Captain John Smith, reporting from Santa Cruz

The guy at the Santa Cruz bus stop introduced himself to me, twice, and each time he made the same joke (about me looking like the historical/colonial John Smith) and laughed as though it were the first time he’d ever heard such hilarity — so it came as no surprise to me when he told me that he had taken the bus to Santa Cruz (as opposed to driving) so that he “could get real fucked up.”

The first time he told the joke, the guy next to him started rattling off the top of his head all of the facts surrounding the historical Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. The guy really knew a lot, and he was still going, later, when we re-introduced ourselves, me saying my name was “Jon,” and he finishing by telling me that my last name was Smith, like the guy the English guy. Read more

Money, power, and sexual abuse

It’s encouraging (to say the very least) for me to see the “me too” tags on social media. Sexual abuse is rampant (to say the very least), and it’s one thing to know the statistics about the fact that most women will be sexually abused, but it’s another thing to face it and to feel the full weight of it, particularly from women that you know and love, particularly when I think of my own young nieces and the challenges they will face, based solely on their gender. For me, “me too” is encouraging but also heart breaking, but in many ways, that’s the point. Read more

If even the rich don’t seem to want more tax cuts, then what up?

Even the rich don’t want the tax cuts, and I’m not just talking about that good ole, salt-of-the-earth Omaha billionaire Warren Buffet, who has been preaching against tax cuts (and wealth inequaliy) for at least a decade or so. Now other billionaires are “coming out.” Eric Schoenberg is one of them.

“I pay a lower tax rate than you do, which is startling”

“To illustrate this problem, Schoenberg posted portions of his returns online. He wanted to show how much he, a very wealthy person, benefits from our system. He has always benefited from low taxation on his investment income, for instance.” From Meet The New Class Traitors Read more

Wouldn’t you know it

I probably shouldn’t have blogged about losing my chill factor, or about being attacked by acorns, even though it was largely in jest. The Universe apparently didn’t get the joke, and it jinxed me: the very next day I had a confrontation. Yes, things got tense beneath the branches of the wise old redwood trees.

I was exiting the serenity of the redwoods, my chill factor on maximum, when a German Shepherd bounded toward me, barking. It freaked me the fuck out, and not just a little freak out. For me, dogs have always triggered something deeper, especially when they appear hostile. Read more

Increasing one’s chill factor

I’m back in California for the winter. I seem to have fallen into a fairly satisfying nomadic lifestyle of working the summers in Alaska and then spending the winters in California.

California is a good place to write in the winter, especially where I’m at, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, only a half hour bus ride to the beach. Generally speaking, it’s not too hard to find places to chill in Cali, and since I live in the middle of a Redwood forest, I can walk daily among the wise, tall old trees. You would think that such walks would exponentially help one’s odds of increasing one’s chill factor, but the other day while I was on a hike, I was attacked by acorns.

The word “attack” is really no exaggeration. They were dropping all around me with such ferocity that I spent most of the hike with my hands over my head. The acorns hurdled down and pounded the ground with enough force to leave divots in the dirt.

Here’s a pic of “Big Ben,” a Redwood at about the middle point in my hike.

20171011_203039.jpg

Game of Thrones

Having recently concluded the last episode in the most recent season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, my enthusiasm seems to know no bounds. I’m ready to declare it the best damn thing I’ve ever watched, of all time. Then again, I’m fresh off the adrenaline rush, so I’ll hold off in making such sweeping declarations. Read more

It would all be a waste!

In honor of Trump’s recent recommitment to pulling out of the Paris Agreement (like most issues, he seems to go back and forth on it), I’m re-posting one of my favorite cartoons.

wp-1507493826154..jpeg

 

To a pro-capitalist, it makes sense: building a sustainable world would massively slow the economy. But for a capitalist profit and making money are the highest value, more so than life and health and solidarity. The choice is real: money or a better world.

A better world is about life and wellness and flourishing. Money, on the other hand, is about death, it’s about converting the so-called “resources” (i.e. the living world) into money, as quickly as possible.

