Archive for March, 2012

No Communist Meeting For Me

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Got up too damn late! I take these sleeping pills to get any sleep at all and end up crashing out in the morning and waking after noon. It doesn’t help much, on the days I have school I just don’t sleep. Doctors say I will get back to a normal sleep pattern but I sure don’t know when. It has been a couple of months since I had my opiated sleep interrupted by a change in prescription. Since then I have had a hell of a time getting back into a daytime pattern of sleep.

Now that I have a girlfriend living with me, more or less, I at least have company at night. My other girlfriend doesn’t like being around my machine.

Interesting experience, I went to a Clippers Basketball game at Staples Auditorium with my old girlfriend. It’s a great place for a game. The crowd was large but the acoustics were good, and the game exciting because of the closeness of the score all through the game with Portland. Final score was 98-97. The crowd jumped up and roared as Portland failed to make a basket to even up the score, or to beat the Clippers. It was a nice night. I do not recommend going to Denny’s in Torrance around midnight on weekend nights. It is the only place open, it smells bad, service is marginal and the food often comes late and cold. Other times it is a great place to go.

I am in an interesting relationship, my girlfriend is a super model type, always going off on photo shoots, etc. Half my time is spent telling her how good she looks, seems super model girls need constant reassurance that they are as beautiful as they are. As much as I am a communist anarchist type, I like my girls looking fairly hot. Although I have gone out with girls that were not LA model beautiful, but living here, I have become more and more adapted to LA standards. Strange because I am now fairly average looking. I am no longer the sexy young guy I once was. So what am I doing with a super model type? Well, I don’t exactly know, other than I have a sympathetic temperament. A lot of guys would not be able to deal with their girl going off all the time, me, I just look at that as time to do my shit. Besides I like her stories of what happened to her. Stuff that might have been fun for me when I was younger, and in small doses still is, but now I am content to hear them, when I am not ready to try to keep up with a 21 year old. After all, I have to spend the night on dialysis so partying late into the early morning is not really much of an option. It makes me kind of a mook, but at least if I am going to be mooking around the house I have some nice eye candy. Besides she is smart and fun to be with.

Ok sappy stuff, not what you expect from me. Nothing hard hitting here, I am simply enjoying the first days of new love. It could turn to shit, or it could become a regular thing. Time, that great dictator, will tell. Meantime I have school, and a paper to write comparing Melville and Kafka. Not sure it was a great choice but I am sure I will find something to say.

Today I was thinking about how there are two kinds of people procreators and creators. I have left the realm of procreation, with its wage slavery, to a new life among the creators, people who are free to focus on their art and science. Sometimes they are lucky enough to be both, but often there has to be release, from one to become a participant in the other. I wonder if I still have the juices in me to be creative. Certainly that is what being back in school is all about. It would make an interesting story.

Thinking more about yesterday’s theme, I am seriously wondering if much of our culture is driven by fear of death, in the form of denial based in this extreme culture of sensuality, at least visual sensuality. But I am thinking of urban culture, rural culture, which is dirty and funky and definitely not sexy, is a form of reaction that has been cultivated by the American media. Watch any late night programing on cable and it is full of swamp people, Squidbillies (on Adult Swim, great show), bounty hunters and people in prison. I wonder if those prisoners are getting royalties for participating in reality TV?
This has nothing to do with the general strike coming up. It does have to do with broadening my scope and learning to deal with a new set of realities. The old hippie, punk rock world of my friends is gone. I am in a hip-hop nation where glamour and style are as important as loyalty and reliability. It is important to me that I understand cultural developments and participate at least to some degree, rather than sit on my pompous butt and talk about stuff that happened 30 years ago as if it was yesterday. Today is a new world, what I am trying to see is how much of the enlightenment culture from the 18th century to today has survived and what that means to the future of humanity. With the end of Gutenberg technology, and the entrance of light speed technology into the daily lives, we don’t really have a name for this period yet, it might be named after the inventor of the internet, or the personal computer. So we are on our way into the space age, one in which rocket’s red glare will me something other than patriotic Americans, because soon there won’t be petrol for the rockets to blast with. No it will be totally different technology by the end of the century, and humans will be dealing with a different reality. What an adventure, what will it be?

