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The US Is Leading the World into a Whole New Kind of Disorder…

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From Tariq Ali 

It’s a mixed and confused world. But its problems don’t change – they just take new forms. 

The twilight began in the early 1990s with the implosion of the former Soviet Union and the takeover of Russia, Central Asia and much of Eastern Europe by visionless former Communist Party bureaucrats, many of whom rapidly became billionaires. The oligarchs who bought up some of the most expensive property in the world, including in London, may once have been members of the Communist Party, but they were also opportunists with no commitment to anything other than power and lining their own pockets. The vacuum created by the collapse of the party system has been filled by different things in different parts of the world, among them religion – and not just Islam. The statistics on the growth of religion in the Western world are dramatic – just look at France. And we have also seen the rise of a global empire of unprecedented power. The United States is now unchallengeable militarily and it dominates global politics, even the politics of the countries it treats as its enemies.

Why Edward Abbey Still Matters…

 

aEd Abbey in Grand Gulch, Utah.

From EarthIsland

The author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang is branded a misanthrope and a hypocrite. The truth is more interesting.

There seems to be a good deal of interest in Edward Abbey these days. Two new books — All The Wild That Remains  by David Gessner and Finding Abbey by Sean Prentiss — explore the life and legacy of the writer and wilderness firebrand. Next month, they’ll be joined by Abbey in America, a multi-author collection of personal and scholarly reflections on Abbey’s continuing influence (full disclosure: I’m one of those doing the reflecting).

This little burst of attention to Abbey shouldn’t be that surprising. He’s been at the center of conversations (and more often than not, arguments) about wilderness preservation and environmental politics since the publication of his 1968 classic, Desert Solitaire, a captivating mix of nature writing, environmentalist polemics, and autobiographical musings. His raucous 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, about a group of environmental merry pranksters and saboteurs running wild in the American Southwest, would further cement Abbey’s reputation (for better or worse).

Given that Desert Solitaire is often mentioned in the same breath as Thoreau’s Walden and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, the renewed interest in the prickly avatar of the desert Southwest makes some sense. But, at the same time, the Abbey renaissance is fighting some newly powerful intellectual and political currents within American environmentalism.

B.B. …

 


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Reclaiming Populism: The Progressive Movement Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century…

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A new generation of grassroots activists are rising up against the interests of the rich and powerful.
Eugene Lim was on his way to hitting rock bottom. After graduating from Chicago’s Shimer College in 2011, he’d spent two years trying to find a permanent job. And he was increasingly blaming himself for his plight.

“I thought I was poor through some fault of my own,” he said in a speech before the Populism2015 conference that I helped organize this April in Washington.

After a serious mauling from a stray dog landed him in an emergency room, Lim was left with an $11,000 hospital bill he couldn’t pay. That’s when he began to redirect his anger.

Fortunately, Lim was eligible for Illinois’ Medicaid program. But then he learned that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was pushing for deep cuts in the state’s Medicaid program — while also pushing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The Band: ‘Book Faded Brown’ and ‘Don’t Wait’…

 

From Something Else

A searcher’s song, “Don’t Wait” also speaks to the journey Levon Helm made with Rick Danko and Garth Hudson back toward their legacy in the Band. The track, co-written by Helm for the Band’s 1998 finale Jubilation, finds our protagonist desperately searching for something to grab on to — only to meet a wizened stranger who steers him back toward old music’s sense of home and hearth.

In this way, “Don’t Wait” echoes their stirring past even as it amplifies the larger issues surrounding the Band’s long-awaited comeback.

Moving on without Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel couldn’t have been easy, and it likewise was wrought with doubters. Helm, Danko and Hudson showed time and time again, however, that they could rise to that challenge over a trio of ’90s-era albums, adding several moments that stand with anything in the Band’s larger canon. Then came health issues for Levon Helm, something made evident in the ragged edges of his vocal here.

As such, so much of the narrative inside “Don’t Wait” rings true: They’ve certainly known high times, and their share of low ones, too. All of it informs the performance, too. A lyric that combines rustic wisdom and a mystical bent is bolstered by a slapping Randy Ciarlante cadence and Levon Helm’s plucky mandolin, even as Rick Danko begins darting in behind Levon’s lead vocal like two old friends finishing one another’s sentences.

By the time it’s over, “Don’t Wait” has first revealed itself as one of their last era’s very best moments — and then as one of the Band’s very best, period.
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This is the winning drawing of Mad Muhammad at the Garland ‘Draw Muhammad’ exhibit…

 
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David Harvey: “…jobs, jobs, jobs. Yeah, but meaningful jobs.”

