Sunday, February 27, 2011

We Need Nurses, Teachers, Social Workers, People Who Work to Keep

It's pretty clear that the private sector, for example, those overpaid tech workers in Seattle, getting $150 K right out of undergraduate college for writing those new apps, that they depend on us, public sector workers beyond measure, beyond their capacity to understand how communities function. I have been fighting for collective bargaining as a journalist, newspaper man, as a community college employee, as a graduate T-A, adjunct worker, teacher. I normally wouldn't just let one essay one this blog, but I am happy to see William Rivers Pitt going for the juggler.

I know so many biologists, engineers, planners, other public employees who try and make things work for our state, our region, or community. It's clear this country is impotent -- here I am, a forced snow day at my college, at the university I was suppose to have a registration opener this evening for a cool conference this weekend, and the K12 school district my 14-year-old daughter attends. It's only 9 inches of snow, and it's clear WA state is hurdled by stupidity. We can't keep schools open because of 9 inches of snow? Why? We do not have safety nets -- snow plows, smart city and country officials working with businesses, with neighborhoods, so our society can move ahead. Where is that gumption? Where is that anticipation of huge climate change disruptions that will disturb our daily lives because of fires, droughts, deluges, etc.? We are broken, for sure, and it goes back to those entitled people who make their $150 K doing nothing more than pushing this Story of Stuff materials economy into free fall. You know, planned obsolescence.

Look for the Union Label
Wednesday 23 February 2011

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t Op-Ed

Protesters demonstrate against a proposed spending bill by Republican Gov. Scott Walker inside the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 21, 2011.

(Photo: Joshua Lott / The New York Times)

Governor Walker of Wisconsin got up on his hind legs on Monday and blasted public-sector unions for being wasteful. He made it very clear that he intends to continue his push to abolish collective bargaining in his state, which basically means he intends to abolish unions in his state. The polls are not with him, the people are not with him, and a number of Republicans in the legislature look to be going soft on the whole deal, but don't tell Walker that. He thinks he's going to get his way on this, so he can be the big conservative hero, the one who abolished unions, thus setting a trend to be followed in more than a dozen other states.

This is what I know about public-sector employees. This is what I know about unions.
In February of 1978, a snowstorm roared across New England, went out to sea, gained strength, turned back inland, and then stalled. It was for all intents and purposes a hurricane, complete with eye and sustained winds over 100 miles per hour. When it was all over, the Blizzard of '78 dumped several feet of snow, and paralyzed the region for a week. More than 50 people died. My mother worked for the city we lived in, and was put in charge of plowing out the streets and homes that had been buried.

She and the plow guys disappeared into that maw for a week, got the snow cleared, and saved lives. Her work, and the work of the guys running the plows, made all the difference.

That's what public-sector employees do.

That's what unions do.

Four years ago, my wife and I arrived at a hospital to receive a diagnosis. My wife had been experiencing numbness and tremors in her right hand, and when the doctor told her she had Multiple Sclerosis, she collapsed into terrified tears. A nurse comforted her, and a social worker sat her down to talk things over. They told my wife about her options, about where she could go and what she could do to deal with this disease, and they were wonderful. Twenty minutes after finding out something horrifying and utterly life-changing, my wife was laughing through her tears and immensely comforted, thanks to the efforts of those two people.

That's what public-sector employees do.

That's what unions do.

When I was in public high school, I had the same English teacher two years in a row. His name was Brainerd Phillipson, and he was quite possibly out of his mind. He flew around the room like a dervish, and brought to life even the most brutally dull assignments we were required to read. Mr. Phillipson is solely responsible for the life-long love of reading I have enjoyed. He is the reason I became a teacher, and the reason I became a writer. Those two years in his classroom set the course of my life.

That's what public-sector employees do.

That's what unions do.

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On a bright Tuesday morning nearly ten years ago, two commercial airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Thousands died. As people fled in terror from the fire and violence, police officers and firefighters and EMTs charged into the burning buildings to try and save as many as possible. When the Towers collapsed in fire and dust, those heroic rescuers were lost. At the time, I am certain that Gov. Walker had many fine things to say about those who gave their lives to save others.

