Saturday, December 31, 2011

A big Salem highlight for 2011: KMUZ Community Radio

Congratulations to the hearty and determined band of community-minded stalwarts who insisted, despite some pretty substantial evidence, that they could make a community radio station go here in "greater Salem."  Here are the heroes now:

KMUZ Board members, left to right, front row first: Karen McFarlane Holman (Chief Visionary and President), Dangerous Dave Hammock (Chief Cook, Bottlewasher, and Treasurer), Jeanine ("Sparkplug") Renne, Coy Alexander, Vicki Darden, Bill Smaldone, Melanie Zermer (Secretary), and Tim Patterson.  Superimposed on Coy’s T-shirt: Max Lindholm. Photo by Co Ho Graphics.

KMUZ's low-power license and Turner tower location means that it's not always reliably available at  88.5 fm throughout Salem, but it's easy and rewarding to pick it up anywhere in the world via webstreaming at


Friday, December 30, 2011

On Memory

Firefigher Smoke World Trade Center New York C...Image via WikipediaAs we think back over our so-called exit from Iraq (tens of thousands of mercenaries remaining behind, paid for by taxpayers who know own the largest "embassy" in history) and eventual departure (we can hope) from Afghanistan, and the crime that was somehow turned into a pretext for that invasion.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Less Work, More Living | Common Dreams

The Wealth We Make Ourselves

Earn less, spend less, emit and degrade less. That’s the formula.
The more time a person has, the better his or her quality of life, and the easier it is to live sustainably. A study by David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that if the United States were to shift to the working patterns of Western European countries, where workers spend on average 255 fewer hours per year at their jobs, energy consumption would decline about 20 percent. New research I have conducted with Kyle Knight and Gene Rosa of Washington State University, looking at all industrialized countries over the last 50 years, finds that nations with shorter working hours have considerably smaller ecological and carbon footprints.
There’s also a small but growing body of studies that examine these questions at the household scale. A French study found that, after controlling for income, households with longer working hours increased their spending on housing (buying larger homes with more appliances), transport (longer hours reduced the use of public transportation), and hotels and restaurants.
A recent Swedish study found that when households reduce their working hours by 1 percent, their greenhouse gas emissions go down by 0.8 percent. One explanation is that when households spend more time earning money, they compensate in part by purchasing more goods and services, and buying them at later stages of processing (e.g., more prepared foods). People who have more time at home and less at work can engage in slower, less resource-intensive activities. They can hang their clothing on the line, rather than use an electric dryer. More important, they can switch to less energy-intensive but more time-consuming modes of transport (mass transit or carpool versus private auto, train versus airplane). They can garden and cook at home. They can meet more of their basic needs by making, fixing, doing, and providing things themselves.
Doing-it-yourself, or self-provisioning, is now on the rise, both because of a culture shift and because in hard times people have more time and less money.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fwd: How to file a junk mail complaint

Now that the Christmas machine is winding down and ready to be put away for another year or two, here's a good post-Christmas task: turn off the junk-mail deluge.

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While most companies heed Berger's advice and honor your first opt-out choice, some need to be told twice. We aim to make the process as easy as possible. Here is a quick reminder how to file a formal complaint through your Catalog Choice account if you are still receiving unwanted mail.

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The best place to start is on Your Choices page where we list all of your past requests. On this page, do a quick search to see if you've made an opt-out choice to the company for the same name and address.
If your request was made more than 90 days ago, click on the Details button and then File a Complaint. If it is less than 90 days old or it is a new name or address, select New Request.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Talking back to the testing maniacs

A Texas school superintendent takes on Arne Duncan & Barack Obama 
John Kuhn - Let me speak for all public school educators when I say unequivocally: We will. We say send us your poor, send us your homeless, the children of your afflicted and addicted. Send us your kids who don't speak English. Send us you special-needs children, we will not turn them away.

But I tell you today, public school teacher, you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools. You will be unacceptable, public school teacher. And I say that is your badge of honor. I stand before you today bearing proudly the label of unacceptable because I educate the children they will not educate.

Day after day I take children broken by the poverty our leaders are afraid to confront and I glue their pieces back together. I am unacceptable and proud of it.

The poorest Americans need equity, but our nation offers them accountability instead. They need bread, but we give them a stone. We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity.

Standardized tests are a poor substitute for justice.

So I say to Arne Duncan and President Obama, go ahead and label me. I will march headlong into the teeth of your horrific blame machine and I will teach these kids. You give me my scarlet letter and I will wear it proudly, because I will never cull the children who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise.

I will not race to the top. I will stop like the Good Samaritan and lift hurting children out of the dirt. Let me lose your race, because I'm not in this for the accolades. I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it because it's right. I am in it because the children of Perrin, Texas need somebody like me in their lives.

Our achievement gap is an opportunity gap. Our education problem is a poverty problem. Test scores don't scream bad teaching. They scream about our nation's systematic neglect of children who live in the wrong zip codes.

