Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It’s D-Day for the Post Office


July 30, 2012

It’s D-Day for the Post Office


Welcome to the week the United States Postal Service defaults on a major obligation. D-Day is Wednesday, Aug. 1, when the Postal Service is obligated, by statute, to make a $5.5 billion payment, money that is supposed to be put aside to “prefund” health benefits for future retirees. But, with less than $1 billion in the bank, the Postal Service announced on Monday that it would not be making the payment. It has a second payment, for $5.6 billion, due in September. Unless lightning strikes, it won’t be making that one either.

On the one hand, there is no doubt that part of the reason the post office is struggling is that its world has changed mightily. Everyone knows the story: the rise of e-mail, online bill paying, and so on, have cut deeply into Americans’ use of first class mail, which peaked in 2006. Last year, the Postal Service reported losses of more than $5 billion — even though Congress allowed it to defer its annual prefunding of retiree health benefits. With or without the prefunding, the post office was eventually headed toward a crisis.

On the other hand, that prefunding requirement is an absolute killer. It has cost the post office more than $20 billion since 2007 — a period during which its total losses amounted to $25.3 billion. Without that requirement, the post office would still likely be struggling, but it would have a lot more wiggle room — and a lot more cash. (Its pension obligations are also overfunded by around $11 billion.) Not since the debt crisis has there been such an avoidable fiscal mess.

It is a little startling when you first hear about the prefunding requirement. It seems to make no sense, and, as many have noted, it is something that is demanded of no other company or government agency. So why does it exist? It turns out to be one of those things that only Congress could cook up.

Since the 1970s, the Postal Service has been self-sufficient, generating money by selling stamps and offering services — and not dependent on the taxpayer. It is thus considered “off budget.” Yet part of its operations — including its health and retiree benefits — have continued to be part of the federal budget, and thus count against the federal deficit.

In 2002, it was discovered that the Postal Service was wildly overpaying its retirement obligations to the tune of $71 billion. Not surprisingly, it soon began advocating for ways to use some of that excess. One bill passed that did almost nothing to solve the problem. Later bills that would have fixed the problem, however, all ran into the same stumbling block: they would have ostensibly added to the deficit. And the Bush administration was adamant that it would veto any bill that wasn’t deficit-neutral.

Thus it was that a new fund was established in 2006 — for the prepayment of health benefits for future retirees, with the Postal Service agreeing to pay between $5.5 billion and $5.8 billion annually. The money simply goes into an escrow account, where it is invested in special issue Treasury securities. Thus does it somehow magically help with the deficit. Also, of course, no sooner did the bill become law than first class mail began to fall off the cliff. The prefunding requirement became a noose around the Postal Service’s neck.

Incapable of simply letting the Postal Service go free — imagine what that would do to the deficit! — Congress continues to micromanage it, offering various ways for it to cut costs and raise revenue. The Postal Service, for instance, wants to cut Saturday delivery to save money; a Senate bill passed in April defers that decision for two years. But at least the Senate bill offers some relief from the absurd prefunding of health benefits. It would also return some of the excess retirement funding.

The postal reform bill that has emerged from the Republican-led House of Representatives, however, does no such thing. Representative Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee that oversees the Postal Service, talks fiercely about the need to lower labor costs, while describing the Senate bill as a “bailout.” What he is doing, of course, is using the fact that the Postal Service is going broke to impose a slash-and-burn approach — while ignoring the central reason the post office is running out of money: Congress itself. Meanwhile, the bill that emerged from Issa’s committee has never been brought to a vote on the House floor. Default notwithstanding, there won’t be a vote anytime soon. After all, the Congressional recess is right around the corner.

The post office insists that the default will not affect its ability to deliver the mail. Maybe not now. But several postal experts told me that at the rate things are going, it will be out of money sometime next year. Maybe then Congress will start taking seriously the crisis it created.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Musicians on Trial Over Crude Anti-Putin Song in Moscow Cathedral


July 30, 2012

Musicians on Trial Over Crude Anti-Putin Song in Moscow Cathedral


MOSCOW — At the opening of their trial on charges of inciting religious hatred, three young women who performed a crude anti-Putin song on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior said on Monday that they were prepared to take responsibility for “an ethical mistake.” But they denied the formal criminal accusations read aloud by prosecutors.

Facing up to seven years in prison if convicted, the three women, members of a punk band called Pussy Riot, said they intended no offense to Orthodox Christians with their profane performance, which they described as a political demonstration.

“We just were not thinking that our action would be offensive to someone,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, said in a statement read by her lawyer, Violetta Volkova. Ms. Tolokonnikova was held in a glass-enclosed box, along with her co-defendants, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, throughout the daylong proceedings in a downtown courtroom.

“If someone was offended by our performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, I am ready to recognize that we committed an ethical mistake,” Ms. Tolokonnikova told the judge in her handwritten statement. “This is exactly the error, since we did not have the conscious intention to offend anyone.”

The criminal trial of the young musician-activists has become a touchstone in the Russian capital, which is still trying to come to grips with the ramifications of the big street protests that preceded and followed Vladimir V. Putin’s election in May to a third term as president.

The case has become a measure of the Kremlin’s resolve in squelching political dissent expressed in unapproved settings. It has also put three very human and, in many ways, sympathetic faces on the political opposition movement.

Flanked by police officers and armed special forces troops, the three women hardly cut the image of dangerous criminals. Ms. Samutsevich seemed dazed and stared off into space as her father, sitting in the courtroom, signaled to her to listen to the judge. Ms. Tolokonnikova, who has a 4-year-old daughter, traded concerned glances with her husband.

The case has thrown a spotlight on the increasingly close relationship between the government and the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church, which has positioned itself, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to become a potent political force.

Tempers flared when Ms. Alyokhina insisted several times that she did not understand the “ideological” elements to the charges against her and could not submit a plea. “You have a higher education!” the judge replied, before asking the prosecutor to repeat the charges.

The opening of the trial was just one of several developments on Monday highlighting the Kremlin’s efforts to tighten control in the face of still-simmering opposition. Mr. Putin signed two new laws, one stiffening the penalties for libel and the other giving the government new authority to shut down Web sites that publish content deemed harmful to children.

Also on Monday, federal investigators summoned the anticorruption advocate Aleksei Navalny, one of the most prominent leaders of the political opposition, to appear in a criminal case against him that could result in a sentence of up to five years in prison. The case, which dates from 2009, when Mr. Navalny acted as an unpaid adviser to the governor of the Kirov region, alleges that he pressured a government-owned timber company into signing a contract that resulted in financial losses.

Mr. Navalny is expected to be indicted on Tuesday, and he could be jailed pending his trial, his lawyers said.

In the trial over the song, defense lawyers asked to call expert witnesses who could discuss political performance art, and they renewed a request to call Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the church, to testify as an expert on Orthodox religious doctrine.

But the judge, Marina Syrova, rejected the requests, after objections.

“We are not here to discuss a political case, not the question of the election of our State Duma or president,” said Larisa Pavlova, a lawyer representing people who were said to have been offended by the performance. “We are investigating a criminal case: the act of hooliganism under religious motives.”

Prosecutors have said at least 10 victims suffered “moral damage” as a result of the performance, in February. In court, they read the lengthy criminal accusations aloud, and they said the defendants had intended to inflict “grievous mental suffering.”

In response to the charges, the defendants said they were not guilty. “Yes, we violated the rules of the Orthodox Church; yes, I admit that,” Ms. Tolokonnikova said. She was interrupted by Judge Syrova, who reminded her that she was only supposed to give her plea in response to the charges. “Yes, I understand,” Ms. Tolokonnikova said, adding, “but it was not criminal.”

Ellen Barry contributed reporting.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, July 30, 2012

Intimate look at Afghan family life from above does impact execution of 'duty,' say US drone pilots

Published on Monday, July 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

US Drone Pilot: 'I Feel No Emotional Attachment'

Intimate look at Afghan family life from above does impact execution of 'duty,' say US drone pilots

- Common Dreams staff

A drone pilot at the base at Hancock Field, near Syracuse, working the controls of a craft flying over Afghanistan. (Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times)In a profile piece in the New York Times on Monday, interviews with military operators of US drones operating in the skies over Afghanistan and Pakistan reveal a class of pilots who remotely control the targeted killings of human beings thousands of miles away.

