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BREAKING: Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Has Been Reached

By: wendydavis Monday November 24, 2014 1:14 pm

I’ll update as needed.  Among the various media announcements, it’s not clear if the decision itself will be announced, or simply just that the GJ has made its decision and has been released.  Maybe we should just go with Anderson Cooper[Updated: The Puppet Masters' scribes are saying that the presser will either be at... 4, 5, 7, or 8 o'clock CST.]  Until then: Dance.

Why yes, Mr. President, Holder: we know. Pfffft. Can’t wait until you install Loretta Lynch.

ST. LOUIS (KMOX)  November 24, 2014 1:34 PM

KMOX News has received word from the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office that a Ferguson grand jury decision has been reached.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s plane is arriving at Lambert Airport this hour.

A source close to the situation says Nixon is here to take part in a news conference planned sometime later today. The content of the news conference is not yet clear.

Earlier today, KMOX News asked the spokesman of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to appear on the air to go over the timeline of the grand jury.

 

Why are so many Americans so crazy?

By: David Seaton Monday November 24, 2014 10:45 am

Over half of surveyed Republicans said they believe that the president is a socialist Muslim who wants to take away gun rights and turn over U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. What’s deeper, though, is the vitriol of those beliefs, with a substantial number of Republicans believing that Obama resents America’s heritage (47 percent), is the “domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitution speaks of” (45 percent), wants to use an economic or terrorist event as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (41 percent), is doing some of the same stuff that Hitler did (38 percent), and may, in fact, be the Anti-Christ (24 percent). Daily Beast  

Just to begin by giving a quick answer to the question posed by the title of this post, “Why are so many Americans so crazy?”. The answer is that living in a cloud of misinformation, they are being driveninsane.There is always the temptation to see certain people as reasonable when they aren’t. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18″, was the favorite bible passage of Lyndon Baines Johnson and it describes the basic attitude of all successful negotiators. The lesson learned from the epic battle to pass a more than tame and mediocre health bill or the reaction to legalizing human beings that have risked their lives to come to America, is that it is impossible to negotiate with whipped up insanity.

All of this insanity, from tea party to Obama being Antichrist is about using racism to distract people from seeing clearly what is right in front of their faces.

Essentially what we have is Rupert Murdoch in the role of Joseph Goebbels nightly on Fox.

The idea is very simple, classic really. The system is in crisis, social inequality is widening and hardening, so stimulating paranoia and racism is a simple and effective way of keeping people from thinking about things like taxing the rich in order to get good public schools, affordable health care and other such Bolshevik twaddle.

To understand this craziness we have to turn it inside out. The first thing about it that catches my attention in the Harris and similar polls is that a significant portion of the American population is totally paranoid and extremely suggestible. If we discount genetics and/or some hallucinogen that has been added to the water, we would have to look at objective factors to account for this vulnerability.

Color in the United States is just a “warning signal” that history has walked into the room. But even history doesn’t explain it all. Our history of slavery is pretty horrible, but slavery was horrible in Cuba and Brazil too. However, Cubans and Brazilians are much more relaxed about color. Americans, though, are not really relaxed about much of anything.

Our culture is Calvinist: brittle and inflexible even in its hedonism, where, with predestination, the devil literally takes the hindmost.

Although in many parts of Europe, for example, losing, being maudit, is considered romantic, the worst put down in American English is to call someone a “loser”.

Therefore, Americans are obsessed with “winning” and “losing”.

This makes American racial tension different… I think America’s racism has something to do with America’s puritanical streak, with its hatred of vulnerability and the vulnerable slaves were “losers” par excellence.

The vulnerability of the “other”, whomever that other might be is the origin of the sickest of fantasies.

This role has been passed onto the slave’s descendants.

To begin with America’s cult of competition, of dividing people from childhood into “winners” and “losers”, has created an entire nation within the nation of losers: an enormous mass of people who feel terrible about themselves.

The American Dream is based on social mobility, but a great many Americans have not “moved” up since they arrived, even many who arrived during colonial times. At this moment many are on an express elevator moving down.

Since colonial times the subjugation and humiliation of African-Americans has provided a valuable tool in defusing social tensions in the rest of the population.

It all goes back that far.

Probably the most valuable service to domestic peace that slaves provided even, or especially, for those who didn’t own them, was the role of being someone even the most miserable white person could feel superior to.

