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And in further nun news…

By: TobyWollin Monday June 18, 2012 3:51 pm

The “Nuns On The Bus” tour from the Midwest to DC took off from Des Moines, Iowa today with a scheduled stops to educate and inform people on Paul Ryan’s disaster of a budget, and also give voice to their work through visits to homeless shelters, hospitals and food pantries.

“The tour’s first stop was at the office of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a supporter of the Ryan budget. The nuns had planned to present the congressman with a copy of the Faithful Budget, an economic approach drafted by a group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations as a rebuttal to the House budget. The Faithful Budget calls for increased aid to the poor and cuts in military spending.

Though the nuns say they had an appointment, the congressman’s office was shuttered and dark.”
Are we surprised that Rep. Steve King’s people were conveniently not there for the appointment? Absolutely not – these guys are more than happy to hide behind ‘balanced budget’ rhetoric while they basically send a goodly proportion of Americans down the toilet, but when it comes to facing a bunch of women (and even women who are dressed in ‘civvies’ these days; it is not as if they are facing Sister Joseph Mary from 1957, with a long black habit, a rope belt and an 8″ cross) with some actual moral credibility — nope.

No guts. Weenies, the lot of them. This is leadership?

Read More: Nuns Roll

 

New York’s Camel’s Nose on Fracking

By: TobyWollin Wednesday June 13, 2012 12:29 pm

Under the tent (photo: Adam Foster | Codefor/flickr)

Well, it’s finally happened – NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the DEC are basically caving to two bodies of people: rural landowners who are in trouble because the dairy industry is in trouble and energy interests.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology…Even within that southwest New York region — primarily Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties — drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts…It would be contingent on hydraulic fracturing’s receiving final approval from state regulators, a step that is not a foregone conclusion but is widely expected later this summer. Department of Environmental Conservation regulators last year signaled their initial support for the drilling process around the state, with exceptions for environmentally sensitive areas like New York City’s upstate watershed. – Cuomo Plan Would Allow Fracking in Limited Area – for now

I live in Broome County and I can tell you that counties that border northern PA are already feeling the negative effects of the fracking/natural gas drilling that is going on just over the border in PA:
– Road damage from drilling trucks
– Increased crime
– People coming in and buying up all the housing to use to rent to out of state drilling workers
– Contaminated water (because rivers and creeks do flow north)

Yes, I realize that there are a lot of people in the area who are asset rich and income poor and the offers from energy companies look really good. But the corporations that end up doing the drilling are NOT the companies that signed the leases – they are packaging those up and reselling them to other drilling companies. And the drillers are not hiring local people for jobs – that is an outright delusion. The workers are being brought in from other states such as Texas and Oklahoma to do the work. We have no regulations on the books to protect townships and municipalities from damage from drilling companies and their equipment; we have no regulations on the books to protect landowners whose water supplies get contaminated because their neighbors leased their gas rights. As a matter of fact, in New York, if your neighbor has a gas lease and the drilling company decides to start drilling at the edge of your neighbor’s property, because fracking is a vertical and then horizontal process, the drillers can be drilling into your property, you wouldn’t know it and you have no legal recourse against them or your neighbors. When your water supply becomes contaminated, you have no legal recourse against the drilling company or against your neighbor.

And why do I call this ‘the camel’s nose”? Well because of this: The Marcellus Shale is attached to an even deeper and actually more ‘attractive’ geologic formation called the Utica Shale, which extends even farther north, east and west. Once the DEC gets away with this, the Utica Shale is next.

This is horrific. The Working Families Party has a petition going to Gov. Cuomo and the DEC here Petition Please sign.

Nuns to the Vatican (and Paul Ryan): We’re rollin’

By: TobyWollin Sunday June 10, 2012 4:17 am

In our last episode, the Vatican had told US nuns that they’re just spending too much time on the poor. Actually, that is not correct, what the Vatican told them is that because they don’t spend enough time speaking out against abortion, they are not toeing the line of the home office. And Bennie and the Jets have assigned a rather nasty Bishop from Seattle to take over the largest organization of nuns in the US to make sure that they clean up their act.

