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The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics


A DIFFERING SHADE OF GREEN

This book is a welcome addition to the spate of recent books on the ecological and resource calamities currently facing the planet. Unlike so many others – one thinks in this context of authors as disparate as Bill McKibben and Richard Heinberg – Parr analyses the crisis in the context of global inequality and social injustice. Her analysis is firmly rooted in a Marxism that allows a more comprehensive grasp of why and how the current state of affairs has developed.

She makes it clear that the worsening state of the environment is the effect of global capitalism; the crisis therefore cannot be effectively addressed within the parameters of capital. She does not propose, as do so many, the mere importance of individual initiative, without any contestation of larger economic and social injustices that are inseparable from the workings of the neoliberal order.

Counting on individuals alone to solve the ‘environmental problem’ is itself a symptom of the overarching problem: the current ideological triumph of a relentless capitalist neoliberalism, grounded above all in the supposed wants and needs of the (consumerist) individual.

In eight closely argued chapters, Parr presents the interrelated crises currently facing us: climate change; flawed carbon-offset schemes; population growth and income inequality; looming water scarcity; looming food scarcity and expanding worldwide hunger; the food-industrial complex, with genetically modified food and factory-raised animals; the green city movement and attendant social inequality; and the oil industry and its lamentable, indeed apocalyptic, environmental record.

Typically, authors focus on individual responses to these problems: for example, changes proposed include eating less meat; driving less or not at all; living in a compact city; recycling, dumpster diving, and so on. Only if a significant portion of the world population decides on these changes, individually or in small groups, will the world somehow be ‘saved’.

Heinberg, for example, in The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003), recommends a radically restrained (constrained?) lifestyle as a way of enabling humanity to survive longer with a much smaller carbon footprint – necessary if we are to continue to ‘flourish’ as the amount of available oil diminishes on a regular and predictable basis. He doesn’t tell us how to get there from here, though, other than through, presumably, the reading of his book and the activation of our individual consciences.

McKibben, in Deep Economy: Economics As If the World Mattered (2007), proposes a small-community ethic as a way of living a healthier life: growing one’s own food, driving less, and so on. McKibben sees the ideal social unit as that of a small community, but his solution ultimately entails people voluntarily, and presumably individually, choosing to live in progressive small towns or the countryside: rural Vermont is his home, and apparently his ideal. It’s unclear how one can live in Vermont, however, if one is living in poverty in a major urban centre, or in rural India.

I mention these two authors not to condemn them, but to indicate the difficulty that lies before any progressive social/ecological critic who does not firmly tie his or her analysis to a critique of global capitalism. As Parr makes clear, one can indeed make individual choices, but how individual is individual? How individual can any choice be in the current economic regime? The individual will always be the creature of larger market forces and logic. The individual’s response, then, will always have to be framed in a larger, inclusive, political context, as political action.

Here I would point to chapter 6 of Parr’s book, ‘Animal Pharm’, which focuses on agribusiness as it is currently constituted. McKibben’s solution to the woes of junk food, unhealthy meat, fast food, genetically modified food – all harmful both to the human body and to the environment in general – entails the voluntary withdrawal from the current regime, and participation in community-supported agriculture schemes (CSAs), backyard gardening, the support of small local organic farmers, and so on. All laudable, to be sure: anyone who has read Michael Pollan knows that eating good food can certainly improve one’s life.

Parr, on the other hand, stresses some obvious problems with small community reform that somehow never seems to get beyond ‘identity politics’ – that is, beyond the improvement of the lives of certain types of people (vegans, foodies, small-town inhabitants, farmers, ‘creative class’ types, etc.) rather than all people. She notes, for example, that ‘ethical food choices cannot be separated from the material conditions determining food production and modes of subjectification (race, class, gender, species).’ Most vegans have soybeans as a central part of their diets, and yet ‘soybean production is responsible for the razing of large parts of the Amazon rain forest that is facilitating the institutionalization of North–South power relations.’ Hence, ‘the vegan approach runs the risk of facilitating the culture of consumption that capitalism advances.’ She then goes on to cite the intolerance of certain vegan groups when it comes to people who have tried veganism and rejected it, for health reasons.

This would seem to be the nub of the problem: the vegans constitute themselves as a special interest/identity group, they feel confident about it, but they quickly become exclusivist, seeing others as not quite up to their moral or ethical standards. They have to, because they don’t have any overarching political standards, based on rigorous social and economic analysis. The irony is that they are themselves fully caught up in the individualistic consumerism that is the very heart of the ‘society of the spectacle’.

