Local “350.org” Event is Part of Unified Global Climate Action

350_thumbnailA  local event tomorrow, the farmers harvest celebration at the old Alpha Building on 210 Broad Street in Nevada City, from 5pm til 9pm, will include a group photo for inclusion in the worldwide “350.org” campaign, which grew out of the successful 2007 Step It Up campaign founded by Bill McKibben and friends.

What is the 350.org campaign? This short animated video explains it best in all languages:


Note that the 350.org event map shows another possible local event (“UUCM 350”) at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Grass Valley, but its information page is sparse. Contact “William N” for more information.

Other actions in our region include:

350 sea kayak miles (Auburn),  NW Kayak 350.org (Auburn),  Tahoe International Day of Climate Action (King’s Beach),  show the lake level change (South Lake Tahoe),  UNR Peace Pak (Reno) and Northern Nevada’s Interfaith Gathering for Climate Action (Reno).

Search this Google Map for actions in other planet Earth locations.

Brooksley Born, A Heroine for our Age

brooksley_bornThe full Frontline documentary, “The Warning“, about Brooksley Born, former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission until forced out by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers, is now available for viewing online.

Born wanted to regulate OTC derivatives, but was blocked by “the committee to save the world,” at a time in the 1990s when the total worth of the derivative market was a “mere” $60 trillion.

Today that market, still unregulated, approaches a value of $1000 trillion.

She was right and they were wrong, and if her effort to regulate that market had succeeded, we’d be living in a much safer world today.

Watch this documentary. It’s an eye-opener.


Which GOP Senators Oppose Full Justice for Gang Rape Victims?

no_fault_gang_rapeSince Jamie Lee Jones has told her story, and told it repeatedly, many more women have come forward with similar stories.

In a just and sane world, Franken’s amendment should have been a nobrainer, that is, it should have earned 100% support.

And yet, 30 Republicans opposed it (see chart below).

In the following video, Al Franken explains the reasons for his amendment (S. Amdt. 2588) to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3326):

Franken’s amendment passed 68 to 30 in the Senate’s vote on October 6th.

Thirty Republican senators (the naysayers in the chart below), including John McCain, the man who wanted to be president, voted against Franken’s amendment, putting themselves in the position of — in effect — supporting gang rape.

