Friday, February 22, 2013


From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: From where I sit, I have a great view of two male blue jays pecking at the eaves of the garage. No idea what’s keeping them at it—bugs in the eaves? Melted snow? Something tasty in the paint? Whatever it is, they’ve been pecking for a half hour and they’re doing considerable damage to the wood. In the barn, two pigeons have nested and set up house, dropping poo all over the tractor, chore cart and all the other equipment in there. Last year we had eight or ten and we tried to trap them in live traps like raccoons but no success. We can’t use poisons because we have so many pets around. So I finally had to find a hunter with a shotgun. This year, we’re trying again to find a better way, have strung nets around the barn in hopes of nabbing them without using bullets. Seems like we’re always battling predators. They come after our lambs, our hens, our guineas. Now that the neighbors are reporting mountain lions around, I won’t let anyone go in the woods alone, even just to pick mushrooms. Got to have a buddy and got to make lots of noise. Those are my rules for the woods. But these vegans. They never have problems with mice, cockroaches, ants in the pantry, moths, mountain lions. How do they do it? Well, near as I can figure, they are rich people, movie stars. They don’t worry about fixing the garage and they have someone else take care of the mice, ants, moths. And they banish the animals from their lives. They might have a few pet dogs, vegan ones, but they don’t have goats or calves or even goldfish in their ponds. They want the planet for themselves, humans, only. They want to eat foods from fields nourished with chemicals rather than animal products. A lot of the vegans look unhealthy. Too much sugar and refined flour. Twinkies and chips, sodas and vitamin pills. And, they don’t worry about the people involved in making the things they eat, like the sugar cane harvesters that can’t feed their own kids or the farmers handling dangerous chemicals so they can raise corn for sweeteners and soy for thickening. I read one time that all humane societies begin with horses. Someone sees horses treated cruelly and they protest. Then they move to protecting dogs, cats and finally to protecting humans. Seems backwards, but that’s how it goes. At least that’s what I read. Well, enough for today. February 22, 2013.

Let’s keep the military cuts in the sequester but not the cuts to social services

By Marc Jampole

February’s crisis of the month is the looming “sequester,” which will automatically make deep cuts in government programs unless Congress gets its act together and passes an alternative fiscal plan by March 1.

As usual when it comes to money issues, Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse on how to avoid the sequester. Democrats want to replace it with a mix of tax increases and program cuts. Republicans want government services such as air traffic controller staffs, food stamps and health programs for children to take the brunt of program cuts, with no cut to military spending and no increase in taxes.

Both sides have it wrong. If the concern is to help the economy recover, we should raise taxes on the wealthy and not cut any programs.  The government will spend every penny it gets, which will pump up the economy. True enough, poor people and much of the middle class support the economy by spending most of the money that they don’t pay in taxes on goods and services. History demonstrates, however, that the wealthy will invest much of their tax savings in ways that do not help the economy, for example in stocks on the secondary market (which means the company that originally issued the stock gets nothing) and overpriced art work.  That’s why we should raise taxes on the wealthy only.

I agree with Paul Krugman, who in many of his New York Times articles over the past months has made the case that addressing the deficit can wait until the country has stabilized the economy. But if we do want to address the deficit right now, we should do it by addressing the two reasons why it is too large: war-time military spending and the Bush II reduction of taxes on the wealthy.  That means raising taxes and cutting the military, but not other programs.

When thinking about cuts in government spending, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Would you rather see children in the United States have enough to eat or the U.S. stay in the senseless, objectiveless war in Afghanistan?
  2. Would you rather repair bridges and put decent mass transit into our mid-sized cities or continue developing drone technology?
  3. Would you rather see us work on green energies or develop that new-fangled aircraft that Congress is insisting be built even though our military leaders say we don’t need it?
  4. Would you rather cut our nuclear program (which can destroy all known civilization many times over) or cut air traffic controllers and slow down the takeoff and landing of all flights across the country.
I vote for children with full bellies, bridges that don’t fall down, research that addresses global warming (as opposed to research that kills people) and getting to my destination on time.

