Friday Night Fun and Culture: Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer

For me life is about learning new things, reading authors I’ve put off reading, tasting cuisines I haven’t yet tasted.

I’m 65 and now I feel like I am officially old.  I hope somewhere along the line I’ve acquired enough wisdom to be considered a “wise old woman” by at least a few people.

I’ve discovered a lot of older people who have learned to let go of their being “responsible hard working adults” and have discovered the importance of living, loving, sharing and standing up on principles.

Last year I bought a kit to build a dulcimer.

It wasn’t as finished a kit as I had thought it would be. Stew Mac which sells tools to luthiers would have had me spend more money on tools than it would have cost me to buy a very nice dulcimer.

But Foxfire Books showed me an example of a hand made dulcimer made with simple tools and I realized I didn’t have to make the world’s fanciest hand made mountain instrument, but like the people of the hills I could make one that was good enough, perhaps even elegant in it simplicity and filled with my learning experience.

I started building it a couple of weeks ago. Now I am about half way finished. Soon I will have a dulcimer I built myself.

Even if it isn’t absolutely perfect the fret board is properly fretted and so the intonation will be correct.

I refuse to be a proper old lady acting as though I can’t do things or demanding absolute perfection from myself.

I’d rather be an improper old woman, wearing my gray hair proudly, laughing loudly and always growing.

I am reading  Drinking the Rain: A Memoir by Alix Kates Shulman about her finding herself after fifty.  It is a delightful book and I recommend it highly.  It too is about becoming yourself in middle age.

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How Will the 99% Deal with the Psychopaths in the 1%?

We have spent the last forty years cultivating a nation of sociopaths.  People without the slighted trace of empathy for others.

We have pushed the nihilistic philosophy of a hack writer, Ayn Rand to a point where it has donned a panoply of unquestionable wisdom.

Would anyone actually want to live in a world run by psychopaths like John Galt?

The idea of the rugged individual, the lone gunman fighting a war by himself is quite insane. We live in a structured world where my writing this post required the cooperation of countless people; without their maintaining the structure of the web this message would travel no further than my desk.

But according to the sociopaths, pointing out how corporations require a symbiotic relationship with  a community or nation to exist, and would not exist purely on the efforts of an individual, is somehow subversive.

From Alternet:

A lot of the world’s misery can be traced to people who lack the wiring for empathy. What can we do to contain the damage they cause?

By Joe Brewer
July 26, 2012

Did you know that roughly one person in a hundred is clinically a  psychopath?  These individuals are either born with an emotional deficiency that keeps them from feeling bad about hurting others, or they are traumatized early in life in a manner that causes them to become this way. With more than 7 billion people on the planet that means there are as many as 70,000,000 psychopaths alive today. These people are more likely to be risk takers, opportunists motivated by self-interest and greed, and inclined to dominate or subjugate those around them through manipulative means.

Last year, the Occupy Movement drew a distinction between the top 1% and the remaining 99% — as distinguished by measures of wealth and income.  Of course, this breakdown is misleading, since there are many top income earners who sympathize with the plights of others and are not part of the problem. But the real defining metric reveals itself: 1% of the global population is comprised of people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies.

The global economy we have today is built on a deep history of top-down hierarchies that promote domination and control.  There have been plenty of feudal lords, warrior chieftains, and violent dictators throughout the last 6000 years of burgeoning civilization.  The modern era saw the ascension of “ corporate personhood ” as an amoral entity enshrined into law by an 1886 ruling of the US Supreme Court.  This provided a new mechanism for mobilizing capital by the moneyed elites to deploy their wealth into the realm of public policy and civil society — creating the dysfunctional economic system we must now contend with as we struggle to address global challenges.

We find ourselves in a situation where economic philosophies that celebrate selfishness can be implemented through a web of legal and financial tools that elevate and reward those individuals with psychological tendencies toward self-interest — the same people who also have a predisposition to game social contexts to their advantage regardless of impacts on others.  Thus the psychopathic corporation was forged as a Frankenstein monster that enabled the constant flow of psychopathic blood, continuously replenished by the 1% of the population born into psychopathy in each new generation, to rise into positions of power as stock traders, corporate executives, and corruptible politicians.

What can we do collectively to contain and manage this small minority of people who are driven by selfish motives with no concern for others?  How must we include them in our plans so that global civilization can transition to a configuration of peaceful cooperation and environmental balance?  This is the defining question for global financial stability and environmental sustainability.  It runs right to the core of our inability to garner collective action on such systemic challenges as climate change, global poverty, and corporate corruption.  It is the central issue of political power that has so far eluded our environmental and social justice movements.

