Jon Stewart Finds Ordinary People More Sane than Most Cable News

Here’s a moment from the Rally to Restore Sanity. (See video below).

Jon Stewart, in words that mix humor with seriousness, talks about the forces in our culture (chiefly 24-hour cable news) that promote divisiveness and — presumably — insanity.

Speaking to the great mass of us who are “in the middle,” Stewart says:

“The inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more … “

“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate. And how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. The truth is that we do.

“We work together to get things done every damn day …

“Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

“Most American don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives.

“Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do, often something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises we all make …

“Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. It’s just New Jersey.”

Pennsylvania Township Declares Freedom from Fracking

Published by Yes! Magazine October 27, 2010

Licking, Pennsylvania defies state law by banning corporations from dumping fracking wastewater.

by Mari Margil, Ben Price

In Pennsylvania—a central target for natural gas drilling and the controversial drilling practice known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—local communities don’t have the legal authority to keep unwanted drilling from happening.

As fracking’s impacts on water safety make headlines and public resistance to drilling grows, some towns have tried to use land use zoning to keep drilling companies out—but they can’t use zoning laws to stop an activity the state has declared legal. (At best, they can zone where the corporations site their drill pads. But since drilling is not vertical but horizontal, there’s no way to contain its impact on a community’s water and environment.)

Taking local control

One small community in western Pennsylvania wanted more say over what happens within its borders. Licking Township, population 500, chose to defy state law with its own local ordinance, banning corporations from dumping fracking wastewater within its borders. Licking sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that contains large and mostly untapped natural gas reserves. On Oct. 12, 2010, the Licking Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban corporations from dumping fracking wastewater within the township.

“When it comes to land use issues and the preservation of important resources, the local community is best suited to set priorities as they feel impacts most acutely,” said Mik Robertson, chairman of the Licking Township Supervisors.

Pennsylvania’s preferential laws for drilling companies are not unique. For years, the drilling industry has worked closely with government to pave the way for widespread drilling, eliminating regulatory barriers that may stand in its way. The so-called “Halliburton Loophole” was inserted into the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to exempt companies drilling for natural gas, including those drilling in the Marcellus Shale (which extends from New York to West Virginia) from having to comply. Corporations have also been exempted from a host of other laws and regulations, and states have enacted laws pre-empting municipalities from taking steps to reign in the industry.

The residents of Licking felt that they should be the ones to decide what happens in their township. “People have the right to determine what is suitable for their community, as they are most directly affected by intended or unintended consequences of resource extraction,” said Robertson.

The dangers of fracking

The residents of Licking aren’t alone in their concerns about fracking. Across the Appalachian highlands, residents worried about the health effects of fracking have been calling on their elected officials to protect them. In New York, a citizen movement convinced the state Senate to place a 9-month moratorium on the practice while its safety is evaluated. However, the moratorium is only temporary and has not been voted into state law.

Fracking involves pumping water laced with sand and a cocktail of chemicals underground to fracture the shale rock and release the natural gas. In the process, thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater are produced and can contaminate waterways and drinking water.  Natural gas wells are often driven through aquifers.

The impacts from drilling can include exploding wells, groundwater contamination, and fish kills. Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined cattle believed to have drunk from a frack wastewater spill.  Their milk was no longer considered safe to drink.

A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo found that fracking also releases uranium trapped in the rock, raising additional health concerns.

Collateral damage includes lost property value, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and the threatened loss of organic certification for farmers. And it’s not only rural communities feeling the pressure. In Pittsburgh and Buffalo (both of which straddle the Marcellus), gas extraction corporations have quietly signed leases with landowners to drill under the surface.

A new direction

Drafted with the help of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the “Licking Township Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance” is the first of its kind in the nation.

