TECHNICAL


Audio Quality


The Race to the Bottom

by Tom DeVesto

When I was at the University in the late 60s, a furnished dorm room or apartment had a bed and a stereo. Music of all kinds, but in particular rock ‘n’ roll, was becoming the soundtrack for many people’s lives. Folks were bringing back audio equipment from Asia and discovering how great it was to listen to music with real high-fidelity sound. In the US, at that point, there were basically fruit-wood stereo consoles from the likes of GE and RCA—hardly high-fidelity. This spurred a business in the United States with products coming from the likes of specialty companies like McIntosh, KLH, Scott, and Acoustic Research.

Every year the products and the technology got better and better. The recording processes got better and better. The mastering techniques got better and better. We would hurry off to audio shows to hear the latest and the greatest stereo equipment, clutching our favorite vinyl LPs. High-quality reel-to-reel tape recorders were at one time the best way to get the resolution that music lovers were looking for. Then at Advent we introduced the first high-fidelity cassette deck using the Dolby B system in conjunction with chromium dioxide tape. High-resolution music to go was now within everyone’s reach. Every year the sound quality and resolution got better and better, that is until the CD was introduced in 1982.

Although the CD was a great breakthrough in portability it was also the first technology advance that actually started reversing the yearly attempt at more and more resolution. It was the first time that digital compression made up for a lack of the actual performance, to allow information to be reduced so that it would fit on the size of a compact disc. And then the tumble continued. MP3 files, Apple Music, low-resolution downloading, and streaming all brought about a state of mediocrity and created the category of “good enough.”

Although it’s too late to go back to those good old days of high-resolution vinyl, the resurgence of the LP not withstanding (be careful you don’t get one that was actually made from a CD instead of the master recording), it is possible to try to reverse the trend. Ironically, these days in the world of high-end audio the goal with many companies is to “get back to” CD-quality. My how far we have fallen.

Music lovers can get back to listening to their music the way it was originally intended by the artist if they carefully select the method by which they are streaming their music, either from high-quality music services or high-resolution Internet radio stations.

Millennials who grew up on earbuds and cheap Bluetooth speakers have never heard a real high-fidelity sound presentation. Too bad for them.

BIO – Tom DeVesto

  • Operated a national concert PA system and a chain of audio video stores in North Carolina called The Bridge Sound Company.
  • Held senior management position at Advent Corporation.
  • Senior VP of Sales, Marketing and head of R&D Kloss Video Corporation.
  • Founder, President, Head of R&D and CEO of Cambridge SoundWorks.
  • Founder, President, Head of R&D and CEO of Tivoli Audio.
  • Founder, President, Head of R&D and CEO of Como audio.
  • Member of the Audio Hall of Fame.
  • 2017 CTA Innovator of the year.
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XStream by NYA


How to get the most out of your music

by Phil Baker

Xstream by NYA provides the highest quality streaming music ever offered, up to full 192/24 high res quality. That’s typically 20 times more audio data than with conventional streaming services.

Here’s is our advice and recommendations for getting the best listening experience from your computer or phone, which are not capable of playing the files at high res. Instead, they’ll play at CD quality or less. (The exception among phones are LG’s top of the line models that have built in high quality DACs that provide high-res.)

There’s a simple way around these limitations. Simply plug in a DAC, a small hardware device, between your computer or phone and your headphones, powered speakers, or stereo system; then plug in your listening device into the DAC. The DAC is a digital-to-analog converter that bypasses the electronics in your hardware.

Next adjust your audio settings on your computer to use the DAC, following the instructions supplied with your DAC or use these links:

For Macs: [https://support.apple.com/kb/ph25370?locale=en_US For Windows PCs: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-other_settings/how-to-change-sound-control-panel-settings-in/5a70718b-7ecf-4547-a64a-22efda8da0c2?auth=1](https://support.apple.com/kb/ph25370?locale=en_US For Windows PCs: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-other_settings/how-to-change-sound-control-panel-settings-in/5a70718b-7ecf-4547-a64a-22efda8da0c2?auth=1)

We don’t recommend using Bluetooth connections, as they will degrade the sound quality due to their limited bandwidth.

Below are recommended components that we like at a range of price points. We receive no compensation for the product recommendations; the purpose is simply to help you get the most from NYA for all budgets.

We believe you’ll appreciate the higher quality audio however you listen, but these recommendations will make it even better.

Recommended DACs:

Good

– Audioquest Dragonfly Black @$99. Portable, limited to 96/24. https://www.audioquest.com/page/aq-dragonfly-series.html

Better

– Chord Mojo DAC @$550. Portable using internal battery https://chordelectronics.co.uk/product/mojo/

Best

-Ayre Codex @$2000. AC powered non-portable; simply the best available https://www.ayre.com/products/digital/codex/

Recommended Headphones:

Good

-Koss Porta Pros @$50
https://www.koss.com/headphones/on-ear-headphones/porta-pro

Better

-Sennheiser HD1 Momentum @$250
https://en-us.sennheiser.com/hd1-over-ear-headphones-with-mic -PSB M4U2 headphones @ $250
http://www.psbspeakers.com/products/headphones/M4U-2-Headphones

Best

-Grado RS1e @$700 www.gradolabs.com/headphones/reference-series/item/6-rs1e -Audeze LCD2C @$800 https://www.audeze.com/products/lcd-collection/lcd2-classic

Recommended Powered Speakers:

Connect directly to DAC; no amp needed

Good

-Audio Engine A2+ @$249 https://audioengineusa.com/shop/poweredspeakers/a2-plus-powered-speakers/

Better

-Audio Engine A5+ @$400 https://audioengineusa.com/shop/poweredspeakers/a5-plus-powered-speakers/

Best

-Klipsch R-26PF @$1000 https://www.klipsch.com/products/r-26pf-powered-floorstanding-speakers

Recommended Amplifiers:

Good

-Onkyo A-9010 @$200 https://www.onkyousa.com/Products/model.php?m=A-9010&class=Amplifier

Better

-NAD D 3020 @$500 https://nadelectronics.com/product/d-3020-hybrid-digital-amplifier/

Best

-NAD M32 @$4000 with built-in DAC https://nadelectronics.com/product/m32-directdigital-amplifier/

-Ayre Acoustics AX-5 Twenty @$12,950 https://www.ayre.com/ax5.htm

https://audioengineusa.com/shop/poweredspeakers/a5-plus-powered-speakers/

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LAW


EMERGENCY POWERS


What Trump could do by declaring a state of emergency: The Atlantic lays out the worst case scenario...

