The wisdom around us

SUBHEAD: Societies that were healthy, educated, happy that had little waste, government or need for energy.

By Brian Kaller on 27 July 2017 for Restoring Mayberry -

Image above: Retouched photo of the village of Glenoe in County Antrim, Ireland in the 19th century. From (

If we want to learn from people in more traditional eras, we can do several things; we can read books and journals from that era, from before fossil fuels or electricity, before cars or internet, before everything became cheap and fast and thrown away.

Some books from that era remain widely read; Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder from the USA, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens from England, and I would encourage readers to can go back farther in history to medieval writers or Ancient Greeks and Romans.

We can also read historians who specialise in everyday life, or people today who still practice traditional crafts and write about it – I recommend John Seymour and Scott Savage, among others.

Many people today are forced by poverty to live simpler lives, as in the Third World, but their circumstances are often less healthy, literate or safe than those of 20th century Ireland.

We in the West have too few first-person narratives from people who grew up in such poverty, and their cultures, climates and languages often pose a barrier to understanding.

We can talk to people closer to home who grew up with very little – say, people who grew up in trailer parks or slums – but again, they experienced a different kind of poverty.

Most families I know in my native USA grew up with a lot of television, little freedom and the constant threat of violence; in many ways, they experienced the opposite of my Irish neighbours.

We can talk to people Western countries today who grew up living more simply than most Americans today – say, Amish, Mennonites or plain Quakers.

Such groups, however, typically withdrew from the world because they have a rigid and insular culture, making them reluctant to share with outsiders and making their habits less relatable.

I wasn’t just interested in sitting and watching television shows about people living simpler and more traditional lives; I wanted to learn how to do so myself.

We can talk to elderly Americans who remember the mid-20th century, and I have talked to quite a few over the years and learned a great deal. Their world, however, is not too unfamiliar; if you talk to a 70-year-old American, you are still talking to someone who grew up watching television and sitting in traffic.

That’s what makes my Irish neighbours so valuable; they are among the last Westerners on Earth, speaking English and now living in a familiar modern world -- to grow up in the pre-modern world, before electricity and modern media, before cars and modern devices.

As late as the 1960s in Ireland, by contrast, fewer than one per cent of Irish owned a car, relying instead on feet and horses. As late as the 1970s many areas lacked electricity, meaning not just electric lights but radio and television.

Their lack of modern influences kept the culture parochial and traditional even into modern times; birth control was legalised only in 1978, and divorce only in 1995.

My elderly neighbours grew up with different priorities from people today; they had skills, not career tracks, and lived not as individuals but as members of something greater.

Their homes were filled with family members who pitched in with the work of getting food and water and warmth, and the ones who worked outside the home brought in the little money they needed for a few luxuries.

At gatherings they sang songs and told stories that were hundreds of years old, passed down like prayers from father to son, mother to daughter. They grew up knowing the histories of their cousins and neighbours, who were often the same people.

When I ask them to remember a certain decade in their lives, they remember their childhood adventures and adult duties, the aging and passing of family, the passing down of traditions.

Of course, the Ireland my neighbours talk about has mostly disappeared, replaced by a modern country not very different from the USA or Britain; drive along the major roads near our house and you sit in traffic jams, pass billboards and fast-food stops, see advertisements for Hollywood blockbusters, and hear wacky morning-zoo DJs on the radio.

Cities are filled with young people constantly staring at little glowing rectangles, addicted to video-games or social media, increasingly dependent on touching a screen to get the basic needs of life.

Raising a teenager here means talking about “sexting,” drugs, date rapes – the same uncomfortable parent-child discussions as you need to have anywhere these days.

It’s difficult enough for older Americans who grew up with television and movies, albeit an older and gentler variety. Older Irish I talk to feel like they are living in a foreign country.

When I moved to rural Ireland 15 years ago, I admit, there was a lot to get used to. Ireland lies at the same latitude as southern Alaska, so the winter nights can be eighteen hours long, and the days quite dim.

During the summer we have the opposite problem, and I have to cover the windows with tinfoil to get any sleep. It rains one day out of three – that’s the price you pay for the lush countryside – and even in summer it never gets very warm.

Nonetheless, my family and I made a go of living here, building a house and garden and turning the land into a homestead.

We grew some of our own food, kept chickens and bees, and learned as we went. I’d always loved traditional crafts, so I learned whatever I could about skills being kept alive by a few devoted aficionados.

I tried my hand at blacksmithing, basketry, hedge-laying, natural building, bush-craft, leather-working, book-binding, brewing, pickling, cheese-making and wine-making, sometimes just dabbling, sometimes making it into a hobby.

I had to work in Dublin to pay the bills, which meant three hours a day on the bus and back each day. That meant devoting the few remaining waking hours each day to doing chores on the land, feeding possibly checking the bees, doing some traditional crafts, giving my daughter home-schooling lessons and having a writing career on the side.

Thankfully, I discovered that was much more feasible than you might imagine; a garden, animals and crafts can take up perhaps an hour or two a day, and you can learn a great deal while working around a regular life. It’s not being entirely self-sufficient or off the grid, in the manner of doomsday preppers or reality-television eccentrics, but I don’t need that kind of life, and you probably don’t either.

Many people I know just want to be more self-reliant, or have fun learning skills, or to pollute less, or spend less money, or work with the land instead of against it – all things that go along with the old-fashioned skills I was learning.

Most of all, I talked with elderly people, and realised what a different world they had grown up in, and what an underappreciated resource they were.

I struck up conversations with neighbours passing on the road, or having tea at their house, or sitting next to them on the long bus ride to Dublin, or visiting the local old folks’ home. Occasionally I asked them if I could sit down for formal interviews, and sat down with a camera and audio recorder.

I found that Irish radio had done occasional documentaries on traditional life, that school-children had collected the memories of their grandparents, that documentarians had filmed Irish villagers decades ago, and that historical societies and local experts had scrapbooks filled with the minutiae of day-to-day life.

I listened to hundreds of hours of recordings and read thousands of pages of transcripts, collecting the details of their everyday lives.

Again, I’m not trying to romanticise their difficult lives, or claim that they didn’t have their own problems, or that the world hasn’t improved in certain ways – of course it has. I’m not saying that we could or should do exactly what they did, or that all traditional societies were as beneficial as the examples I use.

Of course Ireland in the fifties was quite different from America in the 1950s, and from many other traditional times and places, and of course I’ll be cherry-picking good qualities from many times and places and ignoring the downsides of each era. There’s no perfect past that I’m demanding we emulate.

I am saying that certain peoples in history created societies that were healthy, educated, clean, happy – by their own testimony – and ran on little energy, generated little waste and needed little government. I want to look at how they did these things, and what we can learn from them.


