Jul 9, 2011

Is Fox News Scared? Desperate Attacks on Watchdog Group Media Matters Suggest Yes | Media | AlterNet

The Fox News pack is on the warpath against media watchdog group Media Matters.
July 8, 2011 |

In the untamed jungle that is cable news, there is a ferocious and predatory beast stalking the terrain. Anyone who has encountered Fox News in the wild can attest to the spine-chilling threat imposed by the pseudo-news network. And now Fox News has the scent of new game.

The Fox News pack is on the warpath against the media watchdog group, Media Matters. In the past two weeks it has featured over 30 stories with the express purpose of challenging the group’s right to exist. Fox has assigned network stalwarts like Bill O’Reilly, Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer, James Rosen, Dick Morris, and Bernie Goldberg to the mission. This is an unprecedented, broadly distributed attack by a major media enterprise against a non-profit group it regards as an adversary.

This latest batch of complaints stem from comments made last March by Media Matters founder, David Brock. He was quoted in Politico as saying that the organization was shifting its focus toward Fox News to one of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage.” Giving Fox the benefit of doubt, one might conclude it’s only fair that Fox defend itself from such an overt declaration of war. The only thing that might refute that perspective is – reality.

If this is war, Fox is the aggressor. Fox News initiated its attacks long ago with aggressive and false assertions that cast Media Matters as hacks, anti-American, violent, and communist. Fox alleged that George Soros was pulling their strings long before Soros ever made any contributions to the group. Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck engaged in rhetoric so hostile that it inspired actual physical attacks against Media Matters and its progressive allies. A video (posted at the end of this story and courtesy of Media Matters) was posted two years ago and illustrates the hostility harbored across the Fox platform long before Brock’s recent comments.

The new and highly coordinated offensive by Fox asserts that Media Matters has violated the terms of its tax-exempt status by setting its sights on Fox. Fox quotes from the IRS rules governing non-profits that state that…

“…501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

On the basis of that criteria, Fox News argues that Media Matters is in violation and should have its tax-exempt status revoked. However, in order for that to be valid, Fox would have to admit that it is a political operation so that attacks on Fox News would qualify as opposition to political campaigns and/or candidates. Without that stipulation there is no violation on the part of Media Matters. So Fox is, in effect, conceding its role as a Republican mouthpiece. Shocking, I know.

Even if Fox were to come out of the propaganda closet, Media Matters would still be in the clear because the non-profit prohibition is explicitly related to campaigns and candidates and to lobbying. Since Media Matters is not directly aiding any political campaign or engaged in lobbying members of congress, there is no violation of its tax-exempt status. Politico cites attorney Marcus Owens, a former director of the Exempt Organization Division of the IRS, as saying that “the law is on Media Matters’ side.”

What makes this even worse is that Fox is not merely rebutting what it regards as negative criticism, it is actively using the tax status allegation as the basis for a campaign to shut Media Matters down. Fox repeatedly runs false, one-sided stories asserting that Media Matters is unlawfully receiving federal subsidies. These stories are followed with direct appeals to viewers to file complaints with the IRS. Fox anchor Steve Doocy has made several announcements on his morning show Fox & Friends like this one:

“Somebody has set up a website and we have linked it, actually, at FoxNation.com. If you go down about half way down you’ll see that logo. If you want to file a complaint with the IRS against Media Matters because you feel they have gone political, they have abandoned their initial quest, then go to that site and go ahead.”

Not only is that a waste of time because of the reasons stated above, it is also unethical. Has anyone ever heard of a news enterprise directing its viewers to file official complaints against another organization it regards as an enemy? If NBC were to instruct its viewers to file tax status complaints against the Tea Party because the organization attacks the network, would the folks at Fox News consider that acceptable?

Of course not. Fox would regard that as scandalous, unethical, outside the jurisdiction of a news network, and deliberate harassment. Which is exactly what it is when Fox does it. Such complaints, if accepted, would also open the door to challenges against conservative groups like the Media Research Center (operator of NewsBusters) and the Heritage Foundation.

When asked by Politico for a statement, the MRC’s Brent Bozell said only that “Media Matters stands accused of violating its tax-deductible status, and I think that fact speaks for itself.” Since the MRC stands accused of doing precisely the same thing that Media Matters does, that fact speaks for itself as well. Bozell is essentially saying that if Media Matters is guilty, then so is the MRC. And If the MRC is innocent, then so is Media Matters.

The link on Fox Nation that Doocy and others on Fox have referenced is nothing more than an appeal to readers to file complaints with the IRS. The article’s headline says it all: “Want to File an IRS Complaint Against Media Matters? Click Here.” The Fox Nationalists have bumped that story up to the top of the page every day, placing it first among the “New Stories” despite the fact that it is now almost two weeks old.

On one particularly egregious segment, Fox advised its viewers to lie when filling out the IRS complaint form.

The instruction to check the boxes for political campaigning and lobbying activities amounts to falsifying the form because there is no evidence Media Matters has done any of that. If these complaint forms required the complainant to sign under oath, then Fox would be guilty of suborning perjury. As it is Fox is merely guilty of attempting to flood the IRS with frivolous and phony paperwork; which for conservatives seeking to reduce the cost and oversight of government is pretty hypocritical.

Over the weekend, Fox committed fully half of its “News Watch” program to the Media Matters affair. The show opened with a biased story from Fox reporter James Rosen, including former Bush lawyer, C. Boyden Gray, making this ludicrous assertion:

“When you start to accuse Fox News of being the spokesman for the Republican Party, which is demonstrably false – there’s no basis for that. Brock, Media Matters, makes no effort to substantiate any of that – That’s when it crosses the line.”

Of course, there is ample evidence that Fox News is operating as the public relations arm of the Republican Party. Fox has had in its employ up to five potential GOP candidates for president. It interviews Republican candidates almost exclusively. It has distributed memos instructing its anchors and reporters to use language that parrots Republican talking points. It has even broadcast reports written by the Republican National Committee word-for-word, displaying accompanying graphics that contained the same typos in the original RNC document. That last bit of journalistic cronyism was the work of current Fox "News Watch" host Jon Scott.

Speaking to Politico, Ari Rabin-Havt, the executive vice president of Media Matters, refuted Gray’s assertions saying, “Our contention about Fox News’s political operations are supported by the facts and their own actions, especially during the previous few years.”

Media Matters has more than made an effort to substantiate the overtly partisan behavior of Fox. It has proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt. The evidence against Fox is overwhelming. Yet "News Watch" attempted to divert attention away from such evidence by discussing how often Fox was the target of Media Matters, displaying a chart showing that Media Matters had done more stories on Fox News than any other news entity. Why would that surprise anyone? If the mission is to document media misinformation, the most frequent offender is going to show up most frequently.

