia’s fire apocalypse indicates as one example of zillions, reporting that in Sydney and Canberra and elsewhere, people are dead, homeless, burned, frightened, suffocated with smoke, and sleeping in gas masks as their prime minister who’s fighting to criminalize protest against climate change vacations in Hawaii and scientists warn the disaster marks an irreversible tipping point. Finally, Iran just launched ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq, and in response the bulbous TrumPharma monster (see below), aka the Cheeto in Chief, is bragging about having “the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world,” which like Obomber’s “finest fighting force in the history of the world,” is far beyond idiotic, especially since the US doesn’t control ‘its’ military or spy agencies anyway (private corporations do). From all those loser presidents there are no plans for peace ever, disarmament is an unheard term, and especially with the Internet increasingly clutched by corporations that silo users and capture control redirect and sell their lives like never before, many ‘adults’ seem to feel there’s never been a better time to hide under the bed, escape into corporate TV cartoons and scrolling, and slowly or quickly fade away as ex-humans.

Don’t you want to join Team Good News instead of Team Bad News? Upgrading your life, even to the degree of migrating to another country to avoid let’s say lockups and more tactically defeat them from afar, is not “unrealistic” or “you care too much,” but it is a major challenge, and cooking is a great way to begin replacing weakness with the strength required. Based on conversations and my own experience, those only partially stuck in the mindtrap of conformist, complicit lesser evilism often feel that practical routes to a fully authentic, stick-up-for-yourself-and-others life are nonexistent or nearly so, and thus the only choice is to remain in the comfort zone inert, blah blah blah. Thus, folks probably need straightforward suggestions for goals and the steps to achieve them, plus encouragement to figure out their own goals and steps autonomously.

Here’s a good-news goal for upgrading your life: make and eat this vegan, glutenfree salad bowl of mine by following the instructions in this post. Sounds simple and almost a Rembrandt comic book error: too much effort spent on a subpar theme. But, to take a single example discussed and hyperlinked below, the CDC thinks close to half of US adults alive today will at some point in their lives develop type 2 diabetes, so it’s the standard US diet that’s the real subpar error. Eating trash (not the good dumpster-dived kind!) day in and day out is far more culpable in our failure to address injustices than many of us like to admit.

This post is a guide to a kickass vegan/glutenfree salad bowl you can make regularly, quickly, and easily clean up, for an over 9000 power level. As English speakers have said for almost two centuries, you are what you eat. I find when I apply consistent discipline to diet and exercise and gratitude journaling, a lot of ‘mental problems’ thrown on me by The System simply evaporate.

Look at it this way. Here’s a picture of the amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl. If you’re eating this and similar every damn day, rather than alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses etc, you’re obviously well on your way toward firing on all cylinders:

This, my salad bowl, is the objective

Versus if you’re eating like this waste of space, this TrumPharma thing pictured here last January offering White House guests McDonald’s and Burger King, pretty soon you’ll be swarming with invading thoughts telling you you’re no good, life is all about predators and prey, might as well win the victory over yourself and love the war of all against all, can’t beat ’em join ’em, that kind of crap:

Eat like Trump, die by Trump

A quick note regading upgrading your diet: if you’re now eating trash — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and you tweak it in just one way for just one week — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and don’t see much improvement, please know that firing on all cylinders really requires a whole bunch of bugfixes over a great deal of time; realize developing healthy strength isn’t a ten-second thing but a lifelong journey.

For the Jedi it is time to eat as well

While Star Trek surely outmatches Star Wars, the endearing movie line quoted above from Yoyo (or Yoda or whatever) shows that the supposedly mundane matters more than we often give it credit for. Allegedly inspirational youtube videos featuring bodybuilders grunting, retired professional assassins screaming at troubled audiences about making their beds, and embarrassing synthesized symphonies shaking your speakers frame becoming healthy and strong as a miserable toilsome struggle of straining and ex nihilio willpower, rather than as what would be accurate: a daily, almost pastoral problem of diligently reading up to select suitable dressings, remembering the courage to value going to the grocery store/market over the muddled angst regarding the frenemy crush who rarely texts first, and simply getting organized and planning ahead, not to join the grandiose lemmings at some lesser evilism corporate shoutfest, but to instantiate your real authentic values, one step at a time. In short, keep your (not their) objectives in front and take care of the necessary little things to accomplish them, exhilirating piece by exhilirating piece.

One of the tiny tasks for establishing the capability to make this salad regularly was finding bowls to actually put the salad in. I found these gray concave half-spheres with lids at Tarjay for cheap. They hold about eight imperial cups (roughly 2.3 liters), if you don’t go above the rim with overflowing kale or other nutrition-packed ingredients. They are the perfect size for a giant salad bowl giving you genuine, not grandiose fantasy, health and strength.

