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Archive for the ‘Around the web’ Category

Cesar Chavez Remembered Warts and All…

In Around the web on April 15, 2014 at 8:45 am


From Labor Notes

[As Executive Assistant to Cesar Chavez 1968 - 1972, and having also worked closely with co-founder Dolores Huerta (who should have way more credit for union successes)... if the UFW had elected Dolores as President after Cesar died, the union would have been successful to this day, in my opinion. Machismo, plain and simple, took it on another path... to impotence and ruin... -DS]

Movie: Cesar’s Last Fast directed by Richard Perez, 2014.

Movie: Cesar Chavez, directed by Diego Luna, 2014.

Book: The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography, by Miriam Pawel, 2014.

“Cesar was not a humble man,” narrator Luis Valdez says at the conclusion of the new documentary “Cesar’s Last Fast,” about the late farm labor leader Cesar Chavez. “Nor was he a simple man.”

Indeed, Chavez was a controversial and complex figure. More…

If You Really Cared about Climate Change … You Would Stop Promoting Solutions which Do More Harm than Good…

In Around the web on April 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

From Washington’s Blog

A recent Gallup poll showed that 34% of American adults worried “a great deal” about “global warming”.  This essay is written for that 34%.

Many well-intentioned people are desperately trying to stop climate change …

And yet they are proposing things that will put more C02 and methane into the air and otherwise do more harm than good.

Frack That

Many propose nuclear and fracking as a way to reduce carbon emissions.

In reality, scientists say that fracking pumps out a lot of methane … into both our drinking water and the environment.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas: 72 times more potent as a warming source than CO2.

As such, fracking actually increases – rather than decreases – global warming.

Are Nukes the Answer?

It turns out that nuclear is . More…

Capitalism simply isn’t working and here are the reasons why…

In Around the web on April 14, 2014 at 8:00 am

From The Guardian

Economist Thomas Piketty’s message is bleak: the gap between rich and poor threatens to destroy us…

Suddenly, there is a new economist making waves – and he is not on the right. At the conference of the Institute of New Economic Thinking in Toronto last week, Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century got at least one mention at every session I attended. You have to go back to the 1970s and Milton Friedman for a single economist to have had such an impact.

Like Friedman, Piketty is a man for the times. For 1970s anxieties about inflation substitute today’s concerns about the emergence of the plutocratic rich and their impact on economy and society. Piketty is in no doubt, as he indicates in an interview in the Observer New Review, that the current level of rising wealth inequality, set to grow still further, now imperils the very future of capitalism. He has proved it.

It is a startling thesis and one extraordinarily unwelcome to those who think capitalism and inequality need each other. More…

This Fish Crawled Out of the Water…and Into Creationists’ Nightmares…

In Around the web on April 12, 2014 at 6:00 am


From Mother Jones

Some 375 million years ago, Tiktaalik emerged onto land. Today, explains paleontologist Neil Shubin, we’re all walking around in modified fish bodies.

We all know the Darwin fish, the car-bumper send-up of the Christian “ichthys” symbol, or Jesus fish. Unlike the Christian symbol, the Darwin fish has, you know, legs. Har har.

But the Darwin fish isn’t merely a clever joke; in effect, it contains a testable scientific prediction. If evolution is true, and if life on Earth originated in water, then there must have once been fish species possessing primitive limbs, which enabled them to spend some part of their lives on land. And these species, in turn, must be the ancestors of four-limbed, land-living vertebrates like us.

Sure enough, in 2004, scientists found one of those transitional species: More…

Forget Obamacare: Vermont wants to bring Single-Payer to America…

In Around the web on April 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

From Vox

Saskatchewan is a vast prairie province in the middle of Canada. It’s home to hockey great Gordie Howe and the world’s first curling museum. But Canadians know it for another reason: it’s the birthplace of the country’s single-payer health-care system.

In 1947, Saskatchewan began doing something very different from the rest of the country: it decided to pay the hospital bills for all residents. The system was popular and effective — and other provinces quickly took notice. Neighboring Alberta started a hospital insurance plan in 1950, and by 1961 all ten Canadian provinces provided hospital care. In 1966, Canada passed a national law that grew hospital insurance to a more comprehensive insurance plan like the one that exists today.

Saskatchewan showed that a single-payer health-care system can start small and scale big. And across the border, six decades later, Vermont wants to pull off something similar. The state is three years deep in the process of building a government-owned and -operated health insurance plan that, if it gets off the ground More…

Isaac Asimov on the Thrill of Lifelong Learning, Science vs. Religion, and the Role of Science Fiction in Advancing Society…

In Around the web on April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am


From BrainPickings

“It’s insulting to imply that only a system of rewards and punishments can keep you a decent human being.”

Isaac Asimov was an extraordinary mind and spirit — the author of more than 400 science and science fiction books and a tireless advocate of space exploration, he also took great joy in the humanities (and once annotated Lord Byron’s epic poem “Don Juan”), championed humanism over religion, and celebrated the human spirit itself (he even wrote young Carl Sagan fan mail). Like many of the best science fiction writers, he was as exceptional at predicting the future as he was at illuminating some of the most timeless predicaments of the human condition. In a 1988 interview with Bill Moyers, found in Bill Moyers: A World of Ideas  More…

10 Mind-Blowing Theories That Will Change Your Perception of the World…

In Around the web on April 10, 2014 at 8:46 am


From Art The System

Reality is not as obvious and simple as we like to think. Some of the things that we accept as true at face value are notoriously wrong. Scientists and philosophers have made every effort to change our common perceptions of it. The 10 examples below will show you what I mean.

1. Great glaciation
Great glaciation is the theory of the final state that our universe is heading toward. The universe has a limited supply of energy. According to this theory, when that energy finally runs out, the universe will devolve into a frozen state. Heat energy produced by the motion of the particles, heat loss, a natural law of the universe, means that eventually this particle motion will slow down and, presumably,one day everything will stop.

2. Solipsism
Solipsism is a philosophical theory, which asserts that nothing exists but the individual’s consciousness. More…

The Anarchists Who Protested Google Ventures’ Kevin Rose Sound Surprisingly Logical…

In Around the web on April 9, 2014 at 8:41 am


From ValleyWag

After slogging through their 2,000-word anti-Google ransom note, I did not expect to engage in a remotely reasonable discussion with the Counterforce. Not when the anti-capitalist protestors distributed fliers to Kevin Rose’s neighbors in San Francisco demanding that Google pay them $3 billion—and especially not when the group “stalked” Google X engineer Anthony Levandowski.

