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Summer Signs Confirmed

By: Deena Stryker Saturday July 12, 2014 11:15 am

As hooligans in Jerusalem shout anti-Arab slogans and threaten individual Arabs, giving rise to the word ‘Zio-fascists’, Israel prepares to invade Gaza yet again, while Kiev shells villages and towns as it prepares to besiege Eastern Ukraine’s two largest cities. The Gaza invasion is clearly an effort to torpedo the Palestinian unity government, while the Ukraine offensive is just as clearly a US-led attempt to draw Russia into a shooting war with NATO. Both illustrate the increasingly fascistic nature of globalization. The question is whether Europe, which has known the horrors of fascism up close, will continue to go along with Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s plans.
BRICS Business Council, 20 Aug 2013
A hopeful sign that indeed it may not, is the French Finance Minister daring to say out loud what many leaders have been thinking: that it’s time for the world to stop using the dollar as its reserve currency. His remark came after a major French bank received a humungous fine for infringing US sanctions. Until now, only the BRICS countries were talking about the need for a different reserve currency, and it was easy to brush them off as incapable of making this happen. But when the second most economically important country in the EU talks this way, something is afoot. The fact that it is not Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, that made the remark is irrelevant: there has always been a division of labor within the duo.

For its part, Germany is taking steps to counter U.S. snooping and spying. As the Guardian reported Tuesday, Angela Merkel considers that: “If the allegations (about Germans working for the CIA) are true, it would be … a clear contradiction to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners.” And today Des Spiegel writes: “In what amounts to a diplomatic earthquake, Berlin has asked the country’s top CIA official to leave Germany.” This unprecedented move will further strain ties with Washington, which have never been the same since revelations last year that the NSA was wire-tapping Germans – including the Chancellor herself.

Even more significantly, Merkel’s declaration was made during her seventh official trip to Beijing, where economic agreements signed and the two countries compared notes the United States.

I began writing this article Thursday, and yesterday much of it was confirmed:

As President Obama is attacked for supposed inaction abroad and overreach at home, (Speaker of the House John Boehner plans to sue him over his use of executive actions), President Putin turns up in Cuba on the first leg of a trip that will also take him to Argentina and Brazil. Russia is canceling 90% of Cuba’s debt, with the 10% remaining to be invested in joint development projects, and will drill for oil. One news source announced that former Soviet bases in Cuba are to be reactivated, to be verified.  In any case, the comment that Putin excels at the judoist art of waiting patiently for one split-second right moment to act, is borne out:

On the eve of the BRICS summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, where the location of the BRICS Development Bank will be decided, the Russian President announced that Russia would back Brazil’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Time recently commented that Putin allowed himself to be distracted during the Sochi Games from the birthing crisis in Ukraine.  It seems he will be making up for it Sunday during the World Cup finals, when he is expected to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It’s no coincidence that while Russia and Brazil take steps to liberate themselves from American electronic systems, Germany, recognizing the power shift that is under way, moves closer to both – as well as to China.

Put all these developments together and you cannot deny that a new play is premiering on the world stage: After pretending for seventy years that it had eradicated fascism, with communism as the remaining foe of ‘democratic’ nations, Washington is using Islamic ‘terrorism’ (anything ranging from the Shi’a state of Iran to Hamas but not including ISIS, which just took control of a large swathe of the Iraq we thought we had birthed as a ‘democratic’ self-governing state), as a cover for total global domination that increasingly uses the tools perfected by Nazi Germany.

However, it doesn’t take a degree in international relations to see that the peoples of the world are increasingly sharing the same memes, which tend toward some form of socialism and oppose frenetic consumption. (When the Chinese wake up to its downside, the movement will become unstoppable.) Last summer, while ISIS was announcing that it would set up a Caliphate, Turkish youth demonstrated for weeks to prevent Gezi Park from being turned into a shopping mall, while Brazilians did likewise against the money being spent to host the World Cup. As the games draw to a close, Dennis Trainor, Jr. shared the results of a Pew Poll: 61% of Brazilians think the World Cup is bad for Brazil, more than a million people having taken to the streets of major cities in the past year to protest corruption, rising inflation and a lack of government investment in public services such as education, health care and public transportation.) On May 29th the Guardian took a look at Turkey a year after the Gezi protests and found, among other things that: “Social movements and ideas of how to challenge power certainly emerged from the June protests in Gezi Park – neighborhood forums, politically motivated squatting, and volunteer election observers are just a few of the social experiments now under way in Turkey.

