From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/the-dutch-way-bicycles-and-fresh-bread.html?_r=1
By RUSSELL SHORTO
Published: July 30, 2011
AS an American who has been living here for several years, I am struck, every time I go home, by the way American cities remain manacled to the car. While Europe is dealing with congestion and greenhouse gas buildup by turning urban centers into pedestrian zones and finding innovative ways to combine driving with public transportation, many American cities are carving out more parking spaces. It’s all the more bewildering because America’s collapsing infrastructure would seem to cry out for new solutions.
Geography partly explains the difference: America is spread out, while European cities predate the car. But Boston and Philadelphia have old centers too, while the peripheral sprawl in London and Barcelona mirrors that of American cities.
More important, I think, is mind-set. Take bicycles. The advent of bike lanes in some American cities may seem like a big step, but merely marking a strip of the road for recreational cycling spectacularly misses the point. In Amsterdam, nearly everyone cycles, and cars, bikes and trams coexist in a complex flow, with dedicated bicycle lanes, traffic lights and parking garages. But this is thanks to a different way of thinking about transportation.
To give a small but telling example, pointed out to me by my friend Ruth Oldenziel, an expert on the history of technology at Eindhoven University, Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.
This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.
There are also in the United States certain perceptions associated with both cycling and public transportation that are not the case here. In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. C.E.O.’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school.
It’s true that public policy reinforces the egalitarianism. With mandatory lessons and other fees, getting a driver’s license costs more than $1,000. And taxi fares are kept deliberately high: a trip from the airport may cost $80, while a 20-minute bus ride sets you back about $3.50. But the egalitarianism — or maybe better said a preference for simplicity — is also rooted in the culture. A 17th-century French naval commander was shocked to see a Dutch captain sweeping out his own quarters. Likewise, I used to run into the mayor of Amsterdam at the supermarket, and he wasn’t engaged in a populist stunt (mayors aren’t elected here but are government appointees); he was shopping.
I don’t own a “smart phone” nor do I want one. I’d rather read a book than an i-Pad. I do not watch network TV.
Don’t ask me about American Idol, Trump or Dancing with the Stars.
I don’t buy the music of pop tarts more famous for their tits and ass act than their auto-tuned singing.
Super models? Not on radar. I hate fashion, think it utterly shallow. Would rather have a pair of Birkenstocks than Jimmy Choos, the ridiculously ugly shoe on page 2 of the New York times this week.
Trendy is stupid and boring.
I don’t buy the crap Obama is selling as he is just another right wing Republican. I never bought into his carefully sculpted Madison Ave, empty slogans of “Hope” and “Change you can believe in”. Too Reaganesque for me.
Time to update the 1960s “Turn on, tune in, Drop out” slogan to “Turn off, tune out, Rebel” Because we need to turn off the steady propaganda machine, tune out the constant messaging and rebel against the dystopia the world has been turned into.
By Christopher Ketcham
July 24, 2011
It is clear that nowhere in American commercial life, save perhaps the graveyard, is there a space not polluted by electronic voices. Every bar and restaurant, every airport lounge, bus depot, train station, every doctor’s or real estate agent’s office, every schoolchild’s welcome in the cafeteria, perforce, is larded over with the tin drum and tap and pan-banging and squeaking-squalling-keening of idols, the caviling of news-clowns, the gibberishing of marketeers. Everywhere is the grin-voice of the announcer, salesman, pitchman, sentimentalist, guffawer, crooner, rabble-rouser, tit-wagger, offering always information that leaves one dumber upon hearing. The world as presented in this mosh of nonsense is endless goof and boof, pratfall, infantilizations, the tin cans of the latest news gonged. It is the great horror of the modern, and to resist it is the duty of civilized men.
Silence is anathema, perhaps dangerous, as it might invite boredom, or, worse, introspection, and by God the public must not be bored or suffer self. The cellphone and iPhone and BlackBerry and whichever other electro-leeches at hand are key in this mess. Like little tyrants they screech and demand a hearing; like infants they wail at all hours and must be assuaged. We plug them in our own faces like pacifiers.
It seems we must have noise to recognize we are civilized. Or, perhaps, noise allows us to hide our uncivilized ways. We shall not hear farts, shifts in the seat, the growling of stomachs, the mediocrity of murmurs, the crinkle of shoes that stink, the perverse imp habit of talking to ourselves—it’s got to be cacophonied out—or the mass murder of citizens overseas, or the wars that send our young to mental and physical death-in-life, or the subjugation of entire classes of the poor to the control of the rich.