But the Counterforce caught me by surprise during the Q&A, conducted via email, below.

Yesterday after writing about the unhinged protest against Digg founder Rose, who now works as a general partner at Google Ventures, I got an email from someone using the handle Nicolas Flamel. That’s the same pseudonym as the author of WordPress site kevinroseisaterribleperson. To show that they represented the Counterforce, they added a smiley-face to the WordPress blog for a brief, agreed upon period of time. More…

In the Wake of Fukushima: Japan’s Nuclear Energy Policy Impasse…

In Around the web on April 8, 2014 at 9:00 am


From The 4th Media

Japan’s energy policy regime appears dangerously adrift in the context of accelerating climate change. The core problem is agency. On the one hand, Japanese PM Abe Shinzo and the nuclear village appear obsessed with nuclear power restarts and 20th century paradigms of the power economy. On the other hand, Japan’s anti-nuclear civil society lacks the political vehicle to force a combined nuclear pullout plus drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Some anti-nuclear forces do not yet understand the urgent need to reduce emissions, and are content to burn coal, despite of the patent threat of climate change.

This is precisely what Japan has done in the wake of 3.11. The Abe cabinet is focused on getting restarts and a nuclear-based energy plan. Yet the scope for restarts is surprisingly limited and – incredible in this era of multiple crises and revolutions – the draft new energy plan lacks concrete numbers. More…

When life becomes a shadow… after nuclear catastrophe…

In Around the web on April 8, 2014 at 8:50 am


From The Ecologist

Those caught up in nuclear disasters suffer many times over, writes Robert Jacobs. Ill-health and early death aside, they are also cut off from their former communities, identities and family life, and the victims of social and medical discrimination… Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience pain in their stomachs, nosebleeds, and other common ailments this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me.

Radiation makes people invisible. We know that exposure to radiation can be deleterious to one’s health; can cause sickness or even death when received in high doses.

But it does more. People who have been exposed to radiation, or even those who suspect that they have been exposed to radiation that never experience radiation related illnesses may find that their lives are forever changed – that they have assumed a kind of second class citizenship.

They may find that their relationship to their families More…

Fukushima: Study finds deformities “significantly higher” in sample of Fukushima insects — “To my knowledge, such deformations have not previously been reported” in species — Lower body split in half, 2 tail-like appendages — Genetic investigation in Fukushima area an “urgent issue”…

In Around the web on April 7, 2014 at 8:50 am



Morphological abnormalities in gall-forming aphids in a radiation-contaminated area near Fukushima Daiichi: selective impact of fallout?, Ecology and Evolution (Journal), Shin-ichi Akimoto, Graduate School of Agriculture at Hokkaido University, 2014:

Excerpts from Abstract: “This study compared the morphology and viability of gall-forming aphids between the Fukushima population and control populations [...] 13.2% exhibited morphological abnormalities, including four conspicuously malformed individuals [...] In contrast, in seven control areas [...] abnormal morphology accounted for 0.0–5.1% (on average, 3.8%). The proportions of abnormalities and mortality were significantly higher in Fukushima [...] this result suggests that radioactive contamination had deleterious effects” More…

After Death of Radical Mayor, Mississippi’s Capital Wrestles With His Economic Vision…

In Around the web on April 7, 2014 at 8:41 am


Yes! Magazine

On his way into work every morning, Chokwe Lumumba, the late mayor of Jackson, Miss., used to pass a historical marker: “Jackson City Hall: built 1846-7 by slave labor.”

The building, like the city around it, came into being when African American lives didn’t count for much. Unpaid black workers created Mississippi’s plantation fortunes; as recently as the 1960s, their descendants were still earning $3 to $6 a day as sharecropper farmers. Today, black Jacksonians are almost 10 times as likely as white residents to live in poverty or surrounded by it. There’s no need for a historical marker to trace the roots of the city’s enormous wealth gap. The question is how to narrow it.

Mayor Lumumba had a plan. Believing that history of a new sort could be made here in Jackson, he sought to use public spending to boost local wealth through worker owned cooperatives, urban gardening, and a community-based approach to urban development. His vision More…

35 Grocery Items You Could Make at Home (and 5 to Buy)…

In Around the web on April 7, 2014 at 7:02 am



I pride myself on my somewhat extensive homemade pantry. Not just because making foods and other products at home is usually a healthier option (which it certainly is), but also because it saves us some money in the process. Unfortunately, not all items are cheaper or easier to make at home. So, after the initial list of 35 recipes below that you should try making at home versus buying, there are a few of my own picks for foods that I’d rather purchase (or skip) than mix together myself. (See also: Money-Saving Ways to Organize Your Pantry)

35 Items to Make Yourself

1. Peanut Butter

When I made my first batch of peanut butter at home, it rocked my world. All it takes is 2 cups of dry-roasted peanuts, a pinch of salt, a little oil, and some sweetener if you like. Combine and pulse in your food processor, and you’ve got tasty peanut butter.

2. Tomato Sauce

Whether for use on pasta or pizzas, making tomato sauce is smart when tomatoes are bountifully in season. More…

Gateway Drug, To What?

In Around the web on April 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

Open Democracy

Substance abuse has less to do with the substance than it has to do with the lives we live. But what has the War on Drugs done to us, and what will follow it?

You’ve probably heard about those addiction studies with caged lab rats, in which the rats compulsively press the heroin dispensing lever again and again, even to the point of choosing it over food and starving themselves to death. These studies seemed to imply some pretty disheartening things about human nature. Our basic biology is not to be trusted; the seeking of pleasure leads to disaster; one must therefore overcome biological desires through reason, education, and the inculcation of morals; those whose willpower or morals are weak must be controlled and corrected.

The rat addiction studies also seem to validate the main features of the War on Drugs. First is interdiction: prevent the rats from getting a taste of drugs to begin with. Second is “education” – conditioning the rats into not pressing the lever in the first place. More…

The Rise of Anti-Capitalism…

In Around the web on April 5, 2014 at 9:28 am

From Jeremy Rifkin

We are beginning to witness a paradox at the heart of capitalism, one that has propelled it to greatness but is now threatening its future: The inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing costs so far down that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces. While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero.