The real problem in America is not racism in itself, the problem is a society or a culture that divides human beings into “winners” and “losers” and punishes the losers so mercilessly. These unfortunates simply cannot survive psychologically without their “whipping boy”. Racism is a tool of social control. The classic “divide and rule”.

That is the dirty little family secret of American capitalism: keeping the races at each others throats prevents the social democracy that exists in practically every other country of similar economic development.

God knows that America is full of desperately miserable white people. Not all of them are poor, not by long shot.

For losing and feeling miserable in America is not just economic, a study of marketing messages will give you an idea of the infinite ways that an American can be a “loser”, while “pursuing happiness” (forever “chasing”, never catching).

The entire American consumer economy, which is 70% of the total, is based on making people feel bad about themselves, making them feel poor, ugly, sick, helpless, stupid, inadequate and then offering to sell them something to relieve the pain of rejection and failure. A person of color might blame all the frustrations of life on race prejudice and he or she would be right in most cases. The white loser, and they are legion, hasn’t ever had even that safety valve.

Those whites who fear they might be “losers” themselves, and if we look at the economic and psychological facts of life in today’s American, that might include most American whites, desperately need someone to look down upon as a psychological safety valve and of course, since time immemorial African-Americans, even the lightest skinned among them, have served that purpose. Their status as loser was even pleasing to the abolitionists that wanted to “uplift” them.

For literally hundreds of years, besides this role as the official ultimate-loser, no other role beyond entertaining or lifting heavy loads was permitted them.

In 1952 an African-American author, Ralph Ellison published a ground breaking novel, “The Invisible Man”, whose title many critics feel defined the experience of people of African descent in America: that of being invisible and voiceless. In the years that followed, the people of color in the United States raised their voices and became visible, to the great and continuing discomfort of many whites. The white people of the US south who once voted solidly Democratic have punished that party’s leadership of the civil rights movement by voting solidly Republican ever since… the key to the victories of Nixon, Reagan and Bush. The “Conservative Revolution”, that only favors the rich, is based on the resentment of poor whites and gives the wealthy the necessary numbers to win elections.

With Barack Obama this resentment is coming to head.

Up till now, American “identity” politics was always played with surrogates: WASP or “waspable” white men wearing masks.

Thus Bill Clinton was “America’s first black president”. The whatever WASP whose turn it was to woo Latinos, would eat tacos and say “juntos podemos” with an atrocious accent etc, etc. Candidates would attempt to show that they were “sensitive” to the feminist agenda and so on. Absolutely de rigueur for all white, male and protestant presidentiables was a photo at Yad Vashem sporting a yomulka. This all came with the turf like kissing babies. It was all a game.

The problems start when the Democrats decided to use “originals” instead of the traditional, “ballo in maschera“. The whole charade begins to fall apart without the WASP surrogates.

All of this resentful white anger has been directed heretofore against surrogates: the Jimmy Carters, the Ted Kennedys, the Walter Mondales, the Dukakises, the Gores and the Kerrys; and all the racism was disguised in euphemisms like “state’s rights” or “liberal” or “elitist” or “un-American”.

Now for the first time the American white ultra-right have got the chance to actually organize and march against a real black man who incarnates all the euphemisms, instead of a surrogate.

Even a “JFK meets Sydney Poitier” figure like president Barack Obama, or especially like Obama, is an unbearable provocation — a lifetime membership card in the “loser” club — for millions of American white people.

What is to be done? How to proceed.

Take a look at the two quotes below. I think that between them they hold the germs of program for the American left… if such an animal really exists.

“Reagan’s view of government as the problem is increasingly at odds with a nation whose system of health care relies on large for-profit entities designed to make money rather than improve health; whose economy is dependent on global capital and on global corporations and financial institutions with no particular loyalty to America; and much of whose fuel comes from unstable and dangerous areas of the world. Under these conditions, government is the only entity that can look out for our interests.” Robert Reich

The deeper point–the ones the tea partiers haven’t courage nor the brains to see–is that our technological age has laid bare a core fact of American life: that our corporatist state uses white men and women just like it uses black, brown and yellow ones–as cannon fodder. There is little “upward mobility.” Your children probably won’t live as well as you, much less better. Your 2nd and 3rd mortgages made them billions and then they bankrupted you. They stole your future itself. Leonce Gaiter

The ideas expressed here are not very complicated, they would be practically self-evident if so much time and media effort plus financial fiction had not been expended in clouding all these realities.When Robert Reich speaks of health care saying that America’s “economy is dependent on global capital and on global corporations and financial institutions with no particular loyalty to America”, he is underlining one of the principal facts of our world today, i.e. non-state actors, like multinational corporations, effectively controlled by a small percentage of the share holders and/or a management elite, are often more powerful than elected governments. This means, as Reich points out, that empowering government, which we elect, is the only defense we have against these unelected, non-state actors, who are indifferent to our welfare, whose only motive is profit.

