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As I work on some more thoughtful, long, opinionated as hell pieces (like the posts I used to do and love) I’m trying to at least throw at you some smatterings of stuff I’ve been finding, reading, and thinking about.  But before I get into that, I’ll just note that the people who give out awards for most creative blog post titles can reach me  through the “contact” button at the top of the site, I’ll give you my address to send me out that award.

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For starters, the word out Tuesday is that Democratic VT Senate Prez Peter “I really wanna be governor and I give a great speech but boy am I a big shallow phoney” Shumlin will force a vote this week in the Senate Finance committee and then next week by the full Senate on whether or not the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should be allowed to operate another 20 years after it’s scheduled decommissioning in 2012.  For readers not from here and not in the know:  VT Yankee is a very dangerous disaster waiting to happen, currently leaking radioactive Tritium into surrounding ground water (and into the CT River- you’re welcome Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven) from underground pipes that company execs testified to the VT Legislature didn’t even exist.  To say nothing of cooling towers collapsing and the like; it’s been a bad couple years for the owners of VY.  Oddly, VT has no authority whatsoever over the plant, the Federal NRC does- except the legislature can act on behalf of VT electric rate payers, i.e., if the savings to Vermonters in their electric bills don’t justify keeping VY in operation 20 years longer than the plant was designed to last (at increased power output from what it was originally designed to generate).  Of note, the plant’s corporate ownership says VY is losing money, or at least not making enough to justify all the headache, and they’re proposing a fairly dramatic rate increase for a new contract, a rate increase above market value.

If VY is closed down on time in 2012 it will be one of the biggest political victories I can think of having seen up-close in my life.  I’ve already contacted all my Senators to urge them to vote ‘no’- have you?

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Commondreams.org (a site with it’s own liberal B.S. on occasion, but a really good, progressive site overall) is all over the last “socialist” bank in the U.S., the Bank of North Dakota.  I will say, it’s a good little story, and in fact the idea of a State Bank, which uses moneys earned towards paying for social programs is a decent one.  I personally prefer the credit union model, when we’re talking about banking choices.  But it’s nice to see non-corporate banking getting some positive attention.

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On March 1st I’m quitting cigarettes.  I imagine the tobacco company’s have custom search-engines that detect that sentence where ever it appears on the internet and then sends cartons of free cigarettes to ensure you can’t quit.  But I’m gonna do it, my first real earnest attempt at quitting in the 16 years since I first smoked a butt.  Of course I’m motivated now because I have a family and a kid and of course I wanna take care of my own health, but you know one of my biggest motivators: all you assholes who insist on giving smokers a hard time, all you non-smokers who somehow feel it your duty or privilege to point out to us in one way or another that it’s bad for us.  You know what:  “no fucking shit it’s bad for me- you’re not proving you’re particularly bright by pointing out the obvious”.  Except maybe with our own children, people don’t generally go around giving un-solicited advise of this manner (“Mike, buddy, it’s cold, zip up your jacket or you’ll get sick”).   Ya know, each and every one of us has our own pathologies, our own traumas and challenges and “shit” to work through; smoking just happens to be a particularly noticeable symptom of certain unhealthy associations and reactions that have been un-necessarily (uselessly?) programmed in to us smokers.  Given how our entire culture is constructed in a manner that leaves us all in a game of “hide your pathology”, and given the number of taboos associated with addressing frankly our own and each other’s shit (“Hi Jimmy, good to see you…. yeah, I know, you don’t get out much ’cause you have mild agoraphobia due to the panic you’re consumed with when unable to feel a sense of control over your environment because of the trauma from seeing your best friend get hit by a car when you were five”) it seems at the very least a bit odd to me that with just this one issue people feel it their place to speech up.  So from where doth you non-smokers derive your divine insight to preach to me about my neurosis?  I’d agree that, obviously, if you’re a non-smoker and you’re stuck breathing someone’s second-hand smoke it’s negatively impacting your health and your ability to be happy, but incidental second-hand smoke like you standing next to me on a sidewalk is no public health problem.  If second-hand smoke really were such a danger, shouldn’t we be seeing dramatic decreases in certain kinds of cancer over the past few years as indoor smoking has more or less been outlawed over the past few years?  I’m just old enough to have been raised and to remember a world in which people smoked on airplanes, in gas stations (as of a few years ago when I was last out that way, they still do this in the South and Midwest); growing-up I remember many friend’s who, like me, one parent smoked and one didn’t, and yes, that smoking parent smoked in the house.  Yet none of these none-smoking spouses (my mother included) nor any of us kids have cancer or asthma.  I’m not advocating for indoor smoking- I’m just merely wondering about all your non-smoker righteousness in the face of a dearth of facts to justify your holiness.