Unfortunately, the bowls strike me as rather suspect. Probably they’re bad for the environment and health, just on the general premise that if some commodity seems too good to be true, it likely is. What are these rubbery-ish bowls made out of, anyway? If you understand with specificity why these bowls are problematic, please explain in the comments. I will say these bowls are easy to clean, quite convenient, and their noncolor helps keep the visual focus on the food. So yeah, have some bowls…no not the Black Sabbath kind, not like that, I mean food bowls to put salad in:

Suspect but convenient bowls from Tarjay, plural

Suspect but convenient bowl from Tarjay, singular

My salad bowl is based on the Bliss Bowl from Seattle’s excellent Chaco Canyon Cafe. Sadly, this new year, they just stopped making and selling their Bliss Bowl, and possibly their orange turmeric dressing that goes with it, but thankfully we have my and soon your versions. Mine uses all the same ingredients as theirs, except I replace their brown rice ingredient with the healthier, less carb-y and more protein-y quinoa, which I cook in coconut milk with the super-beneficial spice turmeric added (and celtic salt). Oh, and unlike me, Chaco Canyon Cafe knows how to present a visually stunning arrangement of their ingredients. How can the following not look empowering?

Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Another shot of the Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Here are the nine ingredients to give yourself every advantage possible. Kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, avocado, sesame seeds, dressing, edamame, and either brown rice (in Chaco Canyon Cafe’s Bliss Bowl) or quinoa cooked in coconut milk with turmeric spice added (in my version). Those links are to individual ingredient pages on the fantastic, you-need-it-now website The World’s Healthiest Foods, run by a not-for-profit foundation and George Mateljan. Not only does The World’s Healthiest Foods disseminate quality knowledge on the nutritional benefits of each ingredient, but the webpages advise how to select those ingredients at the grocery store/market, how to store them (refrigerator? countertop?), how to prepare them, recipes, nutritional data, basically everything you need to know. All the webpages list at the bottom references including peer-reviewed scientific studies. (Science! — for those too stuck on those faraway journals and just now learning that peer review is, lol, ghostwritten by contractors, that even the editor in chief of The Lancet worries half of scientific literature is simply false, and that instead of dismissing your and your loved ones’ lives as mere anecdotal evidence, it’s actually great to undo problematic filters and understand your own experience and that of those around you as worthy sources of knowledge.)

Now the rad dressing. Previously I bought the orange turmeric dressing weekly from Chaco Canyon Cafe, but it seems they’ve stopped making it. The ingredients in their orange turmeric dressing were: extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, orange juice, garlic, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, sesame seeds, salt, mustard powder, agave syrup, and sesame oil. I don’t know the proportions of those ingredients or anything else about their preparation of their dressing. I’ve switched to Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette & Marinade with Avocado Oil, available at Seattle’s PCC and made by the goofily named Primal Kitchen. Both contain(ed) turmeric and work well with this salad bowl, fuck yeah. Someday I’ll make my own dressing and post here to tell you about it.

Orange turmeric dressing from Chaco Canyon Cafe, nevermore?

PRIMAL SCREAM DRESSING

Let’s get into this

Each salad bowl serves one really hungry person. It’s a good meal to eat early in the day, and then you can go without eating much the rest of the day besides little things like an orange, a bunch of pumpkin seeds, maybe a small dish of lentils and veggies, etc.

When making this salad, in the interest of saving time, begin by initiating the prep for the two ingredients that take the longest: the edamame and the quinoa. Throw a saucepan on the stovetop and heat enough water in it to cover eight ounces of shelled edamame that you can pour out of a frozen bag into the saucepan once the water is at a roiling boil. You’ll then turn down the boil to a simmer and keep the heating edamame in there for, oh I don’t know, five or ten minutes or something, turning the temperature up a bit as necessary. The linked edamame is non-gmo soy. Probably not the best food in the world, but not bad at all either as far as I know, and an easy way to put a bunch of good protein into the salad bowl. For the quinoa, similarly throw another saucepan on the stovetop, and fill it with the appropriate amount of coconut milk. 3/4 cup of dry uncooked quinoa, a good amount for one of these salad bowls, needs a little more than twice that amount of coconut milk, say 1.75 or just under 2 cups. You want to bring this coconut milk in the heating saucepan to a roiling boil, then turn down the temperature so it’s simmering rather than making weird boiling evaporating coconut milk. The coconut milk will supply some cream-like taste and, unlike water, some protein. Pour the dry uncooked quinoa in, as well as some celtic salt (more trace minerals than regular salt) and a ton of turmeric spice. Stir, and keep stirring as you work on the other ingredients (below). Adjust temperature as necessary. Quinoa is challenging to make correctly; it takes practice; it requires the right temperature and proportions to get as much fluff/volume as possible without burning or otherwise messing up stuffz. All the turmeric-y, celtic salt-y coconut milk will eventually absorb into the quinoa, or otherwise vanish, leaving you with a basically liquidless saucepan full of yummy fluffy warm quinoa. The chief point of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a very high quality grain-like seed, is that it’s super high in protein (among other nutrients). Keep calm, plants have protein.