Leonce Gaiter makes clear that this relationship with the non-state actors is an oppressive one and that with the bursting of the credit bubble and the destruction of the “wealth effect” created by endless credit, many people are finding themselves to be much less “middle class” then their advertising created fantasies led them to believe. Their treasured self-image is well tarnished and they are discovering that, as Gaiter says, “our corporatist state uses white men and women just like it uses black, brown and yellow ones–as cannon fodder.” So in this crisis any person who lives from his salary and whose only patrimony is/was the house he lives/lived in, is, in the words of Marx and Engels, “at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind”.

Alas, few are equipped either by temperament or by training to face with “sober senses” either the “real conditions” of their lives or the “relations with their kind”. This lack makes them easy prey for movements like the Tea Party that fill the paths to truth with the traditional red herrings of American racism disguised as libertarianism.

This nauseating and supremely effective tactic is being trotted out once again.

At this moment the fundamental role of progressive Americans is to expose and root out the true causes of racism.

The day when Americans in similar economic straits cease to see skin color and see clearly and soberly what they all have in common, in the same way  that the wealthy and powerful minority always have: on that day will the battle for social justice in the United States be more than half won.

Andrew Bacevich: Daydream Believers

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday November 24, 2014 8:12 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

 

The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher.  In the process, an array of warrior corporations were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”

So our four trillion dollar-plus investment gave rise to a crew of war profiteers that Risen dubs “the oligarchs of 9/11” and who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  And how has it gone for the rest of us?  If you remember, the goal of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (or, in one of the worst acronyms of the new century, GWOT) was initially to wipe out terror outfits across the planet. At the time, enemy number one, al-Qaeda, was the most modest of organizations with thousands of followers in Afghanistan and scattered groups of supporters elsewhere.  Thirteen years and all those dollars later, Islamic jihadist outfits that qualify as al-Qaeda branches, wannabes, look-alikes, or offshoots have run rampant. Undoubtedly, far more foreign jihadis — an estimated 15,000 — have traveled to Syria alone to fight for the Islamic State and its new “caliphate” than existed globally in 2001.

Some recent figures from the Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace give us a basis for thinking about what’s happened in these years.  In 2013 alone, deaths related to “terrorism” — that is, civil/sectarian conflict in areas significantly destabilized directly or indirectly by U.S. military action (mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria) — rose by a soaring 61%.  The number of countries that saw more than 50 such fatalities (the U.S. not among them) expanded from 15 to 24 in the same period.  So raise your glass to GWOT.  If nothing else, it’s managed to ensure its own profitable, privatized future for years to come.

But here’s a question: After 13 years of the war on terror, with terror running rampant, isn’t a name change in order?  A simple transformation of a single preposition would bring that name into greater sync with reality: the war for terror.

And here’s a seldom-mentioned guarantee that leaps directly from today’s post by TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.  Given Washington’s bedrock assumptions about the Greater Middle East, we should have no problem kissing another four trillion taxpayer dollars goodbye in the years to come. Eight trillion? If that isn’t a record, what is?  Some “USA! USA!” chants might be in order. Tom

Malarkey on the Potomac
Five Bedrock Washington Assumptions That Are Hot Air
By Andrew J. Bacevich

“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

His is an opinion grounded in experience.  As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.”  After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies.  Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research.  Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening.  As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course.  Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians, and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted.  Many can even locate it on a map.  They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence.  To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth.  But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and, as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted, broke the place, any merit they previously possessed quickly dissipated.  Years of effort by American occupiers intent on creating a new Iraq out of the ruins of the old produced little of value and next to nothing that has lasted.  Yet even today, in Washington the conviction persists that trying harder might somehow turn things around.  Certainly, that conviction informs the renewed U.S. military intervention prompted by the rise of IS.