The City of Pittsburgh is also considering a CELDF-drafted ordinance, which is scheduled for a vote on November 16. With an expected veto-proof majority of City Council members in favor, that ordinance would impose an outright ban on gas drilling by corporations within city limits. Communities across the Marcellus Shale region, including Lehman Township in eastern Pennsylvania, are also considering CELDF ordinances that would ban corporations from drilling or from extracting water to use in drilling.

In addition to banning corporate disposal of frack wastewater, Licking Township’s ordinance asserts the right to local self-government and the community’s right to a healthy environment and to clean water. In adopting the ordinance, Licking joins more than a dozen other communities in legally recognizing the rights of nature and subordinating corporate constitutional rights to the rights of human and natural communities.

By recognizing the rights of nature, Licking is effectively protecting ecosystems and natural communities within the township from efforts by corporations to drill there—or by higher levels of governments to authorize that drilling. Residents of the community are empowered by the ordinance to enforce those rights on behalf of threatened ecosystems.

By prohibiting the introduction of frack wastewater into the Township’s environment, Licking’s new law effectively blocks hydro-fracturing. Critics of the ordinance claim that, by denying corporations that violate its prohibitions the civil rights protections conferred on them by the courts, the ordinance goes too far.

Robertson responds to these charges, saying, “People have rights, like the gifts of nature. People have rights to property. Property does not have rights. Corporations are property.”

Corporations may sue to overturn the ordinance, with the argument that it violates their corporate constitutional rights. Such a lawsuit would finally raise imperative questions about whose rights trump whose: Do the court-endowed privileges of corporations override the inalienable rights of the people and ecosystems of Licking Township, nullifying their claim to have a legal right to their health, safety, and welfare? Or does the community have the right to make critical decisions to protect its well-being—and that of the ecosystems upon which it depends?

Mari Margil and Ben Price wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Mari is the associate director and Ben is projects director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit, public interest law firm providing legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, agriculture, economy, and quality of life.


  • The Fight Against Fracking
    How New Yorkers won a moratorium on a drilling practice that threatens their lives, homes, and water.
  • How Felton, Calif., Achieved Water Independence: A tiny Californian town took back its water supply—and your town can too.
  • Communities Take Power: Communities across the country are declaring citizens’ right and duty to protect their water, land, local economy, and way of life, even if it means taking on the enormous power of corporations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

“Obama No Longer Bothering to Lie Credibly”

Yves Smith, author of the book, Econned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism, and blogger at the website Naked Capitalism, is not usually prone to angry outbursts.

But Obama’s assertion (while talking to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show yesterday) that the recent financial crisis cost less than the S&L crisis of the 1980s, really provoked her.

“Obama claims the cost of this crisis will be less than 1% of GDP, versus 2.5% for the savings and loan crisis.” On the contrary, according to Smith, the total cost of cleaning up the S&L mess was on the order of $150 billion,while the full cost of our current crisis is something like one to five times total GDP! This is, of course, in the tens of trillions.

” … if you want a better tally of the true costs of the financial crisis, the Bank of England’s Anthony Haldane comes up with much greater damage, precisely because he also considers the costs citizens know all too well, such as painfully high unemployment and drastic state and local government budget cuts. He estimates the cost of the global financial crisis, when you include the biggest item, output losses, at one to five times global GDP.”

We are having, she says:

” … a slow motion train wreck in the biggest asset class in the world, US residential mortgages. Anyone who thinks this isn’t going to result in a real toll on the balance sheets of the biggest banks is unduly optimistic. Banking industry experts Josh Rosner and Chris Whalen each expect another bailout in the not-terribly-distant future. So add more to the ultimate cost of the financial crisis.”

Why is Obama lying?

” Regulators are engaging in other forms of regulatory forbearance (finance speak for letting them cook their books), plus asset values are generally artificially high due to near zero policy interest rates. So we have what amount to baked in losses if rates ever get back to something resembling normal levels …”

“But Team Obama is no doubt rationalizing this chicanery: if they can keep from recognizing losses until the recovery takes place, then the ultimate damage will be lower. But Japan’s post bubble record shows that doesn’t work. You simply don’t get a recovery with a diseased financial system. You need to purge the bad assets, only then will meaningful growth resume.”