As for the Middle East, which Washington planned to remake to its advantage, it may be slipping from its grasp – but then again, perhaps not: With only ten thousand men, ISIS has taken control of a good chunk of both Syria and Iraq. While the West feigns surprise, it’s hard to believe that the world’s biggest intelligence apparatus, not to mention drones and just plain folks on the ground, including Embassies and their staffs, didn’t know what was going on. More likely, the Caliphate is part of the well-oiled (sic) march toward “total dominance” (see Fascism; Which Flavor Do You Prefer?

As the Arab spring morphs into a long, hot summer, Europe too is rethinking its situation: after seventy years of subservience, America’s allies are beginning to realize that they must break with the U.S. Although their peoples strenuously opposed the Vietnam War, after the demise of the Soviet Union they allowed NATO to go back on its promises and move right up to the Russian border, while their economies became ever more subservient to Wall Street. The ‘mini’ depression of 2008 dealt a devastating blow to the European welfare state, forcing governments to implement austerity measures instead of continuing to meet the needs of their people. But the takeover of Ukraine engineered by the Neo-Conservative guardians of American business, and implemented by third generation storm troopers, is where the rubber is meeting the road. The French statement is not a sign of pique, but the inevitable result of America’s total lack of historical perspective. Forgetting that Europeans experienced real fascism, Washington assumed they would not realize what was happening to them.

Europeans are not only determined to resist fascism, they notice the dichotomy between Obama’s persistent belligerence in both word and deed, and the Russian President’s consistent calls for negotiations and dialogue in each and every conflictual situation. If their hitherto pusillanimous governments finally assert their independence, the hundredth anniversary of the First World War may not coincide with the outbreak of a Third World War, as many have feared. Instead, Turkish, Brazilian, Egyptian and Ukrainian youth may become the forerunners of a global polity that rejects all forms of totalitarianism and turns its energies from mindless consumption to saving the planet.

 

Saturday Art: Mayan Excavation

By: Ruth Calvo Sunday February 26, 2012 3:00 pm

Editor’s Note: Ruth Calvo is in Belize on an archaeology dig. Her initial post is here.

Mayan temples are the excavation we’re doing here in Blue Creek, Belize. The site is IZ’noha, and we’re finding structures from the post classical period which is not the finest architecture, but has the usual symmetry and form of the earlier periods and I’m going to put up a few pictures of the excavation we’re involved in, which emerges a little more each day.

These pictures are in order as the dig brings out new features as we progress.

My first day at the dig, the bottom edge as we look for stairs and courtyard structure.

A few feet further and deeper

Stairs start to come into view

We progress up toward the upper chambers, more stairs.

Completed temple, Mask Temple at Lamanai in Belize.

Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s – Book Salon Preview

By: Elliott Tuesday May 8, 2012 5:26 pm

Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s

Chat with Brad Edmondson about his new book, hosted by Rodney North of Equal Exchange.

Today at 5pm ET, 2pm PT

For more than three decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been committed to an insanely ambitious three-part mission: not just making the world’s best ice cream but also supporting progressive causes and sharing its success with all stakeholders—employees, suppliers, distributors, customers, cows, everybody. Living up to these beliefs is fun when you’re doing it right, and it creates amazingly loyal customers, but it isn’t easy.

This is the first book to tell the full, inside story of the inspiring rise, tragic mistakes, devastating fall, determined recovery, and ongoing renewal of one of the most iconic mission-driven companies in the world. No previous book has focused so intently on the challenges presented by staying true to the mission as the business grew. No other book has explained how the company came to be sold to Unilever, one of the world’s biggest corporations. And none has described the unprecedented contract Ben & Jerry’s negotiated with Unilever to preserve the three-part mission or the complex working relationship that has allowed the company to pursue that mission on a much larger stage.

Brad Edmondson tells the story with a journalist’s eye for details, dramatic moments, and memorable characters. Among the dozens of key figures Edmondson interviewed, his most important source was Jeff Furman, who helped Ben and Jerry write their first business plan in 1978 and has stayed involved ever since, serving as chairman of the board since 2010. It’s a funny, sad, surprising, and ultimately hopeful story.

Brad Edmondson is a writer and consultant who helps people and organizations understand and benefit from social change. He is fascinated by how change happens, and why. A few years ago, while writing about New York’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park, Brad learned that the wilderness preserve at the core of it was once privately owned. The land reverted to state ownership after loggers cut down all the trees and walked away. Now the park is the crown jewel of the Empire State, thanks to one far-sighted law, a vigilant public, and one hundred growing seasons.