The nuns, understandably have politely disagreed. On the other hand, one of the groups, Network, also has a rather large bone to pick with Paul Ryan, who has referenced his faith in the budget that he is proposing. Because, as we all know, Jesus was all about ‘show me the money’. The nuns are not happy about THAT, either (ok, to be ‘fair and balanced, there has been some noise from “red shoes central” that Ryan is not exactly being true to the faith on this either, but I digress). So, the nuns have decided that what America needs, right now, is a Road Trip.

[Sister SIMONE] CAMPBELL: All over our nation, Catholic sisters are working at the margins of our society to serve people who are struggling in this economy, people who are hungry, people who are left out of the economy, people who have lost their jobs or people working at low wage jobs.

We thought the best way to bring an education to our nation about what’s happening here in Washington is if we went on the road and lifted up their work and the consequences they would face if this Republican House budget goes through.

For more info on the tour (I want a tee shirt, please), go here: Nuns on the Bus. And yes, you can give them money and strangely enough, it is tax deductible.

Nuns to the Vatican: We’d Rather Not

By: TobyWollin Sunday April 22, 2012 2:53 pm

In our last episode of the ‘battle of the long dresses and red shoes versus the ladies of the religious’, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Roman Catholic doctrine, after a three year investigation, put out a report condemning the largest organization representing US Catholic nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The Vatican takes the position that the organization pays too much attention to social justice issues and not enough time condemning contraception, abortion and gay marriage. “The report accused members of the LCWR, which represents around 80 percent of the 45,000 nuns in the United States, of “corporate dissent” with the Church’s teachings against homosexuality, and claimed it was pursuing “radical feminist themes.” The Vatican has appointed the Bishop of Seattle, Peter Sartain, to oversee LCWR. Considering that all the officers of the organization are nuns and in 1956, the Vatican’s Committee for the Religious requested that an organization such as LCWR be formed, this is actually quite a smack.

Today, the organization responded:
“We haven’t violated any teaching,” Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby (associated with LVWR), told AFP, insisting the group would not stop “caring for the least among us on the margins of society.”… After the report was published, Campbell said it was “painfully obvious” the Vatican leadership was “not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”

“We will keep doing our mission,” she insisted in a phone interview Saturday, saying the group was founded to “lobby, organize and educate” in the name of social and economic justice.”
US Nuns Respond

What Wal-Mart Really Uses Their Money For

By: TobyWollin Sunday April 22, 2012 11:21 am

Hi-Ho, my friends. Once upon a time, a LONG time ago, long before Aunt Toby set up her cook-tent here at the lake side, I read an article in 2003 (9 years ago) from “Fast Company” about Wal-Mart which was one of those ‘lightbulb moments’ for me. “Indeed, as Vlasic [as in the pickles] discovered, the real story of Wal-Mart, the story that never gets told, is the story of the pressure the biggest retailer relentlessly applies to its suppliers in the name of bringing us “every day low prices.” It’s the story of what that pressure does to the companies Wal-Mart does business with, to U.S. manufacturing, and to the economy as a whole. That story can be found floating in a gallon jar of pickles at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is not just the world’s largest retailer. It’s the world’s largest company–bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined. “Clearly,” says Edward Fox, head of Southern Methodist University’s J.C. Penney Center for Retailing Excellence, “Wal-Mart is more powerful than any retailer has ever been.” It is, in fact, so big and so furtively powerful as to have become an entirely different order of corporate being.”The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know

And in this article, the writers detail what happened to companies that thought that doing business through Wal-Mart was going to be good for them. Like all the clothing and toy and bike manufacturers that were basically price pressured into the position of moving all their manufacturing to China so that they could give Wal-Mart the pricing they demanded. I encourage you to read that article because it really does give you the feel for what a ‘blood sucking vampire squid’ (oh, sorry, that’s someone else…) Wal-Mart is.

Over the years, I have tried to explain to people what a bad deal Wal-Mart is for America and for American workers and what happens to towns and their locally-owned businesses when Wal-Mart comes to town. And many times, people say, “Toby, you are exaggerating; Wal-Mart doesn’t destroy businesses and jobs like that.”