So yeah, I’m quitting, but not because you non-smokers are ‘right’ about anything- because as a non-smoker I can’t wait to do to you what you’ve been doing to us smokers- “Good to see you Fran, and hey- don’t forget that even though you’re convinced your mom never loved you, you can still lead a happy and productive life!”.

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Geez, I’m this agro about this smoking thing and I haven’t even started trying to quit yet.  This could get ugly.

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Finally, the media.  The media sucks on Iran, the media sucks on Haiti, the media sucks at political analysis, the media sucks at journalism.  Just thought I’d clarify that.

Sick of paying the increasingly staggering price of firewood, I figured now would be the time to do some selective logging on our little 10 acres of heaven.  For the same price as about half of a year’s worth of wood I could stock-pile about two year’s worth, or more- a no-brainer.  Sure, more work for me splitting it all up, but I could use the physical work and, actually, love the chore (though a chore it is).  I mean, who doesn’t love their time playing with a chainsaw?

So the question, of course, becomes who to get to hike into the woods behind the house, chop down some trees, and haul them 500-1000 yards down the hill to the house.  I soon realized the answer was obvious:

Michael Colby and Boots Wardinski, aka “Horse Loggers for Peace”.  Yeah, these guys will do just fine.  They’re polerizing, divisive, loud, and un-forgiving for it all.  They rub a lot of people- including many friends and aquiantances of mine- the very, very wrong way.  But of all the things we need and don’t need in this world, true iconoclasts will always be necessary.  So while I sit here “working”, Michael, Boots, and Michael’s trusty (and absolutely beatiful) horse are playing hard at work in the woods behind my house.  Thanks guys!

As I try-out my writing wheels (haven’t done this for a while) forgive me if I ease myself in.  So for your consideration, a few things around the interwebs that have caught my eye:

  • For starters, a really great piece contemplating- and naming- the manner in which class (or, better yet, “class war”) determines who is going to fight U.S. wars and who, well, doesn’t have to even think about it.  Even better: the author reminds us of the Helots, a class of people in ancient Sparta who were more or less owned “by the public” and used as warriors and soldiers to fight and conquest and pillage on behalf of the elite of their day; and then the author goes on to suggest that today’s “all-volunteer military” represent a sort-of class-based version of the Helots.
  • Somewhere back in time there I had come across, read, and meant to post here about a pretty good piece written from the libertarian left to the libertarian right (as embodied by the “Tea Party” protests).  Of course, I never got that up, as my postings this past summer have been mostly limited to occasional youtube video’s and endless “geez, sorry I haven’t written anything lately” diaries.  But now that same piece has been made available as a pdf for printing out the pamphlet yourself, which was an excellent reminder to me to direct your attention to the thing.  I won’t say I’m with it 100%, but I think it’s well done, and definitely in a better direction than 97% of what “anarchists” put out, either on the web or in print.
  • But speaking of the dribble anarchists put out there: another exception to that 97% I just mentioned in this piece, noting that the Nobel Prize in Economics not only was just awarded to a woman for the first time, but that her work largely validates and confirms what anarchists have been saying all along.  Specifically, Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel in Economics for her work challenging the notion that common property (“the commons”) is poorly managed and should either be regulated by central authorities or privatized.  Ostrom’s findings- again, which just won her a Nobel prize in Economics- have been that when certain common sense principles are applied (for one, that everyone involved knows the parameters of usage) collective management of resources is much more efficient and beneficial to the population- and planet- as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

With behemoth health foods retailer Whole Foods marching ahead with plans for an out of scale (and, with the existence of so many local food co-ops, localy-based retailers, and yes, direct-from-the-farm markets, we could say wholly redundant and un-necessary) South Burlington location, faux-progressive and CEO John Mackey may well be getting a bit concerned.  That’s because Vermonters in Pittsburgh to protest the G20 meetings have chosen to target a Whole Foods retailer there as part of their protest against the corporate elite’s pro-profit and anti-sustainability agenda.

