Dec 10, 2011

Timber Frame Tools » Bandsaw Milling Sled

By swirt on June 28, 2010
I had a need to take relatively small diameter (~8″) logs and mill them into lumber. I have a lot of fallen cedar trees in the area and I wanted to be able to mill some logs for use. I researched a lot of bandsaw sleds for re-sawing, but they all seemed to have the limitation of only being able to do either long lumber or short lumber. They did not do the full range. So I had to get a little creative.

The solution I came up with is pretty simple, very flexible, and very inexpensive. It does lack precision, so it is not intended for resawing veneer or final dimmensioning of lumber.

This shows the pipeclamp in place on the bandsaw milling sled.
Bandsaw Mill Sled Design

The sled is made using a pine 1×8″ (or wider based on your bandsaw). Ideally the width should be larger than whatever the distance is from the edge of the blade to the inside edge of the miter slot on your bandsaw table. The first time you run the sled through, it will trim the sled to the perfect width. I recommend pine because it is light yet stil strong. Being inexpensive doesn’t hurt either. I made mine 8′ long because that was the maximum length that I could forsee myself cutting. In reality you can can actually cut a log a few feet longer than the sled by having the pipe run longer. The edge of the sled that is farthest from the blade gets a runner glued and screwed in place. The thickness of the runner will have to be adjusted to match the width of the miter slot on your bandsaw. I made mine out of Douglas Fir because pine is a bit too soft.

This is the tail end of the sawmill sled. You can see the main board with the runner on the right edge. Notice that the pipe clamp saddles have one screw in the runner and one in the board.

The log is secured using a Jorgensen Deep Reach pipe clamp, a 3/4″ steel pipe. Ordinary pipe clamps will not have enough reach to secure a log(because the log is round) but may be used to secure already square stock. There is also an extra deep reach pipe clamp you can get if you have a very large bandsaw. I have one of these large clamps, but it is too big as it could actually come into contact with the blade of my saw, so I don’t use it.

The pipe is secured to the sled using Jorgensen pipe clamp saddles. The saddles are aluminum and have a thumbscrew to secure the pipe. This is handy because the pipe can easily be swapped in and out for different lengths as needed. I usually use a 6′ piece and add a 2″ extention if needed. For my 8 ft sled I used 6 saddles (1 every 18″) but if you wanted to be assured of less deflection of the pipe, you could use more. Keep in mind that you have to slide the pipe out of the saddles in order to move the clamping head if you are moving it more than the distance between the saddles. So adding more saddles makes it more difficult to adjust lengths.
Reinforce your Rollerstand

The wood of the sled and the pipeclamp makes the sled fairly heavy. Combine that with the log you are trying to mill and the weight can get pretty significant. You definitely need some kind of roller stand both in front of the bandsaw and on the outfeed side. I quickly found that my roller stands were not strong enough to stay horizontal. The weight of the log is usually not centered on the roller so it would tilt the roller.

For cutting large logs, it is important to reinforce the squareness of the roller. Position is important. Notice the sled runner is alinged to miss the edge of the roller.

I solved this issue by simply bolting some square cut braces of wood to the roller assembly. Overall, rollerstands like this are a pain in the neck because they need to be at a right angle to the path of the sled in order to keep it rolling straight. The weight of the wood and the weight of the sled make this even more pronounced and can lead to binding the sled in the miter slot. Ballbearing based roller stands are a much better choice. In the photo above, note that the edge of the roller needs to just miss the runner so that the flat bottom of the sled is the only part making contact with the roller.
Bandsaw Sawmill Sled in Use

To make the sled more functional I used a combination square and a pencil to run pencil lines down the entire lenght of the sled. I spaced them 1/2″ apart. These become my reference lines for the cutting. When I orient the log for the first cut, I mark the center of each end with a pencil. I then align this pencil mark on each end with a specific reference line on the sled. Which line is not that import, it just has to be the same line.

In this photo you can just make out the pencil lines that run the length of the sled. Notice also that unlike ordinary pipe clamps, the clamping head slides instead of the tail.

I first align the tail end of the log to a specific line, then go align the other end, then go back and see if the first end moved. It almost always moves a little bit. After a few adjustments I can tighten the clamp down and secure the log. Due to a little bit of flex in the iron pipe, the front end of the log almost always shifts a bit toward the blade. Typically about 3/8″ for a 6 foot log. The longer the log, the more it will shift. I try to take that into account when I align the front and actually plan it so that when I tighten the clamp it shifts out to where I want it. It sometimes takes a few attempts(nothing major).

The sawmill sled is ready for the first cut on the log.

From here, I turn on the bandsaw and start pushing the sled through. The sled is almost an inch high, so it reduces the amount of resaw capacity on your bandsaw by just under an inch. My bandsaw has a 8-1/2″ resaw capacity, so the biggest log I can mill is about 7″ in diameter.

Here the cut is quartering, half a log.

When the first cut is done, I unclamp the log, move the sled and log back to the starting position, then put the newly cut edge face down on the sled. I again use the pencil mark indicating the center of the log to align the log with the reference lines. I then push the sled through again. Now I have two faces at right angles to each other. At this point I can use the sled to cut off a slab of whatever thickness I want.
Safety Concerns
Safety glasses and hearing protection are a must
When pushing the sled from the back, I always push by putting my hand onto the tail-piece of the clamp. The clamp can’t contact the blade, so neither can my hand.
Since logs are round, you have to be careful not only of the blade entering the log at the top (usual concerns for a bandsaw), but you also have to watch out for the blade exiting the log because the log is not flush to the table.
I keep a couple of shims and a mallet handy and drive a shim into the end of the log once I am a foot or so in. This helps prevent the blade from binding in the kerf and stalling the saw.
Density of logs can vary within the log. It can be dense and slow cutting in one section then go into easy cutting punky stuff without warning, so don’t push too hard on the sled AND keep aware of where your hands would go if the log slipped. Keep them out of the path of the blade.

For my uses (not fine furniture) this sled makes it pretty easy to turn small logs into lumber, and that makes me happy.

A SOBER LOOK AT U.S. NATURAL GAS | PRAGMATIC CAPITALISM

By Walter Kurtz, SoberLook.com

Looking back at a two year old post on natural gas called “Natural gas prices below zero?“, it feels as though we are back to the same price dynamics. Price for the “nearby” Henry Hub contract hit new lows today at $3.317/mmBtu.


What is driving this price collapse? As before it is the usual suspects: limited storage, strong production (particularly in US shale), increasing reserves, and warm weather. Let’s take a quick look at the first three.

1. Storage: The chart below compares current storage usage versus the historical range based on where we in the seasonal cycle (inventory drops off in the winter and increases the rest of the year). Just as in 2010 and 2009 we are at the top of the range and may go even higher if the weather in the NE & Midwest stays warm.

Source (EIA)


2. Production continues at rates significantly above historical levels.

Source: EIA


This growth is driven by a rapid increase in shale gas production. According to EIA, the US shale production increased 14-fold since 2000 and is now 22% of total US production.

Source: EIA


3. And estimated reserves in the US continue to increase.

Source: EIA


It is almost as though the US is becoming the Saudi Arabia of natural gas but with limited export capabilities. No real support for natural gas prices is expected to come until 2013. According to a Goldman report this support will come from moderation in production growth and environmental restrictions that will force conversion from coal burning to natural gas.


Goldman: 2013 shaping up as a transition year to a more balanced market We expect 2013 to be a transition year, with the market’s reliance on priceinduced responses (e.g. need for coal-to-gas substitution) diminishing as US shale gas production growth moderates, economic growth improves and looming increased environmental restrictions – notably, CSAPR Phase 2 and Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) – further boost gas-fired generation at the expense of coal. On net, we expect less priceinduced coal-to-gas switching will be needed than in 2012, allowing prices to move higher, and are introducing a 2013 NYMEX natural gas price forecast of $4.25/mmBtu

Until then if the weather stays warm, there is no telling how low natural prices could drop.