The first inkling of the paradox came in 1999 when Napster, the music service, developed a network enabling millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry. Similar phenomena went on to severely disrupt the newspaper and book publishing industries. Consumers began sharing their own information and entertainment, via videos, audio and text, nearly free, bypassing the traditional markets altogether. More…

Noam Chomsky: Ecology, Ethics, Anarchism…

In Around the web on April 5, 2014 at 9:10 am

From AlterNet

Earth was never an ‘infinite resource,’ but capitalist practice treats it like ‘an infinite garbage can.’

There can be little doubt about the centrality and severity of the environmental crisis in the present day. Driven by the mindless “grow-or-die” imperative of capitalism, humanity’s destruction of the biosphere has reached and even surpassed various critical thresholds, whether in terms of carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, freshwater depletion, or chemical pollution. Extreme weather events can be seen pummeling the globe, from the Philippines — devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November of last year — to California, which is presently suffering from the worst drought in centuries. As Nafeez Ahmed has shown, a recently published study funded in part by NASA warns of impending civilizational collapse without radical changes to address social inequality and overconsumption. More…

In the US, democracy is now a sham… Ten million irate citizens cannot offset a single Halliburton…

In Around the web on April 3, 2014 at 8:15 am


From ClubOrlov

The founding principle for this new form of government which emerged in the 18th century, was that the Common Man was the ultimate source of power. Citizen legislators would enact the laws and shape the nation’s destiny. But instead, our republic is now strong-armed by professional politicians. The two dominant concerns of these careerists are to STAY in power and to do the bidding of those who ENABLE them to stay in power. Anyone who doubts this statement might try explaining why campaign finance reform and term limits are perennially “off the table.” Actually, that is an understatement – they aren’t even in the building.

It is bad enough that the President, Congress and the Courts serve the interests of a minority that is so tiny that it is almost microscopic. What is even worse, is WHO that elite constituency is. It is exclusively THE BIGS: Big banks, Big corporations, Big agriculture, Big energy, More…

The Future of an Illusion…

In Around the web on April 3, 2014 at 8:00 am


Energy is the unconscious of the American way of life…

In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Sigmund Freud relates the story of the man accused by his neighbor of damaging a borrowed kettle.  As Freud tells it, “A. borrowed a copper kettle from B. and after he had returned it was sued by B. because the kettle now had a big hole in it which made it unusable. His defense was: ‘First, I never borrowed a kettle from B at all; secondly, the kettle had a hole in it already when I got it from him; and thirdly, I gave him back the kettle undamaged.’” As Freud notes, “each one of these defenses is valid in itself,” or rather, I would suggest, is logically coherent; “but taken together they exclude one another.” Not only can they all not be true, the mere articulating of all three reveals a fundamental sort of incoherence that Freud attributes to the unconscious wishes expressed in our dreams or voiced in our jokes. But this sort of thinking also seems to occur when one is straining beyond all rationality to defend a hopeful ideal against the onslaught of reality A. is clearly lying. The remaining question is why he is lying in such an ineffective manner. Perhaps, we might guess More…

Food Co-ops, Food Hubs, and Food Democracy…

In Around the web on April 2, 2014 at 9:46 am

From Grassroots Economic Organizing

An Interview with John Curl* by Jim Johnson…

JJ: A colleague of mine (who works professionally to help new co-ops start up) tells me that there is currently a burst of new food co-op development in the US – the number of food co-ops is growing again, and there are currently dozens (perhaps hundreds) of active start-up groups. But the natural and organic food market in the US is growing faster still, which means that food co-ops are actually losing market share. Overall, could you provide more perspective on the impact of the “mainstreaming” of natural and organic food on food co-ops; not just economically but also in terms of the impact on cooperative values?

John Curl: The mainstreaming of natural and organic foods pulled out the linchpin of the food co-op movement that began in the 1970s. Mainstreaming served to rip the integrity out of natural/organic, turn it into an advertising slogan, and flood the marketplace with plastic and ersatz versions. More…

Fukushima: Crisis “much more severe than we’re led to believe” — ‘Mind-boggling’ — Small quake could tip over reactors and start it all over again — Japan “selling soul to devil” if they restart nuclear plants…

In Around the web on April 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

From Breaking the Set

At 10:00 in

  • Michio Kaku, Ph.D. in nuclear physics from UC Berkeley and protégé of Edward Teller, ‘father of hydrogen bomb’: The crisis is much more severe than we’re led to believe. Documents have been coming out over the last 2 years showing how the utility and government deliberately suppressed vital information. Did you know that even as the accident is progressing and they said don’t worry and everything is under control, they were contemplating evacuating Tokyo? Evacuating Tokyo, it’s mind-boggling, but that’s how severe the accident was. Now right now we have 3 melted reactors. It’ll take 40 years by their estimate to clean up this disastrous accident and it could start again anytime soon. A small earthquake could tip it over and the accident starts all over.


Which is More Terrifying: Google or Facebook?

In Around the web on March 31, 2014 at 9:01 am

From Occupy

So, who is closer to realizing techno-fascist Hell on Earth?

Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 billion buyout of Oculus Rift is just the latest step in Big Tech’s creepy march from software to sci-fi: Google and Facebook have dumped billions into companies that have nothing to do with their original projects in search or social. Relentlessly, the two companies are pushing toward a dystopian future in which privacy is null and we wear social networks on our faces.

But what do their individual acquisitions add up to? Who’s winning? Here’s a look at each company’s expanded portfolio, to see which one’s nightmare vision is more likely to prevail.


Facebook knows you to the extent that you’re vain on the internet, which is to say, it knows you very well. Your photos, IMs, college, hometown, real identity, location history, and music-listening habits are all logged. Facebook knows who you’re friends with, and knows who they’re friends with, and so on—your social and professional logs are mapped and cataloged. And if you’re reading a website with a “Like” button on it, Facebook knows where you’re browsing, too.

Here’s what it’s added to that foundation:, purchased for $100 million in June 2012

What: An Israeli facial recognition software firm. More…

Attention Deficit…

In Around the web on March 31, 2014 at 8:28 am



Apparently someone at the US State Department put out the fire in John Kerry’s magnificent head of hair, because he has stopped declaiming (for now) on the urgent need to start World War Three over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. In my lifetime, there has never been a more pointless and unnecessary international crisis than the current rumble over Ukraine, and it’s pretty much all our doing.

After all, we kicked it off by financing the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government. How do you suppose the US would feel if Moscow engineered the overthrow of the Mexican government? Perhaps a little insecure? Perhaps even tempted to post some troops on the border?

