Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOTU Fail!

Last night the president showed us his spunk and verve and some of his cards up his sleeves.  He opened with killing Osama and he closed with killing Osama.  All the other stuff about killing Osama is window dressing.  Basically he was saying "Dude, I killed Osama. Re-elect me."

But there were other things he was saying couched in his hope and change rhetoric.  Most of them were mixed messages and showed he was blatantly pandering to both sides. I don't think he got the memo yet that the neo-cons don't care how much he's like them, and no matter how much he caves to them, he's always going to be a socialist, fascist, racist liberal to them. 
Only Democrats will vote for this guy and even they are fleeing the hope & change bandwagon.  They saw what a bunch of lies it was.  And progressives like me are actually starting take up prayer... Not that that ever worked either: Two term Bush vs entire planet praying...

Some of the tweets I saw last night mirrored what I was thinking and feeling about this failed speech.
Oh I know many thought it was home run.  It failed, but not for the reasons the fascist Republican party thinks.
Here's a  bit of what I noticed:
That he was pissed. How nice for him. 
That women should be paid the same as men for the same jobs. Duh. Pass a friggin law to that effect!
And while you're at it, pass a frigging law that requires 50% of congress/senate be made up of women.
This 10% crap is wearing on the nation. Women make up 51% of the nation! WE are keeping it running and without any political power!  Imagine what kind or real change a bunch of moms could make!
That you can't encourage creativity in teaching while promoting merit pay, and how do you keep kids from dropping out (though I think that is a great idea to make kids graduate)when they are 18?  
That hydrofracking for natural gas is NOT clean energy no matter how many times you say it, and neither is opening up 75% of off shore oil wells to BP again... So when he says he's not walking away from renewables I agree. He's SPEED walking away... Manhattan has 8 million souls living in it so his plan of providing solar and wind power to 250,000 people in our entire nation is, at best, LAME! 
That publicly telling Israel you will happily bomb the hell out of Iran is NOT a peace olive branch to anyone!
That touting money making and manufacturing jobs (aka greed) is not caring for those who are unemployed, underemployed, unemployable or retired, and the re-employment program is hopefully more successful than it's been the last few decades, umm it's also known as the unemployment office. The 47% who make so little as to not even qualify for paying taxes are known as the working poor. Oh, they weren't mentioned, never mind.
That making the wealthy pay their fare share is a nice idea, except that they get to make that decision (congress is wealthy and gets to participate in inside trading!)... Hmmm I wonder what's gonna happen? 
That helping illegal immigrants become naturalized citizens may not be what so-called illegals want.  They want jobs that Americans don't want, so offering illegals an opportunity to become citizens rather than offering them real work visas is a false promise of hope and change... Remember that Mexico has a lower infant mortality rate than the US. Who would want to give up a medical care system that values babies for the US one?
Did he mention health care? I was spinning out on the clean Hydrofracking BS for most of the rest of the speech.  I agree with him that it's important for the Hydrofrackers to tell the people what kinds of poisons they are using to destroy their ground water with.... That way the local hospitals and Vetenarians will know how to treat the people and animals dying from the poisons.  It helps to know what poisons and toxins you're dealing with... (facepalm)

So, it was a terrific speech and yay, four more years of lameness....
Don't get me wrong...  Obama is a saint next to the demonic minions campaigning on the other side, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it... I'm not happy about it one bit.
I'll take a lame, caver over an enthusiastic destroyer of worlds (Newt, Mitt, Paul, Santorum).

Any day. "sigh"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jobs or the environment? It's a no brainer. Farm jobs!

When President Obama killed the Keystone Pipeline (hopefully permanently), millions of people celebrated, including anyone who had marched at the call of Bill McKibben and/or gotten arrested at the White House for standing on the side walk.   I am proud to say that I was one of those  1,253 arrested (my first arrest!), and later one of the ten thousand that came back to hold hands around the White House in a big protective, hope filled hug! 

Fighting the nasty Tar Sands Pipeline was not just an environmentalist action, it was a human species action. Indeed, it was a member of the planet Earth action.  We dodged a bullet as members of this planet. A carbon bullet that would not just put us over survivable Carbon levels in the atmosphere, we're already well over that for ocean coral, it would set in motion an ecological catastrophe that would not be remedied  for maybe thousands of years.    The ocean can only clean up so much of our messes before she begins to acidify and she's starting to acidify NOW.  A Tar Sands carbon bomb would put her right over the edge.  A moving but alarming documentary, A Sea Change, shows how fragile the oceans really are.

