Around the web

You have two lives…

 


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What Traffic Fumes Do To Our Kids

 

From Monbiot.com

A short, simple factsheet on the impacts of traffic pollution on children’s health

I wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, that are caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.

When I looked for a summary – in clear and simple language, that most parents can quickly understand – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, I could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns I consulted. So I decided to write my own.

Please feel free to reproduce it, adapt it and use it as you wish. Please also let me know whether and how it can be improved.

If you find it useful, you might like to ask your school to circulate it among the parents by email or on social media, or to print it out and stick it in places (such as classroom doors) where it is likely to be seen.

If we could circulate such materials widely among schools, we could make a material difference to the health of our children (and the rest of the population).

Fight Trump. Work From Home…

 

From Mother Jones

Remote jobs are great for work-life balance—and democracy.

At the dawn of the Donald Trump era, good ideas are being traded on how to fight back, stand up for marginalized people, and defend the planet: Run for the local school board. Donate to Planned Parenthood. Support investigative reporters (ahem).

Here’s one you might not have considered: Ask your boss to let you work from home.

Take climate change. President Trump’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency is a climate science denier, but you don’t need the EPA to tell you that the hours you spend in traffic are hurting the planet. Transportation accounts for a quarter of all US greenhouse gas emissions each year—the equivalent of 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide—mostly from cars, pickups, and other light trucks. If a chunk of people chugging gas to the office were able to log in from home instead, would it make a difference?

About 135 million Americans commute to work, and according to a 2016 survey by research firm Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), 50 percent of them have jobs they could do remotely at least part time. If all those workers skipped the commute just every other day, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as we would by taking 9 million cars off the road.

Lots of people hear “work from anywhere” and imagine either startup techies in chic coffee shops or bloggers in ratty PJs sitting on worn-out couches. But major employers across a wide range of industries have gotten in on the act; some even help employees set up fully connected home offices. Xerox, Aetna, and American Express came out on top in a 2014 survey of companies with the most flexible remote options for workers. By 2020, Dell hopes that half its workforce will be doing at least some remote work. A report released by the company in June 2016 found that thanks to telecommuting, 35,000 US employees each saved the equivalent of one metric ton of carbon dioxide on average every year—even when you consider the extra energy required for heat and lights in a home office.

Impeach the Indolent Imposter Now!


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From Dave Smith

Louise Mensch is connecting the dots like no other… tracking Trump’s bag man lawyer as he pays off the computer hacker hit men who installed Trump in the presidency…

https://patribotics.wordpress.com

Twitter #trumprussia #russiagate #resist #theresistance

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Richard Heinberg: Awaiting Our Own Reichstag Fire…

 

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From Richard Heinberg

This month’s Museletter brings together three essays that sound alarms on the early days of the Trump administration.

Millions of Americans now share the profoundly disturbing experience of watching and waiting as their nation lurches toward authoritarianism. In a previous essay, I described the Trump administration as a “presidency in search of an emergency”—i.e., a crisis that could be used as a pretext for seizing unchecked power. I opined that the emergency could come in the form of an economic meltdown, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster.

As a result of the events of the last two weeks we now know what the crisis will almost certainly be (a terrorist attack) and how it will be used—namely, to do the following:

  • Nullify the constitutionally mandated independence and authority of the courts.More on this below.
  • Shut down congressional investigations. These are soon likely to include probes into collusion with Russia to influence the election (if the worst of the allegations are substantiated, Senators and Representatives could soon be bandying a word that starts with “T” and rhymes with “reason”), along with financial conflicts of interestthat go vastly beyond the recent dustup with Nordstrom’s. The evidence of profound misdeeds is getting so hard to ignore that even a Republican Congress will likely eventually get rambunctious. The forced departure of national security adviser Michael Flynn can only fan the furor, rather than quelling it (again, more below).
  • Criminalize dissent. Millions have already taken to the streets to voice their displeasure with the new administration, and thousands are showing up regularly at congressional town hall meetings. The time-proven ways authoritarian governments discourage anti-government activism are to increase surveillance and to heighten the perceived risks entailed in joining protests (prison time or worse).
  • Rein in and discredit the mainstream media. White House strategist Steve Bannon has called the media “the opposition party.” Authoritarian regimes always attempt to marginalize and control the press and broadcasters. Given a sufficiently compelling national emergency, criticism of the government could be declared unpatriotic and even criminalized (as happened during World War I).

