Report from the UN Africa Environmental Conference

Below is a report from Judy Lumb at the recent UN Africa Environmental Conference. She had recently reported how the United States and Saudi Arabia combined to block progress.

 

The Rights of Nature

The proposals developed by the Plurinational State of Bolivia bring together and build upon the progress made in the World Charter for Nature  (1982), the Rio Declaration (1994), the Earth Charter (2000), and the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (2010):

I. A DEEPER COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY

1. In this century, the central challenges of sustainable development are: on the one hand, to overcome poverty and the tremendous inequalities that exist and, on the other hand, reestablish the equilibrium of the Earth system. Both objectives are intrinsically linked and one cannot be reached independently of the other.

2. It is essential to recognize and affirm that growth has limits. The pursuit of unending development on a finite planet is unsustainable and impossible. The limit to development is defined by the regenerative capacity of the Earth’s vital cycles. When growth begins to break that balance, as we see with global warming, we can no longer speak of it as development, but rather, the deterioration and destruction of our home. A certain level of growth and industrialization is needed to satisfy basic needs and guarantee the human rights of a population, but this level of “necessary development” is not about permanent growth, but rather, balance among humans and with nature.

3. New technologies will not allow unending economic growth. Scientific advances, under some circumstances, can contribute to resolve certain problems of development but can’t ignore the natural limits of the Earth system.

4. The main challenge for the eradication of poverty is not to grow forever, but to achieve an equitable distribution of the wealth that is possible under the limits of the Earth system. In a world in which 1% of the population controls 50% of the wealth of the planet, it will not be possible to eradicate poverty or restore harmony with nature.

5. Sustainable development seeks to eradicate poverty in order to live well, not generate wealthy people who live at the expense of the poor. The goal is the satisfaction of basic human needs in order to allow for the development of human capabilities and human happiness, strengthening community among human beings and with Mother Earth.

6. To end poverty and achieve an equitable distribution of wellbeing, the basic resources and companies should be in the hands of the public sector and society. Only a society that controls its principal sources of income can aspire to a just distribution of the benefits needed to eliminate poverty.

7. The so-called “developed” countries must reduce their levels of over-consumption and overexploitation of resources of the world in order to reestablish harmony among human beings and with nature, allowing for the sustainable development of all developing countries.

8. Developing countries should realize their right to development following patterns and paradigms that are distinct from those of developed countries. It is not sustainable or viable for all countries to follow the example of developed countries without causing the collapse of our Earth system. The ecological footprint of the developed countries is between 3 and 5 times larger than the average ecological footprint that the Earth system can sustain without an impact on its vital cycles.

9. Sustainable development can only be achieved from a global perspective and cannot be achieved only in the national level. The wellbeing of a country is only sustainable if it also serves to contribute to the wellbeing of the entire Earth system. The so-called developed countries are still far from reaching sustainable development.

10. Sustainable development should ensure equilibrium among the three pillars – social, economic, and environmental – which are interrelated, preserving the fundamental principle of common but differentiated responsibility.

II. THE NEW EMERGING CHALLENGE: RESTORING THE EQUILIBRIUM OF THE EARTH SYSTEM

11. The emerging challenges of the 21st Century are the product of exaggerated ambition and accumulation of wealth concentrated in a few sectors, the exacerbation and combination of different contradictions that were present in the last century. The various crises that exist in the areas of food, energy, the environment, climate, finance, water, and even institutions have reached chronic levels and are feeding off of one another, in some cases to the point of no return.

12. We are living an environmental crisis that, as it deepens, threatens the existence of human beings and life as a whole.  The Earth is a living system and the source of life. It is an indivisible, interdependent and interrelated community comprised of human beings, nature, the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. The Earth system has intrinsic laws that regulate its functioning, articulating the physical, chemical, biological and ecological elements in a manner that makes life possible. Through the term Mother Earth, we express this relationship of belonging to a system and respect for our home.

13. Human activity is altering the dynamics and functioning of the Earth system to a degree never before seen. The capitalist system is the principal cause of the imbalance because it puts the rules of the market and the accumulation of profit above the laws of nature. Nature is not simply a sum of elements, it’s not a source of resources that can be exploited, modified, altered, privatized, commercialized and transformed without any consequences.

14. Human beings and nature are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. It is essential to get beyond the anthropocentric vision. Until now, no species besides Man has been able to modify the characteristics of the planet in such a substantial way and in such a short period of time. It is essential to restore and guarantee the existence, integrity, interrelation, interaction and regeneration of the Earth system as a whole and of all of its components in order to achieve a sustainable development that is capable of confronting the multiple crises facing humanity and the planet today.

III. TOOLS FOR FIXING THE PERSISTENT GAPS AND ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

15. To reestablish harmony with nature, we must recognize and respect the intrinsic laws of nature and its vital cycles. Not only do human beings have a right to a healthy life, but so do the other components and species belonging to the system we call nature. In an interdependent and interrelated system like the planet Earth, it is not possible to recognize the rights of just the human part of the system without affecting the whole. Just as human beings have rights, the Mother Earth also has the right to exist, the right to maintain its vital cycles, the right to regeneration, the right to be free from structural alteration, and the right to relate to the other parts of the Earth system. In order to reestablish balance with nature, it is necessary to clearly establish the obligations of humans toward nature, and to recognize that nature has rights that should be respected, promoted, and defended.

