Parking meters and prisons: Top six privatization horror stories…


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From DailyKos

[Privatizing government business services means losing local democratic control to corporations and loss of local jobs. We have recently learned that our own Ukiah business licensing has been outsourced to a company in Atlanta. Why? More efficient and cheaper and non-union? Lowering the budget to save overpaid management?… -DS]

Selling public resources to private companies for them to profit off of is a hot trend in cities and states—not all of them controlled by Republicans, either. Privatization deals affecting everything from parking meters to child welfare to public water systems are often negotiated in secret, carried out with little oversight, and subject to massive cost overruns and corruption. The sordid story of Chicago’s parking meters has to be a top entry in any “worst privatization stories” competition. Rick Perlstein laid out the ugly details in The Nation a couple months back:

Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 struck a deal with the investment consortium Chicago Parking Meters LLC, or CPM, that included Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and, yes, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, to privatize our meters. The price of parking—and the intensity of enforcement—skyrocketed. The terms were negotiated in secret. City Council members got two days to study the billion-dollar, seventy-five-year contract before signing off on it. An early estimate from the Chicago inspector general was that the city had sold off its property for about half of what it was worth.

Transition: The Power of the Powerless…


tFrom The Picket Line

(Why does seemingly every corporate headquarters, hotel, school, and so on in the U.S. have the stars and stripes flying on a big pole not far from the front door? When people visit the U.S. from other countries they often remark how weird it is to see the flag everywhere instead of primarily on certain government buildings. Is this because American corporations, or foreign corporations with offices here, are especially enthusiastic about the flag? Or is it because nobody wants to be the target of some Fox News two-minutes hate about being insufficiently patriotic — that is, insufficiently subservient to the ruling ideology? Why do sporting events open with the national anthem, and what do you think would happen if you stayed seated when it played?)

I recently read Václav Havel’s essay on “The Power of the Powerless.” I thought I was going to be rereading it, but I realized that what I had read before was only excerpts. Today I’m going to summarize and paraphrase and riff on the full essay for a bit. It’s a fascinating and surprising piece of work and I think it has useful lessons for us today.

The context for the essay is Czechoslovakia in 1978. The country had been behind the Iron Curtain for thirty years, and ten years had passed since the brief experiment in political liberalization known as the “Prague Spring” which had been quickly stopped by a Soviet-led invasion.

Havel was a Czech playwright with international renown

Overthrow the Speculators…


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From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.

William Edelen: The Future Requires Courage


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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

We live in an exciting and stimulating period of history. One age is dying… and the new age is not quite born.

We see radical changes in sexual patterns, lifestyles, marriage styles, women’s roles, family structures, education, energy, religion, the Christian church and in almost every conceivable aspect of life. We can withdraw in anxiety, or we can become negative and pessimistic. If we choose either of these paths, we forfeit our chance to participate in the creation of the future.

To live in this age, or any age, requires an enormous amount of courage, faith and willingness to take risks. But to participate in the forming of a future is to create. And courage, risk-taking, creativity and faith are the attributes that have continually reformed the structure of civilization.

What is creative courage? It is the willingness to pursue new forms, new symbols and new patterns of truth. The alternative is stagnation.

Every profession — technology, diplomacy, business, arts, medicine, law — requires those who possess a creative courage. Certainly that is true in teaching and the ministry.

At the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce has his young hero write these words in his diary: “Welcome O Life… I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

Todd Walton: Father Christmas


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From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” William Shakespeare

My father was extremely neurotic. A psychiatrist by profession, one of his more pronounced neuroses was the inability to complete anything, which made psychiatry the perfect profession for him. Our house and yard were minefields of my father’s unfinished projects, some of which became entangled with other unfinished projects, so that large areas of the domestic terrain were rendered useless except as depositories for the stuff of projects he would never complete.

When I was twelve, my father gave me the task of clearing away a great mass of blackberry brambles that was smothering our one and only apricot tree and made accessing the delectable fruit impossible. After many hours of hacking and cutting and carrying loads of brambles to the burn pile, I discovered that my father had pruned the apricot tree some years before, left the pruned branches lying around the tree, and in a subsequent year positioned a wooden ladder amidst the pruned branches in order to prune the tree again, left the newly pruned branches atop the older pruned branches, and then left the ladder surrounded by those multiple layers of pruned branches. Blackberry bushes then sprouted in the fertile soil and employed the framework of dead branches and wooden ladder as armature for their rampant growth.

When I was sixteen, my father and I attended an auction of government property

Gene Logsdon: He Is Just So Happy


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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

My loveliest Christmas gift this year was the outpouring of recollections about the little things in farm life that so many of you wrote about last week [on The Contrary Farmer blogsite here]. I am trying hard not to utter grandiose statements about how you are turning this blogsite into something profoundly wonderful, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that you are an extra special bunch of really great human beings. It is just so much fun interrelating with all of you.