Heating up frozen, shelled edamame

Turmeric-y quinoa heating and fluffing up in coconut milk

Turmeric, a colorful yellow spice used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and others, will make you STRONG if you consume it daily, enabling you to defeat enemies within and without. Although the nutritionist Dr. Michael Greger is a pro-gluten guy, whereas for me gluten (including the vegan staple seitan) causes GI problems (and the sources I trust say gluten causes problems for pretty much everybody, just in varying degrees), Greger’s videos/transcripts at NutritionFacts.org on turmeric have plenty of Science!-compliant information about the benefits of the spice. Greger recommends daily consumption, as do other experts. Turmeric improves exercise performance, seems promising for fighting Alzheimer’s and risk of Alzheimer’s, aids with anxiety and depression, and provides many more boons that really all you have to do to comprehend is read and experiment and turn off the blaring alarm bells we all (ok, almost all of us) seemingly have programmed in by TrumPharma-style propaganda insisting food is irrelevant, futility is maturity, curl up and die. Don’t listen to that nonsense, move forward with gobbling turmeric daily, and since it has doubled as a dye for centuries, if you get it everywhere like accident-prone me, try baking soda to remove the stains.

Next, with your ever mightier hands, seize the spinach and kale and tear off little pieces of each glorious green leafy vegetable. Then tear those little pieces into even littler pieces, because that’s quite like chewing your food before even putting it in your mouth. Hurried, we tend not to chew enough, which stresses our digestion as this great Seattle webpage on stress and nutrition explains. Put the tiny pieces of spinach and kale into the bowls. When I took the pictures included throughout this post, I was not yet hip to the idea of tearing ingredients into super small pieces, so my images here don’t reflect that kickass strategy…next time!

Spinach and kale are some of the most empowering vegetables you can eat. As the World’s Healthiest Foods website explains (see links above), both are very anti-inflammatory, and of all plant sources, kale is the firstmost, and spinach the secondmost, rich in the nutrient lutein, which protects eye health, a concern for computer types staring at glowing screens for epic stretches. [Note added 3 February 2020: a Seattle-based optometrist told me last month that lutein does not help with screen-induced vision problems, but that it does help with macular degeneration. I’ve no idea what is true in this regard, and the truth might be complicated, but I thought I’d make a note here. You should still get enough lutein!] Eating green leafy vegetables, i.e. kale and spinach, slows cognitive decline and is linked to sharper memory. And holy shit, according to the CDC in 2014, close to half of today’s adults in the United States will eventually develop type 2 diabetes; but, a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2010 suggests “increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.” Do you want be conquered, sublated into Team Bad News, victimized by TrumPharma ideology, stuck staring at the wall and mumbling Guess that was my life, or do you want to resist exuberantly by equipping yourself with kale and spinach? Eat kale and spinach, and you’ll turn into a rocket like Popeye. Boom.

Tell ’em, Popeye

Spinach, meet bowl

Spinach and bowl, meet kale

Moving right along, we have hulled sesame seeds. Often these can be easily purchased in bulk, poured from the bin into a cute container you can keep in the fridge for several weeks at least, before they start smelling rancid and need to be tossed. Sesame seeds provide iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other needed nutrients, which human bodies are often depleted of and begging for, in little convenient seeds you can spread atop meals fast, no sweat. I want to tell you more about sesame seeds, but though it’s rainy and dark and cold here, I gotta get to the gym, not to brag but, if you need it, if you’re bleary-eyed on the couch watching forgettable Family Guy-type animated cartoons screech at you with piercing volume, to impart to you that it’s so thrilling, and endows you with such confidence and productivity, to actually build health and strength by doing fun stuff like going to the gym and eating this salad. Beating yourself up or briefly soaring in your skull using scam inspirational videos ain’t gonna help; pursue the little practical details one step at a time — maybe you need to find that old, unused pair of running shoes in the closet? That could be it for today. Accomplish that, then more tomorrow.

Sesame seeds from PCC

Sesame seeds snowing on kale and spinach

Time to rock and roll — no more pathetic Domino’s, engage the red cabbage and cucumber. Of all types of cabbage, World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above) recommends red cabbage (sometimes appearing purple in color) as the most nutritious. In the grocery store’s produce section, it’s a big sphere, purple-ish in my local place, hard and solid, doubles as a projectile weapon to hurl at opponents. Upping intake of red cabbage improves blood levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidant capacity, while decreasing total cholesterol, total LDL cholesterol, and total oxidized LDL. Red cabbage’s anthocyanins make the vegetable a standout anti-inflammatory food. Domino’s doesn’t do any of that. Prepping the red cabbage is straightforward. Cut the head in half, and then just tear pieces off the halves with your badass bare hands (not so much the outermost layer, which can be inferior and touched by random environmental dirt grime etc). Smaller and smaller pieces, and then put the pieces in the bowl. And, cucumber. Scientific studies suggest cucumber is anti-diabetes food, according to the World’s Healthiest Website, which you totally would enjoy reading and reading and reading. Wash the cucumber off, put it on your cutting board, slice it up and put the slices in the bowl. You want to be on Team Bad News with the TrumPharma thing? Eat McDonald’s Quarter Pounders. Else, eat cucumber. Simple as that. You are what you eat.

