From SHARON ASTYK
“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.”
The Great Pay Robbery
The successful bank robber no longer covers his face and leaps over the counter with a sawn-off shotgun. He arrives in a chauffeur-driven car, glides into the lift then saunters into an office at the top of the building. No one stops him. No one, even when the scale of the heist is revealed, issues a warrant for his arrest. The modern robber obtains prior approval from the institution he is fleecing.
The income of corporate executives, which the business secretary Vince Cable has just failed to address, is a form of institutionalised theft, arranged by a kleptocratic class for the benefit of its members. The wealth which was once spread more evenly among the staff of a company, or distributed as lower prices or higher taxes, is now siphoned off by people who have neither earned nor generated it.
Over the past ten years, chief executives’ pay has risen nine times faster than that of the median earner. Some bosses (British Gas, Xstrata and Barclays for example) are now being paid over 1000 times the national median wage. The share of national income captured by the top 0.1% rose from 1.3% in 1979 to 6.5% by 2007.
These rewards bear no relationship to risk. The bosses of big companies, though they call themselves risk-takers, are 13 times less likely to be sacked than the lowest paid workers. Even if they lose their jobs and never work again, they will have invested so much and secured such generous pensions and severance packages that they’ll live in luxury for the rest of their lives. The risks are carried by other people.
The problem of executive pay is characterised by Cable and many others as a gap between reward and performance. But it runs deeper than that, for three reasons.
As the writer Dan Pink has shown, high pay actually reduces performance. Material rewards incentivise simple mechanistic jobs, such as working on an assembly line. But they lead to the poorer execution of tasks which require problem solving and cognitive skills. As studies for the US Federal Reserve and other such bolsheviks show, cash incentives narrow people’s focus and restrict the range of their thinking. By contrast, intrinsic motivators — such as a sense of autonomy, of enhancing your skills and pursuing a higher purpose — tend to improve performance.
Even the 0.1% concede that money is not what drives them. Bernie Ecclestone says “I doubt if any successful business person works for money … money is a by-product of success. It’s not the main aim.” Jeroen van der Veer, formerly the chief executive of Shell, recalls, “if I had been paid 50 per cent more, I would not have done it better. If I had been paid 50 per cent less, then I would not have done it worse”. High pay is both counterproductive and unnecessary…
Original article with references here
From Real Time with Bill Maher: Bill Moyers discusses the importance of people power and popular support to help enable the President to do the right thing using Bill McKibben and Occupy Movement, as it relates to Obama not allowing the Keystone pipeline for now, as an example.
Chris Hedges, suing Obama, speaks to Occupy Movement…
500 Referees to “Blow the Whistle” on Big Oil’s Corruption of Congress
Keystone XL pipeline protesters will go on the offensive this Tuesday with a rally on Capitol Hill featuring 500 people dressed as referees “blowing the whistle” on fossil fuel funded corruption in Congress.
Who: 500 referees, a marching band, Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Steve Cohen, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Energy Action Coalition Environmental Justice Director Lili Molina, Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford, and peace and justice advocate Rev. Graylan Hagler.
What: 500 referees blowing whistles, throwing penalty flags, and holding signs that call out individual members of Congress for the amount of money they have received from the fossil fuel industry. After the event on Capitol Hill, protesters will march to the American Petroleum Institute to protest the industry front group.
Where: West Lawn, US Capitol Building
When: 12:00 – 2:00 PM, Tuesday, Jan 24
Why: Despite President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL permit, Speaker Boehner and certain members of Congress continue to push the pipeline, in large part because of the millions of dollars in campaign contributions they’ve received from Big Oil. This sort of bribery wouldn’t be allowed at the Super Bowl – let alone a high school football game – and it shouldn’t be allowed in our democracy. One day before Congress holds new hearings on Keystone XL (and two weeks before the Super Bowl), protesters will “blow the whistle” on this fossil fuel funded corruption and use Keystone XL to hold politicians accountable for their ties to Big Oil.