Nay AL Sessions, Jefferson [R]
Nay AL Shelby, Richard [R]
Yea AK Begich, Mark [D]
Yea AK Murkowski, Lisa [R]
Nay AZ Kyl, Jon [R]
Nay AZ McCain, John [R]
Yea AR Lincoln, Blanche [D]
Yea AR Pryor, Mark [D]
Yea CA Boxer, Barbara [D]
Yea CA Feinstein, Dianne [D]
Yea CO Bennet, Michael [D]
Yea CO Udall, Mark [D]
Yea CT Dodd, Christopher [D]
Yea CT Lieberman, Joseph [I]
Yea DE Carper, Thomas [D]
Yea DE Kaufman, Edward [D]
Yea FL LeMieux, George [R]
Yea FL Nelson, Bill [D]
Nay GA Chambliss, Saxby [R]
Nay GA Isakson, John [R]
Yea HI Akaka, Daniel [D]
Yea HI Inouye, Daniel [D]
Nay ID Crapo, Michael [R]
Nay ID Risch, James [R]
Yea IL Burris, Roland [D]
Yea IL Durbin, Richard [D]
Yea IN Bayh, Evan [D]
Yea IN Lugar, Richard [R]
Yea IA Grassley, Charles [R]
Yea IA Harkin, Thomas [D]
Nay KS Brownback, Samuel [R]
Nay KS Roberts, Pat [R]
Nay KY Bunning, Jim [R]
Nay KY McConnell, Mitch [R]
Yea LA Landrieu, Mary [D]
Nay LA Vitter, David [R]
Yea ME Collins, Susan [R]
Yea ME Snowe, Olympia [R]
Yea MD Cardin, Benjamin [D]
Yea MD Mikulski, Barbara [D]
Yea MA Kerry, John [D]
Yea MA Kirk, Paul [D]
Yea MI Levin, Carl [D]
Yea MI Stabenow, Debbie Ann [D]
Yea MN Franken, Al [D]
Yea MN Klobuchar, Amy [D]
Nay MS Cochran, Thad [R]
Nay MS Wicker, Roger [R]
Yea MO McCaskill, Claire [D]
Nay MO Bond, Christopher [R]
Yea MT Baucus, Max [D]
Yea MT Tester, Jon [D]
Yea NE Nelson, Ben [D]
Nay NE Johanns, Mike [R]
Yea NV Reid, Harry [D]
Nay NV Ensign, John [R]
New Hampshire
Yea NH Shaheen, Jeanne [D]
Nay NH Gregg, Judd [R]
New Jersey
Yea NJ Lautenberg, Frank [D]
Yea NJ Menendez, Robert [D]
New Mexico
Yea NM Bingaman, Jeff [D]
Yea NM Udall, Tom [D]
New York
Yea NY Gillibrand, Kirsten [D]
Yea NY Schumer, Charles [D]
North Carolina
Yea NC Hagan, Kay [D]
Nay NC Burr, Richard [R]
North Dakota
Yea ND Conrad, Kent [D]
Yea ND Dorgan, Byron [D]
Yea OH Brown, Sherrod [D]
Yea OH Voinovich, George [R]
Nay OK Coburn, Thomas [R]
Nay OK Inhofe, James [R]
Yea OR Merkley, Jeff [D]
Yea OR Wyden, Ron [D]
Yea PA Casey, Robert [D]
Not Voting PA Specter, Arlen [D]
Rhode Island
Yea RI Reed, John [D]
Yea RI Whitehouse, Sheldon [D]
South Carolina
Nay SC DeMint, Jim [R]
Nay SC Graham, Lindsey [R]
South Dakota
Yea SD Johnson, Tim [D]
Nay SD Thune, John [R]
Nay TN Alexander, Lamar [R]
Nay TN Corker, Bob [R]
Yea TX Hutchison, Kay [R]
Nay TX Cornyn, John [R]
Yea UT Bennett, Robert [R]
Yea UT Hatch, Orrin [R]
Yea VT Leahy, Patrick [D]
Yea VT Sanders, Bernard [I]
Yea VA Warner, Mark [D]
Yea VA Webb, Jim [D]
Yea WA Cantwell, Maria [D]
Yea WA Murray, Patty [D]
West Virginia
Yea WV Rockefeller, John [D]
Not Voting WV Byrd, Robert [D]
Yea WI Feingold, Russell [D]
Yea WI Kohl, Herbert [D]
Nay WY Barrasso, John [R]
Nay WY Enzi, Michael [R]

Is McClintock Losing It?

deficitWe received a long, rambling, stuttering, barely coherent phone message tonight — the beginning and the end were both cut off — from this number: 916-786-5560, apparently Tom McClintock’s office.

About all I caught was a reference to a $1.4 trillion deficit, which the caller termed greater than the aggregate of all the deficits of past presidents since the founding.

Interesting: I distinctly remember that after Reagan cut taxes for the wealthy, he generated a deficit greater than the aggregate of all the deficits of past presidents since the founding.

No doubt Obama has inherited that, among other things.

No Fault Gang Rape

no_fault_gang_rapeSome thirty GOP Senators support gang-rape. This is so vile, I have no words for it.

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Frontline Tonight: $600 Trillion Derivative Market Meltdown?

money_burningWatch Frontline tonight (online or on air) for “The Warning,” which describes the heroic efforts of Brooksley Born, chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the nineties, when the derivatives market began to heat up.