Adding in red cabbage (added more later)

Get in there, cucumber

The above ingredients and the following one, avocado, you can add to the bowl in pretty much any order, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the edamame and quinoa on the stovetop burners. I don’t yet have proportions figured out for the kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, sesame seeds, and dressing. Just put a bunch of each in to fill the bowl, gauging by what seems right. Eventually I’ll figure out nutritional information for the entire salad bowl, such as total number of calories and carbs, macronutrient ratios, etc.

My friend the avocado. You want to put a whole avocado in the salad bowl. And you might consider eating a whole avocado a day. They bring the cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient, and other benefits. Plus they taste awesome. They’re messy as hell when I try to prep them, though. I attempt the “nick and peel” method, but I still get avocado all over my fingers and hands, and little flakes of avocado skin end up all over the floor and everywhere else. Here’s the nick and peel method, from the page on avocado from World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above), a method World’s Healthiest Foods gets from the California Avocado Commission:

Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Next, take each of the avocado halves and slice lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. The use the California Avocado Commission’s “nick and peel” method to peel the avocado. Just take your thumb and index finger to grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, in exactly the same way that you would peel a banana.

Avocado added; blurry photo, dizzy with salubrius joy

Almost finished. Once Operation Quinoa has restored peace to the galaxy by allowing you to starve the TrumPharma types around the planet of their power, i.e., starve them of you, because you’re no longer getting drained by their vampirism and making them grow like giant bulbous monsters, but instead, you’re off doing cool things with all this sacred energy from this vegan, glutenfree, salad bowl — in other words, once the quinoa has finished cooking — scoop the quinoa out of the saucepan and onto some paper towels. Pat it dry with more paper towels. Dump it into the salad bowl. As for the edamame, which I don’t have any additional pictures of, once that’s finished, pour it out into a strainer sitting in the sink, shake the strainer to remove excess water, pat extra dry the strained edamame with paper towels, and then into the salad bowl it goes. Add dressing to taste. Stir the whole thing. Your mission is complete.

Who can disapprove of bold yellow quinoa?

My finished salad bowl from directly above, plus a gutter of kitchen tile on left

Now that you and I have made and chowed down on this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, we’re on Team Good News and ready to keep charging. I’m off the gym. One last thing. Since I can’t call my salad bowl a Bliss Bowl, as that’s Chaco Canyon Cafe’s version and not mine, I need some clever new name for my version. If — while you help me and others abolish states and corporations and more importantly replace them with prosocial structures — you come up with a name suggestion, please put it in the comments!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: http://www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/01/07/how-to-make-this-amazing-but-so-far-nameless-salad-bowl-for-great-justice. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Flower Fest 3 at Lo-Fi: Seattle music meets Guadalajaran

Seattle punks TERMINATor meet Mexican rocker Nathalia

September 11 in Seattle saw a moderate-size crowd sweating anxiety away in the Eastlake neighborhood before two Lo-Fi nightclub stages, where four local acts supported four bands all the way from Guadalajara for Flower Fest 3. The festival made a nice way to compare and contrast Mexican rock with rock developed from within the Five Eyes states (FVEY: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). That’s a term a little more specific—this writer pedantically notes—than “the Anglosphere,” which would include states such as Jamaica and South Africa where presumably (please correct in comments if wrong) local bands produce a very different sound than either Guadalajarans or FVEYers.

En esa noche

So how does music from México’s second most populous municipality differ from today’s Emerald City sound? First thing to know, if you’re reading this from outside the Pacific Northwest, is that grunge is basically over here. The four USian groups who played constituted two pop punk bands (one, Secret Superpower, easy on the ears and one, TERMINATor, more challenging), a heartfelt acoustic guitarist-singer with a bassist backing him up (Great Spiders), and a set of very talented, medium-hard rockers (Swamp Meat vs. Killer Ghost).

The highly enjoyable Seattle bands are, in the grand scheme of things, not too different from what you’d likely hear on a college radio station in any U.S. port city. Imagine 4/4 time, some nifty idiosyncracies sprinkled in, familiar instruments to hear for a respite at the bar … and you have the general idea. But what about the sound from south of the border?

Judging from Tuesday evenings’s excellent four viajeros (travelers)—an experimental noise-metal crew (Mortemart); an instrumental group of rockers (Mindhala); and two sets of all-around rockers with vocals (Uay and the all-women Neptuna)—Guadalajara rock is typically infused with more rhythmic variety and no fear of major intervals relative to the more strict FVEY sound.