“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” says Colonel Brenton, one of the pilots profiled who works out of a dark control room in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York.

But, when it comes to engaging the target and after stipulating this means that the children and mothers away from the fire zone -- for example, "out at the market" -- he says: "I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy. I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”

"[No operators] acknowledged the kind of personal feelings for Afghans that would keep them awake at night after seeing the bloodshed left by missiles and bombs."

Citing a study conducted by the US military last year investigating the stresses on drone pilots, the Times reports that "of a dozen pilots, sensor operators and supporting intelligence analysts recently interviewed from three American military bases, none acknowledged the kind of personal feelings for Afghans that would keep them awake at night after seeing the bloodshed left by missiles and bombs."

But, it said, "all spoke of a certain intimacy with Afghan family life that traditional pilots never see from 20,000 feet, and that even ground troops seldom experience."

The profile, which recognizes the expansive nature of the US drone program, sharpens the reality that along with the proliferation of pilotless aerial warfare, the US military is training more and more remotely-located pilots it can ask to target "militants" by day and return safely home to their familes at night.

As is clear, the opposite is likely true of their Afghan counterparts, who -- after reading reports like this -- may only find fear, if not some sense of solace, when their children and families leave for "the market."

The full profile, A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away, here.

# # #

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/07/30-0 ..

Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 2

34] Marc Steiner on WEAA – July 30 – Aug. 2

35] Protest the death penalty – July 30
36] Colorado Massacre & Police Brutality – July 30
37] Film CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY -- July 30
38] Pledge/Fund Our Communities meeting – July 30
39] Re-entry for released prisoners -- July 31
40] War Is Not the Answer – July 31
41] Marriage equality phone bank -- July 31
42] Film THE GARDEN -- July 31
34] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 PM on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org. The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

35] – There is usually a vigil to abolish the death penalty every Monday from 5 to 6 PM, outside the prison complex and across the street from Maryland’s Super Max Prison, at the corner of Madison Ave. and Fallsway in Baltimore. Maryland’s death row was moved out of Baltimore, but it was decided to continue the vigil. The next one is scheduled for Mon., July 30. Call 410-366-1637.

36] – There will be an All Peoples Congress/ Workers World Party Forum on Mon., July 30 from 7 to 9 PM at the Solidarity Center, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218, ON THE COLORADO MASSACRE AND POLICE TERROR FROM ANAHEIM TO BALTIMORE. Hear Larry Hales, national organizer Workers World Party and the Peoples Power Movement. Hales lived in Aurora and Denver, Colorado, was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and is a contributing writer for Workers World newspaper.

“The most important question raised by the latest massacre in Colorado remains unasked by the corporate media: What is it about social conditions in the United States that promotes these terrible tragedies?” This was raised by Hales in his article http://www.workers.org/2012/07/24/behind-colorado-massacre/. Call 443-221-3775.

37] – See "Capitalism: A Love Story" on Mon., July 30 at 7 PM at the Occupy Peace House, 1123 12 St. NW. Michael Moore's film is a journey across America, examining the impact of corporate dominance on American lives. Join Open Media every other Monday at 7 PM at Occupy Peace House for a free documentary screening and informal debate, lead by a special guest speaker, on the issues raised by the film. Open Media is a new social/educational event for DC activists, presented by The DC Learning Collective, DC Mic Check and Occupy Peace House. Email OpenMediaDC@gmail.com.

38] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings now take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting takes place on July 30. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at verizon.net for directions.

The proposed agenda will include reports on Bradley Manning, arranging a meeting with Dutch Ruppersberger, anti-drone actions, the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemoration and the need for poets to read on August 10. Let Max know of any additional agenda items.

39] – There is a Summit on Re-entering Through Employment: A Comprehensive Approach to Reintegrating the Formerly Incarcerated on Tues., July 31 at 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM at U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building, Great Hall, 200 Constitution Ave. NW. The summit will focus on successful state/local approaches to re-entry, challenges to re-entry for special populations, and model programs from the business community. In addition, other federal agencies, including HUD, HHS, SBA, and EEOC, will host working sessions and Secretary Hilda L. Solis will offer a keynote address. RSVP Bishop.Jeremy@dol.gov.

40] – There is a vigil to say "War Is Not the Answer" each Tuesday since September 11, 2001 at 4806 York Road. Join this ongoing vigil. The next vigil is July 31 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

41] – Catholics for Marriage Equality Maryland is hosting its first of many phone banks on Tues., July 31 from 6 to 9 PM. If you are Catholic, join in the phone banking to urge Catholics to vote for marriage equality on November 6, 2012. There will be a training and refreshments.

It will take place at Marylanders for Marriage Equality Campaign Office, 2400 Boston St., Suite 101D, Baltimore, MD 21224. RSVP to Karin.Quimby@mdfme.org. Call Karin at 202-716-1654.

42] – BloomScreen presents “The Garden and TalkBack on Food Workers Rights” on Tues., July 31 at 7 PM at Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW, WDC 20010. The film by Scott Hamilton Kennedy is an engaging and powerful look at the famous political and social battle over the largest community garden in the U.S. It is a 2008 documentary film that tells the story of the now demolished South Central Farm; a community garden and urban farm located in Los Angeles, California. The Garden details the plight of the farmers who organized and worked on the farm. Go to http://www.bloombars.com/garden-of-the-arts/film-digital-arts/731-bloomscreen-presents-the-garden.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke


July 28, 2012

Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke


American nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican — a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns’ defense.

The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women’s Catholic religious orders in the United States.

The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.

Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.

“We have a differing perspective on obedience,” Sister Farrell said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”

These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the “signs of the times,” the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.

The sisters have been caught in the riptide. Most of them have spent their lives serving the sick, the poor, children and immigrants — and not engaged in battles over theology. But when some sisters after Vatican II began to question church prohibitions on women serving as priests, artificial birth control or the acceptance of same-sex relationships, their religious orders did not shut down such discussion or treat it as apostasy. In fact, they have continued to insist on their right to debate and challenge church teaching, which has resulted in the Vatican’s reproof.

The former head of the church’s doctrinal office, Cardinal William J. Levada, said after his last meeting with the nuns’ leaders in June, just before he retired, that they should regard his office’s harsh assessment as “an invitation to obedience.”

“I admire religious men and women,” Cardinal Levada said in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter. “But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”

The sisters say they see no contradiction in embracing the Catholic faith while also being open to questioning certain church teachings based on new information or new experiences. The Leadership Conference has not taken a stand in favor of the ordination of women or the acceptance of gay relationships, but it has discussed such topics at its meetings. Members insist that open discussion of church doctrine is not only their right but is also healthy for the church.

They say their approach is no different from that of many Catholic priests and laypeople, not just those in the United States. As evidence, they cite messages of support they have received from Catholic religious orders of men and women all over Europe, Asia and Latin America — as well as in the United States.

“We make our vows, but our obedience isn’t blind,” said one mother superior, who, like others, did not want to be identified while the future of the Leadership Conference is in limbo. “Obedience comes from listening.”

Vatican II led to dramatic changes now taken for granted by many Catholics: allowing worship in local languages instead of only Latin, encouraging the participation of laypeople, and cooperating with other churches and faiths.

The council also approved a document, “Perfectae Caritatis” (“Perfect Love”), that instructed men and women in religious orders to study their orders’ founders and original sources, and use that inspiration to re-evaluate and renew their mission. The sisters say they took the instruction to heart.

“We were the ones who probably took Vatican II and ran the fastest and the farthest with it,” said Sister Janice Farnham, a retired professor of church history at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. “Sometimes our church leaders forget, we were tasked to do these things by the church. The church said jump, and we said, how high?

“The church said update, renew, go back to your sources, and we did it as best we could. We did it with a passion, and we paid dearly.”