If the last two years have taught us one thing, it is to take nothing for granted, particularly regarding the stability and resilience of our Republic. We are now witnessing firsthand in Wisconsin and Michigan how one of our two major political parties has become wholly captive to corporate dominance, and how it will behave when its power is taken away by ordinary voters. Instead of accepting the verdict of the people, it will subvert and alter existing law in order to retain power. It will do this in the face of and in spite of widespread, loud public opposition, aided by its own overriding imperative to exert control at all costs.

As John Nichols put it this week in The Nation, the Republican Party is no longer a political “party” per se, but a mere vehicle, a conspiracy for seizing and holding power on behalf of a tiny sliver of the wealthiest among us. If that wasn’t evident from the grotesquely skewed tax cut inflicted on the American population in 2016—the sole “achievement” of the Republicans’ entire tenure in this Congress—then the assaults on Democracy underway in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina prove it beyond any doubt, as gerrymandered Republican legislators working in the dark hours of the night hastily rewrite the powers afforded to their newly-elected Democratic state governors. An insolent autocracy heedless to the interests or well-being of the American people is no longer “creeping” into government from the shadows. Let’s be clear: it is upon us.

This prevailing sentiment among Republicans that they can act to subvert our country’s institutions without any fear of consequence has its apotheosis in the persona of Donald Trump. There has never before been an occupant of the Oval Office so utterly contemptuous of our Constitutional norms, or even the concept of representative government. No other President has displayed such wanton admiration for murderous dictators accountable to no one but themselves. And now, finding himself under threat by the very operation of those laws he despises, there is little if any reason to expect him to behave any less haughtily, and nothing to keep him from grasping for any tool in the Executive’s formidable arsenal to maintain his hold on power.

Elizabeth Goitein co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, Writing for The Atlantic, she reminds how Trump’s anti-democratic rhetoric reached its fever pitch in the weeks leading up to the November midterm elections:

Most of his weapons were rhetorical, featuring a mix of lies and false inducements—claims that every congressional Democrat had signed on to an “open borders” bill (none had), that liberals were fomenting violent “mobs” (they weren’t), that a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class would somehow pass while Congress was out of session (it didn’t). But a few involved the aggressive use—and threatened misuse—of presidential authority: He sent thousands of active-duty soldiers to the southern border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate Central American migrants, announced plans to end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship by executive order, and tweeted that law enforcement had been “strongly notified” to be on the lookout for “ILLEGAL VOTING.”

Without becoming unduly alarmist, Goitein soberly lays out exactly what Trump could do with the Presidential powers he has been entrusted with, should he feel threatened by the prospect of impeachment, for example, preceding the election in 2020. The powers he could exert are reserved to him in the context of declaring a “National Emergency.” And they are considerable.

Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.

Goitein notes that these powers—most of them legislatively granted—are grounded in the assumption that the President will use them in the country’s best interests. But Trump has given no one the impression that he has anyone’s interests but his own in his mind at any given time. So given his narcissistic mindset, given his past behavior and given his repeatedly demonstrated instability in the face of threats to his own personal power, there is no reason to believe that he would do anything but abuse these powers to save his own skin.

The problem that Goitein sees is that we are in uncharted territory with Trump. No one before him has so openly embraced sheer brutality as a solution to impediments to his policies. And while he has found resistance in the Courts, he has gotten away with more than anyone expected, with policies effectively sanctioning Gestapo-like behavior by our immigration officials, the forcible kidnapping of children at our borders, and his shocking repudiation of the historical right to asylum. Those are all examples of how he responds to external threats. The power of declaring a “state of emergency” allows him to turn those impulses inward, towards American citizens who displease or oppose him.

This has happened before in our history—rarely, but it has happened. Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese citizens, Bush II’s program of wiretapping and spying on the American citizens following the September 11th attacks, and Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War are all examples cited by Goitein. And when these powers were challenged, the Supreme Court has, for the most part either genuflected to them or avoided the discussion. We have a much more Executive-friendly Court now that an any time in living memory, and there is no reason to believe the conservative wing that dominates it would act to restrain these powers.

In 1976 Congress made an effort to dilute the power of the Executive Branch to exercise these powers. They failed. There are currently thirty states of emergency still in effect today.

As a result, the president has access to emergency powers contained in 123 statutory provisions, as recently calculated by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where I work. These laws address a broad range of matters, from military composition to agricultural exports to public contracts. For the most part, the president is free to use any of them; the National Emergencies Act doesn’t require that the powers invoked relate to the nature of the emergency. Even if the crisis at hand is, say, a nationwide crop blight, the president may activate the law that allows the secretary of transportation to requisition any privately owned vessel at sea. Many other laws permit the executive branch to take extraordinary action under specified conditions, such as war and domestic upheaval, regardless of whether a national emergency has been declared.

While most of these statutory powers have never been used, again we come back to the fact that we now have a President who clearly feels unconstrained by the rule of law. Just this week we heard Rex Tillerson lament that Trump repeatedly would order him to commit illegal actions. Tillerson had to contain Trump over and over again by telling him his proposed actions were contrary to law.

And here, Goitein takes quite a serious turn, in describing how such powers can be abused. She recalls how George W. Bush leveraged his emergency powers after 9/11 to mobilize the nation for a trumped up war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with those attacks. The consequences of that war are still with us.

There is an ominous provision in the Communications Act dating back to 1934 that permits a President to “shut down or take control of any facility or station for ‘wire communication’. ” Yes, some government officials have reasonably interpreted that to mean the President would be authorized to shut down the Internet, or impede access to it. Goiten says that is not an unreasonable interpretation.

Although interpreting a 1942 law to cover the internet might seem far-fetched, some government officials recently endorsed this reading during debates about cybersecurity legislation. Under this interpretation, Section 706 could effectively function as a “kill switch” in the U.S.—one that would be available to the president the moment he proclaimed a mere threat of war. It could also give the president power to assume control over U.S. internet traffic.

That would include the ability to obstruct or bar access to social media sites by groups or individuals deemed to be in opposition to the President’s policies or actions. And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEP), through which nearly all declarations of a state of emergency are made pursuant, it would also include the ability to restrict political opponents’ or critics’ access to travel (think of the “no fly” list).