Another lovely Christmas present came from my sister, Marilyn: a bushel of wheat for our chickens. I gave her four ears of my open pollinated corn wrapped in a red ribbon, extra delicious for making corn bread. When we tell other people about our gift exchange, we get strange looks. But all of you reading this blog will just nod and say “of course.”  What could be more fitting? The interesting aside about getting a bushel of wheat is that, despite the fact that the elevator uptown has tons of wheat in storage, it is no longer able to extract just one bushel out of the huge storage bins. And the neighbors and relatives from whom I used to get a little wheat no longer raise it. But the people at our elevator are mighty nice guys, and when Marilyn put on her best poor-old-helpless-kinfolk-neighbor-farm woman look and smiled benignly at them, they somehow figured out a way to do it. It’s one of the blessing of living in a small community, Marilyn says.

Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary…


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William Edelen: Christmas Myth, Legend and Folklore…


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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

We are buried this time of year in mythology, legend and folklore. It’s good to get it all in perspective by rediscovering a few historical facts.

I have lost count of the thousands of time that we have been told that Christmas celebrates the origin of Christianity — which, of course, is false. Christmas was around for eons before Jesus was born.

The winter solstice comes from two ancient words, sol, the name of a sun god, and stice, meaning still, or the day that the sun stands still, the shortest day of the year.

Since all cultures have been so dependent upon the seasons, the four major festivals centered on the summer and winter solstices and the spring the autumn equinoxes. An equinox — equi, meaning equal, and nox, meaning nights, or equal nights — occurs midway between the winter and summer solstice, when days and nights are equal in length.

Those are the four corners of the celestial year. But with the return of the sun to once again warm the earth and bring forth a resurrection of life, the winter solstice became the greatest of all the festivals.

The ancient festival in Rome was known as the Saturnalia. The emperor Aurelian established an official holiday called “Sol Invecti,” meaning “unconquered sun” in honor of the sun god, Sol. It was held Dec. 24 and 25 and established Dec. 25 as the official solstice. All the other religions that worshiped sun gods also took Dec. 25 as their fixed date for their festivals. 

Fukushima: Wave of Radiation Will Be 10 Times Bigger than All of the Radiation from Nuclear Tests Combined…


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From Washingtonsblog

Putting Fukushima In Perspective

There was no background radioactive cesium before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents started.

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster.

***

Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.

As the EPA notes:

Todd Walton: The Amazon Paradox


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From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“Surrealism to me is reality.” John Lennon

My books are for sale on Amazon. New and used. So are my music CDs. My books and music are downloadable from Amazon, and that includes audio books of my work narrated by yours truly. Do I feel like a rat and an enemy of local bookstores and local music stores? No, because with the exception of a few extremely local bookstores where I am personally known to the proprietors, my books are not available in any local bookstores in America or even in the few remaining chain bookstores, and that is also true of my music. This is also true for the vast majority of writers and musicians (those who produce books and albums) in this country. Without Amazon and a few other online sites, most writers and musicians would have nowhere, practically speaking, to sell their work.

Ironically, local independent bookstores with their extremely limited shelf space carry almost entirely mainstream corporate product (i.e. imitative junk) because that is what most people buy. Amazon, on the other hand, has unlimited shelf space and carries everybody’s books and music, including works by the most esoteric poets and writers and musicians in the world, works no one else will carry.

Mendo Slaughterhouse: Animal Cruelty Is The Price We Pay For Cheap Meat…


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From Rolling Stone

Sarah – let’s call her that for this story, though it’s neither the name her parents gave her nor the one she currently uses undercover – is a tall, fair woman in her midtwenties who’s pretty in a stock, anonymous way, as if she’d purposely scrubbed her face and frame of distinguishing characteristics. Like anyone who’s spent much time working farms, she’s functionally built through the thighs and trunk, herding pregnant hogs who weigh triple what she does into chutes to birth their litters and hefting buckets of dead piglets down quarter-mile alleys to where they’re later processed. It’s backbreaking labor, nine-hour days in stifling barns in Wyoming, and no training could prepare her for the sensory assault of 10,000 pigs in close quarters: the stench of their shit, piled three feet high in the slanted trenches below; the blood on sows’ snouts cut by cages so tight they can’t turn around or lie sideways; the racking cries of broken-legged pigs, hauled into alleys by dead-eyed workers and left there to die of exposure. It’s the worst job she or anyone else has had, but Sarah isn’t grousing about the conditions. She’s too busy waging war on the hogs’ behalf.

We’re sitting across the couch from a second undercover, a former military serviceman we’ll call Juan, in the open-plan parlor of an A-frame cottage just north of the Vermont-New York border. The house belongs to their boss, Mary Beth Sweetland, who is the investigative director

Former Top NSA Official: “We Are Now In A Police State”…


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From WashingtonsBlog
Thanks to Chris Hardaker

32-year NSA Veteran Who Created Mass Surveillance System Says Government Use of Data Gathered Through Spying “Is a Totalitarian Process”

Bill Binney is the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information. A 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, Binney was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees.

Binney has been interviewed by virtually all of the mainstream media, including CBSABC,CNNNew York TimesUSA TodayFox NewsPBS and many others.

Last year, Binney held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.

But today, Binney told Washington’s Blog that the U.S. has already become a police state.

By way of background, the government is spying on virtually everything we do.