National Call to Action Made by the Portland General Assembly – January 1st, 2012
Occupy Portland calls for a national day of non-violent direct action to reclaim our voices and challenge our society’s obsession with profit and greed by shutting down the corporations. We are rejecting
1. People are getting rid of bookshelves. Treat the money you budgeted for shelving as found money. Go to garage sales and cruise the curbs.
2. While you’re drafting that business plan, cut your projected profits in half. People are getting rid of bookshelves.
3. If someone comes in and asks where to find the historical fiction, they’re not looking for classics, they want the romance section.
4. If someone comes in and says they read a little of everything, they also want the romance section.
5. If someone comes in and asks for a recommendation and you ask for the name of a book that they liked and they can’t think of one, the person is not really a reader. Recommend Nicholas Sparks.
6. Kids will stop by your store on their way home from school if you have a free bucket of kids books. If you also give out free gum, they’ll come every day and start bringing their friends.
7. If you put free books outside, cookbooks will be gone in the first hour and other non-fiction books will sit there for weeks. Except in warm weather when people are having garage sales. Then someone will back their car up and take everything, including your baskets.
8. If you put free books outside, someone will walk in every week and ask if they’re really free, no matter how many signs you put out . Someone else will walk in and ask if everything in the store is free.
9. No one buys self help books in a store where there’s a high likelihood of personal interaction when paying. Don’t waste the shelf space, put them in the free baskets.
10. This is also true of sex manuals. The only ones who show an interest in these in a small store are the gum chewing kids, who will find them no matter how well you hide them.
11. Under no circumstances should you put the sex manuals in the free baskets. Parents will show up.
12. People buying books don’t write bad checks. No need for ID’s. They do regularly show up having raided the change jar.
13. If you have a bookstore that shares a parking lot with a beauty shop that caters to an older clientele, the cars parked in your lot will always be pulled in at an angle even though it’s not angle parking.
14. More people want to sell books than buy them, which means your initial concerns were wrong. You will have no trouble getting books, the problem is selling them. Plus a shortage of storage space
From GARY KAMIYA
… 198 different methods of nonviolent action. Camping out is one tactic. We still have 197 more tactics to go through, and another 500 to create.
Act II of the Occupy Wall Street movement, San Francisco version, kicked off on a rainy, blustery Friday in the heart of the city’s financial district. Targeting specific corporations like Wells Fargo and Bank of America and emphasizing real, tangible issues like home foreclosures, affordable health care and education as well as broader ones like the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, several hundred protesters – the exact number was impossible to estimate – fanned out across the city, snarling traffic, getting arrested, holding sidewalk teach-ins, and generally serving notice that after its brief winter hibernation, the Occupy movement was back and kicking.
Occupy’s first act, the Tent Phase, ended in early December, when city authorities raided its urban camp at Justin Herman Plaza near the Ferry Building. But even before the tents were removed, it had become clear that the movement needed both to develop new tactics and deepen its strategic vision.
“After the raid, when our attention was no longer focused on [the encampment], people turned back to their neighborhoods and their campuses,” said David Solnit, who is part of a direct action working group associated with Occupy SF. “We started Occupy Bernal Heights [a multi-ethnic, mixed-income neighborhood on the edge of the Mission District], and we had 65 people at the first meeting. We went door to door meeting folks facing foreclosures. We got meetings with mid-level people at Wells Fargo Bank.”
Solnit – who is the brother of San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit – said that OccupySF Housing, a housing-related spinoff of the movement, had held marches in four neighborhoods and succeeded in saving four homes from foreclosure.
“We’re more diversified now, but more powerful than when all our eggs were in one basket,” Solnit said. “Gene Sharp came up with 198 different methods of nonviolent action. Camping out is one tactic. We still have 197 more tactics to go through, and another 500 to create.”
At 6:20 a.m., in pitch darkness, with a miserable rain pelting down in front of the enormous 52-story monolith of 555 California, it seemed like a good idea for Occupy to come up with a new tactic immediately.
