Fiscal Cliff notes…

From digby

James Galbraith lays down some truth on the Grand Bargain nonsense:

That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know. The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.

Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.

And the campaign is also partly political. The fact is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the main way ordinary Americans connect to their federal government, except in wars and disasters. They have made a vast change in family life, unburdening the young of their parents and ensuring that every working person contributes whether they have parents, dependents, survivors or disabled of their own to look after. These programs do this work seamlessly, for next to nothing; their managers earn civil service salaries and the checks arrive on time.

Todd Walton: Precious Dream

Marcia and Stella at the Mendocino Coast Hospital

Under The Table

Last night I had a precious dream,
dreamt I woke into the dawn,
walked out of my little cottage,
found a newspaper on the lawn
When I picked up that morning tribune,
and it opened to the very front page,
the headlines they told me
it was the dawning of a brand new age

Several years ago, I wrote the song Precious Dream, and three years ago when Marcia and I recorded So Not Jazz, our CD of cello/piano/guitar/vocal duets we included the song on the album. A few months after the CD was released, a DJ in Astoria, Oregon used Precious Dream as her theme song for several weeks, and that about sums up the commercial life of the song.

I wrote Precious Dream to elucidate my hopes for the world and human society, and I like to think of the tune as a campaign song in search of a candidate. I have yet to find such a candidate, though the Greens come closest to embodying the gist of my reverie; and since we are about to find out who our next President is and how far to the right of the mythic center our Congress and state houses will be, I thought this would be a good time to share the lyrics with you.

Yeah, the rich folks had all decided
to share their money with the poor

The movie that most influenced my thinking about the human world

Four more years of obstruction, faux drama, and trench warfare?


Heritage is promising to double down on obstruction…

Massie rounds up The Corner’s reality-deficient responses to Obama’s victory:

[W]hat these eight responses demonstrate is the extent to which too many conservatives believed their own propaganda. This is what it’s like to live in a cocoon. The apparent inability to appreciate why any sane person might contemplate voting for Barack Obama is evidence of, well, of the closing of the conservative mind.

Hence the recourse to fantasies of the sort that leave the average, sober-minded voter wondering just what kind of crazy juice you’re hooked on. Obama wants to make the United States a kind of France? Check. Obama wants to crush religious liberty in America? Check. Our colleges are indoctrinating yet another generation of sadly-impressionable young American minds? Check. (Bonus: perhaps it would be better and certainly safer if fewer Americans risked going to college!) There is a War Against Americanism and Barack Obama is the enemy general? Check. The media are hoodwinking poor, gullible Americans? Check. Universal healthcare is the road to serfdom? Check. The people, damn them, are too stupid to know any better and deserve what they get? The fools. Check.

Drum fears that the GOP won’t “back down from their all-obstruction-all-the-time agenda” and we will have “four years of faux drama and trench warfare.”

Republicans don’t have a problem with their appearance. They have a problem with their reality…


Akin And Mourdock Were Not “Outliers”

It truly is breathtaking, the depth to which Republicans can’t distinguish appearance from reality:

“We have a significant problem with female voters,” said John Weaver, a senior Republican strategist. Mr. Akin’s comments, Mr. Weaver said, “did not seem like outliers.” Nor, he added, were those made by Richard E. Mourdock, whose Senate campaign in Indiana was derailed in spectacular fashion after he said in a debate that it was “God’s will” when a pregnancy resulted from rape.

“They did not seem foreign to our party,” Mr. Weaver said. “They seemed representative of our party.” (Bold added.)

No, Mr. Weaver, it’s not an appearance problem. It’s not that Akin and Mourdock did not “seem” like outliers. It’s that they aren’t outliers. The Republican party platform doesn’t even have rape exception, for goodness sakes! And if the very position paper Republicans have agreed to run on isn’t central enough, let’s not forget that their standard bearer talked bizarrely about “binders full of women” and pointedly refused to disown supporters like Mourdock.

Forced birth, unequal pay, coat-hangers, and vaginal sonograms – that is precisely what the Republican party stands for when it comes to women.