Dec 9, 2011

Winter Fun and Fitness Program - Chainsaw Slabbing Logs - 12-9-2011

Slabbed several logs today with carriage chainsaw mill and new ripping chain... worked well! Monte 


Larger Photo


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Related Links:
http://www.permies.com/t/12861/woodland-care/anyone-ever-rip-cross-cut#118094

Exclusive: Ex-Greek PM George Papandreou on Greece's Fiscal Crisis and Why He Backs Occupy Movement


In an exclusive interview, we speak with former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is attending the U.N. climate change summit in Durban, South Africa. Papandreou was forced to resign last month when he suggested holding a national referendum to allow the Greek people to have a say in whether they would accept the European Union’s bailout plan which would necessitate severe austerity cuts. We speak to Papandreou about the financial crisis, the role of banks and the importance of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. "The Occupy Wall Street movements ... are saying something very, very specific. That inequality in the end is an inequality of power. And we need to redistribute power, not just money. Power –– and this is I think the Democratic challenge that we have today," Papandreou says.

Impressed with this intelligent man's world view... Worth the watch... Monte

The Real History of 'Corporate Personhood': Meet the Man to Blame for Corporations Having More Rights Than You | Books | AlterNet

The real history of today's excessive corporate power starts with a tobacco lawyer appointed to the Supreme Court.
December 6, 2011

1973 Supreme Court

The following is an excerpt of Jeffrey Clement's Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It.) Click here to order a copy.

In 1971, Lewis Powell, a mild-mannered, courtly, and shrewd corporate lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, soon to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court, wrote a memorandum to his client, the United States Chamber of Commerce. He outlined a critique and a plan that changed America.

Lewis Powell, like the Citizens United dissenter Justice John Paul Stevens, was a decorated World War II veteran who returned to his hometown to build a most respected corporate law practice. By all accounts, Powell was a gentleman — reserved, polite, and gracious — and a distinguished lawyer and public servant. Commentators and law professors cite Powell’s “qualities of temperament and character” and his “modest” and “restrained” approach to judging. At his funeral in 1998, Sandra Day O’Connor, who had joined the Supreme Court in 1987, said, “For those who seek a model of human kindness, decency, exemplary behavior, and integrity, there will never be a better man.” Even the rare critic will cite Lewis Powell’s decency and kindness.

Much about these accounts must be true, but none tells the whole story of Lewis Powell. All of them, and even the principal Powell biography, omit the details of how he used his gifts to advance a radical corporate agenda. It is impossible to square this corporatist part of Powell’s life and legacy with any conclusion of “modest” or “restrained” judging.


Powell titled his 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” He explained, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.” In response, corporations must organize and fund a drive to achieve political power through “united action.” Powell emphasized the need for a sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to shape “social, economic and political change” to the advantage of corporations.

Powell continued:

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

The roots of Citizens Unitedlie in Powell’s 1971 strategy to use “activist” Supreme Court judges to create corporate rights. “Under our constitutional system,” Powell told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”

Powell’s call for a corporate rights campaign should not be misunderstood as a “conservative” or “moderate” reaction to the excesses of “liberals” or “big government.” Rather, to understand the perspective of Powell and his allies is to understand the difference between a conservative and a corporatist.

Powell and the Tobacco Corporations Show the Way

By the time of his 1971 memorandum, Lewis Powell was a director of more than a dozen international corporations, including Philip Morris Inc., a global manufacturer and seller of cigarettes. Powell joined Philip Morris as a director in 1964, when the United States surgeon general released the most devastating and comprehensive report to date about the grave dangers of smoking. He remained a director of the cigarette company until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1971. Powell also advised the Tobacco Institute, the cigarette lobby that finally was exposed and stripped of its corporate charter in the 1990s after decades of using phony science and false statements to create a fraudulent “debate” about smoking and health.

The story of the cigarette corporations and their response to public efforts to address addiction, smoking, and health is a big piece of the larger story of how corporate rights took such significant pieces of the Constitution and American democracy. The ideas expressed by Powell in his 1971 memorandum to the Chamber of Commerce came out of his personal involvement in the aggressive resistance of the cigarette corporations to efforts to address the devastating social and public costs of its lethal products. As a director and an executive committee member of Philip Morris, Powell shared responsibility for the fraudulent attack on the conclusions of scientists and the surgeon general by the cigarette industry and for its false insistence for years that “no proof” showed cigarettes to be unhealthy.

Hints of this work can be seen in the Philip Morris annual reports issued during Powell’s tenure as a director, which reflected the broader campaign of the company and the cigarette industry to discredit the science about smoking and health and to misrepresent the facts to keep people smoking and get young people to start. We now know, thanks to the 2007 findings of a federal judge, that many of the assertions in these annual reports were knowingly false. According to the reports themselves, these statements and others were made “on behalf of the Board of Directors,” including Powell:

• 1964: “The industry continues to support major research efforts directed towards resolving the many unanswered questions on smoking and health.”

• 1967: “The year 1967 was marked by an intensification of exaggerated claims made relative to the possible adverse health effects of smoking on health. ... We deplore the lack of objectivity in so important a controversy. ... Unfortunately the positive benefits of smoking which are so widely acknowledged are largely ignored by many reports linking cigarettes and health, and little attention is paid to the scientific reports which are favorable to smoking.”

• 1967: “We would again like to state that there is no biological proof that smoking is causally related to the diseases and conditions claimed to be statistically associated with smoking ... no proof that the tar and nicotine levels in smoke are significant in relation to health.”

• 1969: “No biological or clinical proof that smoking is causally related to human disease ... serious doubt that smoking is a causative factor in heart disease.”

• 1970: “Often the scientific information which is relied on to indict cigarette smoking is of dubious validity.”

Absent convincing evidence, it might be reckless to say that Philip Morris and the other tobacco corporations engaged in a willful, aggressive, wide-ranging conspiracy and racketeering enterprise so that the corporations could sell more products that kill people. But now that the evidence is in, we know that that is exactly what happened. We know this thanks to scientists, victims of the conspiracy, state attorneys general (both Democrats and Republicans), the United States Department of Justice (under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), and Judge Gladys Kessler and a panel of U.S. Court of Appeals judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush.

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice took the cigarette corporations to trial, alleging that they had engaged in a racketeering conspiracy. Eighty-four witnesses testified in the nine-month trial, and hundreds of internal corporate secrets were finally exposed. When the verdict came in, Judge Kessler concluded that “overwhelming evidence” proved that the cigarette corporations “conspired together” to fraudulently deny that cigarettes caused cancer, emphysema, and a long list of other fatal diseases; to manipulate levels of highly addictive nicotine to keep people smoking; to market addictive cigarettes to children so that the corporations would have “replacement smokers” for those who quit or died; and that they “concealed evidence, destroyed documents, and abused the attorney-client privilege to prevent the public from knowing about the dangers of smoking and to protect the industry” from justice.

As counsel to the cigarette industry and as a Philip Morris director, Powell already had begun testing the use of activist-minded courts to create corporate rights. In one case in the late 1960s, Powell argued that any suggestion that cigarettes caused cancer and death was “not proved” and was “controversial.” Therefore, according to Powell, the Federal Communications Commission wrongly violated the First Amendment rights of cigarette corporations by refusing to require “equal time” for the corporations to respond to any announcement that discouraged cigarette smoking as a health hazard.

Even the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in the tobacco-friendly South, rejected this claim. Although Powell lost that time, he went on to win far more than he could have imagined after he got on the Supreme Court and helped change the Constitution.

Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce laid out a corporate rights and a corporate power campaign. The Chamber and the largest corporations then implemented these recommendations with zeal, piles of money, patience, and an activist Supreme Court. In equating corporations with “We, the People” in our Constitution, no justice would be more of an activist than Lewis Powell after he joined the Supreme Court in 1972.

