Category Archives: American Culture

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.”

 

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

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.
Tagged , , ,

An Honest Conservative’s Response

Some of you may be following along and know that I’ve recently done a presentation on some of the concepts I try to talk about on this blog. One of my principles in modern political discourse is that people will relate to and follow along with values more easily than policies or programs, so values is where you need to begin connecting with your audience.
For the presentation, the room was full and I had several interesting conversations following the program. One was with Mike Butrum, the Government Affairs Director of the Asheville Board of Realtors, a self proclaimed conservative. His response relates to the discussion from last week, Authority Rules (or does it?). He offered me some constructive criticism, see if you agree with some of these excerpts…

Rest assured, I was very much intrigued by the subject matter and by your presentation. The political discourse  certainly needs a more “Civil Tongue” for sure. I think there is real substance within the presentation. I also think you are open minded in as much as you asked for feedback so I’m taking the time to offer some from my perspective. Keep in mind, I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter as much what as person says  but more important what they hear. I also fully subscribe to the notion that what a person says is generally not the way it’s heard. With that said, let me try to explain what I heard.

I do not agree at all that conservatives see authority as a basis for structure in their lives or in their discourse. I think conservatives value freedoms and private rights. It’s been my personal belief that too much authority is  wrong particularly in the executive branch of government.. Now, if the prescribed answer to this is, I don’t realize how progressive I am, then I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn. That’s demeaning. If it’s possible to spin freedoms and private rights  into some form of authority then I would be all ears. We have sufficient and proper authority and it’s called the Constitution of the United States. Of course the debate over this document that the Constitution is not and is not designed to be a living document is one worth having. The founding fathers purposely made it difficult to change the document but it can be changed and it has been 27 times. To allow a temporary executive to change the document on a whim would merely allow another temporary occupant to change it again.

He does not like emotion in the political discussion and decision making process:

…I was in a war and unlike today, I did not volunteer. My daughters husband has volunteered and has made 13 appearances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U S Army Special Forces Aviation Unit. He volunteered, took his chances defended America and is proud of his service and so is his family. To be against the war is to be against the warriors mission.  He help bring down a dictator, an enormous task and incredibly worthwhile to the world and especially to the people of Iraq was necessary and important. If the current administration doesn’t totally demean the efforts of hundreds of thousands of veterans, we will give another country the taste of freedom and the ability to join with all other free nations to develop their economies that end up helping all that participate especially America. It’s not emotion that works. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not very common. Have American’s become so complacent that we no longer have an obligation to others that need our help? Do we offer them our cold shoulder? How many lives have been lost due to complacency?  Is it because we feel that we need to pay more attention to our own problems. After 16 trillion dollars of debt, mostly given to Americans, how much is enough?

Emotion in political discourse is bad. Passion is good. Crying and laughing to me are emotions. If you laugh at the supposed ignorance of the other side in the political debate, that’s wrong. If you cry because your candidate lost, that’s wrong. Passion on the other hand allows for a vigorous debate without resorting to degrading your opponent. Passion will allow for a person to live with their losses and offer compassion to the other side all the while critiquing there efforts and trying to improve their arguments. As I stated in our brief discussion before I left on Wednesday night, bad manners are innate. Good manners are a learned trait.

Allow me to point out a classic example that occurred that night. I sat down in the front of the room(I’m somewhat hard of hearing) and I was drinking a beer which I sat down on the table in front of my chair. I stood up to engage a friend in conversation in front of the table. A lady came and sat down in the seat next to the one I was occupying. She placed her bag on by seat. I noticed this and politely said that’s by beverage and my seat. She said nothing. During my conversation, a gentleman sat down at my seat and spilled my beer. He asked if he had done that. I stated, that was my beer. I went on to say that apparently, I’ve lost my beer and my seat. Neither said anything and I went to the back of the room where I missed some of your presentation due to the bad acoustics. My point is, and this is real not fained, although no one has a lock on bad manners, liberals are the worst. I advocate on behalf of the REALTOR Association before city council, county commission, state legislature and at times our congressmen. I take no political side in these discussions. I advocate for the REALTORS and let the chip fall way they may. Liberals are not generally nice people in the debate. No sense of manners or even half truths. Anything goes. I’ve always wonder where does their sense of decorum go when they debate politics. They despise conservatives with a visceral hatred. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it because their mothers never taught them manners? Are the just bad to the bone? What is it? It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful discussion with zealots and disciples from either political party.