So when David Ignatius, a well-informed and normally sober columnist for the Washington Post, reflects on what the United States must do to get Iraq War 3.0 right, he offers this “mental checklist”: in Baghdad, the U.S. should foster a “cleaner, less sectarian government”; to ensure security, we will have to “rebuild the military”; and to end internal factionalism, we’re going to have to find ways to “win Kurdish support” and “rebuild trust with Sunnis.”  Ignatius does not pretend that any of this will be easy.  He merely argues that it must be — and by implication can be — done.  Unlike my friend M, Ignatius clings to the fantasy that “Iraq” is or ought to be politically viable, militarily capable, and socially cohesive.  But surely this qualifies as wishful thinking.

The val e of M’s insight — of, that is, otherwise intelligent people purporting to believe in things that don’t exist — can be applied well beyond American assumptions about Iraq.  A similar inclination to fantasize permeates, and thereby warps, U.S. policies throughout much of the Greater Middle East.  Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.

* The presence of U.S. forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital U.S. national security interest.

* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

* The interests of the United States and Israel align.

* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior U.S. official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.

Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.  To take them at face value is the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy — or that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell really, really hope that the Obama administration and the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress can find grounds to cooperate.

Let’s examine all five, one at a time.

The Presence of U.S. Forces: Ever since the U.S. intervention in Lebanon that culminated in the Beirut bombing of October 1983, introducing American troops into predominantly Muslim countries has seldom contributed to stability.  On more than a few occasions, doing so has produced just the opposite effect. 

Iraq and Afghanistan provide mournful examples. The new book “Why We Lost” by retired Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger finally makes it permissible in official circles to declare those wars the failures that they have been.  Even granting, for the sake of argument, that U.S. nation-building efforts were as pure and honorable as successive presidents portrayed them, the results have been more corrosive than constructive.  The IS militants plaguing Iraq find their counterpart in the soaring production of opium that plagues Afghanistan. This qualifies as stability?

And these are hardly the only examples.  Stationing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia after Operation Desert Storm was supposed to have a reassuring effect.  Instead, it produced the debacle of the devastating Khobar Towers bombing.  Sending G.I.’s into Somalia back in 1992 was supposed to demonstrate American humanitarian concern for poor, starving Muslims.  Instead, it culminated in the embarrassing Mogadishu firefight, which gained the sobriquet Black Hawk Down, and doomed that mission.

Even so, the pretense that positioning American soldiers in some Middle East hotspot will bring calm to troubled waters survives.  It’s far more accurate to say that doing so provides our adversaries with what soldiers call a target-rich environment — with Americans as the targets.

The Importance of the Persian Gulf: Although U.S. interests in the Gulf may once have qualified as vital, the changing global energy picture has rendered that view obsolete.  What’s probably bad news for the environment is good news in terms of creating strategic options for the United States.  New technologies have once again made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil.  The U.S. is also the world’s largest producer of natural gas.  It turns out that the lunatics chanting “drill, baby, drill” were right after all.  Or perhaps it’s “frack, baby, frack.”  Regardless, the assumed energy dependence and “vital interests” that inspired Jimmy Carter to declare back in 1980 that the Gulf is worth fighting for no longer pertain.

Access to Gulf oil remains critically important to some countries, but surely not to the United States.  When it comes to propping up the wasteful and profligate American way of life, Texas and North Dakota outrank Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in terms of importance.  Rather than worrying about Iraqi oil production, Washington would be better served ensuring the safety and well-being of Canada, with its bountiful supplies of shale oil.  And if militarists ever find the itch to increase U.S. oil reserves becoming irresistible, they would be better advised to invade Venezuela than to pick a fight with Iran.

Does the Persian Gulf require policing from the outside? Maybe. But if so, let’s volunteer China for the job. It will keep them out of mischief.

Arab Allies: It’s time to reclassify the U.S. relationship with both Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Categorizing these two important Arab states as “allies” is surely misleading. Neither one shares the values to which Washington professes to attach such great importance.

For decades, Saudi Arabia, Planet Earth’s closest equivalent to an absolute monarchy, has promoted anti-Western radical jihadism — and not without effect.  The relevant numbers here are two that most New Yorkers will remember: 15 out of 19.  If a conspiracy consisting almost entirely of Russians had succeeded in killing several thousand Americans, would U.S. authorities give the Kremlin a pass? Would U.S.-Russian relations remain unaffected?  The questions answer themselves.

Meanwhile, after a brief dalliance with democracy, Egypt has once again become what it was before: a corrupt, oppressive military dictatorship unworthy of the billions of dollars of military assistance that Washington provides from one year to the next.