1972: Powell Gets His Chance

In January 1972, President Nixon filled two Supreme Court vacancies, appointing Powell to one seat and William Rehnquist, a conservative Republican lawyer from Phoenix, Arizona, to the other. Rehnquist never hid his conservative views, which were well known and, to some, controversial. At the same time, neither Congress nor most Americans knew of Powell’s radical corporatist views. In his Senate confirmation hearing, no one asked about his recent proposal to the Chamber of Commerce recommending the use of an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to impose those views on the nation. No one asked because neither Powell nor the Chamber of Commerce disclosed the memo during his confirmation proceedings.

Once on the Court, these two Nixon appointees followed very different paths. Justice Powell would go on to write the Court’s unprecedented decisions creating a new concept of “corporate speech” in the First Amendment. Using this new theory, the Court struck down law after law in which the states and Congress sought to balance corporate power with the public interest. With increasing assertiveness by the Supreme Court even after Powell retired in 1987, the new corporate rights theory has invalidated laws addressing the environment, tobacco and public health, food and drugs, financial regulation, and more.


Powell helped shape a new majority to serve the interest of corporations, but for years, several vigorous dissents resisted the concept of corporate rights. The most vigorous came from the conservative Justice William Rehnquist. He grounded his dissents in the fundamental proposition that our Bill of Rights sets out the rights of human beings, and corporations are not people. For years, Rehnquist maintained this principled conservative argument, warning over and over again that corporate rights have no place in our republican form of government.

Here Come the Foundations

Despite the Rehnquist dissents, Powell’s vision of an unregulated corporate political “marketplace,” where corporations are freed by activist courts from the policy judgment of the majority of people, won out. Powell, of course, could not have acted alone. He could not have moved a majority of the Court to create corporate rights if no one had listened to his advice to organize corporate political power to demand corporate rights. Listen they did — with the help of just the sort of massive corporate funding that Powell proposed.


Corporations and corporate executives funded a wave of new “legal foundations” in the 1970s. These legal foundations were intended to drive into every court and public body in the land the same radical message, repeated over and over again, until the bizarre began to sound normal: corporations are persons with constitutional rights against which the laws of the people must fall.

Huge corporations, including Powell’s Philip Morris, invested millions of dollars in the Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center and other legal foundations to bring litigation demanding new corporate rights. In rapid succession, corporations and supporters funded the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Mid-Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Mid-America Legal Foundation, the Great Plains Legal Foundation (Landmark Legal Foundation), the Washington Legal Foundation, the Northeastern Legal Foundation, the New England Legal Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Capital Legal Center, the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, and many others.

These foundations began filing brief after brief challenging state and federal laws across the country, pounding away at the themes of corporations as “persons,” “speakers” and holders of constitutional rights. Reading their briefs, one might think that the most powerful, richest corporations in the history of the world were some beleaguered minority fighting to overcome oppression. The foundations and the corporate lawyers argued that “corporations are persons” with the “liberty secured to all persons.” They used new phrases like “corporate speech,” the “rights of corporate speakers,” and “the corporate character of the speaker.” They demanded, as if to end an unjust silence, “the right of corporations to be heard” and “the rights of corporations to speak out.”

This corporate campaign sought to redefine the very role of corporations in American society. The message was insistent: We should no longer think of corporations as useful but potentially insidious industrial economic tools. We should no longer be concerned that corporations might leverage massive economic power into massive political power or trample the public interest for the profit of the few. Instead, we should think of corporations as pillars of liberty, institutions that Americans can trust. They would protect our freedom for us. They would stand up to “bad” government for us.

A 1977 brief of the Chamber of Commerce, for example, argued that the Court should strike down a state law that limited corporate political spending in citizens’ referendum elections because corporations help maintain our freedoms: “Business’s social role is to provide the people a valuable service which helps maintain their freedoms. ... The statute at issue prevents the modern corporation from fulfilling a major social obligation. ... ”

By 1978, the millions of dollars invested in the radical corporate rights campaign began to pay off. The first major victory for the corporate rights advocates came in 1978, with a corporate attack on a Massachusetts law in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. Several international corporations — including Gillette, the Bank of Boston, and Digital Equipment Corporation — filed a lawsuit after the people of Massachusetts banned corporate political spending intended to influence a citizen referendum. Justice Lewis Powell cast the deciding vote and wrote the 5–4 decision wiping off the books the people’s law intended to keep corporate money out of citizen ballot questions. For the first time in American history, corporations had successfully claimed “speech” rights to attack laws regulating corporate money in our elections.

With that success, an emboldened corporate rights campaign next attacked energy and environmental laws. In the 1982 case of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation v. Public Service Corporation of New York, utility corporations and the array of corporate legal foundations all argued that a New York law prohibiting utility corporations from promoting energy consumption violated the corporations’ rights of free speech. The corporations won again, and again Justice Powell wrote the decision for the activist Supreme Court that he had imagined in his 1971 Chamber of Commerce memo. The corporate interest in promoting energy consumption for corporate profit trumped the people’s interest in energy conservation. Over a period of six years, Justice Powell wrote four key corporate rights decisions for the Supreme Court. These unprecedented cases transformed the people’s First Amendment speech freedom into a corporate right to challenge public oversight and corporate regulation.

Powell led a majority of the Court to accept the repeated mantra that “corporations are persons” and corporate “voices” must be free, and the sustained attacks on the people’s laws continued for the next two decades. Oil, coal, and utility corporations, tobacco corporations, chemical and pharmaceutical corporations, alcohol corporations, banking and other Wall Street corporations, and many others all successfully claimed corporate speech rights to invalidate federal, state, and local laws. As you will see in Chapter Two, corporations even succeeded in attacking the right of parents to know whether the milk they fed their children came from cows treated with Monsanto’s genetically engineered recombinant DNA bovine drug.

In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center celebrated thirty years of using judicial activism on behalf of corporations and admitted that it was “the brainchild of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.” The brainchild, with its motto of “Business Is Our ONLY Client,” bragged about such “victories” as convincing the Supreme Court to throw out a decision by a jury of people to impose punitive damages for the unlawful conduct of Philip Morris, Inc.

The Consequences

The success of the Powell–Chamber of Commerce plan transformed American law, government, and society, with two devastating consequences for the country. First, corporations gained new political power at the expense of average citizens and voters. Corporations poured out money to lobbying and election campaigns and to help friendly politicians and hurt unfriendly politicians. With even modest reform crushed by corporate rights decisions such as Bellotti v. First National Bank of Boston — and now much more so, Citizens United — corporations could threaten “independent expenditure” campaigns against politicians who did not bend their way. Corporate money to influence legislative votes and politician behavior lost its scandalous, shameful nature. Bags of corporate cash were no longer bags of cash; they were “speech.” How could “speech” be corrupt or scandalous?

Washington and many state capitals became playgrounds for corporate lobbyists, and our elected representatives became increasingly disconnected from the will of the people. With the new, organized corporate radicalism, staggering amounts of corporate money flooded Washington and our political system. Between 1998 and 2010, for example, the Chamber of Commerce spent $739 million on lobbying. Pharmaceutical and health care corporations spent more than $2 billion on lobbying in the past twelve years. Three corporations seeking military contracts, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed, and Boeing, spent more than $400 million on lobbying. GE Corporation ($237 million), AT&T ($162 million), the pharmaceutical corporate lobby PHRMA ($195 million), ExxonMobil ($151 million), Verizon ($149 million), and many more corporations all joined the lobby- fest.25 Financial, labor, energy, environmental, health, trade, and other legislation and policy tilted in favor of corporate interests; the hurdles for advancing the public interest became much higher.

