• No Sweat
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Sticking to the Union

    The Republican Thugs are trying to crush the unions. This is nothing new. For decades now the rich and powerful have tried to break the working class, and you know what? Despite their crap we have WON the right to a weekend, WON the right to a 40 hour work week, WON the right to childhood without forced labor, WON the right to health and retirement benefits, WON the right to collective bargaining...

    There has not been one moment since the turn of the 20th century that labor hasn't had to fight for its rights. Now is no exception and now, just as much as any other time, we have to fight together, and we have to STICK TO THE UNION.

    And you know it was Woodie Guthrie that got the whole thing started:

    Perhaps the best message to remember from Woodie (Hillbilly) Guthrie, is "You Fascists Bound to Lose"

    That is how the union movement took off, back when farmers and workers were sacrificed for the sake of trickle down economics back in the Great Depression. Yep...NONE OF THIS IS NEW. All that is new is the communication technology we all use. The basic fight dates back to the Dust Bowl and then the Great Depression. The right wing Republicans tried to force trickle down on us back then and it FAILED then...and it will fail now.

    Of course Woodie was known for another great progressive song we all know:

    Later Woodie Guthrie's "Union Maid" was taken up by a later generation, represented by Pete Seeger (who stood up to the Blacklist with great determination) and Woodie's son, Arlo Guthrie (who continues to stand up to a physical disability):

    And then Union Maid continues in modern times:

    But Woodie's other songs also continue into today's consciousness. Bruce Springsteen called it "about the greatest song ever written about America":

    And Pete Seeger, who took the torch from Woodie, sang it with Bruce, who took the torch from Pete:

    SHIT, THIS is what Republicans are fighting to KILL! Why do Republicans want to KILL this spirit? This spirit is the HEART of America. I mean SHIT, Johnny Cash did the song:

    This FUCKING land is YOURS and MINE. Not the damned Koch Billionaires'.

    And of course Greatful Dead and Los Lobos did it as well:

    And of course Woodie's son Arlo did the same song:

    And what about Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Denver singing it with Arlo Guthrie:

    And here is yet another version:

    Yeah...I mean how much more AMERICAN can you get than this kind of WORKING CLASS, pro-fucking-union, PROGRESSIVE sentiment.

    But look...the union spirit is NOT just the musicians and is the WORKERS who are at the heart of it...there is no famous singer in this version, just blue collar, working class, AMERICANS:

    THIS is what the Republicans fear most...honest, working class Americans who stick to the union, because when honest, working class Americans stick to the union the pro-Billionaire Republicans LOSE. THAT is what we have to do.

    Okay...enough. What is my point.

    America is NOT about Teabagger, Koch Billionaire trickle down bullshit. America is NOT about the modern Republican Party. America is about Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Los Lobos and everyone else who sings a god damned UNION song to support America's working and middle class. We support our teachers, our firefighters, our cops, our nurses, our construction workers, our trash collectors, our road builders, our get the point. Republicans oppose each and every one of these and help ONLY billionaires. Why is this even a contest? They have the money, but we have the votes.

    It is time for farmers, firefighters, cops, teachers, nurses, construction workers, miners, trash collectors, and every single working and middle class American to unite against the Republican pro-Billionaire, trickle down bullshit.

    I can think of no better thing than to fight for our teachers, firefighters, nurses and police. Republicans are screwing them over, and for what? ALL they want is tax breaks for billionaires. I'd rather teachers, firefighters, nurses and cops than billionaires. What about you?

    For now, there are four key states where the fight is going down. There are more, and there WILL be even more. But for now, the four key states are Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Help fight the good fight.

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    Better Banking and Better Credit Cards

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    We are all angry at the big banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and Citibank because of their predatory lending practices, terrible customer service and greedy, selfish politics and business practices. Basically these banks and similar ones have screwed working class and middle class Americans and made a profit off our suffering. Then they got bailed out with OUR tax money when their lousy business practices and predatory lending hit them in the ass. These banks got us into the economic mess we are in and the CEOs of these banks took America to the cleaners and have been reaping the profits while we suffer foreclosures and tough times. And the fees they charge are insane!