The sisters after Vatican II had access as never before to higher education, and they went on to become scholars and theologians, chief executives of hospitals, legal aid lawyers, social workers and martyrs in countries like El Salvador. They took on issues including economic injustice, racism, women’s rights, immigration, interfaith relations and environmentalism — which for many years put them in collegial working relationships with bishops who were also engaged in those causes.

But the two popes who reigned for the last 34 years — first John Paul II and now Benedict XVI — appointed bishops who are far more theologically and politically conservative than their predecessors. Drawing on these popes’ teachings, this new generation of American bishops has steered the church’s social priorities toward opposition to abortion, gay marriage and secularism.

The Leadership Conference was a thorn in the Vatican’s side even before 1979, the year its president at the time, Sister Theresa Kane, welcomed John Paul to Washington with a public plea to ordain women in the priesthood. The group has remained unified despite pressure from the Vatican by making decisions only after consulting its membership. It is hardly the small splinter group that some conservative critics have recently tried to portray.

The disciplinary action against the nuns comes just as American bishops are struggling to reassert their authority with a wayward flock. The bishops are in the midst of a campaign to defend against what they see as serious threats to religious liberty — especially a government mandate to provide employees of Catholic institutions with health insurance that covers contraception. But the prelates are well aware of polls showing that about 95 percent of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives, and 52 percent support same-sex marriage — little different from the public at large.

The dissonance is of great concern to American bishops and the Vatican.

“The church must speak with one voice,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio to the United States, said in an address in June to American bishops at their meeting in Atlanta. “We all know that the fundamental tactic of the enemy is to show a church divided.”

He added pointedly that at this “difficult time,” there is a special need for women and men in religious orders, and for Catholic universities, to “take on an attitude of deep communion” with the bishops.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis, which had just delivered key components of the Hiroshima atomic bomb to the Pacific island of Tinian, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Only 316 out of 1,196 men survived the sinking and shark-infested waters.


By Sherwood Ross

If the United States attempted to “conquer” by love rather than force of arms, it might be respected, not reviled, globally.

If the White House took an altruistic approach in foreign affairs---that is, if it rejected greed, exploitation, and war in favor of fair play, charity, and humanitarian assistance---it might enjoy such prosperity as exists beyond the dreams of its misguided rulers.

It is no naïve suggestion to urge the Congress to transpose the budgets and numbers of personnel of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps. Naïve is how one would define the Pentagon's 10-year-long failure to conquer Afghanistan by force of arms. Naïve is how the Pentagon can claim the U.S. has improved Iraq when that country far is worse off today than when the Pentagon first bombarded it eight years ago.

The U.S. has invested 10 years and $3 trillion in attempting to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan and what does it have to show for it, apart from the increased hatred of peoples throughout the Middle East? Congress has taken the Pentagon's road and what's been achieved apart from massive slaughter and despoliation of those nations and a bankrupt Treasury at home? For President Obama to prosecute these criminal wars, based on a tissue of lies, and to initiate new wars is naïve as well as criminal.

No, the goal of American foreign policy must be to serve, not to rule. There is strength and dignity in serving others---in building infrastructure, in opening schools and educating, in ministering to the afflicted. That's the way to win friends and influence people.

What the military-industrial complex does not grasp is that time is running out for all of the creatures on this small blue planet. Global warming, significantly induced by the greenhouse emissions of the U.S. and other great consumer/polluter nations, is gathering momentum. Based on what we can already see happening elsewhere, as in Bangladesh, it appears that in the foreseeable future the streets of New York and Miami will be underwater and the nation's electric power grids overtaxed beyond blackout. Trying to keep cool and find a drink of fresh water may yet be the greatest challenges of this century.

For a preview of the future read Don Belt's excellent article in the May NationalGeographic titled “The Coming Storm” about the suffering (and, yes, resilience) of the 164 million people of Bangladesh.

“They've watched sea levels rise, salinity infect their coastal aquifers, river flooding become more destructive, and cyclones batter their coast with increasing intensity---all changes associated with disruptions in the global climate,” Belt writes.

“Thousands of people arrive in Dhaka (the capital) each day, fleeing river flooding in the north and cyclones in the south,” Belt continues. “Many of them end up living in the densely populated slum of Korail. And with hundreds of thousands of such migrants already, Dhaka is in no shape to take in new residents. It's already struggling to provide the most basic services and infrastructure.” By 2050, the country's population is predicted to reach 220 million “and a good chunk of its current landmass could be permanently underwater.”

“By 2050 millions of displaced people will overwhelm not just our limited land and resources but our government, our institutions, and our borders,” Major General Muniruzzaman of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies told Belt.

One farmer told Belt, “In previous times this land was juicy, all rice fields. But now the weather has changed---summer is longer and hotter than it used to be, and the rains aren't coming when they should. The rivers are saltier than before, and any water we get from the ground is too salty to grow rice.”

Belt goes on to show the many ingenious ways Bangladesh's people are adapting to global warming, from making transportable shanties to developing new salt-resistant strains of rice to building floating schools, hospitals and libraries. Belt quotes Mohammed Mabud, a professor of public health at Dhaka's North South University as saying that investing in educating Bangladeshis would help them train professionals to work inside the country and also to immigrate abroad where they can work and earn.

This kind of challenge is just one of thousands of educational tasks around the world where America's Peace Corps could be of service and make friends for this country. “During the global financial meltdown, trillions of dollars were mobilized to save the world's banks,” Abu Mostafa Kamal Uddin, a former manager with the government's Climate Change Cell, told Belt. “What's wrong with helping the poor people of Bangladesh adapt to a situation we had nothing to do with creating?” Belt repeatedly makes the point the world has a lot to learn from the ways Bangladeshis are responding on their own. They might well have shown the Bush regime how to save New Orleans.

So here, my friends, is the better path for America in our time: to harness the same ingenuity that created for the world the electric light, the airplane, the telephone, and a thousand and one medical advances and to put it at the service of humanity. Sending masses of Peace Corps volunteers around the world to educate, (that's just one example of one vital area), would be far better appreciated than our present investments in germ warfare, nuclear bombs, killer drone attack planes, “daisy cutters,” torture chamber prisons, and the like. It would not only defuse the raging hostility against this country that is reducing foreign purchases of our goods and triggering anti-American riots and violence, it would forge bonds of friendship as it calls forth our best efforts.

The Peace Corps has a budget of just $400 million and 8,700 employees, while the U.S. military budget comes to about a trillion dollars annually, counting all the intelligence agencies, and employs more than three million employees. The U.S. spends more for war, for example, than, roughly the next dozen countries combined and the Pentagon is eating up about 52 cents of every tax dollar. The budgets of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps need to be reversed, as well as their employee numbers.

We have a clear choice between continuing to fight on the Pentagon's endless battlefields of war or working in the vineyards of peace. #

(Sherwood Ross, who formerly reported for national magazines and wire services, now directs the Anti-War News Service. All donations cheerfully accepted. To comment or contribute reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com)

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

5,000 People Unite in DC to Protest Fracking

5,000 People Unite in DC to Protest Fracking

By Stefanie Penn Spear

More than 5,000 people from all over the nation, and various parts of the world including Australia, united today on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol demanding Congress take immediate action to stop fracking. After the rally that began at 2 p.m., rally participants marched for more than one hour, stopping at the headquarters of the America’s Natural Gas Alliance and American Petroleum Institute.

People impacted by fracking in their communities joined forces with 136 local and national organizations to call on Congress to Stop the Frack Attack and protect Americans from the dangerous impacts of fracking.

Rally speakers included, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Josh Fox, producer of Gasland; Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas; Allison Chin, board president of the Sierra Club, and community members from swing states affected by fracking.

“As the increasingly bizarre weather across the planet and melting ice on Greenland makes clear, at this point we’ve got no choice but to keep fossil fuels underground. Fracking to find more is the worst possible idea,” said McKibben.

The amazing thing about this problem is that there’s a solution… We know that we can run the world on renewable energy. We know that we can run the world on the wind. And today, we have a reminder that we can run the world on the sun,” said Fox.

