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The Gilded Age

 

And the Gilded Cage:

Americans Poorer Today than Past 27 Years

 

**ZZ Top & Jeff Beck VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

What do you get?  Another day older and deeper in debt.

Once upon a time, the American economy worked for everybody, and even the middle class got richer.

But this story has only been a fairy tale for almost 30 years now.  The new, harsh reality is that the bottom 90 percent of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.

This is actually a much more dramatic statement than it sounds. While the Federal Reserve has already told us that the median households are worth less now than in 1989 — that’s the household right in the middle — it turns out that everybody but the richest 10 percent of Americans are worst off.  

That includes the poor, the entire middle class, and even what we would consider much of the upper class.

The days of shared prosperity have come to an end, gradually and then suddenly.  It started in the 1980s when the top 1 percent awoke from their long postwar slumber, thanks to the combination of lower taxes, financial deregulation, and new technology.  

It wasn’t a total disaster for the bottom 90 percent.  Even as most Americans saved much less and accumulated far less wealth, stock markets and housing prices continued to rise.  Until they didn’t: crashing down in 2007 and 2008.

The problem was that middle class doesn’t own that much in stocks, but went into debt to buy lots of housing.  So the housing crash turned their biggest financial asset into an albatross, wiping out their equity but not their debt.

Here’s a bit of historical perspective:

The top 1 percent now own over 41 percent of all the wealth in the country.  That’s the most since 1939.  Although it’s still well below the all-time high of 51 percent set in 1928.

In other words:  this new Gilded Age might get even more Gilded.

~Via The Washington Post/YouTube

* * * * * * * *

In the early 1950s, Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded his classic country song Sixteen Tons

The song went to #1, and refers to a man working in a mining town where the company owned most everything in town– including the company store.  A laborer working hard all day long loading his sixteen tons of coal could only expect to get “another day older and deeper in debt.”

ZZ Top and Jeff Beck, above, put their own riff on Ford’s tune.

 

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Turning Public Education Into Private Profit

 

One Businessman is Cashing In

 

**Viral VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

This post first appeared at ProPublica and versions of this story were co-published with Bill Moyers, The Daily Beast, the Raleigh News & Observer, and a host of others.

…The epic rap battle between Sir Issac Newton vs. Bill Nye ‘the Science Guy’ doesn’t necessarily apply.  Please forgive us here.  It was just a fun thing to toss into the mix and we couldn’t resist doing it.

 

In late February, the North Carolina chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation — a group co-founded by the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers — embarked on what it billed as a statewide tour of charter schools, a cornerstone of the group’s education agenda.  The first — and it turns out, only — stop was Douglass Academy, a new charter school in downtown Wilmington.

Douglass Academy was an unusual choice.  A few weeks before, the school had been warned by the state about low enrollment.  It had just 35 students, roughly half the state’s minimum.  And a month earlier, a local newspaper had reported that federal regulators were investigating the school’s operations.

But the school has other attributes that may have appealed to the Koch group.  

The school’s founder, a politically active North Carolina businessman named Baker Mitchell, shares the Kochs’ free-market ideals.  His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization and, if all goes well, very healthy corporate profits.

In that regard, Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving.  Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to the  for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell.  Their desks.  Their computers.  The training they provide to teachers.  Most of the land and buildings.  Supplies.  Unlike traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there is no competitive bidding.  And no haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations.  The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell.  It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff.  It handles most of the bookkeeping.  The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company.  The two organizations even share a bank account.

Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ nonprofit board, which Mitchell was on at the time — an arrangement that is illegal in many other states.

Charter schools are privately run government-funded schools that are supposed to be open to all.  Policymakers and many parents have embraced charters as an alternative to poorly performing and underfunded traditional public schools.  As charters have grown in popularity, an industry of management companies like Mitchell’s has sprung up to assist them.

Many of these companies are becoming political players in their states, working to shape the still-emerging set of rules charters must play by.  A few, including Mitchell’s company, have aligned themselves with influential conservative groups, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Koch-supported American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

This new reality — in which businesses can run chains of public schools — has spurred questions about the role of profit in public education and whether more safeguards are needed to prevent corruption.  The U.S. Department of Education has declared the relationships between charter schools and their management companies, both for-profit and nonprofit, a “current and emerging risk” for misuse of federal dollars.

The Department of Education is conducting a wide-ranging look at such relationships.  In the last year alone, the FBI sent out subpoenas as part of an investigation into a Connecticut-based charter-management company and raided schools that are part of a New Mexico chain and a large network of charter schools spanning Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Two of Mitchell’s former employees told ProPublica they have been interviewed by federal investigators.  Mitchell says he does not know if his schools are part of any inquiry and has not been contacted by any investigators.

To Mitchell, his schools are simply an example of the triumph of the free market.  “People here think it’s unholy if you make a profit” from schools, he said in July, while attending a country-club luncheon to celebrate the legacy of free-market sage Milton Friedman.

It’s impossible to know how much Mitchell is taking home in profits from his companies.  He’s fought to keep most of the financial details secret.  Still, audited financial statements show that over six years, companies owned by Mitchell took in close to $20 million in revenue from his first two schools.  Those records go through the middle of 2013.  Mitchell has since opened two more schools.

Many in the charter-school industry say that charter schools are more accountable than traditional public schools because, as Mitchell is fond of saying, “parents can shut us down overnight.  They stop bringing their kids here?  We don’t get any money.”

Moreover, Mitchell said, students at his two more established schools have produced higher test scores at lower costs than those in traditional public schools: “Maybe Baker Mitchell gets a huge profit.  Maybe he doesn’t get any profit.  Who cares?”

But many charter supporters question that perspective.  

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a group that promotes best practices for overseeing charter schools, says schools should be independent from their contractors.  Mitchell’s dual roles as both a charter-school board member and a vendor, for instance, are a blatant violation of those standards.

“This kind of conflict of interest is what I would consider shocking,” said Parker Baxter, a program director for the group.

“This isn’t as if one of the board members happens to own a chalk company where they buy chalk from, and he recused himself from buying chalk,” he said.  “This is the entire management and operation of the school.”

Mitchell was pushed by North Carolina regulators to step down from his schools’ board last fall, a move he derides as unnecessary.  

“It’s so silly,” Mitchell told ProPublica.  “Undue influence, blah blah blah.”

But concerns about his influence continued even after he stepped down.

One board member resigned in frustration over the role of Mitchell’s company.  Two others also quit around the same time.  Mitchell still serves as secretary for the board, taking notes and doing the meeting minutes.  

Asked about frustrations among board members over his involvement, Mitchell simply said, “Everybody’s free to their own opinion.”

An excerpt, you can read Bill Moyer’s full article here.

~Via Bill Moyers

 

 

 

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Major Breakthrough Announced in Nuclear Fusion

 

Back to the Nuclear Future:

One Mighty (and small) Reactor in the Mix

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

They’re restarting the Atomic Age with a big bang.

The largest military contractor in the United States is developing a nuclear fusion reactor that is small enough to fit on the back of a truck– but has the ability to produce enough energy to power a warship.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement released today that its secretive Skunk Works division — the unit responsible for the U-2 spy plane and F-117 stealth jet — has applied for several patents related to the high-tech reactor it has in the works, and expects it to be deployed during the next decade if interested industry and government partners sign on soon.

It is a revolutionary breakthrough for nuclear fusion.

“Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” said Tom McGuire, the compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs.  “The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) in less than a year.”

According to an article published by Reuters today, McGuire told reporters that the Skunk Works has already successfully shown the company can build a 100-megawatt reactor that measures seven by 10 feet, or around 10 times smaller than what is currently available.

Next, the Lockheed division wants to have a prototype ready within five years; and then, within ten years, have the unit ready to be deployed.

“A small reactor could power a US Navy warship,” Andrea Shalal wrote for Reuters, “and eliminate the need for other fuel sources that pose logistical challenges.”

The energy created through nuclear fusion can be up to four-times more powerful that the energy released by fission, Lockheed claims on its website, and a small-enough reactor like the one being developed by Skunk Works could provide enough power for a town of 100,000 people, according to the contractor.

“To mimic the energy created by the sun and control it here on earth, we’re creating a concept that can be contained using a magnetic bottle.  The bottle is able to handle extremely hot temperatures, reaching hundreds of millions of degrees.  By containing this reaction, we can then release it in a controlled
fashion to create energy we can use,” Lockheed explained on its
site.

“The heat energy created using this compact fusion reactor will drive turbine generators by replacing the combustion chambers with simple heat exchangers.  In turn, the turbines will then generate electricity or the propulsive power for a number of applications,” Lockheed said.

If successful, Lockheed’s latest effort “could change civilization as we know it,” Gizmodo predicted on Wednesday, by giving the world a portable power source unlike anything now available.

“It’s one of the reasons we think it is feasible for development and future economics,” Skunk Work’s McGuire told Aviation Week recently with regards to the reactor’s size.

“Ten times smaller is the key.  But on the physics side, it still has to work, and one of the reasons we think our physics will work is that we’ve been able to make an inherently stable configuration,” McGuire said.

~Via RT, Lockheed Martin, YouTube

 

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Texas Nurse with Protective Gear Gets Ebola

 

First Person to Contract Deadly Disease Within US

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humbodt Sentinel

 

 

The government is telling the nation’s hospitals to ‘‘think Ebola’’ after a Texas nurse became the first person to contract Ebola within the United States yesterday.

“Stopping Ebola is hard.  Every hospital must know how to diagnose Ebola in people who have been in West Africa and be ready to isolate a suspected case,” Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said Monday.

Many local, state and federal officials want to find out how the nurse became infected. 

The CDC is scrambling to interview all staff of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who could have been exposed to the original patient, a Liberian man who became sick after traveling to the United States and died at the hospital.  Anyone at risk will be monitored, Friedan said.

The new Ebola patient has been identified as critical care nurse Nina Pham.  Hospitals officials said that she helped treat Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died less than a week ago in Dallas.  

Officials believe she may have violated safety protocols and became infected with the deadly virus, although they don’t know and can’t explain how that may have happened.

Prior to Pham becoming infected, she was not among the other 48 health care workers, relatives of Duncan, and others whom the hospital was evaluating daily.

This is the first confirmed case of Ebola transmitted in the U.S.  The mode of transmission has not been identified, and Duncan, the original case, was in quarantined isolation at the time.

According to The New York Times, Pham always wore her protective gear.  She monitored additional places and people at risk of contracting the disease. 

The details as to how she contracted the disease is important, reported The Daily Beast.  The news of Ebola being contracted in the U.S. raises fears of health care workers across the country who have become increasingly nervous. 

Many physicians, nurses and health care workers have become anxious about possibly handling Ebola cases. The confirmation of the second Ebola case in Dallas opened more doubts in the minds of health care workers. 

The CDC said it would conduct a nationwide training conference call on Tuesday to prepare thousands of health care workers for treating patients with Ebola. 

“The care of Ebola patients can be done safely, but it’s hard to do it safely,” Frieden said.  ”Even a single, inadvertent innocent slip can result in contamination.”

“A lot of us are starting to get worried,” said Debra Buccellato, an emergency room nurse in Santa Rosa, California.

Buccellato said she has not received any training, nor has she seen anyone else being trained on how to treat an Ebola patient.

The latest Ebola case, the unknown way it spread, and Friedan’s comments raises questions about the assurances given by health officials in the United States that the disease will be contained, and that any American hospital should be able to treat it.

Ebola patients aren’t contagious until they begin experiencing symptoms.  As they get sicker, they become more infectious and the amount of virus in their bodily fluids increases — putting those caring for them at greater
risk. 

Nonetheless, a top federal health official said earlier in the day authorities should consider requiring Ebola patients be moved to specialized ‘‘containment’’ hospitals.

Patients with Ebola often die before they can infect others, so past outbreaks of Ebola haven’t spread very far.  This time, however, is markedly different.  Already, 3,400 people have died, more than in all previous Ebola outbreaks combined.  And the numbers are expected to keep climbing.

“We’ve stopped every Ebola outbreak from Africa– except this one,” Friedan said.

With Ebola infections increasing, and the death toll rising, the World Health Organization is now calling Ebola “the most severe acute public health emergency we’ve seen in modern times.”

 

 

 

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The Government War on the Garden of Eden

 

 

An Eco-Community Under Assault

 

**VIDEO** by We Are Change

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Paradise Lost.

Dedicated to living sustainably by raising fresh food, utilizing earthen materials for building projects, and facilitating “a human’s highest potential,” the Garden of Eden is an alternative community– providing food, shelter and sustainability education classes and workshops freely to the public since 2009.