16. We have to end the system of consumption, waste and luxury. Millions of people are dying of hunger in the poorest parts of the globe, while the richest spend millions of dollars are spent to combat obesity. Developed countries must change their unsustainable patterns of consumption, production, and waste through public policies, regulations, the conscious and active participation of society, This includes promoting ethics that value human beings for what they are, not what they have.

17. It is necessary to guarantee the human right to water, education, health, communication, transportation, energy and sanitation. The provision of these services must be essentially public and based on efficient social management, not private business. The principal goal should be common wellbeing and not private profit, in order to ensure that these services reach the poorest and most marginalized sectors in an equitable manner.

18. States should ensure the right of their populations to proper nutrition by strengthening food sovereignty policies that promote: a) food production by farmers, indigenous peoples and small agricultural producers; b) access to land, water, seeds, credit and other resources for family and community producers; c) the development of social and public enterprises for food production, distribution, and sale that prevent hoarding and contribute to the stability of food prices in domestic markets, thus halting speculative practices and the destruction of local production; d) the right of citizens to define and to know and have the proper information about what they consume, the way their food is produced, and its origins; e) the right to healthy, varied and nutritious food; f) the right to consume what is necessary and prioritize local production; g) practices that contribute to reestablishing harmony with nature, avoiding greater desertification, deforestation, and destruction of biological diversity; h) the promotion of the use of indigenous seeds and traditional knowledge. Food production and commercialization must be socially regulated and cannot be left to free market forces.

19. Without water, there is no life. Humans and all living things have the right to water, but water also has rights. All States and peoples worldwide should work together in solidarity to ensure that loss of vegetation, deforestation, the pollution of the atmosphere and contamination are prevented from continuing to alter the hydrological cycle. These cause desertification, lack of food, temperature increase, sea level rise, migrations, acid rain, and physical-chemical changes that could provoke the loss of genetic and species diversity, damaging the health of ecosystems.

20. Forests are essential to the balance and integrity of planet Earth and a key element in the proper functioning of its ecosystems and the broader system of which we are a part. Thus we cannot consider them as simple providers of goods and services for human beings. The protection, preservation and recuperation of forests is necessary in order to reestablish the balance of the Earth system. Plantations that are planted for profit and promoted as carbon sinks and providers of environmental services are not forests. Forests are not plantations that can be reduced to their capacity to capture carbon and provide environmental services. Native forests and woodlands are essential for the water cycle, the atmosphere, biodiversity, the prevention of flooding, and the preservation of ecosystems. Forests are also home to indigenous peoples and communities. The preservation of forests should be pursued through integral and participatory management plans that should be financed with public funding from developed countries or specific taxes on the sectors with the greatest consumption.

21. It is essential to guarantee a real and effective reduction of greenhouse gases, particularly on the part of the developed countries historically responsible for climate change, in order to stabilize the increase in temperature to 1°C during this century. We must therefore strengthen the Kyoto Protocol with a second period of commitments by developed countries, instead of replacing it with a more flexible voluntary agreement. It is necessary to eliminate carbon market mechanisms and offsets so that real domestic reductions are made within the countries with said obligations. South Africa should not be another Cancun, delaying once again the central issue of substantive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

22. All forms of violence against women are incompatible with sustainable development. Violence done to women in militarily occupied territories, domestic or sexual violence, and discrimination in the workplace and in public spheres are problems we must solve. We must link the issue of the economic role of women to the protection of nature.

23. In order for sustainable development to exist, it is essential to guarantee the full application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

24. Under the framework of common but differentiated responsibilities established in the 1992 Rio Declaration, the so-called developed countries must assume and pay their historical ecological debt for having contributed the most to the deterioration of the Earth system. The payment of this ecological debt by developed countries to developing countries and the sectors most affected among their own populations should replace to the greatest possible degree the ecological damage provoked. Developed countries should transfer financial resources from public sources and also the effective transfer of socially and ecologically appropriate technologies required by sovereign developing countries.

25. The enormous resources dedicated to defense, security and war budgets by developed countries should be reduced. These resources should instead be used to address the effects of climate change and the imbalance with nature. It is inexcusable that 1.5 trillion dollars in public funding are used on these budgets, while, to address the impacts of climate change in developing countries, they want to dedicate just 100 billion dollars from public and private funds as well as market sources.

26. A financial transaction tax should be created to help build a Sustainable Development Fund to attend to the sustainable development challenges faced by developing countries. This financing mechanism should generate new, stable and additional resources for developing countries. A tax of 0.05% applied on a global level has the potential to capture $661 billion per year according to ECLAC.[1] The mechanism of the international financial transaction tax can be built in a voluntary and gradual manner with the participation of those developed and developing countries that wish to participate.

