Around the web

This City Came Up With a Simple Solution to Homelessness: Housing…

 From The Nation

Kilee Lowe was sitting in a park when cops picked her up and booked her into jail overnight.

After she got out the next morning, she returned to the park. The same officer who had thrown her into a cell not 24 hours before booked her again. It was back to jail for Kilee.

Kilee has been cycling in and out of the criminal justice system for years. After three and a half years in prison, she’s been homeless for a little over a year now.

“Just because I don’t have a credit card in my pocket,” she says, “does not make me a criminal.”

“A stink bomb into liberals’ certainty”: Doug Henwood on his anti-Clinton crusade…

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From Salon

Leftist economist, host and author talks about his controversial new brief for Harper’s opposing a Clinton ’16 bid 

As the media landscape continues to dissolve into sand and melt into air, there’s at least one thing we can still count on: Every six months or so, Harper’s, that venerable and embattled tribune of America’s hyper-educated and perennially dyspeptic left, will put out a strident essay intended to draw a line in the sand and kick off a heated discussion about the movement’s identity and future. More often than not, it does just that.

In this regard, Harper’s latest (paywalled) cover story — a cri de coeur against Hillary Clinton from economist, radio host, author and Left Business Observer founder Doug Henwood — is no exception. A mix of biography and political analysis, Henwood’s essay depicts the likely 2016 presidential candidate as a relatively unaccomplished conformist and careerist, one who’s far more interested in acquiring power (and protecting the interests of her wealthy funders) than making real the progressive vision. “What is the case for Hillary?” Henwood asks. “It’s hard to find any substantive political argument in her favor.”

Earlier this week, Salon gave Henwood a call to chat about the impetus of his piece, why he “can’t stand” the former secretary of state and how he’s responding to some of the attacks being sent his way by Clinton’s famously loyal defenders. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

How to start a war and lose an empire…

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From Club Orloff

A year and a half I wrote an essay on how the US chooses to view Russia, titled The Image of the Enemy. I was living in Russia at the time, and, after observing the American anti-Russian rhetoric and the Russian reaction to it, I made some observations that seemed important at the time. It turns out that I managed to spot an important trend, but given the quick pace of developments since then, these observations are now woefully out of date, and so here is an update.

At that time the stakes weren’t very high yet. There was much noise around a fellow named Magnitsky, a corporate lawyer-crook who got caught and died in pretrial custody. He had been holding items for some bigger Western crooks, who were, of course, never apprehended. The Americans chose to treat this as a human rights violation and responded with the so-called “Magnitsky Act” which sanctioned certain Russian individuals who were labeled as human rights violators. Russian legislators responded with the “Dima Yakovlev Bill,” named after a Russian orphan adopted by Americans who killed him by leaving him in a locked car for nine hours. This bill banned American orphan-killing fiends from adopting any more Russian orphans. It all amounted to a silly bit of melodrama.

But what a difference a year and a half has made! Ukraine, which was at that time collapsing at about the same steady pace as it had been ever since its independence two decades ago, is now truly a defunct state, with its economy in free-fall, one region gone and two more in open rebellion, much of the country terrorized by oligarch-funded death squads, and some American-anointed puppets nominally in charge but quaking in their boots about what’s coming next. Syria and Iraq, which were then at a low simmer, have since erupted into full-blown war, with large parts of both now under the control of the Islamic Caliphate, which was formed with help from the US, was armed with US-made weapons via the Iraqis. Post-Qaddafi Libya seems to be working on establishing an Islamic Caliphate of its own. Against this backdrop of profound foreign US foreign policy failure, the US recently saw it fit to accuse Russia of having troops “on NATO’s doorstep,” as if this had nothing to do with the fact that NATO has expanded east, all the way to Russia’s borders. Unsurprisingly, US–Russia relations have now reached a point where the Russians saw it fit to issue a stern warning: further Western attempts at blackmailing them may result in a nuclear confrontation.