Their 3.5 acres of land contains chickens, bees, composting stations, a large vegetable garden and many wildcrafted trees and plants that are used for foods, medicines, and household and beauty products.  Their vision is to be a fully self-sustaining center for education on sustainable living.

We Are Change’s Luke Rudkowski traveled to Dallas, Texas, to meet with Quinn Eaker of the Garden of Eden community.  In the video above, Eaker relates the Garden of Eden’s mission and how recent actions from the city and state has harassed, intimidated, fined, and threatened the very existence of their small community.

Here’s what happened.

In August of 2013, Arlington police raided a sustainable farm called the Garden of Eden looking for an extensive marijuana enterprise.

They didn’t find any weed.  Or a cannabis enterprise of any sort.  And the city still won’t release documents explaining why it erroneously believed the property was a drug empire.

In a warrant to search the premises, Arlington police cited a host of tips that the small farm was harvesting marijuana.  

That intelligence was unreliable, however, and Arlington police aren’t disclosing the reports that led to the warrant and August 2, 2013 raid at the little eco-community on Mansfield-Cardinal Rd.

The city claims those documents are privileged and not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request.  Quinn is awaiting a ruling from the Texas Attorney General to obtain those documents.

In the meantime, the city did provide 68 pages of correspondence and citations with the Garden of Eden dating back to February 2013.  Inexplicably, the city also handed over an audio recording of a public hearing on code violations at the garden titled, “Lady VIP:  Dare to be Rich.”

Property owner Shellie Smith vigorously denied many of the minor code violations, saying what she did on her property was none of the city’s business– provided no one was harmed by her actions.  No one was.

On August 5, code compliance officers took matters into their own hands, aggressively remedying high weeds and grass, improper outside storage of materials, hazardous wiring, improperly stacked firewood and “the misuse of an extension cord.”

Smith was also cited for running a home business without a permit.

It’s a laundry list of minor violations to be sure.  And it hardly calls for a tactical SWAT team and narcotics detectives to be on the scene as Eaker described.       

In the process of hauling away scrap wood, furniture and other items, Eaker, a Garden of Eden founder, said authorities destroyed 17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants, and numerous native grasses and sunflowers.

“The primary inhabitants at the Garden of Eden have spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours of attention to the matters brought upon them by the City of Arlington, none of which have been honorable in any way,” Eaker said.

“It has been a very heavy burden, and has slowed down the progress of community and sustainable growth in many ways,” he added.

For now, the issue appears to be at a bit of a standstill.  Months after the failed ‘drug raid’, the Garden of Eden has yet to get any answers from authorities.

Perhaps the officials-that-be didn’t like the eco-groovy, alternative laid back lifestyle, the lack of structured discipline, naked kids, beautiful sunflowers, and the ukulele-strumming going on.  That may fit fine into the Humboldt lifestyle, but remember this is Texas, after all. 

Eaker says the city is attempting to recoup around $20,000 in fines, but the garden has no plans to pay up.  In fact, Eaker has submitted his own bill to the city in the form of an affidavit of damages.

“They have no idea what they are getting into,” Eaker says.  “They think I’m a lazy dope-smoking hippie, and they are completely wrong.  We will destroy them in court.  Everything is on our side.”

Eaker says he’s spent thousands of hours studying the law since the ordeal began, and he’s prepared to defend the rights of himself and his family, who also live on the farm.

“The issue is that we have been following due process of law since February,” Eaker says.  “We have established that they have no jurisdiction.  They have no authority to tell us what we can and can’t
do with our land.”

 

~Via We Are Change, Culture Map, Quinn Eaker,
the Garden of Eden, and YouTube

* * * * * * * * * *

Currently Quinn Eaker is looking for legal representation to keep the Garden of Eden going.

They ask that if you could help, please contact http://www.intothegardenofeden.com or gardenofedenvortex@gmail.com.

 

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Police Turning Schools Into War Zones

 

Teddy Bears, Machine Guns, and MRAPs for Kids

 

**Colbert Report VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Schools need military-grade equipment and weapons?

School police departments across the US have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, stocking up on mine-resistant armored vehicles, grenade launchers and scores of machine guns, as Stephen Colbert reports above.

The Los Angeles Unified School District and other school districts around the country have been receiving military-grade weapons through the federal Department of Defense’s 1033 program, reported Rolling Stone magazine.

The program, which authorizes the transfer of excess Defense materials to federal, state and local agencies for law enforcement purposes, gained notoriety after protests in Ferguson, Missouri were met with a hyper-militarized response by the police.

According to the Washington Post, several groups including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to the Department of Defense asking them to stop distributing weapons to school law enforcement agencies.

Compiling data from the Defense Logistics Agency and a number of media reports, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Texas Appleseed paints a disturbing picture of the program’s reach into K-12 schools.

At least five school districts in Texas have been outfitted with materials through the program, including one with a SWAT team; at least five districts in California, with both San Diego and Los Angeles receiving Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs); as well as a number of other states including Utah, Georgia, Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Nevada that received materials ranging from blankets and laptops to assault rifles.

For example, Pinellas County School police is the only K-12 district in Florida to receive surplus military tactical equipment.  It received two armored
trucks, two MRAPs and 22 M16 automatic rifles. 

Why?  No one knows for sure.

It also goes beyond the K-12 level at schools.  Colleges are also recipients of surplus weapons. 

Florida International University received an MRAP and 49 M16 rifles.  The University of North Florida got eleven M16s.  The University of Central Florida also received eleven M16s and a grenade launcher that was converted to fire tear gas.  A UCF spokesman said the guns were used in an incident last year when school police officers had to confront a heavily armed student.

“In terms of a clear national picture of what kind of military equipment is going to K-12 schools through the 1033 program, we don’t have a 100 percent transparent picture,” says Janel George, education policy counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  That lack of transparency is one reason the Legal Defense Fund and Texas Appleseed are asking the DLA to end the 1033 program’s relationship with school districts and school police departments.

George also emphasizes that excessive force against students by school police is already far too common, with many school officers armed with weapons like tasers and pepper-spray.

“The concern is not only the potential harm when you add in military-grade weaponry – we’re talking about M16s, AR 15s and grenade launchers.  It’s also, how does this exacerbate existing school climates that are already tense?  And how does that contribute to the criminalization of youth of color in particular?” George said.

It’s a new arms race in America.  Pogo was right:  we have met the enemy– and it is us.

* * * * * * * * *

How did we go from Mayberry to martial law so fast– with the transfer of military surplus equipment to America’s communities?   This educational poster explains how it happened in a quick nutshell.

 

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Huge Protests Expected Following Deaths of Two Teens

 

All Eyes are on St. Louis This Weekend

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It could be a powder keg ready to blow under the right conditions.

The St. Louis area on Thursday was bracing for more racial unrest over the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer, and another police killing of a black teenager Wednesday expected to add fuel to the fire.

Several civil rights organizations and protest groups, including Hands Up United, planned to mark the weekend with marches and rallies in St. Louis and the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, where Brown was killed two months ago.

The groups are demanding the arrest of the white officer who killed Brown, and want to draw attention to police treatment of black Americans.  Protest organizers said they are planning only peaceful activities, but fear Wednesday’s killing of the black teen in the south St. Louis neighborhood of Shaw might trigger violent outbursts.

“We never advocate violence … But I do know that people were angry last night and they will be out this weekend,” said Tory Russell, a leader of Hands Up United.  “I don’t know what they are going to do.”

At least 6,000 have registered on an organizing website for the “weekend of resistance” events in and around Ferguson, which kick off Friday with a “justice now” march and will be capped with actions of “civil disobedience” on Monday.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said law enforcement officers throughout the area are planning for large crowds and possible violence.  The Hands Up United web page shows posts from people looking to share rides to St. Louis from Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Dallas, Boston and New York.

“There are a lot of people coming into town,” said Knowles.  “We are going to be prepared.  There is intel out there that there are people wanting to do bad things.  And people who want to cause a problem are going to use that (the shooting Wednesday) as a rallying cry,” he said.

In the Shaw incident, a 32-year-old white St. Louis police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. after the officer, who was off duty working for a private security company, saw Myers and two friends running and pursued them, according to a statement issued by the St. Louis police department.

Myers pulled a gun and shot at the officer and then the officer fired several shots, fatally wounding Myers, police said.

The police department would not identify the officer, but said he was not hurt and has been placed on administrative leave as the shooting is investigated.

Relatives of Myers said he did not have a gun, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The shooting sparked protests that raged until dawn Thursday.  One person was arrested and three police vehicles were damaged in the unrest, police officials said.

The Myers killing comes as the St. Louis area is still struggling with unrest after the Aug. 9 killing of Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.  Brown was unarmed when he was shot at least six times.

“There is a real breakdown of trust in law enforcement,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a national online civil rights organization helping to promote the protests.

“But people are trying to build momentum for reforms that needs to happen in communities around the country.”

 

~Via Google News, Independent News, STL Today, Hands Up United, YouTube

 

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The Republican War on the Working Poor

 

Gov. Scott Walker Leads the Way Forward

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The Koch Brothers are pleased at his sheer audacity.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has treated the idea of raising his state’s minimum wage with the same tact and seriousness you’d expect from a man who made his name attacking workers and facing a corruption probe.

Walker, sporting his All-American patriotic flag pin and GOP red tie, rejected the request of a group of low-wage workers to use an unusual Wisconsin law saying that the state’s minimum wage has to be a living wage.

The reasoning for refusing to raise the minimum wage? They claim $7.25 is a living wage.

“The department has determined that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the wages paid to the complainants are not a living wage,” Robert Rodriguez, administrator of DWD’s Equal Rights Division, wrote in the denial letter.

$7.25 an hour is below the poverty threshold for a family of two.  A minimum wage worker would have to work 81 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin.  And nothing else.

Here’s a few of the details submitted by workers petitioning the governor to raise the minimum wage:

Denise Merchant said she makes $7.25 an hour and often puts off buying diabetes test strips because she can’t afford them and couldn’t afford to fix her car when it broke down two months ago.

Daniel Scott makes $7.70 an hour and is homeless.  Marvin Mayes makes $7.45 an hour and sometimes has to go without buying groceries in order to make rent.

Even those with higher wages described struggling:  Carolyn Jackson makes $12 an hour but risks getting her lights and phone turned off because she has to choose between buying food and paying bills, plus she forgoes medication for her diabetes in order to get her son’s medication.

The Republican War on the working poor continues. 

Scott Walker and the others of the GOP– Greedy Old People– will advocate more tax breaks for the rich, deregulate Wall Street further, create more unpaid-for wars, and plunder the treasury for yet another trillion dollars before anything remotely good happens to the average Joe working in America.

 

 

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US Army Still ‘The Bestest in History’

 

–After 50-Year 1-1-7 Record

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

U.S. Army leaders insist their force is still “the greatest fighting force in human history” even after a woeful record exacerbated by two debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources confirmed today.

“Look at the Roman Legion,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin ‘McFly’ Dempsey, comparing the Romans to the modern U.S. Army which failed in Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Iraq again, Afghanistan, and barely tied in Korea.

“They never once waged a proper counterinsurgency.  They never won hearts and minds; they just went right in and nailed the insurgents to crosses along the Appian Way.  That’s not how you fight a counterinsurgency, it’s just not nice!”

… “Let me be clear here,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler explained at a press conference, “We are still the greatest, the bestest, and most strongest Army in history.  Now, I know much history, being that I got an Associates in Homeland Security, and we are the most powerful military formation ever.  Panama?  We won that, fair and square.”

As of press time, the Army’s record is still better than the West Point Football Team, which hasn’t won anything at all since 1923.

~Via the military Duffle Blog, United Artists/Aidan Carroll, and Aubrey Marcus

 

What is a Warrior? from Aubrey Marcus on Vimeo.

 

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Jefferson County’s Assault on US History

 

Keeping Politics Out of Education

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Historian Howard Zinn, late author of A People’s History of the United States,
would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what was happening in Colorado.

The school board of Jefferson County, Colorado, approved a controversial measure last week to review and whitewash the curriculum of U.S. History courses.  The proposal sparked weeks of student walk-outs and garnered national attention.

The student-led protests began when conservative school board member, Julie Williams, proposed the creation of a committee to change the Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum to emphasize patriotism, positive aspects of U.S. history, and the benefits of the free market system while downplaying or removing lessons about civil disobedience, social strife, and defiance of authority.

AP students chose to respond with civil disobedience of their own by organizing the first of several walk-outs on September 19th.  Jefferson County teachers showed their opposition by calling in sick en masse, causing several school closures over multiple days.