From BAY LOCALIZE (San Francisco Bay Area, California)
We inspire and support Bay Area residents in building equitable, resilient communities. We confront the challenges of climate instability, rising energy costs, and recession by boosting our region’s capacity to provide for everyone’s needs, sustainably and equitably. We achieve this by equipping local leaders with flexible tools, models, and policies that strengthen their communities.
Why local? Why now?
Humanity is at a turning point. We’re using so much of the Earth’s resources that we’re endangering the very life-support systems upon which we all depend. At the same time, too many people in our communities are going without the basics to lead healthy lives. The task of our generation is to learn to live happily on fewer resources, to distribute these resources equitably, and to make our communities resilient enough to withstand the bumps in the road along the way.
The goal is clear. Reaching it means coming to terms with climate change, our addiction to oil, and deep social inequalities. Bay Localize creates innovative solutions for communities to meet basic needs in ways that harness local resources creatively, sustainably, and equitably. We catalyze change at the community level by providing tools to chart a path to resilience, and ramping up good models to scale through local policy change. Bay Localize focuses our work where we live in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, but our tools and models are replicated throughout the country and the world.
Bay Localize believes that vibrant local economies and healthy communities are the answer to our growing challenges. They are the best safeguard against global insecurity, an essential part of achieving social equity, and a vital way to enrich our day-to-day lives. Join Bay Localize in creating a hopeful and vibrant future for us all.
With the growing interest in urban agriculture, greywater, rainwater catchment and permaculture solutions, we have a tremendous opportunity to help meet the needs of our communities and boost our local economy. Explore the following Solutions Series Guides to help you get started on making a real difference in your household and neighborhood!
From DENNIS HARTLEY
I’ve sure been hearing the “D” word an awful lot lately. They say that in times of severe economic downturn, people crave pure escapism at the movies. I say, screw that. I wanna revel in economic downturn, ‘cos there’s something else “they” say as well: Misery loves company. So, with that in mind, and in the spirit of a little cinematic aversion therapy, here’s my Top 10 Great Depression Movies. Study them well, because there’s yet one more thing that “they say”: Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.
Berlin Alexanderplatz- When you think of the Great Depression in terms of film and literature, it tends to vibe America-centric in the mind’s eye. In reality, the economic downturn between the great wars was a global phenomenon (not unlike our current situation); things were literally “tough all over”. You could say that Germany had a jumpstart on the depression (economically speaking, everything below the waist was kaput by the mid 1920s). In October of 1929 (interesting historical timing), Alfred Doblin’s epic novel Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story Of Franz Biberkopf was published, then adapted into a film in 1931 directed by Phil Jutzi. It wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that the ultimate film version would appear as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15 hour opus. It’s nearly impossible to encapsulate this spiritually exhausting viewing experience in just a few lines; I’ll just say that it is (by turns) the most outrageous, shocking, transcendent, boring, awe-inspiring, maddening and soul-scorching film I’ve ever hated myself for loving so much.
Bonnie and Clyde- The gangster movie meets the art film in this 1967 groundbreaker from director Arthur Penn. There is much more to this influential masterpiece than just the oft-mentioned operatic crescendo of violent death in the closing frames; particularly of note was the ingenious way that its attractive antiheroes were posited to directly appeal to the rebellious counterculture zeitgeist of the time, even though the film was ostensibly a “nostalgia piece”. Our better instincts may tell us that the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were nowhere near as charismatic (or physically beautiful) as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, but we don’t really care, do we? (Is it getting warm in here? Woof!)
Bound for Glory-There’s only one man to whom Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan
From DERRICK JENSEN
People who read my work often say, “Okay, so it’s clear you don’t like this culture, but what do you want to replace it?” The answer is that I don’t want any one culture to replace this culture. I want ten thousand cultures to replace this culture, each one arising organically from its own place. That’s how humans inhabited the planet (or, more precisely, their landbases, since each group inhabited a place, and not the whole world, which is precisely the point), before this culture set about reducing all cultures to one.