That's why when I started hearing people whining about the jobs lost because of Obama's, maybe only temporary, decision, I did a double take.   You just dodged an end-of-the-world bullet and you seriously are complaining you're upset that jobs were allegedly killed?  Are you kidding me???
First of all the jobs "killed" were paltry at best.  The overestimation from the FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY & FRIENDS stated something like 250,000 jobs potentially

Really? 250,000?  Sounds really great!  All those jobs and taxes would be a great loss. But it sounds too good to be true, and you know when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  
A recent CBS story (see previous link) showed a Cornell University Global Labor Institute "finding that the pipeline would add only 500 to 1,400 temporary construction jobs. The authors of the September report also said that much of the new employment stemming from Keystone would be outside the U.S."
So, why are people whining about 500 jobs outside of the U.S.?   Because the FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTY TOLD THEM TO DO SO!   I can't imagine any other reasonable reason because no person in their right mind would exchange 500 jobs for the survival of our species.   You would have to have been mind controlled by the fossil fuel industry to whine about this.   Either mind controlled or just seriously and deeply misinformed. 

No, but seriously.  If you have any conscience about the state of the planet's health and the future of our great, great grand children, and their great great grandchildren (it could take about that long for the oceans to de-acidify),  you have to seriously consider why you'd be worried about 500 jobs outside the U.S.  
The fate of the planet versus 500 jobs outside the U.S. ?
To me it's a no brainer no matter WHERE those jobs are or how many.   I'll tell you why. Me and nearly half the Earth's population are moms or moms to be... We have to think about how to feed our kids and we often think about their kids. We all want to be grandmas someday and most likely we will be.  But all those little grand-babies add up.
We're talking 7 billion people today and in 100 years that number goes up exponentially.   You do the math.  Terrifying.  Just think of all the Facebook friends I'd have to reply to invites to!  Auuuggh!

It took a hundred years for the planet to grow from a few million to 7 billion. With more mouths to feed and fewer farmers and farms every day, I know what jobs we really should be creating and it's not a paltry 500 unskilled laborers hired to clean up a leaky pipeline.   We are going to need an army of millions of farmers across this country and globally if we are going to meet the growing population's needs.   Unless of course famine is an attractive option to most. Can anyone say Darfur?  Already we are seeing the impact of climate change on crops.  Texas pretty much lost all it's corn this past summer.  You can look at that loss a couple ways, God is punishing them for electing Rick Perry as governor, or the Earth is punishing them for ignoring climate change. You chose.

Ironically, I sense Texans are the ones whining the most about these lost 500 jobs that were going outside the U.S. Perhaps since the pipeline was due to end in Houston at a refinery there and the fossil fuel companies there will lose out on its profits. But they can afford it, I think.
Though I don't think this Texan will be disappointed: David Daniel in a youtube video I shot down in DC getting ready for our first Tar Sands action. He was forgotten since he would not benefit from the refineries or the shipping of this sludge.  The little people are always forgotten in the rich and powerful's lust for more power and riches.
Forgotten also were the millions of people from Canada to Texas and their one water source, the Ogala aquifer that provides drinking and irrigation water to millions across the central U.S. all in the path of the leaky pipeline.  I say leaky, because there is a section of it already built. Yeah! Go figure! The exuberance of the fossil industry!  And that short length of pipeline has leaked consistently once a month the past year.   Like Old Faithful...
Those people have jobs, most of them at least, and some of those jobs require the use of water.   Once that pipeline starts leaking though, and the aquifer is permanently contaminated, you can bet those jobs are going away.  I'm not talking about car wash jobs, or dish washer jobs, I'm talking about farm jobs, the very jobs we are needing MORE OF!!
Farmers are an endangered species, maybe even more than the coral which is dying due to elevated CO2 levels.  In the U.S. there used to be mostly farmland, and 80% of the population farmed even if it was just a little bit on their own property.   Today that percentage is down to 1%.  The improved farming technologies have helped make up the difference in the shrinking numbers of farmers to meet the exponentially rising numbers of population.  But there's a new catch.  An unexpected turn of events, well maybe not so unexpected by folks like John Muir, has caused the unprecedented decline in arable and fertile land.  The cause? Mainly Climate change and erosion but also urban sprawl.  There are 7 billion mouths to feed with fewer farmers, less land, and more unfriendly climate.  And people are whining about 500 jobs?  Mayor Bloomberg laid off 6000 teachers (mostly highly skilled women) last year.  I didn't hear these people whining about those jobs.
Tens of thousands of more highly skilled and exceptionally educated women teachers are being laid off across the country this year.   I don't hear the job whiners complaining about that.   I won't go any deeper into the irony that teachers also seem to have been disproportionately blamed for the country's economic woes, despite that they aren't bankers or Wall Street executives and pretty much had their hands full educating our nation's kids: a godawful, thankless job with no bonuses at the end of the year and no golden parachutes like CEO's do when they screw up and run a business into the ground.

 But I digress.  Farm jobs.  