That's what public-sector employees do, Governor.

That's what unions do.

In a perfect world, public-sector union employees would not be scapegoated for the ills of state budgets. They would not be called lazy or wasteful. They would not be asked to give up their rights after already having given up so much.

In a perfect world, the bankers and Wall Street wizards would be handed a bill for all the damage they have done, be required to pony up in order to salvage the economic calamity they created, and would spend some time in jail for the crimes they committed.

In a perfect world, the two disastrous wars George W. Bush and his cronies threw us into would never have happened. All those lives would never have been lost. The hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars spent to no avail would never have been so profligately wasted...and if those wars did happen, in a perfect world the perpetrators would also be billed, and jailed, for stealing from us all.

But, of course, this is not a perfect world. The bankers and Wall Streeters stole from us, the Bush administration and their "defense" industry friends stole from us, to the tune of trillions of dollars. If you want to know why we are in this economic crisis, why state budgets are falling short all across the country, why millions are without work, look no further for the reason. To date, none of these people have been called to account for what they have done. Instead, we hear about the "wasteful" nature of public employment.

It isn't a perfect world, so Republican frauds like Walker get to blame everything on unions and public-sector employees instead of their own unutterably flawed and false policies. Trickle-down supply-side pro-war idiocy is to blame for our current condition. Period. End of file.

When you are in a car accident, or a fire, or are sick, or get robbed, or are buried in snow, or lost, or need help in any way, you won't have to look far to find the union label. It will be there to help you, to comfort you, to dig you out, to make you smile, and to save your life.

Remember that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seattle City Council, local farmers and activists sign food health resolution

Farm Bill principles promote healthy farms, which create healthy citizens, resilient communities

It’s not difficult to point to Seattle as a raring multiplicity of communities within communities to find positive news about farming and healthy foods in a time when federal and state funds are being axed and food and farming giants gain more control over politicians and Supreme Court justices.

Seattle announced Feb. 15 that it will direct Congress on why food security and access to nutritious, fresh food are not only important to the Emerald City, but to the nation as a whole.

In Resolution 31019, passed April 28, 2008, Seattle’s City Council announced that cities must develop food security policies regionally. This week’s resolution continues that direction, as a way to influence the 2012 Farm Bill by highlighting the necessity of not only promoting and invigorating sustainable food systems, but demanding funding for programs and research that bring healthy food from local farms to tables.

Seattle pays more than lip service to initiatives protecting farmland, farmers, and the local and regional food system. Its Local Food Action Initiative is a template for codifying local and regional farming and food security measures.

The Seattle way attempts to influence Congress by highlighting the Seattle Farm Bill Principles, which have the backing of farmers, non-profits and civic leaders. The idea is really to have a national conversation promoting national action through regional planning on growing and distributing fresh, biologically appropriate, and nutritious foods.

The six goals in the Seattle Farm Bill Principles offer a philosophical and policy-driven platform to the renewal of the 2012 Farm Bill renewal. These include:

Health-centered Food System

The driving principle of the Farm Bill must be the relationship of food and ecologically sound agriculture to public health. Food that promotes health includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and lean protein. Improving the health of the nation’s residents must be a priority in developing policies, programs, and funding.

Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Promote farming systems and agricultural techniques that prioritize the protection of the environment so soil, air, and water can continue producing food into the future. Integral to both domestic and global policies should be agricultural techniques and farming practices that enhance environmental quality, build soil and soil fertility, protect natural resources and ecosystem diversity, improve food safety, and increase the quality of life of communities, farmers and farm workers.

Community and Regional Prosperity and Resilience

Enhance food security by strengthening the viability of small and mid-scale farms, and increasing appropriately scaled processing facilities, distribution networks, and direct marketing. Develop strategies that foster resiliency, local innovation, interdependence, and community development in both rural and urban economies. Opportunities that create fair wage jobs are key.

Equitable Access to Healthy Food

Identify opportunities and reduce barriers by developing policies and programs that increase availability of and improve the proximity of healthy, affordable, and culturally-relevant food to urban, suburban, and rural populations. Protect core programs that fight food insecurity and hunger while promoting vibrant, sustainable agriculture.