I live on Tolowa (Indian) land. Prior to the arrival of the dominant culture, the Tolowa lived here for 12,500 years, if you believe the myths of science. If you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they lived here since the beginning of time. This story may sound familiar, but its significance has, thus far, been lost on the dominant culture, so it bears repeating: when the first settlers arrived here maybe 180 years ago, the place was a paradise. Salmon ran in runs so thick you couldn’t see the bottoms of rivers, so thick people were afraid to put their boats in for fear they would capsize, so thick they would keep people awake at night with the slapping of their tails against the water, so thick you could hear the runs for miles before you could see them. Whales were commonplace in the nearby ocean. Forests were thick with frogs, newts, salamanders, birds, elk, bears. And of course huge ancient redwood trees.
Now I count myself blessed when I see two salmon in what we today call Mill Creek. Another Tolowa staple, Pacific lampreys, are in bad shape. Just three years ago you could not hold a human conversation outside at night in the spring, and now I hear maybe five or six frogs at night.
From DIANNE MONROE
This is an amazing time to be alive!
“Yeah, right,” my inner cynic says, “crumbling economy, peak oil, peak everything, melting ice caps, mass extinctions…”
The list goes on and on, all woven together, I remind my cynic within, by the fact that we’re living in a time when the old is crumbling, which is when there’s the greatest opportunity to create something new.
And that is an amazing time to be alive!
If you’re alive today, you’re part of this Great Unraveling/ Great Turning, or whatever we choose to call it. If, like me, you’re middle aged or beyond, we’ve lived through the apex of a global empire now passed irrevocably into decline.
When exactly that point of turning was passed is the topic of many discussions. I’m not sure how important it is to know the precise point. We know that something big happened on the way down with the economic crisis of 2008, even if the mainstream economic pundits keep assuring us that prosperity is just around the corner.
We’re experiencing this great crumbling from within, and that’s a very good (if at times painful) thing. In times of crumbling, when the old way of being and doing can no longer hold itself, can no longer hold us in its grip, there’s greater fluidity, a greater opening. In times like these even small actions can reverberate widely into the future.
That makes it an amazing time to be alive.
Think about all the humans that have ever lived. They lived through times of joy and plenty, through wars, famines, natural disasters. They lived through the rise and crumbling of empires.
From WADE DAVIS
Ted Talks video here
You know, one of the intense pleasures of travel and one of the delights of ethnographic research is the opportunity to live amongst those who have not forgotten the old ways, who still feel their past in the wind, touch it in stones polished by rain, taste it in the bitter leaves of plants. Just to know that Jaguar shamans still journey beyond the Milky Way, or the myths of the Inuit elders still resonate with meaning, or that in the Himalaya, the Buddhists still pursue the breath of the Dharma, is to really remember the central revelation of anthropology, and that is the idea that the world in which we live does not exist in some absolute sense, but is just one model of reality, the consequence of one particular set of adaptive choices that our lineage made, albeit successfully, many generations ago.
And of course, we all share the same adaptive imperatives. We’re all born. We all bring our children into the world. We go through initiation rites. We have to deal with the inexorable separation of death, so it shouldn’t surprise us that we all sing, we all dance, we all have art.
But what’s interesting is the unique cadence of the song, the rhythm of the dance in every culture. And whether it is the Penan in the forests of Borneo, or the Voodoo acolytes in Haiti, or the warriors in the Kaisut desert of Northern Kenya, the Curandero in the mountains of the Andes, or a caravanserai in the middle of the Sahara — this is incidentally the fellow that I traveled into the desert with a month ago — or indeed a yak herder in the slopes of Qomolangma, Everest, the goddess mother of the world.
All of these peoples teach us that there are other ways of being, other ways of thinking, other ways of orienting yourself in the Earth. And this is an idea, if you think about it, can only fill you with hope. Now, together the myriad cultures of the world make up a web of spiritual life and cultural life that envelops the planet, and is as important to the well-being of the planet as indeed is the biological web of life that you know as a biosphere. And you might think of this cultural web of life as being an ethnosphere, and you might define the ethnosphere as being the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness.