The "News Watch" panel was composed of four conservative defenders of Fox and one lonely, but earnest, liberal, Jehmu Greene. Jon Scott brought up George Soros three separate times, but were it not for Greene no one would have heard about the uber-conservative Media Research Center. The right has its own army of billionaires (Murdoch, Koch, Scaife, Anschutz, Adelson, etc.) funding their partisan enterprise, but no one other than Greene would discuss it. Even after she brought it up, the other panelists scurried away refusing to hear of it. And it should not go without mentioning that Fox News itself is one of MRC’s biggest supporters, regularly featuring MRC’s Brent Bozell, and much of its news content comes straight from MRC. Fox’s former news chief, Brit Hume, thanked the MRC:

“…for the tremendous amount of material that the Media Research Center provided me for so many years when I was anchoring Special Report, I don’t know what we would’ve done without them. It was a daily buffet of material to work from, and we certainly made tremendous use of it.”

As a result of News Watch’s obsession with Media Matters, notable media events of the past week were ignored or abridged. Those events included Michele Bachmann’s entry into the presidential race, Glenn Beck’s final show on Fox, and the president’s contentious news conference. Why would Fox News Watch, a show dedicated to the media, deliberately excise and/or abridge coverage of such significant stories in order to expand coverage of a media-monitoring organization that most Americans have never heard of? Because Fox News is scared.

On Tuesday, July 5, Fox News elevated its attack to new levels of absurdity. Fox & Friends’ Doocy brought in Glenn Beck’s co-author and “doctor” Keith Ablow for an interview that careened off into the surreal. Ablow pretended that he could psychoanalyze someone he has never examined or even met. Here is a portion of the exchange:

Steve Doocy: I understand you’ve done a psychological profile of [Media Matters founder] David Brock. What did you find?

Keith Ablow: Well, look, I looked at him from a distance, but you don’t have to look very hard to see into the man’s mind apparently. This is somebody who seemingly has such low self-esteem, Steve, that he’s lurching from one group to another. Whoever will embrace him and reassure him that he’s a decent guy and be his cheerleader in a dramatic way, that’s who he’s gonna be with. [...] You can’t believe this guy because he’s full of self-hatred which he then projects on the world around him in order to get love. So he’s gotta have somebody to hate because he thinks that’s the way, the best way to galvanize the love in his direction. So yes, it’s always about being a hit man, you know, exposing someone. There’s very sexual connotations here too.

I pity anyone who actually has this fraud as an analyst. Ablow has no basis whatsoever to arrive at his puerile conclusions. He is merely taking hostile swipes at someone he is being paid to disparage. He should have his license revoked. He fails to provide a single example of anything Brock has done that is incorrect or unsubstantiated.

This attack is purely personal. Ablow’s notation of “lurching from one group to another” references the fact that Brock was once a conservative, but is now a liberal. However, Brock was a conservative for many years and, after evolving over time to the left, he has remained liberal for the past decade. Would Ablow regard Andrew Breitbart, David Horowitz, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann -- all former Democrats or liberals -- as lurching, self-haters?

Ablow neglects to explain what the “sexual connotations” are. He probably raised that issue to remind his audience that Brock is openly gay, a factor the Fox audience will surely regard as negative. Ablow is in violation of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics (Section 7.3), which state:

“On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

At the risk of being accused of psychoanalyzing Fox News, I must observe that Fox is obviously afraid -- so afraid of Media Matters that it has become obsessed with destroying it. Fox is afraid that the successful campaign against Glenn Beck will continue to unravel the Fox News bastion of lies, racism and partisan propaganda. While most Americans have probably never heard of Media Matters, Fox is promoting the group to the top of the news pile, even above Casey Anthony. They know that any organization that shines the light of truth on Fox News is going to make things difficult for an enterprise like Fox whose mission is to disseminate disinformation and keep viewers ignorant.

Mark Howard is an artist and author and the publisher of News Corpse. His political and socially disruptive artwork has been displayed internationally.


Fox on the run... News Corp is in big trouble... PBS report/video gives insight... !!! Truth is beginning to be told... News Corp - "the beginning of the end" ...  Love it... Monte

Jul 8, 2011

Blogger in Draft: Blogger’s Updated Interface Now Available for All Draft Users

Posted by Jungshik Jang, Software Engineer

It's been an exciting couple of months seeing more and more users try out our new user interface since its debut back in April, and today we're happy to announce another major milestone in its development. As of right now, the new interface is available for all Blogger in Draft users. Again, there is no sign up or activation process required; Just visit Blogger in Draft, and you’ll find the revamped interface, all ready for your exploration!

Over the last couple of months, we’ve made significant improvements to our new user interface. First and foremost, we’ve incorporated your feedback and made numerous fixes based on that feedback. Also, we’ve updated the look and feel of our new design, inspired by Google’s newest design evolutions.

As you know, Blogger in Draft is Blogger’s equivalent to “Google Labs.” As Draft users, you get to experience our newest features, including the new design, earlier than other users. If you’re not yet on Blogger in Draft, simply go to draft.blogger.com, and check on the “Make Blogger in Draft my default” option on your dashboard.

We hope you’ll enjoy the new Blogger interface and send us your feedback by clicking on the “Send feedback” link from the navigation bar. Happy blogging!

I like... !!!  Monte

How-To: Bucket Chair - by dakremer @ LumberJocks.com

Hey Guys. This is something I thought of today (on my day off) and built within a couple of hours. I didnt use any plans….just an idea in my head. I am going fishing tomorrow and needed somewhere to keep my fish and sit, so decided why not do both at once. I used all scrap pine wood – 1X4’s and 2X4’s (I ran out towards the end and had to finish up with OSB). It sits pretty comfortable, and the height is perfect!

Its definitely not going to win any fine wood working awards, but its pretty solid and works great! This could obviously be made much nicer, with nicer wood, nicer joints, etc, etc, but I needed it quick for tomorrows fishing trip. I think if I had more time to design it, I’d do the hinge part differently. It works well, but I dont like the looks of it. I’d also “fancy up” the part that sits in the bucket….its kind of bulky. But that added height is perfect for sitting. Maybe make it out of one solid piece instead of the smaller piece screwed on….

It could be used for other things as well. You can buy those tool/screw holders for 5-gallon buckets. If you’re on the job, you’ll always have a place to sit and have your tools handy.

Anyways. Enjoy. If you decide to build one of your own, make sure to post it. I’d love to see other designs people come up with!

Project is posted HERE on lumberjocks with more pictures….


 Great job...!   Monte

Jul 7, 2011

Federal worker coalition: Don’t damage our pensions to cut debt - The Federal Eye - The Washington Post

By Joe Davidson

The Federal-Postal Coalition, representing about two dozen organizations of federal employees, is urging President Obama and congressional leaders “to reject proposals that will prove damaging to federal employees in any final agreement over raising our nation’s debt ceiling.”

The major concern is “the proposal to require federal workers to contribute a much higher share of their salary toward their defined benefit annuity, which would have the effect of an immediate and significant net pay cut,” the Coalition said in letters to the White House and Congress. “Additionally, the increased contribution would not result in any corresponding increase in an employee’s retirement annuity.”

An increase in the amount paid by workers without any increase in annuities “represents a selective payroll tax increase that could exceed five percent of the entire income of federal workers,” the letters said.

Republicans have insisted on no increase in taxes. And the letter to Obama said “increasing the employee contribution to contribute more to their pensions would be a violation of your campaign pledge not to raise any taxes on those earning less than $250,000.”

In both letters, the Coalition said: “Without a doubt, the proposed increase in federal employee pension contributions is a payroll tax increase as surely as any payroll tax increase to Social Security would be.”