27. The Rio+20 Conference should not create market mechanisms with regard to nature, biodiversity and the so called environmental services: a) The logic of the market and monetary valuation applied to environmental services and biodiversity will generate greater inequality in the distribution of those resources, which are essential for humanity and Mother Earth; b) The establishment of these market mechanisms will deepen the imbalance with nature because they are driven by the search for maximum profits and not harmony with nature; c) It will affect the sovereignty of our States and peoples by generating new forms of property rights over the functions of nature that will be in the hands of investors. These mechanisms are uncertain, volatile and the source of financial speculation given that the bulk of the money they mobilize will remain in the hands of intermediary actors.

28. Sustainable development requires a new international financial architecture to replace the World Bank and the IMF with entities that are democratic and transparent, that respect national priorities and national independence in the application of development strategies. These new institutions should have a majority representation by developing countries and should act according to the principles of solidarity and cooperation, rather than commercialization and privatization.

29. It is essential to create an effective Technology Transfer Mechanism that stems from the demand and needs of the countries of the South for technologies that are socially, culturally, and environmentally appropriate. Said mechanism should not be a “show room” for the sale of technologies by rich countries. In order to promote the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge, it is essential to remove intellectual property barriers so that there might exist a true transfer of environmentally friendly technologies from developed countries to developing countries.

30. Intellectual property rights over genes, microorganisms and other forms of life are a threat to food sovereignty, biodiversity, access to medicine and other elements that are essential for the survival of low-income populations. All forms of intellectual property over life should be abolished.

31. Gross Domestic Product is not an adequate means of measuring the development and wellbeing of a society. Thus it is necessary to create indicators for measuring the environmental destruction caused by certain economic activities in order to advance toward sustainable development in harmony with nature, integrating social and environmental aspects that are not aimed at the commercialization of nature and its functions.

32. Respect for the sovereignty of States is essential in the management and protection of nature under the framework of cooperation among States.

33. No identical solutions exist for all peoples. Human beings are diverse. Our peoples have their own unique cultures and identities. To destroy a culture is to threaten the identity of an entire people. Capitalism attempts to homogenize us all to convert us into consumers. There has not been, nor will there ever be, a single model for life that can save the world. We live and act in a pluralistic world, and a pluralistic world should respect diversity, which is itself synonymous with life. Respect for peaceful and harmonious complementarity among the diverse cultures and economies, without exploitation or discrimination against any single one, is essential for saving the planet, humanity, and life.

34. Peace is essential for sustainable development. There is no worse aggression against humanity and Mother Earth than war and violence. War destroys life, and it has a particularly strong impact on the poorest and most vulnerable. Nobody and nothing is safe from war. Those that fight suffer, as do those that are forced to go without bread in order to feed the war. Wars squander life and natural resources.

35. An International Tribunal of Environmental and Climate Justice must be established to judge and sanction crimes against nature that transcend national borders, violating the rights of nature and affecting humanity.

36. To achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to promote public associations, public-public associations among actors in different States, public-social associations among different social sectors, and public-private associations.

37. The problems affecting humanity and nature require the exercise of global democracy through the development of mechanisms of consultation and decision-making such as referendums, plebiscites, or popular consultations so that the citizens of the world as a whole may speak.

38. Sustainable development is incompatible with all forms of imperialism and neocolonialism. In order to stop imperialism and neocolonialism, it is essential to end the imposition of conditionalities, military interventions, coups and blackmail.

39. The collective global response that is needed to confront the crisis we face requires structural changes. We must change the system – not the climate or the Earth system. In the hands of capitalism, everything is converted into merchandise: water, earth genomes, ancestral cultures, justice, ethics and life. It is essential to develop a pluralistic system based on the culture of life and harmony among human beings and with nature; a system that promotes sustainable development in the framework of solidarity, complementarity, equity, social and economic justice, social participation, respect for diversity, and peace.

IV. THE GREEN ECONOMY AND ITS DANGEROUS AND FALSE SOLUTIONS

40. At a global scale, the supposed objective of the Green Economy of disassociating economic growth from environmental deterioration is not viable. Those that promote the Green Economy promote a three-dimensional capitalism that includes physical capital, human capital, and natural capital (rivers, wetlands, forests, coral reefs, biological diversity and other elements). For the Green Economy, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the energy crisis share a common characteristic: the failed allocation of capital. As a result, they try to treat nature as capital – “natural capital.”

41. The Green Economy considers it essential to put a price on the free services that plants, animals and ecosystems offer to humanity in the struggle for the conservation of biodiversity, water purification, pollination of plants, the protection of coral reefs and regulation of the climate. For the Green Economy, it is necessary to identify the specific functions of ecosystems and biodiversity and assign them a monetary value, evaluate their current status, set a limit after which they will cease to provide services, and concretize in economic terms the cost of their conservation in order to develop a market for each particular environmental service. For the Green Economy, the instruments of the market are powerful tools for managing the “economic invisibility of nature.”

42. One of the examples most cited by the Green Economy is the initiative known as REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which consists of isolating and measuring the capacity of the forest to capture and store carbon dioxide in order to issue certificates for greenhouse gas emissions reductions that can be commercialized and acquired by companies in developed countries that cannot meet their mitigation commitments. In this way, the developing countries will end up financing the developed countries.