Several Short Sentences About Empathy…

How To Save The World

(the style of this essay is borrowed from that of NYT nature writer Verlyn Klinkenborg’s brilliant essay & book “Several Short Sentences About Writing”; I’m playing with it as an interesting new form of prose)

  • If we’re going to survive as a species when our civilization crumbles (and when that collapse brings about the end of the industrial economy, the end of abundant cheap energy and the end of stable climate), we are going to have to relearn how to live in community.
  • That will entail relearning to get along with (and to love, not just tolerate) people in our physical communities who we don’t like much. In our modern, anonymous, isolating society we have not had to do this.
  • Getting along with people we don’t like will require us to study, understand and appreciate why they are the way they are. They are the way they are for a reason.
  • Once we appreciate this reason, we will be able to empathize with their behaviour, and from that it’s a short journey to loving them.
  • One of the likely reasons they are the way they are is that, because of how and where they were raised, they learned that this is a good way to be. A good way to be, depending on the worldview you’re endowed with (and evolve through critical and imaginative thinking) is one that is, at least for you: Moral, safe, rewarded and/or mandated.
  • This good way to be

How Does Bernie Sanders Do It?

The Nation

The narratives spun by political and media elites at the close of the 2012 election campaign were all about money and television buys, polls and personalities. Both major parties focused on a narrow set of issues, and an even narrower set of appeals directed to a conventional wisdom that imagined Americans wanted only drab variations on the moderate themes sounded by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in their last debate. But up in Vermont, one of the most refreshingly unconventional politicians in America was coasting toward re-election with a campaign that broke all the rules. A week before the election, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had run no attack ads. In fact, he hadn’t run any TV commercials. He was still speaking in full sentences, not soundbites; still inviting voters to ask complicated questions on controversial issues—and still answering with big, bold proposals to address climate change, really reform healthcare with a single-payer “Medicare for All” program, steer money away from the Pentagon and toward domestic jobs initiatives, and counter the threat of plutocracy posed by Citizens United by amending the Constitution. Rejecting the empty partisanship of the pre-election frenzy, Sanders was ripping the austerity agenda of Romney and Paul Ryan, while warning that Obama and too many Democrats were inclining toward an austerity-lite “grand bargain” that would make debt reduction a greater priority than saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Empathic Civilization


Naomi Klein: Seizing the climate crisis to demand a truly populist agenda…

The Nation

Less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States, Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute blamed New Yorkers’ resistance to big-box stores for the misery they were about to endure. Writing on, he explained that the city’s refusal to embrace Walmart will likely make the recovery much harder: “Mom-and-pop stores simply can’t do what big stores can in these circumstances,” he wrote.

And the preemptive scapegoating didn’t stop there. He also warned that if the pace of reconstruction turned out to be sluggish (as it so often is) then “pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act” would be to blame, a reference to the statute that requires workers on public-works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region.

The same day, Frank Rapoport, a lawyer representing several billion-dollar construction and real estate contractors, jumped in to suggest that many of those public works projects shouldn’t be public at all. Instead, cash-strapped governments should turn to “public private partnerships,” known as “P3s.” That means roads, bridges and tunnels being rebuilt by private companies, which, for instance, could install tolls and keep the profits.

The overriding principle must be addressing the twin crises of inequality and climate change at the same time.

Up until now

Gene Logsdon: Lima Beans Into November

The Contrary Farmer

Bad weather almost always brings a few good results, something to hang on to in the time of adversity. After the extremely dry summer, rain came here again in September and October and nature reacted with a tremendous spurt of new growth. Sometimes I wonder if during drought the soil doesn’t store up energy that is then unleashed when moisture returns. Anyway, among various good effects of this spurting green revival, our pole lima beans decided to come alive with new growth and blossoms.  Aiding that spurt of growth, we suffered no killing frost going into November.  (The photo shows the pole beans after the last harvest, after frost did come on Nov. 5.)

So on October 27, with the “storm of the century” bearing down on us (seems like every year now we have the storm of the century), Carol and I were out in the cold wind harvesting the last of these late beans. We picked even the ones that we normally might leave to mature another day or two. The advantage of pole limas is that you can hold a pod up to the sky light without picking it and ascertain the size of the beans inside. The secret of a really tasty lima bean is to harvest it when it is just a little bigger than a man’s thumbnail which is difficult to determine any other way. By the time the bean is plump enough to feel with your fingers, it has past its tenderest, tastiest stage.