Omnivorous capitalism, in other words, works through both individual oppression and exploitation but also through a kind of personal thralldom to consuming not just reified or fetishized objects but all the images packaged and sold by an ever-resilient capitalism. In the case of vegans, singled out by Parr, a seeming revolt against capitalism is immediately reappropriated by it: if we reject meat as individuals and go to the local wholefood stores to buy soybeans we have merely switched consumable signs; we have not radically changed our activity as passive consumers and supporters of the neoliberal regime.

Identity politics is not even politics; it’s consumerism as social action. The new signs are contestatory only as signs; thus they are the problem (elements of the ‘spectacle’), not the solution. This is the genius of ever-renascent capitalism: it mutates endlessly, always capable of reappropriating contestation, no matter how seemingly radical, and turning it to its own (exploitative) ends. The vegan feels superior eating soybeans; meanwhile, the Amazon rainforest is stripped for profit.

This example is extended in the following chapter, ‘Modern Feeling and the Green City’. The current ‘greening’ of the city, from Parr’s perspective, is capitalist business as usual, with a green tint. Her example is Chicago, where a massive energy efficiency initiative has been undertaken, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Daley. But, obviously, Chicago’s transformation has less to do with ‘saving the planet’, in the noble abstract, than it has to do with turning the city into an economically efficient and lifestyle-friendly metropolis that will attract the ‘creative class’ types that nowadays are held to be the salvation of agglomerations in the age of knowledge-based industries. As Parr writes,

The green roof on Chicago’s City Hall is just another code, alongside other codes such as the LEED-rated buildings, housing voucher schemes, bicycle paths, and so on and so forth. What grounds all of these codes and the shifts they undergo over time is the axiomatic of capital, for in all cases capital serves as the justification for urban development and change.

As with the vegans, the walkable-city types are less concerned with social justice than with establishing their own turf in the most pleasant parts of the gentrified city. And, though Barr does not stress it, gentrification itself is really the index of the failure of the ‘greening’ ideal of the city, because it merely replicates social inequality under the guise of urban efficiency.

When neighbourhoods are ‘revitalized’, when the LEED-style amenities are introduced, those who are not ‘creative class’ hipster geniuses are forced out, and the neighbourhood, which indeed becomes more pleasant to live in, also becomes unaffordable for most people. Gentrification and green urban renewal seem to be locked in a tight embrace; how would one go about separating them?

If I have a criticism of Parr’s book, it is in the lack of specifics she provides in response to this type of question. If we are to do away with consumerist individualism, what, in practice, will replace it? Will people individually choose to undertake a sustainable project that is more socially just and inclusive? How is this sort of individualism different from that put forward by more traditional eco-critics? Will they be spontaneously convinced to do so through their reading of Marx? Or is there a need for some overarching governmental decision-making, somehow under the aegis of Marxism?

Parr criticizes neoliberalism for holding that ‘individuals, not governments or historical forces, are personally responsible for their own successes and failures’. But does that mean that only a government – presumably with the right political orientation – could be capable of implementing what she would take to be ‘successes’? Will people, then, need to be convinced to do the right thing – and be educated in all this – by the government? Which government? Elected by whom, and with what (and whose) money?

Of course change from the top has been tried already: in the Soviet Union, in Cuba, perhaps in Venezuela. The results, to put it mildly, have not always been resoundingly successful. Cuba scores high in the green sweepstakes – energy consumption is low per capita, and yet the population is highly literate and generally well educated, and on that score at least has a good quality of life. Not many other countries can make this claim. (It generally seems that one can make one claim, or the other, but not both.) And certainly Marx has a central role in Cuban political education. But how many Cubans would voluntarily retain their current system if given the choice?

Conversely, throughout the world, liberation and freedom are associated with a more ‘prosperous’ lifestyle, which features, as in China, the purchase of automobiles and other far from carbon-neutral devices (fetishes?). How, then, is a proper education to be carried out, worldwide, following the values that Parr espouses? How to convince everyone, including those poor whose definition of progress is consuming more, that there must be a fairly low-lying ceiling to their consumption? Who will do this convincing? What role will constraint play in it?

Say what you will, part of the genius of capitalism is to make true believers out of people – make them consumers – while all the while motivating them by convincing them that it is entirely in their interest. Capitalism has solved the problem of motivation, if not much else. Marxism and its various avatars have never come close. How in short do you get people to feel solidarity with everyone, when everything in the global culture persuades them to think first of themselves?

This problem can be flipped around. How do you convince those without that the concerns of those with – concerns having to do with the need to curb overconsumption – are legitimate? If those without are focused, inevitably, on consuming more, how can they respect those who are generally critical of enhanced consumption? Here, I think, Parr ignores some of the value of more traditional eco-criticism. No matter what, that kind of writing does critique consumerism; perhaps not the way she wants it to, but it does ‘deconstruct’ it. The green city is a largely carless city, while the car is perhaps the key consumer item in the US economy – witness the desperate governmental efforts to save GM in 2009.

