Success or Failure: Which is More Destructive?


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Feeding America - Map the Meal Gap - Food Insecurity in Your County

Feeding America – Map the Meal Gap – Food Insecurity in Your County
[Click on link below to view Interactive Map]
Source: Feeding America

Success or failure: which is more destructive? This is a question raised by Lao-tzu in the Tao Te Ching, simply translated as The Book of the Way. For a society that views success as a goal in life, such a question seems ridiculous. Coming from the Ancient Chinese philosopher, it’s a question that merits consideration.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve have your share of failure along this journey of life. The second novel I’m currently working on is inspired by a period along the way when I messed up big time. It changed the direction of my life, eventually bringing me to this place and moment in time.

Through our failures, we learn what works and what doesn’t. We become more discerning in our relationships. We grow. We become stronger as individuals. Sure, we can allow our failures to destroy us by taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, gambling, or some other self-destructive behavior.

In other words, our failures lead us to success. Seen in this way, failure and success are two sides of the same coin. We can’t have one without the other.

We all want success of some sort: the American Dream, financial security, status, fame. For writers, having a novel on the New York bestseller list would be a definite indication of success. The Pulitzer Prize would be the ultimate success! Some of us set our sights on being the next President of the United States.

Success is the pinnacle of a life well lived, of obstacles overcome, of rivals defeated. The scars, losses, and sacrifices along the way are all part of the game. But the price of success can lead to self-destruction.

Success with fame kills. I think of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Robin Williams. I’m sure you can think of many other celebrities whose lives were destroyed by fame.

Success with power corrupts. Corruption among the power elite on Wall Street, CEOs of transnational corporations, politicians, and world leaders has become endemic across our planet.

Humankind’s greatest success story is the progress we have made through industrialization and technological advancements. We have paid a steep price for the quality of life that our successful “free market” capitalist economies afford us. While enriching the lives of a few, our way of doing business has impoverished billions of people worldwide. In the United States, the world’s most successful economy, Feeding America provided 46.5 million hungry Americans with meals in 2014 (see captioned Map of Meal Gap).

Our exploitation of Earth’s natural resources is destroying the ecosystems on which we depend for our survival. Industries that maintain our comfortable lifestyles have disrupted the complex balance of our global climatic system.

The success of our global “free market” capitalist system of continual economic growth has been the most destructive force on our planet, for all living species, including our own.

If we are to change course, we will have to rethink the meaning of success in our individual lives.

Earth Day 2015: It’s Our Turn to Lead


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Earth Day 2015 - It's Our Turn to Lead

Earth Day 2015: It’s Our Turn to Lead
Image Credit: Earth Day Network

Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day 2015. The theme this year is “It’s our turn to lead.” Our leaders worldwide are dragging their feet in addressing global poverty and climate change. While they debate and make pledges they don’t keep, the degradation of Earth’s ecosystems won’t take a timeout.

In December 2015, around 40,000 world leaders and other participants will meet in Paris at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). [Their] aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. The stakes are high. To make this happen, we have to lead the way by raising our voices as one. Continue reading

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week


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University students demand fossil free investments

University students demand fossil-free investments
Add Your Voice

Fossil Free USA: #whoseside

On April 9th, 48 students launched a sit-in at Yale University to demand their administration divest from fossil fuels, and [in the] evening 19 were arrested for refusing to leave the building. Students asked their administration to pick a side: the people or the fossil fuel industry wrecking our climate.
~ Katie McChesney & the Go Fossil Free Team

“My Final Gift to Life” – Poem by Mahadai Das


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Courtney Crum-Ewing

Guyana-born Courtney Crum-Ewing
Political activist assassinated in Guyana on March 10, 2015

In memory of Courtney Crum-Ewing, Guyana-born political activist assassinated on March 10, 2015, I dedicate the poem “My Final Gift to Life” by Indo-Guyanese poet, Mahadai Das (1954-2003).