The Coalition previously protested proposals to increase the employee contribution to federal pensions in a letter to the Senate Budget Committee in May, as the Federal Diary reported in May.


Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @joedavidsonwp

Jul 6, 2011

Jonathan Drori: The beautiful tricks of flowers | Video on TED.com

Jonathan Drori

Jonathan Drori commissioned the BBC's very first websites, one highlight in a long career devoted to online culture and educational media -- and understanding how we learn. Full bio and more links

In this visually dazzling talk, Jonathan Drori shows the extraordinary ways flowering plants -- over a quarter million species -- have evolved to attract insects to spread their pollen: growing 'landing-strips' to guide the insects in, shining in ultraviolet, building elaborate traps, and even mimicking other insects in heat.

Wendell Berry: The Pleasure of Eating

Many times, after I have finished a lecture on the decline of American farming and rural life, someone in the audience has asked, "What can city people do?"

"Eat responsibly," I have usually answered. Of course, I have tried to explain what I meant by that, but afterwards I have invariably felt that there was more to be said than I had been able to say. Now I would like to attempt a better explanation.

I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as "consumers." If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want—or what they have been persuaded to want—within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or "processed" or "precooked," how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?

Most urban shoppers would tell you that food is produced on farms. But most of them do not know what farms, or what kinds of farms, or where the farms are, or what knowledge or skills are involved in farming. They apparently have little doubt that farms will continue to produce, but they do not know how or over what obstacles. For them, then, food is pretty much an abstract idea—something they do not know or imagine—until it appears on the grocery shelf or on the table.

Food in the Mind of the Eater When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous. The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared or fast food, confronts a platter covered with inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality. And the result is a kind of solitude, unprecedented in human experience, in which the eater may think of eating as, first, a purely commercial transaction between him and a supplier and then as a purely appetitive transaction between him and his food.

And this peculiar specialization of the act of eating is, again, of obvious benefit to the food industry, which has good reasons to obscure the connection between food and farming. It would not do for the consumer to know that the hamburger she is eating came from a steer who spent much of his life standing deep in his own excrement in a feedlot, helping to pollute the local streams, or that the calf that yielded the veal cutlet on her plate spent its life in a box in which it did not have room to turn around. And, though her sympathy for the slaw might be less tender, she should not be encouraged to meditate on the hygienic and biological implications of mile-square fields of cabbage, for vegetables grown in huge monocultures are dependent on toxic chemicals—just as animals in close confinement are dependent on antibiotics and other drugs.

The consumer, that is to say, must be kept from discovering that, in the food industry—as in any other industry—the overriding concerns are not quality and health, but volume and price. For decades now the entire industrial food economy, from the large farms and feedlots to the chains of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, has been obsessed with volume. It has relentlessly increased scale in order to increase volume in order (presumably) to reduce costs. But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases. As capital replaces labor, it does so by substituting machines, drugs, and chemicals for human workers and for the natural health and fertility of the soil. The food is produced by any means or any shortcut that will increase profits. And the business of the cosmeticians of advertising is to persuade the consumer that food so produced is good, tasty, healthful, and a guarantee of marital fidelity and long life.

Eat Responsibly Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used. This is a simple way of describing a relationship that is inexpressibly complex. To eat responsibly is to understand and enact, so far as one can, this complex relationship. What can one do?

Here is a list, probably not definitive:

Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.

Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household. This should enable you to eat more cheaply, and it will give you a measure of "quality control": you will have some reliable knowledge of what has been added to the food you eat.

Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The idea that every locality should be, as much as possible, the source of its own food makes several kinds of sense. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, the freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and to influence.

Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. All the reasons listed for the previous suggestion apply here. In addition, by such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both producers and consumers.

Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to food that is not food, and what do you pay for these additions?

Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.

The last suggestion seems particularly important to me. Many people are now as much estranged from the lives of domestic plants and animals (except for flowers and dogs and cats) as they are from the lives of the wild ones. This is regrettable, for these domestic creatures are in diverse ways attractive; there is much pleasure in knowing them. And farming, animal husbandry, horticulture, and gardening, at their best, are complex and comely arts; there is much pleasure in knowing them, too.

The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best. Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating. The knowledge of the good health of the garden relieves and frees and comforts the eater. The same goes for eating meat. The thought of the good pasture and of the calf contentedly grazing flavors the steak. Some, I know, will think it bloodthirsty or worse to eat a fellow creature you have known all its life. On the contrary, I think it means that you eat with understanding and with gratitude. A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health. And this pleasure, I think, is pretty fully available to the urban consumer who will make the necessary effort.

Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer, is the author of many books of essays, fiction, and poetry. His article on the pleasures of working with a hand scythe appeared in our January 1980 issue. "The Pleasures of Eating" originally appeared in What Are People For? by Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1990 by Wendell Berry. Reprinted by permission of North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source URL: http://www.organicgardening.com/living/wendell-berry-pleasure-eating

Links: [1] http://www.organicgardening.com/taxonomy/term/826

Robert Rodale: It's Time for a New Declaration of Independence: Organic Gardening

editorial from the September 1976 issue of Organic Gardening and Farming about personal independence.

September 1976 

'How Independent Am I?

That's a good question to be asking yourself in this year in which we are celebrating our 200th anniversary of the independence of our country. If you are like most Americans today, you will have to admit that you are not very independent. You are free, in the sense that you have liberty to say pretty much what you want, to worship as you please, to move about freely, to own property, to have a fair trial, and so on. Independence, though, is something else. To be independent means that you have a basic liberty of existence. You are not tied to others when you are independent. You are able to support yourself, working with your own resources. The person who is truly independent will live well no matter what happens to the rest of society. Total independence, of course, is almost never experienced by anybody. Even in primitive cultures, where people live by hunting animals and gathering wild foods, the individual depends on the family or tribe for support. But a small group of people can be independent, as long as they are content to use only food produced in their own area and things that they make themselves. I am not citing that as a desirable kind of life for anyone to aspire to, but only as a point of reference, a benchmark of our past independence as people. Prior to 1776, when we were still a colony of England, our people were much more independent individually than you and I are now. America then was a country of small farmers, craftsmen working in their own shops, and storekeepers enjoying primarily local trade. Few organizations of any kind existed in our society, and there was not even much communication or trade from one region to another. People made their own way. They built their own furniture and houses, produced, much of their food, wove cloth for their clothes, and usually entertained themselves. Acts of God, like storms, drought or fire, were a greater threat to their security than today's people-caused problems like layoffs, business failures, inflation and governmental corruption.

