Archive for March, 2011


Sovereignty is merely a matter of the eloquence of your declaration…

Mar 30, 2011 in James' Blog

S/V Sovereign Nation in 2000

…In December of 1999 only moments after Dena and I put the lettering on the transom of our ship S/V Sovereign Nation I said to her, If I was ever going to get a tattoo with any kind of spelled out message in it, it would be this, and I pointed at the most beautiful transom I’d ever seen on a sailboat, the one we had just completed (above)…

The Idea takes shape in 2003, at the Gravity Feed...

…Then, in 2003 Dena and I actually got serious about the idea and printed out the design, tapped it up on my back, shot some pics, posted a web page for Gypsy Jill, Dena’s friend and Tattoo Artist, to see and make her drawings from.  After putting the lettering on my back I fantasized about what kinds of things I could add to the lettering to enhance the story value. I thought of adding chain down my arms that ultimately attached to a pair of anchors that would be buried in both of my arms. Later that year, for reasons I don’t really need to go into, I wasn’t able to get the design applied to my skin so the whole project was put on the furthest back burner and all but forgotten.

…Well, yesterday after nearly 12 years since the original lettering was put on that transom and 8 since I back-burner-ed the entire project , I finally did something about getting some kind of permanent  artwork on my body that would somehow represent the story that IS my life, I got that tattoo.

I was in that chair for five hours…

…And the artist, Mick Beasley of Dragon Moon Tattoo, Dena and I talked all day about what it was that I was doing, not only to my body but to the very story of my life.


…We talked about the beauty of life and art and how as living artists it is our responsibility to live our dreams and tell our stories any way we can.

…Overall my procedure was incredible! Mick was the quintessential professional and our explorations into the varied philosophies of the mortification of our flesh was one of the most amazing bonding experiences that I have ever shared with Dena, who was there pretty much all day, and another person!

We got all the initial lettering done in the main body of the words…

…And now, the chains will wrap their way down my arms to terminate on two anchors that will be buried in my forearms.

…So now here I am, another tattooed human with a story tell and a whole hell-of-a-lot of skin to do it it on,

Bring It!

All Photos above are by Dena Hankins.


P.S. Thanks Mick, you’re incredible!


For Japanese children, a cartoon to explain the nuclear problem

Mar 24, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts

Wow – this is, um, creative. And who doesn’t like comparing radioactive waste to poo?

via Sociological Images

Sylvia Earle on how to protect the oceans

Mar 22, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts

Damn it. I’ve been “doing what I can” and “going as far as comfortable” for a while now, which means eating fish and not being picky about provenance. I have to learn to fish or make friends with some rod and reel pros if I’m going to continue being comfortable. Shit. Gotta mull this over some more.

With? Against? How do we decide whom to bomb?

Mar 21, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts

Here’s some analysis of the situation in Yemen. It’s fascinating to me – in a queasy “I’m tied to this” kind of way – how the US government decides when to focus on human right violations.

How long it would take the world to gain some sort of balance if the US went completely insular.  Closed the economic borders, neither importing nor exporting.  I can’t help but feel that some of the biggest evils of the last hundred years have been the meddling of the US and the northern hemisphere’s sucking of resources from the south.

We must become denizens of a global neighborhood, but our history shows how easy it is to create ghettos, enforce the “other side of the tracks” value-assignments on people, segregate, and accrue value for one’s “own” people.  How will we bring together the world without assigning entire portions of it as dumps?

Anytime I read of a tangle of influences, agendas, and broken promises of this scale, I slump farther into a deep distrust, a cynical lack of hope, and fear that we in the US won’t be impervious for long.

Prohibition = Civil War

Mar 20, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts

I get the updates for Dear Coke Talk in my reader.  The newest one touches on the relationship between drug trade and violence and it seems a good time to set down some Drug Crazy ideas.

This is what went down on her website as a cut-and-paste. Go to the site if you want to read the comments.


On the drug war.

What are your thoughts on ruthless violence of the drug cartels in Latin America? That shit is almost entirely funded by our greedy demand for and mindless consumption of cocaine. I just spent two weeks down there and got a much better sense of how grave the crisis really is. I’ve now decided to kick the habit and stick to good ol’ California-hippie-grown pot from now on and I think you should hop on board.

Just sayin’…
Two whole weeks? Wow, you’re like an honorary Latin American or something. I guess I should really listen to you. You’re like an expert. I bet you even know how to ask for bottled water in Spanish.

Listen, when you’re done patting yourself on the back for supporting your local pot farmer, maybe you could set aside your smug sense of self-appreciation for going on a field trip and take a hot minute to learn the basic principles of a black market economy.

When it comes to cocaine, it’s not our greedy demand nor our mindless consumption that’s causing the ruthless violence. It’s prohibition. The law is to blame. The illegality of cocaine is what vastly inflates its price above the cost of production creating an artificial price bubble worth hundreds of billions each year. That money is the ultimate cause of all the violence.

