Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last Week

Next Sunday is Moloka`i Hoe. It's like this big wall blocking my view of the future, and I can't see over it. Every minute in the next week is going to come down to this: prepare for the crossing.

Two weeks ago, after Henry Ayau, I thought: I'm finally ready. I can do this. This week I'm not feeling it that much. I've been training hard, and doing alright in practice. I've also been eating junk, drinking too much wine, and smoking. It's almost as if there's something unconscious in me trying to sabotage things, or looking for a back-door out. Especially the smoking. I know better, but I'm always thinking: one more day won't hurt. You already had a couple yesterday, so what's a couple more today? And every night I destroy the pack or give it to Hau or Jack. And the next night I'll go upstairs for a drink & .... just have one. Or five.

I don't take recovery one day at a time. I take my addictions one day at a time. I need to find a way to reverse the polarity.

Same with wine, and same with Ben and Jerry's. They were my rewards for not smoking. The problem was, I'd smoke a few & still buy the bottle of red and the pint of Ben & Jerry's (or Dove, or Haagen Dazs - whatever was on sale, and something was always on sale). It reached a point where it was standard fare. My dinner each night last week was pasta with marinara, some type of burger (beef, salmon, or veggie), half a pint of ice cream, and a couple glasses of red wine, followed by a three or four smokes.

That's all over this week. Roz recommends hard-core protein loading for Thursday and Friday, then carb-loading on Saturday. Curt recommends hard-core protein loading starting today. I'll work out hard this weekend and Monday, and then take it light the rest of the week. And sleep at 10pm, using pills if I have to.

Hopefully I'll time everything right to peak on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Which Bill O'Reilly is Shocked to Discover that Black Folk are Human

I guess this is news in New York, but I just heard it all today.

Bill O'Reilly had dinner in Harlem with Al Sharpton a few weeks ago. Here's the transcript from his radio show talking about it.

O'REILLY: You know, I was up in Harlem a few weeks ago, and I actually had dinner with Al Sharpton, who is a very, very interesting guy. And he comes on The Factor a lot, and then I treated him to dinner, because he's made himself available to us, and I felt that I wanted to take him up there. And we went to Sylvia's, a very famous restaurant in Harlem. I had a great time, and all the people up there are tremendously respectful. They all watch The Factor. You know, when Sharpton and I walked in, it was like a big commotion and everything, but everybody was very nice.

And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same, and that's really what this society's all about now here in the U.S.A. There's no difference. There's no difference. There may be a cultural entertainment -- people may gravitate toward different cultural entertainment, but you go down to Little Italy, and you're gonna have that. It has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin.


O'REILLY: No, no, I mean, I like that soul food. I had the meatloaf special. I had coconut shrimp. I had the iced tea. It was great.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me just tell you, the one thing I would say is this. And we're talking about the kids who still like this gangsta rap, this vile poison that I think is absolutely, you know, literally a corruption of culture. I think that what you've got to take into account that it's still a majority white audience -- young, white people who think they're into rebelling against their parents who buy this stuff and think it's just a kick. You know, it's just a way of expressing their anti-authoritarianism.


O'REILLY: You know, and I went to the concert by Anita Baker at Radio City Music Hall, and the crowd was 50/50, black/white, and the blacks were well-dressed. And she came out -- Anita Baker came out on the stage and said, "Look, this is a show for the family. We're not gonna have any profanity here. We're not gonna do any rapping here." The band was excellent, but they were dressed in tuxedoes, and this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.

WILLIAMS: Oh, and it's just so awful. It's just so awful because, I mean, it's literally the sewer come to the surface, and now people take it that the sewer is the whole story --

O'REILLY: That's right. That's right. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea."

WILLIAMS: Please --

O'REILLY: You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Three Cabelleros

Electric Yoga

Loren, my yoga instructor, just got back from studying in LA. I asked if he had learned anything new to teach us. Nah, he said. His teacher focused a lot on vinyasa, and he would work more of that in, but he didn't have a lot that was new.

Then he tossed in the CD and pumped out the jams.

OK now, I'm not that experienced, so I don't know all the different styles. Loren's old style was more gentle and slow, the find your own perfect pose and shoot out your heart energy kind. If he was out 24-Hour would give us substitutes, mostly buff women who viewed yoga as an advanced cardio work-out. All of them relied on slow, moody, Deep Forest tunes that left my circuit-soul craving for a touch of bass. Still, the stretching was a great counter-part to paddling.

Today Loren gave us the bass. The first thirty minutes were fast, closer to dance than anything I'd done before. He slowed down in the latter half, when we were all sweat soaked and exhausted. My monkey mind was finally empty, as it should be. When we said our final namaste- a longer one than ever before, and which he prefaced with a quote on love - the class seemed silent, almost dazed.