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has engaged in a nonstop projection of power around the world with grievous results in every case except in the breakup of Yugoslavia. The latest adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been the most expensive — at least a trillion dollars — and mayhem still rules in both places. In fact, news reports out of Kabul on NPR this morning raised doubts that the scheduled elections could take place later this week. The country’s so-called Independent Election Commission has been under rocket attack for days, the most popular hotel for foreign journalists was the site of a massacre two weeks ago, and the Taliban remains active slaughtering civilians in the lawless territory outside of the Afghan capital.

Of course, even those dreadful incidents raise the rather fundamental question More…

How ”Extreme Levels” of Monsanto’s Herbicide Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm…

In Around the web on March 28, 2014 at 8:12 am

From AlterNet

Food and feed quality are crucial to human and animal health. Quality can be defined as sufficiency of appropriate minerals, vitamins and fats, etc. but it also includes the absence of toxins, whether man-made or from other sources. Surprisingly, almost no data exist in the scientific literature on herbicide residues in herbicide tolerant genetically modified (GM) plants, even after nearly 20 years on the market.

In research recently published by our laboratory (Bøhn et al. 2014) we collected soybean samples grown under three typical agricultural conditions: organic, GM, and conventional (but non-GM). The GM soybeans were resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.

We tested these samples for nutrients and other compounds as well as relevant pesticides, including glyphosate and its principal breakdown product, Aminomethylphosponic acid (AMPA). All of the individual samples of GM-soy contained residues of both glyphosate and AMPA, on average 9.0 mg/kg. This amount is greater than is typical for many vitamins. In contrast, no sample from the conventional or the organic soybeans showed residues of these chemicals (Fig. 1).

This demonstrates that Roundup Ready GM-soybeans sprayed during the growing season take up and accumulate glyphosate and AMPA. More…

Women Ecowarriors…

In Around the web on March 27, 2014 at 8:35 am


Common Dreams

Over the last four decades, I have served the Earth and grassroots ecological movements, beginning with the historic Chipko Movement (Hug the Tree Movement), in the Central Himalaya.

Every movement in which I participated, I noticed that women were the decision-makers — they decided the course of action and even were unrelenting in protecting the land and the sources of their sustenance and livelihoods.

Women who were a part of the Chipko movement were protecting forests because deforestation and logging in Uttarakhand led to floods, draughts, landslides and other such natural disasters. It led to scarcity of fuel and fodder. It led to the disappearance of springs and streams, forcing women to walk longer and further for water.

The dominant paradigm of forestry is based on monocultures of commercial species where forests are seen as timber mines that produce timber and generate revenue and leads to profits. The women of the Chipko Movement taught the world and me that timber, revenue and profits were not the real products of the forest; the real products were soil, water and pure air. More…

Fight over Rooftop Solar Forecasts a Bright Future for Cleaner Energy…

In Around the web on March 27, 2014 at 8:30 am

From Scientific American

Americans have begun to battle over sunshine. In sun-scorched Arizona a regulatory skirmish has broken out over arrays of blue-black silicon panels on rooftops, threatening the local utilities that have ruled electricity generation for a century or more. With some of the best access to sunshine on the planet, Arizona boasts the second-most solar power in the U.S.—more than 1,000 megawatts and counting. The state hosts vast photovoltaic arrays in the desert as well as the nation’s first commercial power plant with the technology to use sunshine at night—by storing daytime heat in molten salts.

In terms of infrastructure, such big solar fits as comfortably as a coal-fired power plant in the traditional electricity business model, which involves large plants transmitting electricity over a grid of conducting lines through transformers and into individual homes and businesses. The trouble, from an electric utility’s perspective, is the tens of thousands of Arizona’s total of three million or so homes that have installed small solar: photovoltaic panels made from wafers of semiconducting material, typically silicon, that use incoming sunlight to create an electric current. With these homes making their own electricity, utilities lose their most lucrative customers and confront a dwindling base over which to spread big infrastructure costs, like building new power plants or maintaining the grid. “The net-metered customer does not share equally in the overhead costs associated with the grid More…

What’s Really Hiding In Your Pizza?

In Around the web on March 26, 2014 at 9:28 am


From Food Babe

When I started researching pizza ingredients, one thing became abundantly clear. Pizza restaurants did not like the questions I was asking.

The only way to find out what may be lurking in your pizza is to review its complete ingredient list, which is often concealed from the public. I began calling the top pizza chains and easily found a couple ingredient lists online. But, when I called most pizza restaurants and began asking questions, they blatantly refused to share ingredient lists and their customer service reps were oblivious to what their ingredients were – they had no clue.

Little Caesars, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) and Mellow Mushroom have all refused to answer my questions about their ingredients. I was told by Mellow Mushroom’s corporate offices that they will only comply with minimal government regulations, which require them to publish an allergen list.

After sending me their dough ingredients, CPK suddenly claimed that due to “proprietary restrictions” they can’t disclose their full ingredient lists. They went on to tell me that they “don’t have an easy way to perform a search by individual ingredient” and would need to call each vendor first. While traveling, I stopped into a CPK in an airport to ask questions face to face. Both the manager and store clerk had zero access to ingredients. I even asked to look at the packages of their dough More…

Aldous Huxley on Drugs, Democracy, and Religion…

In Around the web on March 25, 2014 at 10:00 am


From Brain Pickings

“Generalized intelligence and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy.”

In 1958, five years after his transcendent experience induced by taking four-tenths of a gram of mescalin, Aldous Huxley — legendary author of Brave New World, lesser-known but no less compelling writer of children’s books, modern prophet — penned an essay titled “Drugs That Shape Men’s Minds.” It was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post and eventually included in Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience (public library) — a selection of Huxley’s fiction, essays, and letters titled after the Sanskrit word for “liberation.” In the essay, Huxley considers the gifts and limitations of our wakeful consciousness, our universal quest for transcendence, and the interplay of drugs and democracy.

Huxley begins by considering why religion is nothing more nor less than an attempt to codify through symbolism our longing for what Jack Kerouac called “the golden eternity” and what Alan Lightman described in his encounter with the ospreys — a sense of intimate connection with the universe, with something larger than ourselves:

Every fully developed religion exists simultaneously on several different levels. It exists as a set of abstract concepts about the world and its governance. It exists as a set of rites and sacraments, as a traditional method for manipulating the symbols, by means of which beliefs about the cosmic order are expressed. It exists as the feelings of love, fear and devotion evoked by this manipulation of symbols.