Like the other poems in her poetry collection My Finer Steel Will Grow, published in 1982, “My Final Gift to Life” was written at a time of civil rebellion in Guyana, culminating in the assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney, co-founder of the Working People’s Alliance of which Mahadai Das was a staunch supporter. Her awareness of the risk of overtly opposing the then autocratic government is evident in the opening lines of the poem.

Death would be my final gift to life.
Then: if I must die, I must.
Continue reading

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week


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US Solar Ready Vets Training Program

US Solar Ready Vets Training Program
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California
Photo Credit: (Courtesy of Solar Energy International)

President Obama Announces Plan to Train 75,000 Solar Workers by 2020

As part of President Obama’s plans to combat climate change, the White House has announced a program for the U.S. Department of Energy to train 75,000 people to enter the solar workforce by 2020, many of whom will be part of a military veterans jobs initiative called Solar Ready Vets.

~ Administration Announces Actions To Drive Growth In Solar Energy And Train Workers For Clean-Energy Jobs, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, April 3, 2015

Junta: A Novel by Ken Puddicombe


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Front Cover of Junta A Novel by Ken Puddicombe

Front Cover of Junta: A Novel by Ken Puddicombe

What can we do when the armed forces seize power from our democratically elected government, however corrupt?

In Junta: A Novel, set in 1979 on the Caribbean Island of Saint Anglia, Ken Puddicombe explores this question. Taking us within the inner circle of the Junta, he introduces us to General Marks, chief of the armed forces, and his second-in-command, Colonel Stevenson. On a tranquil Sunday morning, while their Prime Minister is away in Barbados attending a conference of Caribbean leaders, the general executes his meticulously planned and bloodless coup.

Opposition to the military takeover comes from Melanie Sanderson, a university student in her twenties who calls on students, faculty members, and the people of Saint Anglia to join her and her friends on a peaceful, protest march to the legislative center.

History Professor Marcus Jacobson, whom she admires, rejects her plan of action, viewing her as naïve: “What chance do you think you really have against them? They haven’t come this far to allow anyone to stop them, much less a band of idealistic students who don’t have any idea of the concept of power and how it’s exercised.”

As Melanie and her supporters set out on their unauthorized protest march, she sets into motion events that will force Marcus to reconsider his position and bring them closer together.

Joining the ranks of the dissidents are Father Bert and Clarence Baptiste, important voices among the people of Saint Anglia. Father Bert, who runs an orphanage in the city’s poor district, is a thorn in the side of the church’s hierarchy for his socialist ideals and his struggle for the rights of the poor that he serves.

As editor and owner of a local newspaper, Clarence Baptiste is not a man easily muzzled. His failure to comply with directives to desist from criticizing the Junta—“that the media gives [them] a chance to fix the problems created by the last [corrupt] government”—results in an anonymous bomb threat.

Puddicombe weaves an action-packed plot heightened by the undercover activities of a criminal gang, led by The Reverend, recruited by Colonel Stevenson to foment unrest and silence the opposition. A self-proclaimed religious leader, The Reverend invokes God’s name while selling his soul to the Junta.

Kentish, Marcus’ driver, gives voice to the hopelessness of the working people: “Nothing ever change. At the end of the day, I still have to work for a living. Voting don’t put food on me table or put clothes on me back. It don’t send me children to school or buy schoolbooks. All them people you vote for, they all just looking out for themselves.”

Are we powerless against military might? Can we make a difference? Melanie Sanderson is hopeful: “Maybe we don’t stand much of a chance. Maybe we will make a big difference. I don’t exactly know, Professor [Jacobson]. But I do know that doing nothing is just as bad as if we were supporting them.”

Our struggle against oppression goes on.

Ken Puddicombe

Ken Puddicombe, a Guyanese-Canadian, was an accountant by profession before retiring to pursue his love of writing. His work has since appeared in newspapers and literary journals. His first novel, Racing With The Rain, was published in 2012.

