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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 72,733

Journal Archives

From Backyard Farmer to Community Visionary in Oakland

from Civil Eats:

From Backyard Farmer to Community Visionary in Oakland

August 31st, 2012
By Claire Thompson

Abeni Ramsey started growing food in her West Oakland backyard when she was a college-aged single mom who wanted her kids to eat better food than what they could afford. Some seven years later, she’s well known among the Bay Area food community, selling produce from her business, City Girl Farms, to local restaurants and through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Now she plans to open an urban farm store and restaurant in Oakland, and is working with a partner to start farming on 220 acres about an hour outside the Bay Area. I caught up with Ramsey recently to learn more about her involvement in the local food movement and her plans for the future.

How did you get started growing food?

My grandfather grew up on a farm and moved from rural Virginia to New York City. He always had plants growing—potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, corn. I used to spend every summer with him in Jamaica, Queens, and I remember the smell of tomatoes when I opened the gates of his front yard.

I ended up having my first child while I was in college. So I dropped out and was trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I traveled around West Africa and Southeast Asia and saw people trying to eke out subsistence from the land, and I decided that I wanted to help people in the developing world grow more and higher quality food. So I went to UC Davis (to study agriculture). I now had two kids, and times were really tough. We would eat a lot of Top Ramen, really garbage food, and I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t have a whole lot of options. I applied for food stamps. I found out City Slicker Farms had a program where they would install a garden in your backyard, so they came and installed a garden. I tried different things I had learned up at UC Davis on my plot. I got really productive; I added chickens and goats to my yard, and we were eating eggs and making cheese and yogurt. We were really able to get a full complement of nutrients out of that backyard, which was an eighth of an acre, if that.

How did you move from just growing food for your family to becoming involved in activism around food justice?

I graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor of science in agricultural development. City Slicker had a job opening for a farm manager, so I was hired. I managed seven total plots throughout West Oakland. That was my introduction to the food-justice side of the urban ag movement. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://civileats.com/2012/08/31/from-backyard-farmer-to-community-visionary-in-oakland/

Hillary Clinton won't unite south-east Asia against China

Hillary Clinton won't unite south-east Asia against China
The US's bid to turn south-east Asian states into Lilliputians tackling China's Gulliver is simplistic and obscures other issues

Simon Tisdall
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 4 September 2012

Faltering US efforts to forge a united front with less powerful Asian countries in the face of an increasingly assertive China have resumed in earnest today with Hillary Clinton's visit to Indonesia, a leading light of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian nations (Asean) and the world's most populous majority Muslim country. But the US secretary of state's arrival in Jakarta was overshadowed by claims that the Obama administration is ignoring worsening political and human rights abuses in its haste to lock Indonesia and states such as Malaysia and Singapore into its 21st century Asia-Pacific strategic vision in which China is strong but constrained.

In Washington's favoured scenario, China becomes a sort of Gulliver-style giant held down and tied in place by feisty multitudes of tiny Lilliputians. What the state department may have forgotten is that, in Jonathan Swift's tale, Gulliver and his undersized captors reach an uneasy accommodation, then fall out violently. To the US dismay, the last Asean summit, held in Phnom Penh in July, ended in unprecedented confusion after member governments failed to agree a final communique. The Philippines and Vietnam, US allies, wanted to insert a reference to China's attempts to assert ownership over disputed, possibly oil-rich island territories in the South China Sea.

But others were less ready to beard the Beijing behemoth. Cambodia, which hosted the meeting and is heavily dependent on Chinese aid and investment, blocked the proposed text. Now attention is switching to the next Asean summit in Phnom Penh in November. During a meeting in the Cook Islands on Friday with leaders of South Pacific island nations, Clinton pledged to continue helping to maintain security in the region and to protect the flow of maritime commerce. She also called on China to "act in a fair and transparent way" in the Pacific, the Wall Street Journal reported. "We want them to play a positive role in navigation and maritime security issues," she said. "We want to see them contribute to sustainable development for the people of the Pacific, to protect the precious environment, including the ocean, and to pursue economic activity that will benefit the people."