 

Professor of anthropology and geography, David Harvey. Data released by the anti-poverty charity Oxfam suggests that the world’s wealthiest 80 people are on track to own more than the poorer half of the world’s population (some 3.5 billion) by 2016. That’s not a reflection of a glitch in our economic system, says David Harvey, professor at the City University of New York. That’s our economic system at work; indeed, that’s our economic system in “recovery.”

Distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the CUNY Graduate Center, Harvey argues that poverty and inequality can’t be explained away or blamed on personal problems, or what President Obama in his State of the Union address called the “loopholes that lead to inequality.” Inequality is what our economic system produces, and the cost of it can be measured in the despair many feel, and in our bitter relationships to ourselves, each other and the planet.

“It’s almost impossible to be really human,” says Harvey, in a world that measures life in earnings and wealth and productivity only.

Snowden, Assange and Manning statues unveiled in Berlin…

 aTaking a stand in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz are whistleblowers Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

From http://www.euronews.com/embed/305239/

Activists and members of Germany’s Green party unveiled the life-size bronze statues on Friday.

All are considered heroes on the political left for leaking US intelligence documents.

The man behind the work Italian sculptor Davide Dormino explains that he wanted to “represent three contemporary heroes who have lost their freedom for the truth.” He says that they act as a reminder of “how important it is to know the truth and have the courage to know the truth.”

Entitled Anything to Say the sculpture encourages supporters to stand up for freedom of speech and information.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces extradition to Sweden to face investigation into accusations of rape and sexual assault, but fears he will be extradited to the US to face questions over his role in leaking secret US documents. He has taken asylum in Ecuador’s London Embassy. US soldier Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning) was convicted in 2013 on charges relating to the Espionage Act for leaking US intelligence and military documents to Wikileaks. She is currently serving a 35 year prison sentence. Edward Snowden is currently evading extradition to the US by taking asylum in Russia. He released classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to journalists revealing the scale of the US government’s global surveillance capabilities.

Their statues will have fewer restrictions on their movements with a scheduled world tour.
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Dry Farming: Potatoes, Apples, and Tomatoes…

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[Repost from 2012]

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit

“In the beginning, I searched out people who were known dry-farmers,” says Little, who started in farming in 1995. “It seemed like no one had done it for 30 years or so, and then it wasn’t done much.”

How to Turn a Nightmare into a Fairy Tale…

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From Tom Dispatch

40 Years Later, Will the End Games in Iraq and Afghanistan Follow the Vietnam Playbook?

If our wars in the Greater Middle East ever end, it’s a pretty safe bet that they will end badly — and it won’t be the first time. The “fall of Saigon” in 1975 was the quintessential bitter end to a war. Oddly enough, however, we’ve since found ways to reimagine that denouement which miraculously transformed a failed and brutal war of American aggression into a tragic humanitarian rescue mission. Our most popular Vietnam end-stories bury the long, ghastly history that preceded the “fall,” while managing to absolve us of our primary responsibility for creating the disaster. Think of them as silver-lining tributes to good intentions and last-ditch heroism that may come in handy in the years ahead.

The trick, it turned out, was to separate the final act from the rest of the play. To be sure, the ending in Vietnam was not a happy one, at least not for many Americans and their South Vietnamese allies. This week we mark the 40th anniversary of those final days of the war.  We will once again surely see the searing images of terrified refugees, desperate evacuations, and final defeat. But even that grim tale offers a lesson to those who will someday memorialize our present round of disastrous wars: toss out the historical background and you can recast any U.S. mission as a flawed but honorable, if not noble, effort by good-guy rescuers to save innocents from the rampaging forces of aggression. In the Vietnamese case, of course, the rescue was so incomplete and the defeat so total that many Americans concluded their country had “abandoned” its cause and “betrayed” its allies. By focusing on the gloomy conclusion, however, you could at least stop dwelling on the far more incriminating tale of the war’s origins and expansion, and the ruthless way the U.S. waged it.

Occupy Wall Street’s plan to beat consumer debt has quietly become a success…

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From Business Insider

The Occupy movement is still making a huge difference in thousands of lives.

The group’s Rolling Jubilee “Strike Debt” initiative has quietly forgiven millions in medical and student loans since 2012 after buying the debt on the secondary market.

Sixteen-thousand people have been relieved of nearly $32 million in debt, according to the effort’s website. The group has achieved this success despite raising just over $700,000.

Rolling Jubilee buys debt on the secondary market for what amounts to pennies on the dollar and, instead of initiating a debt collection process, send people a letter informing them the bill is no longer hanging over their heads.

Nearly $4 million in private student loans have been forgiven at a cost of about $100,000, the group announced last year. The students all came from the for-profit Everest College, part of Corinthian Colleges, which Rolling Jubilee called “predatory.”