All of the information gained by the NSA through spying is then shared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed

Gene Logsdon: Tiny Details About Farm Life


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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Responding to the recollections a few of us made recently about milking cows in days gone by, Berny remembered how the cats would eat milk-soaked strainer pads after they were discarded and, to use her words, what came out the other end of the cat as a result. I don’t know that I would have remembered that on my own although, being reminded, I certainly do recall it. There are details about life on the farm I would rather forget. But let us all concentrate now and see who can come up with the most esoteric “little thing that counts” about farm life and thus get the honor of being the most genuine farmer of us all.

In keeping with the Christmas season (happy holidays, everyone), several years ago when we cut our Christmas tree, a volunteer in our red cedar fence line, we found a real bird’s nest in it when we got it back to the house. It made a great ornament with three Jordan almonds nestled inside.

Because I have often had to find ways to do farm work without spending money, one of my favorite tiny details of chore time is knowing that animals will eat snow, at least for a few days, if there is no water available. I had a chance to put that nugget of knowledge into practice just recently. Really cold weather came on us so fast that I found my rain barrels at the barn frozen over (no water piped to my barn as well as no electric in the barn, also examples of farming without money). I could have made an extra trip to the house to bring water to the seven hens

Sara Grusky: Pricing the Priceless — Willits Bypass and the Willits Wetlands…


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From SARA GRUSKY
Green Uprising Farm
Willits

Caltrans says that Mr.  Will Parrish owes them about a half  million dollars ($481,588 to be exact) to cover the “direct and indirect costs” of the delays in the construction of the Willits Hwy 101 freeway bypass.   These costs were incurred, according to Caltrans, during Will Parrish’s 11 day occupation of the contractor’s wick drain machine in his attempt to stop the largest wetlands fill operation in northern California in half a century.  Caltrans seeks to bill Mr. Parrish for this half million dollars.  They have informed the District Attorney’s office that they wish to include these claims for “restitution” in connection with Mr. Parrish’s prosecution for unlawful entry onto Caltrans’ project site in the case of  People v. Parrish.  Mr. Parrish’s case is currently scheduled to be heard in Mendocino Superior Court onJanuary 27, 2014 at 8:30 am.  Please attend this important event.

I requested a copy of Caltrans’ half a million dollar itemized budget through the California Public Records Act and received it a couple of days ago.  It is quite an extraordinary piece of accounting by the entity that is now the landowner of one-third of Little Lake Valley.  On behalf of

Fukushima Epidemic is Just Beginning — [Videos] Evacuee: “We are in fact dying in Fukushima; What happened to us will soon affect all Japanese people”…


From ENENEWS

What the state announces is different from the reality. […] As I just told you what the media says and the facts are entirely different.  […] What happened to Fukushima residents will soon affect all Japanese people […] While some say the radiation has dispersed, we are now safe people are in fact dying in Fukushima. One day a nephew of my friend died of Leukemia. The next day her husband also died. […] There are people living in Fuksuhima, now, they all say: “We’re guinea pigs after all […] many people are dying, huh? There’s nothing we can do, it’s useless, so why bother? I’d rather focus on happy things” and continue with their decontamination. […] People refuse to face the fact that these will eventually come back to haunt them.

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Comments:

Miko in Kitakyushu –
I listened to your entire speech. It was the most incredible speech anyone has made since March 2011. I feel total sympathy for you. You made the best decision you could under the circumstances. You were surrounded by idiots in Fukushima who believed the lies, even your relatives, but you found the courage to move by yourself to Kitakyushu with your children. But then after that, Kitakyushu allowed the burning of extremely dangerous radioactive waste to endanger you again.

Fukushima: ‘Unprecedented’ — China bans all imports of shellfish from U.S. West Coast — Official: “They’ve never done anything like that that I’ve ever seen” — Includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska and N. California — Gov’t says it will continue indefinitely…


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From ENENEWS

KUOW, Dec. 13, 2013: China Imposes First-Ever West Coast Shellfish Ban[…] China has suspended imports of shellfish from the west coast of the United States — an unprecedented move […] China said it decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found by its own government inspectors to have high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. The restriction took effect last week and China’s government says it will continue indefinitely. It applies to clams, oysters and all other two-shelled bivalves harvested from the waters of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California. […] “It’s had an incredible impact,” said George Hill, the geoduck harvest coordinator for Puget Sound’s Suquamish Tribe. “A couple thousand divers out of work right now.” […] Officials say the investigation is ongoing but the closure could last for months.

Northwest Public Radio, Dec. 13, 2013: China has closed its doors to all imports of West coast shellfish. Chinese officials tested samples of geoduck clams and found elevated levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. […]

The NSA Is Coming To Town…



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10 Huge Lessons We’ve Learned From Solar Power Success In Germany…


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From CleanTechnica

1. Feed-in tariffs (aka CLEAN Contracts in the US) can drive solar power growth like nothing else.

2. A more mature solar power market sells solar power for a much lower price.

3. More streamlined permitting works.

4. Feed-in tariffs democratize the electric grid.

5. Democratizing the grid gets residents informed and motivated about energy.

6. The grid will not fall apart at 5% solar penetration… or 10%… or 15%… or 20%.

7. Solar power brings down the price of wholesale electricity.

8. Even very grey places can generate a lot of solar power.

9. Even once solar power capacity is equal to 50% of electricity demand, utility execs, fossil fuel execs, their buddies in government, and their buddies in the media won’t stop fighting it.