Second, the successful corporate rights campaign created a corporate trump card over public interest laws. If laws that were inconvenient to corporate business models somehow made it through the corporate lobbyist machine, corporations now had constitutional “rights” to attack the laws in the courts. It no longer mattered if the majority of people and our representatives chose laws to curb pollution, require disclosure, protect the public health, or nurture small businesses and local economies. The democratic process was no longer enough to decide the issue. After the creation of “corporate speech” rights, it was now up to federal judges to decide whether the law served an “important” state interest and was not too “burdensome.”

The Lost Promise of Earth Day

On that far-off Earth Day in 1970, Americans reclaimed the water, air, land, and forests that belong to all of us and to our descendants. We reclaimed the promise of government of the people, where people and our representatives would weigh, debate, and decide the balance of private and public, corporate and human. Since that spring day in 1970, we have pushed resources and the ecological systems on which life depends to the breaking point. Even as the oil, gas, and coal corporations mimic the strategy of the cigarette corporations to create a fraudulent “controversy” and “open question” about the global warming “hoax,” we have ripped past the point of no return on climate pollution.


While the evidence of national and global environmental destruction at a level that will challenge our civilization and way of life is more compelling now than in 1970, our leaders in government are not even debating, let alone enacting, possible solutions. Incredibly, the current debate in Congress is not what we can do to save our world but whether Congress should strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate pollution that causes the global climate crisis.

Corporate media might tell you that the reason for inaction is that Americans oppose environmental regulation and oppose drastic changes to address the energy and environmental crisis. Yet there is little reason to believe that this is true. In fact, try an experiment. Find a moment to talk seriously in a nonpolitical, non-confrontational way with your friends, neighbors, or family members, regardless of what political party or philosophy they may favor. I bet that you will find that they too think that we cannot continue to rely on corporations to protect freedom for us and that corporate business as usual will condemn us to disastrous energy, economic, and environmental policies and ensure that we pass to our children a very bleak and weak nation and world.

This basic understanding of the connection between our state of decline and crisis on one hand and our corporate-driven energy, environmental, economic, foreign and military policy on the other, is one of the many points of consensus among the American people that the corporatist political elite ignores. According to an independent, nonpartisan 2010 Pew Research poll, for example, huge majorities of Americans favor better fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (79 percent), more funding for alternative energy (74 percent), more spending on mass transit (63 percent), and tax incentives for hybrid or electric vehicles (60 percent).

Similarly, for years, most Americans have supported, and still support, stronger, not weaker, environmental and energy policies. This is true even in times of recession, terrorism, and deep concern about budgets.26 From 1995 to 2008, when the independent multiyear Gallup poll was last done, through every variety of political environment, from good economies to bad, from terrorist attacks to war, the American people have been consistent in the response. More than twice as many Americans say we need “additional, immediate, and drastic action” to prevent major environmental disruption, compared to those who say “we should just take the same actions we have been taking on the environment.” The percentage of those identifying a need for “drastic, immediate action” was 35 percent in 1995, 38 percent in 2007, and 34 percent in 2008. When you add in those who say “we should take some additional action,” the range of Americans who want better, stronger, tougher environmental protection has stayed between 80 and 90 percent over the past ten years. The percentage of those who chose the status quo answer (“we should just take the same actions we have been taking on the environment”) has ranged from 13 to 20 percent.

For years, most of us have known that the gathering and urgent environmental and energy crisis cannot be ignored, but what has our government done? Maintain the status quo, more or less, and usually much less as the global environmental crisis has worsened and the demand for fossil fuel exploitation soars.

Polls are not infallible, but I suspect that these results would be duplicated in most family discussions around the dinner table. And I believe that we would see a similar disconnect between what people know about the state of our nation and the world and what the corporate-dominated government does. Whether the issue is the environment, the economy, the decades-long wars in the Middle East and bloated military budgets, agri-corporate subsidies and industrial food systems, or corporate welfare, what most people think or want out of our government does not matter much anymore.

We have become accustomed to thinking that we cannot change, that our problems are too big, that our government can- not be effective. This was not always so, and it does not have to be so now. The choice we face in America now about whether to succeed or fail begins with our choice about whether we agree with Lewis Powell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate rights movement that massive, global corporate entities are the same as people.

(Click here to order a copy of Jeffrey Clement's Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It.)

Understanding the Conservative Mind: Why Reactionaries from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin Have Fought Real Liberty | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet

Historically, conservatism has been driven by the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.
December 8, 2011


The following excerpt is reprinted from The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin with permission from Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have marched against their superiors in the state, church, workplace, and other hierarchical institutions. They have gathered under different banners--the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism--and shouted different slogans: freedom, equality, rights, democracy, revolution. In virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them, violently and nonviolently, legally and illegally, overtly and covertly. That march and demarche of democracy is the story of modern politics or at least one of its stories.

This book is about the second half of that story, the demarche, and the political ideas--variously called conservative, reactionary, revanchist, counterrevolutionary--that grow out of and give rise to it. These ideas, which occupy the right side of the political spectrum, are forged in battle. They always have been, at least since they first emerged as formal ideologies during the French Revolution, battles between social groups rather than nations; roughly speaking, between those with more power and those with less. To understand these ideas, we have to understand that story. For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on--and theoretical rendition of--the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

Despite the very real differences between them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation--even wives in a marriage--in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. They are disciplined and punished. They do much and receive little. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen--workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands--but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and ongoing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American history, in fact, the contract often has served as a conduit to unforeseen coercion and constraint, particularly in institutions like the workplace and the family where men and women spend so much of their lives. Employment and marriage contracts have been interpreted by judges, themselves friendly to the interests of employers and husbands, to contain all sorts of unwritten and unwanted provisions of servitude to which wives and workers tacitly consent, even when they have no knowledge of such provisions or wish to stipulate otherwise.

Until 1980, for example, it was legal in every state in the union for a husband to rape his wife. The justification for this dates back to a 1736 treatise by English jurist Matthew Hale. When a woman marries, Hale argued, she implicitly agrees to give "up herself in this kind [sexually] unto her husband." Hers is a tacit, if unknowing, consent "which she cannot retract" for the duration of their union. Having once said yes, she can never say no. As late as 1957--during the era of the Warren Court--a standard legal treatise could state, "A man does not commit rape by having sexual intercourse with his lawful wife, even if he does so by force and against her will." If a woman (or man) tried to write into the marriage contract a requirement that express consent had to be given in order for sex to proceed, judges were bound by common law to ignore or override it. Implicit consent was a structural feature of the contract that neither party could alter. With the exit option of divorce not widely available until the second half of the twentieth century, the marriage contract doomed women to be the sexual servants of their husbands.

A similar dynamic was at work in the employment contract: workers consented to be hired by their employers, but until the twentieth century that consent was interpreted by judges to contain implicit and irrevocable provisions of servitude; meanwhile, the exit option of quitting was not nearly as available, legally or practically, as many might think.

Every once in a while, however, the subordinates of this world contest their fates. They protest their conditions, write letters and petitions, join movements, and make demands. Their goals may be minimal and discrete--better safety guards on factory machines, an end to marital rape--but in voicing them, they raise the specter of a more fundamental change in power. They cease to be servants or supplicants and become agents, speaking and acting on their own behalf. More than the reforms themselves, it is this assertion of agency by the subject class--the appearance of an insistent and independent voice of demand--that vexes their superiors. Guatemala's Agrarian Reform of 1952 redistributed a million and a half acres of land to 100,000 peasant families. That was nothing, in the minds of the country's ruling classes, compared to the riot of political talk the bill seemed to unleash. Progressive reformers, Guatemala's archbishop complained, sent local peasants "gifted with facility with words" to the capital, where they were given opportunities "to speak in public." That was the great evil of the Agrarian Reform.