Now let’s see how that simplistic binary plays out or doesn’t with each individual act. One caveat: I couldn’t make out lyrics of any band, so this is solely judging based on audio. And for extra explicit dorkiness, images of Guadalajarans are aligned right, and Seattleites are aligned left.

Seattle on the left meets Mexico on the right

Secret Superpower rocks

First up, locals in Secret Superpower (Soundcloud) sounded a bit like Garbage in a good mood, with Daniel Cutting’s steady drumming and Kira Wilson’s distorted bass underpinning guitarist Paige Spicer’s warm chords. The trio’s dreamy songs welcomed the night in well. For those who showed up early, Secret Superpower enjoyably situated the evening in the context of familiar female-fronted rock, with their own almost retro spin—happiness is too often uncool these days, but like yesteryear, Secret Superpower didn’t fear to put a smile on audience faces.

Confident drummer Daniel Onufer

Next came two local bands in one: Swamp Meat (Bandcamp) vs. Killer Ghost (Bandcamp). The first song of this badass conglomerate of bands featured a rumba-like drum beat that really showed off drummer Daniel Onufer’s confident playing. The second started off with a military-style march on his authoritatively cracking snare while Laura Seniow fingerplucked her bass and Lila Burns added sweet guitar melodies. Onufer’s confidence extended to dropping a stick and retrieving it without missing a beat and singing (and singing well) while drumming. The other guitarist, Sharif Ali, let loose with passionate vocals too. If there’s one word for this superband it’s confidence. Their skill breaks my binary already, because they inserted unusual rhythms that ventured outside radio norms.

Noisy Mortemart, perfecto

Third, a loud noise intro said shit was about to get serious with Guadalajaran psychedelic rockers Mortemart (Bandcamp). Synth player Chaka—fittingly dressed in a NASA T-shirt—guitarist Albert and bassist Kiaran constructed a rumbling howl that caused showgoers to instinctively look around at the P.A.—would it hold? Would our eardrums? With the independence viajeros have, Mortemart didn’t worry about audience reaction and kept going. With his bucket cornet, Eric issued plaintive cries over the aural thunder. Then Daniel’s drums kicked in with a driving beat on the floor toms, the horn’s perfect-fourth agonies now almost lost in the rumble. Kiaran’s bass grooved hard with an octave-based pattern and it was clear the rhythm section would put passion into every simple note as the soundscape continued to be built around us. Chaka even inserted some video game-like bloops and beeps into the strange mix. This writer bought Mortemart’s album Overthinking via Bandcamp and you should too—check out the song “The Healing part 2.” The album versions are far less experimental than the live show, which is good for iterated listening. Put the shoe on the other foot, and it’s a hard time imagining notoriously homebound USians traveling to Guadalajara and repeating this show of confidence. But hopefully someday!

TERMINATor’s Veronica Dye on flute

Fourth, Lo-Fi gave us Seattle-based TERMINATor’s popping punk (Instagram; got a link to their music? put it in the comments). The three-piece: Veronica Dye on drums and flute, Albie on guitar (with hat), Lauren on guitar also (no hat). Veronica looped her flute in for some songs, which gave the music a psychedelic edge, especially with Kevin Blanquies’ colorful, trippy TV static-ish visuals in the background. TERMINATor is currently filming a visual album, which sounds promising and super cool. We take back what we said about all USians in the preceding paragraph; these musicians, who aren’t afraid of challenging listeners while still delivering pleasing pitches, could totally play with confidence in Guadalajara. The looping flute (a simple three-note phrase) added some rhythmic risk. Not all is stable and predictable in corporate FVEY land.

2/3 of Mindhala

Fifth, Lo-Fi offered Mindhala (Bandcamp), an instrumental Guadalajaran band. Victor’s Stratocaster described long, tender arcs above the urgent bossa-like grooves of Anton on bajo electrico and Nathalaia on drums. Some of the fastest notes of the night came from Victor, Anton brought skill to his hammer-ons, and Nathalaia, who would go on to drum for Uay and Neptuna later in the evening, was just getting started with her ample abilities. It would be great to hear Seattle-based rock bands experiment with bossa beats and more technical playing.

Uay, un grupo excellente

Antepenultimately, Uay (YouTube; got more links, put them in the comments please!). This Guadalajaran band serves as a cool example of how Guadalajaran rock tends to differ from rock from the FVEY states. Unlike USians in general, Uay has no fear of vocal harmonies, stomping the kick drum every beat, using major intervals to build riffs, and rumbling regularly on the toms. Chaka (in his NASA T-shirt!) laid down powerful bass-playing that matched Nathalia’s hard-hitting drums. Kieran added extra percussion with a second snare; all this rhythm inspired a woman up in the balcony to dance in sexy circles. Vocals came from guitarist Oby and Nathalia (which made two drummers singing that night). This writer is predicting more great music from all these Guadalajaran musicians in the future and wouldn’t hesitate to hear them play again. Gotta make sure the orange boy-king doesn’t actually build a stupid wall, so that can happen.