A critique of non-sustainable culture is therefore also necessarily a critique of capitalism, whether it realizes it or not. De-emphasizing a large carbon footprint is de-emphasizing consumer capitalism as we now know it. Rather than making eco-theory entirely subordinate to Marxist theory, it would perhaps be more effective to consider how the two are (or must be) overtly linked. In other words, rather than making light of greening the city efforts – all those yuppie bike paths, and so on – Parr might see how a green critique is inseparable from a Marxist critique. Marxism without the green is a Marxism precisely unconcerned with issues of energy efficiency, the carbon footprint, and so on. We saw, throughout the twentieth century, where such Marxism leads. (Consider, for example, the environmental record of the former East Germany.)

Perhaps Parr needs to realize that the yuppie environmentalists are not the only ones who need to broaden their thinking. In point of fact there are people who bring these strands – social and environmental justice – together most effectively – I am thinking, for example, of the beautifully detailed writing of the Indian eco-activist Vandana Shiva, who is both a champion of social justice and a committed environmentalist. Reading Shiva’s work one is never in any doubt of the necessary coordination of the two impulses, of the how and the why.

Rather than a simple flat-out critique of greening as seemingly inevitable cooptation, Parr could then tell us what her model of the green city would be. How can we imagine a green city in which the poor are not simply forced out of liveable and walkable neighbourhoods? What would a non-gentrified environmentally responsible neighbourhood look like, and (above all) how do we get there? How can a refusal of a car-centric transport system challenge larger capitalist (global) structures by keeping more money in the community? How can living outside the confines of the automobile be more satisfying – when one can play rather than drive? How can people of all walks of life live better through the food they grow in their own plots, and on the bikes they ride? How do global green concerns, in conjunction with a Marxist critique of capitalism, lead towards, rather than away from, greater social equality?

Parr’s book, because of its global sweep, is a necessary first step in any elaboration of an environmentally enlightened Marxism. She would argue in effect that that is the only Marxism – and one can only concur. One cannot separate environmental and social justice: they are intertwined. But how to get there from here?

via The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics.

Caleb Charland– Artistic Scientist Generates Electricity from Different Foods


Artistic Scientist Generates Electricity from Different Foods

Orange Battery
Back to Light is a creatively scientific series by photographer Caleb Charland that explores the naturally electrifying power of ordinary objects like fruits and loose change. The images in the series features a number of materials, including consumables readily found in one’s pantry, generating enough power to light lamps and LED lights. We had previously seen Charland light a lamp with 300 apples, but now the grocery list has expanded to include oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, pomelos, and vinegar.The ongoing photo project, which began in 2010, was initially inspired by the powerful simplicity of the potato battery. The science enthusiast explains, “By inserting a galvanized nail into one side of a potato and a copper wire in the other side a small electrical current is generated. The zinc coating on the nail gives off electrons due to the electrolyte environment within the potato. These electrons then travel along the copper wire providing the electrical voltage to illuminate a small light emitting diode. The utter simplicity of this electrical phenomenon is endlessly fascinating for me.”Additionally, Charland reflects on his own project by saying: “This work speaks to a common curiosity we all have for how the world works as well as a global concern for the future of earth’s energy sources. My hope is that these photographs function as micro utopias by suggesting and illustrating the endless possibilities of alternative and sustainable energy production.”

Charland tells us that he hopes to expand his project this summer by making “little hydro electric generators and installing them in the landscape.” Until then, the photographer is showing a selection of his works at Schneider Gallery in Chicago and has a solo show coming up at Gallery Kayafas in Boston from May 17th through June 7th.


Battery From a Single Potato


Grapefruit and Pomelo Battery


Vinegar Battery


Fruit Battery Still Life (Citrus)


Coin Battery


Electricity From a Ring of Apples


Fruit Battery with Hanging Apples


Limes and Lemons


Vinegar Batteries with Glassware and Shelf


Garage of Organic Batteries


Potato Power, LaJoie Growers LLC, Van Buren, Maine

Caleb Charland website

SS Eastland Disaster, Monsanto and Self Serving Politicians- Stevan Neill


“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, December 14, 1787 [1]

If, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, some of the main duties of the US Government are the protection and safety of the American people, why is it so easy to find examples of government officials deliberately failing to do so? One only needs to learn about the SS Eastland to see a trail of ignored warnings, close calls, and underhanded businessmen being helped by self-serving politicians.[2] From its trial run in 1903, to just a couple of weeks before it capsized in 1915, there were repeated warnings by trained professionals concerning the stability of the ship.[2]

I thought the damned thing would take the turns on her side” -W. J. Wood

Commissioned by the Michigan Steamship Company in 1902 and completed in 1903, the Eastland was built to provide a speedy yet comfortable trip between South Haven and Chicago. In July 1903, the ship was opened up for a public tour. So many people came to view the Eastland that the vessel listed enough to allow water to flood in through the gangways.[3] On her trial runs a few weeks later, Naval Architect W. J. Wood warned the Port Authorities and ship owners that the ship was not designed right, that it was too narrow, causing it to tip over when too much weight was on the upper levels of the ship.[4] He recommended restricting the top deck from passenger use and always having its ballast tanks filled.