In his last major address to the Senate, John C. Calhoun, former vice president and chief spokesman of the Southern cause, identified the decision by Congress in the mid-1830s to receive abolitionist petitions as the moment when the nation set itself on an irreversible course of confrontation over slavery. In a four-decade career that had seen such defeats to the slaveholder position as the Tariff of Abominations, the Nullification Crisis, and the Force Bill, the mere appearance of slave speech in the nation's capital stood out for the dying Calhoun as the sign that the revolution had begun. And when, a half-century later, Calhoun's successors sought to put the abolitionist genie back into the bottle, it was this same assertion of black agency that they targeted. Explaining the proliferation across the South in the 1890s and 1900s of constitutional conventions restricting the franchise, a delegate to one such convention declared, "The great underlying principle of this Convention movement . . . was the elimination of the negro from the politics of this State."


American labor history is filled with similar complaints from the employing classes and their allies in government: not that unionized workers are violent, disruptive, or unprofitable but that they are independent and self-organizing. Indeed, so potent is their self-organization that it threatens--in the eyes of their superiors-- to render superfluous the employer and the state. During the Great Upheaval of 1877, striking railroad workers in St. Louis took to running the trains themselves. Fearful the public might conclude the workers were capable of managing the railroad, the owners tried to stop them--in effect, launching a strike of their own in order to prove it was the owners, and only the owners, who could make the trains run on time. During the Seattle general strike of 1919, workers went to great lengths to provide basic government services, including law and order. So successful were they that the mayor concluded it was this, the workers' independent capacity to limit violence and anarchy, that posed the greatest threat.

The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted revolution. That there was no violence does not alter the fact . . . . True, there were no flashing guns, no bombs, no killings. Revolution, I repeat, doesn't need violence. The general strike, as practiced in Seattle, is of itself the weapon of revolution, all the more dangerous because quiet . . . . That is to say, it puts the government out of operation. And that is all there is to revolt-- no matter how achieved.

Into the twentieth century, judges regularly denounced unionized workers for formulating their own definitions of rights and compiling their own register of shop-floor rules. Workers like these, claimed one federal court, saw themselves as "exponents of some higher law than that . . . administered by courts." They were exercising "powers belonging only to Government," declared the Supreme Court, constituting themselves as a "self-appointed tribunal" of law and order.

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite.

Though it is often claimed that the left stands for equality while the right stands for freedom, this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left. Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders. What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality, in other words, is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension, he sees a loss of his own freedom. "We are all agreed as to our own liberty," declared Samuel Johnson. "But we are not agreed as to the liberty of others: for in proportion as we take, others must lose. I believe we hardly wish that the mob should have liberty to govern us." Such was the threat Edmund Burke saw in the French Revolution: not merely an expropriation of property or explosion of violence but an inversion of the obligations of deference and command. "The levellers," he claimed, "only change and pervert the natural order of things."


The occupation of an hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person--to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.

Even when the left's demands shift to the economic realm, the threat of freedom's extension looms large. If women and workers are provided with the economic resources to make independent choices, they will be free not to obey their husbands and employers.

That is why Lawrence Mead, one of the leading intellectual opponents of the welfare state in the 1980s and 1990s, declared that the welfare recipient "must be made less free in certain senses rather than more." For the conservative, equality portends more than a redistribution of resources, opportunities, and outcomes--though he certainly dislikes these, too. What equality ultimately means is a rotation in the seat of power.

The conservative is not wrong to construe the threat of the left in these terms. Before he died, G. A. Cohen, one of contemporary Marxism's most acute voices, made the case that much of the left's program of economic redistribution could be understood as entailing not a sacrifice of freedom for the sake of equality, but an extension of freedom from the few to the many. And, indeed, the great modern movements of emancipation--from abolition to feminism to the struggle for workers' rights and civil rights--have always posited a nexus between freedom and equality. Marching out of the family, the factory, and the field, where unfreedom and inequality are the flip sides of the same coin, they have made freedom and equality the irreducible yet mutually reinforcing parts of a single whole. The link between freedom and equality has not made the argument for redistribution any more palatable to the right. As one conservative wag complained of John Dewey's vision of social democracy, "The definitions of liberty and of equality have been so juggled that both refer to approximately the same condition." Far from being a sleight of the progressive hand, however, this synthesis of freedom and equality is a central postulate of the politics of emancipation. Whether the politics conforms to the postulate is, of course, another story. But for the conservative, the concern is less the betrayal of the postulate than its fulfillment.

One of the reasons the subordinate's exercise of agency so agitates the conservative imagination is that it takes place in an intimate setting. Every great political blast--the storming of the Bastille, the taking of the Winter Palace, the March on Washington--is set off by a private fuse: the contest for rights and standing in the family, the factory, and the field. Politicians and parties talk of constitution and amendment, natural rights and inherited privileges. But the real subject of their deliberations is the private life of power. "Here is the secret of the opposition to woman's equality in the state," Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote. "Men are not ready to recognize it in the home." Behind the riot in the street or debate in Parliament is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying her boss. That is why our political arguments--not only about the family but also the welfare state, civil rights, and much else--can be so explosive: they touch upon the most personal relations of power. It is also why it has so often fallen to our novelists to explain to us our politics. At the height of the civil rights movement, James Baldwin traveled to Tallahassee. There, in an imagined handshake, he found the hidden transcript of a constitutional crisis.


I am the only Negro passenger at Tallahassee's shambles of an airport. It is an oppressively sunny day. A black chauffeur, leading a small dog on a leash, is meeting his white employer. He is attentive to the dog, covertly very aware of me and respectful of her in a curiously watchful, waiting way. She is middle-aged, beaming and powdery-faced, delighted to see both the beings who make her life agreeable. I am sure that it has never occurred to her that either of them has the ability to judge her or would judge her harshly. She might almost, as she goes toward her chauffeur, be greeting a friend. No friend could make her face brighter. If she were smiling at me that way I would expect to shake her hand. But if I should put out my hand, panic, bafflement, and horror would then overtake that face, the atmosphere would darken, and danger, even the threat of death, would immediately fill the air. On such small signs and symbols does the southern cabala depend.

The conflict over American slavery--the looming precedent to this set piece of Baldwin's imagination--offers an instructive example. One of the distinguishing characteristics of slavery in the United States is that unlike slaves in the Caribbean or serfs in Russia, many slaves in the South lived on small holdings with their masters in residence. Masters knew their slaves' names; tracked their births, marriages, and deaths; and held parties to honor these dates. The personal interaction between master and slave was unparalleled, leading a visiting Frederick Law Olmsted to remark upon the "close cohabitation and association of black and white" in Virginia, the "familiarity and closeness of intimacy that would have been noticed with astonishment, if not with manifest displeasure, in almost any chance company at the North." Only the "relations of husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister," wrote the slavery apologist Thomas Dew, produced "a closer tie" than that of master and slave; the latter relationship, declared William Harper, another defender of slavery, was "one of the most intimate relations of society." Conversely, after slavery was abolished, many whites lamented the chill in relations between the races. "I'm fond of the Negro," said one Mississippian in 1918, "but the bond between us is not as close as it was between my father and his slaves."

Much of this talk was propaganda and self-delusion, of course, but in one respect it was not: the nearness of master to slave did make for an exceptionally personal mode of rule. Masters devised and enforced "unusually detailed" rules for their slaves, dictating when they had to get up, eat, work, sleep, garden, visit, and pray. Masters decided upon their slaves' mates and marriages. They named their children, and when the market dictated, separated those children from their parents. And while masters--as well as their sons and overseers--availed themselves of the bodies of their female slaves whenever they wished, they saw fit to patrol and punish any and all sexual congress between their slaves. Living with their slaves, masters had direct means to control their behavior and a detailed map of all the behavior there was to control.

The consequences of this proximity were felt not just by the slave but by the master as well. Living every day with his mastery, he became entirely identified with it. So complete was this identification that any sign of the slave's disobedience--much less her emancipation--was seen as an intolerable assault upon his person. When Calhoun declared that slavery "has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them, that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people," he wasn't just referring to society in the aggregate or abstract. He was thinking of individual men absorbed in the day-to-day experience of ruling other men and women. Take that experience away, and you destroyed not only the master but also the man--and the many men who sought to become, or thought they already were like, the master.