Social Justice and Equity

The policies reflected in the Farm Bill impact the lives and livelihoods of many in the U.S. and abroad. Develop policies, programs, and strategies that support social justice, worker’s rights, equal opportunity, and promote community self-reliance.

Systems Approach to Policymaking

It is essential to reduce compartmentalization of policies and programs, and to approach policy decisions by assessing their impact on all aspects of the food system including production, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste management. Consider the interrelated effects of policies and align expected outcomes to meet the goal of a comprehensive health focused food system.

At the Seattle Council meeting, some of Eastern Washington’s wheat and grain growers were represented by Shepherd’s Grain co-founder, Karl Kupers.

“The interaction of farmers from mid-scale family owned and operated farms in Eastern Washington with the community of Seattle, is essential to a sustainable regional food system. That relationship then must be extended to the leaders setting policies to aid in the creation of safe and reliable food,” he said.

Washington State University and other schools are working towards health policies, social justice and community-based programs, economic development plans and meeting the challenges of climate and environment. But civil society and community-based groups are the fire in the belly of the sustainable food movement.

While a farm bill looks at the nitty-gritty of farming and sustainability, big agriculture’s role in driving farm discourse and policy, and the upsurge in community- and local-based plans being squandered for large national commodity policies, including food for fuel farming, many participants are looking at a Farm Bill that honestly addresses specific problems and attainable solutions — hunger and disease reduction, local and family farm viability, food affordability and accessibility, environmental protection, land use planning, regional resilience, and social justice.

Seattle-King County Acting Food Policy Council and the American Planning Association Board, plus the American Public Health Association, have been examining food systems as a way to not only fix our broken health, but also to mitigate issues of environmental degradation and climate change. More than 82 cities and regions have established Food Policy Councils. In this area, we have Spokane Regional Health District’s Food Access Coalition.

In a press release announcing the council’s resolution, several Washington stakeholders and activists in food and farming were quoted: “The City of Seattle’s food policy work is very forward thinking. As a farmer, I applaud Seattle’s effort to build connections between urban and rural communities,” stated Siri Erickson-Brown, co-owner of Local Roots Farm in King County. “Sound food and agriculture policy is only possible with the involvement of both farming communities and cities.”

For more information on Seattle’s farm bill response and its principles visit, or Spokane Regional Health District’s Food Access Coalition at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Climate, Malaria, Cholera, and Haiti and the World

In the old days, when the state of Washington and the state's community college system ran like a real enterprise for inspiring youth toward a strong future, where education was a benchmark of economic, environmental and social justice, I had Sonia Shah on our SFCC campus, through some funding by the Community Building Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility -- Washington, and several campus funding sources. We also had James Howard Kunstler in town, with his book, The Long Emergency and Sonia's, Crude, looking at sustainability on many levels, many thematic twists and turns.

Check out the interview of her and Kunstler at the KYRS.FM podcast site:

Check out Sonia's new piece in Yale 360 --

17 Feb 2011: Report

Climate’s Strong Fingerprint
In Global Cholera Outbreaks

For decades, deadly outbreaks of cholera were attributed to the spread of disease through poor sanitation. But recent research demonstrates how closely cholera is tied to environmental and hydrological factors and to weather patterns — all of which may lead to more frequent cholera outbreaks as the world warms.

by sonia shah

Sonia Shah is an author and science journalist whose writing has appeared in The Nation, New Scientist, The New York Times and elsewhere. Her third book is The Fever: How Malaria Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, she has written about the spread of new pathogens and the threat of pharmaceuticals being released into the environment.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Even Market Place, Today, put the cost of one grunt at $1.3 Million a Year

