Labor Day: Labor’s Demise Is America’s Demise…

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From Paul Craig Roberts

Labor Day is a holiday that has outlived its time. Like Christmas, Labor Day has become a time-out period. As Christmas has become a shopping spree, Labor Day has become the last summer holiday.

The holiday originated in 1887 to celebrate the contribution made by American workers to the strength and prosperity of the United States. The first Monday in September was chosen by President Grover Cleveland to avoid a May date that would keep alive the memory of the previous year’s Haymarket Massacre in which workers striking for an eight-hour day suffered casualties from the Chicago police.

As time passed union leadership became a career rather than a movement in behalf of a cause, but the labor movement in its initial years was reformist. It brought safer working conditions into industry and manufacturing. Unions served as a countervailing power and constrained the exploitative power of capital. An industrial or manufacturing job was a ladder of upward mobility that made the US an opportunity society and stabilized the socio-political system with a large middle class. A large and thriving industrial and manufacturing sector provided many white collar middle class jobs for managers, engineers, researchers and designers, and American universities flourished as did their graduates.

The Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals…

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From Chris Hedges

The climate change march in New York on Sept. 21, expected to draw as many as 200,000 people, is one of the last gasps of conventional liberalism’s response to the climate crisis. It will take place two days before the actual gathering of world leaders in New York called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the November 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. The marchers will dutifully follow the route laid down by the New York City police. They will leave Columbus Circle, on West 59th Street and Eighth Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday and conclude on 11th Avenue between West 34th and 38th streets. No one will reach the United Nations, which is located on the other side of Manhattan, on the East River beyond First Avenue—at least legally. There will be no speeches. There is no list of demands. It will be a climate-themed street fair.

The march, because its demands are amorphous, can be joined by anyone. This is intentional. But as activist Anne Petermann has pointed out, this also means some of the groups backing the march are little more than corporate fronts. The Climate Group, for example, which endorses the march, includes among its members and sponsors BP, China Mobile, Dow Chemical Co., Duke Energy, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Greenstone. The Environmental Defense Fund, which says it “work[s] with companies rather than against them” and which is calling on its members to join the march, has funding from the oil and gas industry and supports fracking as a form of alternative energy. These faux environmental organizations are designed to neutralize resistance. And their presence exposes the march’s failure to adopt a meaningful agenda or pose a genuine threat to power.

Our only hope comes from radical groups descending on New York to carry out direct action, including Global Climate Convergence and Popular Resistance. March if you want. But it should be the warm-up. The real fight will come once people disperse on 11th Avenue.

Heyday Books Turns 40…

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From SFGate

Since the first carton of newly printed books landed on a Berkeley sidewalk in August 1974, Heyday Books has been telling stories about California that might otherwise never be known: intimate descriptions of an Ohlone Indian village by San Francisco Bay; stories about Allensworth, the African American utopian community that sprung up in the Central Valley in the early 20th century; Joaquin Miller’s accounts of life among the early settlers of far Northern California – to name a few.

At the center of all the storytelling is Heyday founder Malcolm Margolin, a man who lives by the rule that “anything that gets you out of the office is good.” He roams the state, hanging out with Native Americans, artists, writers, naturalists, just about anyone who has a story. Out of these experiences has come a large portion of the eclectic Heyday catalog, including Margolin’s own account of the Ohlones before the white man came.

William Edelen: It’s In the Genes — The Bright Light of Truth

eMy maternal grandparents: Papa and Mama Deaver

From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

Over the entire 40 years that I have been writing “religious” columns… I have received, literally, hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls saying “THANK YOU… for setting me free from the mental prison of organized doctrine and dogma”. Maybe my column today will have a similar effect on human lives, suffering from this issue.

My subject is about ‘GENETICS’ and family history. Why am I writing about that? Because TRUTH matters. And truth is not as bad as our ignorant and half formed fears about it. Everybody today is knowledgeable about DNA (genetics) and its value in family history… relationships… paternity… and so forth. But many remain ignorant about the value of genetics in shaping a human being with values and personality traits and habits. “MAN IS A THINKING MUTANT,” wrote Pascal. And so it is.