Civil Beat views US military in Pacific

SUBHEAD: Will a military buildup in far-flung Pacific island territories destroy their unique environment?

By Juan Wilson on 20 August 2017 for Island Breath -

Image above: Phboto of WWII military plane wreck on Pagan Island. the island is now to be used by American forces for target practice. (

Civil Beat is a Hawaiian news agency that has done an excellent job in investigating a wide range of interests throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It stands head and shoulders above the pathetic efforts of the Garden Island News (owned by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser which is owned by a Canadian corporation Black Press).

Civil Beat is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt news organization dedicated to cultivating an informed body of citizens, all striving to make Hawaii a better place. It uses local reporters and covers local, national and international issues. It is one of the few online news sites IslandBreath supports with donations.

Civil Beat has made an important contribution to a better understanding of American military domination in the Pacific. That imperial effort goes back to the Spanish American War and the takeover of Hawaii and continues to this day. 

Civil Beat has put together several articles in one place called Outpost Pacific ( covering issues on the Mariana Islands with specific pieces on Pagan Island, Tinian Island, Guam and Farallon de Medinilla.

Already plans for  RIMPAC 2018 are racing ahead. Those are the Rim of the Pacific war games conducted by the US Navy every even numbered year in and around Hawaii that includes more than a dozen navies.

Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) and Makaha Ridge Tracking Facility play a large part in those war games and any real war in the Pacific. That makes Kauai, and those other strategic islands occupied by the US military ground zero for any major conflict involving China, North Korea or Russia.

Civil Beat Chapter 1: Can These Islands Survive America’s Military Pivot To Asia?
Civil Beat Chapter 2: The Fight To Save Pagan Island From US Bombs
Civil Beat Chapter 3: Tinian - "We believed in America"
Civil Beat Chapter 4: Guam - Many In This Military Outpost Welcome More Troops
Civil Beat Chapter 5: Missing Data Plagues Military Training Plans In The Marianas

See also:

Ea O Ka Aina: South Korea's stubborn Peace Effort 8/4/17
Ea O Ka Aina: "No!" to America Militrarism in Hawaii 4/11/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Air Force plans to bomb whales 2/6/17
Ea O Ka Aina: MV-22 Osprey landing at Salt Pond 2/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai and Niihau endangered 9/24/16 
Ea O Ka Aina: DLNR responsibility on RIMPAC 7/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Oceans4Peace Pacific Pivot Panel 6/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean 4 Peace Events 6/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Prepare for RIMPAC 2016 War in Hawaii 5/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to "take" millions of mammals 5/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: US court RIMPAC Impact decision 4/3/15
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 Impact Postmortem 10/22/1
Ea O Ka Aina: Marines backing off 8/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Unproved Osprey on Kauai 8/21/12
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 in Full March 7/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: 21st Century Energy Wars 7/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War on the Ocean 7/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Voila - World War Three 7/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Pacific Pivot 6/28/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC IMPACT 6/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC Then and Now 5/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Asian Pivot - An ugly dance 12/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Help save Mariana Islands 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End RimPac destruction of Pacific 11/1/13 
Ea O Ka Aina: Moana Nui Confereence 11/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to conquer Marianas again  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Pagan Island beauty threatened 10/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy license to kill 10/27/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Sleepwalking through destruction 7/16/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Okinawa breathes easier 4/27/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy Next-War-Itis 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: America bullies Koreans 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Despoiling Jeju island coast begins 3/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Islanders protests Navy Base 2/29/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii - Start of American Empire 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12   
Ea O Ka Aina: Military schmoozes Guam & Hawaii 3/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: In Search of Real Security - One 8/31/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Peace for the Blue Continent 8/10/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Shift in Pacific Power Balance 8/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RimPac to expand activities 6/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War Games here in July 6/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific Resistance to U.S. Military 5/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: De-colonizing the Pacific 5/21/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC to Return in 2010 5/2/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Living at the Tip of the Spear 4/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Living at the Tip of the Spear 4/15/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam Land Grab 11/30/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam as a modern Bikini Atoll 12/25/09
Ea O Ka Aina: GUAM - Another Strategic Island 11/8/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Diego Garcia - Another stolen island 11/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: DARPA & Super-Cavitation on Kauai 3/24/09
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 - Navy fired up in Hawaii 7/2/08
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 uses destructive sonar 4/22/08
Island Breath: Navy Plans for the Pacific 9/3/07
Island Breath: Judge restricts sonar off California 08/07/07
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 sonar compromise 7/9/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 - Impact on Ocean 5/23/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2004 - Whale strandings on Kauai 9/2/04
Island Breath: PMRF Land Grab 3/15/04 


Electric cars don't reduce CO2

SUBHEAD: An inconvenient fact is they mostly use oil, gas and coal to get recharged and also have exotic batteries to be replaced.

By Tyler Durden on 18 August 2017 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: A Tesla two-seat sports roadster is displayed while it charges at an auto show. From (

For all the funds out there looking to fill their portfolio with "environmentally conscious" companies working diligently to avert an inevitable global warming catastrophe that will result in the extinction of the human race, we guess in lieu of their actual fiduciary duties to simply make money for their investors, Morgan Stanley has compiled a list of how you can get the most 'environmental healing' per dollar invested.

As MarketWatch points out, it's not terribly surprising that of the 39 publicly-traded stocks analyzed, the solar and wind generation companies landed at the very top of Morgan Stanley's environmentally friendly the list.

Morgan Stanley identified 39 stocks that generate at least half their revenue “from the provision of solutions to climate change,” something it said was a central component of investing to make a difference, as opposed to just a making a buck.

“In our view, impact investing needs to begin with companies whose products and services have a notable positive environmental or social impact,” wrote Jessica Alsford, an equity strategist at the investment bank.

Not surprisingly, alternative-energy companies ranked the highest in terms of their positive impact, and the “top five climate-change impact stocks” were all manufacturers of solar and wind energy: Canadian Solar, China High Speed Transmission, GCL-Poly, Daqo New Energy, and Jinko Solar.
What is surprising, however, is that publicly traded electric car manufacturers, darlings of the environmentally-conscious Left, were actually found to generate more CO2 than they save.

As a stark reminder to our left-leaning political elites who created these companies with massive taxpayer funded subsidies, Morgan Stanley points out that while Teslas don't burn gasoline they do have to be charged using electricity generated by coal and other fossil fuels.

This is where Tesla, along with China’s Guoxuan High-Tech fall short.