The government also would have the ability to impede domestic access to particular websites, including social-media platforms. It could monitor emails or prevent them from reaching their destination. It could exert control over computer systems (such as states’ voter databases) and physical devices (such as Amazon’s Echo speakers) that are connected to the internet.

But a wholesale takeover of the Internet would not be necessary for Trump to inhibit or impede political opposition, in, say, a re-election campaign in which he found himself facing criminal charges and potential impeachment. And that is the scenario that seems increasingly probable as we approach 2020. Goitein posits a hypothetical where Trump, facing a worsening economy and popular discontent with his policies, drums up a phony threat from Iran that seizes the media’s attention. The threat is amplified by levels of magnitude on Fox News, in much same way the phony ”caravan” story was hyped. He hypes it to the point where he can justify declaring a state of emergency based on the supposed “threat” of Iran to the election process. Protests follow, Trump attacks the protestors on Twitter, ginning up his own base to commit acts of violence. Suddenly the National Guard is in our streets for Americans’ “protection.” Since turnout is severely depressed, Trump ekes out the election.

It might sound extreme and dystopian—and it is—but the point is, again, there is nothing to suggest that Trump would not behave exactly the way he has behaved thus far, stretching the limits of his Executive Powers to the extreme maintain to his hold on the Presidency. There is no abuse this man would not countenance if he was advised—by Bolton, Miller or others—that he had these powers, if only he would exert them. And the pernicious impact of state propaganda in the form of Fox News and most “talk radio,” render Goitein’s hypothetical well within the realm of possibility.

The weaknesses of our Constitutional system have already been laid bare by this Administration and its enablers in the Republican Party. Goitein suggests that rather than dwelling on potential nightmare scenarios that the new Congress conduct a wholesale review of those Emergency Powers permitted the Executive under current law. Because there is nothing to stop Congress from re-writing these laws to prevent the subversion of our Democracy by a would-be tyrant willing to lash out against American citizens like a cornered rat who feels threatened by the usurpation of his power.

Nothing, that is, except the Republican Party.

edited by NYA

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A Look Inside the Courtroom


MONSANTO

by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin Baum

*Genetic Engineering,*

roundup mt

*Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company is the first Roundup cancer lawsuit to proceed to trial. Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper, alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).*

Johnson is one of thousands of plaintiffs to file suit against Monsanto in state court over the alleged link between Roundup and NHL. More than 450 other lawsuits filed in federal court are currently pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Since the start of the Johnson trial, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, has provided running commentary of the events in court each day. Here's his post for day 14 of the Monsanto trial:

Following the close of our case, Monsanto’s lawyers, on July 30, made an obligatory motion to nonsuit the case—a Hail Mary motion asking the judge to dismiss our claims on grounds that Plaintiff’s counsel, during the past six weeks, had not produced sufficient evidence to bring the case before the jury.

Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos denied the motion on all issues except our request for punitive damages which she reserved, presumably until the jury returns a verdict. We took that decision as a signal that Judge Bolanos is hostile to Dewayne Johnson collecting punitive damages which usually comprise the largest portion of big reward cases. Reserving a ruling on the appropriateness of “Punis” is a common strategy for judges who frown upon them. After all, the jury might decide on its own to not award punitive damages. In that case, deferring the decision until after the jury returns its verdict avoids an issue for appeal. Furthermore, if the trial court’s nullification of a jury’s punitive damages reward is reversed on appeal, the appellate court can simply reinstate the jury verdict rather than ordering the trial court to hold another full trial on that issue.

That was about the only motion we won from Judge Bolanos all Monday. The rest of the morning was another depressing parade of unfavorable rulings.


Monsanto's Herbicide Expert Has Bad Day in Court


As soon as the court wrapped up its rulings on our motions, Monsanto attorney, Sandra Edwards, called UC Davis professor Kassim Al-Khatib to testify on “weed science” and herbicide use. On direct examination, Al-Khatib told Monsanto’s attorneys that it was his opinion that Johnson’s sprayer could only spray 10 to 12 gallons of Roundup per hour, not the 50 gallons that Johnson had sworn to on the stand. Al-Khatib said that the sprayer, therefore, could not have vaporized sufficient herbicide to soak or sicken Johnson.

Even before Al-Khatib was formally qualified as an expert, my colleague, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, cut Al-Khatib’s legs off on voir dire. Under Wisner’s questioning, Al-Khatib confessed that he had never studied whether glyphosate can cause cancer, the pivotal question of this case.

That was the start of a bad day for Professor Al-Khatib.

Al-Khatib has a long history of being paid to testify for Monsanto on various cases. Under usual circumstances, payment in exchange for “expert” testimony would be a rich and permissible subject for impeachment. Al-Khatib, after all, has incentive to tailor his testimony to keep his Monsanto gravy train on the rails.

A jury should be able to hear this evidence of potential bias. Yet Judge Bolanos ruled we could impeach Al-Khatib only about the money he received for this particular case. The amounts were still substantial—invoices revealed that Monsanto paid professor Al-Khatib $70,000 for 200 hours of work! When Wisner asked what he did during those 200 hours, Al-Khatib said he read one of Johnson’s three depositions and his trial testimony, and reviewed the photograph of Johnson’s sprayer.

Wisner: “And to be clear, that [$70,000] was for you to tell this jury that you didn't think that the [sprayer] drift that Mr. Johnson received was significant?”

Al-Khatib: “Well, to review the case and make opinion about the case, you know. That’s basically what it is for my time.

Wisner: “And that 200 hours, you never actually physically looked at the machine?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t actually go to Benicia?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t actually speak to Mr. Johnson, did you?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t interview his employers?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “Didn’t look at the community records of what his spraying was at the school?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t review any school records?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner: “You didn’t review—I mean, from what I can tell, you looked at a photograph and you looked at one deposition.”

During a brief court recess, Wisner found sprayer data from a Google search. We hurried to make copies and get them stamped as evidence. After lunch, Wisner showed Al-Khatib several descriptions of 50-gallon sprayers, similar to Johnson’s. Their manufacturer’s marketing materials all boasted that their herbicide sprayers were capable of discharging 60 to 120 gallons per hour.

Wisner then confronted Al-Khatib on his financial interests in the continued use of herbicides.

Wisner: “Okay. Sir, you have a financial interest in the use of herbicides, don’t you?”

