Archive | November, 2012

With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again | The Nation

26 Nov

Hanover and Severn, MD—For about twenty-four hours, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job (last month‘s strikes drew 160). Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States.

“I’m so happy that this is history, that my grandkids can learn from this to stand up for themselves,” Miami striker Elaine Rozier told The Nation Thursday night. Before, “I always used to sit back and not say anything…. I’m proud of myself tonight.”

Rozier and her co-workers kicked off the Black Friday strike around 7:30 EST Thursday night; it rolled from Miami through big cities like Chicago and smaller ones like Tulsa, where overnight stocker Christopher Bentley Owen, agitated by an intimidating “captive audience” meeting, decided at the last minute to join the organization and became his store’s sole striker. After holding back because he didn’t plan to stay in his job for long, said Owen, he recognized that millions of other low-wage workers offer the same reason not to get involved. “Meanwhile,” he said, “there are millions of people in those jobs…at some point, people have to get together.”

via With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again | The Nation.

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Colleges Turn to Crowd-Sourcing Courses – NYTimes.com

20 Nov

Professors delight in reaching more students in one course than they could otherwise teach in a lifetime. Dr. Ezekiel shows off a postcard from a student in Sri Lanka. Al Filreis, the poetry professor, tells of an 81-year-old Greek shut-in who got 180 responses to his essay on Emily Dickinson. There are stories of elderly students doing homework together at their assisted-living facility and Capitol Hill staff members taking the health policy course.

via Colleges Turn to Crowd-Sourcing Courses – NYTimes.com.

The Real Estate Deal That Could Change the Future of Everything – Neighborhoods – The Atlantic Cities

20 Nov

Why the real estate industry sucks:

Investors primarily concerned with a quick return have given us what real estate developer Chris Leinberger calls a disposable built environment. We’ve taken a 40-year asset class in real estate, he says, and turned it into a five-to-seven-year one. This is one byproduct of the weird reality that it’s easier for people who don’t live in your community to invest in it, that it’s easier to finance new suburban strip malls than to redevelop an empty storefront.

via The Real Estate Deal That Could Change the Future of Everything – Neighborhoods – The Atlantic Cities.

Global Warming: Is it beginning to sink in?

20 Nov

The New York Times has recognized global warming for some time. So it’s not surprising that, post-Sandy, it’s been running a variety of articles on the theme: WTF do we do? Then thing is, the damage from Sandy has been so extensive that, one way or the other, billions upon billions of dollars will have to be spent. Even if the body politic decides to do nothing, that is, go back the way things were before Sandy, it’s going to cost billions and billions of dollars.

And that’s billions and billions of dollars in one of the most visible cities in the world, a city that has long prided itself on being the world’s de facto financial and artistic capital and, in a sense, the world’s premier city. After all, New York is where the United Nations in headquartered, no? New York is not some exotic quasi-tropical tourist destination like New Orleans. New York is, you know, the captial of the freakin’ world.

And it’s freakin’ because now it’s GOT spend billions and billions to do SOMETHING. But what?

In Vetoing Business as Usual After the Storm Michael Kimmelman puts it like this:

Cost-benefit analyses, long overdue, should answer tough questions like whether it’s actually worth saving some neighborhoods in flood zones. Communities like Breezy Point should be given knowledge, power and choice about their options, then the responsibility to live by that choice.

This means embracing a policy of compassion and honest talk. It’s no good merely to try to go back to the way things were, because they are not
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This sort of conversation is a third rail of American politics, so it’s no wonder all presidents promise to rebuild and stick taxpayers with the tab. That billions of dollars may end up being spent to protect businesses in Lower Manhattan while old, working-class communities on the waterfronts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island most likely won’t get the same protection flies in the face of ideas about social justice, and about New York City, with its open-armed self-image as a capital of diversity.