Shivering in the wind and with fingers turning blue

Local Resilience: Tips for Harvesting, Storing and Using California Bay Nuts…

Mendocino County

Bay nut season is starting here in Northern California and it appears to be a good year. They should be raining down from trees up and down the coast for the next month or more.  The season varies year to year.  Sometimes it will extend into late November or even later.  Ripening times also vary among individual trees with some dropping early and some later on.  Here are some tips to increase your success and enjoyment with baynuts this year and for years to come!  See this article on the Paleotechnics website for a more in-depth treatment of bay nuts and Bay trees.

*Harvest the nuts in a timely fashion.  You don’t want them to either mold, or to start undergoing the physiological changes that happen when they begin sprouting.  It’s best to harvest the nuts before the husks are very dried or very rotten… Complete article here

Struck Dumb…


Why, even now, climate change cannot be mentioned in the presidential election.

Here’s a remarkable thing. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama – with the exception of one throwaway line each(1,2) – have mentioned climate change in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

They are struck dumb. During a Romney rally in Virginia on Thursday, a protester held up a banner and shouted “What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm”(3). The candidate stood grinning and nodding as the crowd drowned out the heckler by chanting “USA!, USA!”. Romney paused, then resumed his speech as if nothing had happened. The poster the man held up? It said “End climate silence.”

While other Democrats expound the urgent need to act, the man they support will not take up the call. Barack Obama, responding to his endorsement by the mayor of New York, mentioned climate change last week as “a threat to our children’s future”(4). Otherwise, I have been able to find nothing; nor have the many people I have asked on Twitter. Something has gone horribly wrong.

There are several ways in which the impacts of Hurricane Sandy are likely to have been exacerbated by climate breakdown. Warmer oceans make hurricanes more likely and more severe(5,6). A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, increasing the maximum rainfall(7). Higher sea levels aggravate storm surges.

Transition: Who will get this economy going? No one…


“We’ve got to get this economy going again!” Unless your cave lacks wifi, cable or satellite, you’ve heard this once or twice in the last four seconds.

Job creation and economic growth dominate the November election in the U.S. — perhaps more than any election in history. Campaign ads for local, state and national candidates all promise jobs. The presidential election this year has become a referendum on who can breathe new life into our economy.

News Flash: Neither presidential candidate will succeed.

What if our unexamined assumptions about the need and possibility of perpetual economic growth are wrong? What if robust economic growth is our civilization’s way of driving off a cliff? What if the planet is incapable of supporting continued increase in global economic throughput?

We’ll excuse almost anything if it happens in the name of jobs. At last count the U.S. Congress had passed 247 anti-environmental measures in its current term. The Republican Party wants to throw environmental regulations overboard because they throttle back the unfettered growth we must have. Across the aisle, many who normally exhibit a stronger environmental ethic are joining the massacre, so strong is the mandate to grow the economy and create jobs.

Occupy, declared dead, is shining in this mess…


The first horseman was named al-Qaeda in Manhattan, and it came as a message on September 11, 2001: that our meddling in the Middle East had sown rage and funded madness. We had meddled because of imperial ambition and because of oil, the black gold that fueled most of our machines and our largest corporations and too many of our politicians. The second horseman came not quite four years later. It was named Katrina, and this one too delivered a warning.

Katrina’s message was that we needed to face the dangers we had turned our back on when the country became obsessed with terrorism: failing infrastructure, institutional rot, racial divides, and poverty. And larger than any of these was the climate — the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.

The third horseman came in October of 2008: it was named Wall Street, and when that horseman stumbled and collapsed, we were reminded that it had always been a predator, and all that had changed was the scale — of deregulation, of greed, of recklessness, of amorality about homes and lives being casually trashed to profit the already wealthy. And the fourth horseman has arrived on schedule.

We called it Sandy, and it came to tell us we should have listened harder when the first, second, and third disasters showed up. This storm’s name shouldn’t be Sandy — though that means we’ve run through the alphabet all the way up to S this hurricane season, way past brutal Isaac in August

The New Facebook Buttons: Promote, Despise, Abandon…


How many people would click “despise FB” and “abandon FB” if those were offered alongside the new “promote for a fee” button? 

Just in case you haven’t noticed, your Facebook activity may not be reaching the FB audience you enjoyed a few months ago.

If you want to reach your previous audience, you need to click that little “promote” button and pay the fee.

My friend Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds alerted me to a remarkable coincidence: shortly after Facebook’s May launch of the “promote” option for business accounts, business users noticed an 85% reduction in their FB reach. Facebook: I Wany My Friends Back.