From RONNIE CUMMINGS
Organic Consumers Union
We are on the road to victory in California with coalition members, strategic allies, and key donors increasing their support all the time. We now have over 50 environmental, alternative health, and sustainable food organizations and businesses advocating for our cause. But, most importantly, we have over 1,500 dedicated CA volunteers trained and ready to hit the streets when signature gathering begins in February. You can go here to volunteer by gathering petition signatures in California.
This November 2012 California Ballot Initiative, which will require foods
sold in California retail outlets to be labeled as such, may be the most important GMO battle of all time. A win in California will mean radical changes to food labels everywhere. Producers will either have to change the way they market Frankenfoods or else stop using GMOs altogether. We think we can reverse the biotech strangle-hold on our food system in our lifetimes.
You don’t have to live in California to donate to this historic ballot initiative.
Consumers everywhere have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in the food we buy, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China. In the past, we’ve successfully fought for labels telling us the country of origin of products, as well as whether foods have been irradiated. Now it’s time to stand up for our right to know which foods are laced with GMOs.
Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and in other state legislatures have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. The California Ballot Initiative will take the issue directly to the people. For more information about the initiative visit California Right To Know and the Organic Consumers Fund.
From TODD WALTON
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Aldous Huxley
I used to know a loquacious drunk who punctuated his pontifications with the disclaimer, “Of course, memories are, at best, only fair approximations of what actually happened, so please don’t quote me.” At least I think that’s what he said. And I took his disclaimer to mean that his memory was not so sharp, whereas my own recollections were essentially photographic and therefore highly accurate. Silly me.
A few nights ago we watched the movie Bedazzled (the original work of genius, not the execrable remake) created by and starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, with a stirring cameo by the preternatural Raquel Welch, and we laughed so hard at some of the scenes I felt five years younger at movie’s end. I hadn’t seen Bedazzled in thirty years and feared the sarcastic romp might not stand the test of time, but it did with ease. However, what did not stand the test of time were my memories of favorite scenes from the film, for they were, as the drunk foresaw, only approximations of the actual scenes.
Indeed, I was crestfallen that my most favorite scene (as I remembered it) only barely resembled the actual scene in the film. Which scene? The one in which Raquel Welch brings Dudley Moore breakfast in bed. In my misremembered version, Raquel’s seduction of the hapless Moore lasts a good ten minutes and features the nearly naked Raquel erotically enunciating each syllable of the expression, “hot buttered buns” as part of an excruciatingly slow build to an orgasmic finish; when in actuality Raquel spat that delectable phrase rapid fire in the midst of a badly blurted speech prelude to seductus interruptus.
A long time ago, in graduate school, my television was stolen and it changed my life. I now had lots of free time. I never understood on a gut level what I was missing until my tv was gone. There was a whole world beyond my living room low rent studio apartment. Jacob Levy once told me during a party, “Fabio, if you don’t watch tv, you had better be very well read.” Indeed, fair ranger, I am now quite well read.
I learned a second lesson. Most television is garbage. Once you unplug and then start watching later, you are immediately confronted with this truth. Ever since childhood, I was accustomed to watching whatever came on. Sure, I had preferences. Some shows are better than others, but I was letting someone throw rubbish at my face every night for hours at a time. For free!
Later, I realized that the issue wasn’t drama or comedy. Ultimately, there’s no harm in having an abnormally thorough knowledge of the Jeffersons and its catchy theme song. There real issue is television news. As a social scientist in training, I began to believe that I am seeking the truth about social life. It’s my calling. It is what I have decided to dedicate my life to at the expense of more remunerative careers. Therefore, it is unethical for me to consume or support cultural products that are misleading depictions on the social world.
You don’t need to be a die hard Chomskian who believes that the media is a mere tool of corporate and state interests, although that does happen to fair degree. Rather, you need to compare social science 101 to what happens on the news.
Example 1: Local television news is driven by “if it bleeds, it leads.” That gives the impression that crime is ubiquitous. Instead, much evidence shows a long term decrease in criminal violence in Western society. Steven Pinker’s recent book on violence merely documents what historical criminologists have known for a while.