Right now there is little to no incentive for a young person, or old, to take up the plow and hoe. Despite the subsidies available and the property tax breaks, the life of a farmer is hard and often lonely. Long hours, hard work, little pay back for the input, make it not one of the most desirable careers to go into, noble though it is.  Fortunately a very brave, young army of farmers has taken up the challenge and joined the fight to save the planet and our food supply by becoming Organic farmers, Permaculture farmers and Biodynamic farmers.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity this past week (1/21/12) to attend a conference of the North East Organic Farmers Association of NY (NOFA NY) in Saratoga Springs and meet some of these farmers. 
About two hundred plus folks showed up from the state to share in workshops, lectures and seminars on farming methods from growing grain, to orchard care (what I took), to raising chickens, to preserving food.  A rich variety of people were there of all ages and all types, some looking all business and others along a mix of bohemian & hippie.  Even though I'm not an official farmer, though I've gardened and grown food for two decades or more, I felt quite at home amongst these joyful, tanned, sturdy and amazingly well educated folk.  They made conscious decisions to take the path of Organic farming not because it pays well, but because it's the right thing to do.  The fossil fuel used in traditional farming is a major reason these folks either switched methods or became Organic farmers.  They know the high levels of CO2 are changing the planet, and the way food needs to be grown has to change also.  On the NOFA NY website page for Policy work there is an interesting list, a hint of our battles to come.

Current Policy Sub-Committee Areas Include:
Raw Milk
Meat Processing
Gas Drilling
Food Safety

These are each critically important subjects to all of us, not just to Organic farmers, but it is our Organic farmers who will make the difference for us.  If we continue to worry about 500 allegedly lost unskilled jobs that would not benefit us in any way, we will forget the 200 plus highly skilled NY Organic farmers who are working slavishly behind the scenes to secure our food by making it safer and healthier and more local.  And water is a big part of that equation.  You can't have farms without water.  And what doesn't mix with water and never has is oil. 

We dodged a bullet and so did all our farmers across the nation.  Let's not worry so much about the made up job numbers the fossil fuel industry gives us, like the hyped job numbers we're also getting from the hydrofracking industry,  let's focus on the real jobs that exist, the farm jobs,  and that need us to support them so that they can keep feeding us and in turn teach US how to grow food too.   Organically! 

"The New Elders" by Danny Martin
And you can read my response there too. :)    

And check out these amazing elders.The Elders

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Patrick Sullivan of Transition Missouri writes about the Occupy Movement

This was such a great article/blog post I had to share it.

One of my colleagues here at Transition Missouri left a very interesting post on our Facebook page the other day related to Occupy Wall Street (I'm not sure exactly who it was since administration of the Facebook page can be done by any one of four of us but the edits all show up under the quasi-anonymous "Transition Missouri" heading). In that post the author talks about his or her conviciton that the answers to the challenges of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis must come on the local level, since any movement on the larger-than-local scale eventually becomes co-opted into supporting the status quo.
Then, "[a]long comes the Occupy Everything movement," says the author, "which is global and national and local, all at the same time, and which brings with it real hope that the economic catastrophes which have affected so many of us is resulting in a political sea change. It sets the stage for the blossoming of Transition communities, recognized and supported by whole nations, where before I feared nothing but resistence."
The post concludes with a link to a special on called Occupy Everywhere, which includes the following panel discussion about the nature of the Occupy movement (it's an hour long, so don't feel like you have to watch the whole thing right this minute):
{video has since been removed by owner}