Israel: The United States and Israel share more than a few interests in common.  A commitment to a “two-state solution” to the Palestinian problem does not number among them.  On that issue, Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s purposes diverge widely.  In all likelihood, they are irreconcilable.

For the government of Israel, viewing security concerns as paramount, an acceptable Palestinian state will be the equivalent of an Arab Bantustan, basically defenseless, enjoying limited sovereignty, and possessing limited minimum economical potential. Continuing Israeli encroachments on the occupied territories, undertaken in the teeth of American objections, make this self-evident.

It is, of course, entirely the prerogative — and indeed the obligation — of the Israeli government to advance the well being of its citizens.  U.S. officials have a similar obligation: they are called upon to act on behalf of Americans. And that means refusing to serve as Israel’s enablers when that country takes actions that are contrary to U.S. interests.

The “peace process” is a fiction. Why should the United States persist in pretending otherwise? It’s demeaning.

Terrorism: Like crime and communicable diseases, terrorism will always be with us.  In the face of an outbreak of it, prompt, effective action to reduce the danger permits normal life to continue. Wisdom lies in striking a balance between the actually existing threat and exertions undertaken to deal with that threat. Grown-ups understand this. They don’t expect a crime rate of zero in American cities. They don’t expect all people to enjoy perfect health all of the time.  The standard they seek is “tolerable.”

That terrorism threatens Americans is no doubt the case, especially when they venture into the Greater Middle East. But aspirations to eliminate terrorism belong in the same category as campaigns to end illiteracy or homelessness: it’s okay to aim high, but don’t be surprised when the results achieved fall short.

Eliminating terrorism is a chimera. It’s not going to happen. U.S. civilian and military leaders should summon the honesty to acknowledge this.

My friend M has put his finger on a problem that is much larger than he grasps. Here’s hoping that when he gets his degree he lands an academic job.  It’s certain he’ll never find employment in our nation’s capital.  As a soldier-turned-scholar, M inhabits what one of George W. Bush’s closest associates (believed to be Karl Rove) once derisively referred to as the “reality-based community.” People in Washington don’t have time for reality. They’re lost in a world of their own.

Andrew J. Bacevich, currently Columbia University’s George McGovern Fellow, is writing a military history of America’s war for the Greater Middle East. A TomDispatch regular, his most recent book is Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 Andrew Bacevich

CULTIVATING CLIMATE JUSTICE FROM THE FRONTLINES OF THE CRISIS: THE PHILIPPINES AND AUSTRALIA

By: Other Worlds Monday November 24, 2014 7:46 am

This is part 2 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the frontlines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries.

This series is produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.

Cultivating Climate Justice from the Frontlines of the Crisis:

The Philippines and Australia

“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change…. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian Ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned… And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.” – Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Sano addressing the opening session of the UN climate summit in Warsaw, following Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013

It’s been a year since Super Typhoon Yolanda (often called Typhoon Haiyan in other countries) swept through the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and destroying the homes of many more. As UN negotiator for the Philippines Yeb Sano explained in his address to the United Nations: for many people, this is what climate change looks like.

Following the typhoon, survivors in impacted communities in the Philippines came together in a deep expression of solidarity to help each other rebuild their homes and lives. Using only reclaimed materials—remains of their homes and other disaster debris—residents of the municipalities of Bantayan and Madridejos worked together to reconstruct their neighborhoods, one house at a time. Salvacion Fulmenar, a resident of Bantayan Island, explained that fifty of her neighbors built her house with her. (See this video)

The residents also worked together to increase resiliency against future disasters, particularly around the issue of waste management. Shalimar Vitan, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) explained the connection. “Yolanda made us realize how much waste, more than anything else, is relevant to disasters, because the aftermath of a disaster is garbage and waste, equivalent to a year’s supply. A sustainable treatment of waste builds our preparedness for disasters and it builds the resiliency of communities.” Residents worked with local and international non-profit organizations to conduct waste audits and seminars in the impacted communities.

A sustainable treatment of waste does more than build preparedness for disasters—it also helps to combat climate change. Waste disposal through dumping or burning is a major contributor to climate change.  On the flip side, waste reduction and recycling significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Given that climate change is causing increasing extreme weather, better waste management actually helps to prevent events like Super Typhoon Yolanda.

But reducing waste in the Philippines is not enough to stop climate change or to protect vulnerable communities living there. What’s needed is for the issues of waste and climate crises to be solved collaboratively across borders. And in an inspiring Asia Pacific grassroots partnership, that is exactly what’s happening.