At some point, the techies predicting technology booms and grand choruses of angels harkening in a new economy, or the great prognosticators predicting such a grand tech recovery pushing the USA and the Western world back into a number one position economically and culturally, well, let's think about a better job outlook/better job opportunities -- US issued grunt: soldiering, either at a GI Joe or GI Jane, or mercenary. I teach community college, and some of my students' spouses, friends and family members are getting $120 K. for resigning up, especially a N-5 guy (enlisted seaman-techy) -- Navy, nuclear submarine specialist. Nothing like throwing $60 K to some army kid to re-up and head back to the Middle East, a 21-year-old who should be in school, working on the so-called new economy, new green economy, new measures to protect that last remaining wildlands left, to protect agriculture, to help with huge climate Diasporas, to resettle our crumbling cities, to help out the world in a time of what? -- depleating oil reserves (look at the Wikileaks on how much ARAMCO, the Saudis and American and other countries' so-called patriot oil and energy leaders have under reported the dropping oil capacity of the Saudi oil fields by 40 percent!!). Up to $150 K for specialists in Arabic language to sign up for another 6-year hitch, in order to push America's hegemony into places we are definitely not regarded highly by.

Definition -- SOLDIER:

sol·dier (sljr)

1. One who serves in an army.
2. An enlisted person or a noncommissioned officer.
3. An active, loyal, or militant follower of an organization.
a. A sexually undeveloped form of certain ants and termites, having large heads and powerful jaws.
b. One of a group of honeybees that swarm in defense of a hive.
intr.v. sol·diered, sol·dier·ing, sol·diers
1. To be or serve as a soldier.
2. To make a show of working in order to escape punishment.


[Middle English soudier, mercenary, from Anglo-Norman soudeour, soldeier and Old French soudoior, soudier, both from Old French sol, soud, sou, from Late Latin solidum, soldum, pay, from solidus, solidus; see solidus.]


The Stunning Costs of Keeping a Soldier's "Boots on the Ground" in Iraq

It takes half a million dollars per year to maintain each sergeant in combat in Iraq.

October 9, 2008

It takes half a million dollars per year to maintain each sergeant in combat in Iraq. Thanks to a Senate committee inquiry, an authoritative government study finally details the costs of keeping boots on the ground. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in its report Contractors' Support of U.S. Operations in Iraq, compared the costs of maintaining a Blackwater professional armed guard versus the U.S. military providing such services itself. Both came in at about $500,000 per person per year.

News reports of the study have largely focused on the total cost of U.S. contractors. The 190,000 contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries, from cooks to truck drivers, have cost U.S. taxpayers $100 billion from the start of the war through the end of 2008. Overlooked in this media coverage has been the sheer cost per soldier of keeping the army in Iraq. This per-soldier cost is more comprehensible and alarming than the rather abstract aggregate figure.



Even American Public Radio's Market Place plays the quiz on how much WE pay for each soldier in the Middle East Misadventures -- racking up $350,000 a year for fuel costs -- Here is the transcript of the quiz Feb. 22.

RICHTER: This one is in the context of all the budget debates and what costs money in the United States and for U.S. taxpayers. So my question for you today is this: How much does it cost per year to support one U.S. service member deployed in Afghanistan? Is it A) $67,000 a year; B) $132,000 a year; C) a staggering $685,000 per year; or D) an unbelievable $1.2 million a year?

HOBSON: Well, I am going to guess it is on the higher end of things. But I will just go with a staggering $600,000-some a year, not the unbelievable $1.2 million.


RICHTER: Not quite. This number would be right for the war in Iraq, according to numbers from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. $685,000, that's by the way, over 10 times more than the cost of a soldier deployed in World War II. So these wars are getting more expensive all the time.

HOBSON: All right, so I'll guess the $1.2 million.

Ding, ding, ding!

RICHTER: $1.2 million per year. Of course, the least of that is wages or salary for the soldiers themselves. Most of it is due to the sheer lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan; its geographical position as a landlock nation. And the biggest single item in this? Fuel costs.


RICHTER: Per troop deployed: $200,000 to $350,000 a year just in fuel costs. With all this heavy stuff that's coming in now, that number's probably going to go up as the oil prices are going up.

HOBSON: All right, Stefan Richter, editor-in-chief at The Globalist. You can find out more about the world at Thanks again Stefan.

RICHTER: Good to be with you today.


Cost of Keeping One U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan Per Year: One Million Dollars

November 15th, 2009

The U.S. doesn’t have to “win” the war for a handful of diabolical corporations to make a killing. The trick is to keep the war going for as long as possible.