Great colors behind Great Spiders

Penultimately, guitarist-vocalist Omar Shambacher’s Great Spiders (Bandcamp) played some thoughtful pop tunes with a bassist (know her name? leave it in the comments). This pensive music served as a nice breather between the louder UAY and Neptuna. It encouraged this writer sit down and rest for a few minutes, thinking over the night and being glad to live here in this corner-of-the-map city. Heartfelt songs long developed, Great Spiders sounded comfortable for FVEY-raised ears without sounding completely conformist either.

Neptuna canta en español

Ultimately, Flower Fest 3 closed with Neptuna (Bandcamp), four women from Guadalajara, all of whom sang as in the image from the balcony. The reliable, powerfully playing Nathalia drummed yet again, but this writer failed to get the names of the bassist, keyboardist, and guitarist (know them? by now you know where to add ’em). Nathalia frequently kicked on each beat in that Mexican style as the women sang in exquisite Spanish. Neptuna also makes use of rests (silent pauses in the music), something FVEY rockers all too often leave out. Go check out their Bandcamp and spring for the album Mar Rojo (Red Sea); this writer just did.

Hasta pronto

All the bands were totally enjoyable, but the Guadalajran music sounded more of a nation, fluxing and changing with vibrato and rhythmic variety…whereas the Seattle music was a bit more square, a bit more predictable, a bit more of uber-state Five Eyes. Travel generally enhances art, so remember, no bad borders, no wrong walls…

Creative Commons License

Flower Fest 3 at Lo-Fi: Seattle meets Guadalajara by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 25 March 2018: Happy Defectors

This evening at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square, the Seattle chapter of the worldwide Food Not Bombs movement once more shared, with homeless individuals and others and ourselves, donated food.

Free soup

40-plus aid recipients enjoyed hot soup for no cost. The vegan, glutenfree meal contained cauliflower, carrots, beans, and more — perfectly good food that otherwise would have been thrown out by the donor restaurant. Guiding this action was the principle that quality food is a human right.

Four volunteers had lots of fun implementing a better world. Two guys, two gals. We played guitar, sang, danced. Some discussed the possibility of going train hopping in the near future. Others petted the leashed cat a passerby randomly brought. Each week, creating a Food Not Bombs reality is probably my happiest time.

Various aid recipients seemed really happy as well, especially when talking a bit. One guy said he might go to New Mexico soon, or Louisiana (he wasn’t sure), by bus I guess. Another told us the warmer weather was cheering them up. It seems when people have little, the food tastes better, ordinary things matter more.

The sign

Lots of people are still lodged in the bombs life, wherein they’d much rather gaze upward at the death-dealing leaders to pick one of them to promote in their rivalrous battles with each other, but to those people I’d like to say, there’s still time for you to do something different. Find a Food Not Bombs chapter in your area or start one. Defect from bombs and make good food a human right!

Creative Commons License

Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 25 March 2018: Happy Defectors by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Two surprising statements at Washington’s March 2018 Behavioral Health Advisory Council reveal dehumanization of the vulnerable, show need for solutions

This agency oversees the Council

Last week at the March 7, 2018 meeting just outside Olympia, two surprising statements were made that showed how dehumanization of the vulnerable is normalized within this body of the Washington state government. One was by a DMHP (designated mental health professional) for King and Pierce counties, Robert aka Robbie Pellett; the other by Dr. Caleb J. Banta-Green of the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute. Especially as this Council engages with mental health and substance abuse block grants that affect the lives of vulnerable human beings in the Pacific Northwest, the disregard revealed by the two statements should elicit urgent concern that leads to tangible action.

Input from the success stories? “I don’t know.”

The first surprising statement came from Pellett when he was presenting about the changes going into effect on the first of next month for “Ricky’s Law,” the involuntary treatment act for substance use disorders. According to a Department of Social & Health Services flyer passed out at the Council meeting, “Involuntary treatment for substance use disorders had been historically a planned admission process with a court order. As of April 1, 2018, designated crisis responders will be able to immediately detain a person who meets the criteria for involuntry treatment due to a substance use disorder to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility, if there is space available.” Pellett addressed councilmember questions — such as, how will first responders distinguish between an individual in crisis due to substance use and an individual in crisis due to (so-called) mental illness — and I, attending the Council as a member of the public, had a good opportunity to ask him a question myself.

I asked Pellett, “What input on this involuntary treatment act change has been heard from individuals who have overcome substance use disorder?” and he said, “I don’t know.” This Council meeting wasn’t the first time Pellett has presented on the upcoming change to Ricky’s Law, so I think it’s safe to say he should know the answer to the question (and if not, why not?) — and that the answer may well be “None.” Pellett walked over to me later and told me such input would be welcomed.

