The 12 Point Plan to Save America

I hear a chorus of cautious and concerned voices in the mainstream media warning Democrats to refrain from pushing their agenda too far to the left. When you’re on the inside looking out, I suppose you’ll do that.

Here’s what I believe: Hesitation kills and this is the absolute worst time in American history to play it safe. The federal government is broken. It does not need a tune-up. It needs a complete overhaul or it’ll never run again.

Were I able to mold a candidate from human clay (as Karl Rove has done), I’d put the following platform forward.

The 12 Point Plan to Save America

1- Reinstate the draft and make military service (or the equivalent public works service) mandatory. It’s the only way to run an Empire.

2- Simultaneously reduce the size of the Empire. We currently maintain more than 800 military bases in 70 countries overseas. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have 30 foreign bases combined. Let’s reduce the footprint to 200 total overseas bases and put all those dollars saved into infrastructure and social services.

3- Make Election Day a national holiday and encourage the use of mail-in ballots and paper ballots (to prevent hacking and boost participation rates).

4- Treat guns like cars. Own as many as you want, but each gun must be registered with the state and you must prove you’re competent with firearms (via regular testing) in order to have a license.

5- House the homeless and provide universal healthcare for all people and all conditions. If you need to know how we will pay for it, we will close more than 600 overseas military bases. See #2 above.

6- Outlaw for-profit prisons and turn all but the most high-security prisons into mobile work camps, where people work outside on farms and on other infrastructure projects.

7- Encourage corporations to focus on their triple bottom line and provide job training and jobs via a public/private partnership dedicated to improving our city, county, state, and national parks; providing affordable and efficient public transportation; and creating sustainable energy and agriculture solutions.

8- Make all campaigns for public office publicly funded and remove all dark money from the process entirely.

9- Welcome refugees and put them on a fast track to citizenship and job training.

10- Officially recognize and apologize for our original sins—slavery and genocide—and make restitution to the victims’ offspring. Also, establish two new memorials on The Mall in Washington, DC.

11- Pay our best teachers as much or more than lawyers. See #2 above.

12- Create a North American partnership with Mexico and Canada where all citizens can easily travel and work in any of the three nations.

Faux Cowboy Seeks To Lasso Our Public Lands

Extraction. American industrialists posses a voracious appetite for it. In fact, their hunger for more precious metals, oil, and coal is so great, they want to find these untapped riches in our National Monuments.

Thankfully, REI is taking a strong leadership role in the resistance, and actively encouraging its members to step up and help protect our natural heritage.

Our country’s public lands define who we are. These are the places where we work, where we play and where we connect to our shared history. Now is the time to stand up for these places—places that help us live a life outdoors.

Right now, the Department of the Interior, headed by Secretary Ryan Zinke, is undertaking an unprecedented review of 27 national monuments established by presidents from both parties since 1996, including the San Gabriel Mountains in California, Craters of the Moon in Idaho, and Bears Ears in Utah. More than 11 million acres of national public land are at stake.

The Department of the Interior wants to hear from you. And we want to make it easy for you to speak up.

REI’s business is at stake. Taking 11 million acres of public land off the table isn’t just a violation of everything sacred and good, it’s a direct threat to the outdoor recreation industry and the travel and tourism industry. It’s good to see REI fight back. Too many companies hesitate when faced with tough social and political issues. No one wants to offend customers. At the same time, brand managers know they can’t be all things to all people, especially today.

In February, both REI and Patagonia supported pulling out of a major outdoor trade show in Salt Lake City in response to a resolution from Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert that advised President Donald Trump to overturn Bears Ears as a national monument. Companies like Patagonia and REI are powerful enough to make Utah pay the price for their public official’s backwards ideas. But will it be enough to move the needle and restore common sense throughout the land? No, but it’s a start.

It’s such an odd moment in America. Don and his wrecking crew are busy doing damage to our institutions and traditions. Meanwhile, American brands fight the good fight. Bring all the skepticism you want, but REI and Patagonia aren’t playing marketing games here. This is real, and it’s also a showcase for the power of PR and brand activism. When a movement is backed by an active and loyal community of customers and fueled by an activist company or group of companies, it can be a powerful force for good. Companies haven’t usurped the role of non-profits, nor will they. This increased activism is an added layer of pressure, and an effective one.

Follow The Money

The Koch brothers lost this Presidential election to the Mercer family, but they won plenty of House and Senate seats to make sure their bidding gets done.