“Whilst the electric vehicles and lithium batteries manufactured by these two companies do indeed help to reduce direct CO2 emissions from vehicles, electricity is needed to power them,” Morgan Stanley wrote.
“And with their primary markets still largely weighted towards fossil-fuel power (72% in the U.S. and 75% in China) the CO2 emissions from this electricity generation are still material.”
In other words, “the carbon emissions generated by the electricity required for electric vehicles are greater than those saved by cutting out direct vehicle emissions.”

Morgan Stanley calculated that an investment of $1 million in Canadian Solar results in nearly 15,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide being saved every year. For Tesla, such an investment adds nearly one-third of a metric ton of CO2.


"Green" Houston isn't for everybody

SUBHEAD: The Texas capital plan for sustainability does not include some minority neighborhoods.

By Raj Mankad on 15 August 2017 for Grist -

Image above: In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring fossil fuel industry. Photo by Paul Hester. From original article.

Juan Parras gives one hell of a tour of Houston’s east side. He’s charming and funny. Wearing a beret, he strikes an old-world look, like he might lead you to a cafe on a plaza. He doesn’t charge a fee for his services. After all, you’re on a “toxic tour,” and Parras is on a mission.

Parras grew up in 1950s West Texas. He remembers segregated schools, the restaurants that wouldn’t serve him, the unpaved roads, and the people who lived closest to the local refinery. Those experiences led him to a career as a social justice advocate.

The resident of Houston’s heavily industrial east side has worked in a city housing department, for a union, for a law clinic, and on a campaign that stopped a PVC factory from being built in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

For the last decade, he has served as executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (better known as t.e.j.a.s.). Part of his work is leading tours past the heaping piles of scrap metal along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou and by Cesar Chavez High School, which opened in 2000 within a quarter-mile of three large petrochemical plants.

Parras can go all day, up and down the Houston Ship Channel to Denver Harbor and neighborhoods like Galena Park, Baytown, and Pasadena. Surely you’ve read about the Keystone XL pipeline and other controversial proposed projects that would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries? Parras can show you where many of them would end.

The toxic tour sometimes concludes in the neighborhood of Manchester, a six-square-mile grid of streets where the petrochemical industry towers directly over small homes. Where, according to EPA databases, Valero Refining can produce up to 160,000 barrels a day of gasoline and other fuels.

 Where the Ship Channel Bridge, one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 610, carries tens of thousands of vehicles per day (along with their emissions) directly over homes. And where about 4,000 people live — more than 95 percent of whom are people of color, and 90 percent low income.

The cancer risk for residents of Manchester and the neighboring community of Harrisburg is 22 percent higher than for the overall Houston urban area, according to a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists and t.e.j.a.s. 

While the city works to overcome its image as a dirty oil town, these neighborhoods remain solidly dominated by the petrochemical industry. And despite the work of Parras and his team, the environmental and health issues that Manchester’s residents face are not gaining enough political traction to garner real change.

“Environmental justice issues become all too easy to grasp when you take people into neighborhoods,” Parras said when the Sierra Club awarded him its 2015 Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award. So Parras gives the toxic tour over and over again, hoping that, eventually, people will listen.

In 2016, Houston was lauded for its “green transformation.” The D.C.-based nonprofit Cultural Landscape Foundation brought visitors from around the country to study new investments in the city’s parks, as well as an 150-mile network of trails alongs its bayous.

Long the whipping boy of the urban-planning world, the fourth-largest U.S. city will soon have half a dozen signature parks designed by internationally known firms.

Yet Houston’s attempts to appear greener have thrown longstanding inequities into sharper contrast. Two-bedroom apartments in a downtown highrise overlooking Discovery Green park rent for more than $4,000. Seven miles east, chemical storage tanks dot the landscape around Hartman Park in Manchester, where nearly 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

Beyond financial disparities, the region’s signature industry inflicts a staggeringly disproportionate burden on east-side residents.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report, the airborne concentration of 1,3-butadiene, which causes cancer and a host of neurological issues, is more than 150 times greater in Manchester and Harrisburg than in West Oaks and Eldridge, relatively affluent neighborhoods on Houston’s west side.

Adrian Shelley, director of Texas’s outpost of the watchdog group Public Citizen, describes Manchester and the neighborhoods that abut it as sacrificial lambs, where the situation is “unjust, offensive, cruel, racist, ridiculous, tragic, and costing lives.”

Juan Flores has lived in Galena Park, right across Buffalo Bayou from Manchester, since the age of four. One of his earliest memories, as a kindergartner, was “seeing all this white stuff on the cars” and thinking it was snow — a rare occurrence in Houston. He played in it until his mom yelled out, “Hijo, no! We don’t know what it is!”

When he would play with friends over in Manchester, he remembers smells that “were so unbearable you had to go inside.”

“Most of the people who live in the area, like my dad, work in the industry,” Flores says. “We are aware of the dangers. We can smell the chemicals.”

He recalls “his first explosion,” which happened in the nearby Pasadena neighborhood in 1989, when Flores was in sixth grade. He remembers seeing “a big mushroom cloud.”

The so-called Phillips disaster — which was actually multiple explosions at the Houston Chemical Complex owned by the energy company Phillips 66 — broke the windows of his school. Twenty-three Phillips 66 employees were killed and 314 people were injured.

Flores was a member of the Galena Park city council from 2014 to 2016. He helped get an ordinance passed that limits the time trucks can idle on city streets, a substantial source of air pollution along the Ship Channel. The neighboring Jacinto City community adopted the policy, too.

According to Flores, truck drivers were at first upset with the new regulation. But he helped them understand the impact of running engines on the neighboring communities. “I told them, ‘Guys, it is your own kids,’” he says.

Local advocates say the only remedy for really helping the people trapped in Manchester and its toxic surrounding areas would involve a public buyout of their homes for the full cost of rebuilding their houses. (Market prices for Manchester-area homes are depressed by their hazardous neighbors). But even if residents were suddenly able to move to more pristine surroundings, Shelly says, doing so would disperse an entire community.

Image above: In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring fossil fuel industry. Photo by Paul Hester. From original article.

Meanwhile, it’s tough to argue that Houston — despite its new park-building boom — isn’t prioritizing industry over the health of its vulnerable communities.

In May, Houston agreed to sell Valero several Manchester streets near its refinery for $1.4 million. The energy company will expand its footprint, adding auxiliary buildings and more parking for the facility.

In recent years, according to Parras, Valero has bought out some residents in a piecemeal approach. (Valero did not respond to requests to comment for this story.)

But he still didn’t see the deal coming.
“I found out about the sale of the streets through the newspaper,” says Parras, who was taken aback after reading a Houston Chronicle article. “We are ignored.”