10. People love the sun — they love clean, solar energy — and they always will.

Complete article with graphs here
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Transition: How I Became an Ex-Liberal…


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From ERIK LINDBERG
Resilience

In 2010 Scott Walker was elected Governor of my home state of Wisconsin.  Although he ran on the typical Republican program of cutting spending and providing “tax relief” to the wealthy in order to boost the economy, most of us were surprised when Walker unveiled his more draconian plan of ending the rights of government employees to engage in collective bargaining.  Walker argued that he was only trying to provide more flexibility to local municipalities struggling to balance their budgets, but it didn’t take long for critics to become aware of his larger agenda of pitting a wealthy ownership class and a low income white voters against government employees.  Crushing workers’ unions, it soon became apparent, was also one of Walker’s goals, a goal shared by billionaire funders like the ultra-conservative Koch brothers.  Labor Unions were one of the last liberal strongholds able to compete with funding bonanza that was now flowing into conservative “Super Pacs,” and conservatives believed they could achieve a permanent electoral advantage by destroying unions once and for all.

Because Walker openly used phrases like “divide and conquer” and “crush” when referring to his political opponents, it was obvious he was prepared for a fight.  But he was likely taken off-guard by the sudden groundswell of liberal and Democratic energy.  Attempting to postpone a crucial vote on Walker’s bill, the State Senate’s Democratic minority fled to Illinois  where they holed-up in a motel waiting for public opinion to realize what was at stake; meanwhile tens of thousands of protestors descended on Madison, occupying the Capital Building with round-the clock drumming, chanting, and singing, while growing crowds swelled on the adjacent streets as the throngs of protestor reached a count of close to one hundred thousand, despite the windy and cold February and March days.

On a cold, rainy, and particularly windy Sunday in early March, my wife and I bussed in from Milwaukee and joined the protests with some of our friends.

William Edelen: A Christmas Party… For Jesus


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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

Once again, we are about to have a birthday party for a person named Jesus. As we approach the date, December 25, the same thoughts return to haunt me, thoughts that have played across my mind for years.

Babies are sweet and inoffensive. If we can just keep Jesus in a crib, which we do, there will be no problem. But if we celebrate the birthday of a man, there is a real problem, a problem that has to do with honesty, with truthfulness. If Jesus the man, who became a “great offense” (Mark 6) gave a birthday party in Palm Springs, or any other city in America, the simple truth is that not one of us would go. Jesus would be left alone.

The clergy would certainly not attend the party for this wild, harsh and brazen man, with his scathing words for them: “The tax collectors and the prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you.” (Matthew: 21)

He would cut through the legalistic Christian doctrines of today, saying once again “in vain do you worship me, teaching as doctrines the traditions and rules of men, you have a fine way of rejecting God in order to keep your traditions.” (Mark 7) The clergy wuld not be at the party.

The hawks and the military mentalities would not be there. They would call him a cowardly dove and pacifist, because he said to them “resist not evil.” What a fool, our hawks say, “has he never heard of that ‘evil empire?'” But Jesus continues: “turn the other cheek… He who lives by the sword will die by the sword… and love your enemies.”

The business people, stockbrokers and Wall Street yuppies already would have scratched him off as a real nut for saying, “take no thought for tomorrow, what you shall eat or drink, or what you shall wear.” My gawd, whats with this nut? Thinking about what to eat and drink and what to wear is what keeps Christmas going.

Home lovers and counselors would not attend the party. Ask them why

Religion: Who Ruined Christmas?


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From Atheist Revolution

For a slight majority of people living in the U.S., Christmas is a religious holiday. And yet, those who celebrate Christmas here are more likely to participate in secular traditions than religious ones. So while a majority report believing that Christmas is a religious holiday, the manner in which they choose to celebrate the holiday suggests that the secular aspects of the holiday may be even more important.

Assuming that you are a “bible-believing Christian” who thinks that Jesus – and not axial tilt – is the reason for the season, who is to blame for the extent to which Christmas has been secularized? It had to be those evil secularists and their “war on Christmas” who eventually succeeded in turning Christmas into something far different from a celebration of Jesus, right? I mean, they are the ones who complain when you erect nativity scenes in government buildings. It must be their fault. They are the ones seeking to ban “merry Christmas” and prevent you from putting that plastic Jesus on your yard. Many people have accepted this narrative without realizing that those who push it are raking in the money for doing so. It is little more than lucrative propaganda.

Perhaps this false narrative about secularists sounds more appealing than one which may be far closer to the truth, the one pointing out how Christians have been complicit in the secularization of their own holiday. One of the primary ways Christians have participated in the secularization of Christmas is through their willingness to embrace consumerism run amok. As Austin Cline noted,

Christmas in modern America has far more to do with materialism and consumerism than anything else — and it’s a situation which has been a noticed and discussed problem long before Christian Nationalists created their trumped-up War on Christmas complaints.

He’s right. Complaints about the secularization of Christmas predate Fox “News” by decades.

The Great American Class War: Plutocracy vs. Democracy…


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From BILL MOYERS
Truthout

I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document.  By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and — in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular — the defense of a free press.