    That is why I advocate breaking ties with these big predatory banks and finding alternatives. I personally have been divesting myself of these big bad banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank and instead switching my mortgage, accounts and credit cards to USAA (which only works with Veterans and their families), TD Bank (a large bank that actually has excellent customer service and did not engage in predatory lending), and local credit unions. I have particularly liked TD Bank who refinanced my mortgage at a much better rate and much simpler than the big bad banks.

    But so far my wife and I still haven't been able to get rid of all our Chase and Bank of America credit cards. Paying off the debt is tough, but we are working on it. But I would like to find better credit cards to use.

    Well, Green America has some suggestions I would like to pass on to you.

    Cards Connected to Better Banks
    There are socially responsible banks and credit unions that exemplify responsible lending practices—as well as community investing institutions that take the social mission one step further by also investing in low-income populations.

    Wainwright Bank Visa Cards (fees and rates vary): Wainwright, a Boston-based bank with a tradition of “socially progressive” banking, offers six different Visa credit cards with different rates and terms. All of these cards are issued and managed by Elan, a financial services company. Steven F. Young, senior vice president at Wainwright, says they “chose Elan because we felt their consumer practices were best.”

    Permaculture Credit Union’s (PCU) Visa card (13% apr, no annual fee): Based in New Mexico, PCU is committed to Earth-friendly and socially responsible loans and investments. PCU’s card is issued by the Illinois Credit Union League to anyone, whether or not they are a PCU account holder, though applicants should mention they are “affiliated” with Permaculture Credit Union.

    ReDirect Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): The ReDirect card is issued by Washington state’s ShoreBank Pacific.Depositors fuel the bank’s lending programs, which enable sustainable community development. ShoreBank Pacific issues the card by way of TCM, which is owned by ICBA Bancard, a subsidiary of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

    Your card fees support ShoreBank Pacific’s community investing mission, and half of the card’s proceeds go toward reducing CO2 emissions through Sustainable Travel International’s “MyClimate” high-quality offsets. In addition to a conventional rewards program, the card also earns cardholders discounts at the sustainable businesses listed in regional “ReDirect Guides” for Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins, CO; Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA; and Salt Lake City/Park City, UT. Those businesses that offer Internet purchasing will extend ReDirect discounts to any cardholder. There’s no need to have a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

    Salmon Nation Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): This card, also from ShoreBank Pacific, directs a percentage of its income to growing a community of citizens that practice environmental stewardship of “Salmon Nation,” a bio-region stretching from Alaska to Oregon where wild salmon live. Like the ReDirect card, Salmon Nation Visa isn’t benefiting a mega-bank, and you don’t need a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

    The Loop Card (11.99% apr, no annual fee): A Visa from Albina Community Bank in Oregon. Profits from this Visa from Oregon’s Albina Community Bank not only support Albina, but one percent of every purchase goes to Portland’s neighborhoods, funding education, health, social services, environment, the arts, or economic development projects. You do not have to have an account with Albina to get the card, and it is not connected to a mega-bank.

    Shorebank’s Elan Visa Consumer Card (variable apr, no annual fee): ShoreBank, in the Midwest, is a community development and environmental bank that issues a credit card available to anyone nationwide through Elan, the same company servicing Wainright Bank’s cards, at a rate determined by your credit history.

    Self-Help credit union cards (9.95–12.95% apr, no annual fee): Self-Help, headquartered in North Carolina, works in communities traditionally underserved by conventional financial institutions. It offers Classic and Platinum Visa credit cards to members, and through online banking, anyone nationwide can become an account holder and apply. The cards are issued by Self-Help, a community development bank.

    For those purchases you make by credit card, using one of these best-option cards can make your charges a force for good.

    One of my goals this year is to switch from my current credit cards, which are still mega-bank linked, to one or two of these cards. I hope you will all join my in making the switch.

    Return to Mole's Consumer Advice Page.

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    Monday, August 29, 2011

    BOOK REVIEW: This Moment on Earth

    I was surprisingly inspired by John and Teresa Heinz Kerry's book, This Moment on Earth when I first read it in 2007. This inspiration snuck up on me around the third chapter. Prior to that, I found the book good, well worth reading, but a little bit like just one more book outlining what humans are doing wrong. Starting around the third chapter I realized I was referring to the book in several conversations and several blog diaries and that several of the people and organizations featured in the book I mentally filed away as worth looking into for future political connections, diaries and general research.