Policy that would help Houston control its pollution problem is tough to enact in a town dominated by the petrochemical industry. In 2005, a Chronicle investigation on industry-reported emissions spurred then-Houston Mayor Bill White to approach companies about voluntarily reducing air pollution — 1,3-butadiene, in particular.

In Manchester, Valero took the step of placing a sophisticated air monitor at its facility’s fenceline. Citywide, the impact of White’s entreaties on emissions appears to have been inconsequential, and the effort likely cost him in his subsequent campaign for governor.

City-led initiatives are consistently challenged in courts by the Business Coalition for Clean Air, an industry-lobbying group that represents ExxonMobil and others. Last year, it convinced the Texas Supreme Court to strike down Houston’s Clean Air Ordinance, which was adopted during White’s administration.

The court ruled that the city does not have authority to enforce clean air regulations. During the last legislative session and the current special session, state politicians have put forward a range of bills using that and other pro-industry precedents to undermine the city’s ability to police environmental issues.

Lawmakers have attacked tree-preservation ordinances, fracking bans, and policies to reduce single-use plastic bags.

A 2016 report by the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Texans for Public Justice found that the three state oil and gas regulators raised $11 million in recent years, 60 percent of which came from the industries they’re charged with monitoring.

A 2017 report by the Environmental Integrity Project found that Texas penalizes only 3 percent of the illegal pollution releases reported by companies.

“In a different political environment, self-reported violations or reports of air-emission events would result in fines of $25,000 per day,” Shelley says. “But it is not done, even though the authority is there under the law.”

T.e.j.a.s. argues that the state should require chemical facilities to use safer substances, update their technologies, continuously monitor and report emissions, and avoid the construction of new facilities near homes and schools.

But Bakeyah Nelson, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston, says that putting such changes into effect “is tied to civic engagement and voting.” A real shift will happen, she explains, only when “elected officials reflect what the population looks like and vote in a way that is consistent with what people want, which is protection from environmental toxins.”

Last year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a Mexican-American running on a platform that included environmental justice issues, challenged incumbent Gene Green, who has represented Texas’ 29th district, which includes Manchester, since 1993. Despite the district having a population that is 76 percent Hispanic origin, local and national Latino leaders backed Green, praising his consistent stand on immigration issues.

Green retained his seat with a message that voters were more concerned about the jobs that industry brings than curtailing its unchecked growth.

According to the Air Alliance’s Nelson, that economy-versus-environment framing is a false dichotomy. She says that greater regulation at a national level has coincided with continued economic growth and helped spur technological innovation.

Countering industry’s hold on the region would involve raising awareness among locals that they don’t have to choose between their health and their livelihoods, Nelson says. But the very fact that people choose to live in places like Manchester, which has been heavily industrialized since the 1970s, points to fundamental problems with access to safe, healthy, affordable housing, she adds.

“People need living wages so they don’t have to purchase homes that put their health at risk,” Nelson explains. “It is about environmental, health, and economic justice. All of those things are tied together.”

In some cases, little more than a fence separates Manchester homes from neighboring industry.
 Paul Hester Houston-based and other Texas nonprofits — like Air Alliance Houston and Environment Texas — have recently banded together to try to bring the air quality around so-called fenceline communities (meaning they border the fences surrounding industrial facilities) into the public consciousness.

“Through storytelling and good science, we are informing people that we need better air for a healthier and prosperous Houston,” says Matthew Tresaugue, who manages the newly formed Houston Air Quality Media Initiative.

The strategy includes amplifying the voices of residents, like Bianca Ibarra, a recent graduate of Galena Park High School, whose video PSA won a competition held by the media initiative and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The collaborative effort is funded by the Houston Endowment, a charitable organization that gives out $80 million in grants yearly to local nonprofits. (Though the Endowment has fewer direct ties to oil and gas wealth than other local foundations, it’s previous president, Larry Faulkner, sat on the board of ExxonMobil while at the organization.)

Tresaugue stresses the need to move people to take action and put pressure on policymakers by connecting people in areas far from the Ship Channel to the challenges faced by residents of communities like Manchester, Harrisburg, Galena Park, Baytown, and Pasadena.

Image above: Photo of Juan Parras who has led Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services for the past decade. From original article.

That’s something Juan Parras has been doing for years now. And while the new initiative gets its feet under it, he’ll continue his tours, giving them to anyone from students to fellow activists to public officials. That way, people can see and smell and reckon with what Manchester’s residents live with every day.

“This is considered the capital of the industry for gas and oil,” Parras says. “We learn that on a daily basis.”


Family life without fossil fuels

SUBHEAD: A visit to the Possibility Alliance reminded me life can be slow and satisfying.

By Peter Kalmus on 7 August 2017 for Yes Magazine -

Image above: Porch with swing seat and bike at Possibility Alliance homestead. From original article.

I stepped off the train in the farm town of La Plata, Missouri, with my 9-year-old son, Zane. Thomas was waiting to meet us with two well-maintained bikes, one with a trailer for our backpacks, the other with a long wooden seat for passengers, to make the 6-mile trip to the Possibility Alliance.

The PA is a 110-acre homestead run by Ethan and Sarah Hughes, who have two young daughters. Their reliance on fossil fuels is limited to trains for long-distance trips, municipal water, and a telephone landline.

They purchase bike parts, bulk grains, and tin roofing, as needed—but that’s about it. 

No electricity, no gas, no cars, no planes.

With the imminent release of my book on how life using radically less fossil fuel turns out to be more satisfying, I’d been curious to visit the PA both to glean technical knowledge and—more importantly—to see whether their experience of increased joy and satisfaction matched my own.

While my stay was brief, it felt full in terms of the ingenuity, beauty, and love I experienced. The sun set as we biked from the train. A bit later, the land lit up with fireflies. With only candles to light the darkness, the stars and the quiet took center stage.

The next morning at dawn, I walked through the lush greens of gardens, orchards, pastures, and forests, then joined Ethan and other members of the community for an hour of meditation.

In addition to the Hughes family, the PA is home to two permanent members, Dan and Margaret, as well as two long-term visitors, Thomas and Maggie. Thousands of other visitors have come and gone over the years.

A few have settled on adjacent homesteads, while others left to start far-flung urban permaculture centers. All are contributing to a more beautiful and just world, as they feel uniquely called to do.

Ethan and Sarah have given away tens of thousands of trees and plants over the years—they are still in awe of nature’s abundance, the way life regenerates and propagates through time, a key difference between a tractor and a draft-horse—but perhaps more significantly, they’ve seeded the world with the people they’ve taught and inspired.