Reading I.F. Stone: Why we still won’t get anywhere unless we connect the dots…

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From Naomi Klein
Common Dreams

One week ago, I was honoured to receive an “Izzy Award” for “outstanding achievement in independent media and journalism.” The annual award, which this year also went to David Sirota for his groundbreaking investigations into political corruption in the U.S. pension system, is named after the great muckraker I.F. Stone (“Izzy” to his friends).

In past years, the award has gone to people who do a far better job of embodying the legacy of Stone’s investigative reporting than I (Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill among them). But as I said at the ceremony at Ithaca College, I doubt the judges have given the honour to anyone whose grandparents would have been more thrilled. Without fail, my late grandfather Philip Klein would read I.F. Stone’s Weekly to my late grandmother Annie while she knitted some new creation.

In preparation for the ceremony, I read some of Stone’s environmental writing, and came across a piece that seems very worth sharing today. It’s the speech he gave on April 22, 1970—the very first Earth Day. Never one to mince words, Stone’s speech was titled “Con Games.”

Strange Matters…

From Top Documentary Films

Social psychologist Erich Fromm once said, “A technological civilization is programmed by the principal that something ought to be done if it is technologically possible. If it is possible to make nuclear weapons, they must be built even if they destroy us all.” So it is in the world of science as it is practiced today. The ambitious and beautifully produced new documentary Strange Matters shows us a scientific landscape populated by the most brilliant minds of our time – all collectively accelerating discoveries which could hold the power to destroy us all.

Such a discovery was made in August of 2014, when researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York uncovered the means by which to manufacture strange matter, a quark liquid which existed billions of years ago and is thought to have played a key role in the Big Bang. When properly manipulated, this liquid quark serves as the most explosive element in the known universe, and can consume and destroy all planetary mass.

Why journalists should (at least sometimes) be activists..

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From Dan Gillmour

At the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, this week, I gave a talk entitled “Why Journalists Should be Activists,” and apart from a few departures from the text below, here’s what I said:

Two months ago, a New York Times journalist, investigative reporter James Risen, went on Twitter to denounce the Obama administration’s attitude toward the press. The administration, he said, was the “greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”

Risen’s tirade became a topic of conversation in the community of people who watch and comment on journalism. Some said a reporter shouldn’t be expressing such thoughts publicly, because it might cause readers to question his – and his newspaper’s – commitment to objective reporting. But the newspaper’s editor in charge of of journalism standards told Margaret Sullivan, the Times’ public editor,  that Risen had done the right thing.

“In general,” this editor said, “our reporters understand that they don’t and shouldn’t editorialize on issues we cover….I would put this in a different category.”

What category? Freedom of the press, of course. And he was right.

Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War…

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From Jeremy Scahill
The Intercept

A TOP-SECRET U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.

Amid fierce European criticism of America’s targeted killing program, U.S. and German government officials have long downplayed Ramstein’s role in lethal U.S. drone operations and have issued carefully phrased evasions when confronted with direct questions about the base. But the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.

The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.

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See Complete Story here
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For Nader, Defiance Is a Way of Life…

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From Chris Hedges

There was a time in Washington when a letter from Ralph Nader to the president or a Cabinet official might evoke not only a response but a press conference, news reports and action. Nader, with his armies of lawyers and citizen action committees behind him, could mobilize formidable forces, inside and outside government, on behalf of citizens. But with the rise of the corporate puppet Ronald Reagan, and once Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party sold out to corporate power in exchange for corporate money, electoral politics became farce, legislation and laws were turned over to lobbyists and corporate attorneys, and the citizen, whom Nader has spent his life defending, became irrelevant.

Nader still writes letters to the powerful, pounded out on his 50-year-old manual Underwood typewriter, but they are rarely answered. That he writes them, that he refuses to surrender and doggedly struggles against all odds for a restoration of American democracy and the rule of law, makes Nader one of the moral and intellectual giants of our age.

Nader’s newest book, “Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015,” a collection of letters to Barack Obama and George W. Bush (whom Nader once called “a corporation running for the presidency masquerading as a human being”), was inspired, he said, by the letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and between Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and Harold Laski. In Nader’s letters the path to ruin built by corporate and imperial power is laid bare and the vision of a future freed from environmental catastrophe, corporate totalitarianism and financial exploitation and collapse is spelled out with quixotic clarity. Bush and Obama may not have read these letters, but American citizens should. True to Nader’s understanding of the vital importance of public utilities and public service, he dedicates the book to “the U.S. Postal Service, the people who make it work, and those citizens who have defended its critical role in thousands of communities throughout our country’s history starting with Benjamin Franklin.”

