A Tale of Two Earthquakes

A Tale of Two Earthquakes

Lew Rosenbaum

February 9, 1971 – 50 years ago – barely after 6:00 AM I awoke. For a second I thought I might be in a nightmare. In the next second I realized that the house I lived in really was shaking. My bed was shaking.  The brick and board bookcase perched on my desk swayed back and forth, threatening to spill toward me.  In the third and fourth seconds I remembered that I lived in the fourth, flimsy wooden house up the side of a hill, 86 stairs from the street. It took me about another second to calculate that before I got up and out of the house (without clothes on), the house could go tumbling down the hill; and I had no idea of what manner of peril awaited me if I even got to the door.

I then wrapped myself up in my blankets.  I told myself that if I were going to die on that day, I might as well die comfortably, or as comfortably as I could.  And, curled in that fetal position, I waited through the next five or six seconds of the 12 seconds that the earthquake lasted, the most powerful earthquake in the Los Angeles area in nearly the century preceding it. It’s remarkable how many thoughts can pass through one’s mind in 12 seconds.

That was the Sylmar earthquake or the San Fernando Valley Earthquake of 1971. It played havoc with steel structures, demolished large sections of the Olive View Hospital in Sylmar, upended large sections of major highways, and collapsed a section of the Van Norman dam, which held 3 billion gallons of drinking water for the city. The city forced evacuation of some 80,000 people for several days because of the flooding risk, until the dam was repaired. No flood took place, but after all casualties were counted, 64 died that day. I lived about 20 miles from the fault on which the earthquake erupted that day. The story of the earthquake is remembered in today’s Los Angeles Times.

The 12 seconds ended, I breathed a sigh of relief, recognized the aftershocks as they continued over the next few minutes.  Soon I realized I could not get back to sleep. Got up, got dressed, got breakfast, listened to the radio (KFWB – give us 27 minutes and we’ll give you the world) to understand what was going on, and figured I should go explore.  I was due in at work in a couple of hours, but had no idea whether L.A. County had closed the welfare office where I worked.  I don’t remember whether I worked that day.  But I do remember driving along the streets the long way round to get from Cypress Park to Pasadena, normally a 15 minute drive on the Pasadena Freeway.  I think instead I drove up along San Fernando Road, heading north to Glendale, and then approaching Pasadena from the West.  I don’t think I saw anything as bad as the twisted steel poles of Sylmar, but I did see many storefronts with broken glass windows, plenty of small and unstable structures in disarray, a lot of businesses that would not open that day. 

That was a natural disaster, a force of nature. A different earthquake is roiling society today, a specter is haunting the world. While not a force of nature, it threatens to upend the structures, which humans have built to govern the way we live. Every technological advance today encroaches upon the labor market, more and more people are thrown out of the ability to earn wages sufficient for them to survive.  A fault line has developed and widened: just in the last year as millions are de-employed while corporations rake in trillions of dollars. The political structure of our country is at least as twisted as the steel columns holding the 210 freeway in 1971. 

Today, Feb. 9 2021, begins the impeachment of Donald Trump on charges of inciting insurrection, a charge which reflects the turmoil wracking the country.  Rep. Cori Bush gave the most accurate analysis of why impeachment and conviction is necessary. This is not a question of semantics or whether or not impeachment of a former president is possible. This is not even a battle around insurrection.  This is the question: will the United States finally move beyond a government based on white supremacy as the tool to batter the working class into submission.

What is destroying society today is not the same as the earthquake as 50 years ago.

The battles around the changes at the economic base of society always take place in what is known as the superstructure, i.e. the cultural, social and the political arenas. Here the combatants wage the battle of ideas. Democrat leaders and Republican leaders alike are trying to contain the battle of ideas.  What is the main idea, which is being fought out?  On the surface, in the Congress, it’s whether Trump is guilty.  The fundamental question, which is not being debated, is: Are we going to be a society in which everyone enjoys the fruits of the abundance that is being produced?  Or will we continue to exacerbate the inequity of society and condemn the billions of worldwide poor to death by poverty?  Will corporations strengthen their dictatorship over us, will we allow them to shore up the dam to keep us at bay? Or will we breach the wall of that dam and attain the power to reconstruct society in the interests of all?

There is a specter haunting the world – a real possibility to abolish private property, corporate property.  In 1848 Marx said communism was haunting Europe.  With capitalism expanding, it’s taken almost two centuries to get to the point that capitalism is contracting.   Contraction means many are expelled from having any market relationship to capital. They cannot find work, they cannot buy the necessaries of life.  What can be done, except reorganize society? A century and a half ago abolitionists led a battle to end slavery and thus the practice of holding people as private property. Their demand, resting on the legacy of Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, and John Brown, was that Black lives matter. That war ended legal slavery; but it also elevated industrial and financial private property, a corporate structure which has continued to this day. Conditions have changed. In the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike, pickets carried signs saying “I Am A Man!” Black lives matter. In 2020 some 26 million people demonstrated against the murder of George Floyd, many carrying signs saying Black lives matter. The only thing left for this class of people who have nothing to lose but their chains of poverty and police terror, this world wide new abolitionist class, is to abolish corporate private property and distribute the goods and services of society according to the needs of the people.  That time has come and the outcome of this quake is up to today’s revolutionary class.    

It’s Not the Same River — Lew Rosenbaum

It’s Not The Same River   by Lew Rosenbaum

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus, 535-475 BCE

“We are all related” – Lakota prayer

Ninety-six percent of water on earth is saline.

The water swimming in my cells,

The water that bathes my cells,

The water coursing in my bloodstream,

All of it is saline.

We cannot drink salt water.


Aquifers make up thirty percent of the four percent that is fresh water.

Lying deep beneath the arid desert,

Beneath the flat Midwestern plains,

Beneath the big-sky buttes of Montana,

Beneath the putrid oil wells of the Texas panhandle.

California almonds drink this water when people cannot.

Nestlé bottles what the people may not drink.


The amount of water used to supply the world’s golf courses

Is the same as the amount that could supply all the world’s people.

Japan had 23 golf courses before World War II.

They found their error

And built three thousand courses.

An anti-haiku.


Lake Huron is the third largest fresh water lake on earth.300px-Saginawrivermap

Flint, Michigan, lying near the shores of Lake Huron,

Started using Flint River water instead.

(It takes its name from the Ojibwe language, when the river ran pure).

But river water flowed past the industrial factories

That built Flint, and discharged chemical waste

Turning clear water a muddy brown,

Infected with retch-inducing odors,

Cancer-causing chemicals and corrosive salts

That leached lead from the pipes in lethal doses.

When people showered,

Water brought rashes and pain to their bleeding skin.


Sixty percent of the human body is water.

We humans need water more than we need food.

Why do capitalist private profiteers get to drain our aquifers?

Flint is a lesson and a call to wake up.

No one can make the babies come back,

But we can have clean, free water for all

By ending the rule of private property

That protects golf courses and

Preys upon the lives of our people.

We are all related.


Global Poetic Action – 24th September/ World Poetry Movement/100,000 Poets for Change

” Due to the nature of poetry, the World Poetry Movement supports and will always support the thoughts, actions and measures that can contribute to world peace, the defense of all life on earth, the sustainable development of a new world, the restoration of beauty, dignity and truth, in the process of a persistent strengthening of poetry’s presence in contemporary society worldwide.”

Fri, 08/26/2011 – 13:23 — wpm2011

Statement of the World Poetry Movement

   The World Poetry Movement was founded in the context of the World Gathering of Directors from 37 International Poetry Festivals, held in Medellin, Colombia, between July 4-8th, 2011.

   There they discussed the connection between poetry and peace, the reconstruction of the human spirit, the reconciliation and recovery of nature, the unity and cultural diversity of peoples, material poverty and poetic justice, and possible actions to take in favor of the globalization of poetry.

   A month later, the World Poetry Movement has been joined by 86 international poetry festivals and 465 poets from 98 countries from all continents.

   One of the goals is to include most of the strongest international poetry festivals, poets, schools of poetry and printed and virtual publications, to increase our mutual cooperation and thus energize the individual and collective voice of poetry in our time.

   Recently the World Poetry Movement has been joined by the “100,000 Poets for Change” project (www.100TPC.org), a bold initiative by poets Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrión, in California, who have proposed the implementation of a worldwide poetic action, next September 24th, 2011 in 350 cities worldwide.

   Due to the nature of poetry, the World Poetry Movement supports and will always support the thoughts, actions and measures that can contribute to world peace, the defense of all life on earth, the sustainable development of a new world, the restoration of beauty, dignity and truth, in the process of a persistent strengthening of poetry’s presence in contemporary society worldwide.

   Poetry is knowledge, reflection and enlightenment, liberation, contemplation and action, lightning, creative imagination and brotherhood, spiritual unity of individuals and peoples, past, present and future of humanity.

   World Poetry Movement calls on all its members, poets and international poetry festivals, to plan, develop and spread poetic actions and Simultaneous poetry readings, across the planet, next September 24th, 2011, to consolidate our organizational process, making a formidable display of poetic power possible in the world, in hundreds of cities and villages on Earth.

   We ask you to please inform us shortly on the decisions taken regarding this proposal to the following email: worldpoetrymovement@gmail.com


   Peter Rorvik (South Africa), Bas Kwakman (Netherlands), Jack Hirschman (United States of America), Rati Saxena (India), Alex Pausides (Cuba), Amir Or (Israel), Iryna Vikyrchak (Ukraine), Fernando Rendón (Colombia).

Read more here.

Gauley Bridge, West Virginia 76 Years Ago

[A year ago a West Virginia mine explosion shocked the nation.  No new legislation has been passed to protect workers, no criminal sentences have been handed down to punish the corporations responsible.  It may be shocking, but it’s not surprising, as the story below shows.  There is a long and dishonorable tradition of ignoring workers health and safety.]

