Archive | November, 2012

Bailout ‘Of the People, By the People’ Exposes Bankers’ Greed | Common Dreams

12 Nov

The Occupy offshoot, Strike Debt, will hold a telethon and variety show called “The People’s Bailout” in New York on Nov. 15 to raise money for the cause. For pennies on the dollar ($32 for every $1), individuals or companies can buy distressed debt—including student loans and outstanding medical bills—from lenders if the borrower is either behind their payments or in default. Whereas traditional debt collectors then hound the debtor to pay up, the Rolling Jubilee is bunking the system by erasing the debt and, therefore, liberating the debtor.

via Bailout ‘Of the People, By the People’ Exposes Bankers’ Greed | Common Dreams.

How to get ready for 2016 – Salon.com

11 Nov

This article is oriented toward standard-issue party politics, which isn’t TnT’s cup of tea. The suggestions presume it. But the general advice is sound, start working now for 2016:

Take a week, take a month, whatever you need to rest up from the 2012 campaign cycle. But then? If you want to really make a difference in American politics, the time to get started is now. Not in September or October 2016, but in the next several months. Here’s why – and five suggestions for what you can do.

Here’s the sixth suggestion:

6. Or just get involved in a local party organization. Whether this one is worth it varies quite a bit from place to place, to be sure. In some areas, formal party organizations are excellent gateways into participation. In others, they’re just meaningless sideshows – although in some of those places, there are parallel groups of some sort, either highly organized or just loosely arranged, that really are more important than the formal party organizations. And all of these groups will vary in terms of how open they are to new participants. As with anything, don’t expect to walk in and immediately start rewriting the platform in your first meeting. But that’s the advantage of getting involved now, in the off-season. By the time most people start thinking about elections again, someone starting now will have had a chance to build up some seniority and influence.

In the case of Jersey City, the politics is dominated by an Old School machine. But my local Democratic Committee was quite successful in running an independent candidate for the City Council. She won against the Machine. That win is VERY BIG.

via How to get ready for 2016 – Salon.com.

Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy Was There – NYTimes.com

10 Nov

On Wednesday morning, as the winds picked up and FEMA closed its office “due to weather,” an enclave of Occupiers was huddled in a storefront amid the devastation, handing out supplies and trying to make sure that those bombarded by last month’s storm stayed safe and warm and dry this time.

“Candles?” asked a dull-eyed woman arriving at the door.

“I’m sorry, but we’re out,” said Sofia Gallisa, a field coordinator who had been there for a week. Ms. Gallisa escorted the woman in, and someone gave her batteries for her flashlight. As she walked away, word arrived that a firehouse nearby was closing for the night; the firefighters there were hurrying their rigs to higher ground.

“It’s crazy,” Ms. Gallisa later said of the official response. “For a long time, we were the only people out here doing relief work.”

After its encampment in Zuccotti Park, which changed the public discourse about economic inequality and introduced the nation to the trope of the 1 percent, the Occupy movement has wandered in a desert of more intellectual, less visible projects, like farming, fighting debt and theorizing on banking. While several nouns have been occupied — from summer camp to health care — it is only with Hurricane Sandy that the times have conspired to deliver an event that fully calls upon the movement’s talents and caters to its strengths.

via Where FEMA Fell Short, Occupy Sandy Was There – NYTimes.com.

What Have I Learned from Sandy? Resilience Begins in Responsibility

8 Nov

I phrase it as a question because, though, considered as a weather event, hurricane Sandy is over and done with, as a psycho-cultural-historical event, it is only in the early phases of its life. In an earlier post (Thoughts on Sandy: We Must Change Our Ways, NOW) I talked about the need to restructure our world:

We have to rethink and restructure. We have to decouple and downsize. Otherwise we’re committing suicide by “civilization” and technology.

That idea isn’t new to me. It’s been with me in one form or another for a long time.

But, whatever lessons Sandy has for others—and I hope her lessons have been deep ones—I’m beginning to think that she does have a lesson for me, a lesson about self-reliance, community, and their interdependence. Still, I’m not sure. It’s too soon to tell. In any event, before I get around to a tentative account of THAT lesson, I want first to talk about some other lessons.

