When Happiness Died in America…

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Jamie Dimon’s perp walk: Why it could be this year’s Christmas miracle

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/18/jamie_dimons_perp_walk_why_it_could_be_this_years_christmas_miracle/

JPMorgan’s CEO just violated a federal statute carrying a prison sentence. But will the punishment fit the crime?


Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

The crowd waited impatiently outside 270 Park Avenue, corporate headquarters of JPMorgan Chase. Photographers readied their cameras. Then, the murmuring grew into a low roar. There was CEO Jamie Dimon, accompanied by two FBI agents. His hands were tied behind his back, held together by handcuffs. As flashbulbs popped, the agents guided Dimon into an awaiting vehicle, and drove off to take him into police custody.

Christmas miracle? It doesn’t have to be. Even putting aside the rap sheet of crimes committed by JPMorgan Chase over the past several years for which its CEO can be said to be ultimately responsible, just a week ago, Jamie Dimon explicitly violated a federal statute that carries a prison sentence. That he’s a free man today, with no fear of prosecution, doesn’t only speak to our two-tiered system of justice in America. It should color our perceptions of new rules and regulations that supposedly “get tough” on the financial industry, as we recognize that any law is only as strong as the individuals who enforce them.

The law in question that Jamie Dimon violated, by his own admission, can be found in Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In the aftermath of the 2001 financial crisis, when corporations like Enron and WorldCom melted down in accounting scandals, Congress passed and George W. Bush signed Sarbanes-Oxley, meant to reform corporate accounting and protect investors through additional disclosures.

Section 906 forces corporate CEOs and CFOs (chief financial officers) to add a written certification to every periodic financial statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In this certification, the CEO and CFO must personally attest that the documents submitted to the SEC are accurate, as well as that the corporation has adequate internal controls. That phrase “internal controls” has a very specific meaning, covering the accuracy of all financial reporting, proper risk management, and compliance with all applicable regulations. Under Section 906, if the CEO or CFO knowingly or willfully make false certifications – i.e., if they know the SEC filing contains inaccurate information, or that the company’s internal controls are inadequate – they face fines of up to $5 million, and imprisonment of up to 20 years.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/18/jamie_dimons_perp_walk_why_it_could_be_this_years_christmas_miracle/

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On the Front Lines of Class War: Why the Fight for a Livable Wage is Everyone’s Fight

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/18-6

by Colin Jenkins

In the spring of 2004, amid the thaw of a frigid New York City winter, a brave group of Starbucks baristas began organizing. Like most service-sector employees in the United States, they were faced with the daunting task of trying to live on less-than-livable wages. Inconsistent hours, inadequate or non-existent health insurance, and less-than-dignified working conditions paled in comparison to their inability to obtain the most basic necessities. Apartment meetings, backroom discussions, and after-hours pep talks – all fueled by a collective angst – culminated into a sense of solidarity, the natural bond that occurs when workers take the time to realize their commonalities and shared struggle.

On May 17, 2004, they officially announced their affiliation with the Industrial Worker of the World, an all-encompassing union with an impressive history of labor activity in the US. A petition for unionization followed suit. Their demands were simple: Guaranteed hours with the option for full-time status, an end to understaffing, a healthier and safer workplace, and increased pay and raises.

“Solidarity Unionism,” Grassroots Organizing, and the Formation of a New Front

It is only fitting that such a daring endeavor would fall under the banner of the IWW. Proudly asserting itself as “One Big Union” and “A Union for All Workers,” the “Wobblies” shun hierarchical and highly-bureaucratic union models that have dominated the American labor scene for much of the past half-century, instead promoting and utilizing direct action that is member-run and member-driven. Deploying what they refer to as “solidarity unionism,” as opposed to “business unionism,” the preamble to the IWW’s constitution echoes an old-school, militant, trade-union tone, boldly (and correctly) proclaiming, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people” – a far cry from the timid and capitulating modus operandi of the modern adaptation. However, it is not just a much-needed infusion of labor militancy that makes the IWW attractive, it is its grassroots approach to labor organizing. In a post-industrial landscape that is overrun with underemployment, the IWW’s model represents accessibility and a sense of empowerment for disconnected workers who find themselves on virtual islands – outside the potentially radical confines of a traditional shop floor. And when considering that wages have either dropped or remained stagnant in the midst of ever-growing costs of living over the past 30 years, it is no surprise that American workers are reaching their collective breaking point and seeking refuge in the form of a shared struggle.