But the decisions ahead come down to nature and numbers, to density, economics and geology. Our relationship to the water can’t stay the same, and at the same time the city is not worth saving if it sacrifices its principles and humanity. Continue reading

Morning Rush Hour at the Holland Tunnel, Jersey Side: Say Hello to the End of the World

18 Nov

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A month ago I used Holland Tunnel traffic as a vehicle for explaining how, with the best of intentions, our world has gotten too big and unwieldy. Here’s some photos of rush hour traffic that I took on November 27, 2006 at roughly 7AM.

The tolls have doubled since then, not to mention the price of gas. Cynical rumour has it that the increase is mostly to fund the construction of One World Center. At 1776 feet tall–get it, 1776?–it’s the tallest office building in the USofA. And it’s a dog. The office space isn’t needed.

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Just think how tall that puppy’d be, though, if the USofA had gone metric. 1776 meters! Yikes! But that’d sure show those Arabs, wouldn’t it? Continue reading

A Phony Hero for a Phony War – NYTimes.com

16 Nov

The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

I spent part of the fall of 2003 with General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division in and around Mosul, Iraq. One of the first questions I asked him was what his orders had been. Was he ordered to “take Mosul,” I asked. No answer. How about “Find Mosul and report back”? No answer. Finally I asked him if his orders were something along the lines of “Go to Mosul!” He gave me an almost imperceptible nod. It must have been the first time an American combat infantry division had been ordered into battle so casually.

via A Phony Hero for a Phony War – NYTimes.com.

BP Will Plead Guilty and Pay Over $4 Billion – NYTimes.com

16 Nov

While the settlement dispels one dark cloud that has hovered over BP since the spill, it does not resolve what is potentially the largest penalty related to the incident: the company could owe as much as $21 billion in pollution fines under the Clean Water Act f it is found to have been grossly negligent. Both the government and BP vowed to vigorously contest that issue at a trial scheduled to begin in February.

Under its deal with the Justice Department, BP will pay about $4 billion in penalties over five years. That amount includes $1.256 billion in criminal fines, $2.394 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for remediation efforts and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences. The criminal fine is one of the largest levied by the United States against a corporation.

via BP Will Plead Guilty and Pay Over $4 Billion – NYTimes.com.

Occupy Offshoot Aims to Erase People’s Debts – NYTimes.com

14 Nov

The group, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement called Strike Debt, is trying to buy some of the debts that people have accrued — which lenders often sell for pennies on the dollar to third parties who either try to collect on it or bundle it up for resale. Strike Debt, however, is not looking to collect on them; instead it plans to give some debtors the surprise of a lifetime.

“Basically what we’re going to do is exactly the same as what a regular debt buyer would do, with one big difference,” said Thomas Gokey, an artist and teacher. “Rather than collect the debt, we’re just going to abolish it.”

via Occupy Offshoot Aims to Erase People’s Debts – NYTimes.com.

The Rise of Social Entrepreneur – NYTimes.com

14 Nov

One of the most interesting stories in social change today is how much creative problem-solving is emerging from citizens scattered far and wide who are taking it upon themselves to fix things and who, in many cases, are outperforming traditional organizations. At Fixes, we’ve reported on dozens of creative efforts in education, health care, vocational training, prison reform, foster care — many of which have been initiated by citizens.

via The Rise of Social Entrepreneur – NYTimes.com.

Report Sees U.S. as Top Oil Producer, Overtaking Saudi Arabia, in 5 Years – NYTimes.com

13 Nov

The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by about 2017 and will become a net oil exporter by 2030, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

That increased oil production, combined with new American policies to improve energy efficiency, means that the United States will become “all but self-sufficient” in meeting its energy needs in about two decades — a “dramatic reversal of the trend” in most developed countries, a new report released by the agency says.

And when we’ve ruined out water supply with all that fracking, what are we going to drink?

via Report Sees U.S. as Top Oil Producer, Overtaking Saudi Arabia, in 5 Years – NYTimes.com.