Because the master put so little distance between himself and his mastery, he would go to unprecedented lengths to keep his holdings. Throughout the Americas slaveholders defended their privileges, but nowhere with the intensity or violence of the master class in the South. Outside the South, wrote C. Vann Wood-ward, the end of slavery was "the liquidation of an investment." Inside, it was "the death of a society." And when, after the Civil War, the master class fought with equal ferocity to restore its privileges and power, it was the proximity of command, the nearness of rule, that was uppermost in its mind. As Henry McNeal Turner, a black Republican in Georgia, put it in 1871: "They do not care so much about Congress admitting Negroes to their halls . . . but they do not want the negroes over them at home." One hundred years later, a black sharecropper in Mississippi would still resort to the most domestic of idioms to describe relations between blacks and whites: "We had to mind them as our children mind us."

When the conservative looks upon a democratic movement from below, this (and the exercise of agency) is what he sees: a terrible disturbance in the private life of power. Witnessing the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, Theodore Sedgwick lamented, "The aristocracy of virtue is destroyed; personal influence is at an end." Sometimes the conservative is personally implicated in that life, sometimes not. Regardless, it is his apprehension of the private grievance behind the public commotion that lends his theory its tactile ingenuity and moral ferocity. "The real object" of the French Revolution, Burke told Parliament in 1790, is "to break all those connexions, natural and civil, that regulate and hold together the community by a chain of subordination; to raise soldiers against their officers; servants against their masters; tradesmen against their customers; artificers against their employers; tenants against their landlords; curates against their bishops; and children against their parents." Personal insubordination rapidly became a regular and consistent theme of Burke's pronouncements on the unfolding events in France. A year later, he wrote in a letter that because of the Revolution, "no house is safe from its servants, and no Officer from his Soldiers, and no State or constitution from conspiracy and insurrection." In another speech before Parliament in 1791, he declared that "a constitution founded on what was called the rights of man" opened "Pandora's box" throughout the world, including Haiti: "Blacks rose against whites, whites against blacks, and each against one another in murderous hostility; subordination was destroyed." Nothing to the Jacobins, he declared at the end of his life, was worthy "of the name of the publick virtue, unless it indicates violence on the private.

By virtue of membership in a polity, Burke allowed, men had a great many rights--to the fruits of their labor, their inheritance, education, and more. But the one right he refused to concede to all men was that "share of power, authority, and direction" they might think they ought to have "in the management of the state."

So powerful is that vision of private eruption that it can turn a man of reform into a man of reaction. Schooled in the Enlightenment, John Adams believed that "consent of the people" was "the only moral foundation of government." But when his wife suggested that a muted version of these principles be extended to the family, he was not pleased. "And, by the way," Abigail wrote him, "in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could." Her husband's response:


We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bands of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians, and Negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the fi rst intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all of the rest, were grown discontented.

Though he leavened his response with playful banter--he prayed that George Washington would shield him from the "despotism of the petticoat"--Adams was clearly rattled by this appearance of democracy in the private sphere. In a letter to James Sullivan, he worried that the Revolution would "confound and destroy all distinctions," unleashing throughout society a spirit of insubordination so intense that all order would be dissolved. "There will be no end of it." No matter how democratic the state, it was imperative that society remain a federation of private dominions, where husbands ruled over wives, masters governed apprentices, and each "should know his place and be made to keep it."

Historically, the conservative has sought to forestall the march of democracy in both the public and the private spheres, on the assumption that advances in the one necessarily spur advances in the other. "In order to keep the state out of the hands of the people," wrote the French monarchist Louis de Bonald, "it is necessary to keep the family out of the hands of women and children." Even in the United States, this effort has periodically yielded fruit. Despite our Whiggish narrative of the steady rise of democracy, historian Alexander Keyssar has demonstrated that the struggle for the vote in the United States has been as much a story of retraction and contraction as one of progress and expansion, "with class tensions and apprehensions" on the part of political and economic elites constituting "the single most important obstacle to universal suffrage . . . from the late eighteenth century to the 1960s."

Still, the more profound and prophetic stance on the right has been Adams's: cede the field of the public, if you must, stand fast in the private. Allow men and women to become democratic citizens of the state; make sure they remain feudal subjects in the family, the factory, and the field. The priority of conservative political argument has been the maintenance of private regimes of power--even at the cost of the strength and integrity of the state. We see this political arithmetic at work in the ruling of a Federalist court in Massachusetts that a Loyalist woman who fled the Revolution was the adjutant of her husband, and thus should not be held responsible for fleeing and should not have her property confiscated by the state; in the refusal of Southern slaveholders to yield their slaves to the Confederate cause; and the more recent insistence of the Supreme Court that women could not be legally obliged to sit on juries because they are "still regarded as the center of home and family life" with their "own special responsibilities."

Conservatism, then, is not a commitment to limited government and liberty--or a wariness of change, a belief in evolutionary reform, or a politics of virtue. These may be the byproducts of conservatism, one or more of its historically specific and ever-changing modes of expression. But they are not its animating purpose. Neither is conservatism a makeshift fusion of capitalists, Christians, and warriors, for that fusion is impelled by a more elemental force--the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and autonomous individual. But it is not. When the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees.

No simple defense of one's own place and privileges--the conservative, as I've said, may or may not be directly involved in or benefit from the practices of rule he defends; many, as we'll see, are not--the conservative position stems from a genuine conviction that a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, base, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. When Burke adds, in the letter quoted above, that the "great Object" of the Revolution is "to root out that thing called an Aristocrat or Nobleman and Gentleman," he is not simply referring to the power of the nobility; he is also referring to the distinction that power brings to the world. If the power goes, the distinction goes with it. This vision of the connection between excellence and rule is what brings together in postwar America that unlikely alliance of the libertarian, with his vision of the employer's untrammeled power in the workplace; the traditionalist, with his vision of the father's rule at home; and the statist, with his vision of a heroic leader pressing his hand upon the face of the earth. Each in his own way subscribes to this typical statement, from the nineteenth century, of the conservative creed: "To obey a real superior . . . is one of the most important of all virtues--a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting."

Has the Higgs Been Discovered? Physicists Gear Up for Watershed Announcement: Scientific American

Higgs boson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?
Big news may be coming... Monte
=====================
Rumors are flying about a December 13 update on the search for the long-sought Higgs boson at Europe's Large Hadron Collider

SMASHING RESULTS? Workers in front of part of the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider, one of two experiments rumored to have seen hints of the elusive Higgs boson.Image: CERN/Claudia Marcelloni

The physics buzz reached a frenzy in the past few days over the announcement that the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva is planning to release what is widely expected to be tantalizing—although not conclusive—evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle hypothesized to be the origin of the mass of all matter.

Many physicists have already swung into action, swapping rumors about the contents of the announcement and proposing grand ideas about what those rumors would mean, if true. "It's impossible to be excited enough," says Gordon Kane, a theoretical physicist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

The spokespersons of the collaborations using the cathedral-size ATLAS and CMS detectors to search for the Higgs boson and other phenomena at the 27-kilometer-circumference proton accelerator of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are scheduled to present updates December 13 based on analyses of the data collected to date. "There won't be a discovery announcement, but it does promise to be interesting," says James Gillies, spokesperson for CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), which hosts the LHC.

Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and a member of the CMS collaboration, says, "Whatever happens eventually with the Higgs, I think we'll look back on this meeting and say, 'This was the beginning of something.'" (As a CMS member, Lykken says he is not yet sure himself what results ATLAS would unveil; he is bound by his collaboration's rules not to reveal what CMS has in hand.)

[Click here for a lightly edited partial transcript of the full interview with Lykken that Davide Castelvecchi conducted for this story.]