The events of the week of February 6 provided some clues on how Trump’s war on the judiciary is likely to play out. Jack Goldsmith writes that the way the executive order banning entry by residents of seven Muslim-dominated nations was drafted suggests a couple of possible interpretations. One is that White House Counsel Donald McGahn is simply incompetent; the other is that the executive order was deliberately botched in order to flush out judicial opposition for later retribution: “….Trump [may be] setting the scene to blame judges after an attack that has any conceivable connection to immigration. If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

Sunday Song: Overdrive

 

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Trump Infrastructure Plan Is Nothing But Privatization…

 

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From In The Public Interest

Wondering what a “public-private partnership” is? Here’s what you need to know…

America has an infrastructure problem. Residents in Flint, Michigan, still can’t drink water from their faucets. Last week, damage to the country’s tallest dam forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people in Northern California.

We aren’t investing enough in the foundation of our society and a clean, healthy future. State and local spending on roads, bridges, schools, water treatment plants, and other infrastructure is at a 30-year low. Federal infrastructure spending has fallen by half over the past 35 years. Washington spends around six times more on the military.

Trump thinks he can get one over on the American people. His infrastructure plan is nothing more than privatization with a tax break on top. Even congressional Republicans are starting to voice concerns.

A few weeks ago, we released a guide to understanding and evaluating the deals at the heart of Trump’s plan. “Public-private partnerships” tap private investors to finance—and often operate and maintain—infrastructure projects. There’s plenty to be wary of—the public often loses control, transparency, and revenue for decades. Just ask Chicago. Or Texas. Or Indiana. Or Washington, D.C.

As anti-tax politicians continue to starve public budgets, many state and local governments are turning to risky public-private partnerships to fill the infrastructure spending gap.

Understanding and Evaluating Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships includes a list of key questions you can raise with policymakers to make sure projects meet your community’s needs. What are the long-term impacts on our city’s budget? How many jobs will be created, will they be local, and what will the wages and benefits be?

Get in touch if you have questions or need help evaluating a project in your community.

We’ve got a lot of things to build and repair—let’s make sure our voices are heard loud and clear in the process.
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Gene Logsdon’s New Book Is Out: Letter to a Young Farmer

 

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A message to those who claimed they suffered under President Obama…

 

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From Scott Mednick, when a Trumpster Facebook friend told him, “We suffered for 8 years. Now it’s your turn.”

Scott’s reply: “There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did. And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.”

Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass,I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?’

So let me ask:
Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of. Has this caused your suffering?
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626. Now it is 19,875. Has this caused your suffering?
We had 82 straight months of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Sunday Song: Heaven

 

Thanks to Bruce

Everyone is trying
To get to the bar
The name of the bar
The bar is called heaven

The band in heaven
They play my favourite song
Play it one more time
Play it all night long

[Chorus]
Heaven, heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens
Heaven, heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens

There is a party
Everyone is there
Everyone will leave
At exactly the same time

When this party’s over
It will start again
It will not be any different
It will be exactly the same

[Chorus]

When this kiss is over
It will start again
It will not be any different
It will be exactly the same

It’s hard to imagine
That nothing at all
Could be so exciting
Could be this much fun

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Roe v. Wade Issued…

 

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From FFRF

Justice Blackmun, for the majority, Roe v. Wade, 1973:

“This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.”

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Women’s Marches Around The World…

 

CNN estimates 2.5 million world-wide…


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Why Do Republicans Hate Obamacare?

 

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From Mother Jones

Why are Republicans so hellbent on repealing Obamacare? This came up on Twitter the other day, and at first it sounds like a silly question. They’ve been opposed to Obamacare from the start, and they’ve been vocal about what they don’t like.

But it’s a more interesting question than it seems. After all, we no longer have to guess about its effects. We know. So let’s take a look.