Solidarity for clean air, good jobs, and justice

One of the greatest injustices of climate change is that those who have done the least to cause it—like the residents of the Philippines hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda—feel the impacts first and worst through rising sea levels and extreme weather. Meanwhile, areas that are responsible for the largest greenhouse gas emissions often feel little pressure to reduce their emissions. They tend to be wealthier with more powerful governments, thus they are less susceptible to international pressure and often have infrastructure that is  better able to withstand extreme weather. For example, while Super Typhoon Yolanda was ripping through the Philippines, just across the sea, Prime Minister Abott of Australia continued to deny the existence of climate change.

Yet underneath the political divides of the Asia Pacific region, at the level of the citizenry, strong international bonds have formed. Grassroots communities of the Philippines and Australia have been supporting each other in a common fight against incineration.

In addition to being a major contributor to climate change, incineration releases cancer-causing toxins, kills jobs, and violates the principles of environmental justice. The Philippines stands out as the only country to have banned incineration, setting this important precedent 15 years ago. However, this ban is currently under attack by companies, elected officials, and government agencies. Meanwhile, Western Australia is facing an unprecedented onslaught of incinerator proposals from polluting corporations trying to pass the dirty practice of waste burning as “green.”

People from both countries have been meeting to share information about incinerators, reports, and strategies. Just after Super Typhoon Yolanda  struck, Australian toxics expert Lee Bell traveled to the Philippines to visit with communities threatened with incinerators. Lee spoke to members of Congress, the media, and the general public.  He also conducted small meetings and workshops to update the local network on trends in the incineration industry, and shared a community handbook on questions to ask your government about an incinerator proposal. Shortly after, residents of the Philippines mobilized support and gathered signatures for an Australian petition against the export of hazardous waste.

These are just a couple examples of what is a rich an ongoing partnership. Jane Bremmer, a resident of Western Australia who works with the Alliance for a Clean Environment and the National Toxics Network explained, “The connection between the Philippines and Australia is really important. Our massive contribution to air pollution and climate change directly affects the Philippines and contributes to natural disasters. Collaborating with them has also strengthened our own work fighting incinerators, teaching us how to work more effectively and communicate across different cultures.”

Froilan Grate, president of the Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, explained, “The number one argument for incineration in the Philippines is that it’s being done successfully in First World countries, and that it’s modern and high tech. So we need a lot of foreign groups giving their voice and opposition to shatter this lie.”

The governments of the world are not working effectively together on the connections between climate change and waste, issues that affect us all. They may spend years passing the buck, avoiding blame and responsibility for rising sea levels and extreme weather. But as the cross-border collaboration between Australia and the Philippines demonstrates, what governments are failing to do, people are already doing. Across political differences, geographic divides, and cultural differences, global citizens are joining together in a unified fight that is cultivating a new world of climate justice.

Can We Ever Recover from the Murder of John Kennedy?

By: solartopia Monday November 24, 2014 7:05 am

The images we ingest never cease to shape us.

Just 51 years ago, the head of a profoundly gifted young man was blown apart.

A few months earlier he’d given a speech that promised a new dawn.

He reached out to our enemies. He talked of going to the moon, of technological breakthrough and human promise. And he stopped the radioactive madness of atmospheric Bomb testing, a reason many of us are alive today.

It’s easy to idealize John Kennedy.

We still debate what he might have done in Vietnam.

But since the war did escalate, and we know the horrible costs to us all, then the possibility that he might have gotten us out gnaws at our soul.

So does not being sure about who actually killed him.

And then there’s the horror of the moment itself. A fellow human, blown apart before our eyes.

Grand Jury Testimony Unlikely To Be Released in Michael Brown Shooting

By: Masoninblue Monday November 24, 2014 5:21 am

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good morning:

Prosecuting Attorney Bob Culloch has publicly stated that a transcript of the proceedings before the grand jury investigating the Michael Brown shooting will be released, if the grand jury decides not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

Jason Sickles at Yahoo reports,

For three months, prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch has said he would seek a rare court order from Judge Carolyn Whittington immediately releasing nearly all evidence should Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson not be charged. Grand jury proceedings usually remain secret.

“We’ve asked the judge to do that, and the judge has agreed that she will do that, if there is no indictment,” McCulloch said during a radio interview with KTRS in September. “There’s no probably about it, it will be released.”