The talks were announced last week; true to form, the particle physics rumor mill shifted into high gear, and by the weekend multiple anonymous sources had leaked consistent information, according to several bloggers, including Peter Woit, Lubos Motl and Philip Gibbs. Both experiments are said to have seen evidence of the long-sought Higgs, pointing to a particle mass of around 125 billion electron volts, or 125 GeV. (125 billion electron volts is roughly the mass of 125 hydrogen atoms.)* Such results would not constitute an ironclad discovery quite yet, being below the required "5 sigma," a measure of statistical reliability. But the two experiments are rumored to have seen signals of 2.5 sigma and 3.5 sigma, which together would give a strong hint. (Three sigmas would correspond to a one-in-370 chance of the finding being a statistical quirk, although in particle physics experiments it is not uncommon for 3-sigma results to vanish.)

Previous rounds of data analysis from the LHC as well as from its U.S. predecessor, Fermilab's Tevatron, had narrowed the Higgs mass range down to somewhere between 115 and 140 GeV. But the new announcement would constitute the first time that both LHC experiments had made a precise and consistent estimate of the mass.

Even before the data are out, theoretical physicists around the world are working out the possible implications. Some have pointed out that a value of 125 GeV would be good news for supersymmetry, a theory that predicts that each particle would have a heavier partner known as a superparticle (at least for particles within the framework of the Standard Model of particle physics, the currently accepted description of the subatomic world). "Most supersymmetric models put a Higgs below 140 [GeV] or so," says Matt Strassler of Rutgers University. Supersymmetry has long been a favorite candidate for extending the Standard Model, because it would answer numerous open questions, beginning with the nature of dark matter, the unseen mass that keeps galaxies rotating faster than they otherwise would.

But Kane, a longtime proponent of supersymmetry, makes a more ambitious statement. In a paper posted to the physics preprint sitearXiv.org on December 5, he and his collaborators work not from supersymmetry but from an even more radical overhaul of physics:string theory. (String theory is itself an extension of supersymmetry.) Their calculations predict a Higgs mass between 122 and 129 GeV. "If it's in that range it's an incredible success for connecting string theory to the real world," Kane says. He says he is confident that the upcoming LHC announcements, if they pan out as predicted, will constitute evidence for string theory. "I don't think my wife will let us bet our house, but I'll come close," he says.

That Kane and his colleagues released their paper now that the Higgs mass has been—or is about to be—restricted to a particular range, will surely lead some physicists to charge that the new study constitutes not a prediction but a "postdiction." String theory critics have long claimed that the theory has so much flexibility that one can always tweak it to make it predict just about anything.

Moreover, whether string theory can make testable predictions at all has often been the subject of debate. "The trouble is, for all we know, there might be 10,000 other ways of starting with string theory and getting the same Higgs mass, and they may differ in other respects," Lykken cautions.

And when it comes to mass predictions, consistency does not necessarily mean validation, Strassler points out. "If the Higgs turns up at 125 GeV, that would also be consistent with the Standard Model with no supersymmetric particles and no hint of string theory," Strassler says.

For all the excitement, it is still quite possible that any preliminary whiff of the Higgs will later turn out to be a statistical fluke. After all, the CMS and ATLAS detectors cannot directly catch Higgs bosons; those particles would decay into other particles immediately after being created in the LHC's proton collisions. Instead, physicists must analyze the subatomic debris from the decays and reconstruct what happened. Thousands of collisions take place every second, and many of them generate signatures similar to those of the Higgs. "The reason why we don't know whether there's a Higgs yet has mostly to do with the fact that the Higgs boson's decays look like other kinds of physics," Lykken says. "So we need to understand the other kinds of physics enough. It's not just a question of statistics."

Whether next week's announcements pan out, experts say, it is only a matter of time before a final answer is known: Once the experiments have amassed enough data, they either will find the Higgs boson and understand its properties or they will conclusively demonstrate that it does not exist. "It's just a question of when it will happen," Lykken says. "It's not going to be a maybe-yes-maybe-no kind of answer."

Dec 8, 2011

Hines Farm Red Oak Paper Pot Makers


Larger Photo - Three freshly lathe turned paper pot makers made from salvaged red oak. Pots, 2" in diameter x 3" high are easily made from 1/4 sheets of newspaper, folded into 1/3's and wrapped around the 2" oak pot makers.



Larger Photo - "45 Pots made from Sunday Newspaper did not put a dent in it!" Paper Pots, with plant can be incorporated in the soil at planting time and will become compost in the soil. Good way to recycle in a very local, value added way.

I plan on turning some various size Garden Dibbles for use with these Paper Pot to make planting a breeze...

Example Garden Dibble

Monsanto (Still) Denies Superinsect Problem, Despite Evidence | Mother Jones

By Tom Philpott
Thu Dec. 8, 2011

A corn rootworm: You call it Smartstax, I call it breakfast. imarsman/Flickr

Back in August—as I reported here—something strange began to happen in isolated Iowa corn fields: otherwise-healthy corn plants were falling over, their roots devastated by a ravenous insect called the corn rootworm.

The weird part wasn't pest outbreaks in a vast corn fields; farmers know that when you plant a huge amount of land in a single crop, you're also providing a friendly habitat for insects that like to eat that crop. The odd part was that the fields were planted with seed engineered by Monsanto precisely to kill the corn rootworm. Monsanto's product—known as Bt corn—had failed; rootworms were developing resistance to it.

At the time, the EPA—which is responsible for registering pesticide-containing crops like Monsanto's—maintained an icy silence on the matter. But last week, the agency released areport (PDF) that, in calm bureaucratese, rebuked Monsanto for its "inadequate" system for monitoring. It's one of those delectable reports written not by politcal appointees or higher-ups, but rather by staff scientists reporting what they see. The document offers a fascinating glimpse into the way the agency conducts business with Monsanto.

The report confirmed that resistant rootworms had risen up in four states (Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska) and suspected in three others (Colorado, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). Now, everyone—Monsanto, the EPA, ag scientists—have known all along that resistance was a danger with Monsanto's rootworm-targeting Bt corn. To avoid resistance, the EPA decreed back in 2003 that farmers using the product had a to plant a "refuge" crop of non-Bt corn alongside their Bt corn, so that rootworms that had developed Bt resistance would mate with peers that had not been exposed to it, diluting the resistant trait and keeping it under control.

The question was, how large a refuge? Monsanto, hot to move as much product as possible, wanted to keep it small. In this post from early September, I laid out the whole tangled history of how back in 2003, Monsanto strong-armed the EPA into accepting a 20 percent refuge requirement, even after an independent scientific panel convened by the agency had recommended a 50 percent buffer. In a Nature article from the time, available here, scientists involved in the panel express rage at the EPA's cave-in.

With this document, the agency is tacitly acknowledging that its indepedent advisory panel was right, and Monsanto was wrong. What happens now? The Center for Food Safety's Bill Freese points to research from University of Illinois crop scientist Michael Gray suggesting that in some Illinois farm counties, 40 percent of farmers lack access to high-quality non-Bt corn seed. That same problem likely affects farmers throughout the corn belt. Just as farmers haveresponded to the collpase of Monsanto's Roundup Ready weed-killing technology by dousing their fields with "herbicide cocktails," we'll likely see farmers respond to superinsects with increased doses of toxic insecticides. Beyond that, here are the two takeaways of the EPA's recent bombshell.

• The EPA has been relying on Monsanto to monitor the the development of rootworm resistance, and—surprise!—Monsanto has been doing a lousy job of it. When Monsanto hears reports from farmers and seed dealers about possible resistance outbreaks, it's supposed to investigate them. The company's monitoring plan is "inadequate and likely to miss early resistance events," the document states. A less polite but more accurate assessment might be "inadequate and designed to miss early resistance events."