And finally it exists as a special kind of feeling or intuition — a sense of the oneness of all things in their divine principle More…

Fracking Headlines…

In Around the web on March 25, 2014 at 8:04 am


From Resilience

The Shale Oil Party Is Ending, Phibro’s Andy Hall Warns
Tyler Durden,

Phibro’s (currently Astenback Capital Management) Andy Hall knows a thing or two about the oil market – and even if he doesn’t (and it was all luck), his views are sufficiently respected to influence the industrial groupthink. Which is why for anyone interested in where one of the foremost oil market movers sees oil supply over the next decade, here are his full thoughts from his latest letter to Astenback investors. Of particular note: Hall’s warning to all the shale oil optimists: “According to the DOE data, for Bakken and Eagle Ford the legacy well decline rate has been running at either side of 6.5 per cent per month… Production from new wells has been running at about 90,000 bpd per month per field meaning net growth in production is 25,000 bpd per month. It will become smaller as output grows and that’s why ceteris paribus growth in output for both fields will continue to slow over the coming years. When all the easily drillable sites are exhausted – at the latest sometime shortly after 2020 – production from these two fields will decline.”

Wyoming May Act to Plug Abandoned Wells as Natural Gas Boom Ends
Dan Frosch, New York Times
Hundreds of abandoned drilling wells dot eastern Wyoming like sagebrush, vestiges of a natural gas boom that has been drying up in recent years as prices have plummeted.

The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators…

Whither the world of energy prices during the next 12 months?
Chris Nelder, Smart Planet More…

Fukushima: “Pacific Ocean is under incredible threat… Americans are now starting to reap that on their West Coast” — Kamps: “An unprecedented catastrophe… should be independent monitors sent to Fukushima to try to get the truth as to how bad this is”…

In Around the web on March 24, 2014 at 9:23 am

From Enenews

Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist at Beyond Nuclear, Mar. 18, 2014: [...] now the scientific models are showing the liquid plume in the ocean reaching the shores of North America [...] this is an unprecedented radioactive catastrophe for the world’s oceans. [...] contact every level of representative government that we have and if you live on the west coast, that would certainly include your local and state governments. But the federal government is supposed to be taking care of this matter on behalf of the American people [...] it calls for international involvement, and something to keep in mind is that these discharges did not end on March or April 2011, in fact the discharges to the ocean are a daily occurrence. We are talking 300.000 iters per day of radioactive ground water flowing into the ocean. So, this is an international catastrophe, the oceans do not belong to Japan of course, and so, yes, there should be the best minds and independent monitors sent to Fukushima to try to get the truth as to how bad this is, where [it's] going. [...] seafood contamination is a serious issue especially because of bio-concentration of radioactivity in the food chain and we sit at the top of food chain [...] testing of seafood is essential [...] that needs an urgent priority placed upon it at the federal level.

Fukushima Evacuee Gavin Allwright, Public Meeting at the UK’s House of Commons, Mar. 10, 2014 (at 8:15 in): There’s a real feeling now that Fukushima’s done. There was a very conscious decision to move airborne contamination to waterborne contamination — Pacific Ocean’s under incredible threat at the moment. Americans are now starting to reap that on their West Coast. More…

10 insane lessons religious schools are teaching American kids…

In Around the web on March 24, 2014 at 7:51 am

From AlterNet

How private voucher programs are using tax dollars to teach ideology 

School voucher programs are being debated everywhere you turn — in courtrooms, in state governments, and even in popular culture. Just Thursday, Republicans in Florida tried and failed to expand their state’s voucher program. On Friday, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled that using state funds to pay for children’s education at religious and private schools was constitutional. And perhaps most importantly, “True Detective,” which was already one of the best shows ever to be on TV, became the best show ever to go after vouchers when a villain explained his desire to use the school voucher system to achieve his nefarious ends:

The whole idea was to provide an alternative to the kind of secular globalized education that our public schools were promoting. When we get the school voucher program instituted we’ll reintroduce the idea. People should have a choice in education, like anything else.

So why are vouchers so justifiably vilified? Where to start! As I have written  previously, school voucher programs, which allow parents to use public dollars to pay for private education, are not only ineffective but they fail to address the rampant inequality that plagues our nation’s schools and  weaken the public school system as a whole. Despite these facts, voucher schools are  on the rise — and many of them are religious schools using public money to teach a distorted version of reality, which I had thought only existed 50 years ago or in over the top parodies of the right wing.

Where do these religious voucher schools get their so-called “facts”? One place is Christian publisher  A Beka Book. Founded in 1972 by Arlin and Rebekah (aka, “Beka”) Horton, A Beka churns out a significant number of the textbooks used by such schools. More…

The Cancer Stage of Reaganomics…

In Around the web on March 22, 2014 at 6:00 am



Our young people are drowning in a sea of debt, and it all started with Reaganomics. And Reaganomics is a lot like cancer. Most people don’t know they have cancer until it reaches the later cancer stages, when it becomes much harder to treat. In the early stages, cancer starts off as inflammation. A few cells grow slowly initially. But then, the cells begin to rapidly multiply, and the cancer begins to pick up steam. As it picks up steam, the cancer takes on more and more of the body’s resources, and starts stealing the body’s energy and tissues. Pretty soon, the cancer completely overwhelms the body, and, without treatment, the person dies.

Reaganomics has done the exact same thing to our economy and to the American people, and right now, we’re on life support. For proof of that, just look at the student loan debt crisis in America. Billionaire banksters and for-profit schools are making a fortune off of America’s young people. The average debt for a 25-year-old American student has risen a staggering 91 percent over the past decade – and most of that is student loan debt.

Over 38 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt right now, totaling over $1 trillion dollars. Student loan debt exceeds both credit card and auto loan debt in America, and the average is over $23,000. And, according to a study by Hamilton Place Strategies, by 2023, the average amount of debt that college students graduate with will equal what the median college graduate will earn every year. That’s insane!

That same study found that average student loan debt at graduation has increased by over 200 percent since 1993. But it didn’t always used to be like this. Believe it or not, there was a time in America when the vast majority of college graduates didn’t leave campus thousands of dollars in debt. College used to be affordable for most Americans, and students could easily work their way through college to fully pay for it. More

Why children should study philosophy…

In Around the web on March 21, 2014 at 8:40 am


From The Conversation

Children are natural philosophers. Ask anyone who has encountered a three-year old constantly asking the question “Why?” Yet how often do we encourage the questions children ask and really take the time to further develop the ensuing discussion?