Those decisions brought a storm of protest from across the country.  He claimed that he never took personally the resentment and anger directed at him.  He did, however, subsequently reveal that his own mother told him she had always liked his opinions when he was on the New Jersey court, but wondered now that he was on the Supreme Court, “Why can’t you do it the same way?” His answer: “We have to discharge our responsibility to enforce the rights in favor of minorities, whatever the majority reaction may be.”

Although a liberal, he worried about the looming size of government. When he mentioned that modern science might be creating “a Frankenstein,” I asked, “How so?”  He looked around his chambers and replied, “The very conversation we’re now having can be overheard. Science has done things that, as I understand it, makes it possible through these drapes and those windows to get something in here that takes down what we’re talking about.”

That was long before the era of cyberspace and the maximum surveillance state that grows topsy-turvy with every administration.  How I wish he were here now — and still on the Court!

Todd Walton: Being Gotten


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From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

You remember, I’m sure, that time you went to a party with no great expectation of anything beyond munching and drinking and blah-dee-blah, and you met someone with whom you had phenomenal rapport, so much so that your time with them was an amazing emotional and intellectual pas de dux that made you feel better than you’d felt in a long time. And the next day, when you thought about the connection you had with that person, you realized that what made the experience so special was that this person really ­got you, and you really got them, which is to say, the person truly madly deeply heard you, saw you, grokked you, dug you, liked you, and resonated powerfully with your feelings and perceptions, and vice-versa, which made you feel less alone and more…gotten, which is to say you felt less isolated on your own little island of self and more connected to the great big everything.

I know what some of you are thinking; this is another pile of Todd’s hackneyed psycho-spiritual crap. And I know what some others of you are thinking; that being gotten is exactly what you’ve been thinking about lately and you’re thrilled I’m writing about this. Put another way: you get me or you don’t.

What’s your point, Todd? That’s one of those questions I am frequently asked by people who don’t get me. I’m sure that happens to you, too. You’ve done your best to say what you mean, and you’ve said what you’ve said because you really want to communicate those thoughts and feelings, and someone responds with, “What’s your point?” which always reminds me of those angry, humorless literalists I have known and wasted my time trying to placate, except such people cannot be placated because…psychology.

Rev. Billy and the Church of “Stop Shopping”: Meet the Man Leading An Uprising Against The World’s Biggest Banks…


From AlterNet

Reverend Billy continues climate change activism, despite facing a year in prison following latest Chase bank stint

Reverend Billy is no stranger to the law.  Recognizable by his trade-mark attire: a white suit, black shirt and clerical collar, the activist performer known as Bill Talen has been arrested alongside his activist choir group, The Church of Stop Shopping, more than 70 times in his decade-long crusade against consumerism, corporate commercialism and militarism.

The Reverend has graced sidewalks, banks, parks and businesses world-wide passionately preaching political satire since he moved to New York in the 1990s upon where his character Reverend Billy was born – a hybrid of a street evangelist preacher and Elvis Presley.  Talen appeared as a sole performer preaching anti-consumerism in Times Square, before expanding his one-man performance act in 1999 to a 40-person choir and 5-person band.

Since then, Talen has written extensively on economic systems and environmental practices, has been featured in Morgan Spurlock’s film, “What Would Jesus Buy?”, and built a performance empire on community action and catchy gospel hymns performed by The Church of Stop Shopping’s choir such as “We are the 99%”, “Revolution” and “End of the World”.

In recent years, the group has shifted its focus away from consumerism and towards large corporate banks which Reverend Billy argues are responsible for global warming, based on a five-year study by BankTrack.Org.  The research found that big banks such as JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Deutsche Bank and HSBC create climate change by actively paying money to companies that pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

James Lee: Mendocino Coast Transition Towns Upcoming Event Notice — Reasserting Community Rights — Going Beyond Single Issue Activism…


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From JAMES LEE
Anderson Valley

Are you frustrated by the apparent inability of local communities to stop corporate destruction of the natural world (unnecessary road building, fracking, sludge dumping on farmland, bottling and removal of water from local rivers, use of toxic pesticides in forests, oil drilling in pristine areas, etc.)? Are you wondering why the public seems to be powerless to stop these abuses of corporate power? This workshop will illuminate how and why the law has been used to progressively expand corporate powers. It will also provide a new and proven way to reestablish community rights, the power of community self-determination, and the power to stop destructive practices through local ordinance writing. Used in more than 160 communities in ten states across the USA, local ordinances are enabling local communities to assert their right to protect themselves and nature from corporate domination and control. In support of this, the California Constitution says: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

Well-known community rights organizer, and partner with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org), Paul Cienfuegos will be leading this intensive two-day workshop at the Community Center of Mendocino (998 School St., in the town of Mendocino), on President’s Day weekend — February 15-16, 2014. This two full day event includes two potluck lunches. Paul is the founder of Democracy Unlimited in Humboldt County, which models new ways of working on a variety of ecological and social justice issues such as forest clear-cutting, weakening organic food labeling standards, and big box store take-over of local business. He also co-founded

Fukushima: Personal anguish over millions of dying sea creatures in Pacific… Are West Coasters next?…


