Sunday, December 30, 2012

Don Ogden: After the End of the World

Predictions about the end of the world have come and gone for millennia and we all know how those turned out. This latest one concerning misreadings of the Mayan calendar got its legs from social networking and the media, but like so many others, when the date on the calendar passed........nothing. Having said that, it seems way past time we seriously addressed the real end of the world: the Climate Crisis. Going back decades and longer, the world's leading scientists (and more than a few activists like myself) have been sounding the alarm about humanity being on a collision course with the natural world. Way back in 1992, exactly two decades ago, The World Scientists' Warning to Humanity  stated: "The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits". Then the Scientists' Warning went on to say: "No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished".  That was two decades ago.

During the intervening years, in every avenue available to us, environmentalists and others have been sounding the alarm. When we launched The Enviro Show on Valley Free Radio in late 2005 we read from the World Scientists' Warning on our very first show. Just this past summer we read those words again on this, the two decade anniversary of the Warning's release. These days we have no shortage of warnings concerning the Climate Crisis. Activists like Bill McKibben and the folks at , Al Gore and even more mainstream groups like Greenpeace or the Sierra Club, as well as a growing student movement may be out in front on this, the most critical issue facing humankind, but governments and industry are not. Do we really need to ask why? In case you missed it, scientifically proven, human-caused climate change is a product of western civilization, industrial development. You probably won't be hearing that from Bill McKibben or Al Gore, much less cable or network news. You can read about the numbers, about the need to return CO2 levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, down from its current level of 392ppm, or the need to transition to alternative energy and away from fossil fuels, but seldom will you read or hear about how our own industries, how Corporate America, is destroying the biosphere on our planet, how it is diminishing the lives of our children and future generations.

Recently we had wildlife biologist Guy McPherson on the show. His take on the Climate Crisis is even more grim than McKibben's or The World Scientists' Warning. McPherson's position? Game over.  The link takes you to his recent presentation at Greenfield Community College. Rumor has it that he will not be invited back. Why? No one wants to hear about the end of the world. This is not to say that McPherson has all the numbers right, that his analysis is, dare I say, the last word. I enter it here simply to point out two important things: 1) the real end of the world (as we know it) is an ongoing process, and  2) everyone, everyone, needs to fight back. The time for denial or waiting for the UN or government or God to fix things is over. We are the savior we've been waiting for.  Regardless of McPherson's gloom & doom, just the chance that we may lessen the effects of climate chaos, just the chance that we can give future generations more time, should be enough to motivate us into action. This is what is required: a massive popular groundswell, a movement even more powerful than the abolition of slavery or civil rights. It is the Rights of Nature, and our right to a livable planet that should empower us. Some Mayans have said the turning of their calendar was not "The End of the World" but rather the beginning of a new world. We need that new beginning now.

-- d.o.


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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged

We don't usually reprint an article from another site in its entirety but this article has the kind of bullet points we should memorize.

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.
November 19, 2012 |
1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.
According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.
2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.
In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.
3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.
The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world's Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that's $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.
Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.
4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.
After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.
U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They've passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers' payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.
5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year.
That's enough to pay the salaries of over a million nurses or teachers or emergency responders.
That's enough, according to 2008 estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN's World Food Program, to feed the 870 million people in the world who are lacking sufficient food.
For the free-market advocates who say "they've earned it": Point #1 above makes it clear how the wealthy make their money.
6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.
Another stat that required a double-check. Based on research by the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes), which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion.
Other sources have estimated that about two-thirds of the annual $850 billion in tax expenditures goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.
7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.
The Insight Center for Community Economic Development reported that median wealth for black and Hispanic women is a little over $100. That's much less than one percent of the median wealth for single white women ($41,500).
Other studies confirm the racially-charged economic inequality in our country. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.
8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, serving only about a quarter of the families in poverty, and paying less than $400 per month for a family of three for housing and other necessities. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, or working households.
Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.
9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.
21- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.
That $4,000 has to pay for student loans that average $27,200. Or, if you're still in school, for $12,700 in credit card debt.
With an unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of almost 50%, two out of every five recent college graduates are living with their parents. But your favorite company may be hiring. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, can pay you about $12 per hour.
10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks.
That's about the same amount of money made by America's richest 10% in one year. But we all paid for the bailout. And because of it, we lost the opportunity for jobs, mortgage relief, and educational funding.
Bonus for the super-rich: A QUADRILLION DOLLARS in securities trading nets ZERO sales tax revenue for the U.S.
The world derivatives market is estimated to be worth over a quadrillion dollars (a thousand trillion). At least $200 trillion of that is in the United States. In 2011 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of over $1 quadrillion on 3.4 billion annual contracts.
A quadrillion dollars. A sales tax of ONE-TENTH OF A PENNY on a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit. But the total sales tax was ZERO.
It's not surprising that the very rich would like to fudge the numbers, as they have the nation.
Paul Buchheit
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (Clarity Press). He can be reached at
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ben Grosscup: Social Justice Cries Out for Music