Let that lone voice speak in the darkness of the unknown crowd and get no answer back—the terror of comedians and actors, the multiplied terror—and damn him who stands there with his dick in his hand. Let the man speak alone and find the crowd against him—the ultimate terror. Let it never happen that the man speaks alone. Drown him in noise.
Therefore, per usual with the Web, I offer alternative noise.
Continue reading at: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/the_american_scream_20110724/
From Rep. Dennis Kucinich: http://kucinich.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=254762
Washington, Aug 1 –
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement after voting against S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011. Kucinich voted in favor of a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling.
S. 365, the Budget Control Act of 2011, is a landmark in American history, but for the wrong reasons. It is a fake solution to a phony crisis. It provides for a radical transformation of the structure of government. It is an attack on the principle of government of the people. All this in the name of fiscal accountability.
The choice we have today, default or dismantling of the social compact through draconian spending cuts, is a false choice. The President could have simply told Congressional leaders back in December of last year that the debt ceiling was not negotiable, and invoked the 14th Amendment as a backstop.
The “debt crisis” was spurred on by credit rating agencies of dubious integrity threatening a downgrade of the nation’s credit unless the government cut spending. Most of the cuts are guaranteed to hurt those who live at society’s margins, while S. 365 protects the investor class whose interests are served by the rating agencies.
Unelected credit ratings agencies like Standard and Poor’s, the self-declared arbiter of U.S. government creditworthiness must themselves be subjected to a new level of scrutiny absent in the run-up to the Wall Street crisis. The credit raters helped to create that crisis too by procuring business through selling rating marks. The very idea that the sovereign United States must genuflect to dishonest rating agencies is antiquated and counterproductive to America’s economic recovery.
This bill fails on its own terms, which are allegedly about fiscal accountability. The debt has three main drivers:
The first is the recession. If we want to reduce the debt, we have to stimulate the economy, which is hobbled by a jobless recovery. America has 14 million people out of work. We have over three trillion dollars of infrastructure which must be replaced or rebuilt. We should be investing in America, rebuilding America, stimulating the American economy, priming the pump of our economy instead of capping our economic water well. Our GDP is lagging. This bill cuts nearly three trillion dollars in government spending, which is one of our main tools for fighting the recession. So much for the recovery. So much for putting America back to work.
The second reason for the size of the debt is the Bush tax cuts. This bill fails to end the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which added a trillion dollars to the deficit. Not only are the wealthy not paying a fair share of the taxes but their privileged position is locked in, to the detriment to the rest of the society. This single action makes clear that this bill is a vehicle for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.
That working Americans are being offered a tax holiday is one of the cruel ironies of this bill in that the tax holiday adds more to the deficit on one hand, while requiring cuts to pay for it on the other. Those very cuts will undermine the social and economic position of those whom the tax holiday is alleged to help.
The third reason for the size of the debt is the wars. This bill fails to realize savings from ending the wars. Instead it continues the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at current funding levels for at least another 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “The caps would not apply to spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for similar activities (sometimes referred to as overseas contingency operations). . . ” If this bill required a slow drawdown of troops as the Reid bill did, it would save at least $1.2 trillion.
It is inexplicable that we are creating more space for war and less space for jobs, housing, education, caring for our elderly, home heating assistance and a wide range of activities of any government which truly cares for its people.
A policy of no limits for war and hard limits on domestic spending, coupled with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich, disproportionately affects the poor and middle class. Wall Street has swelled with bailouts, multiple editions of largesse through quantitative easing, skyrocketing executive pay and bonuses, and freedom to gamble the public’s money through hedge funds. Main Street has suffered a massive loss of retirement savings, housing security, access to affordable health care, real wages and benefits, full employment and massive loss of small businesses. The wealth of America is being accelerated to the top and this bill pushes that acceleration.
This bill is a direct assault on representative government. The House of Representatives and the Senate consist of 435 and 100 Members, respectively. With the creation of a super-committee, the Congress has been reduced to a czardom where 7 of 12 members are given the power to determine the course of the American economy, with hordes of K Street lobbyists already poised to swoop in to protect their narrow interests against $1 trillion dollars in deficit reduction measures.
The Congressional committee and subcommittee process, with its membership composed of individuals with expertise in specific areas, is designed to encourage thorough consideration of measures which affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. This process is now abandoned. Abandoned with it is the intent of the founding Fathers when they established the House of Representatives specifically to avoid such a dangerous concentration of power. The super-committee is poised to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while limiting accountability.