Sputnik, Martial Law, Berlin Wall

These lessons are personal lessons, though not entirely so. They are lessons about the intersection of my life with the larger currents of history. As such, I don’t expect that these historical events will have the same or similar significance for others, though they might. Briefly, these are the events:

  • 1957: The Russians launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to circle the earth
  • 1968: Martin Luther King was assassinated, riots broke out, and martial law was declared in Baltimore
  • 1989: Berlin Wall came down and set the stage for the reunification of Germany

I was ten years old in 1957 and was fascinated by outer space, rockets, and such—a fascination stoked, no doubt, but various TV programs by Walt Disney and films such as Forbidden Planet (1956). The launching of Sputnik marks the first time my dreams and fantasies met-up with history.

The launching of Sputnik was certainly a world historical event. Shorn of politics, it was the first time that humans stepped off of the earth to inhabit outer space, if only briefly. But of course, we can’t divorce Sputnik from Cold War politics, nor did I do so as a ten-year old. I knew, in my ten-year old way, that it was important for America to beat the Russians in the space race that Sputnik had catalyzed.

However, by the mid-1960s I had decided that, if the Cold War was in fact a real and pressing international conflict, it was a conflict dominated by a military-industrial complex that was more interested in preserving itself than in preserving the peace. The war in Vietnam had made me a pacifist and the counter-culture had almost made me a hippie.

Almost. I wore hippie clothing, listen to the Beatles, the Doors, and Jimi Hendrix, and smoked weed—yes, I inhaled. But I never made it too full-out hippiedom. I was too much of an intellectual for that.

And when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, riots broke out in Baltimore, where I was attending The Johns Hopkins University. The riots took place in East Baltimore, far from the North Charles Street campus of university, but that made no difference when martial law was declared. The whole city was put on lock-down. Curfew was 4PM and National Guard vehicles and men patrolled the streets. Of course I had to break curfew, along with some of my hippie (and non-hippie) friends. Continue reading

After Hurricane Sandy, Debating Costly Sea Barriers in New York Area – NYTimes.com

8 Nov

In the past few years proposals have been floated to protect the NYC area from flodding by putting large gates into New York Bay. The gates would lie in the seafloor most of the time but would be raised into place during a major storm, such as Sandy.

He said that if gates had been placed in strategic spots like the Arthur Kill, between Staten Island and New Jersey, they would have protected some of the areas that were swamped by floodwaters, including the edges of Lower Manhattan, low-lying areas of Brooklyn and Queens and the western part of Staten Island, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken, N.J.

“The idea is that you raise these barriers, and anywhere inside of that you’re basically protected,” Dr. Colle said, adding, “With a solid barrier, we basically can have business as usual in Lower Manhattan.”

But vexing questions remain. Would industries tolerate immense disruption from the construction of barriers in the city’s busy waterways? Would residents object to the marring of vistas? With climate change advancing, can scientists accurately predict the size of hurricanes that the sea gates would one day have to withstand?

And where would the $10 billion-plus in construction money come from? Even a study — taking into account the complexity of New York waterways, projections in the rise in sea levels and other factors — would take years and millions of dollars.

The scientists and engineers who have worked on conceptual designs for the city say a comprehensive study is needed on what would be the most effective locations and the most practical type of barriers — whether they swing close like a driveway gate or pivot up from the ocean floor, for example.

A feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would have jurisdiction, would require authorization from Congress.

“A lot of things need to be taken into consideration before we throw up a giant wall,” said Chris Gardner, a spokesman for the corps.

What strikes me as that time to do the preliminary study and then the actual construction is on the order of significant climate change due to global warming. Thus one can imagine that the climate is changing fast enough that such gates would be obsolete by the time they’re built. These gates make sense ONLY if we take major steps to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Otherwise it’s just more wishful techno-dreaming.

via After Hurricane Sandy, Debating Costly Sea Barriers in New York Area – NYTimes.com.

Nation Spends $2.5 Billion on Nothing : The New Yorker

7 Nov

One day after the costliest Presidential election in U.S. history, Americans awoke to the ugly realization that the nation had spent $2.5 billion with absolutely nothing to show for it.

“Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, and that is still the case,” says Professor Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota. “The only difference is that we as a nation are out $2.5 billion.”

via Nation Spends $2.5 Billion on Nothing : The New Yorker.