Now, by contrast, hardly any American does anything without leaning on hundreds of other people in some way. Even simple acts, when examined closely, reveal connecting threads leading to unexpected places. Consider picking your teeth. A couple of hundred years ago, gaps between molars were cleaned with a sliver pried from a convenient piece of firewood. The "tool" for the job was made on the spot by the user, at no cost. Today, toothpicks are items of commerce. You can choose between many types, plain or flavored, colored or natural, plastic or wood, and so forth. Toothpicks are made in factories, packaged, advertised, sanitized, and entered in the gross national product. Probably a thousand or more people are occupied doing dozens of jobs related to the toothpick trade. Look at a more complex act, like eating a slice of bread, and the web of interdependence expands dramatically. Not far from where I live today is a small stream, the Little Lehigh, which was a center of grain milling during Revolutionary times. A dozen water-powered mills dotted its banks, grinding local wheat and corn into flour and meal. People who lived in this area then grew their own grain, or bought it locally. No power other than the falling water of the stream was needed to process it, and wood was used for cooking. Making bread then was simple—an almost personal act. Today, bread flour is shipped here from the Middle West, where its production calls into play a stream of complex resources. Chemical plants in several states churn out the emulsifiers, preservatives, colors and other additives used by modern bakers. Truckers living in at least 10 states are in some way involved with the supply of bread to the Lehigh Valley. So are advertising people in New York, economists in Washington, machine builders in Chicago, and plastics plant workers all over the place. Eating bread in America today is an act of faith in the smooth functioning of one of the most complex food-supply systems ever conceived. I am not advocating that we turn back the clock. As much as anyone, I enjoy choosing just the kind of toothpick that works well for me. And you and I both know that the world has changed so much since 1776 that there's no way we can feed everyone bread today with water-ground wheat. There is plenty of value, though, in looking carefully at the state of personal independence (or lack of it) of the average American. Few people have done that in the past 200 years. The thrust of industry and government has been to develop the country in the fastest way possible regardless of the consequences. That has meant creating new products, building more homes and factories, improving transportation, and trying to keep as many people as possible employed. Those goals have been paramount, and few people have seemed to care that in achieving them we have tied ourselves together in a tight net of dependence. And even fewer people have dared to think about what effect this growing dependence is having on our national character. My opinion is that many of the social faults that we now see in ourselves are the result of the almost total elimination of personal independence as a quality of American life.

What we can do For the moment, though, let's look at the positive side of independence. What could we do better if there was a national program to help people become independent, as individuals? Just as a start, I've jotted down a few thoughts, although this list could certainly be expanded and amplified. 1. If people tried to be more independent, they would begin to see more clearly what their real needs for support from others are. Now, most people take for granted the availability of anything they need, in the way of materials and services. 2. More personal independence would boost productivity. Not everything is done most efficiently in big, complex ways. That is hard for some people to believe, conditioned, as we have been to accept the production line concept that equates bigness with efficiency. Home production, our Organic Gardening and Farming editorial theme for 1976, is only one of many examples of how independent effort can lead to increased efficiency. Much more production of food and services could be done in the home if there was a strong effort in that direction. 3. Independence would provide a resilient reservoir of strength in case of hard times. We're beginning to sense how vulnerable our complex economic system is to threats from within and without. The lesson of the Arab oil boycott has been lost, and we're now using more imported oil than before. If we don't begin to work for more personal independence, we'll be in far worse shape the next time a threat like that occurs. 4. Innovative thinking and action would be encouraged by more personal independence. Most large organizations today are actually afraid of new ideas, because they could make profitable products obsolete and disturb established business partners. People working more independently would open up whole new veins of creativity and thought, which are now being stifled. 5. More diversity would be provided in our culture. The easiest way to sense our lack of independence today is to travel around the country and see how alike all parts of America have become. We have gone national in almost everything, from food and beer to housing and entertainment. While that sameness is being justified now on the grounds of efficiency, it is cutting us off from the pleasures and pride of individuality.

Gardens of Liberty The garden is the best place to start looking for ways to help people become more independent. A garden is both the symbol and reality of self-sufficiency—especially an organic garden, which recycles organic wastes of the yard and household, permits the production of significant amounts of food with only minimal reliance on outside resources. Any campaign to boost personal independence should start by helping people become gardeners—teaching, motivating, and making land available. Liberty doesn't end at the border of the garden, though. Home production of a variety of goods and services extends the idea of gardening. Both gardeners and non-gardeners can also grow their own bean sprouts, make some of their own clothes, become proficient at crafts, improve insulation of their home, and do similar home production tasks. Each such activity you learn makes you less dependent on others. Alternate-energy production is one of the most promising areas for improvement of personal independence. The whole idea of alternate energy is to offer people the choice of using less energy from public utilities, or avoiding them altogether. What you eat, whether or not you smoke or drink, how much you exercise—those are all independent decisions that bear on how early in life you will get degenerative disease, which is the most troublesome of all health problems. Even treatment of disease could be improved by fostering a greater spirit of personal independence. We need to learn more about how to take care of ourselves during illness. Any doctor will tell you that an intelligent patient, who knows how to observe and evaluate symptoms, can be treated with fewer drugs, and is therefore less likely to have side effects and will probably recover faster. Being totally dependent on the doctor is the worst way to act when sick. Another area where personal independence can pay big dividends is transportation. Walking and cycling are the most independent ways to get from one place to another, and it's no accident that they reward us with dollar savings as well as better health and more enjoyment. I'm not saying that we should walk or cycle everywhere, but walking and cycling are perfect examples of how increased personal independence can strengthen us as people and strengthen our country as well.

Needed—A Politics of Independence Personal independence is an idea with profound political importance, yet it is a non-partisan concept. Whether you are liberal or conservative in your thinking, or middle of the road, you can make good use of greater personal independence. Any free political philosophy that a community chooses to emphasize will work better if its citizens have greater independence. Perhaps that's because a government of independent people is by definition a smaller government, and is called on to provide fewer services. A government that is smaller can be observed more clearly, and is easier to manage, no matter which party is in charge. Can the political system be used to help us become more independent? I think it not only can, but must be used for that purpose. We are so tied up now by centralization, especially centralization of government functions and programs in Washington, that in spirit of peaceful revolution we must petition for loosening our present bonds of dependence. Only by sticking to a positive approach can we mount a unified effort for personal independence that will have the support of people of all political views. As a start, we should ask for a research program in personal independence. The development of new techniques and advanced technology is a potent force which has shaped our present society in many ways. Many millions are now being spent in research which is helping large institutions become bigger, and which as a result is squeezing out what little independence is left in us. We need a comparable effort to develop techniques that will help people work on their own, and do things for themselves. All the activities I've mentioned so far (plus more) could be helped immeasurably by a research program in independence. We need more study of improved methods of gardening, alternate energy production, health promotion, transportation, personalized home building, home production, and so forth. I can even visualize a National Institute of Independence, whose sole function would be the development of ways that the American people could partially unhook themselves from the web of dependence that has been created during the 200-year history as a nation. Someday we could even have a Secretary of Independence in the cabinet, presiding over a department that would be working for personal independence in a wide variety of ways. That may sound somewhat odd to you—asking Washington to help us become independent of the forces Washington represents so clearly, and even having an agent in Washington working toward that end. But the simple truth is that our dependence has increased to the point where we have to ask for help in changing the direction of our lives. It's also true that you and I, when aroused to write letters to our representatives, can get them to take note of our needs and maybe even take some action. Asking for a research effort to make personal independence more practical is really not such a big thing, and should be possible to achieve.

