Monthly Archives: July 2012

Life Suck

As contractions of the national and global economies grow more severe, their impacts are felt more painfully by more people. The same is true here at Civil Tongue. Blog creation is not a money making venture, most bloggers blog out of the need to share something, the need for community. As always, I, your lowly blog author, am available for all sorts of analysis, research and writing – please inquire by posting a quick comment (I can then respond to your email), but my own personal struggle against this economy is not just philosophical – it is also painful in reality.

The last time I had full time employment was before 9/11. My industry was heavily affected by the attacks and I was laid off, then rehired part time. This was adequate for many years because I had my first child four months after 9/11, and my next a couple of years later. Before 9/11, my husband and I were comfortably middle/upper class.

Ten years later and I no longer own a home, we have both been laid off, and are definitely in the low income tax bracket (when we can get work at all). The descent has taken an absolutely devastating toll on my family in other personal, less quantatative ways. We are a poster-childish family of how things fall apart in the current economy involving nearly every major collapse that has happened in the last decade (hey, at least we didn’t have huge investments).

It’s time to stop pretending that I am doing “just fine”, I’m not. This hurts like hell. It is very sad and difficult for me to guide my children and family to a more positive and secure future. Their education, interests, and personality are all relative to how well they will do in the future and I no longer have the resources to provide what’s best or even mediocre.  It’s time for us to let our friends and family know how bad it really is. It’s time to walk across the street to the Joneses’ house, knock on their door, tell them that we can’t keep up with them anymore, offer a truce (like a dinner invitation), and make real friends that don’t compete materialistically – friends that share and support one another in tough times.  I know it may be severely outside your comfort zone.

I’m writing this outside of my comfort zone, but also necessity. I no longer can promise daily posts. My resources are limited and while my heart is in this work, I may have to scrub toilets, stand waving in a Little Ceasar’s costume, or be a gopher for someone. I am taking any and all work that I think I can physically complete – and even that work is few and far between. The work is often poverty wages, so I will likely be busier and busier – probably just fine with corporatists that would like a loud mouth like myself to just shut up and go away (or die- I certainly don’t have health insurance though I have some serious health issues).

For my fair and loyal readers, how I might work this out is to have a few “real” posts per week where I attempt to analyze and make some relevant points on political framing and the current news of the day.  The rest of the days I will do less time consuming posts and just line up some of the poignant news stories that I wan’t to elaborate on, but don’t have time.

As always, I welcome guest posts – especially well thought out and well written ones that are different than my belief system. If you have one, again, let me know by comments.

Government is not bad or good inherently, it is necessary to live together with billions of strangers with some basic universal concerns collectively though through. When those governments cease to help the People, it is time for them to change.

Here are a few stories that I have strong feelings about, how about you?

Mosquito Drones

A team of researchers at the vaunted Johns Hopkins University – in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Arlington, Va. – is helping develop what they are calling an MAV (micro aerial vehicle) that will no doubt have loads of uses, up to and including the usurpation of privacy rights by the Leviathan State.

Initially though, it’s thought that MAVs will be incorporated for use by the military, for situations when stealth is of the utmost importance. The tiny drones could effortlessly infiltrate urban areas, where dense concentrations of buildings and people, along with unpredictable winds and other obstacles make it impractical, if not impossible, to use a standard-sized drone. Domestic uses include search-and-rescue operations and, of course, observation.

How small, exactly? Well, a graphic on the site of the Air Force research agency features what looks to be an electronic mosquito.

Oregon Man Gets Jail Time for Collecting Rainwater on His Own Property

Collecting rainwater can get you in legal trouble in Oregon. A court has sentenced a southern Oregon man to 30 days in jail, and a fine, for maintaining 3 illegal reservoirs on his property. Amelia Templeton of Earthfix reports.

Gary Harrington has told the court, and newspapers that he was just storing rainwater to use for wildfire protection. But rainwater is what fills most of the rivers in Oregon, says Tom Paul with the Oregon Water Resources Department. And you can’t divert its natural flow it without getting permission first.

Paul: “If you build a dam, an earthen dam, and interrupt the flow of water off of the property, and store that water that is an activity that would require a water right permit from us.”

Paul says one of Harrington’s dams was 15 feet high. And the dams were capturing water that flowed into a nearby creek, which belongs to the City of Medford. Harrington is appealing his jail sentence and fine.

Learn more: http://nwpr.org/post/southern-oregon-man-sentenced-jail-time-illegal-rainwater-reservoirs#disqus_thread

Is Algebra Necessary?

This debate matters. Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. My aim is not to spare students from a difficult subject, but to call attention to the real problems we are causing by misdirecting precious resources.

The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason.

a definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.

See the opinion piece here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

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Weak and Wimpy Candidates

Wow! What fireworks! The gloves are off, fists are flying, the big guns have appeared: the wimpy words.