She wanted to regulate this market (“only” $60 trillion at that time), but was foiled by many of the same actors whom Obama now trusts to advise him on economic and banking matters (Rubin, Greenspan and Summers, formerly known as the “Committee to Save the World“).

Now that this market, which consists of instruments that Warren Buffet termed “financial weapons of mass destruction,” has grown tenfold to about $600 trillion (ten times the global GDP), could Brooksley Born’s warning finally come to pass in a financial cataclysm unlike anything the world has ever seen?

Here are a couple of  “sneak previews” of what promises to be a fascinating program.

Faux News: The More You Watch, The Less You Know

faux_newsJeff Pelline posted an interesting item on his blog yesterday about a mildly scatological but spirited defense of the indefensible Fox News by a couple of local bloggers. Jeff calls their comments “entertainment, masquerading as commentary” (aka “infotainment”), which of course precisely describes Fox News itself.

The White House for the last few days has been calling attention to the obvious, that Fox News is not really a news organization. Others have rightly termed Fox, run by former Reagan and Bush media consultant Roger Ailes, an arm of the Republican Party.

I’m delighted to see the Obama administration refer to Fox News as an opinion organization, a proposition which — outside the right-wing mental Beltway — is not especially controversial. The following short (8+ min) video features data from the now famous PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes) poll, “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War.”

Here’s a little table from that study, to give you a sample of its content:


Library: Privatization or Contract for Services?

empty_pocketsIn opening remarks before his presentation on October 13th to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Richard Haffey tried to refute the widespread assumption in our community that he is recommending “privatization” of the county library system.

I made that assumption myself in my article on October 9th, “Danger in Privatizing Nevada County Libraries?“, after reading Dave Moller’s piece in The Union on the same day, “Library faces privatization or drastic cuts, report says.”

Jeff Pelline also picked up the term in his entry on October 13th, “County to tackle library privatization on Tuesday.”

The Nevada City Advocate, also on the 13th, ran a story titled, “Supervisors vote to consider private management of county libraries,” which included this observation:  “In a response to the Nevada County CEO’s proposal to privatize the library system, a former Nevada City councilman is asking supervisors to keep the Doris Foley Historical library off the list.”

Many citizens who spoke at Tuesday’s Board meeting emphasized their objection to “privatization.”

So, what led all of us to assume that “privatization” is being proposed? Apparently Haffey’s own words in his staff report  to the Board (dated October 1st):

“Therefore, we are recommending that the County seek proposals for a qualified operator [my emphasis] to deliver library services at the current service level within the existing resources.”

The singular form of reference in the phrase, “a qualified operator,” carries the strong implication that what is being recommended is to contract with a single private entity for the management of the library system as a whole.

And section 5.2.4 of the RFP makes clear that the intention is  to preserve only the job of County Librarian, while restructuring all other jobs in the library system as employees of  “the Contractor:”

“At the commencement of the contract, Contractor must provide an employment interview to all current Library staff. Contractor is not obligated to hire current staff, but is encouraged to consider these individuals for employment.”

All of this sounds like what is commonly thought of as “privatization.”

Nevertheless, Rick Haffey, in his effort to refute the privatization concept at Tuesday’s Board meeting, offered these comments in his opening remarks:

“In my staff report I do not use the word, privatization … ”

“I want to make sure that people understand that privatization – in its truest form – is a misnomer for what’s being recommended here … ”

“Some people may think that we’re going to sell the libraries to a company to run … ”

“That is not the case. I want you to know that this is an effort to save our libraries rather than to privatize them and give them over to a private corporation … ”

“This is a request for proposals for contract for services … and we contract for services for many many county services … ”

“This is an effort to save our libraries … “

So, what’s the difference between “privatization” and “contract for services,” and does the distinction even matter? It may not.

The library privatization study group for the town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in its report, defined privatization and outsourcing this way:

“Privatization is the shifting of library service from the public to the private sector through transference of library management and/or assets from a government agency to a commercial company.”