Gretchen Carlson of FOX News called the young students a bunch of punks.”  The president of Jefferson County’s Board of Education, Ken Witt, called them pawns in a scheme perpetrated by the teachers’ union.

Discontent between members of the community and the school board has been rising since a conservative majority took power last November.

A national, right-wing political group, Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, celebrated the conservative victory in the Jefferson County school-board elections, reported Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.  Dustin Zvonek, the Colorado state director for the group, said the election marked “an exciting and hopeful moment for the county and school district” and told the three-member majority “to strike while the iron is hot,” and that “Board members can and should begin exploring and debating such options with little fear of alienating the public at large.”

Well, the public was largely alienated.  High-school students organized and were just recently joined by local middle-school students, who also walked out.

Local college and university professors formed a solidarity group.  The national SAT testing organization commended the student’s actions.  Last Wednesday, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Civil Liberties Union and eight other national groups sent a letter to the school board condemning the proposed curriculum review. 

They said:

“It would be nearly impossible to teach U.S. history without reference to ‘civil disorder,’ which is appropriately discussed in connection with the American Revolution, the labor movement, civil rights and gay rights activism, U.S. entry into World War I, voting rights protests, public demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, opposition to abortion, government surveillance, and countless other significant events in U.S. history.  Telling schools that they cannot use materials that ‘encourage or condone civil disorder’ in addressing these and other historical events is
tantamount to telling them to abandon the teaching of history.”

High school senior Bethany Keupp says the proposal to potentially alter AP U.S. history content along ideological lines was the final straw for students, teachers and parents.  “We are very frustrated that this is being reviewed because of political issues.  We would really expect our elected officials to act in the best interests of the students, not in the interests of your political affiliation,” Keupp said.

Kerrie Dallman, president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association, says school board member Julie Williams seems to be pushing an agenda instead of working from knowledge of the new AP U.S. History curriculum.

“When you have a school board member like Julie Williams who puts out a press release making all kinds of claims about how AP U.S. History is not covering basic historical figures like Martin Luther King and George Washington,” Dallman says, “and then somebody goes and looks at all ten of the previously approved texts for AP U.S. History in Jeffco public schools, and finds every single one of the historical figures Julie Williams said is not covered is actually in the text books, she clearly hasn’t done her homework.  She is acting on somebody else’s be-
half.  That to me is disturbing and further evidence of the
reason why politics has to get out of Jeffco public schools.”

Texas, Tennessee, Washington and Illinois have seen similar attempts by school boards to change curriculum to reflect a more conservative ideology, but no other place in the nation has experienced protests like Jefferson County, Colorado.

Last week’s school board meeting – the first since Williams made her announcement – drew hundreds of student protesters and their supporters. Despite critics who have labeled the protests unpatriotic, former Jeffco public school student Devi Yanirao says love for her country is precisely what motivated her to support current Jeffco students.

“We want to be able to show both sides of American history, both the negative aspects and the positive aspects, and we shouldn’t just focus on the positive ones,” she said.  “We’ve made good decisions and bad decisions as a country and both sides need to be shown to future students so that they can understand our history and where we are coming from and why we are here today– and the way we are today.”

At the start of the tense school board meeting last week, Julie Williams said her “proposal was aimed to increase community engagement and transparency so people do know what is being taught to their children and as a board we can review the curriculum as we are responsible to do.”

The large crowd, which overflowed into the parking lot, seemed unconvinced.

Some of the most controversial language in William’s proposal was removed, but not before opponents delivered a petition with more than 40,000 signatures asking that her proposal be killed altogether.

Despite the petition and public outcry, the conservative majority voted 3-2 to move forward with plans to create a committee to review AP U.S. History content.  As part of a compromise, students, parents, teachers and other approved citizens will be able to join the committee.

But protesters say they plan to keep up their civil disobedience campaign until they are confident that partisan politics and ideological whitewashing are kept out of their public schools.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Sacramento State University History Professor Joseph A. Palermo said this in his column:

“When high school students in Jefferson County, Colorado walked out in protest against the right-wingers on the school board who purged their history curriculum of content they deemed “unpatriotic,” they probably learned more in a week of direct action than they could learn in a year of going to class.

Not content to write a letter of complaint, or sign a petition, or tap “Like” on a Facebook page – these young people hit the streets in the grand tradition of civil disobedience in America;  the same tradition the Jefferson County school board seeks to airbrush out…

Right-wingers always overreach and try to erase or bend history to fit their pre-conceived ideological notions.  We owe the students of Jefferson County our deep gratitude and appreciation for standing up to power and reminding us about the importance of critical history being taught in our public schools.  

By engaging in civil disobedience they’ve taken it a step further.  Their actions speak louder than any words.”

~Via Google News, CBS News, FSRN, Denver Post, Colorado
Public Radio, Amy Goodman, and Dr. Joseph A. Palermo

 

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Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’

 

PBS Series Reveals Everything Wrong With Our Current Political Class

 

**VIDEO**

 

Joseph A. Palermo
Huffington Post

 

 

Ken Burns’ seven-part PBS series on the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, is a remarkable achievement.

Burns sheds a poignant new light on the personal and public lives of three monumental figures in 20th Century American history.  And in doing so, he illustrates the relative rottenness of the hacks, partisans, and plutocrats who make up the political class that rules America today.

By exploring the lives and times of TR, FDR, and ER Burns shows that in our not-so-distant past the governing institutions of this country were actually responsive to the needs and desires of working-class Americans.

This superb and moving portrait is a perfect fit for our times.  The utter failure of our current “leaders” is glaring by comparison.

Yes, TR was a warmonger, and FDR signed the order that imprisoned innocent Japanese Americans. There are long lists of both presidents’ failures.  But we shouldn’t let those flaws bury the fact that both TR and FDR were not afraid to stand up to big corporations and Wall Street if they viewed their actions as damaging to the country.  That alone is probably the biggest difference between those leaders of the early decades of the 20th Century and today.

After thirty years of “supply-side” economics that has left working people still waiting for better times to “trickle down”; eight years of George W. Bush’s misrule that brought us war and recession; the Far-Right ascendency in 2010 that has all but shuttered the federal government in an attempt to destroy Barack Obama; and a Supreme Court that is proudly subservient to every tenet of plutocracy — I think it’s okay to flip on PBS and feel a bit nostalgic for a time when there existed effective politicians who actually gave a damn about the quality of life of the majority of Americans.

Over the past thirty years, Presidents and Congresses have become so subservient to corporations and Wall Street that the two major political parties are all but indistinguishable.

One of the reasons why our politics have become so volatile and opinion polls show over and over again that our people have nothing but contempt for the whole political class in Washington and the widespread recognition that the plutocrats, CEOs, and Wall Street bankers have effectively seized our governing institutions.

Another subtext for our times of the Burns documentary is the reminder that people who come from the richest .01 percent of Americans don’t have to be total assholes.  Unlike the Koch Brothers, or the Waltons, or Representative Darrell Issa (the richest man in the House of Representatives) the Roosevelts didn’t feel they had a class interest in keeping their boots on the necks of America’s working people; they strived to uplift them.

And they saw the federal government not as a bazaar of accounts receivable to vacuum up precious tax dollars for the already rich but as a means to improve the lives of the 99 percent.

The Roosevelts also illustrates a time when Democrats had dirt under their fingernails.  There was no need to remind them that Democratic politicians valued labor unions or sought new protections in the workplace.  The leaders and rank-in-file were tied together.

Today, when we see Democratic politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel bludgeoning teachers’ unions while supping at the table of big campaign donors from Wall Street we’re left with the realization that working people have few reliable advocates for their class interests anymore.

Since 1984, Democratic politicians decided the party needed to “move to the center” given Ronald Reagan’s landslide.  But “moving to the center” meant moving away from serving the interests of working people and moving toward Wall Street and big corporations.

Ironically, in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party grew more diverse based on race and gender, it shifted far closer to the Republicans in terms of class.  We’ve seen one Democratic president (Bill Clinton) push NAFTA and other “free trade” deals that decimated labor unions; unravel the social safety net in the name of “welfare reform”; and deregulate Wall Street.

And we’ve seen another Democratic president (Barack Obama) refuse to send any bankers to jail for the massive fraud they committed in the mortgage markets; choose to beat up teachers’ unions with Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top”; and accommodate the profiteers inside our health care system.

All of these policies represent a capitulation to the interests of big corporations and Wall Street on the part of Democratic administrations at the expense of their own constituencies.

Another aspect of the Burns documentary is a revealing look at the kind of patriotism that TR, FDR, and ER exhibited throughout their lives.  It was a patriotism that recognized that the country is strongest when all Americans had opportunities and the federal government not only helped to uplift them materially, but also protected them from the rapacious predators of the Wall Street ruling class.

We’ve lost that sense of patriotic duty today.  The “you’re on your own” society has won out in recent decades over the idea that “everyone does better when everyone does better.”

So if you haven’t yet seen The Roosevelts, by all means, sit back, put on PBS, and enjoy watching a time in America that predates the death of the liberal class.

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Joseph Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy.  Dr. Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties.  He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.

 

 

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Into The Streets

 

The Historic March Against Climate Change

 

**Meerkat Media VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

There’s strength in numbers.  400,000 to be exact.

Over 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to demonstrate a unified front against climate justice inaction.

Different walks of life and diverse perspectives converged together as the popular– and surprising– movement unfolded on September 21 and 22.

From Manhattan to Melbourne, people took to the streets in a move to demand ambitious commitments and change from world leaders for tackling the climate crisis.

By the end-of-day estimates, the flagship march in NYC drew approximately 400,000 people–more than quadrupling the pre-march estimates of 100,000– just two days before world leaders converged for an emergency UN Climate Summit.

By midafternoon march organizers released an initial count of 310,000 people based on the crowd density along the march route.  But as the day continued, reports came in of tens of thousands more marching outside the official route, streaming down avenues in midtown Manhattan towards Wall Street.

At 5:00pm, march organizers had to send out a text asking marchers to disperse from the march route because the crowds had swelled beyond the route’s capacity.

“We said it would take everyone to change everything– and everyone showed up,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

The New York march was led by different frontline communities who came from across the globe to highlight the disproportionate impact of climate change:  from communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, to people living in the shadow of coal-fired power plants and oil refineries, to those living in island nations already faced with evacuating their homes.

Once seen as an issue seen dividing environmentalists and labor, the march was also notable for the number of unions that joined the climate fight.  Nearly every single labor union in New
York helped organize turnout for the march, including the SEIU,
the largest union in the city and the second largest in the country.

“The frontlines of the climate crisis are low-income people, communities of color and indigenous communities here in the US and around the globe,” said Cindy Wiesner of The Climate Justice Alliance.    “We are the hardest hit by both climate disruption– the storms, floods and droughts– as well as by the polluting and wasteful industries causing global warming.  We are also at the forefront of innovative community-led solutions for a just transition off fossil fuels and an economy good for both people and the planet,” Wiesner said.

“Our members are marching because climate change affects all of us,” added Héctor Figueroa.  

“We live in the communities that get destroyed by storms like Sandy.  We work in the buildings that get flooded.  We get hit by health epidemics like asthma that are rampant in our communities.  And we care about the world that we will leave for our children and grandchildren,” Figueroa said.

Others, however, like the financial powerhouse Forbes magazine, believe the march was blown out of proportion for all the wrong reasons, calling it simply, Jumping the Shark.

Meerkat Media’s extraordinary video, Into the Streets, offers a glimpse of what the march was all about and the importance of everyone being on the same page for changing what we can– before it’s too late to do anything at all.

 

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Funding Higher Education for All

 

Profiting from Students …Appropriately

 

**VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.org

 

Question:

Is making higher education available to every American more important to our national interest than letting Wall Street profiteers make a few more billions of dollars each year?

Answer:

Of course. Yet, our political leaders– pushed by Wall Street lobbyists– have been making the opposite choice for years.

As a result, banksters have loaded students down with a mountain of high-interest loans, rising from just over $2 billion a decade ago to nearly a trillion last year.  

Worse, the financiers– either banks or government lenders– have become the gatekeepers of advanced education, shutting out thousands of young people wanting to get ahead, but not able to hurdle the formidable financial barrier.

This is enormously costly to America and completely unnecessary.  The smart choice, as we learned from the GI Bill after World War II, would be to make college and professional training free.  Universal access to higher education– i.e., free access– produces a very high return on the public’s investment while also producing widely-shared prosperity and a broadly-educated citizenry.

Of course, an up-front investment in a smarter, more productive, more democratic civilization is pricey.  So where do we get the money to do what America needs?

Get it from where it went.  Wall Street’s super-rich speculators are now making millions of super-fast, robotic financial transactions per second, generating trillions of dollars a year for them– but producing nothing of real value for us, while distorting and endangering markets.

Put a tiny tax on each of those automated gambles by speculators, and more than enough money will come into the public coffers to free up higher education for all.

For information, check out United States Students Association: www.usstudents.org.

“Why Have Student Loans At All? Let’s Get the Burdens of Debt off College Students’ Backs– And Make Wall St. Pick Up the Tab,” www.alternet.org, July 2, 2013.

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

A national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author, he frequently appears on television and radio programs bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. 

He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried on more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International.  A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.

He has written seven books and is a New York Times bestselling author.

As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell and with a sense of humor.”

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

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Stoned Patients, Stoned Kids

 

92% of Medical Marijuana Users Say It Works

–But Should Children Be in the Mix?

 

**VICE VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 Is it a miracle drug?  Patients and parents think so.

A 2013 survey in the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly 8-in-10 doctors approved the use of medical marijuana, The Washington Post reported.

Now, a wide-ranging survey in California finds that medical marijuana patients agree: 92 percent said that medical marijuana alleviated symptoms of their serious medical conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraine, epilepsy and cancer.

The data come from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a representative health survey of 7,525 California adults produced by the Public Health Institute in partnership with the CDC.  Researchers found that in total, five percent of California adults said they had used medical marijuana for a “serious medical condition.”

Treating young children with medical marijuana is controverisal.  It isn’t common but it’s happening, and increasingly often. 

Several US states that have legalized the drug to some degree also allow it as an alternative treatment for kids and even toddlers with epilepsy–  Oregon, Colorado, and California.  Illinois may be next on the list.

It appears Cannabidol, or CBD– one of 60 active cannabinoids in the cannabis plant– is the therapeutic miracle component.

Dr. Bonni Goldstein said she’s seen great success with CBD oil– about 70-75 percent of her patients saw a reduction in epileptic seizures, according to her early data.  She pointed to  a 2013 National Institute of Health study published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior that found similar results: 16 of the 19 children treated with CBD had decreased symptoms of epilepsy, and in two cases the epilepsy disappeared completely.

There are scores of success stories from families with children suffering from leukemia and epilepsy. 

One of Goldstein’s patients, Genesis Rios, said her son suffered from epileptic seizures all day long until she started the CBD treatment. Now, the boy can now go two weeks without having a seizure, she said.

Rios said her son appeared “drugged out” all the time when on traditional epilepsy pharma drugs, but with CBD oil, “He’s actually more alert than he’s ever been before.”

“It’s been basically a miracle,” Rios said.  “He was having seizures 24 hours a day, even when he was sleeping, and none of the medications worked.  Nothing worked, not even surgery.”

Many parents are strongly advocating for the cannabis oil treatment.  The most common version is called Charlotte’s Web, derived from a strain of weed that’s particularly rich in CBD but only contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of weed that gets you high.

For hundreds of families, it’s a miracle treatment, and epilepsy isn’t the only example.  Austria has prescribed medical marijuana to kids with autism.  In the US, cannabis has been used to treat young kids with leukemia.

But the idea of treating kids with weed is still incredibly controversial.  Some question the validity of the treatment, and the problem is there is very little research to prove the alternative medicine is safe and effective.

Until recently, the war on drugs has hindered our ability to understand the possible benefits such a multifaceted plant can have.  But there’s a movement to change that, championed by the medical professionals who have seen the positive results firsthand, even in children.

“More research is needed, and cannabis should be removed from being a Schedule 1 controlled substance,” said Goldstein, hoping the government will understand how huge an impact the drug can have on the lives of suffering patients and families.

 

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Appealingly Cheap and Incredibly Deadly

 

 

Death-Bot Drones and Their Blind Execution

 

**VIRAL VIDEO**

 

John Oliver
Last Week Tonight

 

“All of the sudden, drones are everywhere,” John Oliver says above in his satirically sad piece from Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.

“They’re the third most annoying thing in the sky– after mosquitoes and plastic bags caught in the breeze.”

The heart of Oliver’s argument is that drones are often used without an appropriate level of intelligence on targets, with a loophole in the definition of “imminent threat” needed to carry out such an attack.  

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, explained how the administration sees drone strikes:  “Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials.  That frightens me.”

It frightens John Oliver too, who spent twelve minutes laying out exactly why the US drone program is so disturbing.  

Among the specifics:

  • Military-age males killed in strikes are allegedly considered guilty of being “militants” by the CIA until proven innocent.
  • The US government doesn’t actually know the specific identities of many people it kills, or indeed how many people it has killed overall.
  • According to the Justice Department, for something to be an imminent threat justifying a strike “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” despite, as Oliver notes, that being “what the fucking word imminent means.”

Later, the host touches on ”the psychological impact of living underneath drones,” showing a heartbreaking clip of Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemini youth activist and journalist, addressing Congress in 2013 after his village was struck by a drone.

Unfortunately, not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike.  In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies; he prefers grey skies.

“The drones do not fly when the skies are grey,” he said.

That was enough for Oliver.

“When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”

 

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Hooked on Humboldt County

 

 

Changing the Times:

Ideas from Around the Web

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

It’s about time Humboldt leaders start leading the way with innovative ideas for the future of our beautiful North Coast. 

Instead of beating the tired old path of tax increases and asking for more, more, and still more, while threatening to reduce services unless they get their lazy fat-cat bureaucratic way, maybe they should consider the hard work of leading the progressive road forward for business and consumers to prosper alike– offering new and inventive ideas for growth and change.

The North Coast should be a leader of all things good.  Period.

Here’s a few token ideas from around the web of what other communities are doing with their effective leadership.

 

Bayshore Mall Affordable Housing?

America’s Oldest Enclosed Mall Converted to Tiny Housing

 

Take Part -  The bustling stores that used to grace the oldest enclosed mall in America, the Arcade Providence in Providence, R.I., have been transformed into mixed-use housing: shops on the ground floor and micro-apartments on the top two levels.

The Arcade was built in 1828, and like many malls struggling after the recent economic crash, the building, which is in Providence’s downtown, closed in 2008.

No new enclosed malls have been constructed in America since 2006, and nearly half of the nation’s existing malls are expected to go out of business within 10 years.

Gutting the Rhode Island property wasn’t an option—the building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.  Enter developer Evan Granoff, who has spearheaded micro-housing projects in space-cramped cities such as Boston and San Francisco with city leaders.

Granoff bought the mall, set aside the ground floor for retail, and set about transforming the top two floors. 

Each of the new 38 micro-apartments, which began welcoming tenants in early 2014, is 225 to 300 square feet—they take their design inspiration from shipping containers.  Despite their minuscule size, the spaces come with the basics: a bathroom, a bedroom, storage, and a tiny kitchen (a mini-fridge and microwave are included, but there’s no oven or stove).

A handful of 900-square-foot apartments are available for folks who want a bit more breathing room.  The building also comes with amenities, including a game room and laundry facilities.

 

Beating the High Cost of Renner Gas

Kentucky Town Creates Its Own Gas Station

 

Nation of Change -  Earlier this month, the small city of Somerset, Kentucky, opened a municipally owned and operated fuel center in an effort to drive down gas prices for local residents.  

As a result of its proximity to Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist destination, the city of 11,000 residents has long struggled with high fuel prices– especially during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Under the leadership of Republican Mayor Eddie Girdler, the conservative-leaning city purchased a fuel storage facility for $200,000.

The city spent another $75,000 building the infrastructure to distribute gasoline to the public– including the installation of 10 pumps.  

The city now purchases gas from a local supplier (Continental Refining Company) and uses city employees who rotate in from other departments to operate the station.

In a city where gas prices at private stations can spike 20 to 30 cents a gallon on weekends, the public station will not aim to turn a profit.  Rather the mayor’s office intends to set prices in a way that the city breaks even on the cost of fuel plus operating expenses.

However, an additional goal is to provide an incentive for motorists on their way to Lake Cumberland to stop in Somerset to refuel, thus generating additional business for—and greater tax revenues from—the city’s restaurants, shops, and other small businesses.

 

Slashing Health Care Insurance Expenses

Maine Healthcare Cooperative Proving a Model Success

 

Portland Press Herald, ME -    Maine Community Health Options will offer insurance through the federal marketplace to people throughout New Hampshire next year, a move made possible by a major federal loan and local success that has surprised industry experts and allowed the company to dominate the Maine market.

Cooperatives are an often-overlooked component of the Affordable Care Act and were designed as an alternative to traditional insurance companies, especially in states where there might be limited choices.  In the co-op model, the governing board is ruled by its members, and any profits are plowed back into operations.  In a traditional insurance company, profits can be distributed to shareholders.

Co-ops exist in 26 states, according to the National Alliance of State Health Co-Ops.  Through the health insurance marketplaces created by the federal law, where people can apply for subsidized benefits on healthcare.gov, the cooperatives offer competitive plans against the big players in the industry, such as
Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and State Farm.

Nationwide, the co-ops have had varying levels of success, but health experts rated the co-op in Maine an overwhelming success.

Despite being a start up competing against longtime insurer Anthem, Maine Community Health Options captured 83 percent of the 44,000 Mainers who signed up for insurance on the marketplace in 2014, surprising state health care experts.

The co-op and Anthem offered similarly priced plans, and yet most chose the new nonprofit over the established company.

“Maine was hungry for an alternative,” said Mitchell Stein, a Cumberland-based independent health policy analyst.

* * * * * * * *

~ Via Undernews, Take Part, Nation of Change, Portland Press Herald
Our appreciation goes out to Rick and Matt St. Charles and HCCVB

 

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Comic Book Heaven

 

Calling It Quits in a Different Era

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It closed its doors for good.

After more than a quarter of a century, a struggling New York Sunnyside comic shop is gave up its battle against the forces of digital books, eBay and superhero video games.

Joseph Leisner, the tough talking octogenarian owner of Comic Book Heaven in Queens said business wasn’t what it used to be.  And he’d like to retire while he’s still able to pursue an acting career — and a girlfriend.

“The comic book business is not a healthy business anymore,” said Leisner in his thick Brooklyn accent. 

He shuttered his shop in December of last year.  “I want to retire while I’m walking, talking, driving and able to run after women,” he says.

His sales plummeted 80% since the height of the comic book craze in the early to mid-90s, he said.  And they’ve fallen another 35% in the last 18 months, he said.

Playboy magazines, still in their plastic wrappers, sat on shelves alongside issues of Conan the Barbarian and old copies of Mad Magazine.

He also carried an assortment of fading kids books and baseball cards in the dingy shop.

“I was young when I got here,” said the widower and grandfather, who opened 26 years ago.  “Look what it did to me.”

Comic shops are struggling to compete with online retailers, which sell the books at a fraction of the price of brick-and-mortar stores, said Comic Book Collecting Association President Steve Zarelli.

“Comic books may continue to survive for a long time to come,” Zarelli said.  “But it’s becoming more of a niche market like record stores or even CD stores.”

And now kids are learning about their favorite caped crusaders through movies and video games — instead of traditional comics.

“The kids today play video games and spend all day texting their friends,” Liesner said.  “Gone are the days when kids would collect things, like stamps and sports cards.”

“I’m afraid to be retired with nothing to do,” Joe lamented before closing the business down.  “I think a lot of people are.”

Say it ain’t so, Joe.  Superheroes never really die.  They just fade away. 

It’s the end of an era. 

~Via Sunnyside Post/NYdaily/Vimeo/CBH Films and E.J. McLeavey-Fisher

 

 

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Marie’s Dictionary

 

Saving Wukchumni:

‘How We Got Our Hands’

 

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Her language has become her life.

This short documentary tells the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her language alive.

It was a labor of love and hard work as she remembered the ancient words from her childhood and slowly  “pecked” at her computer every day, teaching her daughter Jenny Malone and grandson Donovan.  The dictionary took Marie seven years to complete.

Filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee profiled Wilcox, the last known speaker of an extremely rare Native American language.  The Wukchumni tribe, once numbering 50,000 people, is now estimated to have fewer than 200 remaining members in the Tule River region of California, which means that Wilcox is the last hope for any meaningful survival of its spoken heritage.

The 80-year-old woman has spent more than seven years creating a dictionary of the Wukchumni language—and teaches weekly classes with her daughter—but unfortunately, few seem devoted to learn. 

“See, I’m uncertain about my language and who wants to keep it alive.  Just a few,” Marie says.  “No one seems to want to learn.  It’s sad.”

“It just seems weird that I’m the last one.  It will just be gone one of these days… I don’t know,” Marie says sadly with a tone of gentle resignation.

Marie’s dictionary is the first Wukchumni dictionary to be created.  It serves as an inspiration for other Native American tribes to revitalize their languages and keep their living history from passing away forever.

* * * * * * * *

Filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee said:

“Throughout the United States, many Native American languages are struggling to survive.

According to Unesco, more than 130 of these languages are currently at risk, with 74 languages considered “critically endangered.”  These languages preserve priceless cultural heritage, and some hold unexpected value — nuances in these languages convey unparalleled knowledge of the natural world.

Many of these at-risk languages are found in my home state of California.  Now for some, only a few fluent speakers remain.”

 

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City of Light, City of Night

 

Coast to Coast:  From NYC to LA

 

**Award-Winning VIDEOS**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Cities are like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. 

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because they are created by everybody.

For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.  Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, a friendship, or an enmity.

Where one city will raise a certain individual to glory and riches, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality.  One city gives you gifts, another robs you.  One gives you the heart’s affections; the other destroys your soul.

Cities are as alive, as feeling, as fickle and uncertain as people. Their degrees of love and devotion are as varying as with any human relation.  Just as one is good, another is bad.

All cities are mad, but the madness is brilliant.  All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.

In cities we know where we belong or not; where we are loved and where we are rejected.

As a famous man once said: 

Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light?  Or just another lost angel… City of Night?

 

ANGEL CITY from Sunchaser Pictures on Vimeo.

 

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US Airstrikes Hit Syria for First Time

 

 

ISIS in the Target Crosshairs

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s on.  The Tomahawk missiles are flying from afar into Syria.

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against ISIS and another militant group in Syria Monday night – marking the first US military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement today that 20 targets of the Islamic State– more commonly known as ISIS or ISIL– were hit, including the group’s fighters, training camps, headquarters, command-and-control facilities, and armed vehicles.

The operation involved a combination of fighter jets, bombers, Predator drones and Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

“We’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group,” President Obama said Tuesday, before traveling to New York for meetings at the U.N.  He cautioned that the effort “will take time.”

The strikes in Syria “destroyed or damaged” multiple targets, according to the US military, which reported “all aircraft safely exited the strike areas.”

The mission was not limited to hitting Islamic State positions.  US aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, a munitions production facility, a communication building and command-and-control facilities.

The military strikes come less than two weeks after Obama authorized airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the militants.  The strikes ostensibly put the United States, for now, on the same side as Bashar Assad, the Syrian strongman whose ouster Obama once sought.

Officials said that the airstrikes began yesterday morning and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.  The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, though the operation was expected to have lasted several hours.

“We believe we hit, largely, everything we were aiming at,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

The operation involved 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea.  B-1 bombers, F-16 and F-18 fighters, and Predator drones were also used.  

The F-18s flew missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.

Until now, US airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq, where 194 missions have been launched since August 8.  Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in the northern city of Raqqa, ISIS’s main base.  One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city and resulted in a power outage that lasted for two hours.

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Some officials have expressed concern that going after Islamic State militants in Syria could inadvertently help Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad, since the militants are fighting in part to overthrow Assad.

Urged on by the White House and US defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels.  Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the US-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

~Via CNN, BBC, Vivian Alexandru

 

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Tens of Thousands to March in NYC Today

 

 

Massive Protest Forges Ahead of 
U.N. Climate Change Summit

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Big Apple is hosting a people’s march demanding
environmental change.

Celebrities, activists and political leaders are expected to join more than 100,000 people in New York City today for what organizers say will be the largest climate-change march in history (UPDATEOfficial count is in excess of 300,000 at 3 pm)

The “People’s Climate March” has been endorsed by more than 1,400 organizations, including environment, faith and justice groups, as well as labor unions.  

Students have also mobilized marchers at more than 300 college campuses for the event, which calls on world leaders to do more to confront the threat of climate change and comes ahead of a United Nations climate summit.

“People from all walks of life, all over the world, care deeply about climate change and are extremely worried and scared.  This march shows the huge variety of people and the huge variety of reasons that people are invested in this issue,” march organizer Rachel Schragis said.

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are expected to participate in Sunday’s march– which will wind its way through Midtown Manhattan on a two-mile route starting at 11:30 a.m.

After a moment of silence at 1 p.m., participants will be encouraged to use instruments, alarms and whistles to make as much noise as possible sending out an SOS, helped by marching bands and the tolling of church bells.

Around the world, more than 2,700 climate events in 158 countries are planned to coincide with the New York march, including rallies in New Delhi, Jakarta, London, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro.

Sunday’s march will come ahead of a meeting of over 120 world leaders at the U.N. next week, who will convene for a one-day climate summit on Tuesday.  The hope is to recapture the momentum lost after the disappointing 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.

U. N. Secretary Ban and other U.N. officials hope the summit will energize negotiations on reaching a deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and set the stage for a crucial conference in Paris in December 2015 aimed at finalizing an agreement.

President Barack Obama will attend the summit and is expected to highlight strides the U.S. has made on climate change, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The U.S. heads into the summit in the strongest position it has been in years.  It has cut emissions by 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, more than any other country.  Officials say about half of that reduction is due to the economic recession, but it puts the U.S. well on its way toward meeting its goal to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

But whatever emerges from the one-day summit Tuesday is unlikely to bring the world closer to a goal set back in 2009:  Preventing Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Fahrenheit from where it is now.

Rather than firm commitments from closed-door negotiations, the summit is expected to jumpstart a series of much-publicized initiatives and partnerships.  The heads of state for both India and China, two of the world’s largest carbon polluters, are not expected to attend the summit, further dimming hopes of meaningful action. 

There have also been concerns about funding for poorer countries on the frontlines of the fight against climate change and their ability to move away from fossil fuels and protect their citizens.  While richer countries made a commitment in 2009 to raise $100 billion by 2020 for less-affluent countries, so far only Germany has made a significant pledge to the fund, the Guardian reported.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, the World Meteorological Organization said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, increased more in 2012 and 2013 than in any year since 1984. 

The months of May, June and August were the warmest of any on record in the United States.  A study issued earlier this year said the West Antarctic ice sheet was starting to collapse and was unstoppable.

“We hear these warnings from scientists.  They’re becoming increasingly panicked and our politicians sort of pay lip service to how concerned they are about climate change on the one hand.  But on the other hand, it’s basically ‘Drill Baby Drill,’” activist Naomi Klein said. 

“They’re opening up all kinds of new frontiers for fracking, for tar sands, for coal and so people in the streets are going to be expressing their sense of urgency.”

The Koch Brothers– and climate change deniers everywhere– are not amused over this turn of events.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tune in this Sunday, September 21 for the special Democracy Now! live broadcast from the People’s Climate March in New York City, part of a global mobilization in advance of the U.N. special session on climate change convening on Tuesday.

Livestream from 10:30am to 1:30pm ET:  http://democracynow.org

 

 

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Pride and Bullets

 

Cause and Effect

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

The causes of World War One have been written about countless times.  You probably know the straight-away story.

It began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, sometimes referred to as “the bullet that started World War I.”

This seemingly small conflict between two countries spread rapidly.

Soon, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the United States were all drawn into the war, largely because the former were involved in treaties and alliances that obligated them to defend certain other nations.  

Western and eastern battle fronts quickly erupted along the muddy borders
and hedgerows of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1916 and 1917 were particularly dominated by the continued bloody trench warfare in battlefields.  Soldiers fought from dug-in positions, striking at each other with the new technological development of machine guns, heavy artillery, tanks, and chemical weapons.  

Soldiers died in the onslaught by the millions under ugly and brutal conditions.  By the score, they were killed, maimed, blinded, and gassed.

Although both sides launched renewed offensives in 1918 in an all-or-nothing effort to win the war, both efforts failed.  The fighting between exhausted, demoralized troops continued to plod along until Germany, under Kaiser Wilhelm II, lost a number of individual battles and gradually had to fall back.  A deadly outbreak of influenza, meanwhile, took a heavy toll on soldiers of both sides. Eventually, the governments of both Germany and Austria-Hungary lost control of the war as both countries experienced multiple mutinies.

The war ended in the late fall of 1918, after the member countries of the Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one.  Germany was the last, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918.

Kaiser Wilhelm, an ineffective war leader scorned by the public and the army for Germany’s worst defeat, abdicated the day before and fled into exile to the Netherlands.

As a result of the armistice agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller countries. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, was severely punished with hefty economic reparations, territorial losses, and strict limits on its rights to develop its military.

Many historians, in hindsight, believe that the Allies were excessive in their punishment of Germany and that the harsh Treaty of Versailles planted the seeds for World War II rather than foster an extended peace.

The treaty imposed steep war reparations payments on Germany and forced the country to bear the financial burden of the war.  Already stretched financially thin by the war, the additional economic burden caused enormous resentment.

Ultimately, extremist groups under the banner of patriotic nationalism– the Nazi Party under Adolph Hitler– were later able to exploit this humiliation and resentment, taking political control of the country in the decades following.

The well-researched video thesis above offers an alternative history and gives a different take of how World War I– the War to End All Wars– began 100 years ago.

By tracing the story backwards in time we stumble upon a very unexpected cause, and discover that sometimes the most harmless of inconsequential things can indeed have terrible consequences.

Cause and Effect– and how history repeats itself—is an important lesson for all of us to understand and remember, even in this modern day and age.

 

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The Day We Will Never Forget

 

Reflections of September 11

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

This essay, Towards a More Perfect Union, appeared in
the New York Times on September 11, 2003:

 

Still missing in the rubble of 9/11 is the idea of America that enriched, strengthened and protected us for more than two centuries.

Overcome with fear and anger, and later in denial parading as pride, we hardly noticed it was gone.  The idea that we lost was not a superlative — most powerful or richest — but rather a promise. 

The wondrous mystery of America is found not in its perfection, but in its ability to improve, its perpetual search for a more perfect union. The idea had been fading for some time, not just because we came to think of power as an adequate substitute, but because we came to ignore such mundane matters as teaching children democracy with the same vigor that we teach them how to drive or about the dangers of drugs.

And so we tried to recover from 9/11 with a flag and loyalty to a place called America, but without its dream.

We used instead military power, anti-democratic security measures, seductive technology, and yet another elephantine bureaucracy — offering more temptation for guerrillas with simple weapons and no love of life. 

The 9/11 attackers, and the tens of millions around the world who share some measure of their anger, have only seen our money and our fist — not the decency, democracy, and dream that made America strong in the first place.

These virtues are still lying in the rubble of the past year.  Our job is to recover them, revive them, share them, and become once more a model rather than a target.

Only then will we be both safe and free.

* * * * * * * * *

~Via Sam Smith/Undernews, Stephen Keller and Vimeo

It was the day that changed America.  
It was the ugliest of days we will never forget.
America was founded on cherished values and truths; our strength and union
derives from those same principles that we should hold dearly onto today.

 

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Howard’s Farm

 

The End of a Family Farm

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A small Hudson Valley fruit farm is very different than a large Midwest commodity farm.

Take 86-year-old Howard Quimby for example.  Still active, he grows Concord grapes, raises goats and boards horses on his 70-acre Marlboro farm.  He’s been doing so for eight decades.  Some of Howard’s grapes help supply a local vintner and they’ve named a wine variety for him, Quimby Rose. He reports the current winery owners are very good farmers and keep their vineyards well-tended.

His farm harkens back to the bygone days when animals and farmers worked together to sow, mow, cultivate, harrow
and accomplish numerous other tasks. 

Quimby used to hitch up Noah and Omar, his two 1,500 pound mules, to mow a field and occasionally give demonstrations of their use to school children. 

With a gentle twinkle in his eye, Quimby remembers using those mules to pull phone lines and poles up and over a nearby mountain because they were the only ones who could get through the tough terrain.  That was in the 1980s. 

Now he prefers using his tractor.

He talks about when farmers maintained the roads– so they could have lower taxes.  The roads, Quimby also recalls, were terrible.

Quimby, like other farm kids, walked 2 ½ miles to get to the school, one time in a “miserable cold only to be told by the principal to warm up and then go home.  No school that day because of the bitter temperature.”  He adds that he never did ride
a school bus.

“Mailman delivered with a horse and buggy.  You could set your watch by him.  Gus Cotant.  He’d stop and feed his horse and eat his own lunch– in winter, people on his route would invite him inside to eat,” Howard recalls.

