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Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal

Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal

“For Sale” signs have replaced “Dairy of Distinction” on the last two dairy farms on the road I drive to town. The farm crisis of the 1980’s that never really went away has resurfaced with a vengeance. In 2013, aggregate farm earnings were half of what they were in 2012. Farm income has continued to decline ever since. The moment is ripe for the movement for a sustainable agriculture to address the root causes.

Just as in the 80s, a brief period of high commodity prices and cheap credit in the 2010’s resulted in a debt and asset bubble.

Then prices collapsed. Meanwhile, ever larger corporations have consolidated their dominance in the food sector resulting in shoppers paying more, and a shrinking portion of what they pay going to farmers. At first this mainly hit conventional farms, but in 2017, processors started limiting the amount of milk they purchased from organic dairies and cut the price paid below the cost of production. As a result, family-scale farms of all kinds are going out of business. Reports of farmer suicides are increasing dramatically.  Despite the shortage of farm workers, their wages remain below the poverty line.  People of color and women are often trapped in the lowest paying food system jobs and many are forced to survive on SNAP payments. The tariff game of #45 is only making things worse. The farm consolidation that has taken place has grave consequences for the environment and for climate change as well. The newly passed Farm Bill barely touches the structural and fairness issues that led to this on-going disaster for family-scale farms and the food security of this country.

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Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative

Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative

Is there such a plane of blissful, balanced information, deliberated and debated upon?  No.  Governments mangle; corporations distort.  Interest groups tinker.  Wars must be sold; deception must be perpetrated.  Inconsistencies must be removed.  There will be success, measured in small doses; failure, dispatched in grand servings.  The nature of news, hollow as it is, is to fill the next segment for the next release, a promiscuous delivery, an amoral ejaculate.  The notion a complicated world can somehow be compressed into a press release, a brief, an observation, is sinister and defeating.

The believers in an objective, balanced news platform are there.  Grants are forked out for such romantic notions as news with integrity, directed to increase “trust in news”, which is tantamount to putting your trust in an institution which has been placed on the mortician’s table.  The Trump era has seen a spike in such funding, but it belies a fundamental misconception about what news is.

Funny, then, that the environment should now be so neatly split: the Russians (always) seen to distort from a central programme, while no one else does.  The Kremlin manipulates feeble minds; virtuous powers do not.  The most powerful nation on the planet claims to be free of this, the same country that boasts cable news networks and demagoguery on the airwaves that have a distinct allergy against anything resembling balanced reporting, many backed by vast funding mechanisms for political projects overseas.  Britain, faded yet still nostalgically imperial, remains pure with the BBC, known as the Beeb, a sort of immaculate conception of news that purportedly survives manipulation.  Other deliverers of news through state channels also worship the idol of balance – Australia’s ABC, for one, asserts that role.

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A Green Future is One Without War

A Green Future is One Without War

Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future.

President Trump is the increasingly naked truth. He’s what we have wound up with: a raw, uncensored scapegoating and fear-mongering that’s too much for most of the American public. And thus the political center, the military-industrial-media consensus that has ruled the country for the past four and a half decades, pushing progressive values to the margins of American politics, is unraveling. Centrist compromise, which birthed the Trump presidency, can’t mask the truth anymore.

It’s time to evolve.

If we don’t, we’re stuck in the mire of racism, exploitation, empire and war. We’re stuck in the dead past, which has given us the current state of Planet Earth: a planet at war with itself in multiple ways. We’re stuck in a dead past and a dying future.

This is the context, I believe, in which we should evaluate the Green New Deal, which may well be the most brightly shining political ideal to emerge on the national horizon in my Boomer lifetime. Here’s how one of the Deal’s arch enemies, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, described it recently in the Washington Examiner:

“Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States. If we don’t stop the Green New Deal, our economy may not survive. This isn’t a battle we can afford to lose.”