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Hide the Ball: Romney’s Long History of Hiding His Exorbitant, but Questionable, Business Practices

From Truth Out:

By Dina Rasor and Jason Leopold
Thursday, 26 July 2012

How is it possible that, for two decades now, Mitt Romney has successfully avoided revealing any details about his vast wealth, has been able to manipulate and stash wealth overseas with no public accountability, has not been held to account for his complete lack of transparency, has painted himself as a creator of thousands of jobs even though the public record shows business decisions he presided over resulted in the loss of jobs because of mass wealth being scooped out of the assets of these same companies?

Since he launched his political career in the mid-1990s, through three previous campaigns, Romney has faced the same exact questions that he is now facing as a candidate for the highest office in the land and, just as he is doing now, he has not been forthcoming in his responses.

A familiar story from Romney that has emerged over the years is that he is responsible for all of Bain’s successes, but none of its failures (he took a leave of absence, he says, when questions arose about the company’s deal-making or he “retroactively” retired from the firm while not disclosing that he was still receiving large yearly compensations from the company). This is hauntingly similar to many businesses that use the government so they can privatize the profits and socialize the risks and then say they made it on their own while denouncing big government.

Truthout reviewed hundreds of news reports published between 1994 and 2002, the year Romney mounted a senatorial challenge against the late Edward Kennedy, and the year of a successful Massachusetts gubernatorial run, respectively. What we found is not only hard evidence of a man with questionable business acumen, but an individual who appears to see himself as privileged and not above skirting the edge of the law. He has taken most of his vast wealth and hid it in “blind trusts” that he himself has ridiculed in 1994 saying: “The blind trust is an age old ruse, if you will, which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and can not do. You give a blind trust rules.”

Romney has also taken parts of his wealth and stashed it overseas in numerous but undisclosed bank accounts, while claiming it was to help foreign investors invest in America (and help these same companies to beat paying taxes to the US). The foreign bank accounts have put him as a member of a frightening international investor class that has hidden assets around the world.

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London Mayor Boris Johnson Slams Mitt Romney for London Olympics Comments Gaffe

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Mitt Romney: Sarah Palin with a Penis only not as Bright

The Telegraph UK:

Commentary: if Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn’t care

Mitt Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.

By 26 Jul 2012

His derisory comments questioning Britain’s preparedness for the Olympics in an interview with NBC were a strange way to build bridges with a country that he says should be restored as the umbilical ally of the United States, and a strange way to demonstrate the persuasive qualities needed as leader of the free world.

Mr Romney is the scion of the industrial northwest who sought and found fortune and the freedom to practice the Mormon faith (eventually) across the pond. His wife Ann has Welsh pedigree.

The Republican candidate supposedly values these connections so highly that foreign policy advisors told the Daily Telegraph that a Romney presidency would restore the “Anglo-Saxon” dimension of the transatlantic alliance.

But his comments to NBC, particularly his doubts about Britons’ ability to celebrate the games, showed how poorly he understands the land of his forefathers.

If he possessed a smidgeon of insight into the British psyche he would have known that despite all the pre-match whingeing and the carping, that on the night we will celebrate the games with all the gusto and fervour they deserve. We moan, and then we smile; that is just our way.

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Romney campaign tries to pick up the pieces from gaffe-strewn London visit

From The Guardian UK:
Democrats have honed in on ’embarrassing’ trip as Republicans insist Americans don’t care about what happens in the UK

in Washington, Friday 27 July 2012

Mitt Romney‘s campaign is scrambling to limit the damage from his gaffe-strewn visit to London – which has drawn mocking put-downs from the city’s mayor and the British prime minister, and “Mitt the twit” headlines in the UK – by saying that Americans don’t care what the foreign press prints.

But the attempt to downplay the debacle made little headway in the face of a barrage of critical coverage in the US, which portrayed the Republican presidential candidate as incompetent and undiplomatic, and stinging criticism from American Olympic legend Carl Lewis, who suggested that Romney should not be allowed to travel abroad.

Senior Democrats accused Romney of embarrassing the US and himself and said that press criticism wasn’t limited to foreign newspapers. The New York Daily News called Romney’s visit to the UK “flub-filled”.

“At this rate, Mitt Romney may provoke an international incident with the United Kingdom by the weekend,” it said.

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Romney in Shambles as Britain Proclaims Him Worse than Sarah Palin

From PoliticusUSA:

By: Jason Easley
July 26th, 2012

The British reaction to Mitt Romney has gone from openness, to skepticism, to mocking, to concluding that Mitt Romney is worse than Sarah Palin.