Penis And Breast Size, Life Extension And The Planet

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

What is this obsession with size? Bigger, and bigger, nobody is satisfied with what they have, Penis size has to be 12″ or longer, Breasts have to be 40″ DD or bigger. Everybody wants to be a porn star. Science, our faithful little friend is now producing Frankenstein’s of erotic gigantic proportions to match our oversized libidos. Two or three girlfriend or boyfriends or tranny friends, is not enough, the very concept of tranny, the third sex, cock and ass pussy, is as highly eroticized as you can get in concept. In reality we are all just people and are all looking for love and affection.

At one point I was thinking it was simply cultural, part of the western drive for individual expression, taken to an extreme of libidinous visual obsession with the body and by extension the erotic mind, freed from any religious inhibitions or taboos. As the culture accelerates at a rapid rate in its ability to promote visual conceptions in the form of internet graphic displays, we become enslaved to the images we project and are always seeking the next more erotic reflection of our more and more jaded desires. But then I was thinking, that is a short term view. Long term it has more to do with the rapid approach of death and decay, the slaughter and annihilation of the flesh in rapid succession in compressed biological generations. Fear of death, and the unknown drives this as much as the liberty we so egocentrically grab onto as a cloak and flag to wave about while we cower naked before the great gnawing jaws of the abyss. We are in the soup and soon to be digested.

I have been blessed with an overactive libido and an underachieving sexual ability, but then that is often the complaint with age, but hell, we are meant to live a thousand years. 70 or 80 is just the end of childhood. The planet is out of alignment; too much radiation gets in from outside the atmosphere and ages the body prematurely. Meanwhile we are barely out of infancy and we die. That is what I learned from my spiritual teachers. It is a very pessimistic yet hopeful view. If we can find a way to strengthen the atmospheric shield and balance out the planetary orbit so it doesn’t wobble and correct the tilt, we might just have a chance for truly long and productive lives. We wouldn’t be in such a rush to get it all done in a period which really should be spent learning and exploring. Certainly not working and procreating. That business should come later, when we are over a hundred years old. In these short lifetimes one can hardly breathe, let alone learn or teach much. It is a wonder we can do anything at all.

Science should focus on the big picture, planetary realignment and atmospheric control for life extension. The rest is just a holding pattern to keep us from extinction.

Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey has famously stated, “The first person to live to be 1,000 years old is certainly alive today …whether they realize it or not, barring accidents and suicide, most people now 40 years or younger can expect to live for centuries.”

The Next Step

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I was going to write about a love commune, but I decided that was pushing my luck. These things have to happen naturally not because I am writing out a game plan. Although it helps to have a plan, it just is better not to advertise how. Besides things have a tendency to come back at you when your ego gets to inflated. I am just lucky to have what I have and hope that I haven’t been too offensive to the cosmic balance. Instead I am just going to say, it would be nice if I could form a love commune and leave it at that. Karma’s a beach.

What’s Going On?

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

I have been in a hormonal haze for the last week or two. Horny as hell, spring fever, whatever, it has been disconcerting to say the least. Chasing after sex, totally throwing my schedule off, throwing money away, and what to show for it, a bunch of names in my address book and some dubious experiences. I guess I am better off on my own, or with a girlfriend who only bleeds me a little at a time instead of taking big wolfish bites out of my pocketbook and psyche. I am not saying all of the feminine persuasion are evil, just the ones I am attracted to. There may be lovely persons out there that I have no knowledge of simply because I am not in the same sensual attraction zone. My pheromones are attracted to the flame, like a blind heat seeking bat. I am cold and tired and I have lots of homework to do and bills to pay. I can only hope that I have not been bleed too much. I shouldn’t complain, after all I did have some fun. But now I have to pack my libido back in its place, in a locked cage on the far side of my personal moon.