You Don’t Need God to Experience Spirituality…

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From NYT

ALMOST midway through Sam Harris’s new book, “Waking Up,” he paints a scene that will shock many of his fans, who know him as one of the country’s most prominent and articulate atheists.

He describes a walk in Jesus’ footsteps, and the way he was touched by it.

This happened on “an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon,” Harris writes. “As I gazed at the surrounding hills, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self — an ‘I’ or a ‘me’ — vanished.”

Had Harris at last found God? And is “Waking Up” a stop-the-presses admission — an epiphany — that he slumbered and lumbered through the darkness for too long?

The Witness…

From Texas Monthly

For more than a decade, it was Michelle Lyons’ job to observe the final moments of Death Row inmates — but watching 278 executions did not come without a cost…

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Ms. Lyons,
Hi, if you are reading this then they killed me. I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed talking to you, you seem like a really great lady. I’m sorry we didn’t meet under different circumstances. . . . Thank you for your kindness. Have a wonderful day.
—Letter from death row inmate Robert Coulson, June 25, 2002

Early one morning  in April, Michelle Lyons pulled up outside her daughter’s elementary school in Huntsville, seventy miles north of Houston. Set deep in the Piney Woods, Huntsville—which is home to no fewer than five prisons—is a company town whose primary industry is confinement. Many parents who were dropping their children off at school that day worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville’s largest employer. Michelle, who sat behind the wheel of her blue Chevy sedan nursing a travel mug of coffee, had worked for TDCJ herself for more than a decade. She had been the public face of the agency, a disarmingly friendly, upbeat spokesperson for the biggest prison system in the nation. Though she had left the position two years earlier, she was still well-known around town, and several mothers waved as her car idled in the drop-off line. “Have a beautiful day,” she murmured when her nine-year-old leaned in to kiss her goodbye.

California’s Drought — Who’s Really Using all the Water?

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From One Green Planet
Thanks to Ron Epstein

Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency for the state of California. 2013 was the driest year in the state’s history – since records started being kept about 100 years ago. State water reservoirs are critically low and farmers, lawmakers, and environmentalists’ growing concerns have gone from a slow drip to a raging storm. Activists and farmers recently joined forces and came in droves from the Central Valley to rally on the capitol steps in Sacramento, demanding action as water levels drop and anxiety levels rise.

California residents have been asked to be vigilant and cut back on household water use, but only about 4 percent of California’s water footprint is individual, personal use. A stunning 80 percent goes to agriculture, according to a recent report from the NRDC and Pacific Institute, so if we really want to talk about drastic conservation, perhaps we should look at our food choices.

Who’s Really Using all the Water?

Todd Walton: $1.50

1.50Photo by Marcia Sloane

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino
[Repost]

“Once, during prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.” W.C. Fields

This just in: Ben Affleck, the movie star, is going to try to survive for five days spending only one dollar and fifty cents per day on food. He is lending his celebrity to the Live Below the Line Campaign to bring attention to the plight of millions of people in America and hundreds of millions of people around the world who try to survive on a dollar-fifty or less for food every day of their lives. Several celebrities I’ve never heard of (I’m old and don’t watch television) are joining Affleck along with twenty thousand other Americans voluntarily partaking of the five-day ordeal. The organizers of the event recommend that anyone wishing to attempt this amazing feat spend their entire budget of $7.50 at the start of the five days by purchasing “pasta, lentils, rice, bread, vegetables, potatoes and oats.”

Clearly, these folks don’t shop where we shop. Pasta? Forget it. Largely empty calories and too expensive. Bread? Are you kidding? At nearly six dollars for a decent loaf? Vegetables? Maybe a few carrots won’t bust the budget. Potatoes? Perhaps a russet or two. Oats? No way. Much ado about nothing. Rice? Brown rice. Yes. A big yes. Lentils? Sure, but be prepared for profound farting, and in lieu of lentils, how about pinto beans with that same fart disclaimer.

A Hundred Walked Out of My Lecture…

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From Sue Blackmore

I’m still shaken by yesterday’s lecture and its aftermath. Oxford in the 21st century was, I’d fondly assumed, the epitome of somewhere I could speak freely and fully, and expect people to listen and then argue and disagree if they wished to. Apparently not.