And, day after day, the shakedown continues.

Bogus contracts, drugs and energy. That’s all, folks.

Plus a little change we can believe in.

Via: New York Times:

While President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say.

The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favored by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.

Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant.

So even if Mr. Obama opts for a lower troop commitment, Afghanistan’s new costs could wash out the projected $26 billion expected to be saved in 2010 from withdrawing troops from Iraq. And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration.

Such an escalation in military spending would be a politically volatile issue for Mr. Obama at a time when the government budget deficit is soaring, the economy is weak and he is trying to pass a costly health care plan.

Senior members of the House Appropriations Committee have already expressed reservations about the potential long-term costs of expanding the war in Afghanistan. And Mr. Obama could find it difficult to win approval for the additional spending in Congress, where he would have to depend on Republicans to counter defections from liberal Democrats.

One senior administration official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the details of confidential deliberations, said these concerns had added to the president’s insistence at a White House meeting on Wednesday that each military option include the quickest possible exit strategy.

“The president focused a lot on ensuring that we were asking the difficult questions about getting to an end game here,” the official said. “He knows we cannot sustain this indefinitely.”

Sending fewer troops would lower the costs but would also place limitations on the buildup strategy. Sending 30,000 more troops, for example, would cost $25 billion to $30 billion a year while limiting how widely American forces could range. Deploying 20,000 troops would cost about $21 billion annually but would expand mainly the training of Afghans, the officials said.

The estimated $1 million a year it costs per soldier is higher than the $390,000 congressional researchers estimated in 2006.

Military analysts said the increase reflects a surge in costs for mine-resistant troop carriers and surveillance equipment that would apply to troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But some costs are unique to Afghanistan, where it can cost as much as $400 a gallon to deliver fuel to the troops through mountainous terrain.

Some administration estimates suggest it could also cost up to $50 billion over five years to more than double the size of the Afghan army and police force, to a total of 400,000. That includes recruiting, training and equipment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Climate fatigue: One more box of books at the garage sale

Climate change education materials simultaneously sparse, overwhelming

Was Bill Nye the Science Guy correct when he said young people are better able and more intellectually inclined to understand and begin working on climate change than parents and grandparents?

He was reacting to Washington, D.C.’s heavy snowfall in 2009-10 and the Glenn Becks of the world posing Al Gore’s book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” next to a snowman, and probably vilifying Obama for being a Muslim, a Commie and a New Guinea native.

Books, books, books. We educators and writers want them to be conduits for educating about climate change, ecological collapse, human pain, and multiple-level problems created by oceans acidifying, ice melting, rain deluging and summers increasing.

Even fictionalized accounts of warmer worlds and a Diaspora-driven future claim space on “climate change-green-sustainability” bookshelves.

Where are we going with edifying people through literature when the 2011 State of the Union address showed a Democratic president with supposed green cred not even mentioning climate, heat, and global warming. In his mid-term, does Obama fear angering nay-sayers?

More than 40 percent of the public believes Obama believes climate change is a naturally occurring global event with no human-driven connections.

I’d say we need “green triage,” stat, because the patient – the American public, the Yankee boardrooms, centrist politicians and the flat-earthers in varying levels of society – is not only deluded, but dangerously heading down a pathway that ends in a earthquake-ripped highway of wrecked plans and an empty future, when generations yet to be born need heavy lifting on climate change measures and carbon-less society initiatives to be done NOW.

What about K-12 public school teachers, 85 percent of whom come from the suburbs and are white? Can they have conversations with increasing numbers of students of color about recycling and why plastic sucks? How do they bring young, poor, lower middle class pupils to shift to a new energy/new green economy, that’s localized and fair to our brothers and sisters?

What about college instructors, facing cuts in renewable energy and building initiatives, de-funding that has sliced through tenured faculty positions and upped the part-time contingent force, and eroded the liberal arts? Can they impart the enormity of the problem to students increasingly less capable of abstract thought?

What about studies which show how the average human brain might not be hard-wired to understand and react to climate change? What books or resources can get students started, engaged? This publishing field, geared to adult books, carries critiques and themes on green living, from apocalyptic dirges to how to make money.