One of Quimby’s neighbors, the Pizzo’s, had a farm and a shack large enough to house a cow and a horse.  One night the Pizzos forgot to turn the heater down and it started a fire that destroyed the shed.  A calf and all the chicks were lost.  More important to the small family, its cow and horse were unhurt.  

Losing the shed, however, was still a huge blow to the struggling young family. “Guiseppe was despondent,” Quimby said.

A family friend asked Guiseppe, “Do you like it here?”  Guiseppe said he did.

“Then we’ll have a barn-raising,” his friend declared.  

And they did just that.  The friend had saved enough old beams from a dismantled barn to put up the framework for the structure and Quimby and the neighbors showed up to do the work.  The result was a suitable home for the horse and cow, Quimby recalled.

Intertwined around crops, shipping, animal husbandry, the weather, and helping one another, long time Hudson Valley farmers– like Quimby– are a vanishing breed.

Quimby doesn’t know who will care for his farm after he is gone.  He’s not sure if his four daughters will want to carry on the traditional burden of hard work and responsibility farm life requires in the modern age. 

But with another twinkle of gentle patience in his eye, Quimby has adopted an air of understanding  and acceptance, a letting go, knowing the decision of what will ultimately happen is out of his hands once his final day of farming is done.

 

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Who’s Been Monkey-Wrenching Your Nonprofit?

 

Fortune 500 Companies’ Corporate Espionage

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against nonprofit organizations with near impunity.

Corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, U.S. military, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and local police departments to target nonprofit organizations.

Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON — have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.

Many different types of nonprofit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.

Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against nonprofit organizations. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.

In his carefully-researched paper, Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations, author Gary Ruskin writes the BBI investigative agency:

“…spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings.

According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records– donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos– from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.”

 

The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist to obtain information from a nonprofit. 

But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics– as well as going so low as to raid trash dumpsters– against nonprofits, as well.

~You can find the full report in Gary Ruskin’s Essential Information report here (pdf).

* * * * * * * *

Via Amy Goodman/Democracy Now, Gary Ruskin, Undernews

 

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Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou

 

A Blurred and Tangled Universe

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Phil Chambliss is a 59-year old filmmaker from rural Arkansas. 
He makes weird and wonderful films that are a bizarre alter-universe
mirroring America.

Chambliss has been documenting his rural life in Locust Bayou, Arkansas, for nearly 40 years through his small budget DIY films that straddle between fact and fiction, good and evil.

He worked as a night watchman for the Highway Department for three decades and during the day made his wholly unique, indescribably odd movies starring his neighbors.  He is, in short, the area’s resident cult director– akin to, say, John Waters and David Lynch– all tossed into one.

Filming Westerns, holiday epics and obscurely sinister dramas set in funeral homes, pencil stands and daycare centers for birds, his films proudly ignore most classical standards of editing, acting and coherent dialogue.  They come complete with titles like To Hell with Lead-Poison and Shadows of the Hatchet Man.

Shot on Super 8mm and later videotape, his movies are filled with absurdist but earnest exchanges, and often seem to exist in a genre of their own making and invention.

“I’m originally from a small town,” filmmaker Simon Mercer said upon first meeting Chambliss, “so there were certain bits that I understood very well and related to, but the rest of it was a completely alien world.”

Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou is an anthropological time capsule of sorts, offering a perfect glimpse into the mind of an affectionate, hilarious and utterly mysterious Arkansas artist and his environment.

“Phil has been going around with a camera since the ’70s just capturing little tidbits of people and places around that area,” Mercer said.  That’s what I think is incredible.  He’s documenting this whole chunk of Arkansas history and culture and society without even really thinking about it too consciously — better than probably a lot of people are.”

Equally powerful is its presentation of Chambliss’ natural gifts as a storyteller.

“I wish I could have had them all,” Mercer said of the stories, which include tales of hog hangings, attempted murders and an abandoned career as a pornographer.  

“There was sex and murder and intrigue and family feuds, every kind of story you could ever hope for.  And you’re always straddling this line of not knowing when a story is getting blown out of proportion into fantasy territory.  Sometimes it’s with a wink and a nudge, and other times it’s just so wild I didn’t know where the line was.”

Chambliss and his films testify to the notion that there is a filmmaker in many of us, wanting to make movies like the ones we grew up with, the ones we can never forget, the ones we love.  His work proves that for the determined and the inventive, it’s a small step from loving movies to making them.

Glass Eyes of Locust Bayou gives a mesmerizing glimpse into the blurred and tangled universe Chambliss inhabits– presenting us with a one of a kind folk artist who creates his own dark and twisted version of Americana exactly as he wishes it to be.

~Via Simon Mercer, Ark Times, and Vimeo

 

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Happiness is a Warm Gun

 

Last Year British Cops Fired Their Guns 3 Times

 

–No One Died–

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

America has a love affair with their guns.

In 2012, 409 people were shot and killed by American police in what were termed justifiable shootings.

In that same year, British police officers fired their weapons just once.  No one was killed.

In 2013, British police officers fired their weapons all of three times.  No one died.

According to The Economist, “British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans.  Between 2010 and 2014, the police force of one small American city — Albuquerque in New Mexico — shot and killed 23 civilians;  seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.

The Economist argues that the reason for this disparity is actually quite simple: guns are comparatively rare in the UK.

Most cops don’t carry them and criminals rarely have access to them.  The last time a British officer was killed by a gun was in 2012.  In the US last year, 30 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.

In December, The World reported on Icelanders grieving after their police force killed a man — for the first time in the country’s history as a republic.

~Via PRI, Joe Callandar and Vimeo

 

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Mitch McConnell’s Party of Greedy Old People

 

 

GOP’s Secret Plan for Making All of Us Poor

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Don’t let that glad handing and sweet Southern smile fool you. 
It’s not hard figuring out whose pocket Mitch McConnell is in.

At a secret meeting of elite donors convened by the Koch brothers last June, McConnell laid out his plan for shrinking the federal government and whined about having to vote on minimum wage bills.

The Nation has audio of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also telling the room of conservative activists how Republicans will shut down parts of the government if they gain control of the U.S. Senate.

He also said government would be privatized wherever possible.

Said McConnell:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget.  So what does that mean?  That means that we can pass the spending bill.  And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill.

No money can be spent to do this or to do that.  We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, and across the board (inaudible).

All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it…”

 

McConnell praised the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, telling the uber-wealthy Koch-headed attendees that it “levels the playing field for corporate speech.” 

He also complained about raising the minimum wage, and students being able to obtain student loans for school.  He added students should pay for attending private for-profit colleges instead of public institutions. 

He said the Dodd-Frank act regulating the freewheeling and reckless casino-like actions of Wall Street following the 2008 economic meltdown should be rolled back– and
Wall Street’s financial business allowed to continue without
restraint or interference.

It should come as no surprise and no wonder that Wall Street was the number-one contributor to McConnell’s campaign committee from 2009 to 2014.

The Republican Senate Minority Leader also lamented incredulously that the worst day of his political life was when the McCain-Feingold bill was voted into law limiting donations, perks, and gifts to PACS and members of Congress.

As The Nation put it:

To put that in perspective, Mitch McConnell’s thirty-five-year career in the Senate saw the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans, the 2008 housing meltdown that threatened the entire economy and Barack Obama’s election, to cite a conservative bête noire.  

But it was McCain-Feingold, the bill that banned soft money and unlimited donations to party committees, that constitutes the worst day of his political life.

 

McConnell, to note, has voted down every bill helping the poor, students, children, families, single mothers, and even veterans in his home state and nation.  McConnell, in contrast, has an estimated wealth between $7 million and $37 million dollars.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren remarked, “Mitch McConnell is there for millionaires and billionaires. He is not there for people who are working hard playing by the rules and trying to build a future for themselves.”

Given his comments at the Koch conference and the real agenda close to his heart, it’s no surprise Kentucky ranks near the bottom of the Red
States with the lowest median income in the nation. 

Thanks to McConnell, Kentucky remains the 5th poorest of all the 50 states.

 


 

 

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Swatting the ‘Hood

 

Neighborhood Police… Or Combat Soldiers?

 

Vice **VIDEO**

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.com

 

 

From 1776 forward, Americas have opposed having soldiers do police work
on our soil.  In recent years, however, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with
police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition.

How?  Simply by militarizing police departments.

Through the little-known “military transfer program,” the Pentagon has been shipping massive amounts of surplus war equipment to our local gendarmes.  This reflects a fundamental rewiring of the mindset now guiding neighborhood policing.

Police chiefs today commonly send out squads brandishing heavy arms and garbed in riot gear for peaceful situations.  

Recruiting videos now feature clips of SWAT-team officers dressed in black, hurling flash grenades into a home, then storming the house, firing automatic weapons.  Who wants anyone recruited by that provocative video working in their neighborhood?

As a city councilman in rural Wisconsin commented when told his police were getting a nine-foot-tall armored vehicle:  “Somebody has to be the first to say, ‘Why are we doing this?’”  The New York Times reports that the town’s police chief responded with, “There’s always a possibility of violence.”

Really?  Who threatens us with such mayhem that every burg and ‘burb needs a war-zone armory and a commando mentality?

Astonishingly, a sheriff’s spokesman in suburban Indianapolis offered this answer:  Veterans.

The sheriff’s department needed a mine-resistant armored vehicle, he explained, to defend itself against US veterans returning from the Afghanistan war.  War veterans, he said, “have the ability and knowledge to build homemade bombs and to defeat law enforcement techniques.”

That is lame, loopy, insulting, shameful, and just plain stupid.

Maybe he just forgot to pack his brain when he left for work that day.  But I’m afraid it’s a window into the altered mindset of police chiefs and trainers.

“Officer Friendly, in a Tank?  War Gear Flows to Local Police,” The New York Times, June 9, 2014.

* * * * * * * * *

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.

A national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author, he frequently appears on television and radio programs bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. 

He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried on more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International.  A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.

He has written seven books and is a New York Times bestselling author.

As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell and with a sense of humor.”

You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

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The Brutalization of Kindergarten

 

Kids Just Wanna Play

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It used to be that kindergartners could play — which is how early childhood development experts say young children learn and are socialized best.

Today 5- and 6-year-olds are forced to sit for hours at a time doing academics, often with little or no recess, and in some places, no time for a snack.  Homework goes home every day with many kindergartners.

Stories about the bastardization of kindergarten come from across the country. 

John Gemmill of Dodge City, Kansas, said that he spent at least half of the 186 days he teaches a year giving some sort of mandated standardized assessment– with strict rubrics to follow– to kindergartners in his classes last year.

One veteran educator described his granddaughter’s Houston kindergarten class as a “sweat shop.”  

This past spring the interim principal and four teachers at an elementary school in Elwood, N.Y., sent a letter to parents saying the annual year-end kindergarten play was being cancelled so kids could keep working hard to be “college and career ready.”  (This really happened.)

So what’s next?  How about final exams for kindergartners?

In 2011 the Florida Legislature approved a statute that is to go into effect during the new 2014-15 school year requiring that school districts develop and/or administer seven or more end-of-course assessments to all students — and they did not exclude kindergarten.  

As a result, Florida school districts have been developing final assessments in subjects including math, language arts, music, science and social studies to give to students, including kindergartners.

In Florida, the results of end-of-course exams affect the evaluation and pay of teachers.

Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said it would be outrageous to give kindergartners these new exams.

“We support fair measures of accountability, but forcing 6-year-olds to take 7 potentially high stakes tests is unacceptable,” Oropeza said.

…An excerpt, you can Valerie Strauss’ full article in The Washington Post here

~Via UnderNews, Washington Post, Ron Goldstone and Vimeo

 

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Bringing Jobs Back to America

 

The Cooperative Revival

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not surprising that some are making the case for working co-ops. 
When workers own their companies, everyone wins.

Leo Gerard, the President of United Steelworkers Union, has been vocal about the possibility of what he calls “union cooperatives.”  

He has even studied this: In the wake of the recession, his union allied with Mondragon, a large federation of cooperatives based in Spain, and spent three years developing ways to build a similar movement in the states.  Gerard noted that even while the Spanish economy has fared poorly in recent years, Mondragon proved resilient, maintaining steady employment.

The idea is catching on in the U.S. as well.  In Pittsburgh, a “union cooperative” industrial laundry called Clean and Green uses green technologies and employs 120 worker owners.  The business replaces a traditionally-run laundry;  if it succeeds it will be potent proof for the cooperative movement.

Two thousand minority home health-care workers in New York City formed a cooperative that increased their wages and benefits while also giving them more control of their working conditions.  They are coordinating with the Service Employees International Union.  

The NYC coop model might provide unions with just the fresh air that they need.  The economist Richard Wolff says that, “Unions concentrated mostly on how to minimize what to give back.  They very rarely think in terms of strategic alternatives.”

In Cincinnati, one cooperative is connected with local building trades, and it retrofits buildings with green energy technologies.  The nascent nature of the industry makes it ideal for cooperatives, which cannot be formed in industries already dominated by large hierarchical corporations.  Ohio Cooperative Solar, for instance, installs solar panels on rooftops in downtown Cleveland.

Cooperatives can also supplement economic development programs in cities suffering under the weight of what’s called deindustrialization.  In Cleveland, historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz has developed a cooperative model based on the idea of “anchor institutions.”  He aims to use institutions like hospitals, local government, and universities, which are constantly in demand, to serve as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of the business cycle.  

Alperovitz says that he’s had interest in his anchor-institutions model from representatives from about a hundred cities across the country.  Cincinnati has ex-
perimented with the anchor-institution model, as well as Atlanta, Washington, D.C.,
and Jacksonville.  Most of these areas are either deindustrialized or were hit hard by
the housing crisis.

And coops are not just good for unions, the environment, and struggling towns– they are good for workers, too.

A study by economist Chris Doucouliagos examines 43 published studies and finds that profit-sharing, worker-ownership, and worker participation in decision-making correlated with higher productivity.  The effects are stronger among labor-managed firms than those with merely worker-ownership schemes like ESOPs.

This seems to be playing out in the Union Cab Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin.  The coop was formed when cab drivers– who were fed up with long hours, poor benefits, and low pay– ditched management and bought the cabs themselves.

Their cab cooperative is run by a nine-person board of directors elected by the workers who sit for terms of no more than three years.  In total, about 60 workers are involved in management, with representation distributed throughout the cooperative.  

The highest-paid workers make a base salary that is only 2.2 times the lowest-paid workers, although drivers who spend more hours driving and those elected to management positions make more.

 

…An excerpt, you can read the full article by the Huffington Post’s Sean McElwee here.

 

 

 

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Net Neutrality and the Gilded Age

 

Time to Shut Up and Pay Up for Access

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s not the government that’s going to trample on your 1st amendment rights. 

It’s the corporations with the government’s permission.

Namely, Comcast and Time Warner.  And your local politicians who are paving the greedy way forward.

A whopping 52 mayors from cities across the country have all recently declared their support for the controversial Comcast-Time Warner merger.

In a signed letter to the Federal Communications Commission, they adopted those companies’ twisted logic that a near-monopoly would actually be a good thing for their citizens.

As it happens, Comcast and Time Warner are regarded by several surveys as the most hated companies in America.  They spend a fortune lobbying Congress to overturn the terribly-termed net neutrality.  If they’re successful, that would allow them to charge customers more to access certain websites at full speed and to censor others.

Unlike the tools available to expose donations to members of Congress– whom Comcast and Time Warner have given millions of dollars to in campaign donations and who then directly tried to kill net neutrality– there isn’t a central database to search mayoral campaign contributions.

The idea of net neutrality could very well become a thing of the past if this merger occurs. 

Easily explained in the videos as to why it’s important, we see it as a 1st amendment issue– and one that is important for the vital free flow of information equally available and accessible for everyone.

 

Net Neutrality from wreckandsalvage on Vimeo.

 

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Warbird Pilot

 

Keeping the Legacy Alive

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Some people see warbird pilots as fearless, confident, risky or arrogant.

In reality, they’re no different than you or me.  They’re just willing to put it all on the line to keep the old warbird legacy alive at their own personal expense.  Some of these pilots were born into the life style; others have worked their way to the top of the small community.

Rob Scribner’s mini-documentary shows what it’s like to be a warbird pilot.  Keeping history alive by flying and maintaining these vintage aircraft for future generations, they’re a different breed altogether.  And the aircraft themselves are a different kind of beautiful:  aerodynamic and sleek, simple and efficient lines, metal and chrome and a roaring Allison or Merlin engine with lots of raw, pure power when unleashed.

Warbird Pilot: Behind the Visor explores the aspects of flying these birds, the bad and difficult parts, the passion behind it and reason they do it, and the joys and the fears of the lifestyle.

John-Curtiss Paul talks about the life of maintaining and flying the old WWII birds—and the life he potentially leaves behind with each flight.

There are only a handful of people in the world that are even capable of doing what John-Curtiss Paul does, and he does it with passion to keep the living legacy of history alive.

* * * * * * * * * *

For you camera and editing aficionados, Scribner describes the equipment he used in making this film:

Most of this project was filmed on the FS100 but we also use a 7D, 60D, and Go-pro Footage.

The FS100 was the A cam;  we did not have a ton of lenses to work with, mainly the 18-200mm Sony E-mount and a 20mm Sony E-mount 2.8 which worked great for fast shooting.

The trick for us was making good use of the Tiffen ND filters.  We shot all the interviews at 24p and most of the Broll in 60p (S & Q).

There were a few times I change to 1080 60p internal to the cam because I wanted to capture audio that I could use later in post but also want to slow it down to 24p.

The 7D, which was our B cam, also had a stock lens, the 18-135mm Canon EF.  This was also the cam we used for the time-lapse shots.  The project was finished up and edited in Premiere Pro CC.

We had to be scrappy when making this project which was actually really fun.

 

~For those P40 and P51 Mustang pilots everywhere, past and present. 

 

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Where Did You Sleep Last Night

 

Lead Belly’s Nirvana (1888-1949)

 

**Viral VIDEO**

 

 

He was a bad dude who lived larger than life.

Lead Belly is an old-school wrecking ball folk-singer who worked hard labor as a sharecropper in the Depression-era South, and lived it up with hot babes, stiff drinks, and smoke-filled clubs in Renaissance-era Harlem.

He kicked his enemies’ collective butts in at least five hardcore back-alley knife fights, escaped from jail once, convinced the governors of two states to pardon him from murder raps using nothing more than a guitar and his singing voice, and went on to basically help create modern music by influencing everyone from Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra to Kurt Cobain and Jack White.

He was tough as hell and built like a house.  He drank hard, fought harder, played the twelve-string guitar better than any man alive during his day, and once responded to being stabbed in the throat in prison by pulling the knife out of his own neck and almost murdering the dude with it.

Huddie William Ledbetter was born on a Louisiana bayou in January of 1888.  One of five kids, Ledbetter’s dad was a sharecropper– a tough, calloused-handed wandering manual laborer who worked insane twelve-hour shifts in the hot Louisiana sun for next to nothing.

Huddie quickly realized that bouncing around the countryside with his dirt-poor family looking for backbreaking jobs wasn’t his thing, so he decided to get the hell out of there, beat the shitty hand he’d been dealt with, and become a superstar musician instead.

By twelve he’d dropped out of school.  By fifteen he’d taught himself how to play the accordion, one of the hardest and more complicated instruments to play.

Better known as Lead Belly, he was soon playing shows in the St. Paul’s Bottom neighborhood of Shreveport, Louisiana as a young kid– a hardcore red light district known for being packed with hookers and hooch.

Surrounded by drunken debauchery didn’t derail Lead Belly’s quest for awesomeness, and he was all up in St. Paul’s Bottom cranking out jams on his accordion, blowing everyone’s minds with his music, then going home with a fifth of scotch and the hottest gal in the club.

By the age of sixteen he was married with two kids.  By twenty he was divorced and had split out of Shreveport, wandering the South playing shows in any venue that would have him, and working hard labor jobs when music didn’t pay his bills.

Lead rode the rails, traveling the land from the beer-soaked streets of Shreveport’s seediest neighborhoods to the hottest clubs in Deep Ellum, Texas; hanging out at every bar, saloon, and music venue along the way.

But Lead wasn’t just there to party.  He made it his life’s mission to listen to every musician he could find– and absorb all the musical knowledge he could.

He learned to play the piano, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and violin, became the undisputed master of the twelve-string guitar, and spoke to so many famous blues and folk musicians that he became a walking encyclopedia of American folk tunes.

Before long he could play basically every folk song there was (he claimed to have learned over 500 tunes), and when he wasn’t putting a new spin on old standards, he was writing badass songs about cowboys, sailors, women, booze, prison, and God.  Hitler, too.

Along the line he worked hard jobs to earn enough cash to put food on the table, hammering railroad spikes, picking cotton, herding cattle as a cowboy, and hammering fence posts.

Lead Belly’s budding music career hit a slight hitch in 1915, when the folk guitarist was arrested for punching a dude in the face, pulling a gun in the middle of a barroom brawl, and then pummeling someone with it.

He was sentenced to serve an unspecified period of hard labor on a chain gang in Harrison County, Texas, busting out the hard work that paid even worse than sharecropping.  Two days into his mandatory community service of whacking rocks, Lead slipped off when the shotgun-toting guards weren’t looking and bolted out of there on foot– some sources claim they sent dogs after him but he managed to elude them.  Escaping prison, he fled to the next county, changed his name, and went right back to work as a manual laborer by day and an aspiring musician by night.

Even though he always played shows in a three-piece suit and a bow tie, Lead Belly was more gangsta than half of Death Row Records.  Bob Dylan once referred to Lead Belly as “One of the few ex-cons to ever record a successful children’s album.”

Lead Belly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame early in the Hall’s life, and his music, which became insanely more popular after his death, has been covered by Bob Dylan, the White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Elvis, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, and dozens of other bands, almost all of whom cite this hard-drinking, hard-fighting badass as a major influence on their careers.

Lead Belly lived a more colorful life than can possibly be described in this short column, but you can read more about him here.

~Via Badass, Wikipedia, MTV and Vimeo

 

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Am I Next?

 

Ferguson Seen Through the Eyes
of a Teenager

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

A 16-year-old kid says more with a marker and paper than all of the media did.

Looting, chanting, tear gas, and rubber bullets have been the frequent images coming out of Ferguson, Mo.  

Much of the press coverage following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson has centered more on Brown’s character, personal issues, and a smaller number of looters– rather than asking the greater number of people why they’re protesting and reacting so angrily in the aftermath.

The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful and standing up for their rights, armed with little more than chalk and paper signs protesting what they view as an injustice.

Hoping to create a memorial for Michael Brown, the teenager killed by a police officer in the St Louis suburb on August 9, we follow teenager Shane Flowers as he weaved through the protests, attempting to let his voice be heard and fight for change as the darkness slowly fell on Florissant Avenue.

As he moves through the crowds, he hears differing opinions from other protesters on the best ways to fight for change.

If you want to get to the heart of why people are so frustrated and enraged, look no further than the 16-year-old who expresses much of what the community is struggling with and writing down the questions many are asking.

 

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Ranger Gabriel Gets His Wish

 

A Young Boy’s Journey to Yosemite

 

Staff Pick **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Gabriel always had a wish to be a park ranger.

When the Yosemite park rangers got word of his dream, they stepped up to the plate, in a VERY big way.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying is an eight-year-old from Gainesville, Florida, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited and incurable connective tissue disorder that causes abnormal bruising and skin and joint weaknesses.

With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, and Yosemite National Park, Gabriel’s wish came true on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.  That was the day he became an honorary park ranger at an official swearing-in ceremony.

The rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger.  He arrived in Yosemite with his family– mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic– and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just out-
side the south gate of the park.

On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a woodland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, and was dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter.

After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials.  United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel received a flag that had previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

We understand Gabriel passed with flying colors.  And he got his own parking space and celebratory cake to boot  after his official swearing in.

Nice job, Ranger Gabriel– and to all of those making his dream come true. 

We can’t name all of you– but you know who you are.


~Via Chris McKechnie, Yosemite Park, and Wish.org
  
   Photos by Michelle Hansen

* * * * * * * *

The Make-A-Wish organization grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant disorder placing the child’s life in jeopardy.

More about the Make-A-Wish foundation can be found here.

 

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Missouri Burning

 

Tensions Again Erupt in Ferguson–

One Protester Shot; Seven Arrested

 

**VIDEO**

 

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

It’s only getting worse.

Rioting, looting, shooting and burning down stores.  What we’re seeing in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, is an example of how the streets can quickly descend into chaos as tensions erupt.

The mayhem in Ferguson escalated early this Sunday morning as a man was shot and seven people were arrested following a confrontation between police and protesters who refused to abide by the state mandated curfew.