I loved it. And I let him know. He said he'll be bringing more of that energy into the class. I think the man has just hit his stride. His classes have never been well attended, but I think that's about to change once word of the new Loren gets out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


My phone has been busted going on two weeks now. It was liberating at first - I rarely answered it anyway - but now I'm starting to feel seriously disconnected. I almost took it in yesterday, but it started to work after 30" of baking in the hot sun on my dashboard. I wasn't about to spend fifty bucks if that's all it took to fix it, so never went to the Sprint store.

This morning it was back to acting up, so now I have it baking outside on the cement. I'm not sure why this should fix it, but I'm giving it a shot. That, and my last paycheck all went to bills & there's nothing left for the phone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Jihad for Love

... keep in mind that I'm a non-believer who considers it hubris for any man to claim an exclusive knowledge of Truth ...

There are a handful of internet forums I pop in and out of - Television without Pity to dissect the latest reality shows, Tribe for the cooking timps and recipe exchanges, Thorn Tree for my wanderlust, and Queerty to keep up with the gay world at large.

The last one has been getting ugly of late. There's tons of hatred and unalloyed racism coming out of the site. Not from the moderators; I've talked with them via email, and they're decent - this is all coming from the other posters. I used to think that gay people might be more enlightened, more aware of the dynamics of bigotry and hate. These days I'm not so sure. Too many of our brothers have used the hate flowing in our direction as a template upon which to base their own hate of others.

The latest attacks are coming from this creature. He's the "artist" who burned a Qu`ran given to him by the Queen of Jordan.

Queerty had a posting on A Jihad for Love (left), a documentary on gay muslims in twelve different countries. It looks like an important film.

The artist was having none of it. His words, verbatim:
Why are their no Gay muslims at any gay pride march?? Bunch of cowards? There is no gay liberation in the Muslim community. This film is propaganda and wishful thinking, like a travel brochure. Michael Lucas is the voice of reason and judges Islam for what it is, out to take over the world and destroy those who do not take up the words of Mohammed and the Koran. 9/11 happened because of Mohammed, and his words that said Infidels should be put in a pile and burned. Wake up. Read Carmen Bin Laden’s book. You will see the real purpose of Islam.
You'd think I'd know enough by now not to feed the trolls. I'm still torn on when it's best to let things slide, and when it's best to confront. These days I'm leaning towards confrontation. Too many crimes are committed when we're silent. My rebuttal, in it's entirety:
Here we go again.
1. I’ve seen gay muslims at every Pride event I’ve been to.
2. There are gay rights movements in Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and - shockingly - Iraq.
It seems so simple, but that's all it took for the artist to aim his bile in my direction.

Now I've had significant debates with people on Queerty. The only time it's gotten personal is when I've written some variation on not all black folk are homophobic or not all Muslims are terrorists. And every single time I do, the OP comes back cussing and spitting and making personal attacks.

And the attacks come, without fail, from atheists who claim that religion is the root of all hate. They hate Muslims because Islam hates us, or they hate black people because all Black churches are homophobic. They hate with a greater passion than those religious people they accuse of being full of hate do.

Not a one ever sees the irony.

Some of you are giving the rest of us infidels a bad name. I can not-believe, and be aware of history's crimes, and yet still respect the art, poetry, and beauty behind religion. I am aware of the crimes committed in all the names of god. And it's my belief that these arise from someplace dark and imperfect inside, and not from some external book. I cannot think of a single civilization that has not committed great crimes.

It's easier for me to respect the misogynist who hates everyone than these selective-haters who nurture and hone their anger at a few chosen groups.

Moose for the Holidays

I don't know what triggered it, but I've already started fantasizing about what I want to cook for the holidays. Maybe because it's that I've been too busy to do anything spectacular in the kitchen recently. Maybe I've been watching too much Top Chef. Maybe it's because paddling has left me 1) continuously ravenously hungry, and 2) with needs that need to be sublimated.

Whichever, I'm ready to start prepping, and I'm feeling nostalgic for northern spices and flavors ... coriander, dill, nutmeg, allspice, juniper, and all the other winter scents of the season that we just don't get out here.

I want lefsa. I want creamed herring and wild rice and gravlax. I think I might even want lutefisk, although I might lose all my friends with the last one. Some stuff I'll need to order online soon. I need to start some of the liqueurs (pimento dram, the eggnog spike, falernum) now. I've never started a rumcake so far ahead, but I'm willing to bet it'll taste damn fine if I do.

So the question is, where and when? I'm hoping to be in Egypt during the last part of December. Hau and I talked about doing another big party, but I'm not cooking for 100. Ken has the surf house reserved for the Triple Crown, and though I'll cook again if asked I don't want to be inside all day prepping a major dinner.

Chez moi? Maybe, but it's hard to fit many people here.

And then - kaching! - I thought of Ron. We've done joint dinner parties at his place before, but not in awhile. And even better, his dad has a freezer full of game that his mom would be all too willing to donate. I just talked to him, and his job this fall will be to get a cooler full of venison, moose, and whatever else his dad has shot from Vermont to Hawai`i. Not that I've ever cooked a moose before, but I can't imagine it'll be that difficult.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ayau Results

Outrigger only posted the top 25 canoes ... and we weren't even close to them. The top boat came in at 3:42.42, and the 25th at 4:31. Our first boat was 4:51:08 Us? Try 5:06:56. It was a long day! - though not as bad as I was fearing. And we beat at least four others. 47th out of 51. Yeah that sucks, but once again: we weren't last!