That’s it in a nutshell. There’s a stinking mess of rotting fish — bad mortgages — at the center of this crisis, and the crisis will not fully run its course until the losses from these mortgages are openly resolved. Today they are still being carried on the books as if they are full-valued assets.

See Smith’s full article here.

Double-Dip Recession With No End in Sight

The following graph, posted by Rick Davis on the Global Economic Index website, shows that we are in a double-dip recession that has not clearly yet bottomed-out on the second dip:

On October 20, 2010 the aggregate severity of the 2010 contraction in consumer demand surpassed the similar measure of economic pain experienced during the “Great Recession.” And a glance at our “Contraction Watch” tells us that the pain is not about to end anytime soon:


In the above chart, the day-by-day courses of the 2008 and 2010 contractions are plotted in a superimposed manner, with the plots aligned on the left margin at the first day during each event that our Daily Growth Index went negative. The plots then progress day-by-day to the right, tracing out the changes in the daily rate of contraction in consumer demand for the two events.

The true severity of any contraction event is the area between the “zero” axis in the above chart and the line being traced out by the daily contraction values. By that measure the “Great Recession of 2008″ had a total of 793 percentage-days of contraction over the course of 221 days, whereas the current 2010 contraction has reached 820 percentage-days over the course of 282 days — without yet clearly forming a bottom. The damage to the economy is already 3% worse than in 2008, and the 2010 contraction has lasted 28% longer than the entire 2008 event without yet starting to recover.

See complete article here.

“Are We Seeing a Repeat of the Brownshirts?”

From Thom Hartmann’s blog today:

Are We Seeing a Repeat of the Brownshirts?

You Need to know this! An ugly scene took place outside the Kentucky Senatorial debate Monday night. A man who appears to be supporter of Republican candidate Rand Paul was captured on TV by a local news affiliate literally stomping the head of a member of into the pavement. The MoveOn volunteer, Lauren Valle, went to the hospital and was still there last night, according to another MoveOn member.

According to a local TV station, Valle had attempted to approach Rand Paul before the debate took place, dressed in a blonde wig and with a “RepublicanCorp” sign seemingly to mock him. Attendees around Valle are heard screaming, “get the cops” as cameras captured her being dragged to the pavement by her sweater. Once on the ground a man wearing white sneakers stomped on her head. The police say they are reviewing news footage and they “are hoping someone can identify who the person is” who committed the assault.

I know Glenn Beck irresponsibly throws around the word “Nazi” – he did it again yesterday – to describe liberals. But it’s worth noting that Hitler’s early supporters, during his beer-hall days when he was running for office, were famous for beating up supporters of his political opponents. If you read William Shirer’s “Rise And Fall of the Third Reich,” you’ll find eerie parallels – from the authoritarian candidates like Paul and Miller, to the violent rhetoric of Palin and McCain, to the brutal supporters of these candidates – with Hitler’s early unpaid volunteer supporters who proudly called themselves “the Brownshirts.”

UPDATE: Assault perpetrator identified.

Full story in Huffington Post here.
“A spokesman for the Lexington Police Department said on Tuesday afternoon that “Mr. Profitt is currently being served with a criminal summons ordering him to appear before a Fayette County District Court Judge.”

The Most Devastating Ad of the Election

Ezra Kline of the Washington Post calls this 30-second ad “the most devastating ad of the election.”

And, as he points out, “it’s mostly positive.”

Serpentine Gallery: Maps for the 21st Century

More goodies came to me in email this morning, this one (from the Edge newsletter) about the Serpentine Gallery: Maps for the 21st Century.

Click on the Serpentine link above and you will be taken to the first map in a gallery of 57 fascinating maps.

Here are a few examples.