Today’s rally was part of the first national event to stop the frack attack. The rally is the culmination of three days of training to further escalate the movement to stop abuse by the fossil fuel industry. Large groups from swing states including Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and North Carolina attended the training and rally to make sure that fracking is a key part of the upcoming election.

“Just weeks ago in North Carolina, our legislature ripped up decades of groundwater protections for rural drinking water, in order to allow fracking and invite in dirty industry campaign dollars. So we add our voices to the national movement calling on Congress to protect our homes, our drinking water and our health by repealing the 2005 oil and gas exemptions,” said Hope Taylor, a farmer near Durham and executive director of Clean Water for NC.

Rally participants have three key demands: an end to dirty and dangerous fracking, closure of the seven legal loopholes that let frackers in the oil and gas industry ignore the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and full enforcement of existing laws to protect families and communities from the effects of fracking.

“It is time for us to come together as a people and let the law makers that work for us know that we are tired of being run over by the out-of-control oil and gas industry,” said Tillman.

While at the headquarters of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, rally organizers delivered six jugs of contaminated water in hazmat suits and then headed to the American Petroleum Institute where a 20-foot-high mock oil rig was smashed to the ground.

This event was a launching point for the movement, and will be followed by events in Albany, NY on Aug. 25, Philadelphia on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, and subsequent events in other states and regions affected by fracking.

This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/5000-people-unite-dc-protest-fracking-1343572827. All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Anchoring Wealth to Sustain Cities and Population Growth


Anchoring Wealth to Sustain Cities and Population Growth

Sunday, 29 July 2012 10:01 By Gar Alperovitz, Steve Dubb and Thad Williamson, Solutions
News Analysis

Americans face a unique challenge in solving the climate crisis. Unlike other Western countries and Japan, where population is projected to be relatively constant, the U.S. population is set to grow by at least 100 million—and likely 150 million—people by 2050. Where and under what conditions these people live present serious challenges to sustainability planning. American cities today are so spatially and economically unstable that anything beyond superficial sustainability planning is impossible.

Alternatively, we can radically change existing community and regional planning strategies to more sustainably house and serve the growing population. Fortunately, emerging approaches are capable of helping with this shift. One involves building local economies that anchor capital in place through community, worker, or public forms of ownership—so-called green community wealth strategies. By linking such stabilizing forms of economic organization to democratic forms of local, regional, and national planning, cities can regain the capacity to target jobs and investment to specific locations.

Key Concepts

There will be at least 100 million more Americans by 2050. Where and under what conditions these new Americans live present significant challenges not faced by Japan or western Europe, where population is projected to be relatively stable.

New and emergent approaches to community economic development are capable of altering current unsustainable and unstable patterns.

Two primary strategies for stabilizing jobs and capital in existing urban areas are: (1) developing place-based forms of “green community wealth building”—forms of business ownership that rely on worker, community, nonprofit, or public ownership and that are inherently anchored in the community; and (2) tapping into resource flows generated by public spending as well as quasi-public institutions (“meds” and “eds”) to nurture and support place-based ownership.

The United States must embrace regional planning strategies. Population growth will otherwise reinforce the unstable and unsustainable cities we now have, which serve as major drivers of global warming.

Regional planning can result in positive outcomes—for example, retooling the automobile industry to manufacture domestic mass-transit vehicles.

Beyond Throwaway Cities

A good starting point is a clear understanding of America's "throwaway city" habit. Simply put, as jobs move in and out of cities in uncontrolled ways we literally throw away housing, roads, schools, hospitals, and public facilities—only to have to build the same facilities elsewhere at great financial, energy, and carbon costs. All the while, the instability makes it impossible to carry out coherent transportation and high-density housing planning.

The most dramatic examples are places like Detroit and Cleveland, where the devastated landscape in many areas looks like bombed-out World War II cities. But these cases are not exceptional. Of the 112 largest U.S. cities in 1950 with populations over 100,000, 56—fully half of them—had experienced population decline by 2008. The people moved elsewhere, where all the usual facilities had to be built anew to serve them—and, built under conditions that were inherently likely to be subject to future instability and disruption.

Cities in general, of course, have gained population since 1990, but the long-term trend of instability is dominant. Between 1990 and 2008, 35 of 111 cities lost more than 5,000 people, including such cities as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Birmingham, Norfolk, and New Orleans (which had been losing population even prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

Central to the climate change problem is that, at present, 39 percent of U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings, 33 percent from transportation, and the remainder from industry.1 So the built environment and transportation are critical to climate change mitigation efforts.

Nancy McGuckin, in Transportation Management and Engineering Magazine,2 reports that carbon emissions in communities with very high densities (5,000–9,999 households per square mile) have half the per capita carbon emissions of rural residents (0–50 households per square mile). And a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development3,4 found that New York City had a per capita average of 7.10 metric tons of carbon emitted per resident, compared to 23.92 metric tons nationwide; likewise, London residents emitted 6.18 metric tons of carbon each, compared to a British national average of 11.19 metric tons.

While, in theory, rural development could be highly sustainable, as McGuckin notes, in the United States today rural families "own twice as many vehicles as households in high density areas—and these are likely to be less efficient."2 Moreover, average vehicle miles traveled for rural households exceed those of metropolitan households by roughly 7,000 a year (28,238 vs. 21,187).3

There is no question that reducing carbon emissions will require public policy support. But achieving serious reductions requires focused attention on the questions of how our communities are developed. Given that the economic fate of most cities is dependent on decisions made by mobile investors of capital, this will require major efforts, first, to improve quality of life within cities; second, to reduce gaping social disparities within cities (a major cause of "urban decline"); and third, and critically, to stabilize the economic underpinnings of cities—that is, the job base. As we shall see, the solutions to problems in existing cities intersect with strategies needed to deal with the unique U.S. problem noted at the outset—namely, America's unusual population growth.

One solution involves fostering "green community wealth building"—that is, linking green development to institutions that inherently increase stability. This kind of wealth building can take a variety of forms, including employee ownership, nonprofit ownership, public ownership, and locally based private ownership. Most vibrant cities already have a substantial number of institutions that are inherently far more anchored than ordinary business firms. Among these, for instance, are universities, government agencies, and hospitals.

The goal of green community wealth building is to increase the proportion of capital held by actors with a long-term commitment to a given locality or region. In publicly traded firms, the central objective is to maximize profit for shareholders, whether it involves moving from one city to another or not. Green community wealth, on the other hand, is tied to place. Public enterprises, employee-owned firms, neighborhood-owned enterprises, and nonprofits all are rooted in particular communities. Communities with a higher proportion of such capital are better positioned to achieve economic stability and plan effectively for a low-carbon future.

A dramatic illustration of the new approach has been developed in Cleveland, historically one of the leading cities of American capitalism. Home to John D. Rockefeller, Cleveland was known as the world's "nuts and bolts" capital. At one time it was second only to New York City in headquartering Fortune 500 companies.5 In 1950, Cleveland's population exceeded 914,000.

Times have changed. By the 2010 U.S. census, Cleveland's population had fallen below 400,000.6 But the legacy institutions remain—namely, the city's leading hospitals and universities. Daily, more than 50,000 people commute to the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the other so-called anchor institutions ("eds," "meds," and other place-based, mainly public or nonprofit, institutions) within the University Circle, a small business district located roughly four miles (6.4 kilometers) northeast of downtown Cleveland. The purchasing power of these institutions (in addition to salaries and construction) exceeds $3 billion a year. But surrounding the University Circle are low-income neighborhoods with 43,000 residents, whose median household income is only $18,500.

Can this pattern be changed? Its economic consequences in low-income neighborhoods are devastating, and the pattern is equally damaging from an environmental standpoint. Cleveland also exhibits a classic pattern of sprawl. A new strategy spearheaded by the Cleveland Foundation, and involving neighborhood groups, major hospitals and universities, as well as city government, aims to reverse both the economic and environmental devastation. (The Democracy Collaborative, home to two of this article's authors, was involved in the planning.)