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The Tears of Justin Trudeau

The Tears of Justin Trudeau

On January 7th the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept into a non-violent checkpoint set up by the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Fourteen people were violently arrested in the ambush by the militarized colonial forces. The camp was set up by hereditary leaders to defend the ancestral lands of the Unist’ot’en and other clans from the unwanted incursions of TransCanada and its Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Following the incident Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had the temerity to extol the neoliberal scheme behind the incident as something that is good for the earth. In a speech to supporters he said: “We moved forward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest private sector investment in Canada’s history, $40-billion, which is going to produce Canadian LNG that will supplant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the environment.” After being pressed in a radio interview about the brutal raid Trudeau said of the arrests that it is “not an ideal situation, but at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.” Apparently he does not consider Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be law. It states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories.” It may be difficult for ordinary people to choke out hypocritical, ahistorical fallacies without missing a beat, but the Prime Minister has a gift for spouting empty platitudes that fly in the face of reality and he isn’t alone.

There is something familiar about Trudeau’s lamentation on this situation as well as his appeal for the rule of law. This is because neoliberal leaders around the world have used similar justifications for the violence of the corporate state.

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The Austere Neoliberal Globalist Agenda

The Austere Neoliberal Globalist Agenda

‘You’ve over-fed him, ma’am. You’ve raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma’am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It’s quite enough that we let ’em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma’am, this would never have happened.’

‘Oliver Twist’, Charles Dickens

Reading this Briefing Note on ‘The Integrity Initiative’ is akin to a ‘mind of the gap’ between what passed off as ‘News’ in the Corporatist Mainstream Media and what genuine investigative journalism as serves ‘Democracy as an Alternative’ is all about; it is as to go from a Corporatist diet where ‘watered down gruel’ the norm for the masses to a veritable banquet of richly nutrient ‘culinary delight’ as would be unpermitted as unshared by private interests; with rationale as to the quote from Dickens above.

– It is as to see ‘currency’ in a new light?

For the essence of ‘Black Propaganda’ as neoliberal Corporatist expression is to feed ‘gruel’ to the masses by way of an austerity of information dissemination under manipulation and control which furthers a transfer of resources from public interests to private interests; it is as to a modus operandi of Globalisation as control and manipulation by way of homogenisation, standardisation, and denial?

In colloquial more vernacular: such cultivated austerity by way of mockingbird constitutes a large part of the ‘mushroom theory of Government’ as operated by a ruling minority euphemized as the ‘Deep State’ over a majority, i.e. ‘keep them in the dark and feet them shit‘?

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Will the Yellow Vests Protests Come to the US?

Will the Yellow Vests Protests Come to the US?

A truth about movements is, they move. They morph, evolve and move around a country or even around the globe. This occurs over months and often over years.

The US Occupy encampment era occurred ten months after the Arab Spring and six months after the Spanish Indignado movement – early versions of occupy. It started in New York and then spread across the United States and to other countries. It was a global revolt against the 1% that changed politics in the United States and continues to have impacts today.

The Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) movement in France is having a major impact and gaining international attention, already spreading to other nations, with some nations like Egypt banning the sale of yellow vests to prevent the protest from spreading there. The movement is showing that disrupting business-as-usual gets results. Will it come to the United States? What form would it take here? What could spark the equivalent of the Yellow Vests in the US?

Social Movements Create Global Waves Of Protest

It is common for a protest to develop in one part of the world and move to another country. This is even more common in modern times as the economy has become globalized and communication across different countries has become easier.

The US revolution against Great Britain was part of the Age of Enlightenment, which questioned traditional authority and emphasized natural rights of life, liberty, and equality as well as sought self-government and religious freedom. The French Revolution followed 13 years after the US in 1789. It led to political changes in the UK, Germany and across Europe. This coincided with the Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar, freeing colonies from the Spanish Empire including Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. They became independent and briefly united as a single nation.

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Money is no Object

Money is no Object

Chances are, most of what you’ve learned about taxes and the economy is wrong. In fact, the key principles at work in our economic system are very different from what we’re taught. 

If you find you’re one of those who’s been misled, it’s not your fault. A system such as ours – where eight individuals control as much wealthas half of all humanity – can only be maintained with force and deception. As the industrialist Henry Ford is said to have opined, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

It’s commonly believed that:

Today’s money has intrinsic value. (It doesn’t.) 

Taxes fund government spending. (They don’t.)

Automation inevitably threatens jobs. (It doesn’t have to.) 

Federal budget deficits must saddle future generations with debt. (Not so.)