At this point some people would point out that conservatives do the same thing and I would agree. However, the contempt that progressive liberals have for their opponents can only be learned and having the opportunity to have hired hundreds of young people in my career, I have come to the conclusion that colleges and universities are the grounds on which these emotions have been spawned. Extremely disappointing. In my day, we would enter college with a mind full of mush but come out thinking for ourselves. Today, and for the past three decades and more, student’s come out truly believing that liberal concepts and anti capitalism is the better way. They loose love of country in the process. They loose a need to join a church, they raise environmentalism to the level of a form of religion. But there is hope. To me it’s like potty training a baby. Babies are adamant against this necessary basic need at first but they finally get it. At least most do. Some remain committed to the cause their entire lives never understanding the simple concept that dumping where they live is harmful and has no redeeming value. Interestingly, after the 60’s anti government movement, most of the combatant’s turned their significant aptitudes toward accomplishing something. In the process the finally “Got It”. Capitalism is what has made America what it is. Warts and all. A democratic Republic. Most of these people flourished in the process.

Without capitalism, America cannot and will not work. America is unique. American’s believe that you have to do and pay your way. We are teaching people that this is no longer necessary. If anyone has the slightest doubt about this concept, just look where we are headed. If you have the slightest doubt that the direction of the country could be wrong, you have an obligation to do something about it. America and Americans have been given this power. It’s called the vote.   I know some people hate America  but so far, in all of humane mankind, America represents the best hope. I have traveled the world many times over. I can assure you, the most downtrodden people in America, live a higher standard of life then most of the people in the world. If the bleeding hearts really were serious about helping the most needy, then join Mother Theresa’s church, go to India and make an effort. If environmentalism is your calling then go to Russia to the yards where they have parked their old nuclear fleet, dip one cup of water and dispose of it properly, you would do more good then anything going on in America.

Lastly, as I stated when we spoke on Wednesday, I would suggest that you consider doing this worthwhile presentation with a conservative offering a point counterpoint message. Rehearse so that both of you find something you can compromise on. Something of substance. Doing this will allow you make the same presentation without pandering to the audience. The audience will always discount a pandering message. It would also give the presentation substance and credibility. Singing to the choir is not very fulfilling. …

I appreciate the thought put into the feedback, and permission from Mike to reprint. I know that we are not going to totally agree, but we have to be able to talk to each other.

I am especially interested in the challenge to the idea that authority is not the driving value for conservatives – that freedom and private rights are a higher priority. Conservatives definitely have a social conservative bent (faction?, branch?) that is not about freedom. GLBT rights would be a non issue if conservatives embraced their freedom of expression and freedom to live under the same protections and benefits as the rest of us. In a local school district, religious conservatives have pushed the idea of “religious freedom” a la religious literature and representation in school so far that kids will find freedom from religion to be difficult. Encouraging small town monopolies – like Wal-Mart – actually lessen the options and quality of life for folks in the surrounding area. Polluting industries that go unchecked and unregulated reduce the freedom that health gives us.

These are the values worth exploring, what do you think?

Tagged , , , , ,

Nuclear Energy = Kids with Tumors

Nuclear Energy is not pro life.

From Business Insider:

Of more than 38,000 children tested from the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, 36 percent have abnormal growths – cysts or nodules – on their thyroids a year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as reported by ENENews.

The shocking numbers come from the thyroid examination section of the “Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey,” published by Fukushima Radioactive Contamination Symptoms Research (FRCSR) and translated by the blog Fukushima Voice.

Shunichi Yamashita, M.D., president of the Japan Thyroid Association, sent a letter to members in January with guidelines for treating thyroid abnormalities. In 2001 Yamashita co-authored a study that found normal children in Nagasaki to have 0 percent nodules and 0.8 percent cysts.