Online newspapers or ‘zines can create standard columns reviewing/critiquing new books, games, videos, documentaries, and even phone apps dealing with “climate change.”

“Green is the new black” is a recent saw created by marketers and mainstream environmental groups. Trading one polluter’s massive dumping of methane into the atmosphere for a forest patch in Borneo is the new formula that needs much parsing to discredit.

Sustainability/green is definitely the new black for education publishers. Going green or anything with global warming – sometimes intersecting with energy, ecology, economics and social equity, or even arts – is awash in an unending tsunami of the next great information thing.

For all those green and climate change-related books, we are a very superficial and superstitious nation of naysayers and uninformed bombast when it comes to understanding the process of cutting down rainforests causing the loss of cloud formation. Try out concepts like the albedo affect and positive feedback loops associated with losing snow, ice poles and glaciers, causing more warming and thermal expansion of the ocean, and you’ll find eyes glazing over.

Bookshelves are festooned with titles dealing with ecological disaster or easy steps to carbon-friendly living. It’s difficult to get people to agree to read some earlier books, like Bill McKibben’s “The End of Nature” or Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers.”

How do we encourage busy readers to pick up the latest tome on global warming when there’s so much out there? This overload paralyzes people, pushing them toward thinking or decisions against their own and society’s best interests.

“Disaster fatigue” could be tweaked to be, “climate change chagrin/repulsion.”

Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University and the author of “The Art of Choosing,” conducted a jam study in 1995, which showed that so many choices of sweet and flavorful spreads caused many to end up not buying any jam at all. This raised “the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory,” Iyengar said, “but in reality, people might find more choice to actually be debilitating.”

I’ve got favorite sites, clearing houses of books, education materials, and other media on climate change and sustainability, not to mention blogs, journals and web-based sources dealing with the Five Es of sustainability.

Climate change is a multi-layered set of social, scientific, ecological, technical, cultural, legal, emotional and governmental challenges all tied to a modern era of consumption and fossil fuel-burning and deforestation plus positive feedback loops of melting ice, desertification, and ocean expansion.

Herein lies the problem – there’s not just one but dozens of elephants in the room.

The American Psychological Association has researched the interface between psychology and climate change. In 2008-2009 a league of practitioners examined the roles of psychology in understanding and addressing climate change, with the goal of helping get the public to accept and learn about the adaptation and mitigation we can begin to develop and implement.

They looked at wonky stuff around climate change and focused areas of environmental and conservation psychology, plus studies of how humans respond to natural and technological disasters.

This scholarship is being used to encourage environmentally responsible behavior. Unfortunately, the end game is more research on the psychosocial impacts of climate change.

Book purveyors need these tools for marketing their products – how people tend “to discount the likelihood of future and remote events and the role of culture in how people conceive of and respond to risks.”

‘Perception is reality’ seems to be the psychological and political take on human behavior here – humans don’t want to see their role in contributing to climate change, including population growth, land use expansion, energy use, and consumption.

While there will be huge mental and physical health effects of climate change – including guilt, apathy, anxiety, stress – psychologists are looking at coping and adaptation responses.

Books are written about mountaintop removal, or the giant Pacific garbage patch, peak oil/peak everything, and other attendant issues, but publishers and writers are having a harder time getting books out on the socioeconomic disparities of climate change.

Ethical considerations of social justice and species rights aspect of climate change, well, those aren’t bread and butter topics in the bookstore’s green section.

At Down to Earth and especially in this column, we’re planning to look at books, from time to time, and documentaries and some of the more advanced sites, and organizations working on this gambit called climate change education.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Going to an Auction and Punking the Oil and Gas Companies Gives you 10 Years in the Clink?

What would you risk to save the planet?

Ten years in prison? Your career? Or just your permanent record?

A little over two years ago, our friend and comrade Tim DeChristopher put it all on the line when he entered a federal auction and derailed it so that oil and gas companies could not destroy the planet.

Tim is now facing ten years in prison on two felony charges for stopping that illegal sale of public land. Furthermore, federal prosecutors have decided to make an example of Tim, so that anyone speaking out or taking effective action to save their community or the planet will be intimidated into staying home.