The Good. Obamacare has provided more than 20 million people—most of them low-income or working class—with health coverage. It has done this with no negative effects on either Medicare or the employer health insurance market. It didn’t raise taxes more than a few pennies on anyone making less than six figures. It’s had no effect on the willingness of companies to hire full-time workers. Health care costs under Obamacare have continued to grow at very modest rates. And it’s accomplished all this under its original budget.

The Bad. Obamacare unquestionably has some problems. About 20 percent of its customers choose Bronze plans with very high deductibles. Some of the least expensive plans have narrow networks that restrict your choice of doctor. Some insurers have left the exchanges because they were losing money. And premium increases have been volatile as insurers have learned the market. But every one of these things is a result of Obamacare’s reliance on private markets, something that Republicans support. Insurers are competing. They’re offering plans with different features at different price points. Some of them are successful and some aren’t. That’s how markets work. It’s messy, but eventually things settle down and provide the best set of services at the best possible price.

The Popular. Obamacare is popular unless you call it “Obamacare.” If you call it Kynect, its negatives drop. If you call it the Affordable Care Act, its negatives drop. If you ask about the actual things it does, virtually every provision is popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. Even Obamacare’s taxes on the rich, which are fairly modest, are popular. Aside from the individual mandate, the only truly unpopular part of Obamacare is the name “Obamacare.”(And even that’s only unpopular among Republicans.)

So why the continued rabid opposition to Obamacare? It’s not because the government has taken over the health care market. On the contrary, Obamacare affects only a tiny part of the health insurance market and mostly relies on taking advantage of existing market forces. It’s not because the benefits are too stingy. That’s because Democrats kept funding at modest levels, something Republicans approve of. It’s not because premiums are out of control. Republicans know perfectly well that premiums have simply caught up to CBO projections this year—and federal subsidies protect most people from increases anyway. It’s not because everyone hates what Obamacare does. Even Republicans mostly like it. The GOP leadership in Congress could pass a virtually identical bill under a different name and it would be wildly popular.

In the end, somehow, this really seems to be the answer:

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Republicans hate the idea that we’re spending money on the working class and the poor. They hate the idea that Barack Obama is responsible for a pretty successful program. They hate the idea that taxes on the wealthy went up a bit. They hate the idea that a social welfare program can do a lot of good for a lot of people at a fairly modest price.

What kind of person hates all these things?
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Faith…

 

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Life and Death: It’s a good bargain… (meaning, purpose, values)


Bart Campolo: Freethinker, Humanist Chaplain (USC), former Evangelical Christian…

From NYT

The son of a famous pastor, Bart Campolo is now a rising star of
atheism — using the skills he learned in the world he left behind.

Democracy…

 

Thanks to Brain Pickings

Neil Gaiman’s Transcendent Tribute to Leonard Cohen, with Piano by Amanda Palmer…
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What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That’s What We’re About to Test…

 

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From Slate

A rehabilitation project in a low-income and densely populated district in Nairobi, Kenya. A new experimental program will provide thousands of people in dozens of Kenyan villages with a basic income guarantee.

Over the past decade, interest has grown in an ostensibly unorthodox approach for helping people who don’t have much money: just give them more of it, no strings attached.

In the old days of policymaking by aphorism—give a man a fish, feed him for a day!—simply handing money to the poor was considered an obviously bad idea. How naïve—you can’t just give people money. They’ll stop trying! They’ll just get drunk! The underlying assumption was that the poor weren’t good at making decisions for themselves: Experts had to make the decisions for them.

As it turns out, that assumption was wrong. Across many contexts and continents, experimental tests show that the poor don’t stop trying when they are given money, and they don’t get drunk. Instead, they make productive use of the funds, feeding their familiessending their children to school, and investing in businesses and their own futures. Even a short-term infusion of capital has been shown to significantly improve long-term living standardsimprove psychological well-being, and even add one year of life.