Banksters and Gangsters: Growing Wealth Inequality

Stats on wealth inequality get a bit hazy, as stats can be. Back when we were protesting with Occupy Wall Street, the wealth inequality number that I remember citing wasn’t about the 1%, it was that 20% of the U.S. population controlled 80% of the wealth. That seemed like a lot to me, back in 2010. U.S. inequality was at the level of “Third World” nations, and it all seemed completely out of control.

We tried to raise awareness, and it worked, we raised awareness, but our political system was too broken to make the kinds of deep reforms needed to change the trends. Obama tinkered around the edges but didn’t put forth the kind of sustained effort that would have been needed to turn it around. So, the trends just keep getting worse.

I’ve always thought of it in gangster terms. Once you’re the mafia boss and you control the wealth and you pull the strings, you can set it up so that you’re getting a piece of all the action. That seems to be the trend. Read more

Keep it in your pants

Fall colors were absolutely hyperactive in Donoho Basin, and I was similarly hyperactive with the picture-snapping. But truly, there are few places that get lit up in the fall like Donoho Basin, and so I returned with a smartphone packed with pics.

 

20170926_130955
Donoho Basin, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, 2017

 

At a certain point, though, I have to just force myself to stop taking pictures, let go, put the camera in my pants pocket, and just enjoy.

 

20170926_125732
Donoho Basin, Alaska 2017

 

 

The Case for Single-Payer

Health care is deeper and wider than most of us probably realize. That came home to me after reading a fantastic article on single-payer healthcare from Jacobin, one of my faves. It’s also a concise and critical review of the Bernie Sanders single-payer plan. Single-payer is shaping up to be the major political game-changer in the coming years. All of the major potential Democratic Presidential candidates have already lined up behind Bernie on single-payer. So, I’m passing this fine article along to my readers.

At the core of the problem is a basic fact: it’s not profitable to insure people who are sick or likely to get sick.

Read more

Donoho Lakes

After crossing the glacier, I emerge on the ridge line of Donoho Basin, and on the one side there’s the glacier that I just conquered, and on the other is a mess of bush and brush.

Last year I was the fearless leader and led our crew toward the general direction of the trail. Or so I thought. In reality we wound up bush-whacking it for like three hours to get to one of the lakes. Had we taken the trail, it would have been like a half hour’s hike.

20170926_155726
Happy camper, @ the second lake in Donoho Basin, 2017

Read more

Socialism and the American nomads

I met Aline this summer. She’s a like-minded adventurer who really squeezed the most out of her first summer in Alaska, spending almost all of her free time hiking and camping and exploring the mountains and trails around McCarthy, AK. She’s also from France, originally, though she’s been in the States for quite some time now.

She read some of my posts on capitalism and socialism. We were eating together, outside on a sunny afternoon in July, and we started talking about it all. Aline’s perspective was international, it was interesting, and I’m still mulling it over.

Basically Aline’s main point (or at least the one that really stuck with me) was that she appreciated American mobility, the kind of uniquely American ability to be transient. We talked about it, and Aline expressed a good deal of sympathy for my pro-socialist and anti-capitalist writings, but said that there were many things about American individualism that she appreciated, and she wondered if we’d lose some of these things, were America to embrace socialism. As a quasi-nomad, I immediately understood her point.  Read more

life being what it is

My blog has a new name! Yesterday I sat down with a coffee from the Coffee Cat, a great little coffee shop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. With some white noise by way of a few high school students chatting in a steady, ceaseless stream about their high school drama, I worked on updating my site, and you can read all about it here, on my new About page.

Donohoooooo!

Last year I hiked to Donoho with four friends: Anna, Alecia, and Irish Paul, a photographer who came to visit Alaska from Ireland. Paul came to McCarthy to visit for a few days with his friends, at the beginning of the summer as they road-tripped Alaska, but when it came time for them all to pull out of town, Paul decided he would stay on for the summer and camp down by the river in a cheap Costco tent. The tent washed out in a flood, but Paul proved more resilient, staying on until the end of the summer.

20170926_130631
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, 2017

Read more