Thomas cooked all meals over ultra-efficient wood-fired rocket stoves in an outdoor kitchen, starting with multigrain porridge and autumn olive jam. (Autumn olives are considered invasive, but they do make great jam.)

Breakfast is a time for community members to check in with each other; this was especially important on the day of my visit, with a dozen visitors due for a weeklong class on post-fossil-fuel living.

Ethan shared his disappointment that after a long remission, symptoms of the Lyme disease he’d contracted 15 years earlier seemed to have returned. I was touched by this glimpse of his vulnerability, the intimacy with and reliance on the community he’d helped build.

After breakfast, Zane and I milked the PA’s four goats and helped in the garden. Dan hitched the two horses to a sledge and pulled a large log to the woodlot near the kitchen, which one new visitor and I cut with a two-person saw.

Not only was the work great exercise, it was meditative and conducive to conversation. I then split the pieces with a maul, a thoroughly enjoyable task. The fossil-fueled wood-splitter might be among the worst inventions ever created.

After a sumptuous lunch of vegetable and goat-milk soup, cornbread, and a salad of wild arugula and purslane, Ethan gave a tour that emphasized the deeply interrelated topics of natural building and gift economy.

The PA is living proof that both work, and together are indeed more satisfying than modern industry and consumerism.

After a dip in the pond and a light supper of leftover soup, Thomas, Zane, and I bicycled back to the train station. The freight trains thundering past every few minutes as we waited for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief seemed somehow just a bit larger, louder, less necessary than the day before.

The PA is a success, yet Ethan and Sarah are in the process of moving toward something new.

When they acquired the land in 2007, it had met 18 of their 20 criteria for a teaching homestead. The two unmet criteria, however, represent deep personal needs: for Ethan, to live near the ocean; and for Sarah, artistic expression through classical singing.

As these needs have called more insistently over the years, these pioneers of sustainability are discovering at a personal level what they’ve long taught others: sustainability begins by listening to the heart—“zone zero” in the language of permaculture.

They’re now searching for a community ripe for their vision of transition—someplace near the ocean and with a decent choir.

My visit with the Hugheses affirmed what I know about sustainable living. They reminded me also that the one constant of life is change. The Hugheses are restless in exploration of the good life: bold authors of the new story we desperately need. With gratitude, I wish them well.


Warren on the Warpath

SUBHEAD: Centrist Democrats riled as Warren says days of 'Lukewarm' policies are over.

By Jake Johnson on 18 August 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: From ().

She says;  "The Democratic Party isn't going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill."

In a wide-ranging and fiery keynote speech last weekend at the 12th annual Netroots Nation conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) relentlessly derided moderate Democratic pundits calling for the party to move "back to the center" and declared that Democrats must unequivocally "fight for progressive solutions to our nation's challenges."

As The Hill's Amie Parnes reported on Friday, Warren's assertion during the weekend gathering that progressives are "the heart and soul of today's Democratic Party"—and not merely a "wing"—raised the ire of so-called "moderate" Democrats, who have insisted that progressive policies won't sell in swing states.

But recent survey results have consistently shown that policies like single-payer healthcare, progressive taxation, a higher minimum wage, and tuition-free public college are extremely popular among the broader electorate. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—the most prominent advocate of an ambitious, far-reaching progressive agenda—has consistently polled as the most popular politician in the country.

For Warren, these are all indicators that those pining for a rightward shift "back to the center" are deeply mistaken.

Specifically, Warren took aim at a recent New York Times op-ed by Democratic commentators Mark Penn and Andrew Stein, who argued that Democrats must moderate their positions in order to take back Congress and, ultimately, the presidency.

Warren ridiculed this argument as a call for a return to Bill Clinton-era policies that "lock[ed] up non-violent drug offenders and ripp[ed] more holes in our economic safety net."

"The Democratic Party isn't going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill," Warren said. "We're not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice.

We're not going back to the days when universal healthcare was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected."

"And," Warren concluded, "we're not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street."

For months media outlets have speculated that Warren is gearing up for a 2020 presidential run, but she has denied the rumors.

Warren's remarks came as a large coalition of progressive groups is mobilizing during the congressional recess to pressure Democrats to formally endorse the "People's Platform," a slate of ambitious legislation that includes Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) Medicare for All bill.

Video above: Watch Warren's full speech at Netroots Nation. From (


Climate Change not our biggest issue

SUBHEAD: Technology won’t save us. Systemic change driven by moral awakening is our only hope.

By Richard Heinberg on 14 August 2017 for EcoWatch -

Image above: A herd of cows cross a landfill landscape in India. Photo by Saravanan Dhandapani. From (

Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom.

Overshoot is a systemic issue.

Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth's long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival.

Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

The ecology movement in the 1970s benefitted from a strong infusion of systems thinking, which was in vogue at the time (ecology—the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments—is an inherently systemic discipline, as opposed to studies like chemistry that focus on reducing complex phenomena to their components).

As a result, many of the best environmental writers of the era framed the modern human predicament in terms that revealed the deep linkages between environmental symptoms and the way human society operates.

Limits to Growth (1972), an outgrowth of the systems research of Jay Forrester, investigated the interactions between population growth, industrial production, food production, resource depletion and pollution.

Overshoot (1982), by William Catton, named our systemic problem and described its origins and development in a style any literate person could appreciate. Many more excellent books from the era could be cited.

However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion.

Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted. It's not that climate change isn't a big deal.

As a symptom, it's a real doozy.

There's never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

Why have environmental writers and advocacy organizations succumbed to tunnel vision? Perhaps it's simply that they assume systems thinking is beyond the capacity of policy makers.

It's true: If climate scientists were to approach world leaders with the message, "We have to change everything, including our entire economic system—and fast," they might be shown the door rather rudely. A more acceptable message is, "We have identified a serious pollution problem, for which there are technical solutions."

Perhaps many of the scientists who did recognize the systemic nature of our ecological crisis concluded that if we can successfully address this one make-or-break environmental crisis, we'll be able to buy time to deal with others waiting in the wings (overpopulation, species extinctions, resource depletion and on and on).

If climate change can be framed as an isolated problem for which there is a technological solution, the minds of economists and policy makers can continue to graze in familiar pastures.

Technology—in this case, solar, wind and nuclear power generators, as well as batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and, if all else fails, solar radiation management via atmospheric aerosols—centers our thinking on subjects like financial investment and industrial production.

Discussion participants don't have to develop the ability to think systemically, nor do they need to understand the Earth system and how human systems fit into it.

All they need trouble themselves with is the prospect of shifting some investments, setting tasks for engineers and managing the resulting industrial-economic transformation so as to ensure that new jobs in green industries compensate for jobs lost in coal mines.