Daily Mail Political Editor James Chapman has been providing the world a play by play of Romney’s British implosion via his Twitter account. Romney started things off by criticizing London’s preparedness for the Olympics. He then forgot the name of British Labour Leader Ed Miliband, and then he admitted that he had been given a secret briefing by MI6. This led the British to ask aloud if they have another George W. Bush on their hands, “Romney blunders again by revealing he’s had (supposedly) top secret briefing by John Sawers, MI6 boss. Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?”

After his visit to Whitehall, Chapman offered two of the kinder reviews of Mitt Romney, “Serious dismay in Whitehall at Romney debut. ‘Worse than Sarah Palin.’ ‘Total car crash’. Two of the kinder verdicts.” Chapman also reported another verdict from British meet and greet with Mitt, “Another verdict from one Romney meeting: ‘Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’”

Getting compared to Sarah Palin is one thing, but being called worse than Palin is an indication of the epic display of fail that Romney is putting on in London.

If you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse for Mitt Romney, you were wrong. How does one top being unfavorably compared to Sarah Palin? If you’re Mitt Romney, you get mocked in front of 60,000 people.

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Mitt Romney would restore ‘Anglo-Saxon’ relations between Britain and America

From The Telegraph UK:

Mitt Romney would restore “Anglo-Saxon” understanding to the special relationship between the US and Britain, and return Sir Winston Churchill’s bust to the White House, according to advisers.

By , Washington
24 Jul 2012

As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America’s enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

Mr Romney on Wednesday embarks on an overseas tour of Britain, Israel and Poland designed to quash claims by Mr Obama’s team that he is a “novice” in foreign affairs. It comes four years after Mr Obama’s own landmark foreign tour, which attracted thousands of supporters.

He lands in London early on Wednesday morning, in advance of meetings with David Cameron and other senior ministers on Thursday. He will also meet Ed Miliband and Tony Blair before attending two lucrative fundraisers and the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

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The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise

From The Guardian UK:

Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that

Lester R. Brown, Tuesday 24 July 2012

In the early spring this year, US farmers were on their way to planting some 96m acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record.

The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world’s feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China’s rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.

The corn plant is as sensitive as it is productive. Thirsty and fast-growing, it is vulnerable to both extreme heat and drought. At elevated temperatures, the corn plant, which is normally so productive, goes into thermal shock.

As spring turned into summer, the thermometer began to rise across the corn belt. In St Louis, Missouri, in the southern corn belt, the temperature in late June and early July climbed to 100F or higher 10 days in a row. For the past several weeks, the corn belt has been blanketed with dehydrating heat.

Weekly drought maps published by the University of Nebraska show the drought-stricken area spreading across more and more of the country until, by mid-July, it engulfed virtually the entire corn belt. Soil moisture readings in the corn belt are now among the lowest ever recorded.

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Don’t Expand NAFTA

From Foreign Policy in Focus:

By Manuel Perez-Rocha and Stuart Trew
July 26, 2012

The United States recently announced that Canada and Mexico will join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a secretive U.S.-led multinational trade and investment agreementcurrently being negotiated with eight other countries in the Pacific Rim region.

On the other side of the Pacific, Japanese legislators are defecting in droves to try to stop the country’s entry into the negotiations. But the situation is much different in Canada and Mexico, which were admitted to the table with much fanfare during the G20 summit in June. The Japanese response is justifiable, and a recent statement of solidarity against the TPP by North American unions offers a good building block for resisting an agreement that for Mexicans and Canadians amounts to a neoliberal expansion of NAFTA on U.S. President Barack Obama’s terms.

Mexico and Canada had been trying to secure a spot at the TPP table for months prior to the G20, and it became a leading story in both countries. Their anxiety played nicely into Obama’s hands, allowing the U.S. trade representative to put humiliating entry conditions on both countries — essentially giving these NAFTA neighbors a second-rate status, or what in Spanish is called convidados de palo (to be invited but without a say). Neither Canada nor Mexico will be able to see any TPP text until they finally join the negotiations in December, following the required 90-day U.S. congressional approval process. Once at the table, they will not be able to make any changes to the finished text or propose any new text in the finished chapters. There is a very real possibility that the existing TPP countries, the United States in particular, will use the following months to fashion a trap for the TPP latecomers.

North American Labor Solidarity

While most media outlets welcomed the NAFTA partners to the TPP table, national labor federations from the United States, Mexico, and Canada were cautious for very good reasons, and it wasn’t just the obviously imbalanced negotiating dynamic. On July 11, the AFL-CIO, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the National Union of Workers (UNT) of Mexico outlined some of those reasons in an important statement of solidarity, which included a vision of what they believe a 21st-centry trade agreement should look like.

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