Al-Khatib: “I don’t really. I’m a weed scientist. I got to give my students, the growers, the best way to manage weeds. So I don’t have a financial interest in that.”

Wisner: “Well, you own two patents, don’t you?”

Al-Khatib: Well, but I own the two patents, and those are not about herbicide…”

As it turns out, that was a fib.

Wisner: “Permission to approach, your honor?

Wisner handed Al-Khatib a copy of his patent application. The title was Acetylh-COA Carbotlase HERBICIDE Resistant Sorghum. Wisner asked, “Do you see that, Doctor? This is one of your patents, right?”

Al-Khatib: “Yeah, this is—I am the patent holder, not the patent owner… these are about sorghum plant that has the ability to resist herbicides.”

Finally, Wisner asked Al-Khatib whether, when he teaches his class on safe herbicide application at UC Davis, does he inform his students about the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as “a probable human carcinogen.” Al-Khatib feigned that he had barely heard of IARC. Wisner drilled down:

Wisner: “You’re aware of the IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a human probable carcinogen; right?”

Al-Khatib: “I read the news brief about it, you know…”

Wisner: “You’ve actually spoken publicly about it; right?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not.”

Wisner handed Al-Khatib an article from the Half Moon Bay Review describing a recent herbicide forum held on the Elkus Ranch.

Wisner: “Sir, I just handed you a document. It’s a newspaper article. Do you see that?”

Al-Khatib: “Yeah.”

Wisner: “Okay let’s just look at what it says and see if it refreshes your recollection. It discusses you, do you see that? It says, “The event… on Roundup, was hosted by Blue Circle, the University of California cooperative extension. It began with a presentation from Kassim Al-Khatib, a University of California Davis cooperative extension specialist and plant science professor.” That’s you, right?”

Al-Khatib: “That’s me. What is this Elkus Ranch? Is that the Half Moon? Because I want to remember where…”

Wisner: “Honestly, Doctor, you were the one that was there so you would know better than me.”

Al-Khatib: “Just go ahead because I need to see…”

Wisner: “At the end of it, Al-Khatib addressed a March report from the World Health Organization that found glyphosate to be a ‘probable carcinogen,’ putting it [according to Al-Khatib] in the same level of cancer with things like anabolic steroids when used industrially. Did you say that, Doctor?”

Al-Khatib: “No, I did not. I was there to talk about glyphosate use. I didn’t talk about all this. I have not even seen this.”

Wisner: “Well, it quotes you.”

Al-Khatib: “Well—”

Wisner: “It says—in response to that, it says that you said, ‘We’ve got to take it seriously. You’ve got to be careful when you use it.’ So, a second ago, when I asked you, ‘Did you talk about it publicly,’ are you going to change that testimony now? You actually have talked about IARC publicly?”

Al-Khatib: “No. I did not touch that. My thought in that presentation is to talk about Roundup use and application of Roundup. So, I never seen this before, what they wrote….”

Ignoring Professor Al-Khatib’s double talk, Wisner grinned at the jury, “The internet is amazing!”

NEXT-Key highlights from the Monsanto trial based off of Robert F. Kennedy's daily entries:

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MONSANTO TRIAL


Monsanto Jury in Historic Revolt Against Judge Attempting to Toss Out Their Unanimous Verdict

roundup-driveway1408

In an unprecedented display of commitment to justice, eight of the 12 jurors and two alternates who served on the Johnson v Monsanto trial, 10 total, took a day off work, left their families, and showed up at the San Francisco Court last week to let Judge Bolanos know they want their verdict to stand. The “Trial of The Century” as many are calling it, resulted in a $289.2 million award by the jury from Monsanto to Dwayne “Lee” Johnson, a school pesticide applicator who contracted a terminal case of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while using Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide products Roundup and Ranger Pro.

Upon arrival, “the courtroom was so full,” recounted Robert Howard, juror number four, in an interview with me, “that one of the jurors had to sit in his/her old seat. The Judge definitely noticed our presence.”

He shared how, for a long time, he and his fellow jurors, for whom he has the highest regard, remained silent. He referred to the saying, “Silence cannot be misquoted.” But when he saw the notice that the jury verdict might be overturned, he and several jurors knew it was time to speak up.

Howard commented to me on his impression of the impact of corporations that he gained by being a part of the Monsanto Trial. “I went into the trial not knowing a lot about Monsanto and it was the evidence at the trial that convinced me this corporation cannot be trusted,” he said. “This was a wake-up call. Being on the jury changed my life. I was interested in the environment before, but this was like, ‘Oh ok... it’s time to get back to work.’ I was angry. I have had a reminder to myself to divest from fossil fuels for years, and after the Monsanto trial- I finally did it. I divested.”

He stated, “I learned at this trial, you cannot trust these corporations. They are putting the almighty dollar before human lives. When you see the evidence in the documents with your own eyes, and you see the people lying to you, when they are sworn in to tell the truth... then you have to do something. That is why I am speaking up now.”

Howard pointed out that he and the jury were instructed by the judge that they could disregard some or all of a witness's testimony based on their credibility. When they saw Monsanto's witnesses, how highly uncomfortable they were and other body languages, the juror determined, very carefully, that many were simply not credible. "When they were performing linguistic gymnastics, doing every they could to avoid the issue of their products causing cancer, we did not see them as credible."

When asked his perspective on the judge’s initial tentative ruling to toss $250 million punitive damages and whittle down the liability to $8 million or dismiss the decision altogether, Howard stated, “The tentative ruling was hugely disappointing. I understand if the punitive damages get reduced. That would not surprise me. That always seems to happen, and I found out there is a precedent for it. Monsanto/Bayer really wants to get rid of this ruling. I know they are chomping at the bit to get this thing tossed out so their market cap can go back up, seeing as there was a 15 billion drop after the trial. However, there have to be punitive damages. Johnson’s family deserves to be compensated for the hell they are going through, and Monsanto needs to be held accountable.”