The master puppeteers who pull all the strings behind the screen hold a truly dark view of America and the people in it. To see just how dark their worldview is, let’s take a look at the Koch’s holdings: Minerals. Oil. Coal. Chemicals. Beef. Wood. Not one of these product categories is sustainable.

The billionaires are in a race to the end. Their apocalyptic vision is that the Earth’s natural resources will be extracted and used by them, for gross profits, no matter what the damage is to the environment. This short-sightedness is only possible when the ultra-rich can successfully escape the global climate crisis. The thing with that is climate change can hit with alarming speed. Drought, fires, or an ice age can all sweep in and leave famine in its wake. Nevertheless, the players continue to make horrible bets with our collective future.

Do you see how the political drama is all about the battle over finite natural resources? Sure, you and I may care about gun control, our failing schools or reproductive rights. The billionaires care much more about controlling raw resources, and in their shitstem, “we the people” are mere “labor units.”

It is time to stop obsessing over Hillary and Don, Blue and Red states, Democrats and Republicans. The super rich versus everyone else is not binary. It’s a few powerful families against the rest of humanity. As long they keep us divided, they keep us conquered.

Sad Clowns And Vampires Keep Reality TV and News Crews Busy

If you’re a clown today, there’s a good chance the media will eat your act for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Trump proves this every day. Now, more angry white men with few facts on their side are stepping forward to follow his boisterous lead.

Take the invading circus of clowns from Nevada (and Idaho) presently occupying The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural southeast Oregon. Apparently, they want the refuge land to be liberated for use by local ranchers. It’s as preposterous as it sounds, and so is the inept response from a federal government, which seems intent on not taking the threat seriously.

Harney Country’s Sherriff and other locals are taking the threat seriously and have asked the militants to leave Burns peacefully. Thus far, the poseurs have refused to do so.

Of course, the idea that any white people anywhere have any rights whatsoever to this land is in dispute. It’s a question we thought was answered a century ago, but the question is far from settled. Although the wildlife refuge is not part of the Burns Paiute reservation, tribe members consider it sacred ancestral land.

The Paiute are guaranteed access to the refuge for activities important to their heritage — hunting, fishing, gathering reeds for basket weaving and precious seeds. The tribe is also working with the Bureau of Land Management to preserve its archeological sites, according to The Washington Post.

Speaking of the sacred, members of the occupying militia say they were sent by God. One militant interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting identified himself as “Captain Moroni,” a historic general who, according to Latter Day Saints scripture, threatened to “stir up insurrections” and fight “until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct” because he felt the government did not care about the country’s freedom.

It’s funny how different our concepts of freedom can be. We are not free to visit the refuge at this time. That’s clearly freedom denied. Also, please ask yourself what would happen if a group of armed brown or black men took over a federal building anywhere in these United States. We all know what would happen. Their resistance would be met at once with insurmountable force. This obvious form of racial injustice angers liberal Portland and Seattle residents who are following this story.

Nevertheless, these mini-dramas have been playing out in rural communities for years. Rural and urban residents of the American West have long been at odds over public lands and other important issues. The Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and ’80s was a movement to transfer more control of federally owned Western lands to state and local authorities. This was meant to increase the growth of Western economies. In other words, Sagebrush Rebels want to mine for profits, turn forests into tree farms and so on. And they deeply resent city dwellers (inside and outside of their state) telling them that those activities are prohibited by law.

What’s truly sad is how focused we are on the mini-dramas while missing the larger play altogether. The West is abundant in land and open space but the region lacks the most essential natural resource of all—water. Until we wake up to this real shortage and change our water consumption habits as a nation, everyone’s prosperity is at risk.

TransCanada Calls Upon American Law To Take Land Away From Americans

TransCanada Calls Upon American Law To Take Land Away From Americans

Eminent domain seems unfair and un-American. Particularly, when called upon by a Canadian multi-national oil company to wrestle a rag tag group of ranchers for the last bit of right-of-way for its heinous oil snake pipeline.

TransCanada 20110120

According to The Guardian, by law, TransCanada can use the courts to force Nebraska landowners to sell access to their land. Company officials say they still need to acquire 12% of the total land easements from owners who have not yet reached a deal. Some holdouts have said they will not negotiate no matter how much TransCanada offers.

In an unexpected twist, Nebraska state senator, Ernie Chambers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would repeal the pipeline-siting law and bring the project “to a virtual standstill”.