After decades of a disastrous neoliberal agenda that has placed the American working class in an all-out sprint to the bottom, the growing needs of low-wage workers coupled with the “wobbly way” to create a perfect storm. As such, the Starbucks Union captured a vibe and sparked a movement. 2007 saw the arrival of Brandworkers, “a non-profit organization bringing local food production workers together for good jobs and a sustainable food system.” Following a similar grassroots blueprint, the NYC-based organization was founded “by retail and food employees who identified a need for an organization dedicated to protecting and advancing their rights,” and stands on “a simple principle: that working people themselves, equipped with powerful social change tools, were uniquely positioned to make positive change on the job and in society.” Their direct-action, “Focus on the Food Chain (FOFC)” initiative specifically targets “the rapid proliferation of sweatshops among the food processing factories and distribution warehouses that supply the City’s (NYC) grocery stores and restaurants” and that of which “increasingly relies on the exploitation of recent immigrants of color, mostly from Latin America and China.” In an unprecedented effort, FOFC “creates space for the immigrant workers of NYC’s industrial food sector to build unity with each other, gain proficiency in the use of powerful social change tools, and carry out member-led workplace justice campaigns to transform the industry.” Ultimately, “Focus members and their allies are using organizing, grassroots advocacy, and legal actions to build a food system that provides high-quality local food and good local jobs.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/18-6

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1 in 10 people face water scarcity as a result of climate change

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/17/1_in_10_people_face_water_scarcity_as_a_result_of_climate_change/

Absolute water scarcity could increase by 40 percent this century, a study found


Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013

A forthcoming water crisis could affect one in 10 people by the end of this century, found a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As the planet warms, researchers expect to see as much as a 40 percent increase above current levels of what’s known as absolute water scarcity.

The scarcity won’t just arise from population growth, the researchers say. There will be more people, but they’ll be competing for fewer resources — brought about by changes in rainfall and evaporation tied to climate change. Their findings are based on the prediction that Earth will warm 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (the U.N. projects that the world will surpass 2 degrees warming by that time).

Absolute water scarcity is defined as having fewer than 500 cubic meters (132,000 gallons) of water available per person, per year (the global average is 1,200 cubic meters; it’s much higher in industrial nations). Areas under those conditions require extremely efficient management techniques for using and conserving their limited supply of water — which, as the researchers point out, many countries do not currently have in place.

Drought conditions also pose a threat to agriculture; as will increased rainfall in other regions, which according to the researchers can cause “water logging, flooding and malfunctioning or failure of water-related infrastructure.”

A forthcoming water crisis could affect one in 10 people by the end of this century, found a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As the planet warms, researchers expect to see as much as a 40 percent increase above current levels of what’s known as absolute water scarcity.

The scarcity won’t just arise from population growth, the researchers say. There will be more people, but they’ll be competing for fewer resources — brought about by changes in rainfall and evaporation tied to climate change. Their findings are based on the prediction that Earth will warm 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (the U.N. projects that the world will surpass 2 degrees warming by that time).

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/17/1_in_10_people_face_water_scarcity_as_a_result_of_climate_change/

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Our Hubris in Trampling Species Breathtaking

From Capitol Times:  http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/column/margaret_krome/margaret-krome-our-hubris-in-trampling-species-breathtaking/article_914086d6-dc6a-55c7-b105-6ed47abef602.html

Margaret Krome
December 17, 2013

I snowshoed into our cabin at last light on Friday and started a fire in the stove. I slept in my sleeping bag downstairs near the wood stove, getting up once to put more wood in the stove and admire the gleam of ambient light on the snow outside.

It’s the time of year I used to dread. More than just uncomfortably cold, “bleak” perfectly described the short days and gray void that seemed to be endless before and after the winter solstice. But I now look forward to this time as a zero point in my year — a cold, quiet period that feels absolute and unchangeably essential.