43. It is wrong to attempt to fragment nature into “environmental services” with a monetary value for market exchange. We should not put a price on the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks, nor promote their commercialization as does REDD. The market for carbon credits based on forests will lead to: a) noncompliance with effective emission reduction commitments by developed countries; b) the bulk of resources being appropriated by intermediaries and financial entities and rarely benefitting countries, indigenous peoples and forests themselves; c) the generation of speculative bubbles based on the sale and purchase of said certificates; and d) the establishment of new property rights over the capacity of forests to capture carbon dioxide, which will clash with the sovereign rights of States and the indigenous peoples that live in forests. The promotion of market mechanisms based on the economic needs of developing countries is a new form of neocolonialism.

44. The postulates promoted under the Green Economy are wrong. The current environmental and climate crisis is not a simple market failure. The solution is not to put a price on nature. Nature is not a form of capital. It is wrong to say that we only value that which has a price, an owner, and brings profits. The market mechanisms that permit exchange among human beings and nations have proven incapable of contributing to an equitable distribution of wealth. The Green Economy should not distort the fundamental principles of sustainable development.

45. Not all that glitters is gold. Not all that is labeled “green” is environmentally friendly. We must use the precautionary principle and deeply analyze the different “green” alternatives that are presented before proceeding with their experimentation and implementation.

46. Nature cannot be subject to manipulation by new technologies without consequences in the future. History shows us that many dangerous technologies have been released in the market before their environmental or health impacts are known, or before their social and economic impacts on poor people and developing countries are understood. This is currently the case with genetically modified organisms, agrochemicals, biofuels, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. These technologies should be avoided.

47. Geoengineering and all forms of artificial manipulation of the climate should be prohibited, for they bring the enormous risk of further destabilizing the climate, biodiversity and nature.

48. It is necessary to create public and multilateral mechanisms within the United Nations to evaluate in an independent manner and without conflict of interest the potential environmental, health, social, and economic impacts of new technologies before they are spread. This mechanism must involve transparency and social participation by potentially affected groups.

49. “Green” capitalism will bring about natural resource grabbing, displacing humanity and nature from the essential elements needed for their survival. The drive for profit, instead of reestablishing harmony within the system, will provoke even greater imbalances, concentrations of wealth, and speculative processes.

V. INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

50. The institutional architecture of the United Nations for sustainable development should establish a structure to promote balanced and equal treatment of the three pillars: the economic, social, and environmental. This institutional architecture should articulate and coordinate the different authorities involved in order to avoid overlapping efforts and achieve effective coordination.

51. The Economic Pillar should determine the sustainable development agendas of economic and commercial organizations such as the WTO, the World Bank and IMF. Without an effective integration among these entities, the institutional framework will be unable to define the economic policies necessary to achieve sustainable development while respecting national priorities and national independence and with transparent and socially acceptable management.

52. The Social Pillar should coordinate entities such as ILO, WHO, UNESCO, UN-Women, the Indigenous Permanent Forum and others in order to improve their actions and impacts in the struggle for the eradication of poverty.

53. The Environmental Pillar should stem from a better coordination and implementation of the different Conventions (UNFCCC, UNCCD, CBD) and the incorporation of all environmental issues including water.
54. The coordination of these three pillars should be under the auspices of a Council for Sustainable Development that is created on the basis of what is now the Commission on Sustainable Development. It should be at the level of a Council that would function as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, guaranteeing a fundamental role for States, coordinating with the Economic and Social Council, and with regular functioning to follow up on and implement the goals and mechanisms agreed and resolutions adopted.
55. Developing countries should have a majority representation in said Council, and its functioning should be democratic and transparent.
56. The Council for Sustainable Development should include mechanisms for the participation of civil society and non-governmental organizations especially organizations representing workers, indigenous peoples, farmers, small agricultural producers and fishermen, women, youth and consumers. The private sector cannot have the same amount of influence as the social sectors, given that, by definition, its goal is to create profit rather than social wellbeing. The linking of the Sustainable Development Council with the different social actors should occur through a Consultative Group.

Update on the Hawaii Senate Race

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (photo: madmarv00)

A week or so ago I wrote a diary in response to Adam Nagourney’s puff piece in the NYT cautioning that Dems could lose a Senate seat in Hawaii, with the retirement of Democrat Daniel Akaka.

As frequently happens, those who commented on that diary brought insight and additional information — far beyond what I’d initially included. One commenter, “Paiagirl,” was especially good. Unfortunately her remarks occurred late in the thread, after the diary was moved off the front page. In order to bring her comments the attention they deserve, I’m cutting & pasting here. [Paia is a funky town on Maui, not too far from where I live, but I don’t know Paiagirl.]

On Linda Lingle, retired governor and likely Republican nominee for Akaka’s seat:

Linda Lingle also is a very vindictive woman. She got mad at Maui County because after having her as mayor, a majority in our county voted for her opponent. She took it out on us.

She also invested $3 billion in some junk bonds, leaving our subsequent Gov Abercrombie unable to access the money during this economic downturn. She left the accounts in shambles as though no one was DOING the finances for the state.