Chambers is the only African-American serving in the Nebraska state Senate. He’s also famously contentious. Frequently employing legislative rules and filibusters to block proposals, his legislative opposition has caused friction with some of his colleagues in the Legislature.

“The pipeline is like King Kong, and the people and farms are like ants and grasshoppers,” Chambers said. “If they get in the way, they will be crushed with no redress.”

“The Great Plains has a rich history of this sort of rabble-rousing individual,” says Gary Moulton, professor emeritus of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Chambers’ detractors should take heed of the state’s populist legacy, he says, one that includes William Jennings Bryan and other advocates for the ignored and voiceless. “Ernie comes out of the ’60s, but if you take a step back you can see that it’s another aspect in the same populist vein,” Moulton says.


Let’s hope Chambers’ penchant for obstructionism pays off for the ranchers in the way of this pipeline. The concept of eminent domain makes sense on paper. Private property owners must give up their rights for the good of the larger community. The problem here is the Keystone pipeline is not clearly a seen as a benefit to the community or to the country. In fact, it’s not hard to see the project as the snake it is, carrying 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day through sensitive Ogallala Aquifer-fed habitat.

Everyone knows some of this 800,000 barrels of crude is going to leak into the sandy soil and infect the life-sustaining water underneath. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Could there be armed conflict and sabotage on the horizon? Most Nebraskans are prudent people. At the same time, I’ve always thought of my home state as a Midwestern version of New Hampshire. “Live free or die” is an expression of the granite state’s native extremism. There’s no such expression in Nebraska, but there is a pervasive live-and-let-live/don’t tread on me mentality.

Terms like “patriot” get bandied about in debates like this. The right wing wants to own the term patriot. But who are the patriots in this conflict? Are the politicians with oil money stuffed in their suit pockets patriots? Or are the people of Nebraska and America who say no to another short-sighted fossil fuels scheme that creates virtually no local jobs patriots?

The odd thing is many of the people in rural Nebraska fighting for their land might present as conservatives, but they’re now allied with populists Ernie Chambers and Barack Obama and a bunch of leftist environmentalists.

Political terminology and ideology doesn’t mean much at a time of crisis. It’s all so much simpler than that. “I’m an American, this is my land, and you’re not going to destroy it,” is about all there is to it.

Oregon Wants To Benefit From The Energy Game, Without Getting Played

Oregon Wants To Benefit From The Energy Game, Without Getting Played

“Priority one for me has always been ensuring American jobs and employers see the full benefits of the natural gas renaissance.” -Oregon Senator Ron Wyden

Energy is often produced in rural areas for the benefit of urban dwellers, who sometimes live and work hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the source. Meanwhile, citizens of rural communities do not begrudge the arrangement—they are hungry for work and the prosperity that comes in the form of high-paying jobs, energy leases, corporate taxes and so on.

Today, in southern Oregon this drama is playing out, as it is in communities across the nation. The proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline, would transport liquefied natural gas, or LNG, 232 miles from Malin, Oregon—where an existing pipeline terminates—to Coos Bay, where an export facility would be built.

southern oregon lng pipeline

The export facility is a $7.7 billion proposal in its own right. Jordan Cove, which is owned by Calgary-based Veresen Inc., and its associated infrastructure will be the single largest private investment in Oregon’s history. According to The Washington Examiner, Jordan Cove is the seventh and latest natural gas export terminal approved by the Energy Department. The Obama administration supports exporting more natural gas.

If it gets built, Jordan Cove would be the first U.S. export terminal on the West Coast, giving it prime real estate to tap into Asian markets thirsty for natural gas.

Naturally, there are forces opposed. “Jordan Cove still needs a slew of federal and state permits to begin construction,” said Zack Malitz of San Francisco-based environmental group Credo, which is opposed to exports because it could lead to more drilling. The Oregon Sierra Club is also squarely against.

The Jordan Cove export terminal at Coos Bay would require the largest port dredging project in Oregon’s history in habitat important for marine species and the fishermen that depend on them. A 230-mile-long pipeline would be built to deliver gas to the terminal, crossing nearly 400 streams in the Klamath, Rogue, Umpqua, Coquille, and Coos watersheds.

In related news, there are greener energy developments brewing along the Oregon coast. The state of Oregon has invested more than $10 million in the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, to fund research and other projects to accelerate the development of wave power in Oregon.

In 2012, Ocean Power Technologies, a Pennington, N.J.-based wave energy company, appeared set to build America’s first grid-connected wave energy project, a 1.5-megawatt power station composed of 10 “PowerBuoys” in waters near Reedsport, Ore. Sadly, they abandoned the project earlier this spring.