From ROBIN BROAD and JOHN CAVANAGH
There is battle raging across the world over who can better feed its people: small-scale farmers practicing sustainable agriculture, or giant agribusinesses using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
It was small-scale organic farmers growing rice for themselves and local markets in the Philippines who first convinced us that they could feed both their communities and their country. Part of what convinced us was simple economics: These farmers demonstrated substantial immediate savings from eliminating chemical inputs while, within a few harvests—if not immediately—their yields were close to or above their previous harvests. From these farmers, we also learned of the health and environmental benefits from this shift.
Moving up from what we learned in the Philippines to examine other countries, we have concluded that small-scale farmers practicing different kinds of what is now called agroecology can feed the world. Agroecology extends the organic label to a broader category of ecosystem-friendly, locally adapted agricultural systems, including agro-forestry and techniques like crop rotation, topsoil management, and watershed restoration. (For more details on our research and conclusions, check out our “Can Danilo Atilano Feed the World?” in the current Earth Island Journal, the magazine of the California-based Earth Island Institute.)
Eager to learn more and network with others from across the globe, Robin accepted an invitation from the Transnational Institute and the International Institute of Social Studies to speak about our Philippine research at a global conference in the Netherlands on alternative approaches to food and hunger.
She came away even more convinced that small-scale farmers are our only hope. She also came away excited to have met an impressive range of experts on the subject, including a bold champion for small-scale farmers:
From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
The Archdruid Report
Last week’s Archdruid Report post, despite its wry comparison of industrial civilization’s current predicament with the plots and settings of pulp fantasy fiction, had a serious point. Say what you will about the failings of cheap fantasy novels—and there’s plenty to be said on that subject, no question—they consistently have something that most of the allegedly more serious attempts to make sense of our world usually lack: the capacity to envision truly profound change.
That may seem like an odd claim, given the extent to which contemporary industrial society preens itself on its openness to change and novelty. Still, it’s one of the most curious and least discussed features of that very openness that the only kinds of change and novelty to which it applies amount to, basically, more of the same thing we’ve already got. A consumer in a modern industrial society is free to choose any of a dizzying range of variations on a suffocatingly narrow range of basic options—and that’s equally true whether we are talking about products, politics, or lifestyles.
I suppose the automobile is the most obvious example, but it has dimensions not always recognized and these bear a closer look. To begin with, the vast majority of cars for sale these days are simply ringing changes on a suite of technologies that was introduced in the late 19th century and hit maturity close to fifty years ago. That’s as true of electric and hybrid cars, by the way, as it is of the usual kind—the hype surrounding the so-called “hybrid revolution” conveniently fails to mention that the same system has been used for more than sixty years in diesel-electric locomotives, and cars powered by electricity were common on American roads before the Big Three auto firms succeeded in getting a stranglehold on the industry during the last Great Depression. Steam-powered cars were also to be had back then—the Stanley Steamer was a famous brand; try finding one now.
What variations can be found nowadays are almost entirely a matter of style rather than substance, and this becomes even more evident when it’s recognized that the auto is simply one way
From MARY BOTTARI
1 Million Petition for the Recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
The petition drive to recall and remove Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has surpassed all expectations, collecting one million signatures in just 60 days. The signatures represent the largest recall effort in the history of the United States.
Petitioners were only required to collect 540,000 by law. They far exceeded this number, making a successful legal challenge of the recall highly unlikely. Volunteers also gathered 845,000 signatures to recall Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and additional signatures to recall four of the state senators who voted for Walker’s collective bargaining bill in March 2011, creating a mountain of paper estimated to weigh over one ton.
As for Walker, he attended a New York fundraiser hosted by no less than Hank Greenberg, the former CEO of American International Group, according to Mother Jones.
Wisconsin Recall Will Make History
The numbers coming out of Wisconsin are stunning. Of the 19 states that permit the recall of governors, Wisconsin has one of the highest thresholds. For governors (and legislators), recall organizers must gather signatures equaling 25 percent of the turnout in the previous election for the office. That means organizers faced the daunting task of collecting 540,000. To avoid losing the election through signature challenges, signature collectors wanted a “cushion” of additional signatures, so they set a goal of 720,000 signatures. They surpassed even that goal.