The introduction of the letter, written by Fukushima Voice, states that the results in Fukushima show a “much faster progression compared to Chernobyl” as research done around Chernobyl showed the rate of thyroid nodules in children 5 to 10 years after the accident to be 1.74 percent.

In March 2011 a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that led to series of nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, leading to the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The introduction of the letter notes that Australian pediatrician Helen Caldicott said that is”not at all normal for children to have thyroid nodules or cysts and that early appearance of thyroid abnormalities, less than one year, meant the Fukushima children received a very high dose of radiation.

No amount of convenience, comfort or efficiency is worth children getting tumors. Nuclear energy does not make sense for many reasons, but this story brings it down to a very tangible story in the course of one year. Kids that used to be healthy now have multiple tumors in their throat. People that used to be healthy are now suffering, not just with tumors, but other debilitating symptoms of radiation poisoning.
Then there’s the water. Stories like this one let us know that no one has a handle on how to manage this nuclear disaster or control its impact on our natural resources. Ground water is involved, the ocean becomes an exhaust valve. The people are expected to trust TEPCO – a company that has been lying about the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster.  Radioactive waste is like the ultimate case of cooties that you can’t get rid of and infects everything it touches. Nuclear energy facilities are permanent propositions and natural disaster circumstances are only a matter of time for each and every one of them. We can’t look to the future generation and honestly say it is safe. We should be trying to solve the nuclear waste problem we have already created.
The question of our time is: how much is energy today worth? Is it worth life tomorrow? Is it worth future generations?
It is costing humankind dearly.
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

LIBOR: The Market is a Fairytale

CivilTongue is on hiatus for one week. Check back next week for more civilized discussions of current issues impacting us today.

Should you care about LIBOR? Not unless you’ve used credit – for home loans, business loans, credit cards, student loans, anything with an interest rate.

Here’s the short of what the LIBOR scandal means for us that have used credit: we’ve been used as a spring of wealth. We the People of the United States and the entire globe, with our earned money have been covering for huckster book cookers. The implications are that most or all major, multinational banks are conspiring and colluding to fix the market at its very basic building block level. The government in London is implicated, possibly most major governments are also guilty.

It looks to be an extremely extensive web of deceit. The market fixing done cannot be done alone – Barclay’s has already admitted to fixing – in order for the level of corruption that has unfolded to be true, the likelihood is that all major banks are involved in this type of fixing and scandal.

So not only do banks need bailing out but they need bailing out even though the game was rigged in the first place. This is despite the fact that they have unlimited legal, financial, marketing, lobbying, security, and public relations resources. Still, they produce no actual product and rely on those of us who actually provide goods and services to the globe to keep the spigot of money flowing their way. The greed and corruption also seems unlimited.

This scandal exposes, not just a corrupt bank, but the very mechanisms by which we are told “the Market” works. Those mechanisms have been found to be figments of the imagination, not even rusty or broken, but a fairytale that bankers have been telling each other – and the rest of us have been betting the farm on them.

Matt Taibbi and Dennis Kelleher explain in more detail:

Once again, it is up to the People to demand that these stories get reported in the media (go ahead and make a request), and that we keep the pressure on by asking candidates about it, asking our representatives about it, and making it an issue while Barclay’s is spilling the beans. These organizations have been left to police themselves, instead they have reinvented pillaging our villages – and been unbelievably successful.

This is not just another scandal, it is about real dollars that used to be yours and now they are not. And those are the same dollars that are buying government influence, and the same dollars that pay to keep labor conditions racing to the bottom while sky’s-the-limit for elite profits and living conditions.

It is easy to write this off as another boring example of how we get screwed over by “the system”. It’s common to hear, “they’re all crooks!” as a general reference to anyone in business or government, but that is the white flag of apathy. It is music to “their” ears to hear a meme that encourages shrugging it off as business as usual.

Yes, it has been, “business as usual”, but the fat financial dragon has exposed its underbelly. Are we going to yawn our way through the opportunity to demand more accountability, transparency, and responsibility? Once again it’s up to us. Learn more here and here and here.

Tagged , , , , ,
Advertisements