The creator of the following map (“The True Size of Africa”) , Kai Krause, explains how he hopes it will overcome “immappancy:”

“A map about the complete inability of the general public to gauge the relative sizes and distances, the areas, the population….Often there are extremely basic assumptions with distortions that would be hilarious, if they weren’t at the same time so deeply sad as well…Analogous to illiteracy and innumeracy I coined the term “immappancy.”


Here’s a map created by theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. He explains it:

“A somewhat fanciful depiction of a multiverse consisting of a background empty spacetime giving birth to baby universes, as proposed in my 2004 paper with Jennifer Chen. Artwork by Jason Torchinsky.”


This one is by physicist Gino Segré. He says:

“A temperature map of the Universe 400,000 years after the Big Bang.This was the end of thermal equilibrium and the beginning of all we see now.”


A Vote for the GOP Will Make Things Worse!

I considered a different title (such as “More Tax Cuts and Deregulation, Tra La La!”) for this short post about Paul Krugman’s latest column.

Krugman’s own title is “Falling Into the Chasm.”

Here’s what he has to say:

“This is what happens when you need to leap over an economic chasm — but either can’t or won’t jump far enough, so that you only get part of the way across.

“If Democrats do as badly as expected in next week’s elections, pundits will rush to interpret the results as a referendum on ideology. President Obama moved too far to the left, most will say, even though his actual program — a health care plan very similar to past Republican proposals, a fiscal stimulus that consisted mainly of tax cuts, help for the unemployed and aid to hard-pressed states — was more conservative than his election platform.

“A few commentators will point out, with much more justice, that Mr. Obama never made a full-throated case for progressive policies, that he consistently stepped on his own message, that he was so worried about making bankers nervous that he ended up ceding populist anger to the right.”

Krugman — like all of us who are criticizing Obama for his too timid policies — still wants the President to succeed. We’re all in the same boat, after all.

” … the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn’t passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed.

“The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.

“The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.”

If Republicans — as generally expected — do make big gains in this midterm election, gridlock is what we’ll get … a recipe for more misery.

Read Krugman’s full article here.

Effective Pro-Brown Ad: “Echo”

Here’s an effective pro-Brown ad that — no matter who you support — you have to admit does not fling any dirt.

It just makes a fascinating comparison, and let’s you draw whatever conclusion you want to draw from it:

Joan Baez: John Lennon’s “Imagine”

More interesting stuff arrived today in email.

Rob Kall posted this crude little video (below) in OpEdNews, of Joan Baez recently singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was taken with an iPhone.

She’s 70 now and her voice is a lot more tentative than I remember it in the seventies when we lived on the Peninsula in the Bay Area and our son went to the same day care center as her son, Gabe (Thacher Day Care at the Unitarian Church on East Charleston Street in Palo Alto). They were fast friends, and we “baby-sat” Gabe on one occasion.

Joan was always the fierce peace activist, and some people found her righteous demeanor intimidating.

Our son — then probably about age five — told us one evening, after we picked him up from a day full of fantasy games with Gabe and fun at Thacher, that he and Gabe were going to be cops when they grew up and “shoot each other.”

I thought this was such a hoot — considering Joan’s dedicated peace work — that I couldn’t wait to tell her this anecdote, which I finally did a day or so later as we were dropping our kids off at Thacher.

She didn’t laugh.

Funny how music can bring back such a  flood of memories.

Here she is — a couple of nights ago — singing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song — like so much of the sixties idealism — that now makes me wonder if we ever really did believe these dreams.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

You may say we are dreamers
But we’re not the only ones
I hope someday they’ll join us
And the world will be one

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living for today …

You may say we are dreamers
But we’re not the only ones
I hope someday they’ll join us
And the world will be one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if I can
No need for greed or hunger
A family of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say we are dreamers
But we’re not the only ones
I hope someday they’ll join us
And the world will live as one.

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