Week of March 13, 2011

21 03 2011

Cut the Regulations and Do ‘Tort Reform’ – Corporations Strong Enough for Ya?
Just Wait.
Take a moment and think about the modern Republican credo.  The problem is
government regulation.  The Milton Friedman-inspired solution is to gut
regulations – the almighty market, you see, will take care of everything.  After
all, it sure worked well for the banking industry, didn’t it?! But then think
about the flip side.  At every turn in recent years, those same Republicans have
been fighting to restrict people’s right to sue a corporation that has harmed
them.  So what does this add up to?  Freed from ‘restrictive regulation,’
companies may engage in riskier activity.  Then, if the Republicans have their
way, you will find it much harder to sue for damages if injured.  Paying
attention to what’s going on in Japan right now? Several related links.  First,
in any rational setting, the bright, tough-minded and caring Elizabeth Warren
would be a shoo-in for the director spot in the new consumer protection agency
she played the chief role in creating.  Rational, you say?  How about
corporatist?  See a Charlie Rose interview, and a story on an apparent Wall
Street Journal editorial campaign trying to take Warren down.  Next, get up on
what gives with ‘tort reform.’  This approach reminds me of an astonishing
achievement of modern greed-driven Republicans.  That would be to get the ‘death
tax,’ actually the estate tax on multimillion dollar states, suspended (with
hope of elimination), with broad support from the American public.  Besides
hoodwinking millions of people into supporting this move, here is the other
achievement – beat the estate tax down largely with the argument that it’s
‘unfair to tax that money twice,’ while at the same time working like the
dickens to cut those ‘first-time’ income and capital gains taxes down to
nothing, or next to nothing. Thus is plutocracy built, friends.  Finally, a
Japan-related cartoon commenting on the deregulation mania. (It’s the March 18



Reactions to Japan Tragedy
Many of us are paying close attention to the nuclear side of the ongoing
earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.  And indeed, the latest expert opinion
puts that crisis at least on a par with Three Mile Island – and possibly
trending toward Chernobyl.  But that can divert attention from the immediate
human tragedy – an expected toll of more than 10,000, with many bodies never
recovered as they were swept out to sea.  It’s easy to find ignorant, mean,
cruel responses.  In a video interview, Bill O’Reilly was actually the saner
party involved – by a long shot.  Ann Coulter was arguing that radiation is no
big deal – the scientists are exaggerating.  And Rush Limbaugh had a good old
time ridiculing the Japanese for being environmentally conscious (home of the
Prius after all) but being thrashed by Mother Nature.  And then there is the
linked video, and a commentary by NPR’s Scott Simon.  Inspiration from, of all
places, the realm of canine friendship.  Also – despite Japan’s relative wealth,
they can use our help.


The Shock Doctrine – in Action and Summarized
First link – the emergency powers now held by the governor of Michigan.  Second
– this has to be one of the cruelest cuts being contemplated.  Third – I have
been recommending Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine for some time.  A friend
recently noted that it has also been a movie for over three years.  Highly
recommended . . . though not by Dick Cheney.

“In Mah State, I Bin Cuttin’ Taxes!”
Whoa, who was that southern boy with the smooth drawl?  Is Bill Clinton back on
the campaign trail?  Lamar Alexander?  No, it’s that tough-talkin’, tax-cuttin’,
face-changin’ boy from the south (of the Twin Cities), ex-governor Tim
Pawlenty.  Proving there ain’t nuthin’ he won’ do to be the president of y’all,
our boy has now started talking the part.  That is, he’s adopted a faux southern
accent.  Just listen to the story at the first link and see if you don’t agree.
Heck, it worked for ol’ George!  (Born a New England blueblood)  I wonder if our
boy Tim is soon to take brush-cuttin’ lessons.  Maybe a chimpish smirk would
help him pull some thunder back from the show-stealing Tea Partier Michele
Bachmann.  Well, in at least one way, Pawlenty has made something like the big
time.  Stephen Colbert’s hilarious satire of our panderer-in chief proves that.
Sort of.  Gawd, I love mah state!

“Facts?  No Thanks.  I’m Pretty, Loudmouthed and Loved by Tea Partiers.”
In the interest of equal time, our other Minnesota-grown prez wannabe must be
heard to be believed.
You can’t make this stuff up.