Ebola: Clutching Our World Views With a Death Grip…

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From Mary Odum

As I write, I am sitting in what might be my last airplane seat, stacked cheek to jowl with a couple with a cute but runny-nosed baby. My trip was with girlfriends on a bike tour in California, and I made the most of it, living very much in the moment. As I traveled, I wore my infection control hat, scanning the settings with new eyes for potentially dangerous situations. I was careful in public places such as airports, trolleys, and the BART, washing my hands frequently and keeping them folded in front of me. I was much more aware of impulses to touch my face. I watched a couple in the San Francisco airport who were headed to Nairobi touch their faces, many times, as they waited. Airport bathrooms were mostly hands-free, but the automatic toilets sprayed their contents powerfully in all directions when flushed. There was a new sign in the TSA line warning us to wash our hands because of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), but no mention of Ebola (EVD). TSA used gloves to pat me down, but they were not washing their hands after contact with people. Boarding passes, drivers licenses, and credit cards were swiped and exchanged, along with bills and coins. I saw a large homeless population on the waterfront in San Francisco with no access to bathrooms or handwashing, who were using the streets as open latrines. I saw prostitutes. Hotels had carpets and mattresses that would defy cleaning in an outbreak. I saw people hugging, and shaking hands, and doing all kinds of human, caring, or even loving things that would be extinguished in a pandemic.

Today the first nurse within the US healthcare system has acquired EVD. My nursing friends are worried. Are we ready for this? How do we communicate risk, or should we settle for optimistic reassurance that our system can handle this? What are our biggest needs in preparation?

Complete article here
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Summary of the Collapse of Industrial Civilization…

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From John Michael Greer

If you’ve ever wondered just how powerfully collective thinking grips most members of our species—including, by and large, those who most forcefully insist on the originality of their thinking—I have an experiment to recommend: go out in public and advocate an idea about the future that isn’t part of the conventional wisdom, and see what kind of reaction you field. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll get some anger, some argument, and some blank stares, but the most telling reaction will come from people who try to force what you’re saying into the Procrustean bed of the conventional wisdom, no matter how thoroughly they have to stretch and chop what you’ve said to make it fit.

Now of course the project of this blog is guaranteed to field such reactions, since the ideas explored here don’t just ignore the conventional wisdom, they fling it to the floor and dance on the crumpled remains. When I mention that I expect the decline and fall of industrial civilization to take centuries, accordingly, people take this to mean that I expect a smooth, untroubled descent. When I mention that I expect crisis before this decade is finished, in turn, people take this to mean that I expect industrial civilization to crash into ruin in the next few years. Some people, for that matter, slam back and forth from one of these presuppositions to another, as though they can’t fit the concepts of prolonged decline and imminent crisis into their heads at the same moment.

Plants Can Tell When They’re Being Eaten…

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From Modern Farmer

Eating a leaf off a plant may not kill it, but that doesn’t mean the plant likes it. The newest study to examine the intelligence (or at least behavior) of plants finds that plants can tell when they’re being eaten — and send out defenses to stop it from happening.

We’ve been hearing for decades about the complex intelligence of plants; last year’s excellent New Yorker piece is a good place to start, if you want to learn more about the subject. But a new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, managed to figure out one new important element: plants can tell when they’re being eaten, and they don’t like it.

The word “intelligence,” when applied to any non-human animal or plant, is imprecise and sort of meaningless; research done to determine “intelligence” mostly just aims to learn how similar the inner workings of another organism is to a human thought process. There’s certainly nothing evolutionarily important about these sorts of intelligence studies; a chimp is not superior to a chicken just because chimps can use tools the same way humans do. But these studies are fascinating, and do give us insight into how other organisms think and behave, whatever “think” might mean.

Farm Confessional: I Raise Livestock and I Think It May Be Wrong…

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From Modern Farmer

I have no farming background. I was born and raised in the suburbs, and I spent more time in a shopping mall playing video games and eating fast food than I did outside. “Animals” meant cats and dogs. Of course I knew the McDonalds hamburger I ate came from a cow, but that cow had no real existence for me. It wasn’t until I started farming that livestock animals became real and individuated. And that’s when my ethical struggle began.

I pursued a PhD in political philosophy for a number of years. I focused on postmodernist and poststructuralist philosophies, and this and identity, power and symbolization are very much at the root of my ethical crises.

Watching the pigs shows me over and over again, in countless and sometimes very subtle ways, that there is much more to the life experiences of animals than most of us know or are willing to believe.

One morning, I woke up absolutely certain that killing animals to eat their meat was wrong.

Faith and fears in Wendell Berry’s Kentucky…

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From Grist

Wendell Berry’s mind is preoccupied with four dead sheep. I join the 80-year-old food movement sage for a drink and a visit in the kitchen of his neat white house on the top of the hill in Henry County. The talk meanders, picks up steam, and tapers off until the hum of the refrigerator fills the air, but the conversation always circles back to those missing animals.