Here's how my race days go:

8pm. T-12 hours. My final meal. I saute half a pound of calamari in olive oil (I'm still trying to recreate the calamari we had in Mykonos), make a salad of bitter Italian greens that Roy's neighbor grows, pile a mess of pasta in marinara sauce on the plate, open a bottle of Primitivo, and pop Shoot the Piano Player into the VCR. I wonder how I'll ever get to sleep in time. I can't take an ambien, as I don't want any drugs in my system.

9 pm. My eyelids are getting heavy. The pasta is working it's magic. I pour a final glass of wine, polish off half a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and then crawl to bed & pass out.

11 pm. I wake up. Is it race time? No. Not even midnight. I piss. It runs clear. I'm hydrated! I chug more water before heading back to bed.

2 am. Piss. Drink. Sleep.

4:30 am. Piss. Drink. Check the clock. One more hour to sleep. I love my bed. I love my pillow. Back to bed.

5:30 am. The alarm goes off. Here we go. It's still dark. I don't want to get up. Why do I do this to myself? I make coffee, and eat some bread. Pack my bags, stuff a bunch of power gels into my pockets, and head out the door.

6:30. Meet the guys at the club. Anxiety is low. That's good. Maybe I'm still not awake yet.

7:30. T-1 hour. We're at Hawai`i Kai. I stretch. I pace. I hit the bathroom three times. It's as if my body knows what to expect, and is purging itself in anticipation. I know I can do this, and yet I also know that I am going to put my body through hell. I know that I will paddle until I cannot move, that I will hit the wall, and that I will then find a way beyond the wall and keep moving. And I know I'll be fine once I'm on the other side of the wall ... it's more the anticipation of what comes before that keeps me tense.

8:30. We're in the canoe, waiting for the flag to drop. I'm still in this world. In a few more minutes I'll be completely in that other world, the one that's just ocean and sky and us. We have a mixed crew. Most of us are in the stay tough and just survive this mindset, while others are much more competitive.

First Change.
Seat 3. The boat feels heavy. I feel heavy, like this is taking more effort than it should. We are in the bottom 1/4 of the pack before we change.

Second Change. Seat 5. This feels good! My body is relaxed, I feel strong, and the canoe is gliding along nicely. The ama threatens to fly up a couple times, but we keep control. We seem to fall off of the swells, though. We could've used the boost.

Third Change. Seat 3. Still feeling strong as we take the turn around Diamond Head. I get tired towards the end of the shift. We walk up on a couple canoes, and are close to passing them.

Fourth Change. Seat 2. It feels like we're going pretty fast, and riding a nice current - but the other canoes have disappeared. I see some boats a couple miles out to sea on our left, but no one inside. We see other boats rounding Kalaeloa, and though it looks close it is still a long ways off.

Fifth Change. Seat 4. OK, now I'm getting seriously tired. I'm good for the first segment, and suffering during the second. We took the boat way inside, too close to the coast, and now have to struggle to get around `Ewa. I ask Lorna, and she said she was hoping we'd have been around the coast already.

Sixth Change. Seat 2. This is it - the end is in sight!!! Ray is stroking, and it feels nice and easy to me. I can keep pace with him, and am feeling a nice pull in the water, but Lorna shouts that we're not going fast enough & need to pick up the pace. Next change and Shaun is in one. He puts some serious muscle in it, and we feel the boat pick up and really start to race. We're passing the industrial plants & Ko Olina, and I almost feel that I can iron it until the finish. I stay in one more change, and Ramos is now in one. I realize that I spent most of my energy trying to match Shaun, and I'm getting sloppy. It takes some serious mental work to keep pace.

Next change and I'm in the escort boat as the Makanani crosses the finish line around 2pm. Suddenly I'm starving. I eat at the race tent, and then have a second lunch that the wahine had prepared for us. I get home and eat again.

Next stop: Moloka`i. There are 20 of us fighting for 18 seats. And though I think I've got a good chance, I really don't know where I stand. The coaches want us to do a timed one-man Diamond Head run to compete for first crew, or a Kewalo run for second crew. I haven't even done a DH run yet solo, but figure that it's better to aim high. If there swells are ok I'll go for it. I'm not even sure which boat I'd prefer. I hate being the weakest link in a strong canoe, but it's also easier paddling with a strong crew. That, and the top canoe gets Steve to steer, which is a major bonus.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I just chased some fat little crack addict out of the yard, and now I'm a bit wound up & can't get back to sleep.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Henry Ayau Crews

Roz posted the crews for Sunday a few minutes ago. As usual, I look for meaning in the line-up. As usual, it's all over my head.