The jurors did more than show up at the hearing last week, they also wrote several letters to Judge Bolanos, who is still deliberating her decision. A key point, eloquently made by the jurors, was that they “followed her 45 pages of instructions to a T.” They were repeatedly complimented for doing so.

roundup-judgebolanos1408

An excerpt from Robert Howard’s letter reads:

“All parties agree that we were an exceptional jury. We were, in fact, praised by Monsanto, and you, your Honor, for our attention, intelligent questions, etc. Yet our integrity, intelligence, and common sense has been cleverly and openly attacked by inference. The idiopathy issue, the science, the non-economic damages issue, what is and what is not evidence, the higher bar for punitive damages, credibility of witnesses: I got it. I believe my fellow jurors got it. With all due respect, your Honor, I don’t see how this can go both ways. Monsanto can’t ask for a jury, state that we intelligently, and with diligence considered only the testimony and evidence, and methodically weighed that evidence— and then turn around and infer that we must have ignored your instructions and did not comprehend the evidence! It just doesn’t add up. The possibility that, after our studious attention to the presentation of evidence, our adherence to your instructions, and several days of careful deliberations, our unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system. I urge you to reconsider your tentative ruling and to not completely overturn the punitive damages and I also urge you to leave the liability intact.”

The matter at hand is more than whether Monsanto will be held accountable in this one case, (there are 8,700 more lawsuits pending against them) but whether justice will be served. The real issue is one that strikes to the core of our independence and democracy... whether justice can be influenced by pressure from corporations, or not.

After speaking with this jury member and I am convinced that this jury did their job. If the judge were to overturn their unanimous decision after they were repeatedly praised for their diligence by both sides and the judge, then why do we have a justice system? The evidence was clear and fairly assessed. We implore Judge Bolanos to honor the integrity of the jury’s decision and her own assessment of the jury’s behavior.

Organic Consumer Association

Sign OCA's petition to the Judge. Click here.

KPIX News coverage of the jurors speaking out.

Follow the Times - Contrarian ‘LAW’ page 5, for a day by day review of the trial proceedings by Robert F. Kennedy

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Judge Upholds Monsanto Verdict


SLASHES AWARD BY $200,000,000

AP
SAN FRANCISCO — A California judge on Monday upheld a jury's verdict that found that Monsanto's weed killer caused a groundskeeper's cancer, but she slashed the amount of money to be paid from $289 million to $78 million.

In denying Monsanto's request for a new trial, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos cut the jury's punitive damage award from $250 million to $39 million, the same amount the jury awarded for other damages, for a total of $78 million.

Bolanos had earlier said she had strong doubts about the jury's entire punitive damage award. She gave DeWayne Johnson until Dec. 7 to accept the reduced amount or demand a new trial.

Johnson's spokeswoman, Diana McKinley, said he and his attorneys were reviewing the decision and hadn't decided the next step.

"Although we believe a reduction in punitive damages was unwarranted and we are weighing the options, we are pleased the court did not disturb the verdict," McKinley said.

Christi Dixon, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, didn't return phone and email inquiries late Monday.

Follow the Times - Contrarian ‘LAW’ page 5, for a day by day review of the trial proceedings by Robert F. Kennedy

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Day 1, July 9: opening statements


“This case really is about choice. It's about the right of every single person in this room to make a choice about what chemicals they expose themselves, their family or their children to... If you don’t warn, you don’t give someone the choice, and if someone gets hurt from that, or, God forbid, someone gets cancer, then I believe someone should be held responsible for that.”

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Day 2, July 10: Did Monsanto suppress its own research?


On day 2 of the Johnson trial, the jury heard deposition testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Dr. Mark Martens. Johnson’s attorneys asked Martens why Monsanto decided to abandon research conducted in 1999, by Dr. James Parry, an independent toxicologist Monsanto hired as a consultant after deeming him a top expert in his field.

Dr. Parry’s research concluded that glyphosate and the Roundup formulation may cause genetic mutations, a potential precursor to cancer. According to Martens, Monsanto did not allow independent scientists to review Dr. Parry’s research for further study after it was received, nor did the company give Dr. Parry’s research to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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Day 3, July 12: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses the tumors in glyphosate animal studies, and the EPA’s initial findings in 1985, that glyphosate is a "possible" human carcinogen


On day 3, Judge Suzanne Ramos denied attorney Brent Wisner’s request that epidemiology/toxicology expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, be permitted to share his opinions before the jury concerning the amount of glyphosate exposure the state of California has determined causes cancer.

Wisner argued that a previous ruling allowed Monsanto witnesses to testify about foreign regulatory decisions to not list glyphosate as carcinogenic, so it did not make sense to deny the plaintiff the opportunity to discuss California’s own regulatory decision to list glyphosate as a chemical known to the state to cause cancer.

Nevertheless, Dr. Portier testified that his analysis of 13 rodent studies on glyphosate, and the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led him to conclude that exposure to glyphosate causes NHL. Portier said:

“If you have multiple tumors of the same type in multiple species, it adds to the strength of causality. By seeing lots of different tumor types hit in the same animal, the more important it is to the human causal.”

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Day 4, July 13: Dr. Christopher Portier discusses flaws with U.S. and EU regulatory Evaluations for glyphosate.


On day 4, Monsanto counsel, Kirby Griffis, tried to rattle Dr. Christopher Portier during cross-examination, confronting the expert witness with the EPA’s conclusion that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. During testimony, Dr. Portier slammed U.S. and European regulators over their methodology in evaluating glyphosate.

For example, Dr. Portier testified that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed 15 tumors in a series of rodent studies on glyphosate because the agency used the wrong methodology. During cross-examination, he said:

“My entire career been about using scientific evidence to make decisions, primarily about the carcinogenicity of compounds, and we’ve worked for years and years to do that appropriately. This was just so amazingly wrong in the way they were doing it.”

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Day 5, July 16: fireworks during cross- examination as Monsanto lawyer attempts to discredit expert witness.


On day 5, as cross-examination continued Monday, Monsanto counsel Kirby Griffis accused cancer expert, Dr. Christopher Portier, of basing his opinion that glyphosate and Roundup cause cancer on lucrative consulting contracts from law firms and not on scientific evidence.

“You said EPA was ‘so amazingly wrong;’ EFSA was ‘so amazingly, astonishingly wrong.’ ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) got one thing right,” Griffis said, attempting to poke holes in Dr. Portier’s prior testimony about U.S. and European regulators’ evaluations of glyphosate.

Undaunted, Dr. Portier responded: “It’s absolutely clear they’re not using (their guidelines) appropriately.”

During redirect, Dr. Portier also pointed out that a reassessment report for glyphosate conducted by a German agency that participated in EFSA’s review of glyphosate, contained verbatim passages written by herbicide manufacturers.