If the United States ended the war on drugs tomorrow and the DEA became strictly a regulatory agency, the market price of cocaine would collapse and the cartel violence would end almost immediately. Not only that, but the demand and consumption of cocaine wouldn’t really change all that much. It’s not like the drug war actually keeps people off drugs.

You’re an idiot if you think there’s any moral superiority in saying no to blow for political reasons, because as a citizen of a country waging this kind of war on drugs, you’ll always have blood on your hands.

Just sayin’…

And my 2 cents.

Why do people act like these drugs have been illegal forever? Where’s the sense of history?

Removing criminal laws specifying which drugs are the enemy du jour is the start. And then, changing the Schedule classification system is an absolutely fabulous idea. Control access on a medical, scientific basis, using actual risks at actual amounts rather than “zero taken is zero risk”. No one listens to that.

One of my biggest problems with drug prohibition is this: it implies that everything legal is safe. Similarly, the current scheduling of drugs implies that everything available over the counter is super-safe and you can just pop a thousand fen-fen. Oh wait – did that kill people? Oops.

We don’t need laws and regulations that encourage people to make assumptions. We need laws and regulations that attach real information about dosages, risks, and rewards to each and every product that walks out of a Walgreen’s. And those products should include the chemicals that are currently treated as sure killers.

How do the cops know when the meth is better quality than usual? People die. Same with heroin. Regulation, anyone?

Here’s what the NIH says about the effects of cocaine: “Different methods of taking cocaine can produce different adverse effects. Regular intranasal use (snorting) of cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of the sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems with swallowing; hoarseness; and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced blood flow. Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases. Binge-patterned cocaine use may lead to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. Cocaine abusers can also experience severe paranoia—a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis—in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.

Regardless of the route or frequency of use, cocaine abusers can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.”

So yeah – the danger of death? About the same as taking viagra. Or, um, lots of caffeine. My mom’s husband had a heart attack and took a header into a 12 foot hole his contracting company had dug. This was after several years of multiple quad mochas each day and one special day where he had four. Yeah – you can OD on caffeine.

And, to get back on topic, it is absolutely clear, again, from history, that prohibition creates criminals. That’s all it does. I am a criminal. Likelihood is that every reader of this blog is.  Whether or not we got caught, we stepped over the line of law and did criminal acts.  Add serious amounts of money into the situation, and you have criminals willing to do bad shit.

When the big money and the big criminals get so powerful that they can straight-up fight their government?  Civil war without ideals.  Civil war that’s all about control, power, and money.

Oh, and if one wants to feel better, one could also stop taking prescription drugs. Because lots of those are developed in desperate places where it’s easier to find subjects for clinical trials. Trials that would be illegal in the US. Pharma’s kill rate is not easy to find, remaining out of the media whereas the civil war created by the two-headed power structure in central and south america is far better documented.

A long post to say yeah – what she said.

Very interesting – Australia’s PM Gillard on Carbon Pricing

Mar 08, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts


Ms GILLARD–Let me explain in detail our mechanism for pricing carbon. The first proposition is an incredibly simple one. At the moment carbon pollution can be released into the atmosphere for free. There is no disincentive for doing that. We will put a price on carbon, a price on every unit of carbon pollution. It will be paid for by businesses and as a result, because our business community is smart and adaptable and innovative, they will work out ways of pursuing their business and generating less carbon pollution. They will work out ways of making sure they pay less of a price when carbon is priced.

Then they will enter into contracts, they will make investments on the basis of understanding the rules and understanding that carbon will be priced. And as they go about making those transitions, innovating, making the new investments of the future, we will work with those businesses in transition to a clean economy.

Having priced carbon and seen that innovation, yes, there will be pricing impacts; that is absolutely right. That is the whole point: to make goods that are generated with more carbon pollution relatively more expensive than goods that are generated with less carbon pollution. But because we are a Labor government this will be done in a fair way. We will assist households as we transition with this new carbon price.

What that means is that people will walk into a shop with money in their pocket, the government having provided them with assistance. They will see the price signals on the shelves in front of them—things with less pollution, less expensive; things with more pollution, more expensive—and they too will adapt and change. They will choose the lower pollution products, which is exactly what we want them to do. Between the business investment and innovation, between households who have been assisted in a fair way by a Labor government responding to price signals, we will see a transition to a cleaner economy, to a low-pollution economy.

At least they’re using market forces in a way that is consistent with capitalism.  The consumers won’t change their decision making until their options have changed.  I think this more accurately represents a truthful picture of change than the models where consumers have to, en masse, change their desires and shout them loudly enough to be heard in the cloistered offices of the company heads.

Capitalism’s weakest point is in the idea that people won’t accept a range of products that almost meet their needs.  We go to a store and look at our options.  And we buy one of those options.  If an entire industry slowly, secretly reduces quality for higher profits, we continue choosing between the products in front of us.

