Friday Night Fun and Culture: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Playing the Granada Theater here in Dallas September 16.

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Remembering Steve Jobs’ Record on Workers’ Rights

From In These Times:

By Mike Elk
Aug 25, 2011

Yesterday, Twitter was abuzz with reactions to Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple, among reports that his health is in bad condition. Progressives and conservatives alike praised Jobs as someone who had revolutionized industry with Apple’s innovative computer designs. “Thanks Steve for pushing for designs that have humans at the center,” blogger Ario Jafarzadeh tweeted.

While Jobs’ designs for computers may have put humans at their center, working conditions for Apple’s workers put profits at their center. Jobs did indeed revolutionize the computer industry, but in a way that was negative for American workers, who for decades have seen manufacturing job prospects dwindle as jobs go to workers overseas, who in turn often labor in brutal sweatshop conditions.

Many people may find it distasteful to critique the life’s work of a man in poor health, but I think it’s necessary to critique Job’s labor practices: I’m certain most profiles of Jobs’ tenure will completely avoid mentioning systematic labor rights violations that occur at Apple.

The computer industry was seen by many as the potential saviour of American manufacturing. According to former Intel CEO Andy Grove, in the 1970s there were about 150,000 Americans working in the computer industry. Between the 1970s and now, the computer industry economic footprint grew from being a $20 billion a year industry to $200 billion a year. At the peak of U.S. employment in the computer industry, there were two million people employed in making computers in the United States.

Now, with most computer manufacturing being done overseas, there are only 150,000 Americans employed in the computer industry, according to Grove, who wants to reverse the trend.

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Sea Shepherd Prevents Pilot Whale Bloodshed in the Faeroe Islands

From Sea Shepherd:

August 26, 2011

Operation Ferocious Isles Pilot Whale Defense Campaign is a Success

“Sail forth – steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, our selves and all.”
– Walt Whitman

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Operation Ferocious Isles pilot whale defense campaign is almost over and it looks like our objective has been achieved. Not a single whale or dolphin has been killed on the beaches or in the waters of the Faeroe Islands under our watch this July and August.

Earlier in the summer, the Faeroese police ordered that no grinds (pilot whale drives and slaughter) would be allowed for as long as the Sea Shepherd ships were in Faeroese waters. Thus, our mere watchful presence prevented any killings this summer saving hundreds of whales as a result. Not a dramatic campaign by far, but enormously successful nonetheless.

It remains possible that whales may be killed after the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot leave patrol, but June, July, and August are the three most notorious months for the slaughter of the whales as they are peak migration months. Our objective was to prevent the killing of any whales during this period and that objective has been realized, therefore, Operation Ferocious Isles has been extraordinarily successful.

Additionally during the duration of the campaign, the crews of our two Sea Shepherd ships were able to meet and speak to hundreds of Faeroese youth. We were pleasantly surprised to find so many young people in opposition to the grind.

Sea Shepherd had hoped to make a public presentation but unfortunately, our request was denied by the Faeroese government, although our presence generated a great deal of publicity both in the Faeroes and in Denmark.

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Celebrating American Women Gaining the Right to Vote

Too often we take our rights for granted.  Too often women act as though it is perfectly okay to be relegated to second class status, denied the equality of power, equality of self-determination.

It took women over seventy years of organizing and struggle starting in the mid-nineteenth century and culminating on August 26th, 1920 to gain passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The complete amendment reads:  “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Seventy-two years from Seneca Falls to passage and enactment.

The struggle is far from over as the Christo-fascist Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia reminded us earlier this year:

In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.

I was a teenager in 1963 when Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” was first published.   I read it a few months later after it was released in paperback and my mother told me I should read it, I thought, “This isn’t about my generation.  We are to hip, too cool, too smart to be trapped like that.”

After all my muses were women like Joan Baez and the other women folk singers and beat poets of Greenwich Village, the women who went on Freedom Rides and led anti-nuclear protests.

But, by the early 1970s I was a woman and saw just how women were restricted by gender (sex roles).  Even the wild outlaw women who ran off to places like the Village and the Haight.  How women in the movement were expected to run the Gestetener, to make the leaflets and then pass them out while the men made the decisions and discussed the politics.

Upon entry into the work force I learned how men doing the exact same job got a different title and were paid more.  I heard the rationalization, “Well men have to pay when they go out on a date with a woman.” Or, “Men have families to support, as though single mothers did not.”

I learned I could open the door for myself and developed a new code to apply.  First one to the door opens it.

I learned about the Equal Rights Amendment, an elegant statement of female equality in a world dominated by patriarchal rules, laws, customs and religion.

The Suffragists who fought for 72 years to gain the Constitutional Amendment we celebrate to day recognized that simply having the right to vote was not enough.