Brad was raised in rural south Florida, on a farm that was established in 1923 and is still operated by his family. He attended Deep Springs, a college with an unusual curriculum that trains students for lives of service. By the time Brad got a history degree from Cornell in 1981, he knew he wanted to be a writer and storyteller. Instead of going to graduate school, he took editorial jobs at the Ithaca Times (1981–85), a weekly newspaper that covered peace and social justice issues, and American Demographics magazine (1985–98), a monthly Dow Jones magazine that explained the impact of population change and consumer trends on businesses, organizations, and society. During Brad’s tenure as editor in chief of American Demographics, the magazine was nominated three times for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence. (Berrett-Koehler books)

You can read excerpts here.
Here the author interviews Jeff Furman, chair of the board of Ben & Jerry’s:

Passing Gas to the Consumer

By: brasch Friday October 3, 2008 11:50 am

by Walter Brasch

Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits.Untitled

Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it’s hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283.

“We have been subsidizing oil companies for a century. That’s long enough,” President Obama said more than a year ago. The Senate disagreed. Forty-three Republicans and four Democrats blocked the elimination of subsidies. Although the final vote was 51–47 to end the subsidies, a simple majority was not enough because the Republicans threatened a filibuster that would have required 60 votes to pass the bill. A Think Progress financial analysis revealed that the 47 senators who voted to continue subsidies received almost $23.6 million in career contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, the 51 senators who had voted to repeal the subsidies received only about $5.9 million.

For a couple of decades, the oil industry blamed the Arabs for not pumping enough oil to export to the United States. But when the Arab oil cartel (of which the major U.S. oil companies have limited partnerships) decided to pump more oil, the Americans had to look elsewhere for their excuses. In rapid succession, they blamed Mexico, England, the Bermuda Triangle, polar bears who were lying about climate change so they could get more ice for their diet drinks, and infertile dinosaurs.

This year, the oil companies blamed ISIS, a recently-formed terroristic fringe group composed primarily of Sunni Muslims, who have opposed Shia Muslims for more than 14 centuries. Think of the Protestant–Catholic wars in Ireland. Because ISIS was laying a path of destruction through Iraq, the oil companies found it convenient to declare that oil shipments were threatened, and then raise prices, salivating at their good fortune that terrorists had come to their financial assistance during the Summer holidays.

However, because the oil companies have laid a thick propaganda shield upon the America people to make them believe that fracking the environment and destroying public health, while yielding only temporary job growth, will lead to less dependence upon the Arab nations and lower costs to Americans, the Industry has to come up with some excuses to drill the taxpayers.

Through deft journalistic intrigue and a lifetime of investigative reporting, I was able to obtain insider information from the ultra secret Gas and Oil Unified Greedy Excuse Maker sub-committee (GOUGEM). I have not been able to verify the transcript, but in the developing tradition of 21st century journalism, that doesn’t really matter.

“We have a problem,” declared the GOUGEM Grand Caliph “We have run out of excuses. Last year, we had to find excuses not only for the Summer vacations, but also to justify our surreptitious funding of the Benghazi investigation.”

“There must be a hundred different ways to nail Obama for this year’s increase,” declared the Sunoco representative.

“What if we claim that Obamacare caused gas prices to go up for ambulances,” said a newly-appointed representative from the Hess Corp.

“Tried it last year, but we couldn’t get much traction,” said the Grand Caliph. “Only Fox, Limbaugh, and some guy broadcasting through a tin cup from his room at Bellevue picked it up.”

“Afghanistan!”  shouted the Marathon representative. “We’ve gotten good mileage from blaming the war for the cost of gas.”

“Yeah,” said the Tesoro rep sarcastically, “while we’ve been reaping enough excessive profits to build a water park at every one of our executives’ McMansions. I’m afraid the American people after 13 years have finally caught on to that scam.”

“If not Iraq and Afghanistan,” how about a new war? We invade Switzerland,” the ConocoPhillips rep suggested, “and claim we’re protecting the world from weapons of mass Swiss Army Knives. Every Republican and a few Democrats will back us on that.”

“It only works if there’s oil in Switzerland,” said the Shell rep, “and since we haven’t developed the technology to frack the Matterhorn, we’ll have to find another reason to raise gas prices.”

The BP rep suggested that the oil companies claim gas price increases were necessary because the price of Dawn detergent, used to clean oil-slicked marine mammals, went up.

The Chevron  rep said they could blame the Treasury Department for their underhanded tactics in locating the companies’ tax-free stash in the Caymans.  “How could anyone complain about us needing more income to pay our lawyers?” she declared.

The Valero rep wanted to blame the Veterans Administration. “We say we had to wait so long to get permission to raise gas prices that we had to do it ourselves,” he brightly said, and tagged that suggestion with the explanation that the companies could then claim they were being self-sufficient and not dependent upon the government. “The conservatives will love us,” he righteously declared.