A group of Vermont farmers and students blocked the entrance of a Pittsburgh Whole Foods around 10:00 Friday morning.  They then build a raised-garden bed, complete with growing plants and vegetables, under their banners which read “Whole
Communities Not Whole Foods for ½ the people” and “ A Whole Lot of $$$$ GREEN $$$$$” as well as “Grow Gardens Not Corporations”.

From the activist’s press release:

One person joining them from Pittsburgh said “I’ve have watched Whole Foods
come in and cater to wealthier folks from outside this neighborhood with its
corporate green image while selling products that not only don’t contribute
to a local or sustainable food system but are totally unaffordable to most
folks that live here.”

Jean Marie Pearce left her farm in the Northeast Kingdom to participate in planting the garden.  “We need to realize that Whole Foods is about growing profits not sustainability and the G20 is about growing capitalism not a healthy world.  I want a world where food is grown for everyone, not the GDP for 20 countries!  Examples like the dairy farm crisis right now prove the need for more inclusion around these policies.  We can’t protect or control our economy when it is run by 20 people and their corporate friends.”

Once these Vermont activists return from Pittsburgh, we can only imagine what they have in-store for the developers who hope to build a Whole Foods in South Burlington.  It’s a safe bet that Whole Foods and those developers are working on trying to imagine that very thing right this moment.

I have two separate but equally effective proposals to make that will drastically and surely make Vermont a much, much better place for all of us.  OK, not for all of us, ’cause there are a handful of people that gain from the backwards, nonsensical world that Governor Douglas and his corporate stooges have built and continue to weasel us towards.  These status-quo capitalists, as many of us are now familiar, have a simple program of claiming corporate greed and profiteering as “freedom” and simultaneously decrying the collective action of the people to take care of ourselves- for ourselves as well as our most vulnerable and downtrodden neighbors- as anti-freedom, socialistic (which somehow means “bad”) coming-of-the-anti-christ evil.  But for the vast majority of us, these two suggestions would be net positives.  As a result of my first proposal, farming on the scale that fits the Vermont landscape and social climate (i.e., relatively “small scale” farming, at least as compared to the big ag of the Midwest and California) would be a sustainable enterprise, as far and the financial field of view is concerned.  Dairy farms would no longer be servants to out of control processing conglomerates who make record profits while the farms who supply their milk fold or file for bankruptcy at the steady pace of ‘taps’ on the funeral drum.  As a result of my second proposal, the social services and safety net which takes care of our most needy friends and family, which as well provides and nurtures a great many of the finer aspects of life in Vermont which we’ve come to enjoy (not to mention the ordinary aspects of life, like going to the DMV), would be not only saved from the pillaging efforts of the Douglas Administration, but would possibly even thrive and grow to be better, more efficient, and more outstanding.

My first suggestion is for the diary farmers of Vermont to dump obscene quantities of milk into Lake champlain.  Seriously.  French dairy farmers, facing conditions quite similar to Vermont dairy farmers, recently decided to dump obscene amounts of milk into a well-known, public and touristy waterway, and not only did their action garner international attention (I read about it in the Times-Argus) but I’d be willing to bet that it helps lead to a resolution of their grievance.  Elsewhere in France, as well as in the Netherlands and Germany, dairy farmers have been on strike- refusing to deliver their milk- in protest of the low amount they’re being paid (bellow the cost of production) and while some have chosen to collectively dump their milk (cows have to be milked, whether you’re on strike or not) in high-profile places, others still throughout Europe have been donating their milk to neighbors and the needy, while yet others have taken the direct action of raiding grocery stores and giving their product away free to shoppers.