Listen to me, Arne Duncan: It's poverty, stupid. And that's not an excuse, that's not an excuse, it's a diagnosis. We must as a nation stop assuaging the symptoms and start treating the disease.

Let me ask you a simple question: Where is adequate yearly progress for the politician? Will we have 100 percent employment by 2014? Will all the children have decent health care and roofs over their heads by their deadline? But wait. They don't have a deadline. They aren't racing anywhere, are they?

When will our leaders ensure that every American community offers children libraries and little leagues instead of drugs and delinquency? Lawmakers sent you into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care, but lawmakers will never take on the label of "legislatively unacceptable" because they do not share the courage of a common school teacher. I say let us label our lawmakers like they label teachers. Let us have a hard look at their data. Let us have merit pay in Congress.

Congressmen, politicians, if you want children that are lush, stop firing the gardeners and start paying the water bill. Politicians, your fingerprints are on these children. What have you done to help them pass their tests?

Monday, December 26, 2011

As we gird our for an election year (ugh), worth noting some reality

by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about "Obama spending" and "Obama deficits" and how the "Stimulus" just made things worse.
Solution: Here are three "reality-based" charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.
Bush-Obama Spending Chart
Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.
Bush-Obama Deficit Chart
Notes, this chart includes Clinton's last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs
In this chart, the RED lines on the left side -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go UP -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.
It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone "knows." Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is "going broke", government spending "takes money out of the economy."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Great stuff --- From Prison Gang to Knitting Circle

How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts

In late 2009, Lynn Zwerling stood in front of 600 male prisoners at the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland. “Who wants to knit?” she asked the burly crowd. They looked at her like she was crazy.

 Yet almost two years later, Zwerling and her associates have taught more than 100 prisoners to knit, while dozens more are on a waiting list to take her weekly class. “I have guys that have never missed one time in two years,” Zwerling says. “Some reported to us that they miss dinner to come to class.”

Zwerling, 67, retired in 2005 after 18 years of selling cars in Columbia, Maryland. She didn't know what to do with her time, so she followed her passion and started a knitting group in her town. No one came to the first meeting, but the group quickly grew to 500 members. “I looked around the room one day and I saw a zen quality about it,” Zwerling says. “Here were people who didn't know each other, had nothing in common, sitting together peacefully like little lambs knitting. I thought, ‘It makes me and these people feel so good. What would happen if I took knitting to a population that never experienced this before?’”

Her first thought was to bring knitting to a men’s prison, but she was turned down repeatedly. Wardens assumed the men wouldn’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby and worried about freely handing out knitting needles to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes. Five years passed before the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup accepted her, and Knitting Behind Bars was born. “I [wanted to teach] them something that I love that I really believe will make them focus and happy,” Zwerling says. “I really believe that it's more than a craft. This has the ability to transform you.”

The men were reluctant at first, complaining that knitting was too girly or too difficult. But Zwerling assured them men had invented the craft, then gave them a five-minute knitting lesson she swears can teach anyone. Suddenly, Zwerling says, the men “found the zen,” and got hooked. Now, every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., they come to class, leaving their crimes and the hierarchies of prison life behind.

They started by knitting comfort dolls, which they gave to children removed from their homes because of domestic issues. Then they moved on to hats for kids at the inner-city elementary school many of the prisoners attended, Zwerling says. “If you look at them, they’re covered with tattoos, they’re rough looking, and many of the young guys don't have all their teeth," she says. “But it doesn't feel rough. They’re very respectful and grateful and very happy to knit.”

The prison’s assistant warden, Margaret Chippendale, believes the men involved with KBB get into trouble less often. “It's very positive because you can see when you go into the room, the dynamics of their conversation; very calm, very soothing,” Chippendale says. “It radiates even when they leave the room and go out into the institution.”

Richy Horton, 38, served almost four years at the Pre-Release Unit and reluctantly joined KBB about 6 months before he was released. “I was like, I’m not going to that thing,” Horton says. “And then I went, and you were actually speaking to real people. People can’t really understand [that in prison] you’re completely separated from anything normal or real in the world. You’re always told what to do and when to do it, so to have people come in and treat you like a human being means so much. They came in and they were like my mom.”

Horton and the other men formed deep friendships with Zwerling and her fellow volunteers, Sheila Rovelstad, 61, and Lea Heirs, 58. “They tell us their stories and dreams,” Zwerling says. “And some of them lie to us. They don't want us to know the really terrible things they did.”

Each week the men eagerly await the women's arrival, then promptly get to work. “It takes you away a little,” Horton says. “You have to watch what you’re doing, otherwise your stitches will become loose or tight or you’ll skip stitches. It almost makes you feel like you don't have to be anything. You’re all sitting there knitting. You can just be yourself.”

During an inmate's first class, Zwerling, Rovelstad and a third volunteer will help him make a little swatch — nothing more than a few stitches worked back and forth. But before that new knitter leaves, the women will have him cut the yarn, taking care to leave a long tail. They'll tell him to carry the square in his pocket and if he gets upset, to pull the tail.