In what has come to be called the Cleveland model, the goal is to leverage the city's existing anchors—in this case, hospitals and universities—to provide a long-term market for new worker-owned cooperatives while providing living-wage jobs and access to business ownership to employee-owners situated in surrounding low-income, largely African American communities. The first point is to recycle purchasing power to achieve greater stability. The second—and critical—point is to target firms owned by people who live in the community and create an ongoing stabilizing effect.

The first of Cleveland's planned network of cooperatives opened its doors for business in September 2009. The co-op industrial-scale laundry is a state-of-the-art, ecologically green commercial facility capable of handling ten million pounds of health-care linen a year. Its sophisticated business plan provides all employee-owners a living wage and health benefits. After seven years on the job, if current projections are realized, each employee will have a $65,000 equity stake in the enterprise.

In October 2009, a second employee-owned, community-based company began large-scale installations of solar panels for the city's largest nonprofit health, education, and municipal buildings. (The company also provides home weatherization services.) Another business scheduled to start operations within six months is a year-round hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three million heads of lettuce and approximately 300,000 pounds of basil and other herbs a year. Many other enterprises are in the planning stage.

Each business focuses on the specific procurement needs of hospitals and universities as well as the local market. Local foundations, anchor institutions, banks, and city government have all committed resources to stimulate business growth. A cooperative development fund, currently capitalized by a $3 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation, expects to raise an additional $30–40 million to support a growing network of cooperatives.

New Forms of Planning

The Cleveland model is important not only for its own sake but because it points in the direction of community-based economic planning for long-term, stable jobs. (Related efforts are being discussed in other cities, including Amarillo, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Washington, DC.) The relatively informal arrangements of the Cleveland model, in which nonprofits cooperate with public institutions and private employers, also indicates that "planning" need not mean remote government officials drawing up a blueprint and then imposing it. Rather, community economic planning can be collaborative, with multiple institutional actors involved—indeed, if such planning is going to succeed, it will need to be.

In general, green community wealth building strategies are also an important tool in neighborhood revitalization that benefits existing residents and reduces poverty (rather than moving poor people around). Reducing poverty improves the quality of life in both central city and older suburban neighborhoods, making them more attractive options for residents and thereby helping in a second way to achieve stability.

The overall economic impact of place-based community wealth building strategies has become increasingly important in recent years. More than ten million employees, for instance, own all or part of 10,900 companies through employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)—firms that employees finance and increasingly own through pension contributions. These ESOPs have so far generated equity benefits of $869 billion for their employee-owners.7 Cooperatives, according to a 2009 University of Wisconsin study, now operate 73,000 places of business throughout the United States, own $3 trillion in assets, employ 857,000 people, and generate over $500 billion in revenue for their member-owners.8

Because such efforts spread business profits among a large number of owners, green community wealth strategies also bring equity benefits—an important additional element in the strategy. Economic security of individuals is essential to building political support for a sustained green transition. If low-income and minority constituencies fail to embrace the green economy, urban politicians will continue to place other priorities higher.

Finally, community ownership of green jobs appears all but certain to yield more long-term employment than traditional corporate strategies. Traditional employers have an incentive to keep labor costs low and hence will use workers only for as long as they are needed on a particular job (such as weatherizing homes). Community enterprises, in contrast, aim to maximize employment over the long term. Instead of treating employees as disposable, such employers commonly seek ways to find new work for their workforce.

Important policy-support efforts have also been developing in different regions of the nation. An example is the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), which has used a relatively modest amount of state funding (less than $1 million annually) to facilitate worker takeovers of firms whose owners are retiring or that are threatened with closure. Such firms, owned by workers, are city (and tax base) stabilizers: they do not get up and move. The OEOC has created enormous economic returns—retaining jobs at a cost of less than $800 per job and helping stabilize thousands of jobs in Ohio cities.

Another strategy aimed at stabilizing communities and furthering sustainability goals involves new forms of regional and national planning—indeed, given the continental scale of the United States, regional planning will be particularly important. Economic planning takes place today through government procurement, regulatory, and incentive programs, as well as through the provision of public infrastructure. A comprehensive agenda to stabilize America's urban areas will require drawing on these existing policy instruments in a coordinated manner.

A central premise of contemporary urban policy encourages communities to become more attractive investment sites. Even when this approach succeeds, however, the communities concerned remain fundamentally dependent on the investment decisions of outside parties, whose concern is profit making, not community well-being—and, critically, often with little regard for sustainability.

The Power of Regional Planning for Transportation Policy

To gain perspective on a possible direction for sustainability planning, consider this dimension of the transition to a low-carbon future: Many industries that have had prominent roles in the American economy must shrink. In some cases, such industries might ultimately disappear altogether. Two obvious examples are coal and automobiles, both of which have powerful political lobbies.

An essential task for sustainability advocates is to develop a strategy that enables affected communities to accept and even embrace a new kind of economy. That can only happen if the downsizing of the automobile industry does not, for instance, mean the extinction of cities like Detroit (or the next car manufacturing center!); or if the demise of coal production does not mean the death of coal communities like those of southwest Virginia.

In the first half of 2009, the crisis of the American automobile industry became one of the most visible challenges of this kind facing the nation. Federal funds were committed to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, with the government taking significant ownership stakes in both companies. At the same time, the Obama administration used its extraordinary leverage over the industry to push through an increase in fuel-efficiency standards, which will reach 36 miles per gallon by 2016.

But fuel efficiency is not the only environmentally relevant issue involved in the auto bailout. Also relevant is what will happen to places like Kenosha, Flint, and Detroit. The first policy priority in the future could (and should) be to avoid the carbon and human costs of “throwing away” these cities. The second priority should be maintaining a healthy domestic industry. And a third priority should be maintaining the viability of GM or a successor entity as an ongoing economic institution—not necessarily as an automobile corporation in perpetuity.

Stating matters this way does not mean keeping all existing car plants open. The crucial question is whether, once such facilities stop making cars, the plants will be left idle while former employees join the unemployment rolls or the ranks of low-wage service workers.

The auto industry’s troubles allow for a thoughtful reconsideration of how we might preserve communities and establish a new precedent and principle. For instance, there is widespread consensus that both inter- and intra-city rail must greatly expand. This means that transit systems must make massive infrastructure investments and acquire new equipment. With proper national and regional policy support, such equipment could be intentionally targeted to maintain (and increase) the stability of auto-production cities like Kenosha, Flint, and Detroit.

What would a serious commitment to a national high-speed rail system look like? Authors Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl13 have proposed that the United States build some 25,000 kilometers (15,500 miles) of dual track devoted to high-speed rail between now and 2025. They estimate that $2 trillion in investment (roughly $140 billion a year for 15 years) in infrastructure and equipment will be needed. Such a project, while not politically popular at this time, is clearly feasible. China, for instance, is planning to lay 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles) of high-speed rail track by the middle of the next decade.14-17 At present, one major challenge in the United States is manufacturing capacity: although the country builds buses and assembles some mass-transit and rail equipment, it has virtually no capacity to build what would be required for a major shift to high-speed rail. It currently must buy from foreign suppliers.

How might America establish a domestic capacity to supply public-transit authorities with needed subway and rail cars—and at the same time focus such production on stabilizing communities so that effective sustainability planning can take place? One possibility is to create a public-private partnership in which a new firm is guaranteed long-term contracts and the government takes an ownership stake in exchange. Another possibility is to restructure an existing firm, such as GM, and offer long-term contracts and assistance in transitioning assembly lines in exchange for public equity. Employee ownership also could be part of an equation that aims to anchor facilities and jobs in local communities.

Regional planning precedents can be found in European traditions of bolstering economically depressed cities, regions, and industrial areas. The European Union has employed a variety of "cohesion," "solidarity," and development funds aimed at redressing inequalities across countries so as to create an elevator to the top rather than a race to the bottom in terms of labor, environmental, and regulatory standards. Regions and nations with per capita gross domestic products below 75 percent of the EU-wide average, for instance, are eligible for "structural" assistance. The funds also assist communities harmed by natural disasters and provide support to middle-income and more affluent regions seeking to remain competitive. Taken as a whole, these funds amount to one-third of the EU's total budget.