And more on Lingle:

She doesn’t keep her word in negotiations. We’ve gone in, negotiated, come to an agreement, given up substantial concessions, and 2 hours later Lingle completely abrogates the agreement.

Unfortunately, she is a pretty smart cookie and good at presenting herself publicly, which makes her extremely dangerous because behind that public face is a voraciously ambitious woman who will do anything to advance her career and has absolutely no ethics.

In November, this year’s voters will be reminded about one of Lingle’s “achievements, ” the “Superferry” . [As a favor to her business friends, Lingle rammed through an inter-island “Superferry,” without environmental impact studies. The project later cratered, resulting in a massive loss of money]: [cont’d.] (more…)

A Normal Life

A Normal Life
By David Glenn Cox

I loathe the mundane, I also loathe the AP style of writing, it is an analog style in a digital age, which if applied correctly, drains all style and humanity from any written issue.

In the 1920’s and thirties, radio announcers garbed in tuxedo’s with cupped hand said melodiously, “Live from the Herbert Hoover ballroom of the Grand Testicle hotel, located in beautiful downtown Swamp Rat, Idaho we bring you, for your listening pleasure Kay Kaiser and his college of musical knowledge

I mention this only because I’m going to write an end of the year story, just like every fucking body else. (Take that AP). Normally, I wouldn’t consider doing it but this has been a rather exceptional year. The United States celebrated ten years, one full decade of needless and unnecessary war. Barack Obama dropped any pretense about being a Democrat and embraced corporate Fascism wholeheartedly. In response, the Democratic Party unofficially dissolved itself and joined hands with Republicans to embrace the Fascist, one Party state.

It has been one hell of a year for me as well; when it began I was living in a garage. Then I moved cross country from the warm and sunny South to the frozen North. I briefly visited Clear Lake Iowa where Buddy Holly’s plane went down with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valenzuela, I marched in the streets of the nation’s capital and I watched the sunrise over Freedom Plaza.

I sometimes sit in my dingy little room and wonder about it all, how long can I continue on like this? The answer comes back to me, how long can we as a people continue on like this? I’m living out my dream, I’m a paid writer and though my clothes are old and ragged, I’m doing it. I am living like a bum, but I am making it. I have completed my second book and I’m well on my way to completing my third.

Everyday, I come into contact with other Americans who aren’t making it, like me, they struggle just to get by and I wonder, what about their dreams? While I was in Freedom Plaza, I met several young people a hundred thousand dollars in debt with student loans and yet, their job prospects were no better than my own. They had mortgaged their futures seeking their dream; I am paying for my dream day by day.

I was on Greyhound bus late one night, shortly before Christmas and a young man struck up a conversation with me, He was returning from a deployment overseas and was anxious to see his children. He worried whether they would remember him. I assured him, that by the time he had been home an hour it would be as if he had never left. Then he explained, that they lived with their mother now, since he and his wife had separated. As we got closer to his hometown he began to proudly point out the buildings he had worked on. He was originally in construction and had joined the National Guard for the extra income.

“That was seven years ago and three deployments back” he said, as he talked about getting out of the military. “I really miss my kids,” he added. He was torn, in twelve years he could retire from the military but he really longed to just be at home, and to live a normal life, just like everyone else.

It is important for me to mention that he began this conversation with me, because as is so often the case in my life. These people seem to wander up to tell me their stories, which for me, at least, encapsulate the whole damn thing and I am the better for knowing them. This Native American man was at a crossroads, he was no longer young but nowhere near old. He was glad to be home but he missed his buddies, he wanted his old life back but was unsure if he could live in civilian society anymore.

He seemed to be a good guy, the kind that you could depend on in a pinch, but there was also a tenseness about him, as if he were uncomfortable in his own skin. You know, sometimes you begin to feel sorry for yourself, and then you meet others even worse off than yourself and through no fault of their own.

Just like millions of us they are just looking for a normal life, and they don’t want a pony or a unicorn, they want a decent job and maybe a day off once in a while. Instead, they face predatory banks and corporations and face falling incomes and rising costs. Of all of the hundreds of normal Americans I have come across this year only one had had a raise.

There was a time, back when I had a normal life, when I didn’t know anyone who had ever lost their home to foreclosure and now, I hardly know anyone who hasn’t lost their home. I think back most poignantly to a woman in Freedom Plaza who was thrown out of Obama’s HAMP mortgage program for changing jobs. After applying for the program and receiving a $400 per month payment reduction she was laid off by her employer. She managed to find a new job and had not missed or fallen behind on her payments when she received a letter from the bank.

Due to the change in your income status you are no longer eligible for the HAMP program. Effective immediately her payment returned to $1,100 per month. When she called the bank to inquire as to, just what the hell was going on she was told that she could requalify for the program but first… she would have to return the $1,600 in mortgage reductions she had received. The bank was also quick to note that there was no guarantee she would be allowed back into the program. In anger and disgust and almost near tears as she explained, this mother with two small children was turned down for food stamps because she made too much money.