I think that they, like Scalia, parsed the language of the 14th Amendment and found it lacking.

As a feminist, in my twenties I came to realize that the word “man” meant males and was not the universal noun including women that I had been led to believe as a school child.

I was an ardent feminist in 1972 when the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced and put up for ratification.

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.[1][2]

It didn’t seem all that radical to me.  In many ways it seemed totally reformist, merely giving women equal opportunity in a society that was beset by racism and classism.

But it must have terrified the right wing because they fought tooth and nail against its passage, using every single weapon at their disposal.

That simple amendment first introduced by Alice Paul in 1923 when it was presented as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments, became a rallying point, a line in the sand for the right wing of this country.

So today we celebrate women in the US gaining the right to vote.  It has been 91 years and still we do not have our equality guaranteed by the US Constitution.

There is so much we have to do and those of us who were so young and brave during those heady days of the 1960s and early 1970s have fought so long…

Yet the struggle continues.

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Obama, Earthquake Is a Wakeup Call on Dirty Energy Standards

From Common Dreams:

by Daphne Wysham
Published on Thursday, August 25, 2011 by

A 5.9 earthquake — the strongest in over 100 years to strike the East Coast — forced the evacuation of personnel from the White House and U.S. Treasury. Some protesters outside the White House joked that Mother Nature was just trying to jolt President Obama awake to take action on climate change and stop relying on dirty energy. Too bad Obama was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and couldn’t have heard the joke first-hand.

The protestors’ comments said in jest may not be too far from the truth. In his State of the Union speech this year, President Obama declared support for a so-called “clean energy standard” which he said would include natural gas, nuclear power, and so-called “clean coal.” And the energy options being pursued under the “clean energy standard” endorsed by President Obama may have synergistic and potentially catastrophic consequences that we narrowly escaped in this quake.

Sound farfetched? Read on. The quake’s epicenter was in Mineral, Virginia, approximately 10 miles from two nuclear power reactors at the North Anna site. According to a statement by a representative of Dominion Power, operators of the plants, the two reactors were designed to withstand a 5.9 to 6.1 quake. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked the North Anna Reactors as being seventh in the nation in terms of earthquake risks. At the time of this writing, both reactors were operating on diesel generators and their operators claim there is no quake damage.

But just how close did we come to catastrophe? And what could cause the quakes to rumble through a part of the United States that rarely sees such powerful quakes? Was it a mere freak of nature? Or is something else going on?

We may never know for sure, but there is a growing consensus that a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing is linked to earthquakes. For example, Arkansas has experienced a swarm of earthquakes in the aftermath of hydraulic fracturing (also called “fracking”) for natural gas. Other regions of the country where fracking is taking place, Texas, West Virginia, and New York, have also witnessed a series of quakes in the vicinity of these drilling sites. In the process of fracking, water and toxic fluid is injected deep underground at high pressure deep into rocks in order to actually create micro-earthquakes. These mini-quakes, in turn, release the gas trapped deep in the rock, allowing it to bubble to the surface.

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U.S. to Slash Marcellus Shale Gas Estimate 80%

From Bloomberg News:

By Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Katarzyna Klimasinska
Aug 23, 2011

The U.S. will slash its estimate of undiscovered Marcellus Shale natural gas by as much as 80 percent after a updated assessment by government geologists.

The formation, which stretches from New York to Tennessee, contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of gas, the U.S. Geological Survey said today in its first update in nine years. That supersedes an Energy Department projection of 410 trillion cubic feet, said Philip Budzik, an operations research analyst with the Energy Information Administration.

“We consider the USGS to be the experts in this matter,” Budzik said in an interview. “They’re geologists, we’re not. We’re going to be taking this number and using it in our model.”

The revised estimates, posted on the agency’s website, are likely to spur a debate over industry projections of the potential value of shale gas.

Last week, Range Resources Corp. (RRC), Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG) and Goodrich Petroleum Corp. (GDP) were subpoenaed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over whether they accurately represented the profitability of their natural-gas wells in the region, according to a person familiar with the matter. The subpoenas, sent Aug. 8, requested documents on formulas used to project how long the wells can produce gas without additional drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

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5 things the media isn’t telling you about human activity and earthquakes

From Raw Story:

By Nora Eisenberg
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Shortly before midnight Mountain Time on August 23, the largest earthquake in Colorado in more than a century, with a magnitude of 5.3, sent tremors as far away as Kansas. Some twelve hours later, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered in Northern Virginia sent shock waves as far away as Toronto. The local damage in each event did not appear extensive, though structural effects, on bridges, tunnels, nuclear power plants and more are yet to be determined.