We could have avoided this hostage-taking if the President chose to apply his expertise in Constitutional law to invoke the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to raise the debt ceiling. Instead, we are taking America from the New Deal of 1932 to the Raw Deal of 2011. We should be focusing on strengthening Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and creating jobs. The Democratic Party is running away from its traditional role of protecting the poor, the elderly, and the working class. To whom do these groups now turn?
By Dr. Sharon Ufberg
August 1, 2011
Authored by Lisa Cosgrove of the Harvard Center for Ethics, a recent statistical analysis of studies assessing the relationship between breast and ovarian cancer and antidepressant drug use finds possible link.
Are you one of the thousands of women currently taking antidepressants? A recent review indicates that these medications are not risk free, particularly for women.
The analysis of published studies suggests a link between breast and ovarian cancer and antidepressant drug usage. The review, which found an 11 percent increased risk overall in both breast and ovarian cancer for patients taking such medication, points to a need for further investigation, particularly since the results varied widely depending on who funded the research.
“I would want to consider nondrug treatment if I was mildly depressed, given our data,” said Lisa Cosgrove of the Harvard Center for Ethics, who led the review of 61 studies. The increased risk was indicated with even short term or low dosage use of the medicine, and the link appeared strongest in cases of the widely used SSRI class of antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
Women are given a diagnosis of depression two times more often than men, and with over 11 percent of the United States population on antidepressant drugs, these new findings should have everyone concerned. In today’s “quick fix” world of medicine, antidepressants are prescribed for many conditions besides signs of depression. The wide range of other symptoms include headaches, neck and back pain, eating disorders, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and—even more unsettling given the link suggested by the review—often for hot flashes for women who have had breast cancer and cannot take estrogen.
What is also disturbing is that the research results vary widely depending on whether a study was funded by the pharmaceutical industry or considered “clean” research—research done with no ties to BigPharma. Not one study funded by the pharmaceutical industry reported a link between breast and ovarian cancer and the use of antidepressants. However, the “clean” research reported a 43 percent link between antidepressants and increased risk of the two types of cancer. One must wonder, how is it possible that not one of the industry funded studies yielded any linkage?
For those of you who pay close attention to the latest mammography guidelines, you’ll have noticed that they recently changed— U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now advises women to get their first annual screening at age 50. But Cosgrove’s findings, showing the breast cancer link, call for a reconsideration of the guidelines for those who are on antidepressants. Women taking these medications may consider starting their screenings at age 40, as is still currently advised by the American Cancer Society.
From Counter Currents: http://www.countercurrents.org/anet310711.htm
By Lionel Anet
31 July, 2011
The economic theories are the present reference base that global capitalism validates its economic policies, which is a circular validation. That’s why, whatever measure we propose to reduce our carbon emission and manage the planet’s depleting resources, economist evaluate it within the hybrid-laissez-faire capitalism’s requirement of growth for a successful economy. To keep the economy growing governments presently manipulate the market by using the taxation system and use taxpayer’s money to give a competitive advantage to industries that maximise growth, for the profit of corporations.
The part that competition plays as a subset of capitalist economic system is as the control-medium for the economy, but its much more than that, it also acts as a decision maker for government, corporations, and individuals. That’s why the economy has to maximise production of goods and services resulting in extraction to depletion all useful minerals and living things. In addition, it forces the maximum extortion from working people in an insidious way; and with the advertisers, shops pressure-sells to every one to attain or maintain sales leadership. Furthermore and as detrimental is the widening discrepancy of power between governments, and between people due to competition. The purpose of competition is to separate people into categories.
Measures that are essential for our survival would stem from different datum; they are, from science-based measurements, observation of our planet’s mineral resources, its biosphere, and particularly our human needs. Those observations states, how much we can take from our environment, what and how much we can dump, and what sort of requirement we need to maximise our wellbeing. Bearing in mind, that we want our descendants to have the best possible life we can leave for them.
Our primary consideration should be to manage the economy in a way we can maintain life as long as the solar system allows us. Presently we disregard the damage we are doing to the planet and the biosphere, because our leaders have to give priority to the economy, that’s for the wealthy to increase their wealth and power. The worst aspect of ignoring our dependence on a healthy environment is that we are an inseparable part of that environment; therefore, damage to the environment will harm us in many ways. Unfortunately, a small damage or just a local damage to the environment we hardly notice and as we progressively damage it, over time, we still don’t notice it. When we do become aware of problem, we think that with our incredible technology and scientific knowledge, we will surmount all obstacles but the scientific community are much more pessimistic of our ability to overcome those dangers. Its likely to end up with the dilemma, that regardless of any decision we may take, the ecosystem and of course that’s us also will keep declining as the planet keeps on warming.
Continue reading at: http://www.countercurrents.org/anet310711.htm