How Leo Tolstoy Became a Vegetarian and Jumpstarted the Vegetarian & Humanitarian Movements in the 19th Century…

 

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Leo Tolstoy is remembered as both a towering pinnacle of Russian literature and a fascinating example of Christian anarchism, a mystical version of which the aristocratic author pioneered in the last quarter century of his life. After a dramatic conversion, Tolstoy rejected his social position, the favored vices of his youth, and the dietary habits of his culture, becoming a vocal proponent of vegetarianism in his ascetic quest for the good life. Thousands of his contemporaries found Tolstoy’s example deeply compelling, and several communes formed around his principles, to his dismay. “To speak of ‘Tolstoyism,’” he wrote, “to seek guidance, to inquire about my solution of questions, is a great and gross error.”

“Still,” writes Kelsey Osgood at The New Yorker, “people insisted on seeking guidance from him,” including a young Mahatma Gandhi, who struck up a lively correspondence with the writer and in 1910 founded a community called “Tolstoy Farm” near Johannesburg.

Though uneasy in the role of movement leader, the author of Anna Karenina invited such treatment by publishing dozens of philosophical and theological works, many of them in opposition to a contrary strain of religious and moral ideas developing in the late nineteenth century. Often called “muscular Christianity,” this trend responded to what many Victorians thought of as a crisis of masculinity by emphasizing sports and warrior ideals and railing against the “feminization” of the culture.

Tolstoy might be said to represent a “vegetable Christianity”—seeking harmony with nature and turning away from all forms of violence, including the eating of meat. In “The First Step,” an 1891 essay on diet and ethical commitment, he characterized the prevailing religious attitude toward food:

Hannah Arendt on Loneliness as the Common Ground for Terror and How Tyrannical Regimes Use Isolation as a Weapon of Oppression…

 

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From Brain Pickings

“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political,” Olivia Laing wrote in The Lonely City, one of the finest books of the year. Half a century earlier, Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975) examined those peculiar parallel dimensions of loneliness as a profoundly personal anguish and an indispensable currency of our political life in her intellectual debut, the incisive and astonishingly timely 1951 classic The Origins of Totalitarianism (public library).

Arendt paints loneliness as “the common ground for terror” and explores its function as both the chief weapon and the chief damage of oppressive political regimes. Exactly twenty years before her piercing treatise on lying in politics, she writes:

Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men* as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

What perpetuates such tyrannical regimes, Arendt argues, is manipulation by isolation — something most effectively accomplished by the divisiveness of “us vs. them” narratives. She writes:

Terror can rule absolutely only over men who are isolated against each other… Therefore, one of the primary concerns of all tyrannical government is to bring this isolation about. Isolation may be the beginning of terror; it certainly is its most fertile ground; it always is its result. This isolation is, as it were, pretotalitarian; its hallmark is impotence insofar as power always comes from men acting together…; isolated men are powerless by definition.

Although isolation is not necessarily the same as loneliness, Arendt notes that loneliness can become both the seedbed and the perilous consequence of the isolation effected by tyrannical regimes:

In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of human creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable… Isolation then becomes loneliness. […]

While isolation concerns only the political realm of life, loneliness concerns human life as a whole. Totalitarian government, like all tyrannies, certainly could not exist without destroying the public realm of life, that is, without destroying, by isolating men, their political capacities. But totalitarian domination as a form of government is new in that it is not content with this isolation and destroys private life as well. It bases itself on loneliness, on the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man.

This is why our insistence on belonging, community, and human connection is one of the greatest acts of courage and resistance in the face of oppression — for, in the words of the beloved Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, “the ancient and eternal values of human life — truth, unity, goodness, justice, beauty, and love — are all statements of true belonging.”

The Origins of Totalitarianism is a remarkable read in its totality. Complement it with Arendt on the life of the mindhow we humanize each otherthe difference between how art and science illuminate human life, and her beautiful love letters.
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All I want for Christmas is to…

 

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The Golden Arches Theory of Decline…

 

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From Monbiot

Why is there a worldwide revolt against politics as usual? Because corporate globalisation has crushed democratic choice.

A wave of revulsion rolls around the world. Approval ratings for incumbent leaders are everywhere collapsing. Symbols, slogans and sensation trump facts and nuanced argument. One in six Americans now believes that military rule would be a good idea. From all this I draw the following, peculiar conclusion: no country with a McDonald’s can remain a democracy.