The world may be focused on London and I suppose gaffes that recall the prime minister’s backside are super offensive to some (for the rest of the world it sort of proves the stodgy stereotype of the English), but the overseas gaffes are nothing compared to what is now going on.

There is a storyline building about Mitt Romney that is fatal to any Republican (and probably any other) candidate, and unless he does some fancy posturing, it is threatening to stick. Romney is being painted as a wimp.

Anyone recall another “wimp” president? It could be argued that the moniker of “wimp”, was the impetus of George W. Bush‘s presidency – to return honor to the family after his dad was labeled with the charge.

The word “wimp” or “weak” is the harshest disparaging remark one could make about a conservative and the charge has now been leveled at Romney by Newsweek – the same publication that put the nail in the coffin of George H. W. Bush‘s presidency. The idea has online news sources chattering as well, like in this article Mitt Romney’s Wimp Factor. The article points out how Romney seems afraid and running every time he’s pressed on an issue. Perhaps this kind of talk is what has him posturing as Commander in Chief this week while he snuggles up to Israel and sabre rattles in Iran’s direction.

We already know how sabre rattling turns out when it is nothing but cover for a non-existent domestic agenda and insecure self image. It’s not good. A war with Iran would surely be the beginning of an entirely new era – one that could make our current economic, environmental and political situation look like a Sunday School picnic.

Testosterone and attempts to prove manliness in the face of scrutiny or ridicule have acted as a genocidal force on our planet. Letting “the wimp factor” factor into military decisions takes away the trust that the People – Americans in this case – have in the Commander in Chief and the mission. We’ve stopped doing military in defense; we are now seen as the world aggressor.

Dick Cheney fully remembers what happened to George Bush Sr., he was Secretary of Defense. He also is fond of profiting from war as he did with Haliburton/KBR (and perhaps still does) he also is a big fan of fracking, helping to create the loophole that exempted fracking from the Safe Water Act in 2005 (article here) – which he also did to stuff the pockets of Haliburton.

Perhaps that’s why a day or two after “the wimp factor” story came out about the new Newsweek cover, Cheney decided to start getting loud about how he thinks Obama is one of the weakest presidents ever. He’s worried. You don’t really hear a lot our of Cheney these days – he lays low, doing his profiteering thing until a campaign needs someone to stir up the hawks, then he steps out to remind us that we do need a “strict father” that is focused on making money and kicking some butt.

Why are the words “weak” and “wimp” so significant? For conservatives, they are the reddest of flags that let them know that they don’t like a person. “Weak” and “wimp” say that the subject is not strong, is not decisive, and cannot be relied upon. They are not manly, have no nerve, and “chicken out” of fighting. Instead of seeing diplomatic measures as being a pragmatic way to save lives, money, the environment and energy, is seen as nuanced weakness. Conservatives operate on more of a black and white decision making system, if you’re not into “fight”, you must be into “flight”.  Progressives understand that every circumstance has multiple issues and causes at hand, learning about the situation and making deliberations are likely in order when deciding something as destructive as war.

Note the wimpy words, they are a little different than typical political mud slinging. Candidates can be called dumb, arrogant, selfish, evil, dishonest, manipulative, womanizing, ugly, disconnected…there are lots of descriptors flying around but the wimpy words are harder to shake – American’s don’t want a weak president.

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Happy Weekend!

Strange Times we are living in. This is all I have today.

Man Camps and Sacrifice Zones

There  is no limit to industry’s reach. The corporation – who some want to be regarded as “people”- has no moral guidance, no mission of ethics, no feelings. Corporatists often throw up their hands and say, “What can we do? We are legally beholden to the shareholders to make as much money as possible” the part about disregard for quality of life for anyone but upper management goes unspoken but is understood.” As Chris Hedges says, “These corporations know only one word, and that’s more”.

Oil industry Man Camps Offer No Stress Living – this article offers a local paper’s view on the fracking boom. Reducing options, free time, and family time relates to being stress free in a similar way that a prison cell mate relates to feeling secure.

Another description of the man camp in assumably favorable terms -you will find the link on their own company’s website here.

The camps are basically a series of mobile homes linked together, only each doublewide is flanked with double occupancy bedrooms. Dining is group, there are group exercise rooms,  Here is one excerpt from the Billings Gazette:

Crew camp compounds are typically are made up of small, bedroom-sized units that are interconnected. The facilities usually are leased by companies in the oil industry, and can be deconstructed in days.

“When the bust comes, and it will, these facilities will be farming fields again,” Lash said. “We’re not sticking around, and will move them to the next great opportunity.”

Most counties in western North Dakota are ill-equipped to handle the swarms of workers, many of whom have been forced to live in campers, cars and tents.

“We’re running out of water, out of sewer, out of electricity, and until those get taken care of, how do you add more man camps to the mix?” said Dan Kalil, a commissioner in Williams County, the hub of the oil bonanza.