Hey, things are starting to shape up nicely for the People's Music network gathering in Spr9igfield the last weekend in January.  Meanwhile, there's a meeting next Wednesday, 5 pm., at Arise, 467 State St., for local musicians and folks interested in music as a vehicle for social change.  All welcome!

Area musician Ben Grosscup, who is very involved with the People's Music Network, will be performing in the region...catch one of his performances!

Saturday, January 5, 2013, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m
Amherst Winter Farmers Market
Amherst Regional Middle School
170 Chestnut Street
Amherst, MA

Saturday, January 5, 2013, 7:00 p.m
The Nacul Center
592 Main St.
Amherst, MA
Featured Performer at the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society Song & Story Swap
From 7:00pm to 8:00pm, there is a song and story swap on the theme of "ecology", followed by an hour-long featured performance.
(Free will offering.)

Saturday, January 12, 8:00 p.m.
Media Education Foundation
Frances Crowe Community Meeting Room
60 Masonic Street
Northampton, MA
A concert that is part of the Institute for Social Ecology Winter Intensive (Jan 7-14)
(Suggested donation of $5-10, which benefits the Institute for Social Ecology)

Saturday, March 30, 7:00 p.m.
House concert at the home of Dan and Betsy Chodorkoff
491 Ennis Hill Rd
Marshfield, VT

($10 suggested donation)

May 4, 2013, 8:00 p.m (Doors open at 7:30 p.m.)
People's Voice Cafe
Community Church of New York (U-U)
40 East 35th Street
New York, NY 10016
Fellow performers include Elaine Romanelli ( and one other.
($18 contribution -- more if you choose, less if you can't; no one turned away.)

BEN GROSSCUP performs songs of social critique, taking on issues of like student debt, ecological breakdown, and economic injustice. His songs contain a moral clarity about the need for social change and they nurture the longing in each of us to live in a freer society. His powerful voice and thumping guitar are the foundation for lyrics that make no apology for having a position about what's happening around us. Based in Amherst, MA, Ben is an activist involved in organizing for immigrant rights, ecological justice, and resisting military violence. He serves on the Steering Committee of People’s Music Network. Print Friendly and PDF

Supreme Court Confirms Citizens Right to Film Police

We need to spread this news far and wide.

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal
28 November 12
he U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a federal appeals court decision finding it unconstitutional to enforce an Illinois state law that makes it a felony to videotape police officers working in public if a microphone is turned on.
The law had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, and a divided panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed earlier this year that it "restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests" and, "as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment's free speech and free-press guarantees," as Judge Diane Sykes explained in the majority opinion (PDF).
On Monday, the nation's top court declined to hear the state's appeal, leaving the 7th Circuit ruling in force, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Meanwhile, a number of citizens throughout the country say they have been charged with a crime (often obstruction) while recording police on the job. A Massachusetts man is facing a wiretapping case after allegedly posting a video on YouTube that shows him instructing a female passenger how to use an electronic device to record a traffic stop by Shrewsbury police.
Irving Espinosa-Rodrigue, 26, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in January, reports theShrewsbury Daily Voice.
Among other accounts of such incidents recently posted on the Photography Is Not a Crime site, Daniel J. Saulmon tells PINAC that he spent several days in jail earlier this month after being arrested in Hawthorne, Calif., while filming police on a public street. He faced an obstruction case, but says the charges against him have been dropped.
A spokesman for the police department wasn't immediately available to respond to a Monday afternoon request for comment from the ABA Journal.
For those who want to know more about the legal issues involved in such cases, the American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division is hosting a Dec. 4 teleconference called Videotaping Police, Wiretapping Laws and the First Amendment. A press release gives the details.

Photo from Chelzdd's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beat Beat Back the Frack Attack! - Don Ogden

Most of us already know about fracking for gas (oil too!) done by the fossil fuel corporados and the damage that drilling process does to the air and water. The film "Gasland" by Josh Fox a few years back helped to raise awareness of the issues. In the movie a resident of Pennsylvania, where a lot of fracking takes place, actually lights his tap water on fire. It seems the largely undisclosed list of chemicals used in the drilling process are flammable as well as toxic. Not surprisingly the public is not privy to information about those chemicals. As noted on the Gasland site: "In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. Essentially, the provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off the job. It is now commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole."  As you may know, Dick Cheney and Halliburton are joined at the hip. Like so much of what goes on in Corporate America, industry and government have merged. However, on the state and local level daylight can still be found showing through here and there between those two entities. This means we, the people, still have a chance to protect our families and the environment from this particular assault.