The strategy of buying time with a techno-fix presumes either that we will be able to institute systemic change at some unspecified point in the future even though we can't do it just now (a weak argument on its face), or that climate change and all of our other symptomatic crises will in fact be amenable to technological fixes.

The latter thought-path is again a comfortable one for managers and investors.

After all, everybody loves technology. It already does nearly everything for us. During the last century it solved a host of problems: it cured diseases, expanded food production, sped up transportation and provided us with information and entertainment in quantities and varieties no one could previously have imagined.

Why shouldn't it be able to solve climate change and all the rest of our problems?

Video above: "Hello Humanity, it's me, Technology. We need to talk. ". From (

Of course, ignoring the systemic nature of our dilemma just means that as soon as we get one symptom corralled, another is likely to break loose.

But, crucially, is climate change, taken as an isolated problem, fully treatable with technology? Color me doubtful.

 I say this having spent many months poring over the relevant data with David Fridley of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Our resulting book, Our Renewable Future, concluded that nuclear power is too expensive and risky; meanwhile, solar and wind power both suffer from intermittency, which (once these sources begin to provide a large percentage of total electrical power) will require a combination of three strategies on a grand scale: energy storage, redundant production capacity and demand adaptation.

At the same time, we in industrial nations will have to adapt most of our current energy usage (which occurs in industrial processes, building heating and transportation) to electricity.

Altogether, the energy transition promises to be an enormous undertaking, unprecedented in its requirements for investment and substitution.

When David and I stepped back to assess the enormity of the task, we could see no way to maintain current quantities of global energy production during the transition, much less to increase energy supplies so as to power ongoing economic growth.

The biggest transitional hurdle is scale: the world uses an enormous amount of energy currently; only if that quantity can be reduced significantly, especially in industrial nations, could we imagine a credible pathway toward a post-carbon future.

Downsizing the world's energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management.

That's a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, "Reduce, reuse and recycle."

It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy. But it's also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic.

The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics ("There's No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss").

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior.

Society is addicted to growth, and that's having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well. We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment.

Image above: In 1961 we were consuming 74% of the Earth's sustainable resources. By 1985 we passed 100% of a sustainable rate. In 2012 we passed 150% of sustainable levels. Check out your footprint here (!/). From (

We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.

In its early years the environmental movement made that moral argument, and it worked up to a point. Concern over rapid population growth led to family planning efforts around the world. Concern over biodiversity declines led to habitat protection.

Concern over air and water pollution led to a slew of regulations. These efforts weren't sufficient, but they showed that framing our systemic problem in moral terms could get at least some traction.

Why didn't the environmental movement fully succeed? Some theorists now calling themselves "bright greens" or "eco-modernists" have abandoned the moral fight altogether.

Their justification for doing so is that people want a vision of the future that's cheery and that doesn't require sacrifice. Now, they say, only a technological fix offers any hope.

The essential point of this essay (and my manifesto) is simply that, even if the moral argument fails, a techno-fix won't work either.

A gargantuan investment in technology (whether next-generation nuclear power or solar radiation geo-engineering) is being billed as our last hope. But in reality it's no hope at all.

The reason for the failure thus far of the environmental movement wasn't that it appealed to humanity's moral sentiments—that was in fact the movement's great strength.

The effort fell short because it wasn't able to alter industrial society's central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost.

Now we're at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.

The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society.

We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities.

We needn't wait for a cathartic global or national sea change. And even if our efforts cannot "save" consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.

There's more good news: Once we humans choose to restrain our numbers and our rates of consumption, technology can assist our efforts. Machines can help us monitor our progress, and there are relatively simple technologies that can help deliver needed services with less energy usage and environmental damage.

Some ways of deploying technology could even help us clean up the atmosphere and restore ecosystems.

But machines can't make the key choices that will set us on a sustainable path. Systemic change driven by moral awakening: it's not just our last hope; it's the only real hope we've ever had.


Neoliberalism: the Break-up Tour

SUBHEAD: Why, given the trail of destruction it has left, are we still dancing to the Neoliberal tune?

By Sara Woods & Andrew Simms on 16 August 2017 for Red Pepper -

Image above: Sara Woods and Andrew Simms perform  Neoliberalism – The Break-up Tour. They aim ‘to do the almost impossible: turn economics into entertainment’. From original article.

It’s Sunday morning and you have two choices:
  1. Jump in the car and go buy a patio heater, getting stuck in traffic on the way; or 
  2. Go for a walk with a friend in the dappled sunlight lie on your back and stare at the clouds. 
Economics tells us you’re happier doing a). How did we get here? And is the mainstream economic consensus of the past four decades now really falling apart?

We created Neoliberalism – The Break-Up Tour, a fast-paced mix of stand-up and game show, to explore these questions and see if we could do the almost impossible and turn economics into entertainment.

But while many aspects of neoliberalism’s current doctrine tend to comedy and even farce, few of the many millions on its receiving end have been enjoying the show. It is not entertaining how modern economics has got away with so much despite the lack of evidence in its favour – and so much demonstrable carnage in its wake.

Ideological resurrection

Neoliberalism as we know it began just 70 years ago, in Mont Pèlerin, a small village in Switzerland. In photographs the village has the same tranquil postcard perfection that was used to deeply unnerving effect in the French television drama

The Returned, in which people inexplicably come back from the grave to the bewilderment of friends and family.

In April 1947, Mont-Pèlerin was home to an ideological resurrection and, as with The Returned, what came back was critically different to the previous incarnation.

The architects of neoliberalism favoured a faith in free markets to best meet peoples’ needs, drawing on the tradition of Adam Smith, but taken to a new, extreme level. They coupled this to an equally extreme libertarian individualism.

After some initial debate and a little falling out, they forged an assault on the public realm and the role of the state and a submission of the individual and society to market forces that Smith would have rejected.

Adam Smith was the grandfather of market economics, but a more complex thinker than modern-day neoliberals like to remember. They hail the ‘invisible hand’ – the idea that self-interest and unfettered markets work best – and recall his famous discourse on the manufacture of the pin, revealing how the specialisation and division of labour led to huge increases in productivity.

Less well remembered are his observations on the human consequences. The monotony would lead, he wrote, to the worker no longer being able to ‘exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention’ and becoming ‘as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become’.

Worse, considering how many would become servants to mass production, their ‘torpor of mind’ would take away their capacity for ‘rational conversation… generous, noble or tender sentiment and consequently of forming any just judgement’.

Smith also mocked the very consumerism that his market system would breed to feed itself, and was especially sceptical of corporate power, believing that whenever the two got together it would lead to a ‘conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices’.