The top deck was made off-limits but the listing continued to plague the ship which continued to change owner’s over the years and was moved to different cities to escape its bad reputation. Originally rated to carry 2,800 passengers, the listing caused her rating to drop to 2,400 passengers.

On August 3, 1913, John Devereux York, Naval Architect, sent a letter to the US Harbor Master saying: “You are aware of the condition of the SS Eastland, and unless the structural defects are remedied to prevent listing, there may be a serious accident.”[5] His letter, like Wood’s before him, was ignored.

In response to the incredible loss of life on the Titanic, the LaFollette Seaman’s Act was passed in 1915.[6] This Act mandated that lifeboat space would no longer depend on gross tonnage, but rather on how many passengers were on board. By requiring this extra weight to a top heavy vessel like the Eastland, the law meant to save lives, instead sealed the fate of some 844 passengers. When crafting the Bill, the Senate Commerce Committee had been warned about the dangers of placing additional lifeboats and life rafts on the top decks of Great Lakes ships. But these warnings fell on deaf ears.[7]

On July 24, 1915 Western Electric Company chartered the Eastland along with two other steamers to take its employees from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana for the company picnic.[8] The mood was festive as a live band played the popular music of the day and the employees brought their families out to enjoy the trip. While there were three ships scheduled to take the revelers across Lake Michigan, the Eastland was slated to be the first ship boarded. [9]

At 7 AM, passengers began to board, and within a few minutes, Captain Harry Pederson noticed the ship listing so he ordered water to be pumped into the ballast tanks to stabilize it. The merrymakers kept boarding the vessel until they were jammed in like sardines. The Captain finally called out to the crew to pull back the gangplank and stop more people from coming aboard.[10] Without a paper trail, it can only be estimated that there was between 2,600 to 3,000 people onboard. Even as the gangplank was being pulled in, the ship started to list, causing water to flood through the port gangways. Seeing the water flooding in and knowing what was coming next, the majority of the crew jumped off the vessel leaving only the captain and a few crew members below decks.

All the while, the passengers, unaware of the danger, continued to dance on the lower decks while those on the top moved away from the list to enjoy the view.[11] Then, the unthinkable happened. Dishes began to fly off of shelves; a piano almost crushed two passengers as it slid crazily across the floor. The band stopped playing as water poured through portholes and pandemonium reigned as the ship rolled over on its side to settle on the river bed 20 feet below. Passengers trapped below decks were overwhelmed by the inrushing water and flying furniture. Many of those not crushed by the furniture were drowned be the unstoppable tide of water. Those men, women and children fortunate enough to be on the upper decks threw themselves into the river while the lifejackets sat uselessly in place because there was no time to grab them.

Within minutes onlookers rushed to aid those who had been thrown overboard or jumped into the river, while a tugboat steamed in to rescue passengers clinging to the overturned hull of the ship. An eyewitness to the disaster wrote: “I shall never be able to forget what I saw. People were struggling in the water, clustered so thickly that they literally covered the surface of the river. A few were swimming; the rest were floundering about, some clinging to a life raft that had floated free, others clutching at anything that they could reach – at bits of wood, at each other, grabbing each other, pulling each other down, and screaming! The screaming was the most horrible of them all.”

Other boats in the area and people nearby began helping with rescue operations. Some onlookers dove into the river or jumped onto the boat to help those who were struggling while others threw wooden planks and crates into the water to help people stay afloat. Workmen using acetylene torches nearby immediately ran over and started cutting a hole in the ship where pounding was heard. The crews of other ships were pulling people out of the water, dead and alive. By 8am, rescue turned to retrieval as the last of the pounding from inside the vessel slowly faded into silence and the remaining air-pockets gave out for those trapped within.

The large number of dead made identifying the dead extremely difficult as 22 entire families were killed in rollover.[6] In one case a horse drawn hearse bearing two newly sealed coffins stopped at a row house near Chicago’s South Side which was the home of two families employed by Western Electric. The driver knocked on the door to get burial instruction; when no one answered, he knocked on it again not knowing all seven people from both families had perished on the Eastland.