And I promise that if Vermont’s dairy farmers did the same, their woes (and ours, in fact) would be largely over.

OK, these actions won’t end all of society’s ills.  But between mega-conglomerate producers like Dean Foods and the political elites who must put the best face of “taking care of the little guy” forward in order to keep their jobs, to the myriad of economic interests wrapped-up in not only dairy farming but agriculture in general, I assure you that the powers that be will act quickly to ensure that Vermont dairy farmers get whatever it is they demand in order to stop dumping (or giving away for free) their milk.  This will greatly effect the rest of us (who don’t milk cows for a living): for starters, the continued existence of dairy farmers throughout Vermont ensures the survival of open space and preservation of our majestic hillsides and valleys.  The environment (and “environmentalists”, who I guess are defined as people who like having a clean, healthy place to live) would obviously benefit as the micro-ecological zones of Vermont would continue to allow for an abundance of wildlife both big and small to flourish free of the cancer of mindless development.  This, of course, effects our incredibly important (like it or not) (and I don’t) tourist industry and the billions of dollars which we live off because people from somewhere else want to see our wilderness and farm-scapes and rolling hills, etc.  Which, of course, keeps many of us employed in restaurants and hotels, and ski resorts and building condos, etc, etc.  Plus, the rest of the Vermont farming community (who aren’t in the traditional dairy business) would be expected to be inspired, excited by the power of the diary farmer’s victory and perhaps even begin taking collective action for their needs and conditions- suddenly the whole State could be in an uproar about food security and availability and affordability and sustainability!  It would be Scott Nearing’s goddamn utopia around here!

A bit more seriously though, the economic as well as social interests in Vermont which would not be willing to stand for such bad PR- to say nothing of the heated political climate- would act quickly to ensure, in whatever way they can, that our dairy farmers get paid a fair, livable wage for their milk.  Everyone, except for the processing conglomerates and the political hacks like Douglas who support their free-market hubaloo, would win. Read the rest of this entry »

(cross posted from GMD, my response from a post someone put up there recently)

For starters and a little bit of background, I was personally very involved with the Second Vermont Republic during its infancy and early years.   I was so precisely for what it seems are some of the reasons that the folks at ASR Blog are stirring these things back up over at GMD- namely, that the very conversation about secession, regardless of how “realistic” it is or isn’t, is one that by its own nature gets us talking about our individual rights, our rights of self-determination, of local autonomy, and the role of distant (“foreign”) ruling forces (empire, imperialism, etc).   By merely talking about or proposing secession and the dismembering of the American Empire, and in the mere act of considering it, we find ourselves in a very, very important political conversation about the role of the State, and the very nature of human life and society; we arrive in a conversation that fundamentally informs how we act socially and what we push for and desire politically (and, importantly, why we do so and towards what ends).

For myself and many others, this is an incredibly important part of any political conversation, but unfortunately not one that happens often enough at all. Base political dialogue in the United States carries a whole host of assumptions that, quite frankly, if examined and considered on their own could positively effect the nature and outcome of many of those very political issues that grip the country and even the world.

I eventually chose to cut formal ties with SVR because I morally disagreed with the thrust of the organization which insisted that SVR be (or claim to be) a politically and morally neutral group with but one singular opinion: that Vermont should secede from the Union and that in fact the Union should be dismantled.

Read the rest of this entry »

160-87, that was the final vote by tech workers at FAHC (Fletcher Allen Habitually under Construction) to join the AFT.  A huge congratulations to them all, because they now have a say on matters that affect them in the workplace.  I know, I know… having a say in matters that effect you (the Greek have a word for it, I’m not sure on the spelling but it’s something like “demo-cracy”) may sound crazy to some who prefer the idea that the people at the top, with the most power, who make the most money, deserve to just tell everyone else what to do, how to do it and when (without, of course, any “why”) but I think their lives will all be better- maybe a little, maybe a lot, but certainly better.

Cheers, and good luck in bargaining.

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