The key principle of regional planning must be the preservation and stability of existing communities and their productive capacities. We need policy that assures the continued use of productive capacities and provides assistance where conversion to a different product is required. Most often this will mean adopting some form of joint venture, including community, public, or worker ownership.

Population Growth and Sprawl

Stabilizing population centers—whether old or new—is also a first step to building the high-density, well connected hubs that will house the next 100 million Americans in a low-carbon future. The current pattern of American suburbanization has created a social pattern—one in which poverty and social problems are dramatically concentrated in central cities—that is itself a major impediment to the needed inside-out revitalization of metropolitan America. Current trends are not encouraging: A 2010 study of residential construction in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in two periods (1990–1995 and 2003–2008) found that while the central-city share of residential construction showed some increases in the latter period, suburban areas still accounted for the majority of new construction in every metropolitan area except New York—indeed, over 85 percent of new construction in nearly half the areas.9 (This analysis excludes metropolitan areas that underwent significant expansion of central city boundaries via annexation during this time period or where the central city and surrounding county have consolidated.)

Instead of simply allowing the next 100 million Americans to add to sprawl, the dual strategy of creating anchored community wealth building institutions on the one hand, and using an overarching community-stabilizing approach in regional planning on the other, could help concentrate and support the population in old cities, in new areas, and around small existing towns viewed as "nodes" of new city development. The result could be the capacity to achieve sufficient stability to allow sustainability planning in both old and new areas.

Traditional means, of course, can also achieve benefits in the realm of sustainability. Portland, Oregon, has used urban growth boundaries, reinforced by an elected metropolitan regional government, to redirect development toward the city center, putting a firm limit on the extent of outward development. Montgomery County, Maryland, and Seattle, Washington, have used "transfer of development rights" programs to encourage infill development.10

International examples are another guide. High-density suburbs linked to a central city and one another by mass transportation could serve as an update to Ebenezer Howard's vision of planned decentralization (in his influential 1898 text Garden Cities of To-Morrow). Howard's vision helped spur Britain's New Towns movement, which led to the construction of over two dozen new towns in the first half of the twentieth century and is widely credited with reduced sprawl.11 Vauban, Germany, (outside Freiburg) provides a more contemporary example, creating a "carless suburb" based on the assumption that residents will not own cars.12

At the micro level, bike-friendly, transit-oriented Dutch cities—such as Amsterdam, but also provincial cities—provide a model for truly multimodal cities in which cars are present but decidedly secondary. A range of other European policies that raise the effective cost of driving, combined with ample public support for transit, have largely succeeded in making it possible for middle-class and working-class urban residents to have full access to the city and its opportunities without depending on a car. Distant as it may seem, that is the goal American cities must aim to achieve over the coming generation if they hope to meet the larger sustainability challenge.

A serious strategy must obviously "walk on two legs": We need to do whatever can be done through traditional reforms. And at the same time we need to develop new green wealth strategies to anchor jobs and new national and regional strategies to increase community stability now—and as new populations continue to challenge planning at all levels.

Building a Road Map for a New Politics of Sustainability

Most promising in all this is rapidly growing interest in and awareness of the connection between healthy urban America and climate change: Americans are increasingly concerned with how to build a sustainable metropolis, and advocates are working in parallel to find new ways to create green jobs.

There are obvious links between these two agendas, but more is required. Neither sustainable urbanism nor green-jobs advocates have fully faced up to the need to secure the long-term economic stability of cities as a precondition for achieving sustainability, nor to the fact that our existing practices militate against just that outcome.

In this article we have identified two strategies for stabilizing jobs and capital in existing urban areas: (1) developing forms of green community wealth building that are inherently rooted in specific places; and (2) tapping into resource flows generated by public spending as well as quasi-public institutions to support place-based ownership. Numerous green development policies can be incorporated in both approaches—policies that place top priority on preserving communities and their productive capacities.

The beginning points for such far-reaching community-stabilizing approaches are within reach—including strategies that both provide ongoing jobs to older cities and help stabilize the new communities built for the growing U.S. population.

Creating sustainable metropolitan areas in the United States is a massive challenge, one similar to that facing other nations and yet unique in several respects. For America, there are two "elephants" in the room—highly unstable local economic patterns and population growth—that must be acknowledged. A major national effort to stabilize the economic basis of our communities is not only a moral or economic imperative; in the era of global warming, it is an ecological necessity—and one that needs to be taken on using every available policy tool.


We greatly acknowledge the research support of Weite Zhang in writing this article.


U.S. Green Building Council. Green Building and Climate Change (USGBC, Washington, DC, 2008).

McGuckin, N. The "carbon footprint" of daily travel. Transportation Management and Engineering Magazine (January 2010).

Szabo, M. City-dwellers emit less CO2 than countryfolk: study. Reuters [online] (March 23, 2009). www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE52M0E120090323

Dodson, D. Blaming cities for climate change? An analysis of urban greenhouse gas emissions inventories. Environment and Urbanization 21(1), 185-201 (March 18, 2009).

Miller, M. John Sinnenberg quoted in The Deal: The community. News Room: Media Quotes and Interviews, Cyprium Partners [online] (October 29, 2010). www.cyprium.com/PR63.php

Exner, R. 2010 census population numbers show Cleveland below 400,000; Northeast Ohio down 2.2 percent. Cleveland Plain Dealer [online] (March 9, 2011). www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2011/03/2010_census_figures_for_....

National Center on Employee Ownership. A Statistical Profile of Employee Ownership [online] (NCEO, Oakland, CA, February 2012). www.nceo.org/articles/statistical-profile-employee-ownership.

Deller, S, Hoyt, A, Hueth, B & Sundaram-Stukel, R. Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives (University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, Madison, March 2009).

Thomas, J et al. Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions, table 1, p. 7 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, January 2010).

Williamson, T, Dubb, S & Alperovitz, G. Climate Change, Community Stability, and the Next 150 Million Americans (The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, College Park, 2010).

Hall, P. Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century 3rd edition, chapters 4 and 5 (Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 2002).

Rosenthal, E. In German suburb, life goes on without cars. The New York Times (May 11, 2009).

Gilbert, R & Perl, A. Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil (Earthscan, London, 2008).

Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd. [online] (April 5, 2010). www.smtdc.com/zw/gycf2.asp

Beijing-Tianjin High-Speed Commuter Link, China. Railway-Technology.com [online] (April 7, 2010). www.railway-technology.com/projects/beijing-tianjin

Wang, Z &Lu, Y. High-speed rail displays "Chinese speed" in authentic innovation: From "follower" to "leader." People's Daily [online] (March 1, 2010). www.ce.cn/macro/more/201003/01/t20100301_21030639_1.shtml

With 946 patterns in hand, China owns fully Chinese high-speed rail know-how. China News Service [online] (April 7, 2010). www.cnsphoto.com/NewsPhoto/ShowNewsDetail.asp?Flag=WN&ID=613650

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of the newly released book, "America Beyond Capitalism." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @GarAlperovitz.

Thad Williamson is Associate Professor of leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics and law (PPEL) at the University of Richmond

Steve Dubb Research Director of The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

As Y-12 intrusion came to a close, anti-nukes protesters reportedly offered bread to the armed guards


As Y-12 intrusion came to a close, anti-nukes protesters reportedly offered bread to the armed guards

It was 4:30 in the morning, and after traversing the sprawling Y-12 site for nearly two hours, the unimpeded protesters had reportedly reached the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility -- the nation's Fort Knox for bomb-grade uranium -- and had sprayed paint and blood on the windowless, fortresslike facility and attached a couple of banners with messages damning the production of nuclear weapons.

According to information released this evening by supporters of the three protesters, who collectively called themselves "Transform Now Plowshares," the trio finally encountered an armed security guard at HEUMF.

When confronted by the guard they read aloud a prepared statement, the group said in information distributed this evening.

"He was on his walkie-talkie but he heard it," Megan Rice, an 82-year-old nun and veteran protesters, said in information parlayed by her supporters from the Blount County jail this evening.