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Day 6, July 17: Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson called Monsanto to ask if using Roundup caused his skin rashes, later diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


On day 6, Monsanto executive Dr. Daniel Goldstein attempted to rebut plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s allegation that he failed to tell him whether exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused him to develop skin rashes over a significant portion of his body.

In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges he developed cancerous lesions on his body after using Roundup between 2012 and 2015, as part of his groundskeeper job, including two instances where he was drenched in the weed killer.

The jury saw video testimony from Dr. Goldstein, who was asked whether he returned calls that Johnson had made to the company in 2014, asking if exposure to Roundup created the widespread lesions all over his body.

Dr. Goldstein testified that he did not recall speaking to Johnson, though an internal Monsanto email shows that he intended to call Johnson.

“It would certainly be helpful to have spoken with him, and I don’t recall whether I did,” Goldstein testified.

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Day 7, July 18: Tempers flare as Monsanto lawyer becomes visibly frustrated with cancer expert, Dr. Alfred Neugut.


On day 7, oncology and epidemiology expert Dr. Alfred Neugut of Columbia University took the stand and things got a bit heated during his cross-examination. At one point, Monsanto attorney George Lombardi gave the court an inaccurate characterization of a statement Dr. Neugut had made. Dr. Neugut yelled back to Lombardi to stop “misquoting” him.

Another highlight was Dr. Neugut’s dismissal of the Agricultural Health Study, which Monsanto routinely points to as conclusive proof that glyphosate is safe. Like other expert witnesses for the plaintiff, Dr. Neugut told the jury about several key flaws with the study, including the imputation of data to make up for poor follow-up among the study’s subjects, which rendered the study a “throwaway.” Dr. Neugut said:

“You use imputation when you’ve got a screwed-up study with poor follow-up. Unfortunately, this is a case of measurings—with a gold scale, where it turns out the results just don’t turn out to be what they should be because there are so many problems.”

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Day 8, July 20: Plaintiffs oncologist testified that exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma”


On day 8, the court heard from Cardinal Health oncologist and physician, Dr. Chadi Nabhan, one of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s medical witnesses. Dr. Nabhan testified that Lee Johnson’s exposure to Roundup “was a major contributing factor in the development of Mr. Johnson’s cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.”

One of Monsanto’s points of emphasis during the Johnson trial is how long it takes for cancer symptoms to manifest after exposure to a carcinogenic agent. Lawyers for the agrochemical giant say it takes 20 years, which would eliminate Roundup exposure as the cause of Mr. Johnson’s NHL.

Dr. Nabhan, however, told the jury that cancer symptoms can show in just one month. “There is no agreed-upon latency period with these types of exposures and these types of cancers,” said Nabhan, who specializes in lymphomas. “Some patients can develop the disease early on and some patients can develop it in 20 years.”

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Day 9, July 23: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson testifies he “never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm”


On day 9, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and his wife, Araceli, took the stand and gave the jury a heartbreaking glimpse at how their lives have changed since Lee’s cancer diagnosis.

During her testimony, Araceli recalled when Lee first told her about his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe it. My world just shut down,” she said, adding, “I only cried at night... it was very hard.”

In order to make a dent in the family’s rising medical bills, Araceli took a second job working 14-hour days while shuttling her two sons an extra 45 minutes to Napa Valley School District in hopes of providing them better educational opportunities.

When Lee took the stand, he testified in agonizing detail how he tried to hide the pain of his diagnosis from his family. “I’m trying to show my kids an example of how to deal with things and crying is not going to help you,” he said. “But I’m raising two little boys, so I’m teaching them to deal with pain and learn to deal with it and to deal with a situation if it comes to you. And sitting around sorrowful and crying is not going to help.”

Mr. Johnson also made it clear that he never would have used Roundup if he had known it causes cancer.

“I never would’ve sprayed that product on school grounds or around people if I knew it would cause them harm,” Mr. Johnson said in court on Monday. “It’s unethical, it’s wrong. People don’t deserve that.”

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Day 10, July 24: Secret documents reveal Monsanto’s war on cancer scientists.


On day 10, the jury heard video testimony from Monsanto toxicologist, Donna Farmer, who leads the chemical company’s deceptively named Product Safety Center.

Getting Farmer to testify proved to be a challenge. When our legal team sent a process server to subpoena her testimony, Farmer was observed fleeing through a backyard fence of her St. Louis home. We had the block staked out and successfully served the summons.

In her deposition, Farmer adamantly denied that her role at Monsanto was to protect Roundup until she was confronted with an internal company document showing that, in fact, her “number one goal is to defend and maintain the global glyphosate or Roundup business.”

Under questioning from attorney Mike Miller, Farmer admitted that her primary concern was regulatory compliance rather than public health, acknowledging that she orchestrated the ghostwriting of articles for supposedly independent scientists who agreed to defend glyphosate.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

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Day 11 & 12, July 25 & July 26: Disappointing rulings in Monsanto’s favor keeps important evidence from the jury


Judge Bolanos issued a series of rulings on Day 11 that favored Monsanto and prohibited plaintiff’s attorneys from presenting key evidence to the jury.

In one ruling, Judge Bolanos held that plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook, could not offer any opinions or descriptions about a collection of Monsanto’s internal studies on Roundup’s health effects that are highly damaging to Monsanto’s case.

We had hoped to show the jury these documents, which involve transparently deceptive statistical machinations designed to cloud the results of Monsanto’s own glyphosate research. One important internal study shows that glyphosate causes cancer in mice. Another internal Monsanto research study detailed higher human skin absorption rates of the herbicide than reported elsewhere.

Day 12 started with more of the same; Judge Bolanos blocked us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” studies, which found far higher rates of glyphosate and Roundup absorption through the skin than previously reported. The afternoon brought some good news, however, as plaintiff’s expert, Dr. William Sawyer, testified that glyphosate alone is “clearly” carcinogenic, and that Monsanto’s practice of adding chemical surfactants “increase and enhance (Roundup’s) carcinogenicity.”

Dr. Sawyer also noted that Lee Johnson’s job as Integrated Pest Manager for the Benicia School District required him to apply Roundup in ways that maximized his exposure. In fact, Dr. Sawyer testified that Lee sprayed more than three times more Roundup per hour than the average individual in Monsanto’s premier safety studies.

