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The way of the belt lasts lifetimes…

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From The Guardian

The toxic effect of discipline – abuse, self-delusion or both – is that you almost have to move on. But we can never move on. Sometimes it stops because you move out. Or because you realize that if both of you don’t grow up, one of you is going to die. 

There are many possible reactions to reports that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beat two of his children. To return to the NFL’s obsession of ethics via optics, you could wonder why his teammates were dismissed from the Vikings after they were arrested, while until Wednesday morning Peterson was expected to play. You could even wonder why the Minnesota governor would call for Peterson’s suspension after, just a year ago, posing for a picture with a Vikings team owner who had been fined $85m for fraud for actions a judge labeled criminal racketeering.

But all those are abstractions – the NFL as hypocrisy, as undiluted power masquerading as moral strength, the normative state of the NFL at this point. Instead, if, like me, you are about to become a parent soon, and if, like me, you were disciplined physically as a child, you look at Adrian Peterson – the man who says “I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child” – and you wonder the same thing:

Will I become that?

The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises — Change in a Time of Climate Change…

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From Rebecca Solnit

There have undoubtedly been stable periods in human history, but you and your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never lived through one, and neither will any children or grandchildren you may have or come to have. Everything has been changing continuously, profoundly — from the role of women to the nature of agriculture. For the past couple of hundred years, change has been accelerating in both magnificent and nightmarish ways.

Yet when we argue for change, notably changing our ways in response to climate change, we’re arguing against people who claim we’re disrupting a stable system.  They insist that we’re rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing. Those who think they’re hanging onto a stable order are actually clinging to the wreckage of the old order, a ship already sinking, that we need to leave behind.

The Slaver’s Objectivity…

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From Jacobin Magazine

Their latest review was no fluke — the Economist will always find the master’s viewpoint more “objective,” regardless of the evidence provided…

The Economist’s controversial review of Edward Baptist’s new book ends on a feverish crescendo of denial about the fundamentals of American slavery: that slaves were slaves and masters, masters — with all the brutality, coercion, and punishment that relationship entails.

Accordingly, the publication has retracted the piece and issued an apology, but the loss of credibility will probably be lasting. The irony is that their indictment of Baptist’s exhaustive book decries its lack of objectivity. To this end, tucked away in the last paragraphs of the review is a surprising and somewhat obscure reference to Hugh Thomas’s 1997 book, The Slave Trade.

I’ve had the misfortune of getting to know Hugh Thomas’s book quite well. For my empirical work testing Eric Williams’ hypothesis that the Atlantic slave trade spurred capitalist development in Europe, I turned to Thomas to delve into the mind of slave traders, to understand their motivations and choices.

The drought is destroying California’s organic dairy farms…

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From Grist

“Roll down your window for a second and tell me what you smell,” Rosie Burroughs instructs me. It’s early March and I’m in the passenger seat of her gigantic white Ford pickup truck, bouncing down a narrow, potholed dirt road on her farm in the rolling hills just east of Turlock, Calif. Her husband, Ward is sitting in the driver’s seat.

The Burroughs’ 4,000 acres of sweeping organic grasslands, which practically rest under the shadow of Yosemite’s Half Dome, are a pastoral dream. On the Saturday afternoon of my visit, a storm was brewing over the purplish mountains, sending gusts of pink petals from their neighboring almond orchards across the landscape.

I opened the window, gazing at a herd of cattle grazing not more than ten feet away from our car, half expecting the acrid stench of manure and animal common on larger factory farms to assault my nostrils. But I couldn’t smell anything, save for the faint scent of damp earth and rain brewing on the horizon. Rosie leaned back in her seat, content.

Ward, Rosie, and their three grown children operate California Cloverleaf Farms and Full Circle Dairy, two organic dairies milking 500 cows each, in addition to a pasture-raised chicken operation and organic olive and almond orchards. In 2004, they joined Organic Valley — the largest organic, farmer-owned co-op in the nation with sales topping over $900 million annually — and began shipping their milk to grocery stores across the country.

Naomi Klein: the hypocrisy behind the big business climate change battle…

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From The Guardian

Richard Branson has pledged $3bn to fight climate change, and delivered just $230m. Naomi Klein looks at the ‘greenwashing’ of big business and its effects – on the planet, and our own bodies

I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most news stories. I told myself the science was too complicated and the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my “elite” frequent-flyer status.

A great many of us engage in this kind of denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or maybe we do really look, but then we forget. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything.

Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror…

Barbara Lee was the lone dissenter in the post-9/11 vote authorizing military force. Many called her a traitor. But her constituents shared her concerns—and history has vindicated them.

OAKLAND, Calif.—The people here were out of step with America.

In the hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, they were angry at the terrorists who flew planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. They wanted the attackers brought to justice. They mourned the victims, cheered the firefighters, felt united in sorrow with their countrymen, and dreaded more attacks. But in Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, the ultra-liberal, historically anti-war East Bay communities, a significant bloc also feared how their country would react. They didn’t trust the instincts of George W. Bush or the public that elected him.

The mistrust was mutual.

Censorship and What Freedom of Speech Really Means: Comedian Bill Hicks’s Brilliant Letter to a Priest…

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From Brain Pickings

“‘Freedom of speech’ means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with.”

In early June of 1993, several months before cancer took his life at the age of thirty-two, beloved comedian Bill Hicks received a letter from a priest, bemoaning the “blasphemous” content in Hicks’s live television special Revelations and reprimanding British broadcaster Channel 4 for having put it on the air. Writing a mere eight days before his fatal pancreatic cancer diagnosis — a young man still oblivious to his imminent tragic fate — Hicks decided to respond to the missive personally, in what became one of the most lucid and beautiful defenses of the freedom of speech ever articulated, on par with Voltaire’s piercing admonition about censorship and Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless words on the subject.