The document lists no fewer than five major problems with Monsanto's monitoring program. The agency notes that when Monsanto gets a report of possibly resistant rootworms, it collects samples of them "within 1-2 miles from neighboring sites of failed fields." That's like a police dispatcher receiving a report of a crime in progress, and sending a cop car within 1-2 miles of the address. The EPA dryly notes:

Since the majority of adult corn rootworm may not disperse long distances, the greatest probability of capture of resistant genotypes should be in the problem fields, possibly in adjacent fields, but less likely in fields 2 miles away during that particular year.]

The document also chides Monsanto for setting the threshold of root damage too high before an an investigation is triggered, and thus missing possible early-stage resistance outbreaks that can later break out into large ones.

Perhaps most devastatingly of all, EPA reveals that that Monsanto has been receiving reports of possible resistance since 2004—the year after the product's release—when it got 21 such complaints nationwide. The number of reports balooned to 94 in 2006, and have been hovering at at around 100 per year since. And guess what? "Monsanto reported that none of their follow-up investigations resulted ... in finding resistant populations [of rootworms."

In other words, to hear Monsanto tell it, resistance isn't a problem at all! And since Monsanto is responsible for monitoring it, the public would not know about the problem if an indepdent scientist, Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann, hadn't published a paper documenting four cases of it in Iowa in August, prompting a major story in The Wall Street Journal.

Monsanto responded to Grossman's findings with brazen denial: "We don't have any demonstrated field resistance," a Monsanto official insisted to The St. Louis Post-Dispatchwhen asked about the study. As recently as last week, in the wake of the EPA document's release, Monsanto officials continued to assert that there had been no scientific confirmation of resistance to its Bt corn, Bloomberg reported. The response calls to mind the old Groucho Marx joke about the man pleading with his wife after being caught in flangranto with another woman: "Who are you going to believe: me, or your lying eyes?"
Monsanto's denial calls to mind the old joke about the man caught in flangranto by his wife: "Who are you going to believe: me, or your lying eyes?"

• Monsanto is already peddling a solution to the problem it generated—and it, too, looks vulnerable to resistance.Now, even though Monsanto has so far refused to acknowledge the resistance problem, the company has not shied away from promoting a its new "Smartstax" corn seeds, which contain the current failing Bt toxin plus another that it has licensed from its rival, Dow, as a remedy. Bloomberg reports:

Farmers with root damage in their fields should consider changing practices to “stay ahead of this insect,” Monsanto said in a statement. That could include rotating corn with soybeans or using a product such as Monsanto’s SmartStax corn, which kills rootworms with two types of Bt, the company said.

Because it contains two separate rootworm-attacking pesticides, Monsanto insists that Smartstax is less prone to cause resistance and thus needs an even smaller refuge area. The company has persuaded the EPA to require only a 5 percent refuge for Smartstax, leaving the other 95 percent open for Monsanto's business.

But in its memo from last week, EPA scientists bluntly question the wisdom of that approach. With one of its Bt toxins having already lost effectiveness, the report notes, Smartstax will be "substantially less durable" when planted with just a 5 percent refuge, and and "could ultimately compromise the second unrelated toxin used to control the pest." In other words, the debut of Smartstax will likely delay, but not stop, the march of Bt-resistant superinsects. But putting off problems by forever rolling out profitable new "solutions" is precisely the agrichemical industry's business model.

The question now is, will the EPA's decision makers heed this bombshell of a report and start actually subjecting Monsanto to independent oversight? OF COURSE, as for those ravenous corn rootworms squirming around the Midwest, the solution to them is simple: The Union of Concerned Scientist's Doug Gurian-Sherman has said it before and he said it again this week: Just stop growing so much damn corn. Simple biodiversity in farm fields, it turns out, trumps the latest patented geegaw conjured up by Monsanto. And it also makes for a healthier food supply.


Bt-resistant superinsects... Farmers getting fleeced by Monsanto... The beat goes on and on...!!!  Monte

Tom Philpott is the food and ag blogger for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click here. Get Tom Philpott's RSS feed.

Dec 7, 2011

Nobel-Winning IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri Urges Everyone to "Listen to Science" on Global Warming

One of the world’s most prominent experts on climate science, Rajendra Pachauri, is criticizing negotiators at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban for not paying enough attention to science. Pachauri is chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. "What we have done is we have increased the concentration of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere far beyond what has taken place over the last 650,000 years," Pachauri says. "As a result, during the 20th century, we had average warming of about 0.74 degrees Celsius, sea-level rise of about 17 centimeters, and a whole range of impacts, as I mentioned, on human health, on agriculture, on ecosystems... The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report had clearly brought out that if we want to limit temperature increase to two degrees or thereabouts, two to 2.4 degrees Celsius, and if we want to do it at least cost, then emissions will have to peak no later than 2015. And we are now talking about 2020. That means the world will incur a much larger expense in reducing emissions. And in the meantime, we’ll also suffer far more serious impacts of climate change." When asked about the position of the United States in the negotiation, Pachauri says, "I would also ask President Obama to listen to the voice of science. And he has an absolutely outstanding science adviser in John Holdren. Maybe he should get John to organize a meeting of the scientists soon after he’s re-elected—if he’s re-elected—and then determine U.S. policy, as should be the case with every country in the world, based on the scientific evidence that’s available." Pachauri continued, "Actually, to be honest, nobody over here [at COP 17] is paying any attention to science." [includes rush transcript]

One very intelligent man (engineer) who has dedicated his life to the study of climate change... head of the world's climate scientists... I betting he and they are right... well worth viewing...  Monte

Dec 5, 2011

rocket stove mass heater

rocket mass heaters in a nutshell:
  • heat your home with 80% to 90% less wood
  • exhaust is nearly pure steam and CO2 (a little smoke at the beginning)
  • the heat from one fire can last for days
  • you can build one in a day and half
  • folks have built them spending less than $20
  • the verbose details on rocket mass heaters:
This could be the cleanest and most sustainable way to heat a conventional home. Some people have reported that they heat their home with nothing more than the dead branches that fall off the trees in their yard. And they burn so clean, that a lot of sneaky people are using them illegally, in cities, without detection. For More Click Here To Go To Full Article

Related Links:

Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators: Nick Hanauer - Businessweek

December 01, 2011
Nick Hanauer
By Nick Hanauer

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- It is a tenet of American economic beliefs, and an article of faith for Republicans that is seldom contested by Democrats: If taxes are raised on the rich, job creation will stop.

Trouble is, sometimes the things that we know to be true are dead wrong. For the larger part of human history, for example, people were sure that the sun circles the Earth and that we are at the center of the universe. It doesn’t, and we aren’t. The conventional wisdom that the rich and businesses are our nation’s “job creators” is every bit as false.

I’m a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I’ve started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc.

Even so, I’ve never been a “job creator.” I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.

Theory of Evolution

When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years.

Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s. In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.

One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, I go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.

It’s true that we do spend a lot more than the average family. Yet the one truly expensive line item in our budget is our airplane (which, by the way, was manufactured in France by Dassault Aviation SA), and those annual costs are mostly for fuel (from the Middle East). It’s just crazy to believe that any of this is more beneficial to our economy than hiring more teachers or police officers or investing in our infrastructure.

More Shoppers Needed

I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.

It is mathematically impossible to invest enough in our economy and our country to sustain the middle class (our customers) without taxing the top 1 percent at reasonable levels again. Shifting the burden from the 99 percent to the 1 percent is the surest and best way to get our consumer-based economy rolling again.

Significant tax increases on the about $1.5 trillion in collective income of those of us in the top 1 percent could create hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our economy, rather than letting it pile up in a few bank accounts like a huge clot in our nation’s economic circulatory system.

Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high.

We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.

So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business.

(Nick Hanauer is a founder of Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital company in Seattle specializing in early state startups and emerging technology. He has helped launch more than 20 companies, including aQuantive Inc. and Amazon.com, and is the co-author of two books, “The True Patriot” and “The Gardens of Democracy.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

--Editors: Max Berley, Stacey Shick.