Apparently, fracking has another drawback that fewer people know about. There have been reports over the past few years of Earth tremors associated with fracking. Recently a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team presented a paper that made this astonishing claim about the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico: "the majority, if not all of the earthquakes since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.”  Similar discoveries came from Ohio as well as questions about large sinkholes opening up in populated areas. It will be interesting to read what comes out of the USGS conference taking place as we speak.

Fracking is also a big issue in our neighboring state of New York where the Marcellus Shale deposit extends northward from PA. Presently, there's a big drive to get Gov. Cuomo to ban fracking. Occupy Wall Street has taken up that cause in a big way.  All of this might lead you to believe that we here in Massachusetts will not have to endure this particular disaster-in-the-making. I wish that were true........but it's not. Just recently we've learned from The Valley Advocate that another gas deposit called the Hartford Basin that extends deep into our Valley may be on the industry's hit list. The Advocate article notes: "On December 13, a conference organized by a group of engineers and industrialists calling itself the American Groundwater Trust (GT) will be held at UMass to provide a venue for discussion of what may happen when natural gas companies begin extracting gas from sites in this area."  We went to the Groundwater Trust website and frankly, we don't trust the Groundwater Trust. Remember Halliburton? One of their representatives sits on the GT Board  and presenters at the conference represent Cabot Oil & Gas, some of the worst frackers in NE Pennsylvania. In other words, the $100 a pop conference at UMass is most likely a greenwashing dog & pony show. The Groundwater Trust wants all "stake holders" to attend. Given that we're talking about the air you breath and the water you drink (and perhaps the ground you walk upon) that means YOU. Grab your stakes and head over to UMass, Amherst and join with students, Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party activists, the Western Massachusetts chapter of Progressive Democrats of America and others this Thursday December 13 in the basement of the Campus Center at 1pm. There's no need to bring $100 (even if you had it!) because there will be plenty of free opportunities to let your voices be heard.

More information on Facebook here:!/events/473791522664454/

Photo from Billb's photostream at Flicker. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why I love Arise; why we work for social justice Part One

Excuse this more personal post as a way to talking about Arise's recent work and what lies ahead.  I've been a little teary today, but only once from sadness; mostly I've been moved by the remarkable number of people who have given so much of their lives to making things right with the world.

This past week didn't start out very well.  We'd signed up for Toys for Tots for some of our members and close contacts, and, when we were called to pick up our order, we discovered we had less than half the toys we needed!  We put a call for help to the folks in our network, and folks are starting to make commitment to help.  (Still need more help, though; email, leave a comment or call us at 734-4948).

This was all my fault-- I'll tell you why-- so I'm determined to make it right.  Here's what happened.  Way back at the beginning of Arise, when our office was next door to an infamous "welfare motel,"  we decided we were going to do a Christmas Party for all the homeless children in Springfield.  We'd find out the names and ages of all the kids in shelters, plus our motel folks, spend months recruiting toys from every agency and church we we could think of, and then throw a huge party, with Santa and presents and lots of food.  It was lots of fun and utterly exhausting.

We did this every year for four years and every year we had to start earlier and work harder.  On the fifth year, after much discussion and soul-searching, we sent a letter to everyone who had ever donated a toy.  We said that after thinking it through, we'd decided that these parties were not really what Arise was all about.   We wanted to be about social change, not charity, and that we felt our parties were diverting our time and energy from our real mission.  We asked people if they would be willing to contribute the money they would have spent on toys directly to Arise instead.  To our joyful surprise, a number of people did so.  And that was the birth of our base of donors which has helped sustain us ever since.
These days, there's absolutely no way we could take care of all the homeless children in Springfield.  And besides, who's to say which child is homeless and which is not?  70% of homeless or about to be homeless families who apply for shelter from the Dept. of Housing and Community Development   Keep that in mind when you look at this chart.

But we know that this year, families are hurting more than ever before, and when  I realized we were eligible to apply for Toys for Tots, I gave in to temptation and asked other staff and board what they thought-- and we did it.

Maybe it's because it's the holiday season, or the sun is in Sagittarius, my sign, but I believe this is going to work out.

More about everything tomorrow.

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