    In short, almost without my realizing it, John and Theresa Heinz Kerry's book was getting into my brain and inspiring me. The book starts a bit dull but by the end is excellent.

    My earliest impression, from the press material that arrived with the book and from the introduction, was that this book promised something really new and welcome. The book was billed as the next step in the evolution of the environmental debate. I was ready for a book that took as given the problems and focused primarily on solutions. Having been through way too many "debates" online where I yet again outlined the very clear and definitive scientific evidence for global warming only to have yet the same false claims of global warming deniers (these claims are never backed up by scientific evidence of any substance), I really was ready to have a book that moved beyond that.

    And, on exactly the same day I received This Moment on Earth I was reading the February 9th, 2007 issue of Science, America's most respected scientific journal. And in that issue, the scientific community was doing exactly what John Kerry seemed to be proposing. In the summation of the 4th IPCC Working Group presented in that issue of Science, has this to say:

    The last time the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessed the state of the climate, in early 2001, it got a polite enough hearing. The world was warming, it said, and human activity was "likely" to be driving most of the warming. Back then, the committee specified a better-than-60% chance--not exactly a ringing endorsement. And how bad might things get? That depended on a 20-year-old guess about how sensitive the climate system might be to rising greenhouse gases. Given the uncertainties, the IPCC report's reception was on the tepid side.

    Six years of research later, the heightened confidence is obvious. The warming is "unequivocal." Humans are "very likely" (higher than 90% likelihood) behind the warming. And the climate system is "very unlikely" to be so insensitive as to render future warming inconsequential...

    The fact of warming was perhaps the most straightforward item of business. For starters, the air is 0.74°C warmer than in 1906, up from a century's warming of 0.6°C in the last report. "Eleven of the last twelve years rank among the 12 warmest years in the [150-year-long] instrumental record," notes the summary. Warming ocean waters, shrinking mountain glaciers, and retreating snow cover strengthened the evidence.

    So the IPCC authors weren't impressed by the contrarian argument that the warming is just an "urban heat island effect" driven by increasing amounts of heat-absorbing concrete and asphalt. That effect is real, the report says, but it has "a negligible influence" on the global number. Likewise, new analyses have largely settled the hullabaloo over why thermometers at Earth's surface measured more warming than remote-sensing satellites had detected higher in the atmosphere (Science, 12 May 2006, p. 825). Studies by several groups have increased the satellite-determined warming, largely reconciling the difference...

    The IPCC concludes that both models and past climate changes point to a fairly sensitive climate system. The warming for a doubling of CO2 "is very unlikely to be less than 1.5 °C," says the report, not the less than 0.5 °C favored by some contrarians. A best estimate is about 3 °C, with a likely range of 2 °C to 4.5 °C.

    Much of the rest of the issue of Science is devoted to a discussion of SOLUTIONS to global warming through energy policy. The overwhelming consensus of scientists, as reported in America's most prestigious science journal, is that anthropogenic (human-caused) warming is happening and the most optimistic scenarios are not the most likely scenarios. We are in for a rough ride and the time is now to accept the problem and move on to solutions. Shift the debate, people. Let's talk what to DO ABOUT IT.

    I was ready for John Kerry's book to carry the same theme: it is time to take as given the problem and move on to solutions.

    That isn't what I got. And at first I was disappointed. As I read the first two chapters I felt I was reading yet another book that outlined the problem with perhaps a little more emphasis placed on solutions and how individuals and small groups are empowering themselves to fight back. The book was good and very informative, but I was unconvinced that it was new. This kind of outlining the problems we are facing reached its peak, I think, in Jared Diamond's book Collapse, covering many environmental issues from a very broad historical and sociological perspective. Superb book that I HIGHLY recommend. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth gave us a nice Powerpoint presentation on global warming that can be easily appreciated by a far wider audience than Jared Diamond's Collapse. And John Kerry was giving us something in between: more accessible than Collapse and more fleshed out than An Inconvenient Truth.

    And with more emphasis on the people who are coming up with solutions.