Like many other “stealth” revenue campaigns in social media, the “promote” revenue stream was first introduced as a marketing tool for enterprises and groups: Facebook’s tempting ‘Promote’ button for business (CNET).

It was presented as a way to expand one’s reach on FB, to friends of friends, etc. What was not highlighted was the “stealth” reduction in reach to “encourage” use of the “promote” option: Broken on Purpose: Why Getting It Wrong Pays More Than Getting It Right:

Many of us

How Austerity Conservatism Will Screw Us…


The enormity of last week’s super-storm is just beginning to sink into political consciousness. Hurricane Sandy should transform what Americans expect from their government, and give the party of government activism new force.

As soon as the election is behind us, the country faces a major struggle over what the super-storm portends and requires. But that struggle will be as much within the Democratic Party as between Democrats and the right, because of the deadweight of austerity politics.

I. The Three Faces of Conservatism.

In this political season, progressives are actually battling three forms of conservatism — and two of them have made deep inroads in the Democratic Party, especially the presidential party.

The first variety — call it Yahoo Conservatism — is epitomized by the Tea Party and Rep. Paul Ryan, and by Mitt Romney’s intermittent, clumsy efforts to impersonate it.

Its credo is: cut taxes, privatize social programs, slash government, bash immigrants and gays, deny climate change, dictate reproductive rules, move America in the direction of theocracy, and valorize gun-slinging both at home and globally.

This face of conservatism doesn’t represent most Americans. And on the Yahoo front, Barack Obama

Why political journalists can’t stand Nate Silver: The limits of journalistic knowledge…


The more I think about the rift between political journalism and Nate Silver, the more it seems that it’s one that’s fundamentally an issue of epistemology — how journalists know what they know. Here’s why I think that’s the case.

When we talk about the epistemology of journalism, it all eventually ties into objectivity. The journalistic norm of objectivity is more than just a careful neutrality or attempt to appear unbiased; for journalists, it’s the grounds on which they claim the authority to describe reality to us. And the authority of objectivity is rooted in a particular process.

That process is very roughly this: Journalists get access to privileged information from official sources, then evaluate, filter, and order it through the rather ineffable quality alternatively known as “news judgment,” “news sense,” or “savvy.” This norm of objectivity is how political journalists say to the public (and to themselves), “This is why you can trust what we say we know — because we found it out through this process.” (This is far from a new observation – there are decades of sociological research on this.)

Silver’s process — his epistemology — is almost exactly the opposite of this:

Where political journalists’ information is privileged, his is public

The Pulpit Needs Agnostics

The Contrary Minister

For more than 25 years the beloved Senior Minister of the famed City Temple of London (Methodist) was Leslie Weatherhead. His books have been read by millions.

In The Christian Agnostic he opens with this: Not for much longer will the world put up with the lies, the superstitions and the distortions with which the simple message of Jesus has been overlaid. The message of Galilee has been so overlaid with creeds, ceremonies and doctrines, that one can hardly catch the essential message.”

He goes on to say that any minister, standing in a pulpit, who is not an agnostic is dangerous. Why is he (she) dangerous? Because he pretends to have positive and absolute answers, that he does not have. He lives in the 20th [and 21st] century, parroting back a third century biblical mentality, as though nothing had been learned, thought or discovered in the last 2000 years.

As the religious historian Joseph Campbell put it: “The majority of ministers either do not understand their material or else are deliberately misrepresenting it, if they know better. They present myth and metaphor as historical literal events. The idea of virgin birth, for example, is presented as historical fact, whereas every mythology (and religious tradition) in the world has included the mythological motif of virgin birth in their legends and folklore. American Indian mythologies abound in virgin births.”

I commend another book of his to those of you who would like to become more knowledgeable in this area. It is The Inner Reaches of Outer Space.

Todd Walton: Yard Sale

Under The Table

We just had a big yard sale to move along the myriad things we did not wish to keep in our new life in our new house. This was my fourth such undertaking and Marcia’s first time trying to sell stuff we no longer care to possess. I keep wanting to call the event a garage sale because the things were first stored in our garage, but the category heading in the newspaper where we ran our ad was Yard Sales, and the sale did take place in our yard, so…