The capsizing of the S.S. Eastland caused a nationwide demand for justice over the massive loss of life.[12] A grand jury was called which indicted the president and three other officers of the steamship company for manslaughter, and the ship’s captain and engineer for criminal carelessness. This case became an American Jarndyce v Jarndyce as the results did not come in for over 20 years. When the findings were released in 1935, it was determined that the disaster was the result of “conditions of instability” caused by any or all of overloading of passengers, mishandling of water ballast, or the construction of the ship. So none of the crew served any prison time or paid any fine. This finding also absolved the owners of any liability and again demonstrated that protecting the public from predatory companies is not on the government’s “to do list.”

Looking at American policy over the last 50 years, it’s quite apparent that little has changed. We no longer have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” but one “of special interests, by special interests, for special interests.” Just a few of the many policies showing such unabashed collusion are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; [13] the frenzy surrounding the “swine-flu” epidemic;[14] the bankster and automobile bailouts; [15] and the green energy giveaways.[16]

“Eating Healthy is Easy” Michelle Obama

As flagrant as these examples are, they pale when compared to what was slipped into H.R. 933, the Agricultural Appropriations Bill.[17] This spending bill was intended to continue funding for several federal departments like the FDA and USDA through the 2013 fiscal year. In a backroom deal that should infuriate every American, Section 735, entitled the “Farmer Assurance Provision,” also called the “Monsanto Protection Act” was quietly slipped into the bill by Missouri senator Roy Blunt with the help of Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Appropriations Committee.

Blunt, bearer of several monikers including “Senator Earmark” and garnered a “Most Corrupt” from CREW hails from Monsanto’s home state of Missouri.[18], [19] His cozy relationship with the GMO seed/chemical has earned him over $118,000 from Monsanto since 2008 and over $243,000 from agribusiness PAC’s in 2010 alone.[20] Brashly showing just how owned he is Blunt, admitted to Politico that he “worked” with Monsanto on the bill.[21]

The Monsanto Protection Act prohibits federal courts from banning the planting and sale of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). This applies even if those experimental crops are found today or in the future to be extremely dangerous or to cause a runaway crop plague.

A “Food Democracy Now” petition sums up this outrageous act like this: “With the Senate passage of the Monsanto Protection Act, biotech lobbyists are one step closer to making sure that their new GMO crops can evade any serious scientific or regulatory review.”[22]

“This dangerous provision, the Monsanto Protection Act, strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer and farmer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, citizens and the environment.”

Simply put, this provision is an all-out attack on any judicial review doing their job and protecting the American public from potentially dangerous items and essentially violates the separation of powers. [23] Of course, the question of “Separation of Powers” is almost obsolete anymore when looking at the flood of “former” Monsanto and other Biotech employees that now operate the very government agencies charged with policing Monsanto. [24]

Some of the many:

• Roger Beachy heading up the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the former director of the Monsanto Danforth Center

• Islam Siddiqui, Agriculture Trade Representative, is a former Monsanto lobbyist

• Tom Vilsack, Iowa governor, and commissioner of the USDA, created the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership, and had been given a Governor of the Year Award by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto.[25]

• Ramona Romero, the new counsel for the USDA, who had been corporate counsel for another biotech giant, DuPont.

• Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner of the FDA, the new food-safety-issues czar, former vice-president for public policy for Monsanto. Taylor had been instrumental in getting approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

• Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice, as federal solicitor general, had previously argued for Monsanto in the Monsanto v. Geertson seed case before the Supreme Court.

• This is in addition to the eight lawmakers who own stock in Monsanto

All these friends in high places have enabled Monsanto to push through numerous Genetically Modified crops in spite of massive public outcry.[25], [26] Sen. John Tester who strongly opposed the Act told Politico “that the deal worked out with Monsanto was simply bad policy.” And: “These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country,”[27]

In one of those ironic twists that define the Obama administration, while Michelle Obama is touting that “82% of today’s consumers want healthier foods,” her husband is busy ignoring a petition with over 250,000 signatures on it.[28] This petition requested he veto HR 933 until the offensive provision was struck out of it, even as thousands of protestors were in front of the White House, Obama showed where his allegiance is and signed it anyway.

Currently, the Vermont State Legislature is considering a bill that would require labeling of all GMO foods sold in their state. Monsanto is working to thwart this wildly popular bill by threatening to sue the state if it passes.[29] Their lawyers are using several arguments including how safe their GMO crops are for people.[30] One topic not being presented by Monsanto is the damage being done to the farmers tires who have switched over to GMO corn. In a recent article on Autoblog, GMO corn is “wreaking havoc” on tractor tires.[31] Mark Newhall of Farm Show Magazine tells American Public Media’s Marketplace that after the stalks are cut during harvest, the leftover stubs are like “having a field of little spears.” So instead of tractor tires lasting the usual five to six years, they’re getting chewed up after just one or two years. With tractor tires sometimes costing thousands of dollars, tire manufacturers are turning to Kevlar, the armor plating the US military uses to resist being shredded. Eating something that requires armor plating to harvest is what Monsanto calls safe?