Orange -
Ke Kani Ilau
Blue -
dave ramos
eli chris
rudy aweau
kekoa shaun
rod mc
kapena phil
winters jake
scott reid

We'll rig tomorrow, then take the wa`a out for a practice run. Later I need to do some laundry, dishes, and work on the fishponds again. Afternoon I'll meet Roy to watch the Blue Angels. Carbo load for dinner, and in bed by 8. Funny how the whole weekend is already laid out for me.

Conditions look ok. I don't know these waters, so not sure what to look for. The trades should be picking up, and there'll be one south swell on the way out and another one possibly coming in. And is this all good, or bad? I hear mixed things. The only constant is that the Henry Ayau will be long and hot. We'll find out the rest Sunday.

Board Aftermath

The Divas performed as expected last night. They started off with high drama, complaining of yesterday's Blue Angel show, telling the police that they were cowering in fear in their Gold Coast apartments as the planes flew by.

The ever reliable Michelle Matson even made it into the papers with this:
Having the military put on such a spectacular event is I'm sure good for business and the tourist industry and recruiting, but you also have people living here and trying to cope without feeling as if their lives are threatened.

It was horrendous. It was a nightmare. It was, for most of us: nonsense. I mean, really: we're a working class neighborhood with one very wealthy section - and yet the multi-millionaires in that section always want empathy from the rest of us on how they're just trying to cope.

The divas ended the night with an awkward and aborted attempted coup against the Recording Secretary. It was childish, and almost painful to be part of.

Nothing of import happened the rest of the night. Djou's representative continued to pander to the Board, and regaled us with Shocking Tales! of financial mismanagement in the city. People complained about their neighbors' parking habits, leading me to wonder if our political system doesn't over-empower the whiners and complainers. A 13-year old kid advocated for a skate-park, and everyone on the Board voted to support him. He left with a big smile on his face, and I'm so glad he left before the nastiness started. I think that supporting the skate park was the only substantive vote we took all night.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Board Questions

Two hours to go before the Neighborhood Board Meeting. People were rather civilized at the July meeting. I've been warned that tonight might be a bit more action packed. I'm ready ... the only question is, where is the action going to come from? Will Kapahulu publicly denounce me as a son-of-a-bitch again? Will the Diamond Head Divas continue their nefarious plot to do whatever it is their plotting to do? (They're always plotting, but I just can't figure out what for). Will Eduardo corner me into introducing a Civil Unions Resolution, and am I a shit for not wanting to?

Will I even care enough to stay awake?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Scandal! Again

I'm experimenting with new software on this one - clipmarks. It's supposed to allow you to tag websites and link to them on your blog.

And this is a great place to start - a gay Republican triple murder-suicide in Florida, with ties to NC Rep Patrick McHenry. It's still breaking news on the underground; we'll see if it crosses over topside anytime soon.
Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend is coming on the show today at 3:30 ET to talk about what surely should be the next big Republican scandal, and yes, it involves a whole cast of creepy closeted and less-than-closeted gay Republicans working against their own people, and connects to at least one member of Congress, Republican North Carolina Representative Patrick McHenry, whose sexual orientation has been questioned for some time now, and who is pictured here. The initial story that raies a slew of questions and connections surrounds a murder-suicide and is astounding, and still very much developing. Go and read all of the various strands of this one on Pam's site. As Pam says, we're going to try to untangle this on the show. We all also need to make sure the news gets out, and make sure there are investigations of this.

blog it

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shock Doctrine

This is a video Alfonso Cuaron did with Naomi King to promote her new book, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The basic theory is that free-market capitalism willfully exploited disasters in the past four decades in order to promote the market. This is an excerpt from the book that was published in the Guardian. I'd add it to my amazon list, but I'll probably end up buying it before the week is out.

I met Jamar Perry in September 2005, at the big Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dinner was being doled out by grinning young Scientologists, and he was standing in line. I had just been busted for talking to evacuees without a media escort and was now doing my best to blend in, a white Canadian in a sea of African- American southerners. I dodged into the food line behind Perry and asked him to talk to me as if we were old friends, which he kindly did.

Born and raised in New Orleans, he'd been out of the flooded city for a week. He and his family had waited forever for the evacuation buses; when they didn't arrive, they had walked out in the baking sun. Finally they ended up here, a sprawling convention centre now jammed with 2,000 cots and a mess of angry, exhausted people being patrolled by edgy National Guard soldiers just back from Iraq.

The news racing around the shelter that day was that the Republican Congressman Richard Baker had told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans' wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: "I think we have a clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big opportunities." All that week Baton Rouge had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a "smaller, safer city" - which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects. Hearing all the talk of "fresh starts" and "clean sheets", you could almost forget the toxic stew of rubble, chemical outflows and human remains just a few miles down the highway.

Over at the shelter, Jamar could think of nothing else. "I really don't see it as cleaning up the city. What I see is that a lot of people got killed uptown. People who shouldn't have died."

He was speaking quietly, but an older man in line in front of us overheard and whipped around. "What is wrong with these people in Baton Rouge? This isn't an opportunity. It's a goddamned tragedy. Are they blind?" A mother with two kids chimed in. "No, they're not blind, they're evil. They see just fine."