When California governor Gray Davis was recalled in 2003, residents collected 1.6 million signatures out of 21.1 million eligible voters or approximately 7.6 percent. In Wisconsin, 25,000 trained volunteers had 60 days to collect approximately 1 million signatures from 4.37 million eligible voters… Original article here…
From GENE LOGSDON
There is a growing realization in organized religion that something is awry in our industrial food delivery system. Churches are actively urging their members to become more involved directly in local and family gardening and farming. This is great news for those of us who have been fighting this battle for a long time. Organized religion can be a very powerful force in getting society’s feet back on the ground (literally) and we welcome all the help we can get.
But I am not sure how this is going to turn out. Hardly a week goes by now that someone doesn’t send me a book about church involvement in food production or I am not invited by a member of the clergy or a professor at a Christian college to give a talk, which pleases me deeply. But it also causes me a problem. I hardly qualify as a Christian anymore. I don’t know what I am. Sometimes I lean toward Buddhism but then I read a little more in that direction and don’t much agree with that either. I sort of envy Christians and Muslims because they believe in something so fantastically wonderful as an eternal life of utter bliss. I’ve tried to believe. Just can’t. Sorry. So anyway when I am asked to give a talk about farming at a private religious college or, horrors, in a church, I get nervous. If the inviters knew that I was a godless contrarian, would they really want me to speak? America is a place where “godless” suggests “sinner” or certainly not saint. So I retreat into hypocrisy, giving my talk while cagily hedging my words so that I do not sound too heretical or hypocritical.
Last week when a professor of religion at a private college wanted me to give a talk, I decided it was time to be honest. I told him he might not like what I would say especially about how religious institutions so often glorify rich industrial farmers who practice destructive farming but who give generously to the churches. I told him I was sort of a godless heathen. Did that bother him?
Here was his reply, verbatim: “I am not offended one bit by the approach you are outlining in your email. I am more offended by the vast majority of religious folk who are gleefully ignorant of how their behavior affects the environment and the others around them
Thanks to a new tool from the EPA, you can see how close you live to the country’s biggest polluters.
Looking for some awkward synergy? The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a comprehensive database of America’s greatest greenhouse gas creators. It interactively indexes the 6,700 power plants and other facilities responsible for 80 percent of U.S. emissions, in an accessible online resource that gives interested citizens the ability not only to monitor their local and national pollution, but also to reproduce data-specific graphs and charts to fire off to colleagues and friends on social networks.
The tool debuted the day after President Obama made his first-ever visit to the EPA, a much less impressive debut. Fueled by billions of tons of the greenhouse gases the EPA’s GHG Reporting Program data publication tool dutifully tracks, global warming has recently unleashed an unseasonal hellscape on the U.S., with temperatures scorching some regions 40 degrees above normal. But at least Obama came with his environmental game-face on.
“We don’t have to choose between dirty air and dirty water or a growing economy,” President Obama stumped to a crowd of 800 employees gathered at the EPA’s Washington headquarters. “We can make sure that we are doing right by our environment and in fact putting people back to work all across America. When I hear folks grumbling about environmental policy, you almost want to do a Back to the Future reminder of what happened when we didn’t have a strong EPA. You have a president who is grateful for your work and will stand with you every inch of the way.”
He may joke about time travel, but late last year it was the Sierra Club and many others — likely including some of those EPA employees he addressed for the first time — who wondered aloud whether America had slipstreamed straight back to the Bush regime after President Obama halted EPA regulation of smog and air pollution…Original article here…
From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
For the past 67 years, Americans have been conditioned to expect expansion and more of everything: more income, more stuff, more opportunity, more benefits, more medical care, more government entitlements, and so on.
U.S. politicians have learned that Soaring Rhetoric (TM) about “morning in America,” “the New Frontier,” “hope” and other ritualistic appeals to permanent expansion win elections, while accurate descriptions of reality lose elections.