Source URL: http://www.organicgardening.com/living/new-declaration-of-independence

Links: [1] http://www.organicgardening.com/node/1995 [2] http://www.organicgardening.com/node/13839 [3] http://www.organicgardening.com/node/12134 [4] http://www.organicgardening.com/node/3204 [5] http://www.organicgardening.com/taxonomy/term/1008 [6] http://www.organicgardening.com/taxonomy/term/1001

September 1976 - Written 25 Years Ago - Applies Today ... Monte

Raw material allows U.S. wood pellet mills to meet needs | Forest Business Network

By Cal Bryant – The Tide Water News

Burning wood to produce heat has been practiced since cavemen figured out the ignition process.

Now, thousands of years later, this simple practice has resulted in an explosion of the need for wood-based products.

Fueling that need is an overseas market that has upped its demand for wood, particularly clean-burning pellets. The global wood pellet market has experienced a dramatic increase, from nearly 8 million tons per year in 2007 to more than 13 million tons in 2009. In 2009, the European countries alone consumed more than 8 million tons. In that same year, North American mills produced about 7 million tons of pellets, of which almost 5 million tons were intended for exports to Europe.

Leading countries in the consumption of pellets in Europe are Sweden, Austria and Finland, while Germany, France and Italy are experiencing the largest market growth in both capacity and consumption of pellets. In addition, countries such as Denmark, Belgium and Norway are experiencing the most significant increase of the region in pellet consumption.

So, with the increased demand, the European countries are noting a lack of production capacity to satisfy the internal needs, mainly due to the scarce availability of sustainable sources of raw material.

Seizing the opportunity to meet the needs of a growing demand, several companies have announced plans to open wood-pellet manufacturing facilities within the local region, including the old Georgia-Pacific plant in Ahoskie, N.C. and the former International Paper mill in Franklin.

“The short-term and long-term projections for wood pellet demand are varied, but all call for significant growth,” said Elizabeth Woodworth, spokeswoman for Enviva Biomass, a Richmond-based company that is building the Ahoskie plant.

“The demand in Europe is primarily driven by the commitment on the part of the EU (European Union) to reduce GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions by 2020 by using renewables to generate 20 percent of their energy,” Woodworth added.

Additionally, Wood Fuel Developers of Chester, Va., has plans for wood pellet mills in Greensville and Sussex counties. Franklin Pellets, a newly formed partnership between Multifuels and CMI, is eyeing the possibility of opening a wood pellet shop within a portion of the former IP mill in Franklin.

According to a trio of wood products experts at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, conditions are ripe for a massive increase in the production of wood pellets in the United States, particularly in the South due to favorable manufacturing conditions and the availability of raw materials.

In an article penned by Adrian Pirraglia, Ronalds Gonzalez and Daniel Saloni for the Biomass Power and Thermal Magazine, with the opening of several new facilities in the southern United States, the capacity for exports has expanded and European countries with demand for pellets, such as Sweden, Italy, Denmark and Norway, may take advantage of their better prices, faster shipping and a steady availability and supply of pellets from these U.S. mills. These countries may switch from their traditional Canadian supplier, depending on delivered prices and long-term supply agreements.

According to Enviva’s Glenn Gray, who is overseeing the construction of the Ahoskie mill, there are 96 pellet mills operating in North America. To date, six of those produce more than 100,000 tons a year. Enviva is starting up three new plants, including Ahoskie, each capable of producing in excess of 100,000 tons annually.

“We’re not investing money in this plant in Ahoskie because we believe the market for our product will develop, that we’re hoping someone will buy this product…we are doing this because we at Enviva believe in long-term relationships with our customers, who allow us to invest heavily in manufacturing infrastructure, and raw material supply chains who allow us to deliver wood fiber to that customer,” said Enviva President and CEO John Keppler during a “meet-and-greet” held in Hertford County earlier this year. “We’re not here just for today; we’re here for this generation and the next.”

The South has the ability to supply pellets for the European market at a competitive price because of enhanced production capacity due to a sustainable wood source from plantations. In addition, it may become a better alternative for European buyers than Canada because of the locations of ports, better road infrastructure and year-round harvesting.

Enviva has purchased the Giant Cement Co. port terminal on the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake for $11.7 million to export its wood biomass products, including those made in Ahoskie.

North Carolina State University researchers said it is important to emphasize that wood pellets are not a new product; they have been utilized for decades. But it is only now that the world is experiencing a large demand increase, and wood pellet potential is still underestimated.

Wood pellets represent an alternative to the use of coal, gas and even traditional wood logs and chips. Wood pellets are cylindrical, compressed wood particles used as burning fuel. Pellet size varies from one-fourth to one-third inches in diameter and 1 to 1.5 inches in length, with a bulk density that is two to three times the wood density of softwood.

Pellets offer better and more uniform heating properties per unit volume due to their low moisture content. Pellets burn cleaner, have reduced particulate emissions compared with coal, are more economical to transport due to increased bulk density and can be easily produced from wood waste and byproducts.

How Atheism Can Make the World Better By Tearing Down Religious Irrationality | | AlterNet

Atheism is not just about disproving religious belief; it's also a burgeoning social justice movement intent on tearing down the social structures that perpetuate injustice.

Few groups are as vilified as atheists. They tend to be viewed as party poopers bent on dismantling the cherished beliefs of "people of faith." While that element of the atheist community does exist--as is verified by the endless websites and books dedicated solely to tackling the logical flaws in religious claims--the reality is that the growing movement of outspoken atheists have far more on offer than winning arguments with people who believe in a god. Atheism is also a burgeoning social justice movement that looks to tear down the social structures that have perpetuated injustice for millennia.

Just as feminists take on the patriarchy, peace activists fight the ideology of war, civil rights activists and abolitionists dismantle the traditions of racism, and humanists erode authoritarian hierarchies, atheists are standing up and saying that the human race needs to evolve beyond religion. And it’s this social justice model that’s invigorating a new generation of atheists to move beyond just quietly disbelieving into openly challenging religious irrationality.

Blame the religious right for pushing atheists in this new, more political direction. The past couple of decades have seen an explosion in fundamentalist energy and power. The immediacy of the fundamentalist threat to science, education and human rights starkly demonstrates that the problem of religion extends beyond its inherent irrationality. Many atheists who find endless proofs against god tiring find themselves drawn to organized atheism as a weapon against this religious threat to liberty and free inquiry.

Even though many liberal religious people exist, at its base, the argument between god believers and atheists is roughly the same argument as that between conservatives and progressives. Liberalism is rooted in the humanist tradition, which demands that society and government prioritize human needs and desires, using the tools of rationality and evidence toward those goals. Conservativism values hierarchy and tradition and rejects evidence-based reasoning in favor of arguments from authority. The imaginary god provides the perfect conservative authority; a completely evidence-free, ultimate authority that can make pronouncements believers are expected to simply submit to. Submission and faith are built into even the most liberal Christian traditions, in direct contrast to the humanist philosophy of questioning and demanding evidence.

Humanism has given birth to progressivism by opening up space to question some of the oldest prejudices: the belief that men are better than women, that gays are “unnatural,” that different skin colors or ethnicities automatically means different roles and mental abilities, that people are wealthier because they’re more deserving, that kings rule by divine right. When you start asking hard questions of these other beliefs, you often discover that the rationale for all of them tends to circle back toward “God said so.” By questioning this most fundamental of beliefs, that there is a god and he’s making the rules, we can call into question the illogic of all these other beliefs.