One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was the late Milton Friedman, grand guru of unfettered capitalism and credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, "Uncle Miltie", as he was known to his followers, found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity."

Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions.

In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools.

The Friedmanite American Enterprise Institute enthused that "Katrina accomplished in a day ... what Louisiana school reformers couldn't do after years of trying". Public school teachers, meanwhile, were calling Friedman's plan "an educational land grab". I call these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities, "disaster capitalism".

Privatising the school system of a mid-size American city may seem a modest preoccupation for the man hailed as the most influential economist of the past half century. Yet his determination to exploit the crisis in New Orleans to advance a fundamentalist version of capitalism was also an oddly fitting farewell. For more than three decades, Friedman and his powerful followers had been perfecting this very strategy: waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock.

In one of his most influential essays, Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism's core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as "the shock doctrine". He observed that "only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change". When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the "tyranny of the status quo". A variation on Machiavelli's advice that "injuries" should be inflicted "all at once", this is one of Friedman's most lasting legacies.

Friedman first learned how to exploit a shock or crisis in the mid-70s, when he advised the dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock after Pinochet's violent coup, but the country was also traumatised by hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy - tax cuts, free trade, privatised services, cuts to social spending and deregulation.

It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a "Chicago School" revolution, as so many of Pinochet's economists had studied under Friedman there. Friedman coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic "shock treatment". In the decades since, whenever governments have imposed sweeping free-market programs, the all-at-once shock treatment, or "shock therapy", has been the method of choice.

I started researching the free market's dependence on the power of shock four years ago, during the early days of the occupation of Iraq. I reported from Baghdad on Washington's failed attempts to follow "shock and awe" with shock therapy - mass privatisation, complete free trade, a 15% flat tax, a dramatically downsized government. Afterwards I travelled to Sri Lanka, several months after the devastating 2004 tsunami, and witnessed another version of the same manoeuvre: foreign investors and international lenders had teamed up to use the atmosphere of panic to hand the entire beautiful coastline over to entrepreneurs who quickly built large resorts, blocking hundreds of thousands of fishing people from rebuilding their villages. By the time Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was clear that this was now the preferred method of advancing corporate goals: using moments of collective trauma to engage in radical social and economic engineering.

Most people who survive a disaster want the opposite of a clean slate: they want to salvage whatever they can and begin repairing what was not destroyed. "When I rebuild the city I feel like I'm rebuilding myself," said Cassandra Andrews, a resident of New Orleans' heavily damaged Lower Ninth Ward, as she cleared away debris after the storm. But disaster capitalists have no interest in repairing what once was. In Iraq, Sri Lanka and New Orleans, the process deceptively called "reconstruction" began with finishing the job of the original disaster by erasing what was left of the public sphere.

When I began this research into the intersection between super-profits and mega-disasters, I thought I was witnessing a fundamental change in the way the drive to "liberate" markets was advancing around the world. Having been part of the movement against ballooning corporate power that made its global debut in Seattle in 1999, I was accustomed to seeing business-friendly policies imposed through arm-twisting at WTO summits, or as the conditions attached to loans from the IMF.

As I dug deeper into the history of how this market model had swept the globe, I discovered that the idea of exploiting crisis and disaster has been the modus operandi of Friedman's movement from the very beginning - this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance. What was happening in Iraq and New Orleans was not a post-September 11 invention. Rather, these bold experiments in crisis exploitation were the culmination of three decades of strict adherence to the shock doctrine.

Seen through the lens of this doctrine, the past 35 years look very different. Some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the intent of terrorising the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for radical free-market "reforms". In China in 1989, it was the shock of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the arrests of tens of thousands that freed the Communist party to convert much of the country into a sprawling export zone, staffed with workers too terrified to demand their rights. The Falklands war in 1982 served a similar purpose for Margaret Thatcher: the disorder resulting from the war allowed her to crush the striking miners and to launch the first privatisation frenzy in a western democracy.

The bottom line is that, for economic shock therapy to be applied without restraint, some sort of additional collective trauma has always been required. Friedman's economic model is capable of being partially imposed under democracy - the US under Reagan being the best example - but for the vision to be implemented in its complete form, authoritarian or quasi-authoritarian conditions are required.

Until recently, these conditions did not exist in the US. What happened on September 11 2001 is that an ideology hatched in American universities and fortified in Washington institutions finally had its chance to come home. The Bush administration, packed with Friedman's disciples, including his close friend Donald Rumsfeld, seized upon the fear generated to launch the "war on terror" and to ensure that it is an almost completely for-profit venture, a booming new industry that has breathed new life into the faltering US economy. Best understood as a "disaster capitalism complex", it is a global war fought on every level by private companies whose involvement is paid for with public money, with the unending mandate of protecting the US homeland in perpetuity while eliminating all "evil" abroad.