“Outsourcing is the contracting out of functions that would be otherwise performed by library employees either because they choose not to perform the function or do not have the ability to provide what is needed.”

“It is important to note that when budget, policy control and property ownership remains with a government entity, there is no privatization but only contracting out for services or outsourcing. Therefore it can be concluded that there are no public libraries in the country that are privatized, rather some have outsourced particular functions.”

“LSSI is currently the only company that outsources the management of public libraries.”

For these reasons, the Dartmouth document refers throughout to “privatization/outsourcing.”

It’s clear from the Nevada County RFP that indeed budget, policy control and property ownership will remain with the county. Thus, Rick Haffey’s comment before the Board that “privatization – in its truest form – is a misnomer for what’s being recommended here” is — according to this Dartmouth definition — true.

And yet the popular understanding of the concept of privatization is that it consists in the outsourcing of the management, not just of assorted functions such as cataloging and copying, etc.

When I corresponded with Matt Sylvain, the Assistant Librarian at the Claire T. Carney Library at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth on this point, he observed:

“I think your Board’s executive officer has a point when he states that he’s not pursuing privatization in the truest sense of the word.  Although on some level it is really a game of semantics, and it is one that helps him since ‘privatization’ may carry a stronger negative connotation than ‘outsourcing.’ “

I expect this game of semantics — “privatization” denied by officials, but asserted by critics — will continue in our own community so long as the popular understanding of privatization persists in our imaginations as an increasingly discredited notion.

What will continue to be crucial is that we all have a clear understanding of the details. Who will keep their jobs, who will not, what functions will be outsourced, and at what cost?

Will the outsourcing of the management of the Nevada County Libraries result in an overall cost savings, apparently the motive for pursuing this idea in the first place?

The Dartmouth study, after examining all of the library systems that contracted with LSSI, concluded:

“There is no evidence that outsourcing of the public library operations has saved any of the communities involved any money. The impetus for outsourcing is usually dissatisfaction with the service provided by the current management.”

Would LSSI Be Ineligible for Nevada County Libraries Contract?

puzzleRick Haffey, in his opening remarks prior to his report to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, October 13th, mentioned that it might well happen that a non-profit could respond to the RFP for Library Services, or a for-profit. All possibilities would be entertained.

But when the town of Dartmouth, Massachusettes, researched the possibility of privatizing/outsourcing public library services, their December 2008 report concluded that “LSSI is currently the only company that outsources the management of public libraries.”

Moreover, Section 5.6.6 of Nevada County’s RFP for Library Services states that “Contractor will provide the County with annual audited financial statements of the Company to demonstrate fiscal soundness.”

But the Dartmouth report also determined that “LSSI is a privately-held company and does not disclose earnings. We have no way of knowing how solvent they are, how much profit they make or how long they will be in business.”

For this reason, among others, the town of Dartmouth decided against privatizing/outsourcing the management of their public library system.

It will be interesting to see how all of these apparently irreconcilable statements — if true — get reconciled in the Nevada County Libraries RFP process.

We Love Our 12KW Kohler Generator Tonight

kohlerIt’s 9:41 PM, about 5 hours into the latest power outage, and we are sitting here in our fully lit house, working on our laptops, surfing the net, watching a little news on the telly. The 12 KW Kohler generator, tied directly into our buried 250 gal. propane tank, took over about 3 seconds into the outage, thanks to the transfer switch in our garage.

Of all the improvements we made when we moved here a couple of years ago, this is my favorite. It’s not that we need it that often. Mostly it’s the peace of mind. We’ll switch it off when we go to bed, and on again in the morning if necessary.

I feel almost guilty — but not quite — for being so unaffected by the widespread outage that hit my brother and his wife in Lake Wildwood, and most of this part of the county,  judging by our dark drive back from dinner at Cirino’s Main Street tonight.

The folks at Gray Electric did a terrific job sizing and installing this system. It’s never missed a beat.

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