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From ENERGY NEWS

Study: Dead sea creatures covered 98% of seafloor last year about 150 miles off California coast; Below 1% prior to event — ‘Major’ changes began in spring 2011…

National Geographic, Nov. 22, 2013: […] “In the 24 years of this study, the past 2 years have been the biggest amounts of this detritus by far,”  said study leader Christine Huffard, a marine biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. […] In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M [located 145 miles west of the coast of California between Santa Barbara and Monterey] was covered in dead sea salps. By July 1, more than 98 percent of it was covered in the decomposing organisms, according to the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. […]  Although climate change is a leading contender for explaining the major increases in 2011 and 2012, Huffard says that these spikes could be part of a longer-term trend that scientists haven’t yet observed. She hopes to continue gathering data from Station M to try and figure it out.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nov. 11, 2013 (emphasis added): […] Two major peaks in POC [particulate organic carbon] flux occurred over the last 18 mo of the time series […] The peak POC flux in spring/summer 2011 was the highest recorded over the 24-y time series (Fig. 1D)  […] The daily presence of detrital aggregates on the sea floor did not exceed 15% coverage over the period from 1990 to 2007. The highest sea-floor coverage by detrital aggregates measured throughout the 24-y time series occurred between March and August 2012, when salp detritus ranged from <1% cover in early March to a high of 98% cover on 1 July(Fig. 1E). This was the only measurable deposition event of salps observed during the entire time series.

Fukushima: “Enough with ‘plume’ already. That sounds far too discrete, finite and hence manageable. Call it what it is, a constant never ending torrent of insane, undiluted poison heading for our West Coast”…


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University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, FVCOM Modeling Assessment of Japan’s Tsunami Event and Impacts of Radionuclides on the Pacific Ocean:

Top: 200 meters; Bottom: 50 meters, variable depth (Z. Lai et al.)

From ENERGY NEWS
[
Title quote from comments section of this article… -DS]

[…] The amount of radiation released in the nuclear accident has threatened the coastal environment with potential impacts on the Pacific Ocean. An international research team was established with the aim of […] assessing the impact of radionuclides on the surrounding countries around the Pacific. […] The ocean model used for this activity is the global-coastal nested FVCOM model system. FVCOM is an unstructured grid Finite Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM) […] At 50 m, particles spread over a large region and reach the western US coast after 5 years. […] At 200 m, particles stay in the narrow region and move eastward. >> Watch all 16 forecast models on the university’s website here (Bottom of page)

ASR Limited: Marine Consulting (No longer updating plume model):

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Radioactivity levels in the seawater outside of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant continue to ignite concerns over the spread of highly radioactive material […]

12 Corporate Espionage Tactics Used Against Leading Progressive Groups, Activists and Whistleblowers…


 From AlterNet

Corporate spies for Dow, Kraft and others have tried to discredit, shame and infiltrate civic groups using an array of dirty tricks.

Posing as volunteers. Stealing documents. Dumpster diving. Planting electronic bugs. Hacking computers. Tapping phones and voicemail. Planting false information. Trailing family members. Threatening reporters. Hiring cops, CIA officers and combat veterans to do all these dirty deeds—and counting on little pushback from law enforcement, mainstream media or Congress.

These are some of the ways that many of America’s largest corporations have spied on nonprofits for years, according to a detailed new report from the Center for Corporate Policy tracing decades of corporate espionage where tactics developed for American intelligence agencies have been imported by a long list of corporate giants for use against progressives.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BEA, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON have all been linked to espionage against non-profit organizations, activists and whistleblowers,” the report said, noting that its targets are “environmental, anti-war, public-interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms-control groups.”

“There’s so many different tactics,” said Gary Ruskin, the center’s director and the report’s author. “It’s so important to talk about the effects on our democracy and privacy.

Gene Logsdon: Land Grabs, Now and Forever


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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

I am not sure of very much in this crazy old world, but one conviction I hold to firmly: the more people in a society who have the opportunity to own their own homes and a little land, the better the chance for democracy and individual freedom to flourish. So I am aghast at the way the Chinese government is forcing its farmers off their land and into tall apartment buildings that to me are nothing more than giant tombstones in what will become the cemeteries of another civilization. But what made China’s land grab so poignant to me was that at the same time I read about it, and totally by happenstance, I was also reading Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village,” written in the middle 1800s. I had not realized earlier in my education the historical background that prompted the poem. Goldsmith was not sentimentalizing the passage of time as represented by an abandoned village but was writing in outrage because this was the time of the Enclosure Acts when the wealthy oligarchs of England grabbed up the common land, driving off the people who lived there, and bought up the holdings of small farmers too. A little research showed that what England was doing then what China is doing now. More research showed that the same thing happened in Scotland. Read The History of the Highland Clearances by Alexander MacKensie if you want to get really angry. People were burned alive in their homes when they refused to vacate their land. No wonder you can find all those huge castle-like mansions in the English countryside today. The concentration of wealth that built them came from forcibly acquiring a monopoly on the land.

Some Chinese authorities are defending what I will henceforth call the Chinese Clearances

The Bankruptcy and Privatization of Detroit Is a Terrifying Preview of What Republicans Want to Do to the Rest of the Country…


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From THOM HARTMANN
AlterNet

Mitt Romney should be proud of what’s happening in Detroit.