In a few short years, the complex has already expanded its market reach from fighting terrorism to international peacekeeping, to municipal policing, to responding to increasingly frequent natural disasters. The ultimate goal for the corporations at the centre of the complex is to bring the model of for-profit government, which advances so rapidly in extraordinary circumstances, into the ordinary functioning of the state - in effect, to privatise the government.

In scale, the disaster capitalism complex is on a par with the "emerging market" and IT booms of the 90s. It is dominated by US firms, but is global, with British companies bringing their experience in security cameras, Israeli firms their expertise in building hi-tech fences and walls. Combined with soaring insurance industry profits as well as super profits for the oil industry, the disaster economy may well have saved the world market from the full-blown recession it was facing on the eve of 9/11.

In the torrent of words written in eulogy to Milton Friedman, the role of shocks and crises to advance his world view received barely a mention. Instead, the economist's passing, in November 2006, provided an occasion for a retelling of the official story of how his brand of radical capitalism became government orthodoxy in almost every corner of the globe. It is a fairytale history, scrubbed clean of the violence so intimately entwined with this crusade.

It is time for this to change. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a powerful reckoning with the crimes committed in the name of communism. But what of the crusade to liberate world markets?

I am not arguing that all forms of market systems require large-scale violence. It is eminently possible to have a market-based economy that demands no such brutality or ideological purity. A free market in consumer products can coexist with free public health care, with public schools, with a large segment of the economy - such as a national oil company - held in state hands. It's equally possible to require corporations to pay decent wages, to respect the right of workers to form unions, and for governments to tax and redistribute wealth so that the sharp inequalities that mark the corporatist state are reduced. Markets need not be fundamentalist.

John Maynard Keynes proposed just that kind of mixed, regulated economy after the Great Depression. It was that system of compromises, checks and balances that Friedman's counter-revolution was launched to dismantle in country after country. Seen in that light, Chicago School capitalism has something in common with other fundamentalist ideologies: the signature desire for unattainable purity.

This desire for godlike powers of creation is precisely why free-market ideologues are so drawn to crises and disasters. Non-apocalyptic reality is simply not hospitable to their ambitions. For 35 years, what has animated Friedman's counter-revolution is an attraction to a kind of freedom available only in times of cataclysmic change - when people, with their stubborn habits and insistent demands, are blasted out of the way - moments when democracy seems a practical impossibility. Believers in the shock doctrine are convinced that only a great rupture - a flood, a war, a terrorist attack - can generate the kind of vast, clean canvases they crave. It is in these malleable moments, when we are psychologically unmoored and physically uprooted, that these artists of the real plunge in their hands and begin their work of remaking the world.

Torture: the other shock treatment

From Chile to China to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free-market crusade. Chile's coup featured three distinct forms of shock, a recipe that would re-emerge three decades later in Iraq. The shock of the coup prepared the ground for economic shock therapy; the shock of the torture chamber terrorized anyone thinking of standing in the way of the economic shocks.

But torture is more than a tool used to enforce unwanted policies on rebellious peoples; it is also a metaphor of the shock doctrine's underlying logic. Torture, or in CIA parlance, "coercive interrogation", is a set of techniques developed by scientists and designed to put prisoners into a state of deep disorientation.

Declassified CIA manuals explain how to break "resistant sources": create violent ruptures between prisoners and their ability to make sense of the world around them. First, the senses are starved (with hoods, earplugs, shackles), then the body is bombarded with overwhelming stimulation (strobe lights, blaring music, beatings). The goal of this "softening-up" stage is to provoke a kind of hurricane in the mind, and it is in that state of shock that most prisoners give their interrogators whatever they want.

The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely. The original disaster - the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown - puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies. Like the terrorised prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Savory Tomato Bread Pudding

I made Sara's Savory Tomato Bread Pudding from Top Chef for the wahine last night. She has $50 to prepare an appetizer for 60 of "Miami's Beautiful." I spent 40 to feed 20 - but bread and eggs are expensive here! The link shows her recipe. It says it's for ten, so I doubled it ... and ended up with 120 muffins before I caved in & through the rest of the batter in four pie tins and baked it en masse. The muffins were great - a definite keeper!

A pic of her food is above; I'll post mine someday.
1/2 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 quart heavy whipping cream
3/4 quart whole milk
9 oz tomato paste
10 whole eggs
3 loaves baguette, shredded in the cuisinart
1 bunch basil, chopped
8oz cream cheese

  • Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Remove from heat, add cream, and season well.
  • Blend milk and tomato paste in a cuisinart. Season.
  • Mix the two sauces. Add bread and eggs. Let sit 45"
  • Put mix in mini-muffin tins. Add a dollop of basil cream on top. Bake in 375 oven for 15". Let cool.

So easy! They were nice and moist, with a nice blend of pepper and tomato. Perfect for a hot summer's day. It was popular - the wahine devoured the 60 I brought to the race. I could've brought the whole batch! Instead I gave some to my neighbors, and I'll bring a couple dozen to work. And I still have a batch left in my refrigerator. Thanks Sara!