That’s why I advocate that we replace the sequester with a mix of tax increases and cuts only in military spending.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bowman v. Monsanto deliberations

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: The Supreme Court heard the Bowman v. Monsanto case last Tuesday, attracting much more media attention than the 40,000 people who went to D.C. to advocate for the climate. Attorney Seth Waxman, arguing for Monsanto, turned in the classic statement: “Without the ability to limit the reproduction of soybeans containing this patented trait, Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention and never would have produced what is now the most popular patented technology in farming.” Imagine an attorney making that statement for a murderer, thief or kidnapper. “Without the ability to snatch children away from their homes and extract ransom, Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention and never would have produced a system to make money from desperate parents trying to save their kids.” “Without the ability to kill people, Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention . . . Well, you get the picture. But the law depends not on comparisons or fairness but on precedents. Monsanto has plenty of precedents with the Supremes. The judges will have a written opinion in June, the papers say, and we’ll see what they say. This morning, at 8 a.m., the horseshoer called. It wasn’t snowing yet at his place (about 30 miles west of here) but he was expecting it any minute, so he cancelled our appointment. Then, around 9 a.m. the snow started to fall here—big, fluffy flakes. It was warm enough that the snow was accompanied by thunder. We heard it three times. Thunder in February means snow the next October, they used to say. After a couple of hours, it got colder and the flakes got smaller, but it’s still accumulating. I’d say we have 6 to 8 inches already and it’s only 2:00.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The XL Pipeline and Local Foods

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: According to one map, on Wikipedia, a route for the Keystone XL pipeline goes right through my neighborhood, or, as my husband put it, “past our back door.” So I’m particularly glad that an estimated 3,000 Missouri college students went to DC for the protest. Can’t wait to see the few that went from our campus and hear what they think! Here's the link to the pipeline map: Last night, the PBS news program, Newshour, covered the action and had interviews with a couple of folks with different opinions. I had just locked the sheep in the barn and come into the house, reported to my husband that a swarm of bright red cardinals were cleaning out the suet feeder and he should go look. But he was immersed in the TV where the talking heads were expressing different opinions about just where the tar sands oil, once refined, would go. Would it be piped to a Louisiana port, then traded to Asia for more computers and cars? Or would it help America overcome our fuel deficit with the middle east? Truly, neither of the guys seemed convinced that they knew. To Bill McKibben and the enviros, that doesn’t really matter. The point, to them, is that the planet can’t afford the carbon output, no matter if it’s burned in New York or Beijing. They point to the increase in carbon and the heat it traps, globally speaking. They say, “leave it in the ground and figure out new ways to take care of our needs.” They point to a 10% decrease in fuel consumption since Obama has taken office and say that’s great and we can do better. If a link in the XL pipeline comes through my neighborhood, and what does XL stand for anyway? Extra Large? Extra Leaky? Entirely X-cessive? Well, if it comes here, there’ll be thousands of new jobs and farmers will have to leave. To our biggest neighbors, that would be the end of hours on huge tractors, things they don’t really love to begin with. To the Economic Development people, it’s about good jobs that pay well. To sustainable vegetable farmers like us, it’s the end of community, nature, and our lives. To the eaters that depend on us, it’s back to canned foods from who knows where?

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Good Walk Unspoiled

By Charles Cullen

You may already be aware that the White House Babysitting Service, also known as the White House Press Corps, went nuts recently because they weren't granted full access to the President's golf outing with Tiger Woods. While this might seem like a story directly from “The Daily Show,” it isn't. Their outrage is very real, and very, very silly.

This President has been hounded for myriad made up scandals. I'm going to pick one; feel free to insert your own—the birther scandal—which received wall to wall coverage ... even though anyone with a brain not covered with the worst comb-over in history knew the whole thing to be baseless.

I find it highly unlikely that any reporter clamoring to walk the links with Obama wanted to ask him serious questions about drone strikes, economic policy, or the Hagel confirmation. Perhaps they were worried that he would fudge the numbers on his score. Maybe take a drop without accepting the penalty? Come to think of it, maybe we do need to see his long-form scorecard.

The sad fact, for reporters at least, is that there's a pretty good case to be made for Obama not granting the Press Corps any access at all. On the rare occasion they get something right, they find the need to insert the inevitably ludicrous Republican side and just “teach the controversy.” They also generally get scooped by bloggers anyway.

The President has made it a point to make himself available to the American people directly through new media — online chats, looped phone calls where ordinary citizens can ask him questions directly, and constant updates from his government website.

Since reporters have been behaving like children, Obama has begun treating them accordingly. You wouldn't force your toddler to waddle along the golf course, would you? Well, neither would Obama.

This is not George “Brush Clearin'” Bush, who, by the way, was famously skittish when it came to engaging the press. This is a man who understands that no matter what he does, a vast majority of the press will simply make something up and call it news.

I saw this habit first hand at the Democratic National Convention. Reporters from austensably reputable news sources would write “quotes” from speakers including the President before the speaker in question had uttered these “quotes.” These “quotes” would then be reported as gospel on talk-news shows, crowed about on talk radio, and so the cycle would continue; a self sustaining nonsense machine.