Berry has four fewer sheep, but there were only two carcasses. The others disappeared without a trace. It’s coyotes, according to a trapper who knows the beasts and how to get rid of them. Berry has never heard of coyotes doing such a thing — not the stealing of sheep, for which they have an established reputation, but for doing such a clean job of it. No telltale chunks of hide or dried blood. I can tell that the mystery rattles around in his thoughts even as we trade stories of hunters being hunted, my home state of Montana, and women who tell dirty jokes.

Bottle Your Own Water…

From DiscardedDesigns.com

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Why We Built ‘Ebola Deeply’…

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From http://www.eboladeeply.org

Every time I pick up the phone and call home I am filled with dread. Will this be the day I hear someone I love has contracted the disease? To date, thankfully, no one in my family has. But that provides little comfort.

When my husband first said it, I was shocked and indignant. “What do you mean I feel guilty about my family being in Sierra Leone during this Ebola crisis, while I sit here in the United States?” I replied. His remark made me wince. But days later I mulled it over again and, in a moment of quiet reflection, I realized he was onto something.

My family – mother, brother, grandmother and countless loved ones – are in Sierra Leone right now. My immediate family is in the capital, Freetown, while many others are scattered about the countryside. No matter where they live, their day-to-day lives, their routines, their normalcy, has been ripped to shreds by Ebola. At the time of writing, Sierra Leone has seen 2,950 cases of Ebola, of which 2,593 are confirmed, along with 930 deaths according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. My heart goes out to the families of each and every victim and survivor of this terrible virus.

Every time I pick up the phone and call home I am filled with dread. Will this be the day I hear someone I love has contracted the disease? To date, thankfully, no one in my family has. But that provides little comfort. New cases continue to be reported in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The reality is, the longer this outbreak goes on, the deeper this disease will be entrenched, and the higher the chances someone in my family will become infected. It’s as simple as that. Whether they do or not, we can say with certainty more people will fall ill and some will die. My country, which has fought so hard to rebuild after a decade-long civil war, has been left teetering on the edge of collapse.

The truth is I do feel somewhat guilty that my physical life is able to go on without major disruption while my relatives wonder what the next day will bring. We always think of guilt as a bad thing, but sometimes it can motivate you to do the right thing. In my case, that has been to join a group of incredibly passionate and talented individuals to build Ebola Deeply. Our mission is simple: to humanize this public health emergency and to drive the dialogue in search of new ideas and solutions to the crisis.

This epicenter of this outbreak is Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, but if this situation is allowed to worsen, greater numbers of Ebola cases will make their way to Western shores. That is the legacy of this globalized, interconnected world we live in. More needs to be done, and there is a role for each and every one of us to play. In some cases, it is as simple as learning more about this disease and what is really happening in these seemingly far away countries. Guilt is my motivator to do more….
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The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing…

From Brain Pickings

“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65… and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?”

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short essay on her Facebook page, spurred by a surge in negative comments and vicious troll attacks.

Lamott’s words, once again, shine with warm and luminous wisdom. Alluding to the chapter on perfectionism, she writes:

Grimly Letting Go of the Old Story…

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From DAVE POLLARD

I have noticed a subtle change over the last year or two in what (and how) both mainstream and alternative media are reporting (worse news, more indifferently, more dishonestly and more under-reporting). I’ve also noticed a gradual increase in the general level of non-specific anxiety, pessimism, guilt, shame, premonition and overwhelm of my friends and acquaintances (it’s even worse now, I think, than it was right after 9/11). And I’ve noticed a similar disturbing increase in the general level of malaise, meanness, insensitivity, and demonization of others in general public discourse.

I think these are all symptoms of the early stages of collapse.

Here are the shifts I am seeing more tangibly that would seem to epitomize early collapse:

Ebola and the five stages of collapse…

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From Club Orlov

At the moment, the Ebola virus is ravaging three countries—Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone—where it is doubling every few weeks, but singular cases and clusters of them are cropping up in dense population centers across the world. An entirely separate Ebola outbreak in the Congo appears to be contained, but illustrates an important point: even if the current outbreak (to which some are already referring as a pandemic) is brought under control, continuing deforestation and natural habitat destruction in the areas where the fruit bats that carry the virus live make future outbreaks quite likely.

Ebola’s mortality rate can be as high as 70%, but seems closer to 50% for the current major outbreak. This is significantly worse than the Bubonic plague, which killed off a third of Europe’s population. Previous Ebola outbreaks occurred in rural, isolated locales, where they quickly burned themselves out by infecting everyone within a certain radius, then running out of new victims. But the current outbreak has spread to large population centers with highly mobile populations, and the chances of such a spontaneous end to this outbreak seem to be pretty much nil.