That’s because during his time at Bain Capital, he perfected the type of glorified extortion tactics Rick Snyder and Kevin Orr are using right now rob city workers of their hard-earned pension plans.

When Mitt was running Bain during the 1980s and 1990s, the company made its money by forcing companies into debt and then robbing them blind for every last bit of cash they had.

Bain would take out a loan for, say, a billion dollars. It would then use that billion dollar loan – its leverage – to buy a company. But instead of paying back that billion dollar loan itself, Bain would dump it on the company it just bought. In other words, Bain would make the company it just bought pay for its own acquisition.

And where would that company get the billion dollars to do that? Well, good old Mitt would say that it got the money by eliminating fraud and waste. But in reality that money came from stripping the company of its assets and converting them into cash.

It came from taking employee assets – like pensions and decent paychecks – and converting them into cash to pay for the debt, and even converting future assets – the viability of the company itself – into cash to pay for the debt.

It came from gutting retirement funds and firing workers.

Transition: The day I closed my Amazon account…


Amazon fulfilment centre

From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

I’ve done it.  I’ve closed my Amazon account.  I now stand before you as an ex-Amazon account-holder.  I feel curiously shaky, but at the same time empowered, excited even.  While opening a new Amazon account is easy as pie, closing one is another matter altogether.  I’d like to share with you how, and why, I did it.

Was it the recent Panorama programme about working conditions in those vast Amazon ‘fulfilment centres’ that tipped me across into doing something?  Was it the stories about the appallingly low levels of tax Amazon pay in the UK?  Was it the recent video showing Amazon’s plans to be delivering across the UK within 30 minutes through the use of drones? Was it hearing the level of taxpayers’ money that goes in sweeteners to attracting Amazon to open up in different communities, while the profits generated pour out of those same places?  What actually tipped me across was a conversation I had with a book seller in my town. It was that that led me, finally, to build the steely resolve needed to close down my Amazon account.

Yes, I confess, I had an Amazon account.  I buy music from my local record shop, I support my local book shops, but there are times when I need a book quickly, or feel I do, and it’s just easier and more convenient.  And, if I’m honest, I love getting exciting parcels in the post. And isn’t it cheap?  But as Carole Cadwalladr, who went undercover in Amazon’s Swansea ‘fulfilment centre’ for The Guardian puts it:

Our lust for cheap, discounted goods delivered to our doors promptly and efficiently has a price. We just haven’t worked out what it is yet.

Right To Democracy: Stop The Slaughterhouse Now…


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From DAVE SMITH
Redwood Valley

We need to call out the planners of the Ukiah Valley slaughterhouse group on their true, long-range plans… which are, in my opinion, to expand and supply large amounts of meat to the Bay Area after getting approval of a small local operation right here in our Ukiah population center. And they are going to use the so-called “Right To Industry” County ordinance proposal to help force it on us.

Right To Industry? What’s next, “Right To Retail” so we can’t protest Walmart expansion? There is hardly precedence for this type of ordinance anywhere in the country. Why Mendocino County? Why now? This is nothing but a Chamber of Commerce / Employers Council / Realtors / Builders Exchange sucker punch.

Rather, as citizens, we need to maintain our own “Right to Democracy” that this would destroy. Becoming the Harris Ranch North meat processing center for the Bay Area is not what local citizens will accept. The slaughterhouse long-range plan to grow big is obvious because they want it near the Russian River, with sewer hookups for water and waste management, and close to 101 for shipping to the Bay Area.

Rather, to supply meat to our local, northern California region, we need appropriate, decentralized, small-scale, USDA inspected, mobile slaughter… on the ranches themselves. This approach is successful in several areas of the country.

Let’s hear it for the NIMBY’s and the Do-Gooders…


From DAVE SMITH
Redwood Valley

The ‘Right To Industry’ bullshit and Slaughterhouse plans are forcing themselves on Mendocino communities. Some will shrug their shoulders in passive resignation, others will nod in welcome to a colonial economy; some will smile in anticipation of self-interested benefit, others will nod off in a non-caring stupor.

Wendell Berry:

There’s  a lot of scorn now toward people who say, “Not in my backyard,” but the not-in-my-backyard sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, “Not in my backyard,” these bad innovations wouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard. It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is altogether healthy and salutary.

The environmental movement was founded and built by so-called NIMBYs, and Do-Gooders. They responded to the poisoning and destruction of our shared natural environment, first revealed by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring, by opposing it in their own backyards, neighborhoods, watersheds, and communities. They took personal responsibility, as good citizens and their elected representatives do in a democracy. I say good for them, good for us. If we don’t take responsibility for our own backyards and communities, who will? There are some things that should not be in any one’s backyard or neighborhood, and those who are most motivated to stop them are those who are immediately and locally affected. And when someone says that government should just get out of the way, they are saying democracy should just get out of the way.

Citizens throughout America are mourning the loss of uniqueness, identity, and community in the places they live. A “sense of place” is built on cultural and economic diversity with appropriate and sustainable scale and technologies. When misguided leaders in our community try to impose their will on local citizens, who is there to challenge them? Without strong local voices opposing the harmful out-dated practices of the past, we wouldn’t have the many positive alternatives available to us now.