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE MONSANTO TRIAL


by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Kevin Baum

Day 13, July 27: Plaintiff’s expert testifies that Roundup uses a potent surfactant that dramatically amplifies toxicity

On Day 13, plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Charles Benbrook testified that EPA’s focus on glyphosate in isolation is a sham intended to gloss over the more important question of “whether the Roundup formulation itself, not just a single ingredient, is toxic and carcinogenic.”

According to Dr. Benbrook, Monsanto uses a potent surfactant in the Roundup formulated product that dramatically amplifies its toxicity.

The jury also heard videotaped testimony from Steven Gould, Monsanto’s head of west coast sales. In his deposition, Gould acknowledged trading emails with Greg Fernald, a chief marketer for Roundup’s California distributor, Wilbur-Ellis.

Gould complained to Fernald that California school districts were banning the use of Roundup on school grounds.

“It’s hard to understand how against all science and law they can do that—can do this,” Fernald responded. “We are being overrun by liberals and morons, sort of like a zombie movie. So we just have to start taking them out one at a time, starting with the elections next year.”

Unfortunately, since we are before a California jury, Judge Bolanos had us redact out all reference to California, but the video was still effective.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

*Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.*

Read the complete trial history on page 5.

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Religion


with REVEREND BILLY


ONE PRODUCT UNDER GOD


Be with us today.

Give us the strength

So we can leave here and fire that CEO God

  • that made us the chosen people,

  • that made us follow that GPS Fossil Fuel pillar of fire across the desert

  • and promised us that he would kill the beasts, keep us from the wilderness

  • and kill the natives when we got to the promised land.

Please….we’re ready to go sideways now

We’re ready to leave that Pillar of Fire,

leave the fossil fuel behind.

We know that when we look away,

we really believe that it will go away –

It’ll just turn into ashes in the sand.

Let us walk back into the Beasts.

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with REVEREND BILLY


A vision of Paradox - Reverend Billy returns from Athens Greece

Daryl Hannah has made a crucial beautiful film. In the potent eco-system of Neil Young and the Promise of the Real she weaves a tale, and plants some non-GMO seeds in the soul! It is poetry, It’s magic. Earthalujah!

Her magical film - lots of sumptuousness and cleverness and wonderful eccentrics and of course the music - but the beauty of where they live is what got to me. Of course they live there, if you have a choice of where you might live! Live in those mountains.

Daryl did a sophisticated thing in setting the mood, creating a sort of whispering mood, of the film. She created a middle-distance point of view, that is constant, between the camera and the horizon, with the tree and the deer shots especially. After a while there was a general mountain being that was watching the guys, and we viewers too - and you know it made the craggy mens' long silences more meaningful.

In the west, people are used to those silences and there's no hurry, its the personality of being quiet in the big quiet of the west. But a lot of fans who stream Paradox will be from the chatterbox cities and what Daryl does with the Mountain Mind is sort slow the viewer down to the western pace and we start feeling the colors inside the slow-moving parts. At least I hope that's the effect - that's what it did to me.

We are just back from our Athens adventure. Savi (the reverend’s co founder and partner) and I were there 3 weeks, the first week teaching our songs to the Greek part of the choir - ten natives joined 15 New Yorkers. Then after a week we all got together and prepared the performances, 3 of our Fabulous Worships and then 2 parades across Athens under our big banner #TOURISTS AGAINST TRUMP.

The shows were great but with the marching through the old city something outrageous happened - we got tourists and refugees to march together, dance together, rally together. We came away thinking that yes, thats what it will take to back the fascism down, completely unlikely new communities... Tourists are pulled/enticed across borders so they'll spend money and the migrants are shot, drowned, and jailed... but they are both registering the the image of children in cages in the Texas jails, which has roared around the world like the hoses and dogs in Birmingham in 1958, the girl looking up from her dead friend at Kent State, the Flower Man at Tianannmen... the kids in the cages is changing everyone…

Reverend Billy

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artist perspective only v1


THE KING OF TOMORROW


18”x24” acrylic on canvas mazzeo 2015

There are many things in this life that I do not admire or respect, things that I will not cower to or allow them to overwhelm me… things that I will actively resist, and actively oppose….. but, as for hate, I use caution in its presence because I know that hate is corrosive and has a poisonous effect upon one's Mind and Soul.

I bear the gift of creativity, I do not allow corrosive poisons to pollute my world... I am not saying they don’t exist, but they exist only to be personally avoided.

Mazzeo

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GARY BURDEN


A man who lived for art

Gary Burden, always the most handsome man in the room, with sparkling blue eyes, has passed away at 84 years.

My friend for life, Gary was my art director, creating album covers with me for almost 50 years, beginning with ‘After the Gold Rush’ and ending with ‘Paradox’ and ‘ROXY’, my next two albums. I still have some covers for unreleased albums that we made together. They are coming. We probably made 40 covers. I lost count. In the last twenty, thirty or so years, Gary has worked alongside his talented and beautiful wife, Jenice, at R. Twerk & Co, as we have continued on a life-time of making album covers, laughing, loving acoustic music and so many other things. My heart is heavy.

“That’s funny man!” was something I must have heard him say a million times. I hope that feeling stays with me forever!

A passage about Gary from ‘Waging Heavy Peace’ follows:

One of my favorite Album covers is “On the Beach”. Of course, that was the name of a movie and I stole that for my record, but that doesn’t matter. The idea for that cover came like a bolt from the blue. Gary Burden and I traveled around getting all the pieces to put it together. We went to a junkyard in Santa Anna to get the tailfin and rear fender from a 1959 Cadillac, complete with tail lights. We watched them extract it from the car with a blowtorch for us, and we threw it in a truck. After that, we went to a patio supply place to get the umbrella and table. We picked up the bad polyester yellow jacket and white pants at a sleazy men’s shop, where we watched a shoplifter getting caught red handed and busted. Gary and I were stoned on some dynamite weed and stood dumbfounded watching the bust unfold. This girl was screaming and kicking!

Next, we grabbed a local LA paper to use as a prop. It had this amazing headline. “SENATOR BUCKLEY CALLS ON NIXON TO RESIGN”. Finally, we took the palm tree I had taken around the world on the ‘Tonight’s the Night’ tour and placed all of these pieces carefully in the sand at Santa Monica Beach.

I stood there in the yellow jacket and white pants; Then we shot it.