In fact, to fund needed social programs – like free national healthcare, free education, jobs for all, a reduced work week with no reduction in pay, cleaning up the environment, rebuilding infrastructure, converting the economy from fossil fuels to renewables, and more – the federal government could simply print more money. Wait a minute, you say, it can’t be as simple as that! But read on. The enormity of the deception promoted by those at the top is that funding human needs really is that simple. 

One of the biggest misdirections of all time is expressed in the well-known aphorism: “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” While it’s true that wealth doesn’t grow on trees, money and wealth are not the same thing. Money itself is available in whatever quantity society needs. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?

Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

I’ve been hearing about neoliberalism for a long time now and never could make much sense of it. It turns out the story we tell about neoliberalism is as contradictory as neoliberalism itself. Two currents within the critique of neoliberalism offer different analyses of the current economy and suggest different strategies for dealing with the gross exploitation, wealth inequality, climate destruction and dictatorial governance of the modern corporate order.

These opposing currents are not just different schools of thought represented by divergent thinkers. Rather they appear as contradictions within the critiques of neoliberalism leveled by some of the most influential writers on the subject. These different interpretations are often the result of focus. Look at neoliberal doctrine and intellectuals and the free market comes to the fore. Look at the history and practice of the largest corporations and the most powerful political actors and corporate power takes center stage.

The most influential strain of thought places “free market fundamentalism” (FMF) at the center of a critical analysis of neoliberalism. The term was coined by Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank itself –Joseph Stigliz. FMF is usually how neoliberalism is understood by progressives and conservatives alike. In this view, an unregulated free market is the culprit and the oft cited formula — de-regulation, austerity, privatization, tax cuts — is the means used to undermine the public commons.

David Harvey’s, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, is perhaps the single most influential book and the author begins with the free market. Harvey sets it up like this:

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How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”

How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The following is an excerpt from the new book The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank.

That Tre Arrow, a tree-hugging vegan who espouses non-violence and lives by the airy and some nebulous philosophy of Gaia, would top the FBI’s Most Wanted list, only reaffirms the notion that the Bureau’s energy is being exerted in specious directions.

On August 12, 2008, after a tumultuous seven-year investigation, Arrow was sentenced in Federal court to six-and-a-half years for lighting three cement haulers ablaze at the notorious Ross Island Sand and Gravel in Portland, Oregon, as well as firebombing two trucks and one front loader owned by Ray Schoppert Logging Company near the timber town of Estacada, Oregon. The acts were in protest of the Eagle Creek timber sale in Mt. Hood National Forest in the late 1990s.

Located in a roadless area within Oregon’s Clackamas River watershed, the streams that snake through the old growth groves of Eagle Creek provide drinking water for over 185,000 people in the greater Portland area. Critics of the plan to log Eagle Creek argued that the forest’s steep slopes were in the “transient snow zone” and would likely lead to future landslides and mass flooding, which would ultimately spoil water quality during the region’s frequent rain-on-snow events. Arrow was one of the most creative and articulate activists opposing the sale.

A grim-faced, 34-year-old Arrow listened warily as Judge James Redden read his sentence. At the behest of his lawyers, Bruce Ellison and Paul Loney, Arrow earlier signed off on a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice and accepted responsibility for his role in the arsons, even though for years he denied any involvement.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Slip of the Imperial Mask

Slip of the Imperial Mask

O’Reilly then said about Putin: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”

Trump responded: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”–Feb 4, 2017

I remember the day well. It was the day when the leader “of the free world” gave a hint of the true state of affairs in that allegedly “free” world.

To this day I’m not sure why he said it. Why would Trump give free ideological ammunition against his own empire? Certainly not out of a feeling of remorse or some sense of historical justice. More likely then it was perhaps as a thinly veiled threat to those, worldwide, who would seek to oppose him? Something like: “You know what we are and we’re so powerful that we no longer even fear publicly telling you up front about it”.

Yes, on that day President Trump punctured the still pervasive “myth of American innocence”.A topic which has been profusely written about by Noam Chomsky among others.

American hands are dirty. They drip with blood. They are an Orwellian power continuously existing through totalitarian contradictions. Their carefully constructed mask of freedom, hides the most insidious forms of slavery.