Most surprising of all for latterday neoliberals are his conveniently forgotten views on the vital roles of the state.

It should, he argued, protect society from violence, protect every member from ‘the injustice or oppression of every other member’, and then, crucially, ‘erect and maintain those public institutions and those public works’ that, although of great value to society, are by nature not profitable and therefore should not be expected to be delivered by private enterprise.

Smith’s forgotten early caveats to his market system are now coming home to roost everywhere, from the business models of Uber and Sports Direct, to failed railway franchises, the painful reprivatisation of banks and the creeping privatisation of the NHS. It amounts to an intellectual collapse of the neoliberal model.

Original line-up

Neoliberalism’s original line-up gathered at the Hotel du Lac in Mont Pèlerin to discuss how to halt the spread of ideas that emphasised common purpose and governments acting directly in the public interest.

It featured Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, scions of the Chicago School of Economics, Ludvig von Mises of the Austrian school, and philosopher Karl Popper. They set out to perfect a market system that would underpin their particular vision of a free society.

Against a backdrop of highly interventionist economic planning during war time, and the rise of Stalin’s centralized, totalitarian state in the Soviet Union, they married an old, neoclassical belief in deregulated markets with newer liberal concerns about individual freedom.

They sought to rescue the reputation of market systems from their ignominious failure in the financial crash of 1929, and champion pure individualism against all forms of collective organization. The ideological temperature was set by the Austrian American, von Mises, who accused neoliberal scions Hayek and Friedman of being ‘a bunch of socialists’.

The Mont-Pèlerin Society they formed remains active today, still promoting the same message. Here’s a flavour of their motivation and atmosphere of mind, taken from their original statement of principles:

‘The central values of civilisation are in danger. Over large stretches of the earth’s surface the essential conditions of human dignity and freedom have already disappeared…

The group holds that these developments… have been fostered by a decline of belief in private property and the competitive market; for without the diffused power and initiative associated with these institutions it is difficult to imagine a society in which freedom may be effectively preserved.’

Many other influential neoliberal think tanks grew from this core group and their beliefs. But there were cracks even at the beginning. At least one who was closely involved at the outset sensed a fundamental flaw in their position.

The philosopher Karl Popper, author of The Open Society and Its Enemies, did not stay involved. He had a more nuanced view on markets and freedom, pointing out that ‘proponents of complete freedom are in actuality, whatever their intentions, enemies of freedom’.

Popper saw the logical consequence of ignoring how power, unregulated markets and unrestrained individual behaviour would interact, reasoning that this notion of freedom would, paradoxically, be, ‘not only self-destructive but bound to produce its opposite, for if all restraints were removed there would be nothing whatever to stop the strong enslaving the weak’. By Popper’s definition, neoliberalism wasn’t liberal at all.

Neoliberalism on tour

Nevertheless, from being viewed as extremists and outsiders, just over two decades of constant agitation and the proliferation of like-minded groups saw their rise to power begin with the breakdown of the post-war economic architecture, built to ensure maximum international stability. Neoliberalism has been on tour ever since, inviting itself to play all over the world. Like many of music’s big names, from the moment it was created, it started to exhibit the instability and volatility that would ultimately bring it down.

1971 saw the end of the Bretton Woods arrangement, a system that maintained ballast in the flow of money around the world and speculative trading on currencies. The end of these checks and balances waved the flag to allow money to move around the world much more easily and with greater volatility.

A secondary banking crisis hit the UK as early as 1973-75, before a whole sequence of crises hit Mexico and Latin America from 1982. This period, with the private banks and international financial institutions in the driving seat, also created conditions leading to the African debt crisis – where everyone saddled with debt due to predatory lending was told to produce the same thing for export, suppressing prices globally, leaving them running faster to stand still, while being denuded of their natural wealth, and having their health and education systems trashed in the process.

The 1980s brought the US savings and loans crisis, and ‘Black Monday’ in 1987 saw markets falling like dominoes from New York to London and Hong Kong. Then a whole carnival of market failure paraded through Finland to Mexico, Asia, Russia and Argentina before 1999, when things really started to fall apart. That year saw the end of the Glass-Steagall bank regulations, brought in to prevent a repeat of the 1929 Wall Street crash. Their removal allowed bankers to gamble with other people’s money (yours and mine) at virtually no risk to themselves, but with the chance to get vastly rich.

Then came the crash in 2000-02 and the US energy crisis. These were speculative boom-and-bust crises, exactly what you’d expect when checks and balances are removed. They were quickly followed by financial implosions in Iceland, Ireland and then the great crash of 2007-08, triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage scandal. From there, attended by the neo-medieval blood-letting medicine of austerity, problems continued in the UK, Greece and across Europe, all to the tune of ‘The Cure is Worse Than the Disease’.

It’s important to remember how recently neoliberalism retained its absolute grip on the imagination of the left. In his 2006 Mansion House speech, the year before the big crash began, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, said that many who advised him ‘favoured a regulatory crackdown’. He added, ‘I believe that we were right not to go down that road… and we were right to build upon our light touch system.’ His right-hand man, Ed Balls, said: ‘Nothing should be done to put at risk a light-touch regulatory regime.’ He didn’t say that nothing should be done to put at risk society, the welfare of the wider economy and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Still dancing

So why, given the trail of destruction that neoliberalism has already left, are we still dancing to its tune? Haven’t we learnt what J K Galbraith saw in the 1929 great crash: ‘The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small… It is nearly nil.’

If entirely self-interested private finance remains the beating heart of your economy, a bit of extra regulation won’t solve the problem. Because, as Galbraith also saw, regulators have a short, depressingly predictable lifecycle and tend to be ‘vigorous in youth, rapidly turning complacent in middle age, before either becoming senile or an arm of the industry they are meant to regulate’.

Shareholder capitalism keeps the self-interest of finance in the economic driving seat. Without making finance actively subservient to broader social, economic and environmental purpose – by law and through different governance models such as mutual, cooperatives and social enterprises – we just get more of the same. And the very failures of the financialised economy are used to further entrench it. The answer to everything becomes more privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation.

As long as that happens, its price is set by quality of life – and life itself. Cost-cutting and a weak regulatory system have led to the Grenfell Tower disaster. Ninety people per month die after being declared fit for work by the DWP and losing their benefits. Inequality has been rising for three decades, and we are on course to return to Victorian levels. Work is increasingly insecure and low paid. Five million workers give the equivalent of a day’s worth of free overtime to their employers every week.