After a few moments of idle chatter, something committees have perfected, the Exxon Mobil rep spoke up. “We don’t need an excuse.”

“You been inhaling too many fumes?” the Shell rep asked.

“Slip on a grease spot in one of your garages?” asked the Murphy Oil rep.

“We’ve always had an excuse,” the Shell rep whined. “Without an excuse, the motorist might not buy our gas.”

“Oh, they’ll buy,” said the Exxon Mobil rep confidently. “We’ve bought out and eliminated most of the alternative fuel sources, public transportation is in the pits, and no one walks. That leaves cars, and they all run on what we decide they run on.”

“So what’s your point?” asked the BP representative.

“It’s as simple as 1-2-3,” the Exxon representative stated. “One. We’re Big Business. Two. We’ve already bought the Republican-controlled Congress. Three. We don’t need to justify anything.”

By unanimous agreement, the gas bag cartel declared there would be a 10-cent a gallon hike by the end of Summer—and no excuse.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest books are the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow, a journalistic novel; and Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the health, environmental, economic, and political effects of horizontal fracturing.]

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Louis L’Amour

By: dakine01 Monday September 12, 2011 8:00 am

Louis L’Amour probably stands next to Zane Grey as a writer of westerns. From his wiki intro:
Haunted Mesa

Louis Dearborn L’Amour (22 March 1908 – 10 June 1988) was an American author. His books consisted primarily of Western novels (though he called his work ‘frontier stories’), however he also wrote historical fiction (The Walking Drum), science fiction (The Haunted Mesa), nonfiction (Frontier), as well as poetry and short-story collections. Many of his stories were made into movies. L’Amour’s books remain popular and most have gone through multiple printings. At the time of his death some of his 105 existing works were in print (89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction) and he was considered “one of the world’s most popular writers”.[1][2]

As I looked through the list of L’Amour’s works at Goodreads.com, I realized that I have not read many of his books although I have seen a number of regular and TV movies from L’Amours books. One L’Amour book I know I have read and enjoyed very much is The Haunted Mesa, a science-fiction (cross dimensional) story set in the southwest. From the wiki of the book:

The Haunted Mesa is a science fiction novel by Louis L’Amour, set in the American Southwest amidst the ruins of the Anasazi. L’Amour attempts, as in others of his works, to suggest a reasonable explanation for the phenomena attributed to The Bermuda Triangle, i.e., portals between worlds or different facets of this world.

Other L’Amour books I have read over the years are Sitka (set in Alaska) and High Lonesome.

As I said, I have seen more movies based on L’Amour’s work than I have read his actual books. Hondo with John Wayne, Utah Blaine with Rory Calhoun, and Heller in Pink Tights with Anthony Quinn. Sam Elliott has made a pretty good career out of Louis L’Amour books made into TV movies starring in The Sacketts, The Shadow Riders, The Quick and the Dead, and Conagher. Tom Selleck co-starred with Elliott in the first two and also starred in Crossfire Trail.

L’Amour wrote a novelization of the script for the epic western movie How the West Was Won.

Should Counties Put a BadgerCare Expansion Question on the Fall Ballot?

By: WI Budget Project Friday July 11, 2014 12:53 pm
Sample election ballots

Wisconsin residents may get to vote on BadgerCare expansion.

At least 11 Wisconsin counties may add an advisory referendum to the November ballot on the question of whether Wisconsin should expand BadgerCare and take the federal funding that would cover the full cost of newly eligible childless adults. The proposed ballot measure has generated a healthy debate about whether the Medicaid expansion topic is an appropriate matter for an advisory referendum.

There are many strong arguments in favor of taking the federal funding (see WCCF’s “Top Ten” list); however, some people who argue against including the BadgerCare question on the November ballot contend that it’s not a concern of county government. But even if we assume for the moment that an interest in county residents’ access to affordable health care isn’t reason enough for counties to allow voters to weigh in on the issue, counties also have their own reasons to be very interested in whether the state expands BadgerCare and accepts the federal funds:

  • One very important consideration for counties is they bear the financial responsibility (rather than the state) for some community-based Medicaid services. By getting 100% federal funding for coverage of childless adults below 138% of the federal poverty level, counties would enjoy substantial savings for mental health services. They could use those savings either to improve those services or for other local purposes, including property tax relief.
  • Another important consideration for counties is that the state recently projected a $93 million GPR deficit in the Medicaid budget – primarily as a result of the much higher than anticipated BadgerCare enrollment of childless adults with incomes below the federal poverty level. That deficit could be eliminated by expanding BadgerCare eligibility and accepting the full federal funding for coverage of childless adults. If policymakers don’t choose that option, significant budget cuts will be needed, and state aid for counties could be one of the budget items at risk.