So here it is December 31, 2011 and I sit in this McDonalds Restaurant in this trendy upscale neighborhood and watch two populations living side by side come through its doors. They are strangers to each other and can’t imagine the reality of each others lives.

One group suffering, with no immediate help in sight and the other conditioned to believe that the others misery is their own fault, as the question returns to me, how long can we as a people continue on like this? How long can we ignore the reality that is America for the growing millions?

I became involved with a Facebook high school group this year from my hometown of, so many light years ago. Some have been fond remembrances and others not so much, but it was a privileged high school and a privileged time and many have gone on to a privileged adulthood. They write about their trips to Europe and to China and I ask myself, would I change places with them if I could?

In all honesty, I can’t conceive of it any longer. I am of that other America, the America of food stamps, foreclosed homes and employment applications which ask, can you write in the AP style? Yes, I can and I can also draw stick figures instead of painting pictures. Our human emotion is they only sense which we possess which is voluntary, wealth and possessions cut us off from the true reality of the world. We become captives in the human zoo and when we roar it is from behind the bars and when we flap our flippers it is only to amuse the crowd.

As the new year begins, it begins for me with the knowledge that I am no worse off than any other American and that no other Americans are any better off than I. We are a people tragically lost and a nation lost, teetering on the brink of disaster and running headlong like lemmings often do and the only question left to ask ourselves is, where are we really going?

“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”- Malcolm X

Obama should get out while the getting’s good.

I can think of very few reasons for Obama to want another term.

Basic cost-benefit analysis indicates that the costs will far outweigh the benefits.

Benefits:

1.  Continue his corporate masters’ and cement their rule.  He wants to be one of them one day, and he almost is.  He’s not some ghetto offshoot.  He’s the son of a banker.  He never wanted for anything in his life.  He’s the prototypical 1% wannabe.  He went to Harvard law.  He has connections.  He has people, important people that owe him favors for all the taxpayer loot he let them steal and then all the taxpayer loot he funneled their way.  So all he has to do is get out now and he gets all the bennies and the benefits now.

2. Technically, the money issue is kinda moot.  Yes, he would garner more favors, including bribes, for all the work he can do for his masters during a second term.  But would it be significantly more than just one term?  And how much more could he do than he has already done?  (This list is fucking long … really fucking long.)  And considering he can jump off the bus he has been steering right now, and still realize his place in the plutocracy and have a boat load of loot, then why stay?  He’s already made out with a guarantee of a cush life for him and his.

3. Ego?  Maybe?  He doesn’t want to lose the next election?  No way.  He’s too smart for that.  At every step he has played America like an expert confidence man.  At every step.  He says all he right words at the right time.  “Don’t like ACA without a public option?  Well step onto my plane, … how you like my ACA now bitch?”  One of many instances where he has shown amazing focus on the task at hand.  Remember, evil, not stupid.

So what’s the significant benefit?  (Anyone who wishes to add to the benefits, please do.)  Read the scandal list.  Best 1% pawn EVER.  Better even than Clinton.  And unlike Clinton, he passed a federally mandated insurance company bailout, has been a major force of putting SS on the chopping block so the 1%er can dissect it and take the good parts, …  the list goes on, … I mean bloody hell it’s a long list, … never-ending wars, continued and expanded, NDAA, torture and rendition, continued and expanded, drone attacks, whistleblowers, banks didn’t do anything “illegal”, “look forward” (or what, we will see you’re lying azz?), … the list is long.  What else can he possibly do, significantly?  FEMA camps for Occupy?  At a certain point you gotta get while the going’s good.

 

Costs:

1.  One of the best moments for Bush had to be when he could pawn of the shite pile he had made America into upon someone else.  Yup, 2008 election.  Imagine the relief he felt at passing that steaming pile of smelly, stinkin, watery, cholera-infested shite pile to the next.  I mean he must have breathed a major sigh of relief – “Finally this shite is over and now I can go enjoy my loot”.  Who cares if it’s “that guy” or McICrashedAnotherPlaneOopsMyBadNoWorriesTaxpayersPayForIt or really, Alaskan Barbie?  I mean they all work for the same team.  And the game is to carry the shite pile and make it grow, and then pass it to the next.  No worries, because at the end, the taxpayers will be the ones paying to clean up that shite pile.  So why doesn’t O just pass the shite pile?  I mean he’s gotten all he can really get (yes he can get more, but will it be significant?).  And does he really want to be around for another 4 years when that shite pile might explode in his face?  Why not get out now?  Pass the shite pile.  And go enjoy his loot.

2. The money issue.  Clinton, or as I refer to him El Douche, is making a killing out there.  He’s worth 100s of millions of dollars.  (Ya, I know it says he’s only worth 40 million, or 80 million depending on which website you check, but that’s total and utter bullshite.  Some say 100+ million too.)  Clinton made more money, a lot more, after he left office.  Most of these ex-douchebags, I mean ex-presidents, go to write books, and many serve on corporate boards and make a killing doing basically nothing.  So O would make even more money, especially since he has done more his corporate masters than Clinton, BII, BI, and Reagan combined.  As far as I’m concerned, the money issue falls squarely in the “get out of Dodge with the loot” category.  O should want to leave.