The young mind that queries and demands justification for accepted norms hints at an instinctive search for meaning. That quest can be encouraged and channelled in a constructive direction. This is where the study of philosophy can help.

Studies have demonstrated that children who study philosophy are more likely to achieve better academic results. They also enjoy additional social benefits such as better self-esteem and the demonstration of empathy for others.

There is also said to be less bullying in the schoolyard and less behaviour-management issues. This was particularly evidenced at Buranda State School in Queensland, which adopted the philosophical community of inquiry (CoI) method as an all-school approach.

Teaching critical thinking

The aim of the CoI method is to produce critical, caring, creative and collaborative thinkers. It does this by encouraging student-led discussions facilitated by a teacher who is trained in philosophy.

Is this a recipe for classroom chaos? Should teachers allow students to sit in a circle and raise their own questions, discussing many possible answers to questions that may simply not have a black-and-white factual conclusion? Should children study philosophy? Isn’t it too difficult?

Philosophy for Children (P4C) started in the 1970s in order to encourage critical thinking skills in children from K-12. Supporters of P4C believe philosophy needn’t be confined to the academy. More…

The “Madness” of Putin…

In Around the web on March 20, 2014 at 9:34 am


From Club Orlov

Of all the various interpretations Western leaders and commentators have offered for why the president of the Russian Federation has responded the way he has to the events in Ukraine over the course of February and March of 2014—in refusing to acquiesce to the installation of a neo-fascist regime in Kiev, and in upholding the right of Crimea to self-determination—the most striking and illuminating interpretation is that he has gone mad. Striking and illuminating, that is, something in the West itself.

In times past, the international landscape reflected a multipolar order, a multiplicity of competing ideologies, alternative schemes of social and economic organization. Back then the actions of another country could be understood in terms of its alternative ideology. Even extreme figures—Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot—calling them crazy was an example of hyperbole, an intensified way of describing the brazenness with which they pursued their rationally set political goals. But when Chancellor Angela Merkel asks whether Putin is living “in another world,” echoing a theme in the narrative presented by Western media, the question seems to imply something quite literal.

We question someone’s sanity when we cannot explain their behavior or logic based on a common understanding of consensual reality. They become utterly unpredictable to us, capable of carrying on a normal conversation one moment and lunging at our throats the next. Their actions appear rash and disordered, as if they inhabit a world parallel to but completely different from the one we do. Putin is portrayed as a fiend, and the West acts baffled and scared. The feigned shock with which the West looks on at the developments in Crimea could be seen as a tactic designed to isolate and intimidate Vladimir Putin. More…

Facebook is ending the Free Ride… pulling off one of the most lucrative grifts of all time…

In Around the web on March 20, 2014 at 9:03 am


From ValleyWag

Facebook pulled the best practical joke of the internet age: the company convinced countless celebrities, bands, and “brands” that its service was the best way to reach people with eyeballs and money. Maybe it is! But now that companies have taken the bait, Facebook is holding the whole operation hostage.

To be perfectly clear, none of this will affect the average Facebook user’s ability to freely use Facebook—only entities that use Facebook as a promotional tool.

A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells Valleywag that the social network is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent. This would affect “all brands”—meaning an advertising giant like Nike, which has spent a great deal of internet effort collecting over 16 million Facebook likes, would only be able to affect of around a 160,000 of them when it pushes out a post. Companies like Gawker, too, rely on gratis Facebook propagation for a huge amount of their audience. Companies on Facebook will have to pay or be pointless.

That 160,000 still sounds like a lot of people, sure. But how about my favorite restaurant here in New York, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, which has only 3,281 likes—most likely locals who actually care about updates from a nearby restaurant? They would reach only a few dozen customers. A smaller business might only reach one. This also assumes the people “reached” bother to even look at the post.

The alternative is of course to pay for more attention. If you want an audience beyond a measly one or two percent, you’ll have to pay money—perhaps a lot of money, if you’re a big business. More…

Humanism Explained in Four Short, Animated Videos…

In Around the web on March 18, 2014 at 5:30 am

What should we think about death?
How do we know what is true?
How can I be happy?
Available here

Carl Sagan Took My Faith — and Gave Me Awe…

In Around the web on March 17, 2014 at 8:25 am


From On Faith

I was not always an atheist.

I was once a devout and sincere believer in the Christian faith. I am the son and grandson of pastors and missionaries. My family founded one of the country’s largest Bible colleges, Christ for the Nations, from which I earned a theology degree. For years, I contemplated, and began strategizing, a run for national political office under the banner of Christian reform.

The longer a belief system—any belief system—remains in place, the more likely it is to become an unmovable fixture of that person’s identity. In my experience, most persons of faith who undergo a deconversion experience do so during their middle or high school years. But that is not my story. I did not begin to question, nor finally abandon, my faith until my mid-30s.

That was when I discovered science. And Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan was an astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author who became a household name in the early 1980s when his television series “Cosmos: A Personal Journey” became the most watched program in PBS history. Before his untimely death in 1996, Sagan was the nation’s leading science communicator, a regular guest on both the nightly news and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

But in my childhood home, Carl Sagan was a fundamentalist caricature of science. He was a figure of scorn and mockery, conjured in conversation only when one needed a large and easy target for pillorying evolution.

“Billions and billions of years” was a “Cosmos”-inspired quote my family and friends would mimic in Sagan’s telltale nasal inflection, always earning animated laugher. More…

Headline of the Day…

In Around the web on March 15, 2014 at 7:41 am


From Hullabaloo

Another region where the Russian military threatens to dominate the U.S.

Another one??? Oh my God! Run for yer lives! (Or better yet, duck and cover…) Actually it makes me feel young again. Really young. Like when I was in elementary school. That’s the kind of lying bullshit we heard day in and day out as an excuse for unfettered military spending. (Anyone remember the missile gap?)

Here’s reality. According to this analysis (I don’t know if it’s right in all details, but the general gist is certainly correct) the US and Russia are Number 1 and Number 2 in military strength. But since the US alone has nearly 50% of all the global military strength on the planet the difference between number 1 and number 2 is vast..

The US is on the left and Russia is on the right above.

And one might also point out that this is just the US vs Russia. It doesn’t count NATO which is most of Europe or the American allies in North America.