The voting public’s demand for “permanent good news” promising permanent expansion has spawned a feedback loop of officially sanctioned manipulated statistics and media spin (a.k.a. propaganda) that expands with every administration, even as the real economy visibly weakens. Though the Obama Administration has perfected the techniques of presenting “permanent good news,” the divergence of the real economy and the official “story” that “we’ve returned to permanent expansion” is widening.
The real story is the “expansion” has cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars in new debt and trillions of dollars of backstops, shadow purchases and money-printing by the Federal Reserve. Roughly speaking, $6 trillion in additional Federal borrowing has been blown to simply keep the Status Quo from imploding, and around $13 trillion in guarantees, backstops, asset purchases, and losses made good have been issued to keep the Status Quo’s financial sector afloat and in charge.
By any credible, unmanipulated measure, for example, the number of people with fulltime employment
From DAVE SMITH
To the Editors (AVA, UDJ), Ukiah City Council, Ukiah City Management
For every 2 jobs Walmart creates it destroys 3 (Institute of Local Self-Reliance)… are yours and mine next? Walmart is so desperate to grab every last piece of retail sales it can that, even as it tries to force a huge expansion of its local store on our community, it is downsizing its new stores into “express size” units to kill off even more downtown merchants in urban areas across the US.
A secret behind Wal-Mart’s rapid expansion in the United States has been its extensive use of public money. This includes more than $1.2 billion in tax breaks, free land, infrastructure assistance, low-cost financing and outright grants from state and local governments around the country. In addition, taxpayers indirectly subsidize the company by paying the healthcare costs of Wal-Mart employees who don’t receive coverage on the job and instead turn to public programs such as Medicaid (walmartsubsidywatch.org).
Not only will we lose many jobs and small businesses when Walmart expands its Ukiah store into a gigantic grocery market featuring extremely cheap “organic” produce and meats from China, but even more will be lost as it eventually contracts. Contracts? The Wall Street Journal reports: “Walmart’s U.S. business… has reported declining sales at stores open at least a year for two consecutive years.”
So once Walmart, and the looming Costco store, have killed off their local competition… our supermarkets, our co-op, our family farmers and farmers markets, our downtown family-owned shops… and destroyed our local community networks of economic exchange, it will face its own demise as Peak Oil’s inevitable rising energy costs destroy the big box business model… and the ship loads of containers from China grind to a halt.
From CYNTHIA SALAYSAY
Scores of books depict farms as little slices of heaven on earth, where venison is smoked and butter is churned, and things seem perfect. But today’s farmers are far from unrealistic dreamers, longing for a Little House on the Prairie-esque pastoral ideal. They’re socially conscious doers. And when asked about books that inspire them, they cite writings that are practical, at times poetic, and that beckon them to rescue the land.
Here are some of the books that farmers are reading and getting inspiration from today.
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry. “I had spent seven or so years of my life as a ‘punk’ growing up in the the central NJ suburbs of NYC, disgruntled and disillusioned and looking for real meaning and ways to be in the world, and [Berry] was someone seemingly so disgruntled and disillusioned, yet incredibly intelligent and coherent, with a posited solution of sorts…. Challenges [were] laid forth to take full responsibility for our lives and to truly push against what our culture is feeding us, to move towards a society built around community, equality, a new free culture, and a cooperative economy in which we all work satisfying jobs in support of each other; ideals I cannot imagine any human being would deface. Farming could embrace these challenges and reconnect us with the land and each other like no other, I was convinced.” — Anthony Mecca, Great Song Farm
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. “I read The Good Earth when I was a child, I think I was ten or eleven. I read it again in my 20s, and again in my 30s…. It’s an inspiring novel about building a dream, perseverance. I think the best line is at the end of the novel when it says, ‘without land, you’re nothing.’ It’s a quote my father and mother used to repeat to us kids all the time. So that book always meant something for many reasons.” — Alexis Koefoed, Soul Food Farm
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. “I read it as a freshman in college. This was kind of a critical treatise
From REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING
4 April 1967
Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City
[Please put links to this speech on your respective web sites and if possible, place the text itself there. This is the least well known of Dr. King's speeches among the masses, and it needs to be read by all]
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well