But they are not alone. To maintain an Empire one needs allies. And these they have in abundance. They are not just the globalized elites who rule the world but any who manage to benefit and prosper through their rule. Thus American Empire is not just an elite phenomenon but, crucially, a class cutting one. Witness the recent election and massive support for Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, a cliched American puppet that doesn’t even seek to hide that fact egoistically trumpeting his facsimile to Trump. Even here in once radicalized Brazil, Empire is no longer afraid to proudly speak its name.

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Center for Science in the Public Interest Greg Jaffe Cornell and GMOs

Center for Science in the Public Interest Greg Jaffe Cornell and GMOs

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is known in public interest circles as one of the premiere food safety public interest groups in Washington, D.C.

But that reputation has suffered over the years because of the group’s stance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – including its opposition to mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

That GMO stance aligns CSPI with pro-GMO organizations and against other consumer groups – including Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union and US Right to Know.

In 2015, CSPI refused to debate Consumers Union’s Michael Hansen on the question of mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

“Why is CSPI defending a technology that has health and environmental risks but nearly no consumer benefits?” asked Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know at the time. “CSPI has done a lot of good work over the years. But on the issue of GMOs, they have lost their way.”

Now, Greg Jaffe, the head CSPI’s Biotechnology Project, has publically aligned himself with one of the most pro-GMO groups in the country – the Cornell Alliance for Science.

Jaffe works part time as the Cornell Alliance for Science associate director of legal affairs.

“CSPI contracts with Cornell for part of his salary to have Greg provide expert technical assistance to the Alliance for Science,” said CSPI’s Jeff Cronin. “The Alliance for Science, like CSPI, takes no donations from corporations and discloses its donors on its website.”

Cronin would not say how much Cornell is paying Jaffe.

(The Cornell Alliance for Science primary donor is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But the Alliance does list as one of its funders a corporation – Blue Mountain Capital, a hedge fund with $21 billion under management.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climacide: Survival Rebranding

Climacide: Survival Rebranding

A 15-year old Swedish girl bitch slapped the world’s representatives at the recent climate conference in Poland. She stood before them and called them frauds and fakers, while they sat in limp silence. She said they’d had their chances to do something effective about the climate crisis, and they had failed. It was time for them to get out of the way and leave the solution to the next generation, whose future was at stake.

The delegates applauded lamely and resumed their assignment of crafting an intricate  rule book for implementing the earlier Paris climate accords, which were admittedly voluntary, unenforceable and insufficient to the magnitude of the crisis. The American contingent in Poland even staged an event glorifying the burning of more coal—but “clean” coal with some carbon capture to make such operations benign.

This scene repeats a familiar pattern now reduced to a ritual. Professed experts and interests gather to assess what has been done. They concede their efforts have been earnest but inadequate. Some among them, plus intruders, pitch a fit about how little has been accomplished. All pledge to do better—and then go home and continue doing much the same as before.

These rituals apparently have the endurance to continue while the seas rise into the conference halls, the forests burn down around them and the people are rioting in the surrounding streets.

The world began formally addressing the issue this way with the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988—IPCC. At that time global warming was becoming a common name for the looming disaster. But this wasn’t scientifically sound because the evidence showed an increase in hot and cold spikes, rains and droughts, storms and calms around a gradually rising average global temperature in pace with atmospheric carbon dioxide increases from human activities. And global warming sounded too hellishly fire and brimstone apocalyptic.

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Living on a Quagmire Planet: This Could Get a Lot Uglier

Living on a Quagmire Planet: This Could Get a Lot Uglier

Sixty-six million years ago, so the scientists tell us, an asteroid slammed into this planet. Landing on what’s now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, it gouged out a crater 150 kilometers wide and put so much soot and sulfur into the atmosphere that it created what was essentially a prolonged “nuclear winter.” During that time, among so many other species, large and small, the dinosaurs went down for the count. (Don’t, however, tell that to your local chicken, the closest living relative — it’s now believed — of Tyrannosaurus Rex.)