I think I need to get back into the political scene again. I kind of lost interest watching Rumy-Santa-Grinch go through the motions of bashing one another with little dog Libertarian wagging his tail behind them. I am not impressed. Obama seems to be playing the statesman fairly masterfully, even though the economic recovery is sluggish, there has been enough relief pumped into the system to keep most of us off the streets and in front of our TV’s.

There is a Million Hoodie March going on to protest the shooting of a boy named Trayvon Martin by some overzealous community watch would be cop. Another guy in the army goes berserk and kills innocent civilians in Afghanistan, and some wannabe Arabic Rambo goes out in a blaze of glory, after shooting children in the head point blank, in France of all places. What a world. How much rage is there pent up in the human breast, all looking for answers and finding only dog shit.

Been A While

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Beautiful girl next to me in bed. Nice change of pace. I have spent so much time by myself on this dialysis machine. I was beginning to wonder if I ever would be able to have a relationship again. My old girlfriend afraid to be near the machine. She would go out with me to restaurants, but never near my machine and having sex in the car or on the beach was getting old. But I have let my political interests slide and school is something I am barely still involved with. I have to get back to my studies and maybe even organize for May Day General Strike. But I really needed to find some love. I hope I have not been making a fool out of myself. But you never know about these things. Perhaps my old girlfriend will start appreciating me again, or perhaps my new girlfriend and I will have a great time together, or perhaps I will discover that I am wasting my time. Oh and there is that book I have to finish and I wonder if anybody out there is interested in my adventures.
Perhaps I will be able to meditate again, but I never had more than glimpses of the divine. That time in India when I was chanting with the devotees and I saw that farmer with his oxen pulled plow by the Ganges, that was timeless, transcendent, or the time in Canada at the Emissary ranch when I heard what seemed to be an ancient voice in my head speaking in Lemurian. Or that time as a child lying in the sun when my stomach felt like melting butter. These and a few others, add up to fleeting moments of vision in a life full of pain and the silence of a narcotic stupor. Years of working at jobs that demanded a modicum of mental ability, common sense really. Not much more, the ability to do simple math and to visualize a finished product. I was a miserable failure as a family man. My son is in France, my other son god knows where, his mind poisoned against me by his mother. I wanted to be a success, she wanted me to be a punk. I ended up neither. Sort of an anarchist, more of a nihilist, believing in Krishna, refusing to accept Jesus, simply because I identify with the old pagan religions, what an exemplary example of human stubbornness.
What vanity. I just hope I have enough good cosmic will, whatever that is to continue for a little longer, at least long enough to get something published. I love the warmth of my lover’s arm on mine as she rolls my way in her sleep. My conceit says my animal magnetism is attracting her, my mind knows it is probably an involuntary motion, science is a cold bitch, but she does deliver the pups.
At least my insomnia is more bearable. Writing at 3 Am, with someone here, makes all the difference. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I just let her Carolina drawl sweep me away. Next day she may be gone, and I will be going back to the books. Studying for that next test, endlessly participating in this waking dream life, I am almost happy.


Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I have been unable to sleep at night lately. It has gotten to the point, for example last night I fell asleep at 8 am and woke at noon. That would be ok if I didn’t have anything to do in the morning, but on Mondays and Wednesdays I have classes at 9:30. This entails getting up no later than 7:30 if I am going to do all the things I have to do in the morning. Today is a flex day at school so I have a break, to study. But the rest of the time I simply don’t sleep those days until 11 am when I can take an hour nap before my next class. It is very disconcerting. The result I think of having been taken off my pain meds and having to take a powerful antibiotic for a yeast infection in my catheter at the same time. The doctors had no mercy when I complained of a lack of sleep and what was worse, a constant pain in the area around my urethra. I had a constant urge to urinate, and it stung, nothing, of course came out except a few drops. I am on Dialysis. The pain has subsided, coincidently at the same time as I stopped taking the anti-biotic. But I still can’t sleep and without the pain pill, my libido has increased to incredible levels. I am horny as hell and porn is too easy to get to. My girlfriend is not sympathetic, so no help there. I can hardly focus on my studies. Instead of having anxiety about my grades I am horn dogging the young girls on campus. Got to watch that, don’t want a rep as a dirty old man. I have to play it cool. But still, it sucks.