The differences between the two countries in economic terms are just as huge and the idea that Russia is going to dominate America in anything but maybe vodka production is ridiculous.  In other words, this is the stupidest CNN headline ever. But I’m going to guess that it won’t be the last we see of the new Commie Cold War. They’re getting very excited.

Fracking: Just One More Ponzi Scam and Subsidy Dumpster…

In Around the web on March 13, 2014 at 6:20 am



The Crocodiles of Reality

I’ve suggested in several previous posts that the peak oil debate may be approaching a turning point—one of those shifts in the collective conversation in which topics that have been shut out for years or decades finally succeed in crashing the party, and other topics that have gotten more than their quota of attention during that time get put out to pasture or sent to the glue factory.  I’d like to talk for a moment about some of the reasons I think that’s about to happen, and in the process, give a name to one of the common but generally unmentionable features of contemporary economic life.

We can begin with the fracking bubble, that misbegotten brat fathered by Wall Street’s love of Ponzi schemes on Main Street’s stark terror of facing up to the end of the age of cheap abundant energy. That bubble has at least two significant functions in today’s world. The first function, as discussed in these essays already, is to fill an otherwise vacant niche in the string of giddy speculative delusions that began with the stock market boom and bust of 1987 and is still going strong today. As with previous examples, the promoters of the fracking bubble dangled the prospect of what used to be normal returns on investment in front of the eager and clueless investors with which America seems to be so richly stocked these days.  These then leapt at the bait, and handed their money over to the tender mercies of the same Wall Street investment firms who gave us and zero-doc mortgages.

You might think, dear reader, that after a quarter century of this, there might be a shortage of chumps More…

Fukushima: Japan’s Radioactive Nightmare That May Never End…

In Around the web on March 13, 2014 at 6:18 am

From The New Yorker

I first saw “Nuclear Nation,” a haunting documentary about the Fukushima meltdown, at its New York première, late last year. It felt very Japanese to me. Instead of looping the most sensational footage—frothy waves demolishing harbors and main streets, exasperated talking heads—“Nuclear Nation” chronicles, through three seasons, the post-disaster struggles faced by so-called nuclear refugees from the tiny town of Futaba, one of several officially condemned and abandoned communities near the site of the disaster.

The opening sequence of the movie is eerily similar to that of “Akira,” Katsuhiro Otomo’s award-winning animated sci-fi epic from 1988. In both films, a howling wind sounds in the middle distance as the camera focusses on and fetishizes elaborate industrial infrastructure. When the wind suddenly fades to silence, catastrophe ensues: in “Akira,” we see the nuclear cratering of eighties-era Tokyo urban sprawl; in “Nuclear Nation,” it’s the implosion of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the subsequent poisoning of farmlands, fisheries, and rural homes. One is a harrowing fiction echoing Japan’s historical nightmares at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the other is a somber document of an ongoing and very present horror in and around Fukushima, one whose third anniversary is being marked today in Japan with moments of silence and prayer, official memorials, and televised updates on the most current statistics and predictions.

Approximately eighteen thousand people died or were lost in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, and tens of thousands remain displaced More…

Fracking revolt is the big story coming out of the California Democratic convention…

In Around the web on March 11, 2014 at 8:40 am

From Hullabaloo

The California Democratic Party’s convention in Los Angeles just wrapped up. It was a great gathering as usual, with activists up and down the state getting energized to expand and defend the Congressional map, as well as retain and make gains in the statehouse. While all of that is extremely important, of course, it’s not exactly newsworthy. Two things of greater interest to the general public did happen, though: first, the state Democratic Party expressly voted to put marijuana legalization into the party platform, validating the forward thinking of activists on that front.


[See Don't Frack California Rally March 15th Sacramento here]

But there was a second, even bigger story of more bleeding edge activism involving fracking. California has a lot of oil deep underground. More…

Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice For Local Farming and the Land…

In Around the web on March 11, 2014 at 6:00 am

From Yale Environment 360

For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.

Wendell Berry wrote about and practiced “sustainable agriculture” long before the term was widely used. His 1977 book, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, in which he argued against industrial agriculture and for small-scale, local-based farming, had a strong influence 

Berry has long balanced the diverse roles of writer, activist, teacher, and farmer. At age 79, he still lives on the farm near Port Royal, Kentucky, where he grew up, and uses traditional methods to work the land there. And he still speaks eloquently about the importance of local communities and of caring for the land, while warning of the destructive potential of industrialization and technology. 

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, Berry talked about his Kentucky farm and why he has remained there, why he would risk arrest to protest mountaintop removal mining, why the sustainable agriculture movement faces an uphill battle More…

The Leader Obama Wanted to Become and What Became of Him…

In Around the web on March 10, 2014 at 8:45 am


From David Bromwich
Tom Dispatch

Like many days, March 3rd saw the delivery of a stern opinion by President Obama. To judge by recent developments in Ukraine, he said, Russia was putting itself “on the wrong side of history.” This might seem a surprising thing for an American president to say. The fate of Soviet Communism taught many people to be wary of invoking History as if it were one’s special friend or teammate. But Obama doubtless felt comfortable because he was quoting himself. “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent,” he said in his 2009 inaugural address, “know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” In January 2009 and again in March 2014, Obama was speaking to the world as its uncrowned leader.

For some time now, observers – a surprisingly wide range of them — have been saying that Barack Obama seems more like a king than a president. Leave aside the fanatics who think he is a “tyrant” of unparalleled powers and malignant purpose. Notions of that sort come easily to those who look for them; they are predigested and can safely be dismissed. But the germ of a similar conclusion may be found in a perception shared by many others. Obama, it is said, takes himself to be something like a benevolent monarch More…

Todd Walton: How Much Do You Love Him?

In Around the web on March 7, 2014 at 7:00 am

tDjango on Marcia’s Lap

Under The Table

“The story of cats is the story of meat, and begins with the end of the dinosaurs.” Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Our cat Django is a very large and handsome gray cat, or as our veterinarian said politely, “Shall we call him obese?”

“But he hasn’t gained any weight for several years,” we hastened to explain. “He’s holding steady at twenty pounds and a little.”