A model based on competitive, selfish individualism is blind to the fundamental mechanisms of collaboration, mutual aid, cooperation, sympathy, empathy and sharing that have been at the core of our development and success as a species. High-paid City bankers are estimated to destroy £7 in social value for every pound they generate. Advertisers are worse and tax accountants much, much worse. But look at childcare workers, hospital cleaners and waste recyclers, where the opposite is true. Although on desperately low pay, they create seven to 12 times more social value than the amount they are paid.

A more positive take

We have been so indoctrinated by neoliberalism that even though research shows that the great majority of us hold values that emphasize caring, generosity, tolerance and cooperation, when we’re asked what we think are others’ values, we suspect most to be the selfish, competitive, individualistic poster children of neoliberalism.

So what opportunities might open up if we give that more realistic and positive take on human reality a chance, and allow policies to be put into place for fair shares, cooperation and respect for planetary boundaries?

Perhaps that would be a nice, simple policy test: does this proposal lead to a more equal sharing of economic benefits, a smaller ecological footprint and improved human well-being? If it can likely tick those boxes, give it a try.

How do we do it? In many ways, the new world is already here, in the shell of the old. In Germany, banks are dominated by mutuals and cooperatives, with a clear mandate to help people and the economy rather than just themselves. In Holland, the four-day week offers a lower impact, better work/life balance.

Despite all the obstacles, community-owned renewable energy, working for people and planet, is growing dramatically – by 17 per cent last year in Scotland, for example.

Neoliberalism is in its intellectual death throes, unable to answer the systemic threats it has created. A better world is possible if we take away the excessive privilege of finance and make it subservient to real life.

Money and the markets are not innate, they’re not like gravity, they’re human made contracts between ourselves about how we organize society.

It’s time for neoliberalism’s zombie economics, peddling suicide finance, to stop touring and let those playing planet and human-friendly economic tunes take the stage.


Pres. Trump's dad in 1927 Klan rally

SUBHEAD: Reports confirm Donald Trump's dad was arrested at Klan rally, and that those arrested were "berobed"

By Rob Beschizza on 15 August 2017 for Boing Boing -

Image above: Donald Trump and father Fred pictured together with report on arrest of Fred and other robed Ku Klux Klan members on Memorial Day 1927 in Queens NY. From original article.

Fred Trump, the father of millionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump, was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally as a young man, according to a 1927 New York Times story. Vice put in the legwork on corroborating the nearly-century-old one-sentence report. They not only found other reports of his arrest, but the startling fact that those arrested were "berobed".
The [Queens County Evening News] mentions Fred Trump as having been "discharged" and gives the Devonshire Road address, along with the names and addresses of the other six men who faced charges. Yet another account in another defunct local newspaper, the Richmond Hill Record, published on June 3, 1927, lists Fred Trump as one of the "Klan Arrests," and also lists the Devonshire Road address.
Another article about the rally, published by the Long Island Daily Press on June 2, 1927, mentions that there were seven arrestees without listing names, and claims that all of the individuals arrested were wearing Klan attire. ... While the Long Island Daily Press doesn't mention Fred Trump specifically, the number of arrestees cited in the report is consistent with the other accounts of the rally. Significantly, the article refers to all of the arrestees as "berobed marchers." If Fred Trump, or another one of the attendees, wasn't dressed in a robe at the time, that may have been a reporting error worth correcting.
[IB Publisher's note: The 1927 arrest record shows the address of Fred Trump as 175-24 Devonshire Road, Queens NY -the home Donald Trump grew up in. By 1927 Fred Trump had already changed his name from the Germanic "Friedrich Drumpf"]


DOJ demands info on dissenters

SUBHEAD: Attorney General Sessions goes to court to seize website's database and visitor information.

By Sam Sacks on 15 August 2017 for District Sentinel -

Image above: A sticker advertising in Washington, D.C. in January 2017. Photo by Elvert Barnes. From original article.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is demanding details on visitors to an anti-Trump protest website in what consumer advocates are calling an “unconstitutional” invasion of privacy.

The Guardian reports:
On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used.
The website,, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.
“This specific case and this specific warrant are pure prosecutorial overreach by a highly politicized department of justice under [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions,” said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost. “You should be concerned that anyone should be targeted simply for visiting a website.”
The warrant was made public Monday, when DreamHost announced its plans to challenge the government in court. The DoJ declined to comment.
DreamHost expanded on its concerns regarding the warrant in a blog post, writing:
Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution. …
The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)
That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.
This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit dedicated to defending online free speech and privacy rights, labeled the warrant “unconstitutional.”

“I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible to justify millions of user logs,” EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told The Guardian. “This [the website] is pure First Amendment a
dvocacy – the type of advocacy the First Amendment was designed to protect and promote.”
In a blog post published Monday, the EFF expanded on the privacy concerns at stake in the case:
No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this. Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities.
EFF notes that it will continue to monitor the case. DreamHost adds in its blog post that it has “been working closely with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and their counsel throughout this process,” but notes “the EFF is not representing us in this case, [but] they understand our arguments and have been lending professional support.”

A court hearing on DreamHost’s challenge to the warrant will be held this Friday in Washington, D.C.

SUBHEAD: More reporting on this issue.

By Sam Sacks on 15 August 2017 for District Sentinel -

Image above: Poster for demonstration to resist Trump Inauguration distributed by and #DisruptJ20. From original article.

The Justice Department will attempt on Friday to defend a warrant requiring an internet host to turn over 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to a website critical of the Trump administration.

Dreamhost, the subject of the DOJ order, called it a “clear abuse of government authority.” The company has been fighting the warrant for months leading up to Friday’s court date on the matter.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the IP addresses of anyone who visited, a website hosted by Dreamhost, as well as the website’s database records, and the personal information of administrators and thousands of individuals who interacted with the site.

Disrupt J20 organized one of the many Inauguration Day protests against the incoming Trump administration. Law enforcement officials believe the group was involved in one particular action that allegedly led to the injury of six police officers and $100,000 in property damage in downtown Washington, DC.

After initially receiving the DOJ’s data request, Dreamhost requested the department narrow the scope of its warrant. US officials, instead, filed a motion in DC Superior Court forcing Dreamhost to comply with the warrant. Last week, the company responded by filing it’s own legal arguments against the sweeping DOJ order.

In a blog post on its website, Dreamhost argued that the information the government is seeking “could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment.”

“That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind,” the company added.

The digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been providing “professional support” to the web host in its legal battle against the DOJ.

“No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible,” said EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold.

Outside the digital realm, hundreds of people are still facing serious legal jeopardy stemming from the Inauguration Day protests. More than 200 people were charged with felony rioting, and could face up to a decade in prison.

The Washington Post reported in April that DC police had actually infiltrated the group ahead of its planned January protest.