The risk of significant cuts to Medicaid or elsewhere is also pertinent with respect to another argument that has been made against the proposed referendum – that there is no chance of convincing the Governor and legislators to reconsider their decision to turn down the federal funding. I think that assumption is mistaken because a number of different factors give new life to the issue – not the least of which is that we are electing new lawmakers this fall, and the candidates will probably have to debate the question of how to close the Medicaid deficit. Putting the Medicaid expansion issue on the ballot in November raises the visibility of that debate during the fall campaigns, and it gives voters who may plan to support GOP candidates for other reasons an opportunity to send those candidates a message that they should rethink their position on BadgerCare.

Some people have argued that advisory referenda are simply a waste of time and money because policymakers won’t pay attention to them. I can relate to that cynicism, but how far do we want to take that line of reasoning? If all lawmakers’ minds are closed on this and other policy issues, should we put an end to public hearings? Should the state save money by taking steps to shut down other forms of public input, such as closing down legislators email accounts?

Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Pot Theft

By: Kit OConnell Friday July 11, 2014 8:17 pm

 

An archaeologist holds up a potsherd with a bit of zig zag striped decoration

Another piece of an ancient thing.

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

In one sense, I was pushing against the tide of all these artifacts that are coming out — millions and millions of objects that are disappearing from the land. I was putting one back in. – Craig Childs, Pot Theft

Pot Theft is a collaboration between one of my favorite NPR shows and podcasts, Radiolab, and YouTube animators Minute Physics.

Last month, we had our very first (unofficial) artist-in-residence at Radiolab: Henry Reich, the brains behind MinutePhysics. Henry took a story from Craig Childs, the adventure-loving, cliff-scaling explorer from our Things episode, and animated it in trademark Minute Physics style: magic markers, stick figures, and tons of charm.

This animation is part of a series of Radiolab stories about “Things.” But if you’re new to Radiolab I recommend the recent episode “≤ kg” or the brain-zapping fun of “9-Volt Nirvana.”

Bonus: If you follow Cartoon Friday, you know I love Bob’s Burgers. A lot has been written in praise of Tina Belcher, and the sex-positive yet hilarious way the show handles her character’s adolescent sexual awakening. But fewer writers have analyzed the Belcher family son, Gene.

Writing for The Horn’s Over the Rainbow column, Dana Sayre draws out the show’s LGBTQ subtext in her take on “Genderfluid Gene.”

I’ve always loved Gene’s character for the sassy quotes which make the viewer wonder if he’ll grow up to be gay. Gene’s character gets wonderful one-liners like, ‘You don’t just throw away satin!!’ in ‘A River Runs Through Bob.’ Whether it’s secret spa days with Linda or dressing up in a sequin gown and wig to perform with the girl group he creates at school, Gene isn’t afraid to embrace his feminine (effeminate?) side.

But there are also plenty of times when Gene acts like a ‘normal’ 11-year-old boy. Whether it’s recording fart noises on his electric keyboard, talking about poop, or eating the orange foam from Family Frackus, Gene is just as likely to be grossing out the family as being fabulous.

[...] That definition seems to fit Gene, whose character mixes and matches gender and sexuality stereotypes at will. In ‘OT: The Outside Toilet,’ for example, Gene’s maternal insticts mix with his love of toilets. In the episode, Gene’s class is doing a parenting exercise and he declares to the family, ‘I was born to be a mother.’ Unable to properly care for his bag of flour in class, however, Gene instead cares for an expensive toilet abandoned in the woods. Gene would rather be a mother than a father, but has a love of toilets our culture would not ascribe to the same group who normally mothers children.

Food for thought for my fellow queer pop-culture junkies.

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Tar Sands Healing Walk 2014

By: Kit OConnell Friday July 11, 2014 6:39 pm

 

Late last month, indigenous activists from Canada’s Athabasca region and their allies took part in the fifth and final “Tar Sands Healing Walk.” Over a route of about 10 miles, they marched and gave witness to the devastation that Tar Sands extraction has brought to the land.

In Yes! Magazine, Liana Lopez shares a beautiful, photo-filled essay about this direct action:

‘This isn’t protest or a rally,’ organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. ‘This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.’

The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.

Groups even came from the United States:

In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada. Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.

‘We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,’ said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. ‘We are honored to be part of the walk this year.’

As noted in Lopez’s article, the Healing Walks are ending after five years but the work is just beginning.

A row of drummers marching as they drum on the Healing Walk.

Solidarity to all the earth justice superheroes that joined this Walk! -Kit