On Sunday, however, the court said, “Judge Whittington has entered no such order and has made no such agreement,” according to director of judicial admnistration Paul Fox.

I do not believe Judge Whittington will order the evidence released.

Grand jury proceedings are secret in order to protect witnesses from potential public criticism, condemnation and retaliation. Not even their identities can be disclosed, much less their testimony, especially in an extremely controversial case like this one where threats to kill have been uttered and public officials are preparing for a war to break out. The situation is so tense that Governor Nixon has preemptively declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard.

Under these circumstances, where public disclosure of witness identities and testimony could be a death sentence, I cannot imagine that a judge would lift the veil of secrecy. I certainly would not risk people’s lives to provide political cover for McCulloch’s decision to try Wilson in secret.

There is only one way to handle this case properly and that is to charge Wilson with murder and accord him a public trial with due process of law.

To be clear, I have never believed McCulloch was operating in good faith.

Since August 9th when Darren Wilson killed an unarmed Michael Brown at noon on a quiet residential street in Ferguson before witnesses who described an execution, he has been working diligently to protect Wilson by shepherding him through a secret grand jury investigation.

I believe he knew the transcripts would not be released to the public, but chose to assure everyone that they would be released in order to place public attention on the judge who would refuse to release them and thereby conceal his misconduct.

Voters need to get rid of this racist schemer next time around.

Over Easy: Monday Science

By: BoxTurtle Monday November 24, 2014 4:41 am

The most practical recipe for turkey begins “First, catch a turkey”

Well, the holiday season begins. First, we have the holiday of Gluttony, then we have the holiday of Greed, then we have the holiday of Drunkenness. What a wonderful country!

Fukushima Update:

They have finally admitted total failure in keeping contaminated water from flowing into the Pacific. They can’t freeze it, their “special cement” didn’t do the job. TEPCO’s next plan is to just pump the water out. To where, I wonder? They are running out of tank space and the #2 basement which an unofficial water storage area is likely the source of the hot water.

TEPCO admits that it’s about 11,000 tons of hot water in the tunnels, rather than 4,000.   They are going to try to use special cement as a wall material rather than a plug material. There is concern that work on the special cement will slow down work on the ice wall. Wait, what? Didn’t we admit the ice wall had failed?

Even the man in charge of the cleanup is not optimistic.

6.7 magnitude earthquake hits Japan.  This is west and slightly south of Fuku.  JG assures us that all their NPP’s are fine, but it turns out that the damage is worse than initially thought. JG says the reactors are still fine. Aftershocks are expected and could be more powerful than the initial earthquake.

From our own Fukushima (Hanford), we learn that workers are becoming very sick, the key doctor will not even consider that Hanford vapor releases might be the cause because “This is industrial medicine and we need to consider the company”. It’ll take you a few minutes, but read all the links. Have a mentioned recently what a wonderful source for things like this ENENEWS is?

The latest news from Space-X. Private space exploration plods along, since NASA has abandoned the manned program. NASA better be finding military/espionage uses for it’s people, or the government will simply phase them out.

Did we outsmart ourselves with our Dark Matter detectors? It’s possible we buried them too deep for that dark matter to trigger them. It depends on how much dark matter actually interacts with real matter and we just don’t know.

Did we really detect the Higgs or some other particle? available data says it was the Higgs, but this is a valid alternate interpretation.

Everybody was looking forward to seeing the central black hole wake up and eat a cloud of gas. It now appears that despite coming within 30 billion kilometers of the event horizon, the cloud escaped. What the heck held it together? That’ll be a question generating years of research.

A biological battery?  Anything that doesn’t use heavy metals and rare materials is a good thing.

Your body odor can identify your political party. Speculate on how the voter ID people might use this to target “bad” voters.

Boxturtle (it is challenging thawing a turkey in your sink when you have kittens)

 

 

 

Food Sunday: Sinfully Delicious Cornbread and Pumpkin Pie: Both Best Evah

By: wendydavis Sunday November 23, 2014 4:18 pm

Gourmet cornbread  (it may have come from Epicurious)

If you don’t have 2 cups of buttermilk, add 2 T of cider vinegar to 2 C. milk, and let it stand until it curdles a bit while you assemble and measure other ingredients.

Melt ¾ C. of butter (yes, that much) and allow to cool while you assemble other ingredients

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and butter a 9 x 12 inch pan, or preferably Corning Ware or other glass baking dish (they finish the bottom better)