Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Cynthia McKinney, the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives, is now the Green Party's candidate for the 2008 presidential election. She discusses the Green platform and her plans if elected.
McKinney was a Representative from Georgia's 11th Congressional District from 1993-2003 and Georgia's 4th District from 2005-2007.
Friday, October 17, 2008
World's Biggest Corporation is a Welfare Queen
Wal-Mart Has Received More Than $1 Billion in Economic Development Subsidies
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has benefited from more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the United States, according to a new study by Good Jobs First, a Washington, DC-based research center.
The study is freely available at www.goodjobsfirst.org. For the executive summary, click here (PDF format).
"Wal-Mart presents itself as an entrepreneurial success story, yet it has made extensive use of tax breaks, free land, cash grants and other forms of public assistance," said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the study.
The study found more than 240 cases in which the construction of a new Wal-Mart facility was assisted by taxpayers. Apart from 160 retail outlets, the study found subsidies at 84 distribution centers, representing more than 90% of the network of huge warehouses Wal-Mart has built to facilitate its expansion. Mattera stressed that the $1 billion figure is necessarily an understatement, given that public disclosure of subsidies is severely limited.
The value of subsidies for individual distribution centers ranged as high as $48 million (with an average of $7.4 million), while for retail outlets the largest was $12 million (average: $2.8 million). Subsidy deals were found in 35 states, with the most in California, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Mississippi. In dollar terms, Louisiana, Florida and New York also ranked high.
"That a company with $9 billion in profits can wrest subsidies from state and local governments shows that the candy store game is out of control," said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. "The subsidies to Wal-Mart are particularly troubling, given that it uses taxpayer dollars to create jobs that tend to be poverty-wage, part-time and lacking in adequate healthcare benefits."
The study recommends that states prohibit subsidies to retailers except in distressed areas that lack adequate retail outlets for necessities such as food. It also recommends that any retailer -- like any corporation -- receiving subsidies should be required to pay a living wage.
----------------------------Good Jobs First is a non-profit research center promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Is creationism contagious? For years, this peculiarly American movement seemed to be contained within our borders. But in the last several years, creationism had become a global phenomenon, as readily exportable as hip-hop and bluejeans. Science historian Ron Numbers joins us along with WPR's Steve Paulson who just returned from a trip to Turkey, one of the country's where creationism is taking hold.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thinking the Way Animals DoBy Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Western Horseman, Nov. 1997, pp.140-145
Temple Grandin is an assistant professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is the author of the book Thinking in Pictures. Television appearances include 20/20, CBS This Morning, and 48 Hours. Dr. Grandin has autism, and her experiences have helped her to understand animal behavior. She teaches a course in livestock handling at the university and consults on the design of livestock handling facilities.
Unique insights from a person with a singular understanding.
As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's. Autism is a neurological disorder that some people are born with. Scientists who study autism believe that the disorder is cause d by immature development of certain brain circuits, and over development of other brain circuits. Autism is a complex disorder that ranges in severity from a mild form (such as mine), to a very serious handicap where the child never learns to talk. The m ovie Rain Man depicts a man with a fairly severe form of the disorder.
I have no language-based thoughts at all. My thoughts are in pictures, like videotapes in my mind. When I recall something from my memory, I see only pictures. I used to think that everybody thought this way until I started talking to people on how they t hought. I learned that there is a whole continuum of thinking styles, from totally visual thinkers like me, to the totally verbal thinkers. Artists, engineers, and good animal trainers are often highly visual thinkers, and accountants, bankers, and people who trade in the futures market tend to be highly verbal thinkers with few pictures in their minds.
Most people use a combination of both verbal and visual skills. Several years ago I devised a little test to find out what style of thinking people use: Access your memory on church steeples. Most people will see a picture in their mind of a generic "gene ralized" steeple. I only see specific steeples; there is no generalized one. Images of steeples flash through my mind like clicking quickly through a series of slides or pictures on a computer screen. On the other hand, highly verbal thinkers may "see" th e words "church steeple," or will "see" just a simple stick-figure steeple.
A radio station person I talked to once said that she had no pictures at all in her mind. She thought in emotions and words. I have observed that highly verbal people in abstract professions, such as in trading stocks or in sales, often have difficulty un derstanding animals. Since they only think in words, it is difficult for them to imagine that an animal can think. I have found that really good animal trainers will see more detailed steeple pictures. It is clear to me that visual thinking skills are ess ential to horse training, but often the visual thinkers do not have the ability to verbalize and explain to other people what it is they "see."