A Species Truly Endangered – and not by Accident
It’s the American middle class.  Here are several perspectives.  For the
snapshot version, look at the first link – it’s a chart that tells the sad tale
of increasing middle class hardship – while the wealthy thrive.  Second link
takes you to Jim Hightower’s latest writing on the issue.  Third link is a
longish article from Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class.  He
points out what is at stake in the Wisconsin struggle, and how it connects with
populist struggles past.


Environmental Risks:  In the Unlikely Event that . . .
The linked interview from All Things Considered provided a fascinating look at
how we manage technical and environmental risks – ‘low-probability disasters.’
It’s interesting to connect these ideas with the promises being doled out by
natural gas drillers, who are assuring all that ‘fracking’ presents little or no
risk to drinking water supplies.



Grow Your Own, or Buy Healthy
Gardeners are gearing up for planting season.  If that doesn’t work for you for
whatever reason, how about a community-supported agriculture farm membership?
Good for you and the local farmer, and if you choose a farm with sustainable
practices, you are helping the natural world as well.
Each year the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project (LSP) publishes a guide and
listing of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.

CSA farms provide weekly deliveries of their locally-grown produce to their
customers throughout the growing season, with the customers paying the farmers a
subscription fee. In some ways the CSA customers become partners with the
farmers, and the subscribers benefit by helping to build community and a more
personal connection with the source of some of their food.
The 2011 edition of the CSA directory is available online and for free
downloading at the web site above. This year’s directory for the first time
lists not only farms that deliver to subscribers in the Twin Cities, but also
includes farms delivering to customers in Greater Minnesota and western
Farmers pay a fee to be listed in this directory, and LSP does not certify
these farms.
There are descriptions of about 80 CSA farms in the directory, along with links
to the farms’ web sites in many cases. The directory is a great way for those
considering CSA membership to check out the wide variety of options that exist.
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
– Jane Goodall

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Linda Kriel

Week of March 6, 2011

13 03 2011

US Help Needed in Crises
Two crises in different parts of the world command attention right now.  One is natural and unavoidable – the historic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  One is entirely a human creation – the turmoil in Libya.  The Japanese people will need plenty of support from individuals and governments around the world.  (One helpful NGO that I recommend and support is Mercy Corps.)  The Libyan mess is more complex in that it’s hard to know the right thing to do.  That is, support the status quo and allow strongman Gadhafi to hang onto the western part of the country, or take an active role in ending his bloody dictatorship.  And if you do take part, prepare to be accused of getting involved merely to get your hands on the country’s coveted oil.  Still, I think crises like these are just the kind of thing that a superpower like the United States should be alleviating with its military and resource might.  And I can’t help but think that we could do so much more if we were not bogged down in two wars – one definitely a ‘war of choice’ (Iraq) and the other a war with an unclear purpose.  With all the talk of the US being ‘broke,’ and the clear challenges caused by debt and mounting deficits, you have to believe that our efforts in both cases will be compromised.  First link – the science behind tsunamis.  NPR Science Friday did a nice distillation job for a non-scientist.  Second – Mercy Corps’ site.  Next – two estimates of the costs of our wars. Looks like anytime now, we will be
talking about real money on those ventures.


Public Media
It was hard to miss the sounds of public media executives being trashed this
past week.  Give the righties credit.  Their ‘candid camera’ stunt dealt a major
black eye to NPR leadership and the whole cause of government support for public
media.  Still, I think this nation will be much the worse if public media is
further weakened by cancellation of government funds.  Though those funds make
up only a small portion of the media funding, they still matter. First link –
news item.  Second – we learned that the damning evidence against NPR exec Ron
Schiller might have been ‘doctored’ a bit by righty activist James O’Keefe.
Shocked, are you?  Me neither!  Third – Bill Moyers’ perspective on public
media.  Fourth – some analysis on why the right would LOVE to take down public
media, especially PBS and NPR with their impressive national networks.  Finally,
a look to the north on a similar issue.  While we fight it out once again over
the crumbs we toss to our public media organizations, our neighbors to the north
have decided to maintain their version of a ‘fairness doctrine’ in public
media.  Of course, that perspective is so old-school in modern, corporatist
America.  Can you guess which US president ruled when we decided we didn’t need
no stinkin’ Fairness Doctrine!  By the way, by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is worth
the read just to learn the nickname many Canadians have adopted for Stephen