Despite the atheist movement's emphasis on proofs against supernatural claims, many, if not most people who join the atheist movement came to atheism because they were questioning other beliefs and traditions. Certainly this was my path. I never really “believed” in god growing up, but I didn’t identify as an atheist either. I just didn’t think about the issue much. Feminism compelled me to start looking harder at religious arguments against women’s equality, and in doing so, I realized that without a forceful response to religious irrationality, feminist progress would be stymied. And so I started engaging logical arguments supporting what seemed self-evident to me, that there couldn’t be any gods, and therefore no supernatural beings whose authority can be invoked when anti-feminists lack real-world evidence for their claims.

I’m far from alone in this. Last November, when I spoke on feminism and atheism at the annual atheist/skeptical conference in Springfield, MO, I met dozens of young and eager atheists. A solid majority of them had come to the movement after feeling oppressed by religion. Some people had grown up in fundamentalist communities whose backward beliefs about gender and sexuality drove them to start asking questions, while others had dealt with conflicts between their own love of science and the claims of religion. Still others had mostly dealt with moderate or even liberal churches, but were disappointed by the way even the most liberal religions discourage hard questions. In other words, these people began from a position of valuing progressive ideals, and those values led them to the atheist community.

Online atheist communities find their secular values make a sort of “pure” atheism that’s largely apolitical and impossible to maintain. The popular atheist/skeptic website Skepchick started mainly to highlight women who support atheism, rational inquiry and science, but over time the site made a turn toward the explicitly feminist, in part because of the constant drumbeat of fact-free claims about women’s roles being made by religious figures in the media. Links between atheism and progressivism have also been easy to make for proponents of gay rights and sexual liberation, as demonstrated by recent research showing that those who lose their faith and embrace atheism report an improved sex life.

But atheist progressives shouldn’t feel limited to arguments about gender and sexuality when linking their atheism to broader issues. There’s plenty of room for an atheist environmentalism -- since there’s no afterlife, we should prioritize taking care of the one world we do have. Or an atheist economic liberalism -- since there’s no such thing as “providence,” it’s our responsibility to care for the poor and the needy.

Atheists are only by limited by our imaginations in seeking ways to make our lack of faith as central to our view of a just world as religious people make their faith central to their worldviews.

Jul 5, 2011

Hines Farm Broccoli - Garden to Dinner Table in 45 Minutes

Allrecipes.com - Top 20 Broccoli Recipes

The Best Broccoli of Your Life - The Amateur Gourmet

Broccoli Recipes - Food.com

Have a favorite Broccoli recipe? Let us know...Can't Beat Local Food... Monte

Hines Farm Kohlrabi - Simply Recipes

Hines Farm Kohlrabi - Larger Photo

Hines Farm Kohlrabi - Larger Photo

Hines Farm Raised Bed Compost Mulch Permaculture Garden

Simply Recipes.com - Kohlrabi

Have you ever eaten a kohlrabi? These little sputnik-shaped vegetables come in green or purple, can be eaten raw or cooked, and taste a lot like broccoli stems. The word kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip (kohl as in cole-slaw, and rübe for turnip) though kohlrabi is more related to cabbage and cauliflower than to root vegetables. We usually eat them raw, just peeled, sliced and added to a salad, but they are also delicious cooked and are often used in Indian cuisine.

If you come by some kohlrabi and are wondering what to make with them, we have a kohlrabi ham bake here on Simply Recipes and the following are several enticing ideas from other food blogs:

Kohlrabi Kalan with coconut and chiles, from My Cookbook Celeriac and kohlrabi rosti an Indian kohlrabi fritter from Rosa Jackson's Edible Adventures Kohlrabi and apple slaw from A Veggie Venture Roasted kohlrabi from A Veggie Venture Puréed kohlrabi from Farmgirl Fare Spicy kohlrabi sukke from Aayi's Recipes Kohlrabi curry from Cook's Hideout Kohlrabi and squash empanadas from Straight from the Farm Fennel and kohlrabi salad from Food Stories Kohlrabi remoulade from Nourish Me Quick kohlrabi pickles from Restaurant Widow 
Also Allrecipes.com- Kohlrabi Recipes


Have a favorite kohlrabi recipe? Let us know... Monte

Jul 4, 2011

As Missouri floods, anger spills over at Army Corps | McClatchy

Rising waters flood a farm in the spillway of Missouri farmland after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breeched the levee near Cairo, Illinois | E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/MCT

YANKTON, S.D. — Gary Schaeffer's grandkids ran to an overlook of Gavins Point Dam.

"Ooh, man. Ooh."

Schaeffer followed and looked down in disbelief. A riot of water roiled where he'd spent a lifetime of lazy fishing.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "Nothing even close."

Eight years out of a decade, 1,440-foot-wide floodgates spill not so much as a bucket of the brown water into the Missouri River.

Now, with the Missouri flooding at record levels over the past two months, enough is barreling out of Lewis and Clark Lake to cover a football field three-and-a-half feet deep every second. Water will race through the dam at that record rate, ultimately swamping farms and towns for hundreds of miles downstream, through August.

"When your bathtub is full, you just can't put any more water in it," said Dave Becker, the operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Gavins Point. "Water is going to spill over."

But how did the bathtub get so full? Why did the six huge Missouri River reservoirs — including Gavins Point, the farthest downstream — fill to the brim and force the months-long release of floodwater?

The short answer: The Corps could have prevented or drastically held down flooding by opening floodgates sooner. The reasons it didn't — reasons putting government water managers on the spot this summer — rest in a tangle of history, physics, meteorology and politics.

We had ample warning last winter that snow was piling on the Rockies. The Corps made room in its man-made lakes for the coming runoff. Just not enough.

Its engineers point out that the Corps was unaware of the torrents of rain that would deluge the Missouri basin in May. As the river now rises in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and floods soybean fields and hamlets to the north, the Corps insists it couldn't have predicted those storms.

The agency also says it was simply following orders — from us. Over lifetimes and through our politicians, we've said we don't just want those dams to protect us against cataclysm.

We want cheap electricity, and the system gives us plenty of hydropower.

The sparsely populated Dakotas want to keep the reservoirs close to full to draw boaters and sports fishermen, and to irrigate the lower reaches of their river valleys.

Downstream, farming interests want enough water to keep the Missouri River barge industry — a steadily shrinking business — alive.

All that means storing water in the reservoirs in the spring, not leaving empty space to protect against flooding.

"There's a natural tension there," said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, who commands the Corps division that manages the Missouri. "You can't say I'm only for navigation, I'm not for flood control or recreation or whatever....

"They're wicked problems."

In its December 2010 plan, the Corps set aside 22 percent of the capacity of the reservoirs to collect snowmelt and normal spring rains. A century-plus of weather data suggested that would provide enough room for the coming moisture even after a bad winter.

Creating more empty space in the reservoirs certainly was possible, but the competing needs for water — for navigation, power, recreation and other uses required by a mountain of regulations directed by Congress and the courts — explain why the Corps couldn't.