Associative ThinkingA horse trainer once said to me, "Animals don't think, they just make associations." I responded to that by saying, "If making associations is not thinking, then I would have to conclude that I do not think." People with autism and animals both think by making visual associations. These associations are like snapshots of events and tend to be very specific. For example, a horse might fear bearded me n when it sees one in the barn, but bearded men might be tolerated in the riding arena. In this situation the horse may only fear bearded men in the barn because he may have had a bad past experience in the barn with a bearded man.
Animals also tend to make place-specific associations. This means that if a horse has bad prior experiences in a barn with skylights, he may fear all barns with skylights but will be fine in barns with solid roofs. This is why it is so important that an a nimal's first association with something new is a good first experience.
Years ago a scientist named N. Miller found that if a rat was shocked the first time it entered a new passageway in a maze, it would never enter that passageway again. The same may be true for horses. For example, if a horse falls down in a trailer the fi rst time he loads, he may fear all trailers. However, if he falls down in a two-horse, side-by-side trailer the 25th time he is loaded, he may make a more specific association. Instead of associating all trailers with a painful or frightening experience, he is more likely to fear side-by-side trailers, or fear a certain person associated with the "bad" trailer. He has learned from previous experience that trailers are safe, so he is unlikely to form a generalized trailer fear.
Fear Is the Main EmotionFear is the main emotion in autism and it is also the main emotion in prey animals such as horses and cattle. Things that scare horses and cattle also scare children with autism. Any little thing that looks out of place, such as a piece of paper blowing i n the wind, may cause fear. Objects that make sudden movements are the most fear-provoking. In the wild, sudden movement is feared because predators make sudden movements.
Both animals and people with autism are also fearful of high-pitched noises. I still have problems with high-pitched noise. A back-up alarm on a garbage truck will cause my heart to race if it awakens me at night. The rumble of thunder has little effect. Prey species animals, such as cattle and horses, have sensitive ears, and loud noise may hurt their ears. When I was a child the sound of the school bell ringing was like a dentist drill in my ear. A loudspeaker system at a horse show may possibly have a similar effect on horses.
People with autism have emotions, but they are simpler and more like the emotions of a vigilant prey species animal. Fear is the main emotion in a prey species animal because it motivates the animal to flee from predators. The fear circuits in an animal's brain have been mapped by neuroscientists. When an animal forms a fear memory, it is located in the amygdala, which is in the lower, primitive part of the brain. J.E. LeDoux and M. Davis have discovered that fear memories cannot be erased from the brain. This is why it is so important to prevent the formation of fear memories associated with riding, trailering, etc.
For a horse who has previously been fearful of trailers to overcome his fear, the higher brain centers in the cortex have to send a fear suppression signal to the amygdala. This is called a cortical over-ride, which is a signal that will block the fear me mory but does not delete it. If the animal becomes anxious, the old fear memory may pop back up because the cortex stops sending the fear suppression signal.
Fear-based behaviors are complex. Fear can cause a horse to flee or fight. For example, many times when a horse kicks or bites, it is due to fear instead of aggression. In a fear-provoking situation where a horse is prevented from flight, he learns to fig ht. Dog trainers have learned that punishing a fear-based behavior makes it worse. When a horse rears, kicks, or misbehaves during training, it may make the trainer feel angry. The trainer may mistakenly think that the horse is angry. But the horse is muc h more likely to be scared. Therefore it is important for trainers to be calm. An angry trainer would be scary to the horse. There are some situations where a horse may be truly aggressive towards people, but rearing, kicking, running off, etc., during ha ndling or riding is much more likely to be fear based.
Effects of GeneticsIn all animals both genetic factors and experience determine how an individual will behave in a fear-provoking situation. Fearfulness is a stable characteristic of personality and temperament in animals. Animals with high-strung, nervous temperaments are generally more fearful and form stronger fear memories than animals with calm, placid temperaments. For example, research on pigs conducted by Ted Friend and his students at Texas A&M University showed that some pigs will habituate to a forced non-painful procedure and others will become more and more fearful.