Because the universe is mysterious and seemingly a bit sadistic, as well as loving and miraculous, Marcia came down with a bad flu cold a week before the event and was just starting to feel better as the blessed day dawned, whereas I was just entering Zenith Flu Cold Symptom Time as the alarm clock sounded at 6 AM on the dreaded day. Oh, joy. Had we not advertised the bloody sale in the newspaper I might have stayed in bed battling exhaustion and sleep deprivation and tides of snot, but such was not the case, the hordes would soon be descending, and so I rose from my warm nest and went out into the frigid dawn to help Marcia empty the garage onto our driveway.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the aforementioned possibly sadistic and certainly ironic universe had, just two days before the event, seen fit to break our two-car garage door, a folding fiberglass contraption

How Genetically Modified Cotton is Taking Over…


There is a very good chance that if you’ve bought anything made of cotton within the last several years, you have indirectly, and most likely unknowingly, supported the GMO industry. That’s because it is estimated that 90 percent of cotton produced worldwide is now genetically modified. While GM cottonlikely won’t hurt you, the concern is that we, as consumers, haven’t been kept informed of the presence of these crops and their byproducts in our lives.

According to The Telegraph, British author Simon Ferringo says that only 12 countries in the world actually grow genetically modified cotton, but that their crops account for the majority produced in the world.

In the United States and elsewhere, the cotton is genetically modified to resist pests. The large prevalence of GM cotton means finding organic cotton is getting more and more difficult and is coming at a heftier price.

Some retailers have formed a “sustainable cotton consortium”. The companies, known as The Better Cotton Initiative, include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, H&M, Adidas, M&S, and Nike. While they currently have little control over whether or not they are using GM cotton

Dave Smith: Ukiah Priorities Skewed…


Letter to Editors: AVA, UDJ

We all know that in emergencies, seconds count. Seconds can mean life or death.

My store on State Street in Ukiah is a vantage point for observing the response times of our first responders. As the sirens sound, first past the store is always the Fire Department paramedic ambulance, and then a few seconds later, sometimes many seconds later, comes the big, lumbering fire truck.

Chief Dewey is requesting the elimination of the Fire Department ambulance due to budget reductions of six firefighter/ paramedics (Ukiah Daily Journal 10/27/12) leaving us with fire trucks, and woefully inadequate private agencies, for emergency response. And our Police Department is so overwhelmed that the City Council is being asked to please add back police officers.

Meanwhile, our city staff seems to be hanging on to administrative jobs by unsuccessfully challenging state budget cuts to redevelopment money over and over again.

Has our leadership forgotten that their first priority is public safety? One wonders what their priorities are when they cut into bone before cutting away the fat.

Helping Your Your Community Prepare For The Next Disaster…


People want to help their communities when tragedy strikes, but it’s often impossible to match up eager volunteers with people and tasks that need manpower. This new web platform will get cities and towns ready to do just that.

Every time a populated region experiences a natural disaster, people have the same reaction: Why didn’t we prepare for this better? What can we do differently next time?

Those were some of the thoughts going through Caitria O’Neill’s head after a freak tornado hit her hometown of Monson, Massachusetts in May 2011. O’Neill had just graduated from Harvard and moved her boxes home when the tornado arrived, making her home uninhabitable. O’Neill tried to help with recovery efforts as best she could, using Facebook, Google Voice, and even post-it notes to organize volunteer information.

“There were these two completely uncoordinated things happening on the ground: people showing up who wanted to help and organizations and families that needed help,” she says. “There was no infrastructure binding the two.

Archiving The Information Necessary To Rebuild Society…


The world economy has collapsed. There is no internet or Wikipedia. How do you rebuild society?

CD3WD is a site built by programmer Alex Weir that’s meant to help spur the improvement of the infrastructure of third world nations by giving them first-world technology and knowledge for free.

Everything from agriculture to technology is addressed in its roughly 4 DVDs worth of the archived information available online and for free in text and PDF format; it’s also available to download in its entirety from this torrent.

Not only is this project a great information resource for third-world countries, but if you are of the survivalist mindset, this resource would be great to keep in your tool chest for possible use in the future if such a civilisation-ending disaster ever did occur. Think of it as a repository of some of the most useful human knowledge and technology.

The project is also looking for volunteers to add content to areas which are missing substantive content.

Agriculture – VITA – Cereals Manual I
Agriculture – VITA – Cereals Manual II
Agriculture – VITA – Seed Germination
Agriculture – VITA – Seeds and Weeds
Agriculture – VITA – SoyBeans
Agriculture – VITA – Garden Sileage
Agriculture – VITA – Greenhouses
Agriculture – VITA – Grain Storage III