Wisconsin – Front Line in Our Modern Class War
If you read this missive, even occasionally, you have seen ample evidence of a
trend that has been building in America since about 1970.  That is, the
concentration of wealth, income (and the power that goes along).  This is not
accidental!  Differences are stark between the top ten percent of the American
public and the remaining 90, and the differences are growing even more rapidly
between the top one percent and everyone else.  So few people are aware of
this.  And worse, masses of people think this is either OK, or is the way things
always were.  People with views like these might be correct in a different
context – America of the past, say, pre-New Deal, or Gilded Age.  We are
methodically rebuilding those wonderful times, my friends.  And what do you
think efforts like Scott Walker’s in Wisconsin and Rick Snyder’s in Wisconsin –
to severely limit working people’s rights to bargain collectively – will do to
those trends?  Look out, we are racing to the bottom . . . unless we take these
corporatists on. First – a little more from Michael Moore (see his complete
speech to protesters in last week’s IBI Watch).  Here, we have an interview with
Rachel Maddow.  Note the shocking wealth concentration statistic.  Second link –
the spectacle of state troopers dragging protesters out of the Wisconsin
Capitol, and the new involvement of ex-Senator Russ Feingold. Second, a
Christian Science Monitor commentary on Michigan’s unrest.  Next, a Henry Giroux
commentary that does a nice job of summing up various perspectives with a common
theme – ‘reforms’ begun during the Reagan administration are destroying the
fabric of our democracy.  Next – a perspective I have frequently offered.  Naomi
Klein is again explaining how our current labor unrest is the latest glaring
example of the corporatists’ longstanding effort to exploit crises to build
their ‘permanent’ corporate dystopia.  That’s the Shock Doctrine, friends.  The
last word is not a word at all, but a Sack cartoon.





Hey Bears:  Duck!  Hey Moose: Tough Luck!
It’s not a good time to be a large critter in Minnesota’s northern forest.  Lynn
Rogers, longtime researcher and champion of our black bears, has lost out to the
DNR in his quest to protect a small number of research bears.  Rogers has used
unorthodox methods to achieve amazing research footage bears in the wild.  He
and his staff ‘tag’ the bears with outlandish collars and ribbons in a vain
effort to keep bear hunters from shooting his research subjects.  He has sought
legislation to protect those bears.  Tough scat, says the DNR.  It’s
unreasonable to expect a hunter to see a gaudy pink ribbon on the bear.  Hey –
maybe this is just the Lady Gaga of bears, right?  So it’s likely that more than
one bear in whom Rogers and his staff have invested serious research will be
shot in the next hunting season –as has happened all too frequently of late.
The DNR is making a big mistake, according to hunting and fishing
advocate/commentator Dennis Anderson.  BTW, Anderson carries no PETA membership
card!  For the moose, on the other hand, it’s not human stupidity or
stubbornness, but unfettered greed and willful ignorance that seems to spell the
death knell.  Yup, it’s that old ‘great hoax,’ come for the massive mammal –
climate chaos.  Ah well, such is the cost of progress.

Environment Wrecking – the Big Picture
Warning – this link could lead to discouragement.  It  takes you to one of the
most comprehensive accounts of our environmental destruction that I have seen
recently.  It’s also pretty concise – a great way to get yourself informed.
Sadly, it does not offer a lot of ideas for hope or solutions.  But I firmly
believe that you can’t solve problems until you take account of exactly what is
going on.  Chris Hedges quotes from Jared Diamond – author  of Guns and Steel,
and Collapse.  Hedges says we are simply seeing the history related in Collapse
playing out on a global level.  Hard to argue.  Still, it’s no time to give up.

Some Good Environmental News
Some argue that small progress is meaningless.  I disagree.  Any steps that have
a net positive effect – such as those documented at these links – can be part of
the solution to our long-term environmental crisis.  Pick at least one and



Living ‘Car Lite’
Gas prices are anything but ‘lite’ these days.  Those of us who have bought more
efficient vehicles in recent years will suffer less from the bigger fuel bite.
But all of us can do our part to reduce greenhouse gas.  It’s easier than you
think – check these ideas from Across Green America.

Eating – Could Less Mean More?
Most of us eat too much.  A quick look at overweight and obesity statistics
tells that story all too well.  Research continues to confirm this notion –
eating less can be good for you and the planet.  A Time.com story for you, and a
hilarious Doonesbury comment on the same issue.


“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all
Republics.” –  Plutarch

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper