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Which one of these is not like the others: That's so dumb. That's so stupid. That's so annoying. That's so gay. It may look obvious typed out, but often times it doesn't sound...
If the aim of human society is happiness, freedom, and prosperity, there are indeed many alternative ways to achieve this without endangering the earth and ourselves, and without leaving behind...
Tax day, April 15th, is a day of celebration in the United States. On this day we citizens of the great republic take pride in the fact that we can come together in a democratic society and make...
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Adapted from “Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change.” 1. The Boss Because my opinion matters. A lot. 2. The Ivory Tower Because you need a...
Among the big energy stories of 2013, “peak oil” -- the once-popular notion that worldwide oil production would soon reach a maximum level and begin an irreversible decline -- was thoroughly...
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In the last three years, Albuquerque police department officers have shot and killed 23 people -- one of the highest per capita fatal police shooting rates in the country. One of the most recent...
A new post-carbon era dawns as the old fossil fuel system dies. It's time to step up. Last Friday, I posted an exclusive report about a new NASA-backed scientific research project at the US...
So you’ve been to the playa, and you’ve seen the promised land – the promise of freedom, of self-expression, of immediacy and creativity and community. The playa fed you, and it changed you. It...
Here's something we'd love your help with. How can we capture the impact of Transition in numbers? We've done our best with what we can find, and we'd love to know what you would add from your local initiative. Any numbers you can put to your impact? Number of meetings? Amount of funding? Amount raised in a share option? Number of carrots grown on a train station? It's over to you. Let us know (use the comments box below), and we'll publish the final version at the end of the month...
The Impact of Transition in numbers
Number of countries with active TIs
Number of Transition initiatives registered with Transition Network
Number of initiatives in Japan registered with Transition Network
Number of initiatives in Japan registered on national Japanese Transition site
Percentage of those involved in Transition who are women
Subscribers to the Transition Network newsletter in March 2014
Subscribers to the Transition Network newsletter in January 2011
Number of people who have done Transition Training in the UK and US
Percentage of those still active in Transition 4 years after doing Transition Training
Number of UK pupils who have been involved in Transition Network's Schools in Transition pilot
Percentage of Bristol Mayor George Ferguson’s salary paid in Bristol Pounds
Number of members of the EU’s Economic & Social Committee who spent a day with their local Transition initiative
19 (all of them)
Percentage of TIs considering themselves “very” or “fairly successful”
Number of times ‘Transition’ appears in UK government’s ‘Community Energy Strategy’ (2014)
Number of Transition Trainers in the world
137 in 25 countries
Number of initiatives in Brazil registered with Transition Network
Number of initiatives in Brazil registered on national Brazilian Transition site
Number of people involved in the average successful TI
Transition Network’s Twitter followers
Percentage of TIs that are legally constituted
Theme most frequently tackled by TIs
Amount raised through share launch by Transition Bath/Corsham’s community energy company (Bath & West Community Energy)
Amount West Solent Solar Co-op (set up by New Forest Transition) is seeking to raise through shares for a community solar farm
Average percentage of TI core group members who’ve done Transition Training
Turnover of 20 highly replicable Transition-oriented enterprises identified by the REconomy Project
Number of people they employ between them
Number of national Transition hubs formulating a strategy to support REconomy type activity in their country
Outside temperature that didn’t put off 100 people from attending the first ever Latvian REconomy event
Percentage of TIs who think they are “not good at diversity”
Number of initiatives in Sweden registered with Transition Network
Number of initiatives in Sweden registered on national Swedish Transition site
Amount of CO2 saved per household by Transition Streets participants in Totnes
1.2 tonnes 5
Number of households in the town that took part
Amount of Google returns for the term ‘Transition Town’ (although some will also be people who live in towns and are undergoing gender realignment)
Number of times 2013 Guardian article about Transition was shared through social media
Number of weeks The Power of Just Doing Stuff was No 1. In the Guardian Bookstores best sellers list
Number of times In Transition 2.0 was viewed on YouTube in its first 6 weeks there
Number of page views on TransitionNetwork.org during 12 months up to March 2013.
Number of downloads for Transition Network’s 3 recent Economic Evaluation reports
Percentage of people for whom Transition is their first experience of activism
Number of States in the US where Transition is active
Number of languages in which In Transition 2.0 is subtitled.
Number of UK local currency schemes inspired through Transition
Bank of England’s estimate of amount of local currencies in circulation in the UK
And their estimate of the amount of Sterling in circulation
Percentage of TIs that are city-based
Percentage of TIs engaged in projects around food and growing
Number of initiatives in New Zealand registered with Transition Network
Number of initiatives in New Zealand registered on national Transition site
Number of Transition initiatives set up by local councils.
Percentage of TIs reporting “attracting wider interest” as their biggest obstacle
Percentage of TIs who have begun ‘building a bridge to local government’
Numbers of people estimated to read each edition of Transition Free Press
Number of people attending a Transition Training in Nagymágocs, a central-south Hungarian village.
8 (should have been more but “most of the participants chose to go to a pig slaughter instead”.
1: Feola G., R J Nunes (2013) Failure and Success of Transition Initiatives: a study of the international replication of the Transition Movement, Research Note 4. Walker Institute for Climate System Research, University of Reading, August 2013
2: Seyfang, G. (2009d) Transition Norwich: a fine city in Transition. Report of the 2009 Membership survey. University of East Anglia.
3: Haxeltine, A., Seyfang, G. (2009) Transitions for the People: theory and practice of ‘Transition’ and ‘Resilience’ in the UK’s Transition movement. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Working Paper 134.
4: Seyfang, G., Haxeltine, A. (2012) Growing grassroots innovations: exploring the role of community-based initiatives in governing sustainable energy transitions. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 2012, volume 30, pages 381 – 400
5: Beetham, H. (2011) Social Impacts of Transition Together SITT: Investigating the social impacts, benefits and sustainability of the Transition Together/Transition Streets initiative in Totnes. Research report, Transition Streets, (June 2011).
6: In Transition 2.0 is online at http://youtu.be/FFQFBmq7X84
Disclaimer: This piece is designed to challenge some prevailing attitudes of Class Struggle Anarchists in the US. The arguments should not be seen as a critique of individual behavior but rather of structural tendencies which hopefully will produce a constructive discussion.
It should be apparent to anyone viewing the labor movement in the US that it has arrived at a turning point. Despite economic stagnation and a reduction in comparative household wages, business unions are in a weaker position than they have been in almost 100 years. Meanwhile there seems to be a lack of discussion about how radical labor militants can seize this opportunity to become relevant… much less win. If we want a revolutionary change in economic and social structures, then it is necessary to build the power and capacity that can actually achieve it.
However, in order to build power, we must first determine where power lies. One such way is to map out economic and community structures and find out where anarchist militants can be the most useful. In labor organizing it is vital to understand the demographics and profit generation of specific industries, capital investment, percentage of GDP, modes of production (the manner and relationships of production), transportation choke points, and important utilities (such as power companies) just to name a few.
From there it is important to develop and prioritize a strategic orientation. What are the stages that the US needs to go through in order to actually overthrow the system? First the current period should be thought out. What are the current realities both in terms of where our strengths are and that of the rest of the left and working class, as well as our opponents? Is capital in advance or retreat? Are we in a moment of structural reorganization and if so, where in the country? Manufacturing may be shrinking in the Midwest but retooling in the Southwest and growing in the Southeast. There could be increasing mechanization in the ports, but also expansion to keep up with growing population demand. Food production may be shifting in scale, labor, and products as it becomes industrialized or shifts to accommodate trade agreements. But this must be researched to determine the exact material conditions that exist. Only then can we decide how to begin social insertion and develop mature national strategies.
Next, militants need to figure out realistic long term goals. Are we aiming for collectivization of industries? If so, then which ones would be the most necessary to focus on now and how will this actually be achieved? After the Spanish Revolution began in 1936 and the 1.6 million member Anarchist-Syndicalist Union (CNT) began the most widespread anarchist economic experiments in history, they only collectivized industries with:
- over 100 workers
- between 50-100 workers if 3/4ths voted for it
- Under 50 if a majority and the boss voted for it
- Workplaces of the most extreme strategic importance to the national economy
Of course we want all workers to be organized and have collectivized workplaces for everyone who wants it, but we cannot be utopian about revolutionary processes. There needs to be a new economy to replace the old one and there needs to be production, access to raw materials, and transportation as well as ideological and organizational structures placed over these modes. It is doubtful that a revolution could succeed without organization in these sectors and definitely could not sustain itself later. If we are going to focus on building our capacity, it follows that it should be in the most important industries. How is Starbucks or Jimmy Johns going to be a vital part of the new economy (or even a chokepoint in the current one)? This is not to say that people working there already shouldn’t be encouraged to organize, but as social/organized anarchists, we need to have a strategic orientation that will help us achieve our goals.
For example, if you want to organize at the chokepoints of capital flows—labor militants should get jobs in ports, rail container facilities, distribution centers, military and other strategic manufacturing, port truckers and light rail freight, general rail freight, natural resource extraction (oil, mining, etc), or maybe universities or healthcare centers. It all depends on what the organizational orientation is and what facts show is the most strategic geographically and on a wider scale. There should also be attempts at including locations that have queer workers, domestic workers, and others that aren’t predominantly (cis) male in the category of “strategic industries”.
From my experience in workplace organizing, I have come to the conclusion that under most circumstances, we should prioritize workplaces over 50 workers. According to the Sojourner Truth Organization, a Chicago based communist org that operated in “industrial concentration” (at the point of production) from 1969-85, workplaces with less than 50 workers often cannot afford the costs of having a union. They wrote that it is much cheaper to completely rehire the workforce or to move to a new location. Furthermore, if we are attempting to build a militant labor movement, then scale is important. How is a 5 person shift walkout or strike going to have an impact when much of the organizing needs to come from outside. Instead, think about a larger workforce who can take on the tasks themselves. They can have workers (or their family members) collecting for the strike fund at high trafficked areas, maintaining pickets or even blockades during all business hours (rather than select vigils or protests), set up strike camps, and collectively produce and distribute propaganda. If some or all of these activities are engaged by an outside union (such as the IWW), there is no growth of experience and worker capacity. Furthermore, there is no substantial effect on either capital or sectors of the working class.
To build an effective labor campaign in such workplaces, it will probably be necessary to always have two or more salts (a person who gets a job with the intention of unionizing) per workplace and at least one salt for every 50 workers. As anybody who has attempted to organize a workplace by themselves knows, it can be very isolating and discouraging. Even forming a small committee or finding one or two co-workers to start things can take time. Working as a team allows multiple shifts and workplace areas to be covered as well as providing useful feedback, cooperation, and a sense of forward movement. The sense of momentum and cooperation also gives confidence to both the salts and their co-workers who may be hesitant to risk their employment. From there it is important to map out the workplace (both the coworkers and the material conditions, assets, and limitations). Then plan an escalation strategy with metrics that is multiple steps ahead. If you aren’t moving forward, you will soon be moving backward.
For larger organization, it is important to set up jobs committees to help with resume building, job searching, interview questions, and recommendations. These committees should develop workers for insertion into strategic industries. Further activities include funding certifications (forklift, truck driving, TWIC cards, etc) and trade school classes in important jobs. One tactic for padding resumes is to find “dead factories” or work locations that are no longer operating to fill in work gaps and provide experience. Once some militants are able to get into targeted workplaces and industries, they will be able to help bring other people in and can mentor new people in unfamiliar jobs.
In order to accomplish such a strategic overhaul, the left in the US needs to move away from activist organizing towards long term work. Building power will require militants to choose sectors of importance and to stay involved in them in ways which build capacity in the rank and file. This is in very sharp contrast to the concept of activists which only organize people towards campaigns. Anarchist or Revolutionary labor strategies cannot focus only on wage increases and reforms as they will fail to achieve the structural change that we envision. That being said, wage and benefit increases can act as a gateway to radicalizing the rank and file. For this to be effective it is necessary to talk politics with co-workers. The problems on the job and the empowerment of collective action can further the argument for class consciousness, worker self- management, and other tenets of anarchism. In having these discussions, it is more important that workers act like anarchists than that they call themselves anarchists, but it is important to discuss the ideas behind anarchist thought, particularly if it relates to their actual lives. Doing so in a respectful and understanding manner is the best way to build trust and respect with co-workers, which is the key to cooperation. Such trust will also allow more gradual discussions on sexism, racism, and homophobia with co-workers. This long term agitation can be quite a commitment and thus should be focused in strategic ways.
Unfortunately, capacity building can be stymied by the existence of anarchist bureaucrats in the labor movement. As anarchists, we often envision a self-managed society from the bottom up that relies on the politicization, experience, and collective action of the workers and community members at the base. The problem with union staff is it does not encourage a rank and file strategy. At best it siphons away many experienced and devoted militants into working in the very business union bureaucracy we are combatting. At worst, it waters down politics in the IWW, and leads to business union modes of thinking and operating, while turning Wobblies (members of the IWW) and libertarian labor militants into shock troops for business union campaigns. Some have stated that this creates, “invaluable experience of union work” which cannot be obtained elsewhere. While there are plenty of cases of anarchists “learning the trade” through salt campaigns or as researchers for unions, this often comes at the expense of long term rank and file organizing and building the anarchist labor movement. Is there any evidence that this experience goes into developing rank and file work later? How many SEIU or Unite Here staffers go on to salt and build rank and file unions and caucuses after leaving? These are questions that must be asked and looked at honestly if we are to succeed.
In addition to paid union staffers, there are many anarchists who have taken union officer positions. These range from shop stewards to presidents of locals. This can have both pros and cons which need to be carefully fleshed out for their strategic orientation and the effect it has on the anarchist labor movement in the US. First the potential benefits:
Anarchists who have gained these positions due to rank and file surges within unions with more democratic structures can use these positions to increase democratic activity and combative action within their unions. They can also turn the unions into educational vehicles of struggle which can produce experienced anarchist militants. To do this, it would be necessary to use the positions to prepare and support the development of rank and file workplace organization. If not, elected anarchist officers (even those receiving substantial votes and support of the rank and file) risk turning into bureaucrats.
When positions are used poorly, Anarchist bureaucrats have called for strikes with short notice, with little rank and file feedback, and with little preparation. They have looked at board meetings as key decision making spaces rather than trying to develop shop floor democracy. Some get embroiled in negotiating committees, centralize knowledge, and waste time that can be spent helping the rank and file develop towards wider and more sustainable action. Democratizing the labor movement cannot just be called for and hoped to fall from the sky. It must be built and that means spending more time engaging the rank and file than participating in internal meetings. Radical slogans and symbolic arrests are no substitution for large scale militant participatory direct action.
So what is the alternative? We have to have rank and file workers to build capacity in the working class. While this seems obvious, it is currently very rare. We have far too many Anarchists who go to graduate school and then become stuck (owing to the pressures of academic work and debt) and isolated from the working class. Or they try to obtain jobs in NGOs and again become part of bureaucratic structures and demobilizing institutions. This is not to say that researchers and academics have no place in the labor movement. Statistics and mapping of actual material conditions are necessary to figure out strategy and tactics, but the most important work will be engaged by rank and file workers in their workplaces. While it can be possible to build relationships with workers in nearby industries, these will never be as strong as bonds forged through common work experiences and solidarity.
If one is fortunate enough to avoid such work, then it is a hard sell to devote years to working in these industries. There are very real economic pressures facing those in working class jobs. There is low pay, very few benefits, inflexible and changing schedules, and often mind numbing manual labor. However, the vast majority of working class people don’t have a choice. The concept of the American Dream rings hollow as real social mobilization is statistically unfounded. As a result, the only way to improve living conditions and to improve the lot of the working class is to build rank and file labor power at work.
- Research the current material conditions
- Describe the current period and what escalating features would result in more developed periods for the anarchist movement.
- Plan a strategy that takes into account strategic industries which can develop revolutionary conditions, defend the revolution, and later can be useful in a post capitalist economy
- Target workplaces that fit into the broader strategy, while being flexible
- Build rank and file capacity rather than bureaucracy
- Provide multiple salts per workplace
- Encourage political discussions at work that are tied into workplace actions and conditions
- Develop jobs committees which will act as the mechanism for insertion into strategic industries
Lots of lower- to middle-class people in this country dream of having lots of money and the security that comes with it. That doesn't end up happening for most of us. So sometimes we fight for what money we can get despite the consequences.
Take a look at what happened to Amanda Brown's family when they were confronted with this dilemma.
My wife and I are in the middle of the process of attempting to adopt children, and I’ve suspected all along that being straight, white, and middle-aged gives us a huge leg up. In fact, we have some gay friends who are also trying to adopt, and I always wonder how many kids they’re not considered for because of bias and bigotry inherent in the system.
Turns out, that bigotry can be codified into law.
And here's the data, in one big ol' image, which comes from here:
A jury in Dallas, TX today awarded $2.925 million to plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum Inc. for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr's property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.
The jury returned its 5-1 verdict confirming that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs' Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008-2011.
Plaintiffs attorneys claimed the case is “the first fracking verdict in U.S. history.”
The trial lasted two and a half weeks. Aruba Petroleum plans to appeal the verdict.
The pollution from natural gas production near the Parrs' Wise County home was so bad that they were forced to flee their 40-acre property for months at a time.
The Parrs were represented by attorneys David Matthews, Brad Gilde and Rich Capshaw.
“They’re vindicated,” said Mr. Matthews. “I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore. It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’ It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”
According to Mr. Matthews' blog post, the verdict included $275,000 for the Parr’s property loss of market value and $2 million for past physical pain and suffering by Bob and Lisa Parr and their daughter, $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering, $400,000 for past mental anguish.
The Parrs' petition to the court is attached below. The case was Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Inc., No. 11-1650 (Dallas Co. Ct. at Law, filed Mar. 2011)
Image credit: Fracking via ShutterstockAttachmentSize Parr - 11th Amended Petition.pdf372.7 KB Tags: frackinglawsuitaruba petroleum incBarnett ShaleBob and Lisa Parr
We’ve come a long way, but it’s still very real for millions of women each year.
There’s a number at the end of the video to call and some links below it. Please, please tell anybody you know who faces this kind of thing that there are ways out. It’s never easy. On average, it takes them leaving their partner/spouse seven times before it actually sticks, largely because exiting the relationship is the most dangerous time for her.
If you have friends who are abusive, it's time to have a serious conversation. I couldn't be friends with an abuser, but if I were, there's no way I could watch from the sidelines.
This comes with a trigger warning, as you can imagine. Heed it, please.
The music is originally Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street," but I can't find who performed this particular version.
The political carnival that is the prelude to the Iowa caucuses has started over a year and a half early. At the center of it this time around: a game of political hot potato over the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
American Petroleum Institute (API) deployed one of its paid consultants — former Obama Administration National Security Advisor General James “Jim” Jones — to deliver an Earth Day address in the home state of the presidential caucuses at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
James Jones used his time on the podium to promote the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which another James — retired NASA climatologist James Hansen — once called a “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”
“General James Jones…will discuss the benefits of the pipeline initiative, including more jobs, less dependence on foreign oil, and cheaper energy costs for Americans,” explained an April 15 Drake University press release promoting the event.
Gen. James Jones; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Days after the Obama Administration decided to delay making a decision on Keystone XL North until after the 2014 mid-term elections, API went on the offensive, with Jones acting as the group's surrogate.
API is using one of its numerous front groups that could factor most prominently during election season: the Iowa Energy Forum, chief sponsor and organizer of the event titled, “The Pipeline to National Security Discussion.”
Image Credit: Iowa Energy Forum Website Screenshot
An April 17 press release published in Des Moines' Business Record lists Matt Bierl of LS2group as the contact person. And a glance at the guest list for the Facebook event page for Drake University event shows eight of the 22 attendees work at LS2group.LS2group and the 2012 Elections
Mark Twain once quipped, “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
In that vein, rewind back to 2012 and the activities by Iowa Energy Forum before the Iowa caucuses, with PR efforts overseen by LS2group.
Among other things, former Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty — who ran for president in the 2012 GOP primaries — had two campaign advisers that wore two hats, Charles Larson Jr. and Karen Slifka. Both of them also worked for LS2group in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, where they work full-time now.
Both Larson and Slifka denied they were coordinating Iowa Energy Forum's agenda with the Pawlenty campaign in an interview with The Des Moines Register. But evidence suggests otherwise.
“Pawlenty’s new ad features people wearing Iowa Energy Forum shirts even though the ad doesn’t even mention energy issues,” explained an August 2011 article published on The Iowa Republican. “The people featured in the Pawlenty ad are Jennifer Cantrick and Maddison Abboud, two summer interns that were hired to work for the Iowa Energy Forum by Larson and Slifka’s firm.”
Further, Iowa Energy Forum also made an appearance at the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll held in Ames, Iowa and did so in style.
“An air-conditioned 'igloo' paid for by the Iowa Energy Forum will rise up from the straw poll campus in Ames next month, an attraction meant to woo Iowans’ affection with free treats, kids’ rides and displays about energy technology,” explained an article in The Des Moines Register. “The Republican Party of Iowa has received $100,000 from the organization.”Drake Students Protest Event
In response to Jones' jaunt to campus, Drake University students held a protest outside of his speaking engagement.
“There is no Planet B, this project won’t create jobs, it will raise gas prices in the Midwest, and none of these other issues matter if catastrophic climate change destroys the ability of the Earth to sustain human, plant, and animal life,” Drake students Jade Suganuma and John Noble said in a statement provided to DeSmogBlog.
Activist group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement provided DeSmogBlog with some photos of the protest and The Des Moines Register produced a short video segment on it, too.
Political Hot Potato Begins Anew
As with the 2012 campaign cycle, it appears Keystone XL will be tossed around in 2014 by those candidates on the take of Big Oil as a political hot potato in the aftermath of the Obama Administration's election-year punt.
The Drake University event featuring Gen. James Jones, then, likely just portends far more to come. After all, campaign season has really only just begun.Jim JonesAmerica's Energy Forumjames jonesEarth Dayfront groupsastroturfIowa CausesIowa Energy ForumAPIAmerican Petroleum InstituteKeystone XLTransCanadatar sandsoil sandsbitumendilbitDes Moines Register
As the United States steps up covert drone strikes on Yemen, with three suspected U.S. drone attacks killing at least four people in Yemen early this month, campaigners on the ground say the...
Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn't it? Too bad it's not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few...
Eating trendy food like kale may seem cool, or at least relatively harmless. But a closer look at this "food gentrification" reveals a disturbing fact: the harm it does to low-income families.