Well, now we have proof. Proof positive (and the commercials used to say) that this is exactly what Wal-Mart does and that it actually is a foundation of their business and is their business model. I give you, Exhibit A: “In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country. ..In the interviews, Mr. Cicero recounted how he had helped organize years of payoffs. He described personally dispatching two trusted outside lawyers to deliver envelopes of cash to government officials. They targeted mayors and city council members, obscure urban planners, low-level bureaucrats who issued permits — anyone with the power to thwart Wal-Mart’s growth. The bribes, he said, bought zoning approvals, reductions in environmental impact fees and the allegiance of neighborhood leaders. ..In an interview with The Times, Mr. Cicero said Mr. Castro-Wright[Eduardo Castro-Wright, Wal-Mart's CEO of Wal-Mart Mexico] had encouraged the payments for a specific strategic purpose. The idea, he said, was to build hundreds of new stores so fast that competitors would not have time to react. Bribes, he explained, accelerated growth. They got zoning maps changed. They made environmental objections vanish. Permits that typically took months to process magically materialized in days. “What we were buying was time,” he said.

Wal-Mart Bribes in Mexico

In other words, Wal-Mart’s business model IS anti-competitive and is meant to actually destroy the ability of other companies and chains to compete with them. And if that means that they must pay bribes (call it what you will and the system what you will), then that is what they do.

And by the way, obviously Castro-Wright’s gamble paid off handsomely for him – he became the President of Wal-Mart Stores and is now the current Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart, Inc.

Except for the whole thing about breaking the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

This is how twisted Gingrich is

By: TobyWollin Thursday March 29, 2012 11:56 am

Remember this whole thing about Gingrich saying that union janitors in schools should be fired and replaced with kids? When I read that, I could not stop thinking, “Where the heck is THAT coming from?”

Well, now we know.

“During the Republican presidential debate this week, Newt Gingrich shared a story about how his daughter worked as a church janitor when she was only 13…Gingrich’s reference to his daughter’s youthful employment is part of an ongoing narrative for the former House speaker: Poor kids should start toiling as early as 9 years old so they can learn what it means to make a living. “I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn someday to own the job,” Gingrich said in the debate Monday..”

Gingrich daughters work

Now, let’s not bother to go into the child labor law violations here. Let’s look at what and why. here’s what we know:

♦ When Gingrich’s daughter took this job, she was 13 years old – she was born in 1966; this makes it somewhere in the 1979-1980 time frame.

♦ Gingrich filed his papers to divorce Jackie Battley (wife #1) on July 14, 1980. He was already in the affair with the woman who became Wife #2 for some time and they were married when the divorce became final in 1981. Jackie Battley responded to the court that she did not want a divorce from Gingrich at that time because … (wait for it…wait for it) he was basically not providing them with any sort of support.

♦ It is well known that their church in Georgia ‘supported’ Jackie and the girls during this period.

OK..so in 1980, Jackie Battley and Gingrich had already been separated for some time and he was already squeezing her down (in anticipation of filing for divorce, no doubt). So no wonder Jackie Jr. (the daughter) took it upon herself to take a job which was probably offered to them by the church. There’s the answer. So now Newtie is claiming this was some sort of ‘good thing’ that his daughter did voluntarily, when it’s obvious that little Jackie basically had to become a breadwinner because her father was being an asshole.

I realize at this point, Gingrich is basically out of the race, and this could be considered ‘making lemons into lemonade’ but it sure seems to me that it’s another example of Newtie’s supreme narcissism — “See, I make it possible for you to have this fantastic experience.”

Pull Up a Chair: Spring Has Sprung!

By: TobyWollin Saturday March 24, 2012 3:54 am

Boing!
Spring has sprung here at Chez Siberia and I do mean sprung as in “if you stopped to tie your shoes, you missed the transition.’
Damn.

Usually, we have a good month of 50 degree F. temperatures, give or take 5 degrees and I can take some time to warm up the soil with plastic or an old window lying on one of the old frames we saved from when we tore down the old greenhouse, but literally we went in 10 days time from 40 odd degrees to over 50 degrees F.