The world in the last few weeks has been like a shrunken head sitting on the shelf of a New Guinea head hunter, a memory of battle fought. Seemingly there is no place for the world in my universe, dealing with sleeplessness, pain and horniness, all has led to a very narrow focus. Dealing with doctors, trying to maintain my studies, and keeping my libido from giving me delusions of grandeur is my life. I still apply for jobs almost every day too. So audience, I won’t go into anymore of the gory details of my sad sack life. Sometimes I wish I had gone into the army. What a world.

I still enjoy cooking, especially breakfast. Sometimes at night I imagine what I am going to make. It is becoming my only truly satisfying activity of the day. Luckily this dialysis keeps the weight down. And I don’t eat huge servings, just complex ones although today I got a little over ambitious eating grits, eggs, vegie sausage and toast. I put hot sauce, cilantro, fresh lemon and pepper on the eggs and grits. Wonderful. The eggs were supposed to be poached soft, but they ended up poached medium hard, it was ok, they tasted great with the grits. This is what I am down to, simple sensations of taste. I sure hope I get my schedule back in order soon, or I am going to start spending my nights cruising around LA, and that generally leads to trouble with a capital T. River City gets wild at night. Well not too wild. Its mostly suburbs with workers sleeping after midnite. But there are a few black cats out at 4 am and if I start hanging out then, I will never get to sleep. It’s the dialysis that keeps me chained to the bedroom. Nine hours a night. No sleep. then sleep after the dialysis is over, very bad pattern to get into.

So that is me, for now. Not much. I should be writing my novel or my memoirs or my poetry or some damn thing, but instead I look at porn and toss and turn and listen to the damn dialysis machine. My girlfriend won’t even spend the night anymore. She is freaked out by the machine and the tubes and stuff. I need a nurse for a lover. Oh well, I am going to hit the books. Maybe next time I will write about something important like Syria or Iran.

“I’m going walking after midnight”, like the country song. “Searching for you,” my dear sweet mind.

Who Am I?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Interesting experience, someone tried to deny me my past. This person, someone I don’t know, tried to say that I did not do the things I did. Like he was there. I found it a bit strange that he was so interested in my past. But to claim my past didn’t exist, or that I made it up, is well, disconcerting. Sort of 1984ish. It did remind me of some of the details of those days. And I guess it is time to return to writing my memoir’s before I am too old and senile and forget all together. I think part of the problem is that I was part of the early Punk scene and a political activist, and trying to be some kind of poet visionary, I bounced around the country, with the idea that the underground cultural scene had to be kept in touch with the radical political scene. When the punk explosion hit America, I saw it as an opportunity to maintain some kind of purity, some kind of soulful continuity with the Hippie-Yippie dream of an affluent communist society not based on Capitalism. I was a dedicated druggie, with Tim Leary visions of achieving some kind of psychedelic nirvana.

I feel like a Zelig character now, popping up for some interesting moments in history, then disappearing into the mundane existence of daily life. In fact I had a philosophical position that seeking fame in a blatant ego driven manner was uncool. You do your thing, perform a service and then move on to the next. I lived on a spiritual commune for most of the seventies because it was in my mind the closest thing to what I had imagined the world could be in a concrete form, with farms and collective housing, our own businesses and centers all over the planet. Now they are a ghost of what they once were and I am finding that at least one person doubts I even exist. I guess it’s the name Rumor. I was into this whole revolution thing, living the life, until I was about thirty when I got in a relationship where we had a kid. I immediately wanted to transform myself into a model citizen, hard working, suit wearing, salesman for a printing company. I wanted to be the perfect provider, just like some 50’s dad. It was instinctive to want to take care of my family, It was totally weird to go from the San Francisco punk underground to working for a Cupertino publisher of newspapers, selling press time.