If reporters wish more access to the President, they need only to act less like petulant children, and more like reporters. A good start would be the reporting of facts.

The Nimzo-Indian Defence

By Charles Cullen

Chess nerds will recognize the “Nimzo-Indian Defence” as an effective, if rudimentary, opening when playing as black. For those not fortunate enough to be chess nerds, here's a brief description of the opening by Tony Kosten. Kosten writes “When Nimzowitsch introduced his defence in the 1920's, his idea was that Black would fight for control of the centre […] with pieces other than pawns. His concept, the Nimzo-Indian Defence rapidly became one of Black's most popular defences and established a reputation for offering a wide range of strategically rich possibilities.”

After participating in a nationwide Organizing for Action call with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Chief Economist and Cabinet member Austan Goolsbee, I am more certain than ever that there were sophisticated political undertones to President Obama's State of the Union address; suggesting that he is playing political chess, while the Republicans wait for him at the checkers board. Particularly relevant seems his decision to single out Georgia and Oklahoma as beacons of hope when it comes to effective, productive, early education.

A big part of the Nimzo-Indian defence is forcing your will upon your opponent by offering choices that seem impossible to pass up. And this is essentially what Obama is doing by focusing on red states and forcing Republican leaders to either stand against the education reforms they themselves had a part in creating (and doing so simply because the President says he likes them) or going along with the President and his desire to see every child enrolled in high quality early education.

The focus of this Organizing for Action call was supposed to be jobs, but time and time again both Goolsbee and Emmanuel returned to the issue of early and available education, making it a point to single out red states for praise. Things like this don't happen by accident, and my ears perked up when Mayor Emmanuel pivoted a jobs question into a discussion of the interesting early education programs in (you guessed it) Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Emmanuel argued for the necessity of a “race to the top,” reiterated the President's call for “full-day pre-K,” and expanded on the President's plan by suggesting the idea of teaching “parent's how to be parents” as a part of the administration's overall education initiative.

Emmanuel accused the Republican Congress of governing “from the outside in.” Suggesting that they are not only out of touch, but would do well to govern from the inside ... by accepting the President's plans for early education. Goolsbee echoed many of Emmanuel's sentiments regarding education while also getting a dig in at the Republicans for our current, ridiculous sequester boondoggle. He also promised that “courageous votes” would be taken -- over, of course, Republican objection--on “gun control,” and “immigration.”

Anyone who's ever lost a game of Chess knows how the Republicans must be feeling in private. For all their posturing and ridiculous filibustering, they don't really know what they're doing. Heads in hands they find themselves in the shocked stasis of defeat — a splintered, weak, directionless party wondering helplessly where it all went wrong.

Sunday, February 17, 2013 and Daryl Hannah

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Here are four words I never thought I’d write: “Thank you, Daryl Hannah!” Without her arrest, thousands of protestors outside the White House might not have gotten a line of print in the media. There has been, as far as I can tell, a mainstream media blackout. Only the bloggers covered the “Forward on Climate” protest that brought an estimated 40,000 people to Washington DC today. As Jamie Henn, a writer for Huffington Post put it, “It's a movement that has united nearly every environmental group in the country, from grassroots coalitions like the Indigenous Environmental Network to big green groups like the Sierra Club to a new generation of upstarts like But it's also a movement that extends far beyond "traditional environmentalists" -- last Wednesday, civil rights leader Julian Bond, the president emeritus of the NAACP was arrested at the White House in a sit-in against Keystone XL.” Julian Bond, of course, recognizes that the fingers of injustice are long and mean. If a company is willing to create injustice on the earth, stealing land and resources from farmers and indigenous peoples, that same company is willing to create injustice on humankind. 40,000 people. That’s hardly a number that can be ignored. Mass arrests, including Daryl Hannah and Robert Kennedy, Jr. are the way this administration has chosen to send their message. Mass arrests will, they think, stop the protestors. For some folks, that will work. Nobody wants to be arrested time after time, pay a fine, do some time, miss the bus back home. But I think the movement has gone past the stage where people are scared of the police. Indeed, being arrested in DC can become a badge of honor. Protestors, including Sierra Club members, are choosing Civil Disobedience as a tactic to get attention. And, if the media doesn’t cover this, it’s another win for the protestors. They’ll become investigators on their own, and learn what’s been happening behind the curtains of big business and bought-off government. This is how revolutions begin. This is what democracy looks like if the peaceful messages are ignored. Obama can step up to the plate and defuse the anger. He can talk to the protestors, stop the pipeline, make his climate change promises real.