In Dickinson, in the southwest corner of the oil patch, the planning and zoning commission on Wednesday approved what would be the state’s largest man camp, a 3,000-unit facility in an industrial area near the wastewater treatment plant.

It makes no sense. The workers can’t afford to live there, so they fly home every two weeks to see their family. If an industry can’t allow a human being to live a decent life with their family (not next to a wastewater treatment facility), they should have to offset the environmental costs to the rest of us for their wreckless encouragement of such a high carbon impact lifestyle. Government subsidies to these fossil fuel companies should cease immediately – fracking included.
The article later speaks of the boomtown/ghostown phenomenon in a small town; like a gold/oil/gas rush. Longtimers have high hopes for the revival of their town, industry stays focused on the bottom line, and everyone else scrambles for a living wage any way they know how, moving where the work takes them.

As if that wasn’t cheery enough, here’s a companion piece, aRawStory article featuring Christopher Hedges with Bill Moyers. I’ll leave you with this (and there is a video at the end of this article) to ponder. Perhaps tomorrow we can discuss some of the issue that arise. I would love to hear your input.

Journalist and activist Chris Hedges appeared Friday on Moyers & Company to talk about the conclusions of his latest book. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is dedicated to investigating the most exploited and impoverished places in America, places that he says are “virtually off the radar screen in terms of the commercial media.”

“It’s absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does,” Hedges emphasized. “These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.”

When Moyers asked Hedges what he meant by saying there are no impediments left, he explained, “The political system is bought off, the judicial system is bought off, the law enforcement system services the interests of power, they have been rendered powerless.” Even worse, Hedges believes these devastated communities represent the future for all of us.

Hedges was particularly eloquent in describing the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, which “in terms of national resources is one of the richest areas of the United States [but] harbor the poorest pockets of community, the poorest communities in the United States. Because those resources are extracted, and that money is not funneled back into the communities.”

“Not only that,” he continued, “but they’re extracted in such a way that the communities themselves are destroyed. … They no longer want to dig down for the coal, and so they’re blowing the top 400 feet off of mountains poisoning the air, poisoning the soil, poisoning the water. … You are rendering the area moonscape. It becomes uninhabitable. … It’s all destroyed and it’s not coming back.”

Hedges went on to talk about Camden, New Jersey, which since the disappearance of manufacturing has become the poorest city in the United States and one of the most dangerous. “It’s a dead city,” he said. “There’s nothing left. There is no employment. Whole blocks are abandoned. The only thing functioning are open-air drug markets, of which there are about a hundred. And you’re talking third or fourth generation of people trapped in these internal colonies. They can’t get out.”

He spoke also about the Pine Ridge Reservation and migrant workers in Florida, saying, ” It’s greed over human life. … We, in that biblical term, we forgot our neighbor. And because we forgot our neighbor in Pine Ridge, because we forgot our neighbor in Camden, in Southern West Virginia, in the produce fields, these forces have now turned on us. They went first, and we’re next.”

“These corporations know only one word, and that’s more,” Hedges went on. “And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.”

“We have become complicit,” he noted sadly, “because we’ve accepted this as a kind of natural law. And the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it is going to ultimately trigger our demise.”

 

 

 

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The People Make Lemonade

A story like this one puts into practice everything that’s great about the Commons. If you’ve driven around America – especially middle America – you’ve likely seen an empty Wal-Mart building. It’s the follow through that is missing in capitalism. In capitalism today, you are rewarded if you use something up and leave as an eyesore on the landscape. If the citizens are lucky, the eyesore isn’t leaching toxicity into their land and water.

This quote from McAllen, Texas native (from LATimes article):

“In a city like McAllen, with cartel violence across the river (less than 10 miles away from the library), I think it’s amazing that the city is devoting resources to a) not only saving a large and conspicuous piece of property from decline and vandalism, but b) diverting those resources into youth and the public trust,” Ramirez writes. “It’s easy to fall into drugs, drinking, and violence when you live on the border. It’s not really easy to find a place to hang out when you’re 14 that’s not the mall, the movies, or Mexico. And a giant library — a cool-looking open space devoted to entertaining the imagination? Well, I think that’s the best counter-move against violence imaginable. And you don’t even have to wait for a computer now.”

The new McAllen Public Library opened in December 2011; after it had been open for just a month, new user registration increased by 23%.
Part of the loop of sustainability and stewardship needs to be a plan – that must be part of the business model – that considers the waste stream a product generates, no matter whose hands it ends up in, regardless if it is a syrofoam noodle or an empty Wal-Mart shell. We know Wal-Mart leaves these monstrosities in the path to small town consumer domination, why can’t they be assessed the bill for putting the land back to its original natural state, or helping out with a few more libraries. If Wal-Mart is the culture of choice as a people, then we need to keep the pressure on Wal-Mart.
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