In yet another development, Principle Power Inc. is a Seattle company with a permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a wind project off the Oregon coast, near Coos Bay.

“We like what Coos Bay has to offer,” said Kevin Banister, vice president of business development and government affairs for Principle Power. “It’s in the middle of a really rich band of offshore wind.”

Principle said it could have five massive turbines spinning by the summer of 2017.

The Wheel Is Turning

The Wheel Is Turning

As my best friend faces his final days on Earth, I am thinking and feeling many things, including how important it is to focus on the right things in life — good times with family and friends, doing meaningful work, battling injustice and pursuing dreams for a better you and a better world. There’s truly no time to hate or to waste.


I know it sounds simple. Do the right thing, honor all people, be kind and considerate. Yet, when you consider how our culture is drowning in negativity—much of it fed to us 24/7 by a voracious and unconscious media—it’s not simple. The reality is it takes all out dedication to the positive to make music and happiness instead.

Right now, I am hyper aware of the gifts we are given in life. DK can no longer walk. When I go on a walk or hike now, I take DK with me in heart and mind. He can also no longer eat food or drink water. Even music isn’t a comfort to him, as cancer eats away his spine and bones. Walking, eating, drinking and listening to music are precious gifts and seeing him do without is a strong reminder of this.

My desire to honor DK has a powerful hold on me. For instance, he always makes an extra effort to stay in touch (even now), which is something close friends do for one another. It is time for me to carry this torch. I want to be more like DK in this way and many other ways. His ability to focus and commit deeply to a path is also highly admirable. This is how you build things in the world, things like an ethics center and a healthy environment for a secular liberal arts education inside one of America’s most conservative counties.

More than any single accomplishment, to me DK’s legacy will be about his commitment to help people become better more fully realized people. DK has always been one of my biggest champions as a writer (along with Darby). I don’t know if I can express how important it is for a writer to have champions. Readers may be the end goal, but without champions you never reach any readers.

As I look to raise my own standards by living up to my friend’s, I reconsider how DK’s unique passion, work ethic and natural intellect helped him reach thousands of students over the years and impact their lives for the better. His eight-part series “An Introduction to Ethics” captures him at his professorial best. I plan to watch and re-watch these lectures for years to come.

Without question, DK will continue to lead and teach well beyond his physical life on Earth. He will live on as long as we love him and look to his life well lived as a source of strength for our own journeys.

Seeing Things Through A Seattle Scope

Since moving to Oregon in August 2008, I have had the extreme good fortune to spend my birthday celebrations with friends and family, mostly in pursuit of wine and food.

This year, Darby and I motored to Seattle early on the 4th. After a morning business meeting and a light lunch on Capitol Hill, we checked in to Hotel Vintage Park (one of three Kimpton properties in the city), before walking over to Seattle Art Museum during First Thursday proceedings. Soon thereafter, the Newmans swooped in to pick us up for the much anticipated birthday dinner in Ballard.

By the way, it is a real honor to travel to another great American city and enjoy a birthday dinner for eight.

When we got to The Walrus and the Carpenter, a tiny room for Seattle’s most popular oyster bar, we were told the wait would be two hours. Normally, that means one hour. On this night the hostess was a woman of her word. It took two hours and fifteen minutes to get seated. Thankfully, an accommodating bar up the historic Ballard street hosted us while we waited to dine on local edibles from the sea.

Writing about Seattle as a Portland resident is kind of like writing about your beautiful “Prom Queen” sister. You either come off as adoring, or bitter.

A year ago, at another fine dining establishment in San Francisco, Darby and I had a great time with three NorCal friends. Our friend Andy spoke about how “abundance mentality” is prevalent in California, while “scarcity mentality” tends to preside in Oregon. The conversation has stayed with me ever since.

Seattle clearly weighs in as an abundance heavyweight. It is an opulent city on seven hills. Part Minneapolis high design, another part San Francisco funky. I have heard mention of the “Seattle freeze,” but I do not encounter cold shoulders there. I find the people friendly and willing to engage in frank discussion, which of course, I appreciate immensely.

I suspect the very things that make Seattle attractive to me, are the things many Portlanders and Oregonians reject outright. As one good friend here told me last week, “Oregonians don’t want (that kind of) progress.” Right. And this is what makes Portland, Portland and Oregon, Oregon. Unlike Seattle and San Francisco, Portland is tucked away, 60 miles upriver from the coast and the world beyond. The city is also nestled in a valley and protected by a wall of western hills and Forest Park green space. To say Portlanders have a fortress mentality may be a bit extreme, but it is also true to some degree.