The good doctor of cats and dogs was not greatly impressed by our feat of maintaining the status quo of Django’s enormity. We had rushed our twelve-year-old kitty to the one and only veterinarian office in the village of Mendocino because he was in severe distress, which turned out to be the result of urinary tract and kidney difficulties that could, sooner than later, lead to his death if we don’t start feeding him special expensive food or unless, as our vet explained, Django undergoes an operation to eliminate the problem entirely by turning him into a female in regard to how he urinates. More…

Fukushima: Massive die-off of oysters and scallops in Pacific Northwest: “Millions of shellfish dying” — Never seen anything like it — “By July mortality hit 95 to 100 per cent” — “Deformed shells, smaller in size” — “Cause is unknown, but ocean acidification is main suspect”…

In Around the web on March 4, 2014 at 10:44 am


From Enenews

Globe and Mail, Feb. 27, 2014: Mystery surrounds massive die-off of oysters and scallops off B.C. coast [...] Something is killing oysters and scallops in dramatic numbers [...] The cause is unknown, but ocean acidification is the main suspect. [...] last year, nearby Pendrell Sound had a massive die-off of wild oysters. [...] [Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops] has lost 10 million scallops over the past two years, and smaller companies have had similar problems. Mr. Saunders is pushing for a research project to find out what’s happening. [...] one of BC’s biggest suppliers of fresh seafood, said the scallop die-off has rung alarm bells.

CBC, Feb. 25, 2014: The deteriorating health of B.C.’s oceans [...] Millions of shellfish are dying off before they can be harvested at Island Scallops [...] researchers will try to determine if acidification is to blame or if other factors are at play.


Let’s You and Him Fight…

In Around the web on March 3, 2014 at 9:01 am


So, now we are threatening to start World War Three because Russia is trying to control the chaos in a failed state on its border — a state that our own government spooks provoked into failure? The last time I checked, there was a list of countries that the USA had sent troops, armed ships, and aircraft into recently, and for reasons similar to Russia’s in Crimea: the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, none of them even anywhere close to American soil. I don’t remember Russia threatening confrontations with the USA over these adventures.

The phones at the White House and the congressional offices ought to be ringing off the hook with angry US citizens objecting to the posturing of our elected officials. There ought to be crowds with bobbing placards in Farragut Square reminding the occupant of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue how ridiculous this makes us look.

The saber-rattlers at The New York Times were sounding like the promoters of a World Wrestling Federation stunt Monday morning when they said in a Page One story:

“The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin?” More…

Sam Harris: What Scientific Idea Is Ready For Retirement? Our Narrow Definition of ‘Science’…

In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 10:30 am


Science advances by discovering new things and developing new ideas. Few truly new ideas are developed without abandoning old ones first. As theoretical physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) noted, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” In other words, science advances by a series of funerals. Why wait that long?

Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?

Our Narrow Definition of “Science”

Search your mind, or pay attention to the conversations you have with other people, and you will discover that there are no real boundaries between science and philosophy—or between those disciplines and any other that attempts to make valid claims about the world on the basis of evidence and logic. When such claims and their methods of verification admit of experiment and/or mathematical description, we tend to say that our concerns are “scientific”; when they relate to matters more abstract, or to the consistency of our thinking itself, we often say that we are being “philosophical” More…

Wendell Berry: The Work of Local Culture…

In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

From Schumacher Center

For many years my walks have taken me down an old fencerow in a wooded hollow on what was once my grandfather’s farm. A battered galvanized bucket is hanging on a fence post near the head of the hollow, and I never go by it without stopping to look inside. For what is going on in that bucket is the most momentous thing I know, the greatest miracle that I have ever heard of: it is making earth. The old bucket has hung there through many autumns, and the leaves have fallen around it and some have fallen into it. Rain and snow have fallen into it, and the fallen leaves have held the moisture and so have rotted. Nuts have fallen into it, or been carried into it by squirrels; mice and squirrels have eaten the meat of the nuts and left the shells; they and other animals have left their droppings; insects have flown into the bucket and died and decayed; birds have scratched in it and left their droppings or perhaps a feather or two. This slow work of growth and death, gravity and decay, which is the chief work of the world, has by now produced in the bottom of the bucket several inches of black humus. I look into that bucket with fascination because I am a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts, and I recognize there an artistry and a farming far superior to mine, or to that of any human. I have seen the same process at work on the tops of boulders in a forest, and it has been at work immemorially over most of the land-surface of the world. All creatures die into it, and they live by it. More…

Fukushima: The US Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan were taking major radiation hits…

In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 7:40 am


From EcoWatch

A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago.

If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.

The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode.

In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout. More…

The Good Life: Mobility, Anonymity, Freedom…

In Around the web on February 25, 2014 at 10:11 am


From ClubOrloff

The recent advanced in networked mobile computing has made it rather unnecessary for a large class of people—ones who use computers for work—to maintain a fixed abode: it is now possible to do all the same things, via the Internet, from any place in the world that has a wifi signal.

If your work involves designing, writing and testing, or simply running software, then all you really need is a laptop, with a way to charge it. (In a sunny place, 200W of solar panels plus a couple of 6V golf cart batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter are all you need.) If you are doing research, then it turns out that a lot of libraries have gone electronic too, and that there is less and less reason to clamber around the dusty stacks, looking for a call number that of course isn’t there because the book is either checked out, misplaced, or lost altogether. In short, showing up is no longer important; all that matters is being able to get online.

What’s more, such mobility has become a definite plus, as more and more businesses have become virtual, relying on contractors that do their work remotely. Most such employers hardly ever have reason to see you in person; however, most of them really, truly, deeply care where you are physically. They want you to be nearby, just in case. In case of what, exactly? Nobody can tell you that, except that it is important. I only mention this because it’s true: it’s something I know from experience.

Suppose you have a job that involve banging away at a laptop for 8-10 hours a day for some company whose offices are located in a major urban center. More…

“Wake Up Before It’s Too Late” — New UN Report Says Small Organic Farming Only Way To Feed The World…

In Around the web on February 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

From United Nations

Developing and developed countries alike need a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to a “truly ecological intensification” approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. We need to see a move from a linear to a holistic approach in agricultural management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation) UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2013 (TER13) contends.

TER13 highlights that the required transformation is much more profound than simply tweaking the existing industrial agricultural system. Rather, what is called for is a better understanding of the multi-functionality of agriculture, its pivotal importance for pro-poor rural development and the significant role it can play in dealing with resource scarcities and in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, the sheer scale at which modified production methods would have to be adopted, the significant governance issues, the power asymmetries’ problems in food input and output markets as well as the current trade rules for agriculture pose considerable challenges.



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