This little epiphany, distracting me from studying, I guess it is good to remind myself sometimes that I have done stuff. Years of working in LA, ducking out from jobs to go to the occasional demonstration, has worn away the past. Social isolation is part of the problem. There are no old anarchist punks around, or rather they are here but mixed in, diffused. But the car culture, distances and general passage of time, reinforces isolation, especially with the alienation that comes with living without a sense of community. I do not consider computer friending to be community. I just feel fortunate to have a girlfriend who puts up with me and my dialysis. There is nothing cute or romantic about being hooked up to a machine every night for nine hours. But it is weirdly addictive. I actually look forward to when I can ‘hook up’ and lay back and turn on the Adult Swim. I have no other place to be, no reason why I should be doing something else. I am prisoner of this grunting, belching device. It sure ain’t hanging out on the beach in the south of France.

Anti-Protest Law Creates Cone of Silence Around Politicos.

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

This was just emailed to me by a friend in Oakland. The implications are that protests at the Republican and Democratic conventions will be less effective than ever if this law is invoked, unless there is a sufficient mass of protestors able to overwhelm the authorities defenses. This new law offers a year in jail if you get caught and up to ten if you throw a brick or return a gas grenade. This simply makes legal opposition less and less an option. We will have to see how pissed people get. If the economy improves this summer it will not be so hot, but if the current spike in gas prices kills the momentum of the recovery, things could get ugly. They had riots in Nigeria when the government tried to end the gas subsidy. Americans won’t riot; they still have a standard of living at least in the upper 25%, no longer number one, but still reasonably affluent compared to China or India at least. But I am diverging into one of my life long fantasies that revolution would happen in the USA. Unfortunately unless the Occupy movement re-gathers some steam, the Tea Party is more likely to be a force than the occupiers ever will.
I have noticed the Green Party coming to life out of its moribundity. Too bad they are not even a viable alternative. They certainly are a principled alternative, at least until they get their hands on some power, then we will see if they sell out like the German Greens. But again, the point is moot, the Repubocrats will not allow the democratic process to get in the way of their lock on power.
The Occupy attempt was a good next step, it got a lot of youths involved that might have remained apathetic. But it is still not credible, not unless the organization can either put up candidates for office, or get behind something like the Green Party. Right now anti-politic politicos dominate the Occupy movement and they are suppressing its ability to be more than an extension of the anarchist movement. Now if Occupy had become big enough to actually topple a local government or two, then I would say go for it, this is the methodology to follow. But as it is, it is contained and unless the alliance with labor pans out, and I seriously doubt that, I don’t know where they will go besides help Obama get re-elected.
Instead of preparing to take over the system by creating a party, too many fantasize about a general strike that will take it down. This is not Egypt my friends, this is the heart of the beast. It would be nice if everyone simply decided to walk away and call it a day. Simply drop the guns and go home. That certainly would be a Gandhian victory. Perhaps after so many years I have decided it is better to protect what we have and work incrementally to socialism. That means Parties and politics and organizing. It is not glamorous and it certainly would be more exciting if we could simply blow it over in one great heave. All of us, let’s get a handle on it and throw it all over.

From World Socialist Web Site

US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law

By Tom Carter
3 March 2012

A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader.

The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.

The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.

Among the central provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that would make it a criminal offense to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.”

The bill defines the areas that qualify as “restricted” in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include “a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

The Secret Service provides bodyguards not just to the US president, but to a broad layer of top figures in the political establishment, including presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries.