What’s likely happening here is straightforward: salaried folks in the Washington state government are imposing lockups and forced treatment on a vulnerable population without procuring the input of those who have succeeded in fixing the vulnerability — and that’s dehumanizing because it probably isn’t helping long term, it’s treating the vulnerable as impersonal products for the medical industry. Given withdrawal risks, danger presented to others, and additional issues, it’s understandable that unpleasant measures may have to be taken by those around a person with substance abuse problems — but that doesn’t mean bureaucrats and cops dictating from above have the answers. I find it hard to believe that individuals who have overcome substance abuse would advocate for confinement as “medicine,” but maybe they do. The point is, their input, like that of psychiatric survivors, has likely not been sought by the government/medical establishment, which makes money by compelling “treatment” rather than addressing the widespread social, environmental, nutritional, trauma/abuse, and other conditions that are among the root causes of such problems to begin with.

Research about the unusual? “Science is for most people.”

The second surprising statement came from Banta-Green during his presentation on opioid addiction. Among other things, he advocated for opioid replacement medications, which I’ve heard from individuals with a history of drug abuse is a good step. But, a scientist himself, he also said something very illuminating about the nature of the science industry.

Banta-Green said (I’m quoting from memory): “Science is for most people; it’s to find out what works most of the time in most cases.” He didn’t say this principle is problematic; he said it as if it’s an inexorable fact that everyone on the Council must learn and hew to. But those who differ from the masses are also valuable and entitled to support — they should not, through being ignored, be dehumanized.

The science industry’s glorification of the majority and erasure of the unusual is not acceptable. If you have a rare condition that’s killing you, you won’t agree that because your problem isn’t popular it doesn’t merit research. Each person’s life is meaningful. It’s unjust to devote resources only to those who are in the box of being common. The scientific establishment provides the rationalizations for industry, so of course in favor of those who are cogs in the machine it ignores the irregular humans who might jam up the wheels of profit.

Normalization: Polite, well-paid people permit dehumanization

Councilmembers at the meeting were positive and pleasant throughout the day, and I think Pellett and Banta-Green both sincerely want to help others. Banta-Green was endearing when he talked about how he learned to put away his wonky charts of statistics when meeting with communities who requested concrete solutions. Pellett took initiative to speak with me about how the input of substance abuse success stories would actually be welcomed (who will gather that input?). The problem is, while vulnerable people are suffering and dying, we cannot afford to ignore the dehumanization that’s taken for granted in behavioral health committee conversations, that no one much speaks out about any longer because they’re so acclimated to it.

The political circus, which teaches the conservatives in the United States to laugh and joke about launching bombs and the liberals to normalize the lesser and increasingly worse evils, trains the population in these norms of dehumanization, such that smiles go hand in hand with disregard for human beings. For instance, hearing USians’ responses to Obama over the years showed me that many in this country are quite willing to see his victims as the mere eggs one has to break in the quest for the omelette of lower health insurance premiums. This is the idea that some lives are expendable. Just as USians shrug about those still captive in Guantánamo whom they rarely hear about, so the success stories aren’t on Pellett’s radar, so the outliers aren’t subjects of Banta-Green’s science. When you advocate for dehumanization at the countrywide political scale, expect no immunity from it in the medical system when your own health tanks.

Readers might say, “This is all well and good, and I more or less agree, even if I don’t go into such detail or say anything publicly — But what, after all, is anyone supposed to do about it? Can’t fight City Hall. And just look at those Occupy people: idealists, radicals went into the streets, and the cops stomped them. How can you reasonably expect me to take action, when I’m yelled at by my boss all day and just want to come home to consume corporate entertainment before going to sleep and beginning again?”

Actions you can take

People have a range of abilities, interests, and time available to dedicate to making the world a better place. Below are some strong suggestions for what you might consider doing about the issues exposed by the two surprising statements documented above.

  • Attend such government meetings, take notes, speak out there, publish about it afterward. In Washington state on the topic of mental health, there are Behavioral Health Advisory Board and Mental Illness and Drug Dependency meetings in King County as well as these state Behavioral Health Advisory Council meetings. They’re all open to the public. There are probably similar meetings across the country. Much of the actual governance takes place in these unelected ministries/agencies, rather than exclusively that political circus which receives corporate airtime.
  • Where there’s weakness, there are predators. For example, poverty is a problem (which can be addressed by debt jubilee, basic income, changing the economic system, and more); accordingly, predatory lending agencies swoop in to make the problem worse for their own gain. Mental health is no different. Since the predators aren’t interested in helping, take matters into your own hands and strengthen yourself by overcoming addictions (for example: alcohol, porn, caffeine) and building community and undertaking the work necessary to improve your own health. This lightens the load on others and gets you into a clearer state from which it is easier to take effective action.
  • Speak out against dehumanization and stop celebrating Omelas. If you don’t want presidential candidates to kill your own children, why do you glorify them knowing full well that they’re killing the children of others? It may be just you and a few people having a conversation, but fighting for hearts and minds to alter beliefs is necessary for any dramatic change to happen.
  • Pursue further, better documentation of the issues surrounding the two surprising statements. How would we confirm that no input from the substance abuse success stories has been heard by those altering Ricky’s Law? What would Banta-Green say if challenged about his statement that science focuses on the average? Is there a way to calmly, rationally document what’s happening here and encourage people to devise their own strong solutions instead of begging the authorities to change?
  • Building a better world requires knowledge that’s both trusted and worthy of trust. Corporate social media platforms, small one-person websites such as this one, and the bottlenecks of academia and journalism all sometimes produce good information but not well enough to overcome the global problems facing us today, for the reasons explained here among others. Funding, programming for, and sharing information about the global data commons project would allow everyone to own public information to create knowledge resources that would sustain movements establishing alternatives to the current systems.