Rising Tide North America is proudly standing with Tim DeChristopher, and anyone else who takes bold action in the defense of the planet. At his trial on Feb. 28, we’re joining Tim’s group and Rising Tide affiliate, Peaceful Uprising as they mobilize outside the courthouse in solidarity with Tim.

If you able to join us, please come to Salt Lake City for the Uprising Summit on Feb 25-27 and Tim’s trial on Feb 28. If you can’t join us, consider organizing a solidarity action in support of Tim in your home town.

Thanks for all your support.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Solar Lamp Empower Poor and Rural to Move Up

I'm actually citing a mainstream source like CNN -- read below. So, the question is, How can we get these sorts of thinkers and these sorts of repurposed "technologies" in the limelight -- you know, the Bill Gates or Koch Brothers and their trillions brought to the world that can useit?

Above photo -- Evans Wadongo holds up one of his solar-powered LED lamps at his workshop in a Nairobi suburb. Not yet 25, Evans has already changed the lives of tens of thousands of his fellow Kenyans living in poor rural communities by supplying them with some 15,000 lamps since producing the first one from pieces of fabricated scrap metal and discarded solar equipment in 2004.

From CNN --
Editor's Note: CNN Heroes received more than 10,000 nominations from 100 countries, and a Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year. Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through November 18 (6 a.m. ET) at The winner will be announced at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which airs Thanksgiving night, November 25, at 8 ET.

(CNN) -- Evans Wadongo, 23, invented a way for rural families in Kenya to replace smoky kerosene and firelight with solar power. Through his Use Solar, Save Lives program, he has distributed an estimated 10,000 solar lanterns for free.

Wadongo's work earned him a spot as one of CNN's Top 10 Heroes for 2010. Below are his thoughts on being selected for this honor.

Q: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a Top 10 CNN Hero?

Evans Wadongo: I was sitting watching a comedy show on a local TV station here in Nairobi when I got the call from CNN. At first, I thought they were just calling to ask questions. Then I was told I was in the Top 10. Wow! I am so, so excited.

I wish to thank the Blue Ribbon Panel for choosing me. I really feel humbled, considering all the amazing work being done by all of the CNN Heroes highlighted this year.

Q: What will this exposure -- and the $25,000 award you'll receive for being a Top 10 CNN Hero -- mean to your work?

Wadongo: I do hope that being in the Top 10 will create even more publicity about the work that we are doing to help poor communities. We really hope to get support from individuals -- and more so from corporate companies and other nonprofits -- to reach our target of lifting 100,000 households out of poverty by 2015, by giving them lamps and helping them to set up economic ventures. We want to set up a modern workshop, with modern equipment that will include a plastic recycling plant, all for making the lamps. We need support to do this.

Q: What do you want people to know most about the importance of your work?

Wadongo: Just seeing livelihoods change, especially from the small economic ventures that are being set up [with] the money initially spent on kerosene ... it's the best thing we can ever do for these communities.

I can talk and talk forever, I am just so excited now. I really feel encouraged, and I will wake up with more energy to do more.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

US -- Outta Egypt's Way; Lieberman -- Join Your Zionist Talibans

or is anything we now write on blogs subject to the code of the Brave New World of paranoid American lobby, whores? Note -- The point of a free Internet is that we can choose to say outlandish things, or publish great works on artor just art in the eye of the beholder; climate change web sites and forums or peer reviewed journal articles; miracle claims about berries from Peru extended sexual performance; anything, really . . . but when it comes to questioning US Empire, well, US Patriot Act trumps all, in this Frightened world of Dems-Repubes-Teabaggers . . . .

Watch Democracy Now for real reporting on Egypt.

If the techy folk don’t join the world in condemning all these tools they created to spy on dissidents, bloggers, journalists; if the Googles of the world do not renounce their facilitation with governments like China’s that allow all searches to be blocked when the dictatorships decide what’s fit to read or not; if we do not recognize the Internet is going through a quick spasm of death here in the USA; if we do not take a page from the people of Egypt who have had 30 plus years of a USA backed dictator who’s functioned as a Saddam-lite in that country; if we allow this attack on our freedom of speech . . . .