  • I diced my onion, while Sara's was brunoise. Same thing in my book
  • She used a red onion. I think I'll do the same next time.
  • She added thyme to the cream cheese, and pushed it through a tamis. I just used basil, and kept the herbs in.
  • She drizzled the basil cream on top after it was done, and drizzled it all with balsamic vinegar. My way is easier.

Big Boy Results

That was epic. Amazing, for sure, but totally mental. I was close to exhausted before we made the first turn, and was worried that I was holding up our canoe, and didn't realize until the end that everyone else was feeling the same.

I woke up early, downed some coffee, popped an advil, and made eggs and toast for breakfast. I eat before every race, and am nervous before every race, so I should have been fine. I finished one egg and realized I was too wound up this time to eat any more. Ten minutes later I realized that even one egg had been a mistake, and that that baby wasn't going to stay down. I purged, packed my bags, and headed to the club.

It was interesting just having the six of us - no coaches, no team, just us and the boats. I wasn't sure at first how the guys felt having me in. Greg was supposed to be in, this big blond mountain of muscle, but he had registered too late & couldn't paddle this race. I was the last minute replacement. These guys have been together for years. This was my first long iron. I don't know if I was projecting my insecurity, or not - everyone was cool, but I kept wondering how they all felt about it.

Our line-up: Ramos stroke, Aweau, Jeff, Me, Yamada, Steve stearing.

We had the typical WYC start, with Ramos running down the beach to the canoe at the last minute, and the horn blowing as most of us were still in the water. We've had a couple of these moments this year - it's getting to be a tradition.

Then it was around flat island, and off to the Moku Luas. The canoes spread out, maybe forty or so, and we never passed or were passed after the first ten minutes. We could still see the lead canoes as we approached Makapu`u, so we were doing alright.

And I was dying before we even hit the fun part, the Makapu'u wall. It wasn't as big as in the Duke race, but there was still plenty of action & Greg kept us close to the wall. It's a strange feeling being that close to big waves crashing on rocks. One wrong move and we'd be wrecked. So I was thinking, how odd that we so casually place our lives in each others hands, and how much trust that takes to do it calmly. We pulled hard, and used all our muscles to get past.

Literally. I don't think I had anything left after this. We came to Alan Davis, and tried to catch a swell, but though I could move & put myself through the motions I had no power left. I thought I was a goner, then realized that no one else in the boat could muster much power either. In the Duke race we would have done our third change here, so we would all have had fifteen to thirty minutes rest for this stretch. Not today.

The rest of the race was kind of a daze. We popped the `ama high, but managed to save it without flipping. I just kept my head up, and tried to keep pace & focus on technique. It's all I could do. That, and will the boat through the water.

Next turn was Koko Head, and more rough water and rocks. Greg is an amazing steersman, and runs the canoe close to the wall. I tried to find some leftover muscle to work through this part, but it was hard. I was in and out of the zone.

Next turn, Maunalua Bay. It was calm, and a bit windy - but we could see the flag at the end. I wasn't full-on delirious, but it seemed surreal that we had actually made it. The last stretch took some time - no one had anything left. We finished in 2 hours 37 minutes - and ahead of at least four canoes. Hui Nalu came in 2:08, so I think we did pretty frakkin' good for being that close to the top team.

We went to Kona Brewing for pizza and beer after. Made it home by 3pm, just in time to shower and meet Barbara - of my neighborhood board - for dinner & politicking.

We're meeting the wahine tomorrow afternoon in Nanakuli. I'm trying to make a recipe I saw on Top Chef - savory tomato bread pudding, in little muffin tins, topped with basil cream. The recipe I have says it's enough for twenty ... but I've already made 48 muffins, there are 24 in the oven, and I have a few more rounds to go. It's gonna be a long night. I'll post the recipe - and those results - later!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Big Boy Challenge

I wasn't supposed to do the Koa Kai race this weekend. It's sixteen miles, iron, of the roughest stretch of the Duke race: from Kailua to Hawai`i Kai. I'm not that good. I didn't even consider asking - this one is for the big boys (hence the name). Maybe in a couple years, I thought. WYC wasn't even putting in an official crew - the experienced guys put their own crew list together & presented it to the coaches. So I was looking at a normal weekend, and glad for it, 'cause this race sounds beautiful.

It was just over an hour ago that I learned differently, that through a fluke of chance and karma I'm in the race.

So now it's 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... breathe ... don't panic. Which I'm not. I'm just spazzing out a bit while my pasta cooks. I I had known I would have been hydrating since Tuesday, carb loading all day, & sleeping at my place last night. And even then I would suffer.

Yeah I love this sport, but damn if it doesn't throw new challenges at me every couple weeks. I've met every one so far, though some barely. If the guys think I'm ready for this one, I'm ready. 'Cause the truth is, it's an honor they approached me when one of their crew pulled out at the last minute. It was a total fluke I was at the Club - I never go there on a Friday. But I did a 1-man Kewalo run, in record time (for me), and then was on my way to yoga when I saw Ramos tieing the boats to the trailer. I offered to help, figuring I'd do the yoga on my own.