Some progress has been made on an agreement between Asean and China on a "code of conduct" for managing territorial disputes before they become flashpoints. But Beijing continues to want to deal with such issues bilaterally, while the US believes the Asean countries will be more able to stand up for themselves if they act collectively in multilateral forums. "The most important thing is that we end up in a diplomatic process where these issues are addressed in a strong diplomatic conversation between a unified Asean and China rather than through any kind of coercion," a senior Clinton official said. US involvement (many in China prefer to call it meddling) has deepened since Barack Obama decided last year to switch attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region as American commitments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Europe ebbed. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/03/hillary-clinton-visit-south-east-asia-china

Classic Bill Maher: I'm talking to you, Mr. and Mrs. Teabagger.

Chicago Teachers' Union President on Rahm Emanuel: “He’s a liar and a bully.”

from the Sun-Times:

Tactically, it was a risk to hold a Labor Day rally in the Loop, where there was no audience of office workers to influence and the targeted decision makers were absent.

But with a potential teachers strike approaching, the Chicago Teachers Union and its friends among public employee unions put on an impressive show of strength Monday, drawing thousands of red-shirted supporters to a Daley Plaza rally that turned into a protest march around City Hall and outside the Clark Street headquarters of the Chicago Public Schools.

With a fervor reminiscent of the Occupy Chicago marches, the teachers chanted labor slogans, waved placards and were fired up by several speakers, including CTU President Karen Lewis, who brought the crowd to a roar when she called Mayor Rahm Emanuel “a liar and a bully.”

Thousands of teachers and public workers attended the speeches in the Loop plaza, with many wearing red shirts in support of the teachers. After the rally, the crowd moved across Clark Street to march around the City Hall-County Building, then headed south on Clark to the CPS offices. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/14907231-418/chicago-teachers-flood-daley-plaza-to-rally-for-contract.html

Los Angeles Asks Its Voters to Extend Transit Tax Far Into the Future

from the Transport Politic blog:

Los Angeles Asks Its Voters to Extend Transit Tax Far Into the Future

Residents of Los Angeles may already pay more in sales taxes for the upkeep and expansion of their transportation system than people in any other county in the U.S. Referenda have been approved by voters in 1980, 1990, and 2008, each of which distributes a half-cent tax on every dollar in sales to the county’s transportation system, Metro. Of the total $1.8 billion per year in revenues,* about 40% are spent on expansions to the transit system, with the rest distributed to maintenance and operations of the county’s roads and transit systems.

This very public endorsement of the need to invest in transportation (Measure R, passed in 2008, required a 2/3-vote to be approved, pursuant to California law) has allowed for the planning of the nation’s most extensive rail and fixed-guideway bus expansion program. Earlier this year, the first segment of the Expo Line opened to Culver City; two other light rail expansions are under construction, and several other bus and rail lines are funded. Most importantly, a subway rail extension running under Wilshire Boulevard through West L.A., to Westwood and U.C.L.A., is practically ready to begin construction.

But Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been the staunchest political advocate of improved transit in L.A., has been clear that the program is not advancing quickly enough. Because of the lack of strong federal support, the full extent of the Westside Subway will not be completed until 2036; important improvements for other parts of the county will not be done until later. That’s more than thirty more years with little significant alternative to the traffic-clogged arteries so infamous in the city. Thus the county approved, the state legislature accepted, and the governor signed late last month the bill offering to the public in the form of a referendum Measure J, which will extend the Measure R tax 30 years past its original expiration date, which was supposed to be 2039.

What is to be voted on is not a new tax. Rather, if approved on November 6, it will continue assessing the 1/2-cent sales tax between 2039 and 2069. The outcome may well determine the degree to which L.A. is able to produce a truly appealing alternative to automobile travel within a reasonable amount of time. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2012/09/03/los-angeles-asks-its-voters-to-extend-transit-tax-far-into-the-future/

Simon Johnson: Big Banks = Bad News

By Simon Johnson Sep 2, 2012 6:30 PM ET

(Bloomberg) The debate over whether the U.S.’s largest banks are too big is heating up. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the perception has taken hold among some analysts and economists that certain U.S. institutions are too big to fail, meaning they would have to be bailed out to protect the financial system in the event of another calamity.