According to information from the Plowshares group, who described the predawn encounter with a security officer, "Before receiving orders to halt they had opportunity to offer guards bread, and display a Bible, candles and white roses. Though initially forced to endure a kneeling posture for an extended period, guards responded to complaint and allowed the activists to stand off and on. Meanwhile they continued singing."

Some supporters of the protest group declared the Y-12 entry a success, but, in a statement attributed to Michael Walli, one of those arrested at the Oak Ridge plant, "We're still opposing the filthy rotten system. Jesus has no nukes in heaven and no torture in heaven."

Posted by Frank Munger on July 28, 2012 at 10:00 PM

High-level embarrassment? Y-12 spokesman says protesters risked their lives

Earlier today, I asked federal spokesman Steve Wyatt if the pre-dawn intrusion by unarmed peace protesters -- ranging in age from 57 to 82 -- was an embarrassment for the security team at the government's Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The three protesters reportedly spent two hours wandering through Y-12, finally reaching the plant's fortress-like storage facility for bomb-grade uranium.

Here's Wyatt response this evening:

"The protesters entry into the protected area was detected and a security response was performed. The protesters put themselves at a high risk of losing their life in performing this act. We are thankful that did not occur. There will be lessons learned from this incident that we will use to further refine and improve our security posture at Y-12."

Posted by Frank Munger on July 28, 2012 at 7:42 PM


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Transform Now Plowshares go to Oak Ridge



Ellen Barfield 410-908-7323;
Erik Johnson 865-983-5234

28 July 2012

Oak Ridge, TN—Early this morning three plowshares activists performed
a disarmament action in response to Government plans to invest $80
billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex.

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, Michael R. Walli (63),
Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) entered the Y-12 nuclear
weapons facility before dawn.

They released a faith-based statement saying, “A loving and
compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps
to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving
alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental
degradation for all.”

The actors also delivered an indictment citing U.S. Constitutional and

Treaty Law as well as the Nuremberg Principles:

“The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war

crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial

authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to

denounce and resist known crimes.”

This action is one of a long tradition of Plowshares disarmament

actions in the US and around the world which challenge war-making and

weapons of mass destruction.

At Y-12 NNSA plans to replace facilities for production and

dismantlement of enriched uranium components with a new consolidated

Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). It is budgeted to cost more than

$6.5 billion.

Leonard Eiger

Puget Sound Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (Coordinator) www.psnukefree.org

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Media & Outreach) www.gzcenter.org

Disarm Now Plowshares (Media & Outreach)


Email: subversivepeacemaking@gmail.com

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's Time to Lay the Groundwork for Radical, Systemic Change

It's Time to Lay the Groundwork for Radical, Systemic Change


Friday, 27 July 2012 00:00 By Gar Alperovitz, Democracy Collaborative
Book Excerpt

This preface to the first edition of Gar Alperovitz's "America beyond Capitalism" is the third installment in our series of excerpts from that book.

THEY CALLED IT "BLACK MONDAY" - the day in 1977 when five thousand workers at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube plant in Ohio were told the mill was going to close. An aggressive group of young steelworkers was dumbfounded. They had put their lives into the mill. Did this really have to happen? Gerald Dickey was the first to have the idea: "There are skills and men here who know how to make steel. Why don't we set this up as a company that we ourselves own - we could do it jointly with the community."

That was the start of a major fight. The religious community, led by the Catholic and Episcopal bishops, put together an ecumenical coalition. I was called in to help (some of the church leaders had read my work). With the support of a couple of creative government officials, we hired top steel industry experts to develop the kind of plan that is now common in successful steel operations.

Then something interesting happened - and we learned two fundamental things, which are at the heart of the following book:

First, the seemingly radical idea of the workers and the community owning and running a giant steel mill was hardly considered radical at all at the grassroots level. Indeed, the vast majority of the community, the local congressional delegation, both senators, and the conservative governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, supported it. The state prepared loan-guarantee and other legislation to back the effort. What made sense to ordinary Americans was far different from what many had thought.

The second lesson was equally important. For complicated reasons, Youngstown never got its mill.1 However, the struggle to find a new way forward that began on Black Monday continued - and in many parts of Ohio (and elsewhere throughout the United States), worker-owned firms inspired by that initial fight are now commonplace. The second lesson is the lesson of commitment to the long haul.

I am a historian and a political economist. I have been a legislative director in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as a high-level policy adviser in the Department of State. I was nominated by leading environmental, consumer, labor, and other national organizations to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers. I have been a Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University, of the Institute of Politics at Harvard, and of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. I worked with steelworkers in Youngstown and with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1964 Atlantic City Democratic National Convention. I am also a former anti-Vietnam War activist. And I am, lastly and importantly, someone who grew up in a medium-size Mid-western industrial city - Racine, Wisconsin.

I mention these personal facts to underscore several critical aspects of the lessons of Youngstown - and my reasons for writing a book that argues that it is not only necessary but possible to "change the system":

Though I am now a professor with all the usual academic trappings and degrees, I am not primarily an academic. What I have to say about political possibilities is informed, for better or worse, by some rather hardheaded real-world experiences - especially concerning difficult longer-term change. Here are four examples:

First, when I worked in the Senate in the early 1960s it was for Gaylord Nelson - the founder of Earth Day. The idea that environmental issues might one day become important in America seemed far-fetched then. Everyone knew this was a nonstarter. I witnessed close at hand the rise from "nowhere" of what once had been called "conservation" to become the "environmental movement." I view current setbacks and political obstacles with a certain historical sense of the possible, and I view long-run change coming "out of nowhere as always - minimally! - conceivable (whether the powers that be like it or not).

Second, I recall, vividly and personally, the days in 1965 and 1966 when virtually the entire leadership structure of the nation supported the Vietnam War. The president and the Congress (with only a tiny handful of exceptions), most of the press, and most of the corporate and labor leaders all thought the war right (or at least did not oppose it). In 1965 and 1966 even Martin Luther King refused to challenge the Johnson administration directly on the war.2 I also recall that, contrary to those who said nothing could be done, slowly and steadily a citizens' movement built power and momentum until the war was stopped.

Third, way back when - in my early days in Wisconsin - Senator Joseph McCarthy of our state dominated politics, both nationally and locally. "They shot anything that moved politically," people used to say. Fear dominated every suggestion that progressive ideas might be put forward. Anyone who thought otherwise was obviously foolish. But of course, what came next was the 1960s. Both those who lament and those who cheer the passing of the 1960s era of activism often read history as if things ended in the 1970s. My reading - from the perspective of Wisconsin in the McCarthy-dominated 1950s - is that those who say that nothing can be done because reactionaries control everything simply do not recall or do not know how impossible the world felt before the "unexpected" explosions of the 1960s.

Fourth, my personal memories also include the way the civil rights movement developed "out of nowhere" - or so it then seemed - to challenge the oppression that was the American South. The idea that nothing could be done was also rampant in the pre-1960s South - and there it was enforced not simply by reactionary politicians willing to blacklist anyone who spoke up. It was enforced by deadly terror: blacks - and even some white Americans - were murdered for demanding their basic rights. (As a young Senate aide, I drove through Mississippi with civil rights activist Bob Moses, followed at every turn by armed state troopers; the poor farmers we stayed with kept a shotgun by the door.) Those who tell me the opposition to change, now, is so great that nothing can be done would do well to read just a bit about what it was like before the civil rights movement was a movement.3

One final recollection - this one not so close at hand but nonetheless vivid in my life experience as well. Most people forget how marginal conservative thinkers and activists were in the 1950s - and even after the Goldwater debacle of 1964. The ideas and politics that currently dominate America reality once were regarded as antique and ridiculous by the mainstream press, political leadership, and most of serious academic thought. Committed conservatives worked in very difficult circumstances to develop their ideas and practices and politics for the long haul - and though I disagree with them, they, too, have demonstrated what can be done against seemingly long odds.

If you think I am recalling these various experiences and old war stories to suggest that even the most daunting political obstacles can often be overcome by those who are serious, you are right. I am, however, no utopian. I think it is entirely possible that, like Rome, the U.S. empire will fail and decay. Or that our domestic and international troubles will lead to violence and the suppression of what remains of American liberties. Indeed, as I shall suggest, at best I think things are likely to get worse before they get better. I note, however, that Chile has survived even Pinochet. Those who view things historically understand that the challenge is always to build to and through even the worst difficulties.