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Creative Commons License

Two surprising statements at Washington’s March 2018 Behavioral Health Advisory Council reveal dehumanization of the vulnerable, show need for solutions by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 4 March 2018: Fortune Cookie

A common Food Not Bombs image

Today the Seattle chapter of the global Food Not Bombs movement shared donated food with homeless folks and other individuals, primarily at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square. It’s a direct action we take just about every Sunday, with the meal starting around 5:15 p.m. This evening, on a shoestring budget, three FNB participants made a tangible difference in many people’s lives, enjoyed great, bonding conversations, and propagated the straightforward message that food is good and bombs are not.

Around 40 aid beneficiaries came to our setup, where we offered great grub. The hot soup, two large bucketfuls gifted by a local restaurant, was vegan and glutenfree. It included lentils, carrots, and corn. Also on offer: bread, fruit (mostly apples), and a sole fortune cookie someone donated on the spot. Food Not Bombs makes a point of offering food that’s generally high quality and healthy, and conveying allergen and other important information about the meals accurately. That’s crucial for our reputation as aid providers — so that recipients trust our food (word gets around) — and it’s significant because everyone, regardless of housing status, deserves to have their dietary requirements respected.

It was heartwarming how just about every person who partook in the meal maintained an optimistic attitude, positive energy — despite poverty, lack of housing, or other troubles. I believe big goals are important in life, but the Zen people have something when they talk about the importance of enjoying the present moment. Sharing that meal, conversing with everyone, was a complete experience in itself. Insofar as metrics matter, well, without the officialdom, bureaucracy, fear, and hierarchy of the nonprofit industrial complex, we were able to feed some 50 people this evening for nearly no monetary cost, while many others are waiting for permission to act. Personally, I’ve been much happier providing direct aid as part of a community than I have been doing ‘serious’ journalism paid-work for hierarchical nonprofits.

The three FNB volunteers, when no one else was at our tables, informed each other about diverse topics, such as antipsychiatry and Dostoevsky, because we’re actually a quite knowledgeable crew. Even as I understand genuine knowledge comes from participation in the user group of whatever system in question, from real life engagement with the subject matter at hand, I still feel surprised at just how much non-credentialed individuals may know about complex topics. We remembered characters in The Brothers Karamazov and how they relate to the author’s other fiction, we talked about different people’s encounters with psychiatric drugs and forced lockups. It was really nice to share our experiences and readings without some inexperienced academic or powertripping clinician insisting that the Truth was their unique sales point, their competitive advantage, their private property. The gamesters of Triskelion are wrong: brains in a vat aren’t brilliant, and engaging with the practical, sensory world around you matters! Else, how will you improvise usefully when you forget the ladle for the soup? (Our answer: use one of the giveaway cups you’ve been pouring soup into as a ladle.)

Food Not Bombs has been a great learning experience for me; I bet it would be for many of you as well. We bring to the park a big sign that says FOOD NOT BOMBS, to open the door for our message without hitting hungry people over the head by proselytizing. It’s a really simple idea, that instead of spending trillions of dollars bombing people, we could cook for each other. It looks like creepy predator Joe Biden may run for president in 2020. Don’t beg him or destructive Trump to make food a human right, they don’t care, and you know better than to trust corporate television such as MSNBC or Fox — do it yourself. Find a Food Not Bombs chapter in your area or follow these steps to start one.

Quick note: you don’t necessarily have to do this at a park. Once people finished coming to our tables, we drove the remaining soup and other items around to some tent encampments with hungry individuals and gave out food that way. Corporations teach you to fear people without houses, but these individuals are just people without houses, you can still interact with them, they’re human as you are and you may be homeless next, assuming you’re not already!

Next time I do a sharing report I’ll try to provide more details and some photos. And no, I didn’t forget the Chekov’s gun above. One of the homeless folks opened up the fortune cookie, and his message was: Good luck will soon come your way.

Since I can’t share food with you online, here’s some great music by the French artist Uppermost:

Creative Commons License

Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 4 March 2018: Fortune Cookie by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.