Though this bill will only remain in effect for six months, it sets a dangerous precedent in allowing corporations to undermine public safety if they can buy enough government support.[32] It shows that the same Congress that ignored the warnings when passing the LaFollette Seaman’s Act in 1915, are quite capable of ignoring the warnings against Genetically Modified foods.

“The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.” George Washington

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Footnotes:

1. The Federalist No. 22

2. Eastland Disaster

3. Eastland Disaster Historical Society

4. Eastland faulty says Naval expert

5. The Eastland Disaster

6. S.S. Eastland flips over on Chicago River, killing over 800 people including 22 entire families

7. Lost to the Lake: The S.S. Eastland Disaster

8. Eastland Memorial Society

9. Eastland disaster Historical Society

10. Eastland Disaster: Wacker Drive between Clark and LaSalle Street Bridges

11. Chicago, IL Steamer EASTLAND Disaster, Jul 1915

12. The Eastland disaster pictures

13. Profiting vs. Profiteering

14. The pandemic that never was: Drug firms ‘encouraged world health body to exaggerate swine flu threat’

15. The Bailout: By The Actual Numbers

16. The Real Green in Fedgov’s “Green Energy”

17. H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

18. The Grand New and Old Party

19. Crooked Candidates 2010

20. Sen. Roy Blunt: Monsanto’s Man in Washington

21. Big Agriculture flexes its muscle

22. Tell President Obama to veto the Monsanto Protection Act

23. ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Sneaks Through Senate

24. Monsanto: Big Guy on the Block When it Comes to Friends in Washington.

25, Top 10 excuses for Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act.

26, Kill the Monsanto Protection Act: Force Senator Roy Blunt to Resign.

27, Monsanto Protection Act Obama deception GMO’s

28, Michelle Obama business case healthier food options.

29, Monsanto threatens to sue State of Vermont

30, Food Safety

31, GMO crops so tough that farmers are turning to Kevlar tractor tires.

32, Monsanto Protection Act Signed By Obama, GMO Bill “Written By Monsanto” Signed Into Law.

via Steven Neill — SS Eastland Disaster, Monsanto and Self Serving Politicians.

via Steven Neill — SS Eastland Disaster, Monsanto and Self Serving Politicians.

The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today


May Day holds a mythical position among the international workers and union movements. Its origins can be traced back to Australia in 1856 when stonemasons and builders in Melbourne downed tools on the 21st of April and marched on Parliament to demand an eight hour working day without any deterioration in pay. In 1884 the Chicago Labour Movement adopted the eight hour working day as their core demand, declaring that May 1st 1886 would mark the beginning of the 8 hour working day being a standard. They famously campaigned for this using the slogan “eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep, eight hours of recreation”. This slogan had first appeared in the UK during the Industrial Revolution.

On Saturday May 1st 1886 workers in 12 000 factories throughout the United States went on strike. Estimates vary widely as to how many workers were on strike with figures between 200 000 and half million being disputed. Chicago was the centre of the Labour Movement in the USA and it saw between 30 and 40 000 workers on strike. A Chicago paper reported that “no smoke curled up from the tall chimneys of the factories and mills, and things had assumed a Sabbath-like appearance.” The first day passed off without any trouble and workers held the first May Day parade in Chicago’s history, with the procession being lead by Albert and Lucy Parsons. They proudly chanted, “Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, Decreasing the hours increases the pay” as they marched up Michigan Avenue.

Both May the 1st and 2nd passed off peacefully but on the 3rd of May clashes between locked-out workers and police occurred. At the McCormick Harvester factory police were guarding both the entrance and exit to protect “scabs” who had taken the place of the 1 400 workers on strike. As the “scabs” were leaving the factory that night clashes erupted, these culminated in police charging at the protesting workers. Four workers were killed and sixteen were seriously injured. News spread quickly and the German-language anarchist newspaper Arbeiter Zeitung printed and distributed leaflets urging workers to assemble at Haymarket Square the following day, the 4th of May, to protest against the police brutality.

On the morning and afternoon of the 4th of May there were sporadic clashes between Chicago police and strikers who had assembled on the city’s streets. The Mayor of Chicago permitted the workers to hold their protest meeting in Haymarket square and an audience began to assemble from 7.30pm. What followed were impassioned speeches by Albert Parsons, August Spies, and Samuel Fielden. Just as Fielden was drawing his speech to a close the peaceful demonstration was interrupted by 200 police officers who had marched from the local station. Just as they arrived in the square a make shift bomb was thrown at them, this exploded killing one police man instantly and mortally wounding six more. In the chaos that followed shots were fired from both sides with four workers being killed.