I was invited to give a lecture on memes by the “Oxford Royale Academy”, an institution that has nothing to do with the University of Oxford but hosts groups of several hundred 17-18 year-olds for two weeks of classes and, I guess, some kind of simulation of an ‘Oxford experience’. I was told they were of 45 nationalities and I assumed many different religions. So I prepared my lecture carefully. I tried it out the day before on my husband’s grandson, a bright mixed-race 16 year-old from Paris, and added pictures of the latest craze for ‘Fatkini posts’ and more videos, including my favourite Gangnam Style parody (Python style), but I wasn’t going to avoid the topic of religious memes – religions are an example, par excellence, of memeplexes that use wicked tricks to ensure their own survival. I simply made sure that my slides included many religions and didn’t single one out.

Looking back I should have seen trouble coming early on. I began with a pile of stuffed animals on the desk that I use to illustrate natural selection. Many laughed at my ‘dangerous predator’ eating them but at the word ‘evolution’ a young man in the second row began swaying side to side and vigorously shaking his head. I persevered, trying to put over the idea that evolution is inevitable – if you have information that is copied with variation and selection then you must get (as Dan Dennett p50 puts it) ‘Design out of chaos without the aid of mind’. It is this inevitability that I find so delightful – the evolutionary algorithm just must produce design, and once you understand that you have no need to believe or not believe in evolution. You see how it works. So I persevered.

Dark Age America: The Population Implosion…

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From John Michael Greer

The three environmental shifts discussed in earlier posts in this sequence—the ecological impacts of a sharply warmer and dryer climate, the flooding of coastal regions due to rising sea levels, and the long-term consequences of industrial America’s frankly brainless dumping of persistent radiological and chemical poisons—all involve changes to the North American continent that will endure straight through the deindustrial dark age ahead, and will help shape the history of the successor cultures that will rise amid our ruins. For millennia to come, the peoples of North America will have to contend with drastically expanded deserts, coastlines that in some regions will be many miles further inland than they are today, and the presence of dead zones where nuclear or chemical wastes in the soil and water make human settlement impossible.

All these factors mean, among other things, that deindustrial North America will support many fewer people than it did in 1880 or so, before new agricultural technologies dependent on fossil fuels launched the population boom that is peaking in our time. Now of course this also implies that deindustrial North America will support many, many fewer people than it does today. For obvious reasons, it’s worth talking about the processes by which today’s seriously overpopulated North America will become the sparsely populated continent of the coming dark age—but that’s going to involve a confrontation with a certain kind of petrified irrelevancy all too common in our time.

Gene Logsdon: How Many People Equals Too Many People? 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Agriculture’s most earnestly held article of faith is that if farmers can continue to increase production to meet the ever-rising demands of population growth, future food shortages and the upheavals that so often follow can be avoided. If you care to look at the situation from a somewhat different angle, the opposite is truer. The more food an agricultural system produces, the more it encourages population growth, and the more the population grows, the greater the chances that social stress, war, genocide and famine will follow. One would think that after elegantly feasting on good food, humans would just want to lean back, belch and enjoy their good fortune. Instead they haul off and procreate more people to join the feast.

I used to brandish Farmers of Forty Centuries as the ultimate last word in sustainable food production and the best answer to avoiding world hunger. I was wrong. That book describes farming in Asia in the early 1900s when more food was being produced  there per acre than anything the gene manipulators or the organic producers today have come close to imitating. All it did was keep population growing so that more food had to be produced. China, especially during its wars with Japan in the 1930s, suffered horrendous genocidal depopulation which in turn disrupted its highly refined and intricate garden-farming agriculture. Hunger followed genocide, did not precede it. North Africa, culminating in the destruction of Carthage, suffered the same kind of fate. It had developed a remarkably productive agriculture in what was mostly a somewhat desert-like environment. The success of that agriculture encouraged population increases that brought social instability, wars, and the collapse of its agriculture. Then came the decline of its civilization.

There was no first human…


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The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism…

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From TomGram

From Asia to Africa to Latin America, Muckrakers Have Corrupt Officials and Corporate Cronies on the Run

In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers areshrinkingfolding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies.Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.

Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.

The Best Reporting on California’s Drought…

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From ProPublica

This year may be the driest in California in half a millennium. These reports explore how the drought is affecting agriculture, business and living conditions in the nation’s most populous state.