Bob Seidemann was the photographer; the same one who took the famous Blind Faith cover shot of the naked young girl holding an airplane.

We used the crazy pattern from the umbrella insides for the inside of the album sleeve that held the vinyl recording. That was the creative process at work. We lived for that, Gary and I, and we still do. When I called Gary to get the photographer’s name he said, “I’m really glad you like that cover because it was such a fucking winner man!” We laughed about the crazy, wild and screaming shoplifter girl in the Men’s store, remembering that moment. That’s what life is all about.

Gary Mem

I have so many memories of Gary and I doing these album covers. He was a great man and a true artist. Rest in Peace my old friend.

NY

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The B-Side


YOUNG OMEMEE


Omemee - 70 years later

I woke up this morning to see the trees bending and flexing in the winds of Fall. It reminded me of when I was a young boy walking to school in Omemee Ontario. Our little town, population 750, was changing. I was just becoming familiar with the way the seasons turn and I can still remember that wind in my hair, the blowing leaves that had fallen on the ground from the maples, the feeling of Fall in the air.

Winter was coming, although I wasn’t really aware of the seasonal changes yet in my young life. I ambled along the sidewalk through town heading for school. School was King George Public School. I was in grade one. My brother Bob was older than me and so he was in a higher grade, ahead of me as usual. My mother had just made breakfast and I was ready for the day with a full tummy. My dad was already in the attic on his typewriter.

King George Public School is a three story red brick building on the Pigeon River, overlooking the bog, an area of water above the dam that had spread out and become bigger than the river used to be because of the effects of the dam. Stumps of old trees protruded through the water’s surface, surrounded by bullrushes, weeds and a lively assortment of fish, birds and bugs. Canada Geese occasionally flew by as did big flocks of ducks, working their way across the marsh to a safe secluded place.

Arriving at my classroom, I saw Henry Mason. Henry and I were always joking around. We were the class clowns. I loved the attention and laughter that came with it. Miss Lamb, my teacher didn’t.

It seems the day is starting now and I have things to do- things I do almost every day, try to stay in shape, hang out with the love of my life, check my mail, maybe write something...

NY
NYA

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HAS THE INTERNET BROKEN MY MIND?


My mind used to resemble the broad golden mountains of New Mexico, where it was formed. A network of cottonwood trees and rocky streams, deep arroyos with hidden minerals, meadows wide open with potential, teeming with hungry ideas like flocks of birds.

Now my mind is one long flickering screen, an endless stampede of characters, digits, data, gossip. An asylum of inmates screaming for attention, subsuming my mind’s ability to make the fragile connections. All spiderwebs of delicate correlation turned to snarls of cobwebs. How can there be so much information and not want to have it? How can i not want to know everything? Everything.

I once met a man who had claimed to have been enlightened… For a few minutes, in an easy chair, in December. However, he said, as all the knowledge began to flow into him, Just as he began to understand the whole universe, he thought to himself, “Now I know as much as God.” And with that thought, terror seized his heart. And all the knowledge suddenly seeped out of him, Leaving him empty and heartbroken, “With the pain of being left by 100 lovers at the same time,” he said.

My brain, post internet, feels that it might know as much as God. I know the suffering of children from Yemen to Brazil. I know the corruption of men from Oklahoma to Oman. I hear the gossip, the prayers, the curses from around the world and, Goddamn, my ears hurt. My heart hurts, my brain hurts. How does God stand it?

How do we all stand firm against the barrage of so much reality.

  • A tsunami of stories.
  • A plague of data.
  • A scourge of info.
  • An earthquake of facts, true and false.

Lao Tsu received a messenger who carried news from the King’s court. After hearing the message, Lao Tsu washed out his ears, and then gently washed the ears of his donkey, explaining, “Donkeys are very political.” My ears feel so dirty. I’m afraid my ears will never be clean again.

Maybe it’s wrong to blame the internet. Maybe it’s just the jaded wisdom of age. Maybe this is how my father felt as he flipped through his newspaper hurumphing, disappointed with humanity and hightailing it to the crossword puzzle at the the back. Maybe it just takes a traditional 40 years to realize that old dogs don’t learn new tricks, and that humans can’t help being humans. And even donkeys aren’t innocent.

But, I can’t help but want my ignorance back, my blissful naivete. My beautiful mind, my clean ears. I once wanted to understand the world and now I’m afraid I understand all too well.

by Dulcie Ford

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A Man was Very Rich


A man was very rich. He was a good looking and successful developer who loved to build. He saw the world the way it was, the way it had always been. Near his house where he grew up, a certain kind of tree used to grow. He loved that type of tree.

One day he purchased a large amount of land that included a tall hill with many acres of land surrounding it. The hill stood out for miles on a flat plain. There the man built many homes, streets and shopping areas for the home dwellers who would undoubtedly come and purchase his exceptional looking homes. He said they were the most terrific houses he had ever seen anywhere, top class.

When deciding how to finish his new neighborhood and make it great, he selected his favorite tree and had a vision of thousands of the trees growing throughout the neighborhood. The trees were widely known to grow very quickly. They were beautiful fullbodied trees. His horticulturist warned him that the trees he had picked to plant became extremely flammable as they grew older. He fired that horticulturist and searched through many others until he finally found one who did not believe his favorite trees were overly flammable, maintaining that they would burn just like any other tree, disagreeing with almost all of the other horticulturists. His new horticulturist introduced him to one or two other horticulturists who also maintained that his favorite chosen trees were not more flammable than other common trees. The successful man hired them as consultants.

The great man built his own home atop the hill, overlooking the development he had built and he planted his favorite trees abundantly there, surrounding his new home. The only exception was the grand entrance, his driveway ascending to the top of the hill that everyone in the development could see. Indeed, his home could be seen for miles. He lined the drive with larger versions of his favorite tree, so that the entrance looked very impressive. He renamed the tree after his own name. When he built his house atop the hill, a house five times as large and grand as any of the other houses in the developement, his family moved into the great elegant house with the eight car garage full of the finest automobiles, all big fast flashy American cars that used fossil fuel. Not the electric ones.

People loved the way the developement looked and the man sold all of his new homes at a tremendous profit. He was the most successful, richest and smartest business man in the world, he said. The families who moved into his neighborhood were all people like he was; people used to living well. Strangely, they all looked like him and they were all the same race.

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