The recent trading losses at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and scandals over money laundering at HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc have prompted even financial-industry insiders to ask whether these complex global organizations are too big to manage.

The continued downward spiral in Europe raises a similar question: Are some banks too big to save, meaning their collapse could dramatically worsen the euro crisis (as happened in Ireland in the fall of 2008 and is happening now in Spain and Greece)?

The critics must be gaining converts because, in recent weeks, the defenders of large banks have started to push back. William B. Harrison Jr., the former chairman of JPMorgan, and Wayne Abernathy, the executive vice president of the American Bankers Association, both wrote op-eds that argue against breaking up banks. The Financial Services Roundtable, a large- bank lobby group, has circulated two e-mails insisting that the critics’ arguments are based entirely on myths. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-02/big-banks-are-hazardous-to-u-s-financial-health.html

Fundies declare Jihad on Bill Nye

from HuffPost:

Like the vast majority of scientists, Bill Nye 'the Science Guy' believes in evolution.

Last week, Nye posted this video on YouTube, entitled "Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children."

According to CNN, creationists have now "hit back" at Nye after his video went viral.


"Time is Nye for a Rebuttal," Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, wrote on his website. "At AiG and the Creation Museum, we teach children and adults the truth concerning who they are in the Creator’s eyes -- and where they came from." ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/01/bill-nye-creationists-creation-museum-ray-comfort_n_1849375.html

An All-Clear for Bush’s Torturers

from Consortium News:

An All-Clear for Bush’s Torturers
September 3, 2012

Even as Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu urges a war-crimes trial for George Bush and Tony Blair for invading Iraq, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gives an all-clear to Bush’s subordinates for homicides that resulted from torture in Afghanistan and Iraq, a repudiation of U.S. law and principles, says Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

The Obama administration has closed the books on prosecutions of those who violated U.S. and international laws by authorizing and conducting the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his office would investigate only two incidents, in which CIA interrogations ended in deaths. He said the Justice Department “has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.” With that decision, Holder conferred amnesty on countless Bush officials, lawyers and interrogators who set and carried out a policy of cruel treatment.

Now the attorney general has given a free pass to those responsible for the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi. Rahman froze to death in 2002 after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. Al-Jamadi died after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back.

MP Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi’s death was a homicide. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://consortiumnews.com/2012/09/03/an-all-clear-for-bushs-torturers/

Desmond Tutu: Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair

Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair
I couldn't sit with someone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie

Desmond Tutu
The Observer, Saturday 1 September 2012

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.

On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein? .......(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/02/desmond-tutu-tony-blair-iraq

Joseph Stiglitz: Mitt Romney's tax avoidance weakens bonds of American society

Mitt Romney's tax avoidance weakens bonds of American society
If politicians and those around them do not pay their fair share of taxes, how can we expect that anyone else will?

Mitt Romney's income taxes have become a major issue in the American presidential campaign. Is this just petty politics, or does it really matter? In fact, it does matter – and not just for Americans.

A major theme of the underlying political debate in the United States is the role of the state and the need for collective action. The private sector, while central in a modern economy, cannot ensure its success alone. For example, the financial crisis that began in 2008 demonstrated the need for adequate regulation.

Moreover, beyond effective regulation (including ensuring a level playing field for competition), modern economies are founded on technological innovation, which in turn presupposes basic research funded by government. This is an example of a public good – things from which we all benefit, but that would be under-supplied (or not supplied at all) were we to rely on the private sector.

Conservative politicians in the US underestimate the importance of publicly provided education, technology, and infrastructure. Economies in which government provides these public goods perform far better than those in which it does not. ...........(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2012/sep/03/mitt-romney-tax-avoidance-society

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