After a decade of relatively little rain, California is facing its third year of debilitating drought, and 2014 may be the driest in 500 years. The drought has placed a $44.7-billion-a-year agriculture industry, drinking water for millions of people, and some 204 cities located in high-risk fire zones in jeopardy. In January, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency and in July the California Department of Public Health said at least eightcommunities could run out of drinking water without state action. The State Water Project also shut off its supply to major urban and agricultural water districts for the first time in its history.California is the nation’s largest state economy and agricultural producer, and so the state’s well-being affects the entire country. ProPublica has rounded up some of the best reporting on California’s drought, from fallowed farms to “zombie” water projects.

10 George Orwell Quotes That Predicted Life In 2014 America…

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From Zero Hedge

George Orwell ranks among the most profound social critics of the modern era. Some of his quotations, more than a half a century old, show the depth of understanding an enlightened mind can have about the future.

1)  “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

Though many in the modern age have the will to bury their head in the sand when it comes to political matters, nobody can only concern themselves with the proverbial pebble in their shoe. If one is successful in avoiding politics, at some point the effects of the political decisions they abstained from participating in will reach their front door. More often than not, by that time the person has already whatever whisper of a voice the government has allowed them.

Why We Hurt Each Other: Tolstoy’s Letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Truth of the Human Spirit…

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From Brain Pickings

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills.”

In 1908, Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das wrote to Leo Tolstoy, by then one of the most famous public figures in the world, asking for the author’s support in India’s independence from British colonial rule. On December 14, Tolstoy, who had spent the last twenty yearsseeking the answers to life’s greatest moral questions, was moved to reply in a long letter, which Das published in the Indian newspaperFree Hindustan. Passed from hand to hand, the missive finally made its way to the young Mahatma Gandhi, whose career as a peace leader was just beginning in South Africa. He wrote to Tolstoy asking for permission to republish it in his own South African newspaper, Indian Opinion. Tolstoy’s letter was later published in English under the title A Letter to a Hindu (free downloadpublic library).

The exchange sparked an ongoing correspondence between the two that lasted until Tolstoy’s death — a meeting of two great minds and spirits, eventually collected in Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi and rivaled only by Einstein’s correspondence with Freud on violence and human nature.

Tolstoy’s letters issue a clarion call for nonviolent resistance — he admonishes against false ideologies, both religious and pseudo-scientific, that promote violence, an act he sees as unnatural for the human spirit, and advocates for a return to our most natural, basic state, which is the law of love. Evil, Tolstoy argues with passionate conviction, is restrained not with violence but with love — something Maya Angelou would come to echo beautifully decades later.

If you have ever wondered why the Right Wing is always so down on a liberal arts degree, wonder no more….

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From The Immoral Minority

The other day I happened to see a description of exactly what the Liberal Art teaches us from UCLA, and I thought I would share a portion of it here with you:

Among the intellectual skills that are at the core of a liberal arts education are the following: 1) ability to speak and write effectively in more than one language; 2) ability to think critically, and to form one’s own opinions by critically evaluating arguments and evidence rationally, and without prejudice; 3) enhanced ability in mathematics, and in scientific reasoning ; 4) ability to analyze literature and art to appreciate beauty and artistic creativity, for both pleasure and intellectual enrichment; 5) ability to engage questions of ethics and morality and to recognize responsibility for oneself and society; 6) ability to apply acquired knowledge and analytical skills to new situations, so as to find solutions to new problems that arise in an increasingly globalized and fast-changing world. In today’s economy, employers desire transferable skills – skills that employees take with them to any job, such as written and verbal communication skills, the ability to solve complex problems, to work well with others, and to adapt in a changing workplace — all hallmarks of a liberal arts education. 

The nuclear industry today: declining, but not (yet) dying…

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From The Ecologist

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an account of an industry in decline, writes Jonathon Porritt – with rising operating costs and an ever-shrinking share of world energy production, while the sector loses the race for investment and new generating capacity to fast growing renewable energy technologies.

The 388 operating reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 367 GW before declining to the current level, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago.

Every year, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report reminds me why those in the Green movement who think nuclear has a major role to play in securing a low-carbon world are completely, dangerously off their collective trollies.

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