Of course, Portlanders and Oregonians do have something to protect. Few would argue otherwise. My interest here, in this geo-cultural exploration of three West Coast cites, is mostly about alignment and how we might reposition ourselves as a community. The “G” word, Growth, is seen as an impolite intrusion in Oregon — a reduction of green space and an increase in traffic, pollution and noise. Yet, growth simply is. There’s no way to stop it, and even with an urban growth boundary, there’s no way to maintain a psychic gate around this precious place. The question is how might Oregonians better align themselves with this planetary force?

Urban planners, economists, engineers and politicians have some good answers, but no one group of thinkers or doers has all the answers. The problem however is well documented. The median income for a Seattle family – $91,300 – is nearly half as much more than the family income in Portland of $63,400. To me, that’s a startling difference for two cites 167 miles apart from each other. Also, one in 20 Seattle homes is valued at more than $1 million. In Portland, the ratio is 1 in 100.

If we are to believe the management guru and best-selling author, Steven Covey, “abundance mentality” is something we can choose to consciously manage for personal gain. It stands to reason then, that the people of a city or state might also invite abundance into their lives for the betterment of the community. Too bad there’s no on-off switch to go from scarcity to abundance in a flash. Like most good things, it’s a process that takes commitment, a plan of action and time.

Young Americans Challenging High Technology

YACHT lights me up. Their grooves are infectious and the meaning in their work is at times profound.

I know this is high praise for any artist, but it’s not everyday that a New New Wave band with deep philosophical underpinnings kicks ass like YACHT kicks ass.

“The Earth, the Earth, the Earth is on fire. We don’t have no daughter. Let the mother fucker burn.”

Pop lyrics with juxtaposing ideas. That’s fresh. “Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans make anthemic power jams, play them backwards and soak them in nearly-psychedelic cherry cola inspired live shows,” writes IFC.

“Utopia/Dystopia” is my favorite song right now. Which is kind of amazing considering I generally do not enjoy techno. Of course, YACHT can’t be defined merely as techno. The band is clearly borne of DEVO’s rib, and I respect their weirdness and ability immensely. But there’s more here. YACHT makes you dance and feel good — all while thinking interesting thoughts.

According to YACHT’s Mission Statement:

YACHT is a Band, Belief System, and Business conducted by Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans of Marfa, Texas and Los Angeles, CA, USA. All people are welcome to become members of YACHT. Accordingly, YACHT is and always will be what YACHT is when YACHT is standing before you.

In addition to five studio albums, YACHT is the author of The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights: A Handbook on Overcoming Humanity and Becoming Your Own God, which you can download for on iTunes.

Evans is also a well respected science writer, who “examines the intersections between art, science, technology, culture, and all the lunatic fringes in between.”

Alas, YACHT believes, as I do, in the power of place. In fact, they operate in a Western American Utopian Triangle of their own making — with Marfa, Los Angeles and Portland as the three points in their geographic/geometric formation. My own Western American Utopian Triangle is configured differently — with Omaha, San Francisco and Seattle as my three axis points. Either way, I am charmed by the idea of a vast spiritual territory and the exceptional work of this provocative band.

Eat Your Peas, Or Feed Them To The Hungry

Eat Your Peas, Or Feed Them To The Hungry

Food waste in America has grown 50% since 1974. Today, the average American household throws out 470 pounds of food every year, making it the largest component in our nation’s landfills.

Naturally, this speaks volumes about our culture. Just a few generations removed from war rationing and The Great Depression, Americans waste about 27% of food available for consumption, costing the average family of four roughly $600 a year, according to Supermarket News.

Supermarket News looked at Shelton Group’s Eco Pulse study and found that 39% of Americans feel guilty about wasting food. By comparison, only 7% felt guilty about not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting, and just 6% felt guilty about using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers. So, we’re wasting an obscene amount of food and we feel bad about it.

Meanwhile, too many Americans are dying of obesity while others are starving. When will we learn to properly allocate our natural resources?

In related news, the decomposition of food waste in landfills produces methane, which is 21 times more powerful of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Thankfully, there are real answers to all these problems. First, we can reduce food waste through careful shopping and meal planning. Second, the organic waste we do produce can be turned into energy by biogas plants, like the one being built in NE Portland.