Even more sinister is the provision regarding events of “national significance.” What circumstances constitute events of “national significance” is left to the unbridled discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The occasion for virtually any large protest could be designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an event of “national significance,” making any demonstrations in the vicinity illegal.

For certain, included among such events would be the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which have been classified as National Special Security Events (NSSE), a category created under the Clinton administration. These conventions have been the occasion for protests that have been subjected to ever increasing police restrictions and repression. Under H.R. 347, future protests at such events could be outright criminalized.

The standard punishment under the new law is a fine and up to one year in prison. If a weapon or serious physical injury is involved, the penalty may be increased to up to ten years.

Also criminalized by the bill is conduct “that impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” and “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.” These provisions, even more so than the provisions creating “restricted areas,” threaten to criminalize a broad range of protest activities that were previously perfectly legal.

In order to appreciate the unprecedented sweep of H.R. 347, it is necessary to consider a few examples:

 A wide area around the next G-20 meeting or other global summit could be designated “restricted” by the Secret Service, such that any person who “enters” a that area can be subject to a fine and a year in jail under Section 1752(a)(1) (making it a felony to enter any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so).

 Senator Rick Santorum, the ultra-right Republican presidential candidate, enjoys the protection of the Secret Service. Accordingly, a person who shouts “boo!” during a speech by Santorum could be subject to arrest and a year of imprisonment under Section 1752(a)(2) (making it a felony to “engag[e] in disorderly or disruptive conduct in” a restricted area).

 Striking government workers who form a picket line near any event of “national significance” can be locked up under Section 1752(a)(3) (making it a crime to imped[e] ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds).

Under the ancien regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through. Similarly, H.R. 347 creates for the US president and other top officials a protest-free bubble or “no-free-speech zone” that follows them wherever they go, making sure the discontented multitude is kept out of the picture.

The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is plainly in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which was passed in 1791 in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The arrogance of the Democratic and Republican politicians is staggering—what part of “Congress shall make no law” do they not understand?)

H.R. 347 comes on the heels of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed by President Obama into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA gives the president the power to order the assassination and incarceration of any person—including a US citizen—anywhere in the world without charge or trial.

The passage of H.R. 347 has been the subject of a virtual blackout in the media. In light of the unprecedented nature of the bill, which would effectively overturn the First Amendment, this blackout cannot be innocent. The media silence therefore represents a conscious effort to keep the American population in the dark as to the government’s efforts to eviscerate the Bill of Rights.

The bill would vastly expand a previous law making it misdemeanor to trespass on the grounds of the White House. An earlier version of the bill would have made it a felony just to “conspire” to engage in any of the conduct described above. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.

What lies behind the unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012 and beyond, as austerity measures and the crashing economy make the conditions of life more and more impossible for the working class. The virtually unanimous support in Congress H.R. 347, among Democrats as well as Republicans, reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule.

This sentiment was most directly expressed this week by Wyoming Republican legislator David Miller, who recently introduced a bill into the state legislature that would give the state the power, in an “emergency,” to create its own standing army through conscription, print its own currency, acquire military aircraft, suspend the legislature, and establish martial law. “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. Repeating arguments employed by every military dictatorship over the past century, Miller declared, “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.” Miller’s so-called “doomsday law” was defeated in the Wyoming legislature Tuesday by the narrow margin of 30-27.

Plastic Soup Fills Ocean Gyres

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

From the Independent

The world’s rubbish dump: a tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan
By Kathy Marks , Asia-Pacific Correspondent , and Daniel Howden Tuesday 05 February 2008

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic,” he added.

The “soup” is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. “Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by,” he said in an interview. “How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?”

Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.

Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and nature of the plastic soup but that there was “no reason to doubt” Algalita’s findings.

“After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine ecosystems.”

Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. “Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere,” said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.

Mr Moore said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water’s surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs. “You only see it from the bows of ships,” he said.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.

Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic,

Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It’s that simple,” said Dr Eriksen.

NOAA version of the “Garbage Patch”

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