The American Revolution itself stands as a reminder of how the then most powerful empire in the world could be challenged. (The signers of the Declaration of Independence, we do well to recall, did so knowing that if they failed, they would be hung for treason.)

This book argues that the only way for the United States to once again honor its great historic values - above all equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy - is to build forward to achieve what amounts to systemic change. I shall explain what I mean in due course, but here let me note that fundamental change - indeed, radical systemic change - is as common as grass in world history. It may be that history has stopped in the United States, but I doubt it. The lessons of Youngstown have been reinforced by the experiences I have cited - above all, that what seems radical is often common sense at the grassroots level and that a commitment to the long haul is the only way to test what might really be possible.

One other lesson is important: serious ideas count. Moreover, people understand and respect serious ideas. Here I again honor committed, thoughtful conservatives (as distinct from right-wing ideologues who use ideas to bludgeon the opposition). Though I disagree with the writings of men like Russell Kirk, Henry C. Simons, and Friedrich A. Hayek, I respect their commitment to developing tough-minded theory - and their understanding that this is critical to the development of a truly meaningful politics.

We often ignore this truth, thinking that what counts is "the message" or "how issues are framed" for public consumption. What ultimately counts is a coherent and powerful understanding of what makes sense, and why-and how what makes sense can be achieved in the real world. By "coherent" I mean rigorous intellectually as well as politically.

Some feel that ordinary Americans are uninterested in ideas or cannot understand them. I disagree. Historically it is not only thoughtful conservatives who have shown that ideas count but, in other eras and other times - whether one agrees or disagrees - Marxists and liberation theologians as well. And Americans at the time of the Revolution. And feminist theorists from Seneca Falls on. The lesson here is that it is time to roll up our sleeves and get serious about the intellectual work that needs to be done if an effort to achieve fundamental change is ever to succeed. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:

If the current political-economic system is no longer able to sustain equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy, what specifically do we want? And why, specifically, should anyone expect what we want to be any better than what we now have? And how, specifically, might what we propose deal with the everyday problems now facing most Americans? And finally, even if we can say what "system" would be better, why, specifically, do we think it might be attainable in the real world?

As I said, I am no utopian. Why in the world should anybody want to support a movement for serious change that does not attempt to give straight and tough answers to such obvious questions? My book, I hope, will help stimulate more tough-minded discussion of such matters.

Although this book is not explicitly about the war in Iraq (or the war on terrorism), I also hope it will help us reach to some of the underlying structural relationships - and issues of democratic decision making - that have allowed the over-militarization of U.S. foreign policy. I have previously written a great deal on foreign policy and military matters.4 This work attempts to go deeper - to the structural foundations of the system that permit the kinds of policies that so endanger the modern world.

Quite apart from any particular book, I believe there is a real hunger for new thinking among many Americans. Indeed, it would not surprise me - given the growing pain and frustration - if in the coming decades, we were to experience something like the Federalist debates of the founding era - a time of great and historic public rethinking of fundamentals. It may well be that the intellectual (as well as political) debates that antiglobalization activists have helped initiate are the opening guns in such a national dialogue.

The first sections of this work offer an introduction to critical ideas about what it takes to sustain equality, liberty, and democracy - the kind of ideas that in recent years modern political and economic theorists have been developing and refining in their books and articles. (Part I of the book is also an invitation to continue the effort, to go further.) And it is an invitation to plain speech. The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy is reputed to have warned fellow intellectuals that "if you can't explain it to an ordinary peasant, that is your problem, not theirs."

I might add that this better be the case if we are talking about ideas for a democracy! The Americans I grew up with in Racine, Wisconsin, are damn tough-minded. They can more than handle ideas about how really to achieve equality, liberty, and democracy - if the ideas are presented in ordinary English. They are no different in this respect from millions of others, historically in this nation and around the world, who have decided to get serious about things that count.

The question is not the capacity of citizens to understand. It is not even whether writers and thinkers take the time to explain themselves. What opens people to making the effort is that they are forced to abandon the pose that politics doesn't matter, and that ideas are irrelevant. Two final personal experiences are instructive in this regard - both from the time of the Vietnam War.

The first involved a meeting in Massachusetts and a government official who had been sent out to calm the opposition. This once had been an easy task; the rationale for the Vietnam War went largely unchallenged for many years. What stands out in memory, however, was a housewife at this meeting, challenging the official - and backing him down, step by step - on each point of fact, of law, and of history involved. She had simply decided it was time to get to work and master for herself the politics and the underlying intellectual rationale.

The second was my first experience knocking on doors with a young activist at the time. At the first stop, the person who answered the door hesitated and then said, "I'm against the war, but no one else is on this block." At the second, third, and many more stops, almost the same words were spoken in almost the same way. The reality, of course, was that far more people agreed - and ultimately triumphed - than anyone imagined at the outset or in their own isolation (including our own).

My heroes are the people who fought for civil rights in Mississippi in the 1930s and 1940s - when the struggle that laid the groundwork for what came later was undertaken by individuals whose names few now remember. That was when the real work was done.

1. For the story of Youngstown see Staughton Lynd, The Fight Against Shutdowns: Youngstown's Steel Mill Closings (San Pedro: Singlejack Books, 1982); Gar Alperovitz and Jeff Faux, Rebuilding America: A Blueprint for the New Economy (New York: Pantheon, 1984).

2. David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: William Morrow, 1986), pp. 469-545.

3. See John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

4. See, for instance, Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965); The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995); Cold War Essays (New York: Doubleday, 1970); Gar Alperovitz and Kai Bird, "The Fading of the Cold War-and the Demystification of Twentieth Century Issues," in The End of the Cold War: Its Meaning and Implications, ed. Michael J. Hogan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of the newly released book, "America Beyond Capitalism." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @GarAlperovitz.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

60 Mass Shootings Since Tucson

To sign the Brady Campaign petition to President Obama

and Governor Romney to provide solutions to gun
violence, go to http://www.wearebetterthanthis.org/

60 Mass Shootings Since Tucson


There have been 60 mass shootings in the United States
since the January 8, 2011 massacre in Tucson, Arizona.

Below are three from recent weeks. Click here for the
entire list since 2005.

- Chicago, IL: Four youngsters were among the latest
victims caught in Chicago's gun violence epidemic,
including two middle school-aged girls who were wounded
in a neighborhood park on the Far South Side.

- Dover, DE: At a weekend soccer tournament in Delaware,

three people died and two were wounded. The dead

included the tournament organizer, a 16-year-old boy

participating in the tournament and one of three

suspects alleged to have initiated the deadly violence

Sunday afternoon at a park near downtown Wilmington.

- Seattle, WA: 40-year-old Ian Stawicki entered a

Seattle cafe on Wednesday and opened fire, killing four

people. He then left Cafe Racer, killing another person

during a carjacking before taking his own life.

Tuscaloosa, AL - July 17, 2012

Chicago, IL - July 11, 2012

Dover, DE - July 9, 2012

Chicago, IL - July 6, 2012

Seattle, WA - July 02, 2012

Chicago, IL - July 1, 2012

Omaha, NE - 06/26/2012

Houston, TX - 06/20/2012

Auburn, AL - 06/09/2012

Oklahoma City, OK - 21/05/2012

Chicago, IL - 26-29/05/2012

Seattle, WA - 05/30/2012

Gilbert, AZ - 05/01/2012

Oakland, CA - 04/02/2012

North Miami, FL - 03/30/2012

Waller, TX - 03/20/2012

Pittsburgh, PA - 3/8/2012

Tempe, AZ - 3/3/2012

Chardon,OH - 2/27/2012

Jackson, TN - 2/26/2012

Norcross, GA - 2/21/2012

Philadelphia, PA - 1/10/2012

... And the List goes on and on, all across America.

Mass Shootings in the United States Since 2005
(62 pages, PDF)