That first class wasn't easy for Raymond Furman, a 46-year-old from Washington who's serving a sentence for telephone misuse and stalking. Frustrated and unable to do more than a stitch or two without a mistake, he threw down his work and said, "I can't do this." But, he remembers, one of the women said, "Just relax. Let the yarn have its way."
Furman stayed put, kept at it and left that night with a little blue strip that he decided was a bookmark for his Bible. The next week he came back and started on a hat, that when he finished, he proudly wore around the prison yard. "The guys," he says, "were sort of impressed."

On that recent Thursday evening, Hopkins, Furman and about 10 others were working wool, side by side, the room nearly silent with concentration. Most of them were making hats for students in need at Baltimore's Arlington Elementary.

There's yarn of all colors spread along one table, as well as scissors, tapestry needles and pom-pom-makers — every last bit of which the women will have to account for before they leave the prison.
The women buy most of the group's supplies themselves, though on the knitting site, they've set up a page where people can make donations of money or yarn.

Also, Rovelstad, who has a business hand-dying yarns where she names the shades after songs, designed one to benefit the program called, "I Fought the Law and the Law Won." She had people nominate color suggestions online, then brought the choices in to the guys for a final vote.
They chose a variegating stripe of three colors — blue for the sky, green for the grass and black — for the bars that keep them from enjoying either one.

It's Gary Ralph's last night. After spending nearly all of his 30s and 40s in prison for burglary, robbery, making and selling drugs and, most recently, for violating parole, the 52 year old was four days away from going home to College Park. He smiled when someone pointed out that he'd never finish the hat in his lap.

The former biker, still with long silver hair that falls well past his shoulders, has made about 10 hats. He's known for topping them with big, voluptuous pom-poms. He also knit his mother a scarf, part burgundy, part gold, with fringe at the ends. A Redskins fan, Ralph says she "went crazy" over it.
While working on all of those things, Ralph said he thought about home. He says he hopes he keeps knitting once he finally gets there.

"I don't want to go out anymore, doing what I used to do," he says. "I'd rather stay home, watch TV, sit there and knit."

Richy Horton, who's been out for nearly a year now after serving three years for assault, has kept at it. Now living in Beltsville and working for his brother's home improvement company, Horton, who's 38, says in his free time he goes fishing, lifts weights and reads. Every once in a while, in the evening, he also sits down to chip away at a beaded scarf he'd like to give his grandmother.

Knitting, he says, was the only peace he found in prison. In the jailhouse dormitories, no one really talked to one another, no one let their guard down, no one could be themselves. But in the knitting room, learning something new with women he could call by their first names — that, he says, felt real. And it felt good.

 "Prison is just a dormant wait. You shut your life off and wait," Horton says. "But them giving you that chance to interact and kind of blend back into the world, it's a big deal."

Though Zwerling worries about the prison tiring of the program, Chippendale promises they have nothing to worry about. The knitting stays, the warden says, as long as the women are willing and the inmates interested.

Which is good for Zwerling's real goal — a half-serious plot to achieve world peace, one knit, one purl, at a time.

"You have to see it," she enthuses. "These big, tough, tattooed guys, knitting, with a look on their face of tranquillity and peace. It's magic."

Horton was released from prison last December and now works in construction. He believes his involvement with KBB helped him get out of jail and onto parole, showing the parole interviewers his small but positive effort to help the outside community.  He continues to keep in touch with the women of KBB and is currently knitting a beaded scarf.   “They’re not normal people,” Horton says of Zwerling, Rovelstad, and Heirs. “They’re almost like saints.”

To donate to Knitting Behind Bars, visit their Etsy shop, or contact Lynn Zwerling at

Saturday, December 24, 2011

WORD: Rx for Peace

As many are moved to think of Peace at this time of the year, some words of wisdom from the inimitable Sam Smith: 
Pocket Paradigms

 The journalist Bernard Fall noted that the French, after Dien Bien Phu, had no choice but to leave Southeast Asia.  America, with its vast military, financial, and technological resources, was able to stay because it had the capacity to keep making the same mistakes over and over.  Our war against "terrorism" has been in many ways a domestic version of our Vietnam strategy.  We keep making the same mistakes over and over because, until now, we could afford to.  One of these has been to define the problem by its manifestations rather than its causes.  This turns a resolvable political problem into a irresolvable technical problem, because while, for example, there are clearly solutions to the Middle East crisis, there are no other solutions to the guerrilla violence that grows from the failure to end it.

 In other words, if you define the problem as "a struggle against terrorism" you have already admitted defeat because the guerrilla will always have the upper hand against a centralized, technology-dependent society such as ours.  There is one way to deal with guerrilla warfare and that is to resolve the problems that allow it to thrive. The trick is to undermine the violence of the most bitter by dealing honestly with the complaints of the most rational.

What you don't do if you are interested in actually combating terrorism -- engage in it.