Whiplash, I tell you. Whiplash.

Last weekend, I put in seeds for broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage, spinach, chard, lettuces of various colors and kinds, and beets, watering the bed thoroughly before I did so. The winter was so dry and it’s been so warm that the soil was very dry, which makes it definitely tough on a seed to break through that outer coating and germinate. You definitely need a certain level of warmth for seeds (and 50 degrees F Is my minimum for putting in the seeds above), but you also need a certain level of moisture. Since it’s been so warm, I just covered the bed with a double layer of spun polyester to hold in a bit of warmth and moisture (I really had to do that because we’ve used that particular chunk of fabric so many times, there are, shall we say, a lot of rather large perforations). And several days after I’d put in the seeds, I watered it thoroughly again.

This afternoon, I went out and the magic has definitely started to happen – seeds UP! This is an activity which I started to do when I was in elementary school and it has never lost its charm. It’s like buried treasure every time. I always try to grow one new thing, just for the novelty. I’m not sure what that will be this year, since we have a ‘small person’ wandering around the place now and I intend to allow him to pull up whatever he wants on a daily basis for his lunch. A little dirt on the veggies never hurt anyone, I think, and there is nothing for a kid like pulling up a beet, radish or carrot.

When I was little I actually was never impressed with tomatoes or peppers; the plants were too big and the flowers were too small. But beans and peas..now there were pretty flowers that turned into something I loved to eat. And we won’t go into the whole ‘zucchini so big you could put a saddle on it and ride it away’.

Now, it’s not that I’m not interested in novelty items, seriously, but we only have 5 beds, 3 feet wide by 15 feet long, to grow in (the only spot we have to garden near the house unfortunately was where the contractor dumped all the basement fill, so these were literally carved out of the landscape by the DH with pick, shovel, leaves, compost, wood chips and manure), so we tend to grow a lot of things that work and that we like to eat. Sometimes they don’t work well – we haven’t had any luck to speak of with Brussels sprouts, though other members of the cabbage family grow really well for us. And the only method of growing peppers that works for us is to put them into grow bags or two-gallon water jugs on the black asphalt driveway in the sun. Certain things I will not bother with whatsoever, no matter how much whining gets applied, corn is one of them. And sometimes I just throw in the towel and go to our local farmers market and order up a bushel of tomatoes just in case.

What are you guys doing in the garden this year? (Oh, and btw, between the mild winter and the horrible acorn crop which crashed the populations of white footed mice in the Northeast, we’ve got one heck of a deer tick issue this spring.)

You couldn’t write this script

By: TobyWollin Wednesday March 21, 2012 12:15 pm
Romney Etch-a-Sketch Missing Seamus (photo: holyhoses/flickr)

Romney Etch-a-Sketch Missing Seamus (photo: holyhoses/flickr)

Scene: Hollywood Big Time Producer’s office, late afternoon. Producer is sitting at his desk talking on the phone. His secretary enters and he waves her in.

Sally: Mike, that kid, Montegue is here to pitch his script again.

Mike: Oh God, no – if his mother wasn’t my sister-in-law, I could just dump him.

Sally leaves and lets in a young man, rather geeky, with glasses and shirt buttoned up to his neck.

Montegue: Here’s the deal. There’s been this huge primary season for the Republicans and finally one guy wins. He’s a Mormon, so no one trusts him. And just after the last primary, when he gets the delegates, one of his aides is interviewed and he tells the guy that now that the Mormon guy has all the delegates, he doesn’t have to honor anything he’s said so far – it’s like an Etch-a-Sketch game, get it?

Mike: Get out – you’re a moron. Nothing like that would ever happen.
*****************************************************************

Sorry, Big Time Hollywood Producer – it just did.

“Appearing on CNN this morning, Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom was asked if he’s concerned that Romney may alienate general election voters with some of the hard-right positions he’s taken during the primary to appeal to conservatives. Fehrnstrom brushed this concern off:

HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”
Etch-a-Sketch

I assume the Democrats have sent Romney a tasteful Thank You card.