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week


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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - It is 3 minutes to midnight

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: It is 3 minutes to midnight
Photo Credit: PR Newswire

Climate Change and Nuclear Tensions Push Doomsday Clock Hands Forward

“In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

~ Opening paragraph of Statement from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, Washington D.C., January 22, 2015.

Your US-Brazil Trade Assist: Doing Business with Brazil


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USA Trade with Brazil 2005-2014

USA Trade with Brazil 2005-2014
Source: Your US-Brazil Trade Assist

Finally…I have completed my yearly three-month project of updating my website featuring Your US-Brazil Trade Assist. For the most part, it’s tedious work—checking for broken links—but important for providing users with useful and current information.

Based on the US International Trade in Goods and Services January 2015, published on March 6 by the US Census Bureau, the above chart shows US trade with Brazil over the last ten years. Brazil is America’s ninth largest trade partner with total trade (imports and exports) in goods and services valued at US$72.8 billion, representing 1.8 percent of US trade with all countries. America’s top three trading partners are Canada (16.6%), China (14.9%), and Mexico (13.5%). As is evident in the chart, since 2008 US exports to Brazil far exceed its imports. Given Brazil’s weak economy, the contraction in exports in 2014 could persist this year. Continue reading

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week


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Time to Wake Up: What Big Oil Companies Say Vs. What They Do

Pushing Back against ALEC
(American Legislative Exchange Council)

“ALEC is an organization, which works to undercut climate science and undermine climate progress at the state level, interfering in our state legislatures. ALEC has tried to roll back state renewable fuel standards and has handed out model state legislation to obstruct and tie up the President’s Clean Power Plan.”

~ US Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Speech delivered on the Senate Floor, March 12, 2015

What I learned about politicians and government growing up in Guyana


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Assassination of Courtney Crum-Ewing - Guyana - March 2015

Assassination of Courtney Crum-Ewing – Guyana – March 10, 2015
Photo Credit: Kaieteur News

On March 10, 2015, Courtney Crum-Ewing was gunned down during his one-man crusade in his neighborhood, calling on residents with a bullhorn to vote out the current government in the upcoming May elections.

Growing up in Guyana during our struggle for independence from Britain and over subsequent years under an authoritarian government, I was not surprised by this brutal act against an unarmed, political activist. One of the advantages of growing up in the administrative capital of a small developing nation was the opportunity to get a close up view of politicians and government in action.

At a young age, I learned that the government was not some entity separate from we-the-people, but rather an integral and vital part of our daily lives. When a government is efficient and effective in executing its diverse functions, no one notices its existence. Not so in a small struggling young nation where bad roads took lives; where a movie at the cinema was cut short due to an unexpected blackout; where yards and streets flood during heavy rainfall; where tap water was red in color but declared safe to drink; where the importation of wheat flour was banned for lack of foreign currency… I could go on and on.

I learned that good governance depends upon politicians who place the needs of the people and nation before their personal gains. Corrupt politicians—those who receive kickbacks from local and foreign contractors and consultants, as well as pocket a percentage of foreign investment loans for their personal enrichment—bankrupt the nation, disrupt law and order, and foment moral decline.

I learned that political power in the hands of unscrupulous and narcissistic individuals lead to abuse of power and impunity. Such individuals have no qualms in silencing and executing those who threaten their authority.

I learned that control of the media, public and private, prevents the dissemination of information of vital importance to the population: poor governance, corrupt politicians, failures within the system, and abuses of power.

I learned that when politicians of opposition parties cannot work together in the interest of the nation, the entire system falls apart. With the collapse of law and order, the country becomes the playground of the world’s underworld and exploitative corporations.

I learned that when there is free and fair elections—without intimidation and with foreign oversight—our vote counts. When we fail to cast our vote, we empower those voters who have a personal stake in the current system of influence, abuse, and impunity.

Courtney Crum-Ewing was prepared to go it alone in protesting the abuse of political power and to wake up the population from their apathy. Honor his sacrifice by going out to vote on May 11, 2015. His life mattered. Your life matters. The lives of your children matter.


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