3. Another benefit of leaving is that it not only passes the buck, but it shifts attention away from you.  I mean who even talks about BII anymore? I mean really talk about him.  Not just saying his name as a symbol of the past presidency.  No, he’s safe and sound living the high-life while taxpayers pay for the protection of him and his family for life.  O can do what Clinton did, which is to rebrand himself as a philanthropist.  Just like that other douche Gore.  But he was only VP, so I call him El Douche Minor.  Gore’s an opportunistic whore, who’s making a killing on his “save the planet” schtick.  BTW, where was this same issue when he was VP and actually had power to do something about it?

 

So there’s my perspective on the cost-benefit analysis.  Discuss.  (BTW, I have trademarked the term El Douche Minor.)

My New Year’s Resolutions

New Year Resolution (photo: alafista/flickr)
New Year Resolution (photo: alafista/flickr)

Exercise.

Lose weight.

Be nicer.

Work with not just this year but many future years and generations and centuries in mind.

Work with an international perspective as much as possible. Collaborate internationally as much as possible.

Work to turn last year’s Arab Spring into this year’s Worldwide Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter.

Help to create a worldwide movement against plutocracy and violence.

Stop thinking of defeating horrendous proposals as the only kind of “victory” possible.

Within the United States, help to advance the organization of a student loan debtors union large enough and strategic enough to both refuse payment and to build a campaign that will make education free going forward — in the United States and around the world.

Help to advance a nonviolent resistance campaign to halt foreclosures on homes, one by one, and through legislatures and courts.

Work to build a movement against the military industrial complex and for economic conversion, inclusive of libertarians and internationalists, civil libertarians, environmentalists, economists, labor, educators, humanitarians, local governments, state governments, and international allies.

Make U.S. residents aware of local struggles against U.S. bases around the world, and see fewer U.S. troops at fewer bases outside the United States and within the United States by the end of the year.

See reduced military spending in the 2013 U.S. budget.

See fewer drone strikes, fewer bombs, fewer assassinations, fewer prisoners, fewer torture victims, and less talk of a “war on terror” this year than last.

Use Iran war promotion as another opportunity to build resistance to predictable propaganda.  [cont’d.] (more…)

“to own or not to own… that is the question”

More like “that is the QUEST” – no “ion” intended. Look at the spectrum of ownership. PUBLIC……inbetween…….PRIVATE. That is the struggle the world is grappling with today. And it is largely over land. the formula is simple… INCREASING POPULATION = DECREASING LAND. Let’s face it.. just like in the empire building days, nothing has changed – only the methods.

Today its lawyers and elected money-takers and the usual cadre of armed enforcement. But the writers of the constitution never saw that as a problem. In fact, the later de-facto remedy was “eminent (more like imminent) domain”. Pretty much like what’s going on in the old land of Palestine today. This practice of land grab and ownership is also what started America. Recall that the medieval landlords of England claimed the lands of the peasants and forced them into tenancy. And we all know what kind of relationship problem landlord-tenancy is as it becomes more pervasive and abusive.

Trouble is that a fix for that isn’t exactly in framework of anything. It’s quite common for people to want to own their land and lives and then, given unbridled ambition, to want to buy and own public land. By that same token it’s quite now impossible for the public to buy and own private land. Even inconsiderable. Probably undesireable – perish the thought. It doesn’t score because personal initiative is revered over the public community – a collection of individuals.

Consider this….. if you have a large tract of farmland and you can make more money razing the farm and building rental units to house a growing (expanding) population and make more money – what would the ambitious person do? And then, with growing hunger and food shortages and overpriced food, would you then even think of razing those LUXURY APARTMENT COMPLEX’s and putting back a farm? You would have to evict everyone.

Right now this PUBLIC=>PRIVATE thing is a one way street. It’s a dead end and it’s a trap. It is probably the biggest problem in the world today because it really is the mother of all problems. do you own the right to eat? Do you own the right to sleep? Do you own the right to walk about? And finally,

Must all rights and forbiddances be inherited and dictated by land ownership or can the ownership of certain necessary common life support be a matter of ownership that instead determines what the collection of people do with their land?

Wisconsin Prosecutor Formally Requests Re-Opening of Lawsuit Against Anti-Union Law

Justice Michael Gableman (photo: wicourts.gov)
Last week we heard that Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was considering asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to re-hear a case against violations of the open meeting requirements in the state’s anti-union law. The case, which the state Supreme Court threw out in a 4-3 ruling, included the participation of Michael Gableman, the Supreme Court justice who received thousands of dollars in free legal services from a high-powered conservative law firm in the state which frequently works on cases before the Court (in a fitting twist, Gableman secured the law firm’s services to defend him in an ethics case). In fact, Michael Best & Friedrich, the law firm in question, worked for the state and Walker’s administration in the case of the anti-union law. Gableman never recused himself from the case, and provided the deciding vote, overturning the ruling from a Dane County district court judge.

