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