If I'm reading the post correctly, then I am of a very similar mind toward the Occupy phenomenon.  I believe that the changes that we are seeking, and that in the end we will probably have no choice but to make, will come primarily at the local level.  In the end, that's really the only place they can come from.  But that doesn't mean we should ignore or down-play what is happening in public spaces all over America and the world.
I am encouraged by the existence of these various and mostly peaceful "Occupations" both here and abroad.  Say what you will about this movement's supposed lack of a coherent message.  Point to the questionable behavior of some of its participants if you want, and make all the jokes you care to about drum circles and patchouli-funk and white college kids in dreadlocks; if nothing else, this movement shows that there are a lot of people out there who aren't inclined to quitely accept a system that seems to offer them only joyless consumption, gaping inequality, ruinous public and private debt and bitter alienation in the place of meaningful opportunities for social mobility, healthy communities, and lifestyles that don't depend on sacrificing the well-being of future generations.  To me it is an understanding of this reality and a genuine desire to change things for the better that fuels this movement.
Beyond that, I'm still not really sure what to think of Occupy--or perhaps I should say I'm not really sure how much hope I should invest in it.  One thing we can say without a doubt is that even if this movement were to utterly vanished into thin air tomorrow, they will already have acheived a very real and major victory: they have finally forced a conversation about the fact that a tiny percentage of the richest and most powerful elements of our society have for decades been enjoying a stratospheric expansion in income, wealth and influence while the vast majority of Americans fall further and further behind or, if they're lucky, manage to break even.  Though this fact has been self-evident for many years, it was not until the coming of the Occupy Movement that it started to receive more than minimal attention in the national media.
But in the end merely making people more aware of the problem isn't the same as getting to a solution; people may finally be talking about inequality of opportunity, but that doesn't mean we don't still have a government that has been carefully molded so as to be essentially incapable of doing anything that might actually benefit anyone but the investor class, or reign-in the corruption and avarice of those who have turned our society into a mechanism for centralizing wealth and power in the hands of a tiny corporate and economic elite.
I see Occupy Wall Street and its many regional variations as more a sort of public primal scream than an organized political movement.  I don't really mean this as a criticism. Wanting to scream is kind of a natural reaction when you have finally had enough of a political system that seems incapable of representing your interests and a culture in which even social movements that dress themselves as anti-authoritarians iconoclasts--like the Tea Party--actually demand more deregulation and lower taxes, i.e. a fresh showering of rewards upon those who steered us into this mess in the first place. The passion and fervor of the Occupy Movement in response to this situation is perfectly understandable. The question, however, is where we go from here.
Progressives have had a tough sell in America in the last few decades, and I don't believe that the Occupy Movement will be an exception to this rule. One lesson that the wealthy power structure in this country--and the army of political personalities, media outlets and think tanks it supports--learned and learned well a long time ago is that Narrative matters in the minds of most people a whole lot more than facts.
I believe it's safe to say that most Americans--myself included--are just fine with the notion that through hard work, intelligence, determination, and luck, some people will experience more financial rewards than others. Even if we are talking someone earning many times what the average worker earns, I really think that very, very few people in this country would have a problem with that so long as there is true equality of opportunity. We are by nature an optimitic, can-do culture that believes rewards should come to those who deserve them.  What I think most of us are not okay with is the notion that a person's economic and social standing should be so heavily influenced by the mere accident of his or her birth so as to tend to eclipse every other factor.  That would be like living in some decaying feudal society governed by an Old European-style aristocracy.  Only the fact is, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is actually easier in tax-crazy socialist hell-holes like Sweden or Denmark than it is here in the U.S, where your wealth and power have a much stronger correlation to who your father is than they do in the "Old" world.
This fact doesn't gel with the Narrative to which a lot of Americans--maybe even the majority--still cling, i.e. the Narrative in which the vast majority of people who work hard will eventually enjoy at least a certain amount of success and security, and anyone who isn't enjoying success or security probably only has themselves to blame. This is an easy narrative for a lot of people to believe in, because many of them actually have had to work very hard to achieve what modest success they have enjoyed.  Understandably, a 55-year-old guy who still gets up at 5 a.m. every day to run an HVAC business doesn't feel like he's been handed anything. He probably has a modest background of his own, so in his mind anyone who doesn't have what he has probably just isn't willing to make the sacrifices that he has made. When he starts to get that creeping feeling that despite all his efforts things are ultimately not working out the way he thought they would, either for himself or for the majority of those around him, it's probably easier to buy into the notion that "they"--the poor, immigrants, bleeding-heart liberals, the usual suspects--have been working to take away what he has legitimately worked hard to earn than it would be to question his deepest beliefs about the system under which he has labored and the dogma he has cherished his entire life.  If you try to explain to him that despite his limited success he too is a part of the 99%, his gut-level reaction will be 'maybe so but I continue to work hard and sooner or later I will be in the 1%.'  Trying to explain to him the statistical unlikelihood of this scenario coming to fruition will be like trying to explain the actual odds of winning to someone who has bought a lottery ticket every week of his life.
This mindset is why Progressives have a tough sell in America, a place where historically (though not lately) social and economic status has been more fluid than in the rigid, class-oriented societies of the old world. And this is why the Occupy Movement--much like the Transition Movement--has its work cut out for it. It seeks to tell people a very uncomfortable set of truths: the system in which they have put their hope and faith, and to which they have given blood and sweat and years of their life, is now in actuality heavily weighted against the financial success and well-being of all but the top tier.  Far too many people hear these truths as nothing more than defeatist nonsense, complaints from a lazy bunch of losers who can't make it in the real world and are jealous of those who can.  This attitude is so deeply ingrained in many quarters of our society that I believe it makes the sort of wholesale, nationwide changes sought by the Occupy Movement all but impossible.  That's why I spend my time and efforts focusing on what I can do right here and right now in my own community, taking more of a "be the change" attitude rather than trying to change the whole world.
But that doesn't mean that I'm not watching what's going on with great interest, nor that I would be unwilling to lend a hand if it were needed in some positive way.  I wish the Occupiers well in their efforts, and for all our sakes I hope they find success.