On March 2, with the previous month's snow in the Rockies having been estimated at as much as 50 percent above normal, the Missouri River Basin Forecast Center warned of "major (spring) flooding at many locations" from saturated soil, rain, and "significant snowpack" in the areas above the river.

Then came the unprecedented surprise: Torrential rains began falling in Montana and the upper Midwest, and in mid-May rainfall exceeded anything the Corps had seen in the last century.

The Corps appears to distrust long-range precipitation forecasts, placing much more confidence in history. Its river flood plan relies in large measure on an 1881 Missouri River flood, and each year includes five runoff and release models based on weather statistics back to the 19th century.

"The Corps...isn't very dynamic," said Diane Oerly, president of a Missouri-based group called Friends of Big Muddy. "And they're trying to deal with a dynamic being — the river. If all you do is look to the past to define reality, you can't be too accurate."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has called for a federal investigation of the Corps' decisions. Missouri state Sen. Brad Lager, a Republican who represents hundreds of flooded-out constituents, said the Corps' decisions border on the criminal because it failed to respond adequately to growing snowpack.

"Someone who does this for a living knew this was going to be a problem," Lager said.

McMahon said the criticism was misplaced.

"Nobody likes to have their livelihoods taken away," he said. "We had a whole bunch of unprecedented rain in the upper basin, and that rain fundamentally took away the flexibility that we had built into the system."

Still, there would have been virtually no flooding in 2011 had the Corps let loose far more water earlier. But to do so would have invited criticism from the commercial users of the river worried about drier times later in the year.

"The Missouri River is not a reflection of democratic values. It does not provide equal benefits to all valley residents," said Robert Schneiders, author of "Unruly River." "Instead, the bulk of its benefits go to a few individuals and interest groups in Missouri."

American Rivers, an environmental group that's long been critical of the Corps' management of the Missouri, concedes that it would be impractical to remove the dams — too much commerce depends on having a mostly tamed river.

But perhaps, the organization suggests, it's time to move levees farther back in less populated areas. Move homes out of the flood plain. Give the Missouri more elbow room.

"That way you get more natural storage below the dams," said Shana Udvardy, who studies flood management policy for the group.

In 2009 Congress authorized a five-year study of the current uses for the river, a $25 million effort that's under way but not fully funded. Downstream politicians have fought the study, attributing nefarious motives to its supporters.

David Pope, the executive director of the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes, said that after this year the Corps could gain flexibility to make flood protection a greater priority.

But doing so would risk the outrage of barge operators or municipal water systems left high and too dry at the end of a summer, Pope said. Had this year's rains not been so heavy and had the Corps had let out more water, upstream states likely would have sued for the damage done to their fishing guides and roadside motels.

"You just make a bigger flood pool and have less water in the storage for all the other uses," Pope said. "There is a direct conflict between flood control and navigation. Those are really direct tradeoffs, and you can't have it both ways."

For its part, the Corps promises to take another hard look at its prediction models.

"Now we have a new data point," McMahon said. "Now...we go back and ask if the flood control space is adequate. Should it be more? And if it should be more, at what cost to those other uses?"

(Helling and Canon report for The Kansas City Star.)


About Gavins Point Dam

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/07/03/116938/as-missouri-floods-anger-spills.html#ixzz1RCfe5pfR

Hard to please all... navigation, hydro-power, & flood control...  + recreation... Monte

I Pledge Allegiance to the Pole | Truthout

(Photo: Micah Taylor)

Monday 4 July 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom…

- Maya Angelou

There is a telephone pole outside my house - seven steps down the front porch, one step across the sidewalk, and there it is - that leans only slightly enough to the right to raise concern. It does it's job tolerably well, as least as well as its sagging brethren that hover along and above my tired old Brighton sidestreet. It offers no complaints. It does its duty.

Take a close look, however, and all of a sudden this simple, slightly splintered nondescript thing makes you think. There are at least three hundred nails sticking out of its old hide, and some of those nails look old enough to have held the Son and Savior Himself, in His well-documented agony, had this particular piece of pine been available on Golgotha.

Once upon a time a utility worker planted that pole in that spot, another utility worker strung the wild carnival of electrical wires that are still festooned above my house, and now I get to enjoy electricity and cable television and all the nonsense that goes along with both.

The nails in that pole will get you thinking if you look at them long enough. Hundreds of them, in spirals and straight lines and T-shapes, all over and up and down the thing. Buried deep, rusted to the quick, part of the essential wood now...and each one of them once carried a message. Lost Dog. Lost Cat. Ride Needed. Have You Seen This Girl. Concert Tonight. Strike Tomorrow.

Each message, once upon a time, was important enough to nail up, and each message is remembered now only by the nails left behind. The paper wound up in the river long ago, along with whatever message that was so important at the time, but the nails are still there for the counting in the old skin of the pole.

I feel like posting something up on that pole, you know, for the Fourth.

Something patriotic, straightforward and strong. "Eat The Rich" has been done, and there are children next door, so "F-----g F--k The F-----g F-----s" probably won't do. But the old, hoary history of that pole, all those nails and all those old, lost messages, seem to sing out for another post, another message, a simple shout nailed to the wood, nailed up and out there for all to see, like a blogger speaking his piece before anyone was stupid enough to come up with things like blogging in the first place.

What should I put up there next to all those old nails?

What, indeed?

I remember everything we aren't supposed to remember anymore. Things like "Free Trade" isn't free at all, that the "Free Market" is just another way to screw me and you out of a lifetime of labor and saving - might as well scrape the sweat off my brow and drink it right in my face - but be sure to vote for the Republican when you hit the voting booth, because we are all going to be rich like him someday. The American Dream says so, and as it turns out, so does he.

Funny how that works out. For him. Not so much for us.

I look at that old pole outside my home, at the lines of communication ranging from it to my house to the next house to the next pole, and beyond. A marvel of modernity. I can hear the low thrum of activity along those black, low-hanging wires, and I wonder...who else is listening? I have to ask, because, well, yeah. It isn't right, listening in on private conversations, but you see, we do that now. Been doing it for quite a while. Right here in America.

It's OK. The government says so. Shhh...not so loud. Someone might hear.

I remember America, and it was not always this way. I count on my fingers all the ways it is different now, and I run out of fingers before I am even half-started in the counting. And the spooky thing is all the people walking around who don't seem to see the difference like I see it. It is this way because it has always been this way, don't you know that, didn't you see the news last night?

I think about all those old nails in the wood of that pole. What messages did they carry? Were they important? Rust may never sleep, but it certainly tells no tales. The nails lie mute in the wood, slowly mouldering in time, their purpose long spent, and whatever word they were meant to carry is in the wind now. Along with so much else.

So much else.

Maybe I'm just a bad person. A bad American. A bummer. After all, it is a great country if you're rich, or white, or employed, but God help you if you're gay and in love, or a member of a Union, or a public-sector employee, or a teacher, because apparently this whole Godawful mess is on your head.

Never mind the bankers and the mortgage-lenders, never mind the hedge-fund hucksters, and for sure never mind the whores, frauds and snake-oil salesmen of our illustrious House and Senate who, in Congress after Congress and year after year, happily re-wrote the rules again and again so as to let the rabbits guard the lettuce...no, no. Shhh....