I didn’t hear coyotes over the weekend, although I saw a frenzy of tracks made by wildlife of all kinds and a bloody place in the snow where some small animal met its death. The wildness puts me in my place; it’s always clear that this is their place, not our family’s. We may have property title and pay taxes on it, but the land is principally governed by its wild inhabitants, whose every hill, spring, thicket, rock outcropping and boulder den is their entitlement.

Our land is a useful and quiet place to recalibrate, to reset intentions. But it’s not just my own life that needs to be reset. Recently I was reading about conservative efforts to undermine the renewal of the Endangered Species Act. As I looked up at the bald eagle flying lazily over our valley Saturday morning, I had to wonder just who we humans think we are to so little consider the complexity of the living web in which we are allowed to exist. Aside from the folly of allowing our interests to trample those of other species whose fate is necessarily if subtly linked to our own, the hubris of giving ourselves permission to exterminate the habitat, climate, and very species of other inhabitants on our planet is breathtaking.

Raised by an environmentally concerned but deeply pragmatic civil engineer, I fully appreciate the indignation some feel when the fate of big dams, highways, and timber sales hangs on a snail darter or a certain kind of owl, mussel or salamander. “Why not let that one species die in this one particular place, as long as countless other somewhat similar species continue elsewhere?” is an understandable question. But humans struggle to fully understand finely tuned ecosystem relationships, where one mussel species can play an ecosystem role distinct from another.

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Some Times the Whole Transsexual/Transgender Community Trip Just Wears Me Out

I’m an old hippie woman.  A long gray haired jean and t-shirt wearing hippie old woman.  I don’t wear or own high heels.  I wear Birkenstocks.

I think make-up and Photoshop are for plastic people.  Vogue on the outside and vague or vacuous on the inside.

I recently read Julia Serano’s latest book, “Excluded” and didn’t much relate to it.  It was like she was writing from another planet, one where arguing with people who are the products of Doctoral programs in Gender Studies/Feminist Studies is important.  One where participating in Lesbian Events like the MWMF is important.

I started transition forty-five years ago next month, had SRS some three years later.  Been there, done that.  I can actually remember some of the details.  It wasn’t as traumatic as it seems for many.

Every year we have the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every year a depressingly long list of murder victims is read and every year I point out how most were at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder doing the most dangerous form of sex work.  Every year I hear privileged white TS/TG folks claim how ENDA would  mean these sisters didn’t have to do sex work.  Every year I think about how the privileged have no idea how harsh life is for the poor, even those who make it to the concrete floors of the big box stores.

Today Huffington Post had a headline “Transgender Pageant Queen Scores Elle Spread”.  I wondered, “Why is this important?”  Why do TS/TG women need to be reduced to shallow vacuous beauty queens, sex objects, models and glamor obsessed gender stereotypes?

I actually modeled and did some extra work in the mid 1970s.  The extra work was a hell of a lot more fun because I got to see how they make movies as well as rub elbows with some actual movie stars.

But modeling…  What a depressing game.  Sort of like peddling crap and about as much fun as working in any sales job.  Scratch that last one.  Working selling at swap meets is a hell of a lot more fun.

I’m over the idea that just because a TS/TG person is in a movie/TV show, writes a book or is a musician means I should buy their product and never look at it critically.  We went past that level of critical mass years ago.

Lately a couple of archives have asked me for my books and papers.  None have offered me any money.  It is as though they don’t recognize how poor many of us who were pioneers are.

I remember a time when activism wasn’t something someone did for a living.

Everyday now, especially during the Holiday season I get begging letters from all sorts of worthy causes staffed with bright eyed eager young college grads, folks with degrees and student loans expecting to make a career out of activism.

Some times even looking for trans-specific articles to post to this blog leaves me feeling totally burnt out.

Like Howard Beale in the movie “Network” I want to scream at people and wake them up.

You aren’t special because you are transsexual/transgender.  Yeah you have some stuff to deal with most people don’t have to deal with but mainly you are affected by the same crap that affects everyone else.

So even though the articles I post teasers to are not specifically “Trans*” they are still relevant to my life and yours too.

There is a lot of backlash brewing and people are going to need to fight bathroom initiatives and the like, but for the next few days celebrate the holidays.

Avail yourself of the Affordable Care Act, if you can.  It may be more inclusive than you know, and folks may need to fight to keep it that way.

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Bill Moyers Essay: The End Game for Democracy

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