Authorities have not identified the man but said he was critically wounded by a gunshot.  It is unclear who shot him, but he was injured near an area of the town where protesters had gathered near a restaurant and some people were standing on the roof.  Authorities said it did not appear he was shot by an officer.

Officers from Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis City and County police worked to remove the people from the area and brought armored vehicles and tear gas.  A man with a handgun was spotted in the crowd and another person was reported shooting at a police car.

“I was disappointed in the actions of tonight” said patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, looking weary over the continued violence and escalating tensions rocking the community.

Police had earlier pledged they would not use such tactics but Johnson said they were worried about officers’ safety.

“Tonight’s response was a proper one,” he said, adding that he was “disappointed” that rioting continued.

The crowd, which is continuing to protest the fatal shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, refused to comply with the curfew chanting “No justice! No curfew!”

Police have not announced information about Wilson.  He wrote on his Facebook page Saturday that he had to deactivate it the day before due to a number of threats.

“I can’t share much at this point but the media is going too far invading my family’s privacy,” he wrote.  “I am concerned for their safety.”

He also wrote Friday he was “overwhelmed” by kind words and prayers people had been sending him.  “This is a very difficult time for all people involved and I am trying to have faith that the right outcomes will be reached for the community,” he wrote.  “I am sorry that I cannot answer all of your messages but hope you understand. Continued prayers for all are appreciated.”

When police informed the crowd they were in violation of the state mandate, the crowd refused to disperse and officers fired smoke and tear gas canisters at the citizens.  The mandate was imposed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m.

But the tensions between the people and local police seem to only escalate.

“They got guns.  We got guns.  We are ready,” said Jayson Ross, who was leading the protesters toward police before the canisters were fired.

As canisters flew through the air about 50 minutes into the curfew, a protestor hurled a Molotov cocktail at the side of a local store and ignited a small fire.

Clouds of smoke had filled the street when a group of other protesters raced toward the store, Chop Suey, and stomped out the fire.

Cops in riot gear were hanging back as the demonstrators slowly advanced along W. Florissant Ave. at about 12:30 a.m. local time.

But 15 minutes later, cops threatened to move in.

“This is the police,” an officer announced into a bullhorn.  “You are violating the state-issued curfew.  You must disperse immediately or you will be subject to arrest.”

The dangerous scene occurred hours after the governor was heckled at a press conference at a church where he announced the curfew.

A group of Black Panthers were seen leading protesters in a chant calling for his head.

“What’s his name?” they shouted.

“Darren Wilson,” they replied.

“How do we want him?” they shouted.

“Dead,” several protesters replied.

 

 

 

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The Most Wanted Man in the World

 

Edward Snowden’s Untold Story

 

**VIDEO**

 

James Bamford
Wired Magazine

 

The message arrives on my “clean machine,” a MacBook Air
loaded only with a sophisticated encryption package.

“Change in plans,” my contact says.  “Be in the lobby of the Hotel X by 1 pm.  Bring a book and wait for ES to find you.”

ES is Edward Snowden, the most wanted man in the world.  For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting.

Among other things, I want to answer a burning question:  What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?

In May I received an email from his lawyer, ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, confirming that Snowden would meet me in Moscow and let me hang out and chat with him for what turned out to be three solid days over several weeks.  It is the most time that any journalist has been allowed to spend with him since he arrived in Russia in June 2013.

But the finer details of the rendezvous remain shrouded in mystery.  I landed in Moscow without knowing precisely where or when Snowden and I would actually meet.

Now, at last, the details are set…

     …A minimal excerpt, you can read the full piece in Wired Magazine here

 

 

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in his own words from WIRED on Vimeo.

 

 

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Choppers

 

American Freedom

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Choppers, and building them, are big.

A chopper is a motorcycle either modified from an original motorcycle design– “chopped”– or built from scratch to have a unique hand-crafted appearance.  Relieved of weight by removing excess parts making them lighter and faster, choppers have a low and sleek appearance making them look and sound totally badass awesome.

Choppers began in America when servicemen returning home from WWII started modifying bikes to their own liking, removing all parts deemed too big, heavy, ugly, or unessential to the basic function of the motorcycle, such as fenders, turn indicators, and even front brakes. The large, spring-suspended saddles were removed in order to sit as low as possible on the motorcycle’s frame.

The earliest choppers tended to be based on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, at first making use of the Flathead, Knucklehead and Panhead engines– many of which could be found in surplus military and police motorcycles bought cheaply at auction.  As new engines became available they were soon utilized in choppers.

Over time choppers became more and more about achieving a certain independence, freedom, and customized look.  It’s always the lines, the overall silhouette, the angle of the tank, the bars, and what gives it ‘The Look’.

Stripped down pretty bikes with just enough style, class, power and sound to stand out from the pack.

You can be the best welder/fabricator/mechanic in the world but if you haven’t got that bit of style it’s just an ordinary modified bike– rather than the true American chopper ruling the road.

 

BORN FREE from scott pommier on Vimeo.

 

For Joe King, Bear Marler, Trinia Cuseo, and the BLMC

Ride on.

 

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Robin Williams Crosses Over

 

Severe Depression Likely Led to Suicide

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

“The loneliest people are the kindest
  The saddest people smile the brightest
  All because they do not wish to see
  Anyone suffer the way they do”

    ~Unknown

 

The Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died Monday in California.  He was 63.

“At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made,” the Marin County Coroner said in a statement. “A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.”

“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” the actor’s rep Mara Buxbaum added in a statement to ABC News.  “He has been battling severe depression of late.  This is a tragic and sudden loss.”

Born in Chicago, Williams discovered his passion for acting in high school, before moving to New York City to study at Juilliard alongside Christopher Reeve.

A few years later, he also began doing stand-up comedy and working in television, before landing a star-making guest role as alien Mork in Happy Days.  In 1978, he was given his own spin-off series, Mork & Mindy, for which he won a Golden Globe.

Around that time, Williams suffered a great loss:  His friend, John Belushi, died of a drug overdose in 1982, prompting Williams, who had struggled with alcoholism and cocaine abuse, to quit, cold turkey.

He would go on to make two trips to rehab, once in 2006, and again this past July. 

“Addiction isn’t caused by anything, it’s just there,” Williams said in 2006.  “It waits.  It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’  Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK.  Then you realize, ‘Where am I?  I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’”

Meanwhile, Williams discovered a passion for film in the ’80s. With that came a litany of awards, including a Golden Globe for his role in the 1988 film, Good Morning, Vietnam, a Golden Globe for his 1993 film, Mrs. Doubtfire, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for 1996′s, The Birdcage.

In 1998, after three nominations, he won his first Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting.  “This might be the one time I’m speechless!” he quipped while accepting the honor.

President Obama said in a statement on the actor’s passing:

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, Peter Pan, and everything in between.  But he was one of a kind.  He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.  

He made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

 

Williams also had a rich personal life.

In 1978, he married his first wife, Valerie Velardi, with whom he had one son, Zachary, now 31.  He and Verlardi divorced in 1988, and the next year, he married Marsha Garces, who had previously been a nanny to Zachary.

He and Garces, from whom he split in 2008, had two children, Zelda, now 25, and Cody, 23. Williams married his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schenider, in 2011.

Recently, Williams had been hard at work.  He starred in the CBS series, The Crazy Ones and recently finished filming several film projects, including Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

He also recently celebrated a birthday and, in his last Instagram post, wished his daughter a happy 25th.

~Via Vimeo, Looking Back and Google News

 

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My Life After Manson

 

Patricia Krenwinkel’s Story

Award-Winning Documentary

 

Olivia Klaus
Filmmaker

 

 

Forty-five years ago, Patricia Krenwinkel killed for Charles Manson.  

I vividly remember entering the California Institution for Women for the first time in 2001.

As the prison guard slammed the gate behind me, I wondered if I had made the right decision to become a volunteer for an inmate support group.  But my nerves were eased by a woman who introduced herself as “Krenny.”

Welcoming me into the group, she seemed quiet and insecure — yet also exuded an inner strength.  I had no idea how she got here and didn’t ask.  It was only several years later, while documenting the support group for a documentary film, “Sin by Silence,” that I learned Krenny’s full name:  Patricia Krenwinkel.

I was astounded. She was one of the infamous Charles Manson followers, convicted of seven murders.  She eventually approached me to go on camera with her story.

In this Op-Doc video, Ms. Krenwinkel provides her first on-camera interview since 1994, reflecting on her life before and after Manson.  This week would be the 45th anniversary of her crimes.

In 1969, at age 21, Ms. Krenwinkel was a member of Mr. Manson’s cult in Los Angeles.  His group, which he called the “Family,” included more than a dozen men and women who adhered to a bizarre mixture of hippie culture and apocalyptic paranoia.

Seeking to inspire a race war, Manson ordered Ms. Krenwinkel and other members of his group to commit a series of murders.  Over the course of two nights, they savagely murdered seven people, inflicting more than 130 stab wounds.  One of them, the actress Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant.

At their trial, the women shamelessly admitted their crimes and flaunted their allegiance to a leader they loved, but who clearly controlled their minds.

Over the years, I had gotten to know this woman — and our many conversations about life, love and politics had revealed slivers of a dark past.  But not until her on-camera interview, featured in this Op-Doc, did I fully comprehend her journey of self-discovery.

In prison, she has struggled mightily to reconcile two parts of her life: the 21-year-old girl who committed crimes to win the approval of the man she loved; and the 66-year-old woman who lives each day haunted by the unending suffering she has caused.

Ms. Krenwinkel is now the longest serving woman in the California prison system.  She says she takes full responsibility for her actions — finally, she says, she is a woman she can accept.

But is society ready to accept her back?  She is eligible for parole in 2018.

~Via Olivia Klaus, NY Times/All Things Crime, and Vimeo

* * * * * * * * * *

Olivia Klaus is a documentary filmmaker who lives in Austin.  This video is taken from a longer documentary,Life After Manson,” that premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. 

In August of 2014, it received a Vimeo Staff Pick award.

 

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Ebola: A Painful, Dreadful, Merciless Virus

 

West African Outbreak Spreading

 

**VICE VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak
in West Africa an international crisis, killing more than 900 people
and spreading beyond borders.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) is calling it a “painful, dreadful, merciless virus.” 

First emerging in 1976, the disease has been confirmed in 10 African nations– but never before in the region of West Africa.

There is no cure for Ebola hemorrhagic fever.  More than half of people infected in this outbreak have died. Death rates in past outbreaks have reached 90%.

Ebola leads to a cruel death that comes within days. Patients grow weak and feverish, suffering through body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal hemorrhaging and bleeding from the nose and ears.

This outbreak has proved more difficult to control than previous ones because the disease is crossing national borders and spreading to more urban areas.  

Lack of experience with the disease has contributed to its spread, coupled with a shortage of medical personnel and supplies, widespread poverty, and political instability.

West African health workers and clinics have come under attack from residents, who sometimes blame foreign doctors for the deaths.  People with Ebola fear going to a hospital and are shunned by friends and neighbors.

The damage is spiraling far beyond the patients.  Because it’s spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, Ebola takes an especially harsh toll on doctors and nurses, already in short supply in areas of Africa hit by the disease.

In Sierra Leone, Doctors Without Borders said the disease continues to spread.  The organization said they don’t have enough staff or space to assist those infected with Ebola, and there is a very real fear they will have to turn patients away.

Two of the worst-hit countries– Liberia and Sierra Leone– sent troops to quarantine areas with Ebola cases.  The outbreak began in Guinea in March before spreading to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.  

A single traveler recently carried it even farther, to Nigeria, leading to cases in the giant city of Lagos, Africa’s most populous city of 21 million people.

With nearly 1,000 dead and almost 2,000 now infected, a leading health official in Liberia said they do not have enough beds to treat the ill.  Many infected people are being left to die alone in their villages.  In some cases, the bodies of Ebola victims are simply being dumped in the street.

On the front line of the battle to contain the deadly virus sit health workers, who are bearing the brunt of it.  Scores have died and Liberia’s Heath Workers Association George Williams said they are growing increasingly angry.

“If you were to go into the isolation centers right now, you will see the number of our colleagues — health workers — who are now lying in isolation centers or dead from the infectious Ebola virus,” said Williams.  

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has apologized for the high death toll among those who were first to respond to the outbreak and pledged more money to fund staff and treatment centers.

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, predicts that within a few weeks Ebola will sicken more people than all previous occurrences combined.  More than 1,900 cases have been documented to date.  Scores more have gone unreported.

Global health officials predict it will take many months before the outbreak
is brought under control.  That is, if all goes as well as they hope.

~Via Google News, CNBC, Vice, YouTube

 

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