…Well, a lot of if’s here. Let’s focus on the power of information. Here’s one comment on a US blog --

“[I]n an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. Critical European-Asian fiber-optic routes through Egypt appear to be unaffected for now.

But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. [...]

What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up.”

Here’s a more mainstream new blurb on cutting off democracy, rebellion against tyranny:

President Hosni Mubarak's decision shut down access to the Internet last night to try — unsuccessfully — to stop the tide of unrest marked the first time an entire country (minus websites for Egypt's commercial international bank and stock exchange) has been sealed off. "It's quite easy, as we've seen," Lynn St. Amour, president of the Internet Society said from Davos. Indeed, in addition to recent efforts in Tunisia and Syria, Burma's military leaders partially cut off access during protests in 2005 and Nepal did the same as its king battled insurgents. China cut off access to its Xinjiang region for almost a year after ethnic unrest. But how exactly does it work? In Egypt's case it was made easier by the fact that although there are hundreds of service providers, just four own the infrastructure. Experts say newer telecommunications markets can orchestrate shutdowns relatively easily.

Vodafone, one of the four internet service providers, released a statement saying, "All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation, the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply."

Governments also have the option of closing down routers, which direct traffic over a country's border. But in Egypt's case that would have permitted access from users within the country.

But "kill switches" aren't just the province of contested regimes in the Middle East and Asia. Earlier this week, Senator Joe Lieberman brought back a bill he first introduced last summer that would give President Obama power over privately owned Internet providers and computer systems during a "national cyberemergency." The revised version of the Lieberman-Collins bill now includes language stipulating that the federal government designation "shall not be subject to judicial review." It also expanded the president's purview to include "provider of information technology." Given the government's rush to cut off access to WikiLeaks for a few thousand embarrassing but dated diplomatic cables, it's hard to trust their definition of a "cyberemergency."

And a better complete story about our own idiots in congress --

Will Congress Give Obama the ‘Mubarak Option’?
by Megan Tady

When millions took to the streets of Egypt last week to protest the Mubarak regime and call for democratic reform, the Egyptian government responded by cutting off Internet access and people's ability to communicate with one another and the outside world.

Such drastic action is a new way for governments to smother popular movements worldwide... just as more and more people are turning to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube and using cell phones to mobilize for social chance and speak out against authoritarian regimes.

What's very worrying is that Congress is weighing legislation in the U.S. that could give our president the authority to flip the "kill switch" on the Internet and plunge the nation into digital darkness.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thomas Carper (D-Dela.) introduced legislation in the last Congress that would give the Executive Branch far-reaching authority to cut off "critical infrastructure" in times of crisis.

The "Protect Cyberspace as a National Asset Act" wasn't passed in 2010. But, according to a recent report in Wired, Sens. Collins and Lieberman plan to reintroduce the bill in the new Congress. The bill as written offers a vague definition of what constitutes an emergency, and fails to create effective checks and balances.

Confronted by overwhelmingly negative public response, sparked in part by theWired story, the senators have gone on the defensive about the legislation. They issued a statement on Tuesday offering assurances that they do not seek to create a "kill switch" over the Internet.

Whatever the intentions, the reportedly broad, ambiguous language of the bill and its lack of safeguards for individual freedoms are deeply troubling. We need to be certain that no bill gives government the authority to cut off Internet access. Such power, in the hands of the top executive, poses a drastic threat to our First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

The events in Egypt show the power of the Internet in fostering free speech and reform. Both progressive and conservative activists in the U.S. have relied on the organizing capacity of the Web and social networks to build popular movements as well.

We must guard against any effort to curtail our access to the open Internet. Take action here and stay tuned as this story continues to develop.

Megan Tady is Campaign Coordinator for Free Press.

Prior to joining Free Press, Megan was a national political reporter for In These Times, The New Standard, and worked extensively as a freelance journalist.

Obama On Net Neutrality, in the true non-functioning ethics code of this grand debater from Chicago:

"We are up against the belief that it's OK for lobbyists to dominate our government — that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we're not going to let them stand in our way anymore."

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