In what later became known as the Haymarket Affair Labour leaders Parsons, Spies, Fischer, and Engel were hanged for “conspiracy”, and other militant leaders of the Chicago Labour movement were imprisoned. Parsons gave a passionate speech from the dock in which he declared that the working class, “possess nothing but their empty hands. They live only when afforded an opportunity to work and this opportunity MUST BE PROCURED FROM THE POSSESSORS of the means of subsistence – capital – before their right to live at all or the opportunity to do so is possessed”. Following conviction and as he faced his fate on the gallows August Spies adamantly declared “the day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

When May Day was celebrated again in 1890 it had become a truly international affair with workers taking the opportunity to fight for better working conditions across Europe and the US. Yet where does May Day stand in an Irish context? Clearly our economic and social conditions are vastly different to those of both Europe and the USA in the late 19th century. The Irish economy is presently heavily dependent on intangible goods. It would seem obvious that our current crisis, while severe, follows a well worn path of boom and bust that has plagued the country since its foundation.

May Day presents us with an opportunity first for a celebration of the victories that have been won, but secondly and more importantly in the current crisis it can provide a focal point for a period of reflection and growth. As we face into our 6th year of austerity it must be noted the lack of a legitimate coherent alternative being offered by any political group in Ireland.

With the recent rejection of Croke Park II we could be seeing the beginning of the end of social partnership. Or, instead is it could be the dying breath of any form of resistance, with the rejection followed by union posturing. Social Partnership was introduced in 1987 and some claimed it to be one of the most important contributing factors to our “economic success”. Yet we have been propelled into a situation of unparalleled uncertainty. With emigration reaching levels not recorded since the famine and a junior coalition party coming under increasing pressure the time is now fertile for the left to make itself relevant and offer an alternative to the current crisis.

It is becoming obvious that the growing disquiet across the country needs a focus. On the 13th of April 8 000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the Property Tax. This followed on from the mass non-payment of the Household Charge last year. With promises of further cuts to expenditure planned for the next two budgets it would seem we have reached another cross-road in the post Celtic Tiger narrative. The only fear being that there might not be many more.

via The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today | Irish Student Left Online.

via The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today | Irish Student Left Online.

GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project


On March 11, 2013, GAP filed an amicus brief in support of a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court in the case of Vance v. Rumsfeld. Petitioners Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel are U.S. citizens who worked as private security contractors in Iraq. Beginning in 2005, they witnessed corruption by U.S. and Iraqi officials and, from October 2005 until April 2006, reported these abuses to the FBI. When U.S. officials learned in April 2006 that Vance and Ertel had blown the whistle, the two were arrested and held at a U.S. military prison in Iraq.

Vance was imprisoned for more than three months, and Ertel for six weeks. During that time, the U.S. military detained them incommunicado in solitary confinement and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques (aka torture), which then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had approved for use against detainees. Specifically, Vance and Ertel were not permitted to sleep, kept in extremely cold cells, forced to listen to loud music, deprived of food and water, denied medical care, hooded, slammed into walls, and threatened. After their torture and detention for months at hands of our government, the military eventually released them without charge. Vance and Ertel brought a lawsuit for damages against the officials responsible for their torture.

In November 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed the suit holding that U.S. citizens are not entitled to bring constitutional damages claims against military officials. On Feb. 5, 2013, Loevy & Loevy, a Chicago-based civil rights law firm representing Vance and Ertel, submitted a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. GAP submitted an amicus brief – prepared in conjunction with the Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Project and signed by seven other organizations – urging the high Court to grant the petition.

The brief points out the dangers in refusing to permit individual-capacity actions. Primarily, it argues that the Seventh Circuit decision leaves U.S. citizens – working abroad or at home – with no means of redress if the government tortures them, thereby granting the military absolute immunity. Given other federal statutes in place, the Seventh Circuit’s decision also means that U.S. citizens who are tortured would have less access to judicial review than non-citizens. The brief warns that if civilians are not afforded adequate judicial protections, they may choose not to serve their country abroad as military contractors. It notes that the United States relies heavily upon contractors and cannot afford to create such a disincentive. Finally, GAP’s brief argues that overturning the Seventh’s Circuit decision will reinforce the military’s adherence to the Constitution and ensure military discipline.

via GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project.

via GAP Files Supreme Court Amicus as Detained, Tortured Whistleblowers take on Rumsfeld – Government Accountability Project.