In the case of our politicians, they’re such ass kissers that they shrink from using the tenets of capitalism, the very economic system they hold up proudly as the best.  They don’t want to tell anyone that prices will go up.  They want to tell people that the companies have been shamed or overseen or fined into compliance with regulations, but they don’t want to state the truth.

Getting rid of our dependence on fossil fuels – in all industries, not just power generation – requires that we as consumers make new decisions between new products and new prices.  Will price increases be padded, will they hide yet more corporate profit as they cry necessity?  Of course – that’s the nature of the game.

Short of giving up on capitalism (my vote), we need to understand how it works and accept that, in every single case, we will pay for what we want.

Oversimplifying Gender Differences Obfuscates Issues

Mar 06, 2011 in Dena's Blog Posts

There’s this thing called the Sexual Strategies Theory.  This theory uses shallow evolutionary arguments to explain perceived differences in male and female behavior.  In 1989, a paper was published that seemed to support evo theory using a simple study.  An opposite-sex stranger walks up to a person and asks them to have sex.  All the women turned down the offer, while some men accepted.

The simplicity of the original study was its downfall.  First, it positioned itself as having one variable – man hits on woman or woman hits on man.  But that’s really two variables, right there.  Both parties change.  Second, third, etc, etc…all the other variables that are ignored in that study strip the meaning from the results.

There’s a new study.  (Isn’t there always?)  The great thing about this new study isn’t that it has all the answers.  The great thing is that it shows how complicated sexual decisions are.  The new study shows that people quickly and not always consciously weigh lots of factors in deciding whether or not to have casual sex.

There’s a wonderful synopsis (not short but very well done) on the YesMeansYes blog.  It’s here: Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research.

What I take away from reading Thomas’ synopsis is that everyone, male and female, makes the decision to have or not to have casual sex based mostly on two factors – how much pleasure they believe they’ll get and how much risk they will run.  The gender of the person who has been propositioned is not the element that introduces a change in the study results, as was posited by the previous study.  The element that changes the result is actually the gender of the person doing the propositioning.  And to be more specific – it’s the perception of both (cisnormative) genders that casual sex with women results in greater sexual enjoyment and lesser risk.

Even the straight women in the study were more likely to agree to casual sex with a strange woman than a strange man.

How strange is that?

Anyway, while I think that the results are fascinating, especially when you get into the studies where they used famous people to reduce the perceived risk and reward, I’m most interested in how limiting most studies are.  It’s is a solid scientific principal that one devises a study with the fewest variables to get the strongest results.  How does this work, though, when we don’t understand the factors well enough to know whether or not they are variable?  The people who put together the original study considered the two situations roughly similar without taking hundreds of factors into account.

This new study – they show pretty clearly that pleasure and safety are more important than gender of the decision-maker in determining whether or not the person will accept the offer.  But what aren’t they considering?

I want to believe that we can factor large numbers of variables, with large enough samples.  But I think the new study, while improving the opportunity of subjects to reveal reasons for their behaviors, is simplifying the issue in yet other ways.

It comes down to a fundamental distrust of behavioral sciences.  Hell, all sciences. And know what?  That’s the right attitude.  We’re not supposed to trust science – those two words should never appear together.

I’m torn between the idea that repeated study and controlled experiment is the only way to prove anything and the idea that we’re not as clever as we think.   Those ideas are dissonant because we don’t practice conditional belief – weighing the conditions and refusing to allow a definitive statement to be made.  We cannot test for something of which we cannot conceive.  And we have not conceived of everything, even if we were able to pool all human intelligence.  With proprietary research and modern patent law, we are far from pooling knowledge.  We are all working in tide-pools rather than oceans of information.

Conditional belief requires that we hold, in our heads and in our statements, a three-dimensional understanding.  We must be aware of the source of our information, the likelihood of message garbling, the weight of repeated experimentation, and the possibility of change over time.  We have to hold all that for each and every piece of information we want to treat as fact.  It doesn’t take long to have so much conditional fact piled together that one forgets or loses track of which arguments were well-bolstered and which were weak but promising.  Science wants us to focus on those ideas that require the fewest assumptions.  I want us to become more able to maintain a constant multilevel understanding of where the assumptions are and how they affect the argument.  We’re not sophisticated enough, we don’t have enough processing power to rid ourselves of assumptions and leaps of logic while considering the important issues of our time.  We’ll have to use the other parts of our intelligence to learn how to act on conditional truths and then adapt when the conditions change.

I distrust behavioral and natural sciences because it’s the only rational position.  I fear them because of the way limited truths are put to service of social sciences.

Climate change research is a perfect example of this, with arguments raging and evidence being proffered for every political need while the coffee suffers.

Or the debate over whether or not we non-het people are born this way when there are so many more interesting questions in the world.

It’s all complicated, but we need to try to understand.  In a world where we’re still learning the reasons why batteries work, we need to be tolerant of uncertainty and better educated about how much we don’t know.

Sophistication in science will mean better systems for modeling larger numbers of variables.  Because I think we won’t get much of anywhere if we keep oversimplifing.