Superstorm Sandy—a People’s Shock? | The Nation

6 Nov

Yes that’s right: this catastrophe very likely created by climate change—a crisis born of the colossal regulatory failure to prevent corporations from treating the atmosphere as their open sewer—is just one more opportunity for more deregulation. And the fact that this storm has demonstrated that poor and working-class people are far more vulnerable to the climate crisis shows that this is clearly the right moment to strip those people of what few labor protections they have left, as well as to privatize the meager public services available to them. Most of all, when faced with an extraordinarily costly crisis born of corporate greed, hand out tax holidays to corporations.

Is there anyone who can still feign surprise at this stuff? The flurry of attempts to use Sandy’s destructive power as a cash grab is just the latest chapter in the very long story I have called The Shock Doctrine. And it is but the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.

One example: between 2008 and 2010, at least 261 patents were filed or issued related to “climate-ready” crops—seeds supposedly able to withstand extreme conditions like droughts and floods; of these patents close to 80 percent were controlled by just six agribusiness giants, including Monsanto and Syngenta. With history as our teacher, we know that small farmers will go into debt trying to buy these new miracle seeds, and that many will lose their land.

via Superstorm Sandy—a People’s Shock? | The Nation.

Apocalypse Now: Sandy Dominates My Weltanschauung

6 Nov

Big word that: Weltanschauung. It means world view, a comprehensive top-to-bottom, right-to-left, inside-and-outside account of the world. Well, hurricane Sandy changed my world. She deserves a Big Word.

Now, physically, me and my stuff are now OK. But as I type this I hear noise created by the generator at the firehouse behind my building. The street it faces doesn’t have electric power. That firehouse is my polling place today. I assume the generator will power the electronic voting machine.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to get an ordinary winter storm, one of those storms that’re variously delightful, if you like snow, or merely irritating if you don’t. But this one is coming on top of Sandy, and Jersey City has not even remotely recovered from her. So the impact of this new storm could be harmful, especially for those still without power.

Given this, it is thus something of a shock when I go online to the various places I haunt and discuss and find that those discussions aren’t dominated by Sandy. Why not? Because most folks don’t live in an area that’s been crushed by Sandy. She doesn’t dominate their Weltanschuung.

For me and my neighbors, we got a taste of the apocalypse. For the rest of the world, life goes on.

The Permanent Militarization of America – NYTimes.com

5 Nov

The fact that both President Obama and Mitt Romney are calling for increases to the defense budget (in the latter case, above what the military has asked for) is further proof that the military is the true “third rail” of American politics. In this strange universe where those without military credentials can’t endorse defense cuts, it took a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, to make the obvious point that the nation’s ballooning debt was the biggest threat to national security.

via The Permanent Militarization of America – NYTimes.com.

Thoughts on Sandy: We Must Change Our Ways, NOW

5 Nov

IMGP1487rd

I didn’t really think much about Sandy until I went grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, October 28. The fact that Irene hadn’t hit Jersey City as bad as had been predicted meant little about Sandy. And I knew that. But still, how bad could it be? So I didn’t stock up on batteries, candles, and non-perishable food. Thus it’s a matter of luck that I had enough to get through four-and-a-half days without power.

Of course, I also had friends, June Jones in particular. A number of people met at her place for meals. She was cooking up a storm. Without power the food in her freezer would spoil quickly. She decided to cook it up and had her friends and family over.

Thanks, June!

And then there’s my friends at the Villain. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So I got home from shopping on Sunday afternoon and spent some more time on my Halloween costume: Trash Master. I was coming down the home stretch on it and figured it would be ready in plenty of time for the Halloween party we were throwing for the kids in the garden.

Did some more work on the costume on Monday and more this and that. Took some photos of wind whipping through the garden (see above) and planned my work for the rest of the week. Around 8:30 PM or so that evening the power flickered and then went out. But it came back in a minute or so. Every once in awhile I could feel the building shake. At 9:05 PM the power went out again, and didn’t come back.

Not to worry. I was ready for bed anyhow—I’m going to bed early these days, and getting up early, too, as always. I figured the power would be back when I woke up, or later that day.

I woke up Monday morning to darkness. I had some breakfast, grabbed my camera, and hit the streets by 6:45 AM. Very few lights were on anywhere. That was NOT a good sign, not good at all. Oh, some big buildings had lights on, buildings with generators no doubt. But mostly things were dark, in Jersey City AND in Manhattan.

Continue reading