Later, when the news came that Greg was out, I tiptoed away from the coaches to give them privacy. Back to my bike ... and I was almost out of there when I saw Ramos look over. It was butch up or make a run for it.

He asked if I could be in the crew, I fessed up that it scared me but that yeah I was free, and that was it: 6:30 am tomorrow was set. This is a big thing for them to ask me, it feels really good, and so it's simultaneously "wow" and "oh, shit."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Photo Recap: Ireland

And with this I'm caught up!
Complete set at photobucket.

The landscape was covered in wildflowers. We picked the right time of year.Rock walls. I think the Druids must've started partioning Ireland, and every succeeding generation has kept it up. The whole county seemed to be subdivided by rock walls.St. Francis and the friary at Ennis.
Ecce HomoThe Cains storm a ring fort on the Burren
Bog jumpers.
The beginning of the Burren Way. Dad, Jeff, and I spent a day hiking it from Ballyvaughan back to Oughtdarra.
Poulnabrone, a neolithic protal tomb from c. 3800 bce.
Climbing into the Burren on Ireland's first sunny day in 8 weeks
Rest stop on the Burren
Gaelic wrestling was a nightly ritual.
(Note: Sources report that Tim was actually trying to smother a fire in this photo. It is apparently not a Gealic beatdown afterall. You hear that, girls? Uncle Tim saved your Daddy's life!)

We thought the Church was abandoned until we went inside and saw the gravestones.
Celtic crosses in a country graveyard
Outside McGann's Pub in Roadford. Which everyone calls Doolin, but it ain't Doolin.
Ballyinlacken Tower House. The houses were built vertically as a defense against Vikings, Anglos, Normans, and other people who were mean to the Irish. There was a sign that said No Trespassing.
We didn't pay much attention to the sign.
Musicians at McDermots. This was in Doolin.
(oops ... I guess the pic is really of Gus O'Connors)

Our cottage in Oughtdarra. Population: eight. Including the eight of us. Plus four bulls
Dad on the bow of the ship going to Inis MórDid you know the Irish were Catholic?
Ruins on Inis Meáin
Monument to the Famine in Dublin
Merrion Square in Dublin. The urban parks were fantastic, and possible my favorite part of the city.

The Roy Cohn Society

These are all from Mike Roger's blog ... 33 gay politicians who vote or act against gay rights.
He broke the stories on most of these fellas.
He promises that he'll be outing a few more Congressmen, all Republicans, in the next coming months.

US Representatives
Rep. Ed Schrock (VA)
Rep. David Drier (CA)
Rep. James McCrery (LA)
Rep. Mark Foley (FL)

US Senators
Sen Larry Craig (ID)

Senior GOP Staff
Jay Timmons, NRSC
Dan Gurley, RNC
Jay Banning, RNC
Brian Walton, NRSC, RNC

Senior Senate Staffers
Robert Traynham, Santorum
Jonathan Tolman, Inhofe
Kirk Fordham, Martinez
Dirk Smith, Lott
John Reid, Allen
Paul Unger, Allen
Linus Catignani, Frist

Senior House Staffers
Jim Conzelman, Oxley
Lee Cohen, Hart
Robert O'Conner, King
Pete Meachum, Brown-Waite

Bush Staff
Israel Hernandez
Jeff Berkowitz

Local Officials
Vincent Gentile, NYC
Helene Weinstein, NYS Assembly

The rest...
Ed Koch, NYC Mayor
Jennifer Helms-Knox, Judge
Armstrong Williams, Radio host
Matt Drudge, Headline writer
Steve Kreseski, MD Gov.
Chip DiPaula, MD Gov.
Lee LaHaye, CWA
Richard Grennell, U.N.
John Schlafley, Eagle Forum

Photo Redux: Petra

Petra - the Nabatean city carved out of the mountain - was amazing. Billy and I both left our cameras at the hotel the first day, so these are the highlightsl from the second day. I'll put the complete set at photobucket later this week.

The view from our guesthouse in Wadi Musa
The road from Wadi Musa to Petra
We take Wadi Muthlin in, an alternative entrance to Petra.
Parts of the wadi had small niches for the old gods.
Inside one of the cave houses. The colors everywhere were extraordinary.
Outside the ruins of the Great TempleThe path up the mountain to al-DeirThe al-Deir facade, on a mountain above the City. From the 1st Century, possibly dedicated to the cult of Obodas I.
The lion triclinium en route to al-Deir. Note the Medusa on the upper left, and the lion to the right.Lions were associated with the goddess al-UzzaSiestaThe street of facades
Boys and their donkeysmmmOutside al-Khaznehal Khazneh, built by King Aretas in the first -Uzza, the great goddess of PetraThe narrow siq, Petra's main entrance.
Chariots racing home at the end of the day
The aquaducts were once protected by carved statues
The Romans paved part of the road into the siq