Yesterday, Ozanne formally requested the re-opening of the case, arguing that Gableman’s participation represented a conflict of interest.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne argued in filings with the court that it should vacate its decision because Justice Michael Gableman never disclosed his arrangement with the Michael Best and Friedrich law firm. Wisconsin’s ethics code prohibits state officials from accepting free gifts, and the judicial ethics code bars judges from accepting gifts from anyone likely to appear before them.

Ozanne asked the court to reinstate a circuit judge’s earlier ruling declaring the law void and disqualify Gableman from participating in further proceedings if he won’t recuse himself.

“Reasonable, well-informed people would reasonably question Justice Gableman’s ability to be impartial under the facts presented here,” he wrote. “Respectfully, any litigant in any case deserves to have his case heard by a judge who has not secretly received a valuable gift from the other side’s lawyer.”

It’s hard to argue against Ozanne’s contention here. Gableman clearly received free services from the law firm, the firm worked on cases on which Gableman ruled, and state ethics laws are pretty clear.

But because the effect of adopting Ozanne’s request would be to stay the anti-union law again while the Supreme Court re-heard the open meetings case with six instead of seven Justices, I’d be shocked if the majority-Republican Court complied. Gableman has said through his lawyer that he disputes the contention that Michael Best & Friedrich’s free legal services were a gift. And really, only Gableman has the power to recuse himself; surely the Court would not want to set the precedent of determining another Justice’s recusal.

Just perusing the crazy reasoning in the open meetings case, where they basically said “if the Legislature does it, then it’s not illegal,” gives you enough information to determine how they will react to this request. Still, it’s worth Ozanne giving this a try, if for no other reason than to highlight the blatant corruption at the heart of the Wisconsin conservative establishment, across the political, corporate and judicial arenas.

There are actually other cases pending to invalidate the anti-union law, which strips most collective bargaining rights from public employees, on the merits, including two in federal court. But I’d guess they have far more of a chance of succeeding than appealing to the better natures of Michael Gableman and his Republican colleagues on the state Supreme Court.

One other thing here: Gableman’s attorney, who has been responding to media queries in the case, is none other than Viet Dinh. Yeah, THAT Viet Dinh. The author of the Patriot Act. He’s also on the Board of Directors of News Corp now. The conservative operative family tree has a lot of gnarled branches.

Occupy Houston Update

Occupy Houston Update.

I delivered the most recent box of Occupy Supply goodies on Christmas Day but far more timely was the hot meal. It had been raining hard for much of the previous 48 hours and our Occupiers were wet and cold. Someone had brought in an elevated fire pit and some firewood so at least temporarily they had heat to help them dry out.
Christmas Dinner At Occupy Houston
Occupy Houston has limited cooking facilities. There are a few power outlets in the park they can tap into but the fire marshal has determined that extension cords are a fire hazard. This limits their ability to prepare hot food.

When I received the Occupy Supply gift card the weather report suggested that a hot, ready to eat meal would be appropriated. My daughter and I visited Kroger on Christmas Eve and came away with $105 worth of groceries. Fortunately, temperatures in the forties meant I did not have to squeeze everything into my refrigerator. Best deals of the day were sweet potatoes at $0.68 per pound, 15 pound bags of russet potatoes for $3.97 and a 16 pound turkey for ten bucks. We also bought a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a greatly reduced spiral ham. [cont’d.]

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Why Is The MN GOP So Messed Up? Sutton Running Buddy Ben Golnik is Part of the Answer

Lost in all the hubbub of the slow-motion trainwreck that is the Republican Party of Minnesota has been any evidence that anyone in charge is at all interested in getting to the root of its longstanding problems, and not just with money. Instead, the scandals are buried, the whistleblowers attacked, and the people who were in charge when the problems were created are allowed to go on doing what they’d been doing without any major hitches in their giddy-up.

Case in point: Way back in 2006, Dwight Tostenson, a staunch Republican and the RPM’s finance director at the time as well as its chief fundraiser, had tried to get then-party-chair Ron Carey to clean up the Minnesota GOP’s stinking messes — messes which included using for Party expenses the money intended for timely depositing into retirement accounts, understating debts (“$100,000 plus”) on reports to the FEC and to Minnesota’s state campaign finance agency, delayed payment of staff expense reports and commissions, and failure to make timely payments to vendors. (Gee, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Tostenson’s reward from the Party’s leadership? Per the memo he wrote them shortly after his “termination” as finance director in February 2007, a hard kick in the teeth:

I have been told that over the last few months that RPM legal counsel is working on a response to the issues brought to the Chairman’s attention. However, I was told not to contact Party Counsel regarding these issues. In a meeting with the Chairman and the Executive Director, Ben Golnik on Tuesday, November 28, just two weeks after I sent RPM Counsel the documentation, the Chairman informed me that my compensation package would no longer include commissions for major donors or a net dollar performance bonus structure for 2007. He informed me my total compensation pacakge would be reduced to a $75,000 per year salary with no bonuses or commissions. This is an amount less than I have earned in any year in the last decade. Using 2006 numbers it would be a decrease in compensation of about 40%.

The underlining is in the memo itself, as reproduced on the website of CREW, which used the memo as evidence in its 2007 FEC complaint against the Republican Party of Minnesota. (See also the graphic above.) (more…)