Through the afternoon and evening of August 23rd, the national media uncovered the big story of the East Coast quake: where their colleagues posted in New York or Washington were and what they thought when they felt a bump, sway, rumble or funny feeling. But with no national correspondents already on site, the Colorado quake was left to the locals. But both quakes were profound, rippling with far-reaching lessons about our outdated and unsafe energy practices that we ignore at great peril.

1. Human activity can cause earthquakes. No less an authority than the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) asserts this. And they offer as an illustration a series of atypical Colorado quakes in the 1960s, resulting from the Army’s injection of waste fluid produced by its Rocky Mountain Arsenal chemical weapons plant northeast of Denver.

2. Seismic activity has been linked to the injection of waste water from the unconventional production of natural gas using hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking). A southeastern New Mexico area that has been experiencing repeated earthquakes since the late 1990s are near the injection wells for oil production waste water, the New Mexico Tech Observatory has reported. In April 2011, in Arkansas, two natural gas wells were closed down until scientists can determine why over a thousand unexplained earthquakes occurred in areas near drilling sites and waste injection wells. Since the well’s closing, a supervisor at the Arkansas Geological Survey reports, incidence of earthquakes have declined dramatically, much as they did in Colorado fifty years ago.

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Song against Citizens United

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This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Rather than Parades

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich
August 25, 2011

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court’s twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.

CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group.). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.

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Homophobic Rabbi Thinks Gay Marriage Causes Earthquakes

Can we just stop pretending that there is a god or that something good can come out of religion?

Protesters Re-Occupy Wisconsin Capitol and get arrested!! Please SHARE!!

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Perry, Kasich Deny Jobless Workers $731 Million in Jobless Help

From AFL-CIO Blog:

by Mike Hall,
Aug 24, 2011

Just in case anybody wondered if Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) give a whit about jobless workers in their states, we’ve got an answer. They don’t.

Both let a Monday deadline pass to apply for hundreds of millions of dollars—$555 million in Texas and $176 million in Ohio—in federal funds for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The money was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

To receive the money, both states would have had to slightly expand eligibility requirements for receiving UI, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. But both Perry and Kasich turned their backs on the money and the jobless workers.

Each state had four options in providing more UI help for their unemployed residents and only had to pick two of the ways. The states could have made workers in job training programs or those seeking part-time employment eligible. They could have  provided larger benefits for unemployed workers with children or to people who have to leave their jobs because of domestic violence, a spouse’s job transfer or illness of an immediate relative.

At least 33 other states found no problems with the requirements, but Texas and Ohio claimed the modest increase in costs for expanded eligibility was too much to bear.

In Texas, Ed Sills, Texas AFL-CIO communications director, says some high-ranking Perry administration officials believed the state could have easily afforded the small extra costs.

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BP’s Unstoppable Gusher Is Gushing Again: BP’s Prevarication Points Finger at Self

From Gaia Health:

BP gives up on outright denial. Now they hide behind lack of ‘scientific evidence’. BP walks like a duck and quacks like a well-oiled duck. BP points finger back at self.

by Heidi Stevenson
26 August 2011

At the time BP finally capped the Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico, there were concerns that the process had damaged the seafloor. That fear is now materializing. BP’s Gulf Gusher may be spewing again—and if so, there is no way to stop it. It will continue until seafloor pressure and oil pressure have been equalized, which may take decades.

26 August 2011 Update: Noose Tightens & BP Scrambles for Words

The Stuart Smith Blog now reports that reporters from the Mobil Press-Register went by boat to the site of BP’s Macondo Well. Reporter Ben Raines wrote:

Floating in a boat near the well site, Press-Register reporters watched blobs of oil rise to the surface and bloom into iridescent yellow patches. Those patches quickly expanded into rainbow sheens 4 to 5 feet across.

Each expanding bloom released a pronounced and pungent petroleum smell. Most of the oil was located in a patch about 50 yards wide and a quarter of a mile long.

The source of the oil was unclear, but a chemical analysis by Louisiana State University scientists confirmed that it was a sweet Louisiana crude, and could possibly be from BP PLC;s well.

The Press-Register reporters located the area where the oil was rising to the surface by going to a point directly over the Macondo well and then moving in the direction of the prevailing surface current. The first blobs of oil seen on the surface were detected about a half-mile from the well. The frequency of the sightings increased gradually over the next half-mile.

In the Olympic swimming pool-sized area where the oil was rising most frequently, new sheens were erupting every few seconds on all sides of the 36-foot boat.

Marcus Kennedy, who piloted his fishing boat, the Kwazar, 115 miles from Dauphin Island to the well site, said he was stunned by the heavy petroleum scent in the air.