Pigs were put in a tank where they had to swim for a short time. This task was initially frightening to all of the pigs and caused their adrenaline level to go up. Adrenaline is secreted in both people and animals when they are scared.
Over a series of swimming trials, some pigs habituated and were no longer scared, but others remained fearful throughout the trials. In the pigs that did not habituate adrenaline stayed elevated, which showed that the pigs were still afraid.
It is likely that horses would respond to different training methods in a similar manner. Horses with calm placid dispositions are more likely to habituate to rough methods of handling and training compared to flighty, excitable animals. The high-strung, spirited horse may be ruined by rough training methods because he becomes so fearful that he fails to learn, or habituate.
On the other hand, an animal with a calm, nonreactive nervous system will probably habituate to a series of nonpainful forced training procedures, whereas a flighty, high- strung nervous animal may never habituate. Horses who are constantly swishing thei r tails when there are no flies present and have their heads up are usually fearful horses. In the wild, horses put their heads up to look for danger.
Effects of NoveltyAs a creature of flight, how a horse reacts to novel or unusual situations or new places can be used to access his true temperament. French scientist Robert Dantzer found that sudden novelty shoved into an animal's face can be very stressful. A horse with a high-strung, fearful nature may be calm and well-mannered when ridden at home. However, his true temperament has been masked because he feels relaxed and safe in a familiar environment. When he is suddenly confronted with the' new sights and sounds at a horse show he may blow up.
It is the more high-strung and fearful horses who-have the most difficulty in novel situations. At the show there are many unusual sights and sounds, such as balloons and loud public address systems, that are never seen or heard at home. An animal with a nervous temperament is calm when in a familiar environment -- he has learned it is safe -- but is more likely to panic when suddenly confronted with new things.
The paradoxical thing about novelty is that it can be extremely attractive to an animal when he can voluntarily approach it. A piece of paper lying in the pasture may be approached by a curious horse, but that same piece of paper lying on the riding trail may make the horse shy. People working with horses and other animals need to think more about how the animals' perceive the situations we put them in.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Freedom: The Philosophy of Liberation..
Professor Dennis Dalton explores the meaning of freedom, perhaps the most powerful of the ideas that have inspired mankind throughout the ages.
Lecture 1 - Freedom in the Ancient World
Lecture 2 - The Advent of Freedom in the Modern World
Lecture 3 - Hegel's Philosophy of Freedom, God and the State
Lecture 4 - John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Freedom
Lecture 5 - Emma Goldman and the Anarchist Idea of Freedom
Lecture 6 - Mahatma Gandhi - Personal and Political Freedom
Lecture 7 - Malcolm X's Quest for Liberation
Lecture 8 - Martin Luther King, Jr - Stride Toward Freedom
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Direct action video about the protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation conference in September 1999. Provides front line coverage of the anti-capitalist and globalisation demonstration, and interviews with participants.
Big Rattle in Seattle
Friday, October 03, 2008
Indymedia activists shot hundreds of hours documenting the 2003 FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) protests in Miami and shaped it into a documentary that cuts through the mass media blackout to reveal the brutal repression and assault on civil liberties that took place, as well as the inspiring alternatives to capitalist globalization that were also in full effect in Miami.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Don't get me wrong, voting has its effect but let's not fetishize its importance. Listen to greater people than I, such as Emma Goldman, who said: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."
Or the great Lucy Parson who said: "Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. "
Or Ambrose Bierce: "Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country. "
Or, and you knew this was coming, the inimitable Henry David Thoreau: "Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose."
Go out. Vote. Then engage in direct action within your community. Join community cop watches and document and disseminate instances of police brutality. Donate time and money to local charities such as Food Not Bombs. Talk to co-workers about labor issues, explain abuses of power to them (but don't be a dick about it) and organize against unfairness and hazards within your own workplace (okay, you can be kind of dick about this). Read about current events. Write about solutions and educate others, Read. Seek out alternative news. Read. Watch the mainstream media and mentally debate with what you're present. And, of course, read. Write to elected officials even during non-election years.
Voting will change society the same way a bumper sticker will teach you quantum mechanics. It takes hard work and indefatigable persistence. It takes a persuasive tongue, a steady hand and a truthful heart. Wisdom. Introspection. Action. These are the tools in a revolutionary's tool chest.
So I'll leave you with these words by Howard Zinn.
"If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates. "