Twenty years ago, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman proposed his “golden arches theory of conflict prevention”. This holds that “no two countries that both have McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other since they each got their McDonald’s”.

Friedman’s was one of several end-of-history narratives suggesting that global capitalism would lead to permanent peace. He claimed that it might create “a tip-over point at which a country, by integrating with the global economy, opening itself up to foreign investment and empowering its consumers, permanently restricts its capacity for troublemaking and promotes gradual democratization and widening peace.” He didn’t mean that McDonald’s ends war, but that its arrival in a nation symbolised the transition.

In using McDonalds as shorthand for the forces tearing democracy apart, I am, like him, writing figuratively. I do not mean that the presence of the burger chain itself is the cause of the decline of open, democratic societies (though it has played its part in Britain, using our defamation laws against its critics). Nor do I mean that countries hosting McDonald’s will necessarily mutate into dictatorships.

What I mean is that, under the onslaught of the placeless, transnational capital McDonald’s exemplifies, democracy as a living system withers and dies. The old forms and forums still exist – parliaments and congresses remain standing – but the power they once contained seeps away, re-emerging where we can no longer reach it.

The political power that should belong to us has flitted into confidential meetings with the lobbyists and donors who establish the limits of debate and action. It has slipped into the dictats of the IMF and the European Central Bank, which respond not to the people but to the financial sector. It has been transported, under armed guard, into the icy fastness of Davos, where Mr Friedman finds himself so warmly welcomed (even when he’s talking cobblers).

Above all, the power that should belong to the people is being crushed by international treaty. Contracts such as NAFTA, CETA, the proposed TransPacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement and the failed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are crafted behind closed doors in discussions dominated by corporate lobbyists. They are able to slip in clauses that no informed electorate would ever approve, such as the establishment of opaque offshore tribunals, through which corporations can bypass national courts, challenge national laws and demand compensation for the results of democratic decisions.

For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States…

 

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From USA Today

SALEM, Ore. — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States.

Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, according to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.

For the first time, cesium-134 has also been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen. In both cases, levels are extremely low, the researchers said, and don’t pose a danger to humans or the environment.

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. More radiation was released to the air, then fell to the sea.

Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowd-funded, citizen science seawater sampling project that has tracked the radiation plume as it slowly makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.

The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016 and later analyzed. They each measured 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-134….
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Watch Religions Spread Around The World…

 


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Mo Jesus…

 

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The End of the American Century…

 

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From John Michael Greer

I have a bone to pick with the Washington Post. A few days back, as some of my readers may be aware, it published a list of some two hundred blogs that it claimed were circulating Russian propaganda, and I was disappointed to find that The Archdruid Report didn’t make the cut.

Oh, granted, I don’t wait each week for secret orders from Boris Badenov, the mock-iconic Russian spy from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show of my youth, but that shouldn’t disqualify me.  I’ve seen no evidence that any of the blogs on the list take orders from Moscow, either; certainly the Post offered none worth mentioning. Rather, what seems to have brought down the wrath of “Pravda on the Potomac,” as the Post is unfondly called by many DC locals, is that none of these blogs have been willing to buy into the failed neoconservative consensus that’s guided American foreign policy for the last sixteen years. Of that latter offense, in turn, The Archdruid Report is certainly guilty.

There are at least two significant factors behind the Post’s adoption of the tactics of the late Senator Joe McCarthy, dubious lists and all.  The first is that the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions has thrown into stark relief an existential crisis that has the American news media by the throat. The media sell their services to their sponsors on the assumption that they can then sell products and ideas manufactured by those sponsors to the American people. The Clinton campaign accordingly outspent Trump’s people by a factor of two to one, sinking impressive amounts of the cash she raised from millionaire donors into television advertising and other media buys.

Clinton got the coverage she paid for, too. Nearly every newspaper in the United States endorsed her; pundits from one end of the media to the other solemnly insisted that everyone ought to vote for her; equivocal polls were systematically spun in her favor by a galaxy of talking heads. Pretty much everyone who thought they mattered was on board the bandwagon. The only difficulty, really was that the people who actually mattered—in particular, voters in half a dozen crucial swing states—responded to all this by telling their soi-disant betters, “Thanks, but one turkey this November is enough.” 