Why the ‘Right To Industry’ Ordinance Must Be Stopped…


 

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From AVA PETERSON
Redwood Valley
[Further to her previous letter]

It has come to my attention that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors intends to vote on a Mendocino County “Right to Industry” Ordinance on December 10, 2013. This ordinance has now been revised by “County Staff” and will be presented to the Board for a vote on December 10th.

The Mendocino County CEO just initiated a 6-Day Public Comment Period which ends on December 10, 2013. The CEO lists various “Stakeholders” forgetting to include Mendocino County Residents, the major stakeholders, in his quest for public comments.

This “Right to Industry” Ordinance (which reads like an “Industry Protection Racket), would protect current and future industrial operations from complaints by neighbors for a wide variety of problems that should be addressed on the local level by our supervisors who are elected to represent the interests of all the people of Mendocino County. In addition there is no definition for many terms within the ordinance including the word “nuisance”. Thus, many interpretations may be used due to lack of clear definitions.

This “ordinance” unleashes all current and future industrial operations to pollute our air, water, soil, negatively impact our roads, sewage treatment plant, local wells, and would increase noise, night lights, chemical releases, excessive use of ever-larger billboards, lower property values without county compensation, lower quality of Russian River Water (along with tributaries), and also impact neighboring industries who may not appreciate having a dusty, dirty, noisy, polluting neighbor.

This “ordinance” has the potential to reduce the quality of life throughout Mendocino County. And it could impact future businesses and residential properties in the Ukiah Valley and other areas by undermining the quality of life and health of the residents of Mendocino County. It should be noted that changes take place in zoning areas in Mendocino County from time-to-time which could impact more and more residents of our county as these changes occur.

Religion: The High Cost of Leaving Your Faith…


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From Godless in Dixie

I don’t typically share highly personal stuff on this blog because my life is intertwined with many others, and they would not want their personal matters to be put on public display.  But earlier this week a reader asked me a question which I think deserves a post of its own because it’s about a matter I know many people are facing every day.  People who grew up in relatively secularized cultures won’t identify with this issue but anyone raised to be religious will know it all too well.  If you were raised to be a devout Christian and later left the faith, you will get why this question touches a nerve.  The reader asked:

After you changed, did you ever feel desperation?

My answer likely went in a different direction than he intended because for me, there have been several stages of stress, loss, and pain associated with my leaving the faith, and they started long before I finally let go of those beliefs which had so characterized my life up until that point.  I can think of a couple of particular seasons in which I seriously questioned my faith, and those questions never really left me.  I posted about that struggle yesterday, and if you haven’t read that yet, please stop and go read that now.  It gives you a peek into the mind and heart of a young man sincerely wrestling with his own rationality, trying to reconcile it with his faith.  I can still feel the angst from those days emanating from the words on the screen, and for various reasons this still feels so fresh to me.  The fallout from that struggle continues for me today.

Most of all, however, I want to draw your attention to the fact that I wrote the journal entry linked above a good six years before I began to honestly face my own questions.  If you read the brutally honest things I say you may find yourself asking “Why on earth did you cling to your faith so long after this?  How could you?  With no satisfying answers forthcoming?” The simple truth is that the cost of leaving my faith was too high for me to allow myself to go down that mental path.  Again, I must acknowledge that anyone reading this who has never lived in a highly religious environment (I’m looking at you, Europe, Canada, and the “blue states” within the U.S.) will scratch their heads and wonder what the fuss is about.  But anyone from a context similar to mine will “get it” immediately.

Religion: Ex-Christian Musician Says Atheism is About Embracing Life, Not Hating Christianity…


From Patheos

This week, NPR published a profile of Taylor Muse, the leader of an Austin-based indie rock band that got their start when they left Christianity. Now, members of Quiet Company pride themselves on music that encourages questioning, or even rejecting, faith and opting for a life of Humanism instead.

Muse, 31, told NPR his adolescence revolved around his Southern Baptist church in Texas. But after he moved away, got married, and discovered Kurt Vonnegut, among other big life changes, he realized he couldn’t participate in Christianity anymore.

“Eventually, I came home from work one day and just told my wife, ‘I think I’m having a little bit of a crisis of faith. I just realized today that I can’t make a case for Christianity that would convince myself,’” he says.

After years of playing in Christian bands, Muse’s realization brought him to Quiet Company, where he and fellow atheist bandmates could write music about life after faith and connect with greater atheist communities. In 2011, they released We Are All Where We Belong, an album about a young man rejecting his religion, and last year they took home 10 honors from the Austin Music Awards.

The refrain from the album title — “where we belong” — is at the heart of Muse’s problem with Christian theology. He says he was taught from the Bible that good Christians don’t store up treasures on earth: They’re supposed to store up treasures in heaven.

“They’re always making the statement, ‘This is not your home, this is not where you belong,’” Muse says. “I wanted to make a record that said, ‘No, actually, this is where you belong. This is your one chance to make your life into what you want it to be. This is your one chance to make the world what you think it can be.’”

According to humanist chaplain and author Greg Epstein, Quiet Company’s music is particularly resounding for atheists, but carries a message universal enough for anyone to appreciate.