The Pariah…

He tells me I’ve got to understand about when the big dog gets off the porch, and I’m getting confused here. He is talking to me from a fishing camp up near the Canadian border, and as he tries to tell me about the Big Dog, I can only imagine a wall of green and deep blue lakes with northern pike. But he is very patient with me. Mike Holm did his hard stints in the Middle East, the Miami station, and Los Angeles, all for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and he is determined that I face the reality he knows. So he starts again. He repeats, “When the Big Dog gets off the porch, watch out.” And by the Big Dog, he means the full might of the United States government. At that moment, he continues, you play by Big Boy rules, and that means, he explains, that there are no rules but to complete the mission. We’ve gotten into all this schooling because I asked him about reports that he received when he was stationed in Miami that Southern Air Transport, a CIA-contracted airline, was landing planeloads of cocaine at Homestead Air Force Base nearby. Back in the eighties, Holm’s informants kept telling him about these flights, and then he was told by his superiors to “stand down because of national security.” And so he did. He is an honorable man who believes in his government, and he didn’t ask why the flights were taking place; he simply obeyed. Because he has seen the Big Dog get off the porch, and he has tasted Big Boy rules. Besides, he tells me, these things are done right, and if you look into the matter, you’ll find contract employees or guys associated with the CIA, but you won’t find a CIA case officer on a loading dock tossing kilos of coke around. Any more than Mike Holm ever saw a plane loaded top to bottom with kilos of coke. He didn’t have to. He believed his informants. And he believed in the skill and power of the CIA. And he believed in the sheer might and will of the Big Dog when he finally decides to get off the porch.

Carl Sagan’s Bullshit Detection Kit: Rules for Critical Thinking…

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From Brain Pickings

Necessary cognitive fortification against propaganda, pseudoscience, and general falsehood.

Carl Sagan was many things — a cosmic sagevoracious reader,hopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era’s greatest patron saint of reason and common sense, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness. In The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (public library) — the same indispensable volume that gave us Sagan’s timeless meditation on science and spirituality, published mere months before his death in 1996 — Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

In a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible — from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.” (Cue in PBS’s Joe Hanson on how to read science news.) But rather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places — having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.

How America’s Imperial Defeat and Collapse Could Happen…

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From John Michael Greer (2012)
Parts 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Over the course of this year, my posts here on The Archdruid Report have tried to outline the trajectory of America’s global empire and explore the reasons why that trajectory will likely come to a sudden stop in the near future. To bring the issue down out of the realm of abstraction and put them in the context of history as lived, I’ve returned to the toolkit of narrative fiction, and this and the next four posts will sketch out a scenario of American imperial defeat and collapse. The narrative takes place at some unspecified point in the next two decades; it’s probably necessary to say outright that is not how I think the end of America’s empire will happen, simply one way that it could happen—and thus a model that may help expose some of the vulnerabilities of the self-proclaimed hyperpower currently tottering toward history’s compost bin.

*********

The news of the latest Tanzanian deepwater oil discovery broke on an otherwise sleepy Saturday in March. Thirty years before, a find of the same size might have gotten two column inches somewhere in the back pages of a few newspapers of record, but this was not thirty years ago.  In a world starved for oil, what might once have been considered a modest find earned banner headlines.

The Dying Russians…

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From The New York Review of Books

Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.

The deaths kept piling up. People—men and women—were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.

Petrolify®: Don’t Just Seize the Day, Seize Life…


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Reboot or Die Trying…

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From David Roberts
Outside

A star political blogger for Grist.org, David Roberts spent so much time posting and Tweeting and staring at screens that he almost went nuts. So he pulled the plug for a year, restarting his relationship with technology and actively seeking health, balance, and adventure in the real world. What he learned just might save you from meltdown.

One night, late in the summer of 2012, discussion at my dinner table turned to the venerable topic of What to Be When You Grow Up. My older son, Griffin, then nine years old, wanted to be an “underwater paleontologist.” His little brother, Huck, then seven, wanted to be a monkey.

“Do you know what I do for a living?” I asked Huck.

His eyes grew wide. “All you do is sit on your computer and say, ‘Blah blah blah Congress, blah blah blah Mitt Romney’!”

We all—OK, mostly my wife—got a big laugh out of that. For my birthday that year, she and the boys gave me a print emblazoned with Blah Blah Blah. It’s hanging in my office.

Huck was not wrong. At the time, I was a journalist covering climate-change politics for a nonprofit Seattle news site called Grist. I’d been with Grist almost ten years, and as my job had transitioned into full-time writing, I’d lived through—indeed, built a career on—the rise of blogging, social media, and hyperspeed news cycles. By the end of 2012 I was, God help me, a kind of boutique brand, with a reasonably well-known blog, a few cable-TV appearances under my belt, and more than 36,000 Twitter followers.

Peak Oil Review – Sept 1…

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From ASPO-USA

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

Oil prices moved higher last week resulting in the first weekly gain in more than a month on an increasingly serious Ukrainian situation and better US economic data. At week’s end NY futures were back up to $95.96 a barrel and London’s Brent was up to $103.19. Prices on both markets, however, are still about $10 a barrel lower than last June when the IS was threatening to overrun much of Iraq and the Ukrainian crisis was starting to heat up again.

The sustained price drop this summer was occasioned by increasing US shale oil production which is largely offsetting disruptions elsewhere; weaker demand for oil from China; and the growing belief that neither the worsening Middle Eastern situation nor the Ukrainian – EU standoff would lead to disruptions in oil supplies in the immediate future. In the past week, however, some traders are beginning to say that the summer’s selloff was overdone.

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.

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.

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