Supreme Court to rule on eating shellfish


THE US Supreme Court is debating whether America should follow Biblical laws on eating shellfish.

Right or wrong?

The ban on ‘whatever is in the seas and waters that does not have fins or scales’ is passionately supported by conservatives.

However it faces opposition from Americans who experimented with shellfish in their youth, or have relatives or friends who have eaten shrimp.

Meanwhile, Republicans are accused of making political capital by fomenting hatred against so-called ‘Godless big-city mollusc-munchers’.

Norman Steele, from Dallas, said: “The Lord had it right, these are detestable things. Like it says on my t-shirt, flag and car – GOD HATES CRABS.”

But Tom Booker, from Pasadena, said: “We’re not forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to. Why can’t you enjoy your chicken just because I’m lustily devouring a big shiny red lobster?”

Nikki Hollis, from Chicago, added: “If my friends and I want to munch on a juicy oyster, that’s what we’re going to do.

“These small-minded people are just losing their shit because secretly they want to feast on bivalves.”

The pro-shellfish lobby has accused their opponents of ignoring other verses of Leviticus which prohibit tattoos, wearing garments of mixed fabric, and homosexuality.

Norman Steele said: “Shit, I don’t care if a couple o’ dudes want to ride each other’s assholes all night – ain’t none of my beeswax. Long as they ain’t eatin’ no scallops at the same time.”

via Supreme Court to rule on eating shellfish.

via Supreme Court to rule on eating shellfish.

One Third of Seniors Die With Dementia


A staggering 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, says a new report that highlights the impact the mind-destroying disease is having on the rapidly aging population.

Dying with Alzheimer’s is not the same as dying from it. But even when dementia isn’t the direct cause of death, it can be the final blow – speeding someone’s decline by interfering with their care for heart disease, cancer or other serious illnesses. That’s the assessment of the report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association, which advocates for more research and support for families afflicted by it.

“Exacerbated aging,” is how Dr. Maria Carrillo, an association vice president, terms the Alzheimer’s effect. “It changes any health care situation for a family.”

In fact, only 30 percent of 70-year-olds who don’t have Alzheimer’s are expected to die before their 80th birthday. But if they do have dementia, 61 percent are expected to die, the report found.

(MROE: Two Studies Find Promising New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Earlier)

Already, 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Those numbers will jump to 13.8 million by 2050, Tuesday’s report predicts. That’s slightly lower than some previous estimates.

Count just the deaths directly attributed to dementia, and they’re growing fast. Nearly 85,000 people died from Alzheimer’s in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a separate report Tuesday. Those are people who had Alzheimer’s listed as an underlying cause on a death certificate, perhaps because the dementia led to respiratory failure. Those numbers make Alzheimer’s the sixth leading cause of death.

That death rate rose 39 percent in the past decade, even as the CDC found that deaths declined among some of the nation’s other top killers – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. The reason: Alzheimer’s is the only one of those leading killers to have no good treatment. Today’s medications only temporarily ease some dementia symptoms.

But what’s on a death certificate is only part of the story.

Consider: Severe dementia can make it difficult for people to move around or swallow properly. That increases the risk of pneumonia, one of the most commonly identified causes of death among Alzheimer’s patients.

Likewise, dementia patients can forget their medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or other illnesses. They may not be able to explain they are feeling symptoms of other ailments such as infections. They’re far more likely to be hospitalized than other older adults. That in turn increases their risk of death within the following year.

“You should be getting a sense of the so-called blurred distinction between deaths among people with Alzheimer’s and deaths caused by Alzheimer’s. It’s not so clear where to draw the line,” said Jennifer Weuve of Chicago’s Rush University, who helped study that very question.

The Chicago Health and Aging Project tracked the health of more than 10,000 older adults over time. Weuve’s team used the data to estimate how many people nationally will die with Alzheimer’s this year – about 450,000, according to Tuesday’s report.

That’s compatible with the 1 in 3 figure the Alzheimer’s Association calculates for all dementias. That number is based on a separate analysis of Medicare data that includes both Alzheimer’s cases and deaths among seniors with other forms of dementia.

(MORE: New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s)

Last year, the Obama administration set a goal of finding effective Alzheimer’s treatments by 2025, and increased research funding to help. It’s not clear how the government’s automatic budget cuts, which began earlier this month, will affect those plans.

But Tuesday’s report calculated that health and long-term care services will total $203 billion this year, much of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid and not counting unpaid care from family and friends. That tab is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2050, barring a research breakthrough, the report concluded.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/19/one-third-of-seniors-die-with-dementia/#ixzz2O2zCbPpI

via One Third of Seniors Die With Dementia | TIME.com.

via One Third of Seniors Die With Dementia.

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