The next step, of course, is to get lab tests that conclusively prove the source of that oil. However, Stuart Smith notes that BP may, itself, be inadvertently providing the evidence. Initially, BP outright denied any leakage from the Macondo Well, even denying the sightings of oil by others. Now, though, they’re tempering their language. Their spokesperson, Justin Saia, wrote:

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This Un-Labor Day: Disasters Natural and ‘Un’

From Common Dreams:

by Donna Smith
Published on Thursday, August 25, 2011 by

Not earthquake, not hurricane, not blizzard, not dark of night – no, it’s not the Postal Service; it’s the nurses you and I expect to be there for us and with us and among us when health disasters strike us without any warning or with as much lead time as any other natural disaster.  So, why would any one of us expect otherwise from our nurses as they survey the economic, societal and cultural damage done to America and healing needed from the “un”- natural disaster that overtook all working class people in the current economic crisis?

This September 1, come high water or other-worldly calamity, the 170,000 registered nurse members of National Nurses United will gather on Main Streets from Maine to California, in more than 60 locales, to stand stoic and strong and to demand that Wall Street pay for the “un”-natural damage done to Main Street.

You’ll never know the healing and the joy of it unless you gather with nurses to call for the sort of action that has been absent from the un-believable and un-conscionable goings on as elected officials have protected Wall Street and allowed their own constituents to languish.  Nurses do not do that.  Never have.  Never will. Nurses heal.  And they are calling for healing now.

When the earthquake shook my Maryland office and my home on August 23, 2011, while awaiting news about the approaching Hurricane Irene and as I mark the anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s strike on my office and home in Miami on August 24, 1992, it gives me pause to consider how natural disasters have punctuated my life.  But it also made me observant of how much has changed in 19 short years about how working people in America are allowed to react to those natural disasters – and sometimes potentially life-threatening conditions —  and how those changes for workers reflect the “un”-natural disasters doing at least as much damage to our nation.

Working people must now more aggressively protect the pillars of profit-making rather than their bodies, their families or their homes lest during and after the natural disasters and storms of life they be judged uncommitted, lazy, slovenly and just too working-class to ascend into American socio-economic  greatness.  Kindness during calamity and decency – unless offered to those at one’s own rank and status or higher – has become all but passé in 2011 America.  This Labor Day is about as un-labor friendly a day as any we’ve ever seen.  Working people are under attack in so many ways.

I’ve seen about as much natural calamity as most other middle-aged Americans have, maybe more than some and certainly less than others.  I’ve seen floods and tornados (in Chicago, Denver and Maryland), ash falling as Mount Saint Helens erupted, and I lived in the evacuation zone of a rapidly advancing forest fire which was then followed by a massive mudslide on the hillside above my back yard (Grizzly Gulch fire, Lead, South Dakota, 2002).  We lived in Miami in the path of the northern eye wall of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and were grateful to have survived.   There have been massive blizzards (in South Dakota and in Maryland) and ice storms (in Chicago) that cut power and emergency access for days in a few of the places where I’ve lived.   And the very recent earthquake on the East Coast was only the second I’ve felt in my 56 years and certainly the biggest.

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East Coast Urged to Prepare for Hurricane Irene

If  you live any where in the storms path I highly recommend at minimum:  Flash light, batteries, portable radio, bottled water and a first aid kit.  Perhaps a small back pack, and sleeping bag with change of socks and underwear in case of evacuation to alternative shelter.  Keep your ID handy as well as some cash, because no power means no credit card or ATM transactions.

This was my basic California earthquake preparedness so adjust for you location and needs.

Most important is have a plan, particularly if you are on the coast and a full tank of gas in your car.

Katrina taught us that staying put if one can flee is foolish.

From The New York Times:

New York Region Prepares for Hurricane Irene

Published: August 25, 2011

With Hurricane Irene threatening a full-force hit, New York City on Thursday ordered the evacuation of nursing homes and senior centers in low-lying areas and made plans for the possible shutdown of the entire transit system.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut declared states of emergency, and in one county in South Jersey, a mandatory evacuation was ordered.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the city was ready with “evacuation contingencies” for low-lying places like Coney Island in Brooklyn, Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan and parts of Staten Island and the Rockaways in Queens — areas that are home to 250,000 people.

Mr. Bloomberg said the city was ordering nursing homes in those areas to evacuate residents beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday unless they receive special permission from state and city health officials, among them the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, who, the mayor noted, was chairman of the community health sciences department at Tulane University when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

At a City Hall briefing, the mayor said the five hospitals in the low-lying areas were reducing their caseloads and canceling elective surgeries on Friday to be ready for emergencies over the weekend. One, Coney Island Hospital, is to begin moving patients to vacant beds in other parts of the city on Friday, he said.

Mr. Bloomberg said he would decide by Saturday morning whether to order a general evacuation of the low-lying areas.

He also said he was revoking permits for events in the city on Sunday and in the low-lying areas on Saturday. The Sunday cancellations apparently included a concert on Governors Island by the Dave Matthews Band. A statement on the band’s Web site said people should check for updates on Friday.

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