Never mind eight years of idiot rule by an idiot "president" empowered by an idiot "mainstream" news media. Never mind the two wars and two tax-cuts-for-rich-people that are basically every reason we are down in this ditch...but shhh....shhh...we don't talk about that.

Every single "responsible" person in the American power structure went along with what Mr. Bush was selling, because he peddled it neatly between solemn lines about how terrible 9/11 was for everyone...and now that the bill for Mr. Bush's bullshit has come due, and come due with a lethal, nation-shattering vengeance, all those "responsible" people are suddenly looking around like someone trying to avoid getting the check at the restaurant at the end of the night.

I remember America, and it was not always like this.

Pretty soon now, the fireworks are going to go off, and the Souza march will play, and the flag will be unfurled, and we will all be joined in an act of habitual adulation of God and country. We will cheer what was, and what was supposed to be, here in the ashes and dregs of what is. We will pledge allegiance to something that has been sold on the cheap right out from under us.

Want to know who really celebrates the Fourth of July? Look for the smiling ones in the limousines on Beacon Hill and Madison Avenue, the ones who raise toasts to their unimaginably bright future on the broken back of your American Dream. Pomp and circumstance, roll the fireworks, lights out, good night. They got their bailout, right?

I'm sure it must be nice to sleep so well.

Lousy communists, I say. Living off the public tit. Right?



I remember America. Once upon a time, before a corporate-owned tsunami washed away everything that matters, there was this idea. It was dirty and unwashed and espoused by slave-owners and woman-haters, but it was an idea that became America. The genius of those stuffy old geezers was their uncanny ability to create a self-improving democracy. Slaves? Fixed. Women can't vote? Fixed. Separate but equal? Fixed. Reproductive Choice? Fixed.

Messy? Bet on it. Much left to be done? Damn straight. A long, grueling struggle? Indeed. Light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to that self-improving quality at the heart of the idea itself?

Well...it was there, once upon a time. The bastards have done an admirable job of snuffing out any genuine chances at self-improvement, but democracy keeps managing to bust out at the seams. Just ask the great state of New York.


Oh yeah.

I remember.

I'm going to nail something up on that old phone pole outside. Something simple. The pole won't begrudge me one more nail.

How's this grab you?

"I Remember America"

What the hell, right? Maybe someone else does, too .


If we are honest, we all remember that America, and it is worth fighting to get it back... Let's get to work...!!! Monte

The Warning | FRONTLINE | PBS

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

"We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency -- the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] -- who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?" (more ») Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/#ixzz1RATnX7hi

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

"I didn't know Brooksley Born," says former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, a member of President Clinton's powerful Working Group on Financial Markets. "I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable." Levitt explains how the other principals of the Working Group -- former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- convinced him that Born's attempt to regulate the risky derivatives market could lead to financial turmoil, a conclusion he now believes was "clearly a mistake."
Born's battle behind closed doors was epic, Kirk finds. The members of the President's Working Group vehemently opposed regulation -- especially when proposed by a Washington outsider like Born.

"I walk into Brooksley's office one day; the blood has drained from her face," says Michael Greenberger, a former top official at the CFTC who worked closely with Born. "She's hanging up the telephone; she says to me: 'That was [former Assistant Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers. He says, "You're going to cause the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II."... [He says he has] 13 bankers in his office who informed him of this. Stop, right away. No more.'"

Greenspan, Rubin and Summers ultimately prevailed on Congress to stop Born and limit future regulation of derivatives. "Born faced a formidable struggle pushing for regulation at a time when the stock market was booming," Kirk says. "Alan Greenspan was the maestro, and both parties in Washington were united in a belief that the markets would take care of themselves."

Now, with many of the same men who shut down Born in key positions in the Obama administration, The Warning reveals the complicated politics that led to this crisis and what it may say about current attempts to prevent the next one.

"It'll happen again if we don't take the appropriate steps," Born warns. "There will be significant financial downturns and disasters attributed to this regulatory gap over and over until we learn from experience."
Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/#ixzz1RATusmfs

Must see show...  Brooksley Born is an incredible brave public servant... We need more Brooksley Born's... This show is great, great, great eye opener on why regulation is needed in the financial sector to protect working class dollars...  To hear what "know it all" power brokers are saying about Brooksley Born ideas now is 180 degrees from what they were saying about her before... Monte

Protect America's Heartbeat

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association

Federal worker retirement system under attack!

Federal employees ensure our food is safe and our air is healthy. Some spend their days fighting the spread of infectious disease, while others raise the alarm whenever a storm is coming.

We depend on federal workers in all 50 states to keep America strong. And they've already sacrificed pay and benefits to help solve our nation's budget woes, even though they didn't cause our economic crisis.

Yet according to recent reports, the federal worker retirement system “has emerged as a key target” in negotiations about our national debt. It's not right – and we need to speak out now.

Tell Washington: Federal workers Protect America's Heartbeat. Reject additional cuts to their pay and benefits.You can read the full text of the letter below.

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To President Obama, your senators, and representative:

I'm writing today to express my strong opposition to any plan to impose an additional tax on federal workers by increasing the amount they are required to contribute to their annuities. According to recent reports in the Washington Post, House, Senate, and White House representatives in budget negotiations are open to changes in federal civilian retirement funding - even though the Federal employee annuity fund is actuarially sound and federal workers, who did not cause our budget crisis, have already accepted a two-year pay freeze to help solve the budget problem.

If such a retirement annuity funding plan goes through, 17.4 percent of a federal employee's salary before taxes would go to the government. This proposed tax will overburden lower-wage earners who, because of the tax, won't be able to contribute as much of their salary to their Thrift Savings Plans.

Private companies do not require their workers to contribute to their pension funds, but federal workers have been paying into our trust fund since it was created. It is unfair to expect federal workers to pay even more. Just like those before them, current federal workers continue to serve the federal government at an estimated 22 percent lower wages than their private sector counterparts. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity is, on average, $944 per month. In fact, because of the two-year pay freeze, federal employees would pay more for a smaller annuity. Losing this incentive puts the nation further at risk of not maintaining a talented and capable work force.

In addition, I am strongly opposed to any other attacks on federal workers or retirees, including any reductions in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Federal workers are the inspectors who ensure the food our families eat is safe, and the federal intelligence officers who just did their part to catch the world's most wanted terrorist - they protect America's heartbeat, and should not be made into budget scapegoats and singled out unfairly.

Go back to the top to send this letter.

Jul 3, 2011

Video: Ducks blown off their feet by the wind - Telegraph

Original without music... Video with music - "Against the Wind" 7:50PM GMT 03 Dec 2010
A mother duck and her 12 duckling were crossing an open stretch of land at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada, on a windy day when a particularly strong gust of wind blew the family off their feet.
The ducklings were sent skidding and rolling more than 20 feet across the paved surface and even the mother duck, who spread her wings for balance, suffered an undignified tumble.
When the wind subsided, the ruffled but apparently unhurt avian convoy were able to quickly reform and carry on their crossing.
The incident was captured by a 31-year-old Californian tourist who was visiting Toronto at the time.
Nature teaches... Pick yourself up and go on...

Thanks Mike Smith for the video! ...Monte