An Animated Introduction to George Orwell…

 

From Open Culture

When his short and (by his own account) often miserable life came to an end in 1950, could the English political writer Eric Arthur Blair have known that he would not just become a household name, but remain one well over half a century later? Given his adoption of the memorable nom de plume George Orwell, we might say he had an inkling of his literary legacy’s potential. Still, he claimed to choose it for no grander reason than that it sounded like “a good round English name,” and would have loathed the pretense he sensed in the use of the phrase “nom de plume,” or, for that matter, any other of conspicuously foreign provenance.

The attitudes that shaped the author of Animal Farm and 1984 come out in this animated introduction to Orwell’s life and work, newly published by Alain de Botton’s School of Life. In explaining the motivations of this “most famous English language writer of the 20th century,” de Botton quotes from the essay “Why I Write,” wherein Orwell, with characteristic clarity, lays out his mission “to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

Orwell hated his fellow intellectuals, whom he accused of “a range of sins: a lack of patriotism, resentment of money and physical vigor, concealed sexual frustration, pretension, and dishonesty.” He loved “the ordinary person” and the lives led by those “not especially blessed by material goods, people who work in ordinary jobs, who don’t have much of an education, who won’t achieve greatness, and who nevertheless love, care for others, work, have fun, raise children, and have large thoughts about the deepest questions in ways Orwell thought especially admirable.” Though raised middle-class and educated at Eton, Orwell eschewed university and believed that “the average pub in a coal-mining village contained more intelligence and wisdom than the British Cabinet or the high table of an Oxbridge college.”

One might want to call such an intellectual a poseur or even a sort of fetishist, but Orwell backed up his pronouncements about the superiority of the working class with his years spent living and working in it, and, with books like Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier, writing about it. He praised newspaper comics, country walks, dancing, Charles Dickens, and straightforward language, all of which informed the attacks on ideology and authoritarianism that would keep his writing meaningful for future generations. The holiday season now upon us makes another work of Orwell’s especially relevant: his Christmas pudding recipe, one blow in his lesser-known struggle to, as the London-based de Botton puts it, write “bravely in defense of English cooking” — a project which would, by itself, qualify him as a champion of the underdog.

See Also:

George Orwell’s Five Greatest Essays (as Selected by Pulitzer-Prize Winning Columnist Michael Hiltzik)
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The magic baby in Bethlehem…

 


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The Coming Privatization of Everything…

 

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From TPM

You’ve heard that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is from the billionaire DeVos family, heirs of the Amway fortune. She’s a big supporter of ‘school choice’, charter schools, vouchers, etc. But this doesn’t quite capture who the DeVoses are. In terms of scale of wealth and intergenerational devotion to laissez-faire conservative ideology that are right up there with the Kochs – with activism ranging from breaking unions to opposing LGBT equality on basically every front. In fact, Betsy DeVos and her family are parts of the network of conservative donors the Kochs have assembled in recent years.

With all that said, I think the best way to look at DeVos’s appointment is as part of a thoroughgoing movement to breakup the public sector – schools, social insurance, roads and infrastructure, public sector unions – and basically privatize everything. With that in mind I wanted to refer you back to our series on privatization. We’ve published three pieces, with one more still to come. 1st: The history of the privatization movement. 2nd: The private prison industry. 3rd: Public-private partnerships – largely dealing with infrastructure and the privatization of municipal services and public goods. If you’ll pardon a publisher’s sense of pride, this is a really good series, capturing the privatization movement not just in its individual dimensions (which are each important) but as an overarching ideological movement which has had an immense impact on American society and looks set to have much more.

I believe that left to his own devices Trump isn’t terribly ideological about most issues and has few settled views and little policy knowledge. But he’s not left to his own devices. He’s surrounded himself with hardcore rightwing ideologues. And that’s been borne out by every appointment to date. Privatization on every front looks to be the order of the day in the Trump administration.
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