It took approximately 66 million years for humanity to evolve from lowly surviving mammals and, over the course of a recent century or two, teach itself how to replicate the remarkable destructive power of that long-gone asteroid in two different ways: via nuclear power and the burning of fossil fuels. And if that isn’t an accomplishment for the species that likes to bill itself as the most intelligent ever to inhabit this planet, what is?

Talking about accomplishments: as humanity has armed itself ever more lethally, it has also transformed itself into the local equivalent of so many asteroids. Think, for instance, of that moment in the spring of 2003 when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and crew launched the invasion of Iraq with dreams of setting up a Pax Americana across the Greater Middle East and beyond. By the time U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the burning and looting of the Iraqi capital had already begun, leaving the National Museum of Iraq trashed (gone were the tablets on which Hammurabi first had a code of laws inscribed) and the National Library of Baghdad, with its tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, in flames. (No such “asteroid” had hit that city since 1258, when Mongol warriors sacked it, destroying its many libraries and reputedly leaving the Tigris River running “black with ink” and red with blood.)

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Land Grabbers: the Threat of Giant Agriculture

Land Grabbers: the Threat of Giant Agriculture

In the 1980s, I met a retired general at a Borders bookstore in northern Virginia. He used to buy tons of military history books. I used to buy environmental and classics books. We started talking about books. But, slowly, in our discussion of Latin America, I criticized American policies, especially the immoral support of  landlords against landless peasants.

“If I knew you a few years ago, I would take you outside the town and shoot you,” he said to me.

I dismissed this vicious threat as a sign the old man was crazy. But the threat, nevertheless, mirrors the invisible war around farming, food, and the environment. I felt the tension of that ceaseless war for decades.

Agrarian reform

In January 28 – February 1, 1992, I was attending an international climate and development conference in Brazil. I was one of the speakers addressing agrarian reform.

I argued that it was necessary for governments and international institutions to protect peasant farmers from the violence of large industrialized farmers. Moreover, Brazil and many other countries, including the United States, should give land to peasants and very small family farmers because the farming they practice has had negligible impact on climate change. In contrast, agribusiness and, especially animal farms, are having significant effects on global warming.

Taking this position in 1992, apparently, was controversial. Once at the conference in the gorgeous city of Fortaleza, Ceara, Northeast Brazil, I learned I would not be delivering my paper. Instead, I joined a few professors in a small room wasting our time: debating agrarian reform and drawing recommendations destined to oblivion.

Fear in the countryside

This is just one example of what happens to unwelcomed ideas. Governments ignore or suppress them. Powerful media refuse to publish them. Advocates of those ideas often abandon them. Sometimes, they risk death.

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Why are We Still Logging Our Forests?

Why are We Still Logging Our Forests?

Anyone who accepts true science realizes that today’s big forest fires are driven far more by climate warming than by a lack of “active forest management” as claimed in previous editorial opinions.

Active forest management, more honestly called “logging,” has always been the timber industry’s cure-all for every perceived problem in our forests.Until science confirmed the amazing diversity and value of our old forests, they were deemed to be “decadent,” badly in need of logging and replacement with more efficient tree farms. When there were budworm or bark beetle breakouts, industry said our forests were being decimated and needed logging to “restore” them. Science disagreed, noting that insects and disease were important components of healthy forest ecosystems. When our forests burn, industry claims quick logging and replanting is necessary to salvage their value. Science again exposed their myths, showing the value of leaving burned forests as critical habitat and how forests reseed and recover naturally from fires like the Biscuit.

I kept a cabin within the huge weather-caused and weather-extinguished Biscuit Fire in Oregon. It was years of cutting and burning non-merchantable understories that saved my cabin, not logging. In the aftermath, I witnessed how little difference commercially thinned stands made to fire spread or intensity. I photographed sites where flames consumed thinned stands only to lie down when they hit the cooler, moister, unthinned forest.

To me, as a timber cruiser and broker who’s tracked timber data and sale prices for decades, it’s obvious why industry preaches logging for all that ails our forests. They make grossly unfair profits from logging public timber sales — far more than the environmental attorneys who litigate them. Scorched old sugar pines and Douglas firs from Biscuit salvage sales sold at literally a dime to the dollar of real value. These sales were sold at a net loss to us as the forest owners, as are many federal timber sales.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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