Politicizing Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson, Celebrity Nudes, and Global Warming…

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From Slate Star Codex

[Trigger warning: Some discussion of rape in Part III. This will make much more sense if you’ve previously read I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup]

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One day I woke up and they had politicized Ebola.

I don’t just mean the usual crop of articles like Republicans Are Responsible For The Ebola Crisis and Democrats Try To Deflect Blame For Ebola Outbreak and Incredibly Awful Democrats Try To Blame Ebola On GOP and NPR Reporter Exposes Right Wing Ebola Hype and Republicans Flip-Flop On Ebola Czars. That level of politicization was pretty much what I expected.

(I can’t say I totally expected to see an article called Fat Lesbians Got All The Ebola Dollars, But Blame The GOP, but in retrospect nothing I know about modern society suggested I wouldn’t)

I’m talking about something weirder. Over the past few days, my friends on Facebook have been making impassioned posts about how it’s obvious there should/shouldn’t be a quarantine, but deluded people on the other side are muddying the issue. The issue has risen to an alarmingly high level of 0.05 #Gamergates, which is my current unit of how much people on social media are concerned about a topic. What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the right, and everyone opposing on the left. Weird that so many people suddenly develop strong feelings about a complicated epidemiological issue, which can be exactly predicted by their feelings about everything else.

The Tao of the Apocalypse…

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From Autonomy Acres

A few nights ago I had a dream that would fall under the category of post apocalyptic.  It took place in the present day, at my house, on what appeared to be a bright sunny summer day.  My son and I were out back by the garage getting trailers hooked up to our bikes, collecting baseball bats and machetes, cans of food, and other supplies that have now left my memory.  What the cause of our hasty retreat was I also can’t recall, but I knew we had to get going fast.

Throughout the dream I was also worried as to where my wife and daughter were.  Maybe we were off to meet them, or worse yet to rescue them from some unseen and unknown antagonist.  Either way, I missed the rest of my family very much, and I knew it was my job to keep my son safe.

Before awakening, the last thing I remember doing in the dream was getting the two dogs into the trailers, tying down the rest of our supplies, and then having to say goodbye to our two cats Charlie and Brown.  It broke my heart to have to leave these two little guys behind.  But even in the dreamtime, I realized that they would be fine without us and could fend for themselves living the rest of their days happily eating songbirds and mice.

Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers…

Apprentices at work in Europe’s largest steel factory in Duisburg, Germany (Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

America rarely uses an apprenticeship model to teach young people a trade. Could such a system help the unemployed?

At last, unemployment is easing. But the latest low rate—hovering below 6 percent–obscures a deeper, longer-term problem: “skills mismatches” in the labor force, which will only worsen in years to come. According to the most recent figures, 9.3 million Americans are unemployed, but 4.8 million jobs stand empty because employers can’t find people to fill them. With new technology transforming work across a range of sectors, more and more businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills to man new machines and manage new processes.

One solution has enchanted employers, educators, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle: European-style apprenticeship. The Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants—and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, lawmakers as different as Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have expressed interest in the idea.

Americans should proceed with caution.

Democracy Now: Socialism is the Only Answer…


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Dark Age America: The Hour of the Knife…

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From John Michael Greer

It was definitely the sort of week that could benefit from a little comic relief. The Ebola epidemic marked another week of rising death tolls and inadequate international response . Bombs rained down ineffectually on various corners of Iraq and Syria as the United States and an assortment of putative allies launched air strikes at the Islamic State insurgents; since air strikes by themselves don’t win wars, and none of the combatants except Islamic State and the people they’re attacking have shown any inclination to put boots on the ground, that high-tech tantrum also counts in every practical sense as an admission of defeat, a point which is doubtless not lost on Islamic State. Meanwhile stock markets worldwide plunged on an assortment of ghastly economic news, with most indexes giving up their 2014 gains and then some, and oil prices dropped on weakening demand, reaching levels that put a good many fracking firms in imminent danger of bankruptcy.

In the teeth of all this bad news, I’m pleased to say, Paul Krugman rose to the occasion and gave all of us in the peak oil scene something to laugh about.  My regular readers will recall that Krugman assailed Post Carbon Institute a couple of weeks ago for having the temerity to point out that transitioning away from fossil fuels was, ahem, actually going to cost money. His piece was rebutted at once by Post Carbon’s Richard Heinberg and others, who challenged Krugman’s crackpot optimism and pointed out that the laws of physics and geology really do trump those of economics. 

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