    By the third chapter the main theme of the book emerged: we are killing ourselves and our children with the full participation of a government that is supposed to protect us. Data sound the alarm, like one in six infants born in the US each year has blood mercury levels above the EPA standards and high enough to cause neurological problems, fueled by coal-burning power plants whose owners contributed $6.6 million to the Republicans since 1999, making them one of the biggest Republican source of donations. Or that in 2005 people of color were 79% more likely to live in the most polluted communities, up from 49% in 1996. Or a study by the United Church of Christ in 1987 that found that race was the single most significant factor in determining the location of a hazardous waste facility. And so on. Every parent should read chapter two. Everyone interested in racial equality should read chapter three. Etc. The alarm bells ring constantly.

    But what I found I was citing the most and taking the most note of was exactly what the Kerrys WANTED me to notice the most: the people who are fighting back. I think it was the case of Majora Carter and Sustainable South Bronx that finally made me realize that this book was inspiring me because I immediately decided she'd be perfect as an invited speaker for a political group I am involved with. The example of Riverkeeper, where ex-marines decided to patrol our nation's waterways to protect them from polluters, was another "wow" moment. Even Don Imus and his wife Deidre come off inspiring in This Moment on Earth, something I never imagined I'd say. And Chapter 7, discussing energy policy, is the best chapter, showing how right here and now, using existing technology, the city of Portland, OR, as well as companies like Texas Instruments and DuPont are doing EXACTLY what needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions--and doing it while creating jobs and saving money. Chapter 7 shows us that there remain NO EXCUSES for America to continue to avoid taking a leadership role in stopping global warming. All that we lack, as I have written before is the political leadership on a national level. Kerry shows us that locally there has been considerable leadership by both Democrats and Republicans. But nationally Bush has led us down a path that leads nowhere and that has ceded economic ingenuity to other nations.

    So it is precisely through highlighting some wonderful people who are empowering themselves, their communities and, in fact, all of us that John and Teresa Heinz Kerry inspire in this book. Although the book still focuses primarily on a myriad of environmental problems that are killing us now and will kill us more in the future, solutions are the constant theme: the people who come up with solutions, solutions each individual can do for themselves (throughout and in Appendix B) and, perhaps something I will have particular interest in, considering the almost simultaneous issue of Science dealing with the same theme, Appendix A is John Kerry's proposal for a national energy policy. Put all this together and you may not have the next step in the evolution of the environmental debate, but you certainly have one more important step forward and one that might have a wider appeal than Collapse and An Inconvenient Truth.

    In the future This Moment on Earth will likely be the inspiration for several diaries that are brewing in my brain: energy policy, Majora Carter, Riverkeeper, Portland, Oregon... But for now I leave you with the main message of the book, from the Introduction:

    In truth environmentalism isn't dead, it's just being reborn...the very idea of what it means to be an "environmentalist" is being revolutionized. People from all walks of life, without concern for party or ideological lines, are coming together in unprecedented numbers across the globe...

    The new environmentalist knows that caring about the environment can no longer be mislabeled as caring less about national security, the economy, family, education, profit, or community. Rather, the leaders of today's new environmental movement understand that these issues are all connected...

    Above all, we want this book to expose the false choices...the straw men...put forwards to purposefully slow or reverse progress in environmentalism and politicize the debate.

    Buy This Moment on Earth and find out what is being done to save our country and our lifestyle.

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    Break Up With Your Mega-Bank!...Green America's Community Investing Guide

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    This comes from Green America, an organization I have been supporting since they were called Co-op America.

    How you save and invest your money has as much an effect on the world as how you spend your money. If you’re tired of seeing your banking and investment dollars support projects you don’t believe in (like fossil-fuels or weapons manufacturing) or practices you can’t endorse (like deceptive lending or huge bonuses to their CEOs), then make 2011 the year you break up with your mega-bank and start investing in communities.

    Green America’s Community Investing Guide provides an introduction to community development financial institutions, or CDFIs – banks, credit unions, and other financial groups with a mission to direct your banking and investing dollars into projects that improve people’s lives.

    Purchase paper copies or download a PDF copy.

    Whether you need a bank for depositing a weekly paycheck, or an investment opportunity for a larger sum – or anything in between – our Community Investing Guide gives you the resources you need. With the global economic crisis focusing even more public scrutiny on the greed and mismanagement of the corporate mega-banks, it’s clear: community investing is more important now than ever before.

    More here:

    * The basics about socially responsible investing

    * How to retire with one million dollars in a just and sustainable world

    * How your savings and checking accounts can build healthy communities through community investing

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