Truth — The Cure for Cognitive Dissonance…

From Washingtons Blog

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ― George Orwell

Every time the BLS puts out their monthly propaganda report on the wonderful state of the U.S. jobs market and states with a straight face the unemployment rate is a measly 5.5%, their corporate mouthpieces in the mainstream cheerleader media regurgitate the fake numbers and urge you to buy stocks. The millionaire talking heads on CNBC and the corrupt bought off politicians in D.C. make broad sweeping declarations about economic recovery, strong job growth, GDP advancement, record highs in the stock market, and soaring consumer confidence.

The people living in the real world know otherwise, but they want to believe the “experts” and “leaders”. This dichotomy between reality and what they are being told is causing a tremendous amount of mental stress. This cognitive dissonance of attempting to reconcile what they are experiencing in their every day existence and the propaganda being peddled at them on a daily basis from big media, big bankers, corporate titans, and captured politicians pulling the strings and running the show, is causing psychological discomfort. Most people want their lives to get better, so to reduce their cognitive dissonance they choose to believe the government and media reports about economic improvement.

It is only a small minority who want to know the unvarnished truth. They are drawn to alternative media websites, which the the captured corporate media refers to as doom sites. These critical thinking individuals understand the facts. The Deep State propaganda has no impact on these people because they have no cognitive dissonance. They know things are far worse than what is reported by the government and their media whores. Knowing the truth and seeing how the majority remain willfully ignorant results in rising anger among truth seekers. Huxley was right.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” ― Aldous Huxley

‘Water Man of India’ Makes Rivers Flow Again…

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From Climate News Network
Thanks to Todd

Revival of traditional rainwater harvesting has transformed the driest state in India, and could be used to combat the effects of climate change across the world.

School textbooks in India have been telling children for generations that Rajasthan is an inhospitable state in the northwest of the country, constrained by the hot, hostile sands of the Thar Desert.

But the driest state in India has a softer, humane face as well – that of Rajendra Singh, known as the “Water Man of India”, whose untiring efforts in water conservation in arid Rajasthan have led to him being awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for Water.

Singh did not attempt to design a new technology to address Rajasthan’s water problems. He began simply by de-silting several traditional surface level rainwater storage facilities – called “johads” in the local Hindi language − that fell out of use during British colonial rule. And, in doing so, he has quenched the thirst of villages that were dying.

Thousands of villages followed his example, and so much water was captured and soaked into aquifers that dry rivers have begun to flow again.

Drugs: A War Well Lost…

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Sam Harris and Johann Hari discuss the “war on drugs”

Johann Hari is a British journalist who has written for many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Slate, El Mundo, and The Sydney Morning Herald.He was an op-ed columnist for The Independent for nine years. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge with a double first in social and political sciences in 2001.

Hari was twice named “National Newspaper Journalist of the Year” by Amnesty International. He was named “Environmental Commentator of the Year” at the Editorial Intelligence Awards, and “Gay Journalist of the Year” at the Stonewall Awards. He has also won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for political writing.

Hari’s latest book is the New York Times best seller Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. You can follow him on Twitter @johannhari101.

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The Burden of Denial…

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From John Michael Greer

It occurred to me the other day that quite a few of the odder features of contemporary American culture make perfect sense if you assume that everybody knows exactly what’s wrong and what’s coming as our society rushes, pedal to the metal, toward its face-first collision with the brick wall of the future. It’s not that they don’t get it; they get it all too clearly, and they just wish that those of us on the fringes would quit reminding them of the imminent impact, so they can spend whatever time they’ve got left in as close to a state of blissful indifference as they can possibly manage.

I grant that this realization probably had a lot to do with the context in which it came to me. I was sitting in a restaurant, as it happens, with a vanload of fellow Freemasons.  We’d carpooled down to Baltimore, some of us to receive one of the higher degrees of Masonry and the rest to help with the ritual work, and we stopped for dinner on the way back home. I’ll spare you the name of the place we went; it was one of those currently fashionable beer-and-burger joints where the waitresses have all been outfitted with skirts almost long enough to cover their underwear, bare midriffs, and the sort of push-up bras that made them look uncomfortably like inflatable dolls—an impression that their too obviously scripted jiggle-and-smile routines did nothing to dispell.

Still, that wasn’t the thing that made the restaurant memorable. It was the fact that every wall in the place had television screens on it. By this I don’t mean that there was one screen per wall; I mean that they were lined up side by side right next to each other, covering the upper part of every single wall in the place, so that you couldn’t raise your eyes above head level without looking at one. They were all over the interior partitions of the place, too. There must have been forty of them in one not too large restaurant, each one blaring something different into the thick air, while loud syrupy music spattered down on us from speakers on the ceiling and the waitresses smiled mirthlessly and went through their routines. My burger and fries were tolerably good, and two tall glasses of Guinness will do much to ameliorate even so charmless a situation; still, I was glad to get back on the road.

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