1500 Doomed”: People’s Press Reports on the Gauley Bridge Disaster

The deadly lung disease silicosis is caused when miners, sandblasters, and foundry and tunnel workers inhale fine particles of silica dust—a mineral found in sand, quartz, and granite. In 1935, approximately 1,500 workers—largely African Americans who had come north to find work—were killed by exposure to silica dust while building a tunnel in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Ordinarily, silicosis takes a several years to develop, but these West Virginia tunnel workers were falling ill in a matter of months because of exposure to unusually high concentrations of silica dust. The crisis over silicosis suddenly became a national issue, as seen in this article in the radical newspaper Peoples’ Press. In 1936 congressional hearings on the Gauley Bridge disaster, it was revealed that company officials and engineers wore masks to protect themselves when they visited the tunnel, but they failed to provide masks for the tunnelers themselves, even when the workers requested them.

476 Dead

1500 Doomed in W. Va.

Tunnel Catastrophe

From Federation News, 1936 (Chicago Federation of Labor)

Picture Caption:

Their only gravestones [are] cornstalks waving in the wind, their shrouds [are] the overalls in which they died, 169 tunnel workers killed at Gauley Bridge were tossed into trenches in this field at Summerville, W. Va., to rot. As they keeled over in the death tunnel, one at a time or several in a day, choked to death by silicosis, they were hauled 40 miles to Summerville and dumped into the grave the same day. No identification, no coffins. The company paid the undertaker $50 a piece to bury them. A wife who came tearfully to claim the remains of her loved one was quietly driven away. There was no way in which his body could be found. They were all victims of America’s worst industrial disaster. Then government officials, newspapers and others conspired to keep this story from the public knowing that soon the witnesses would all be dead. The 26 foremen are already dead. In Gauley Bridge, Town of the Living Dead, men once strong and hearty waste away while loved ones grimly await their death.

Gauley Bridge, W. Va.—America’s greatest industrial catastrophe has been hidden from the public.

There are 476 known dead.

There are nearly 1,500 doomed to die. Of these 200 are believed already dead.

Daily they cough their lives away, their lungs clog, they grow weaker. Finally they fall.

Gauley Bridge, the Town of the Living Dead, shrinks a bit and hurries on. For practically every man in the whole community is doomed to a death like that.

In one cornfield, 169 bodies have been tossed, unmarked. One doctor has treated 307 other men. They’re dead. Some 200 have written desperate letters from other cities—and then have stopped writing!

Desperately, the corporation whose tunnel job caused this holocaust has tried to keep the facts from the public until the last witness was gone. That will not be long. Already all of the 26 foremen are dead.

Mrs. S. E. Harrah sent a two-line item to the county seat paper about ambulances—and her husband was fired. He son, a lawyer, investigated, talked suits. Not any more. Last September he died suddenly. “Heart failure,” they called it.

Mrs. Charles Jones brought suits. Her son, Shirley, 18, was the first to die. Then his brother Owen, 21, died. Then their brother, Cecil, 23. Then an adopted son, Oley Jeffrey. Then Mrs. Jones’ brother. She has lived through this horror to see her husband wither before her eyes. Once he weighed 182. Now he weighs 126. He will read his story; we draw the curtain here.

All for Greed

All this because a rich and powerful corporation valued dollars above lives.

When the Rinehart & Dennis, Co., contractors for the New-Kanawha Power Co., started tunneling through two mountains a mile east of Gauley Bridge, on a power project to cost millions, it knew the tunnel would go through silicate rock.

It knew that men working in the tunnel would breathe in the dust.

It knew that without protection they would get silicosis, deadly lung disease.

Behind Rinehart & Dennis was the New-Kanawha Power Co., set to build the tunnel, dissolved as soon as the tunnel was completed late in 1934.

Union Carbide at Top

Behind the New-Kanawha Power Co. is the Electro Metallurgical Co. This is the big company that will use and sell the New Kanawha power.

Behind the Electro Metallurgical Co. is the Union Carbide & Chemical Co., gigantic company spreading into many fields.

Power to be won from the mountains and the rivers of West Virginia was behind the building of the tunnel at Hawk’s Nest, near Gauley Bridge. Dams, powerhouses, and a tunnel through the mountains to increase the drop in the New River and the force of the water power—a huge project, with huge profits to be made, from the power and the enormous silicate deposits.

A huge project, started in 1926, not yet completed, though the death tunnel is done.

Millions have been spent—$20,000,000 already.

Four years ago, preliminary work done, the tunnel was started.

Engineers of the company had made tests. The mountains were full of silicate rock. Silicate—valuable, deadly if breathed into the lungs in large amounts.

No complete protection against silicate was known, when very fine, as in this case. But there were masks that helped. Ventilation shafts would carry some of the dust away.

Lives Against Dollars

These would cost a few thousand dollars, in the $20,000,000 project.

Should Rinehart & Dennis order the masks, the shafts?

The men who own the Electro Metallurgical Co. did not go into the tunnel. They did not see the fine particles of dust, so penetrating that a 48-ton locomotive with headlights on could not be seen five feet away.

They did not see.

The men who would get the profits but never go into the tunnel decided—

Not to buy masks, not to put in air shafts or any other ventilation.

Some 2,000 men worked in the tunnel, 400 to 1,100 at a time. They got 25 to 30¢ an hour and worked 12 hours a day.

They are all dead, dying or doomed to death.

Shirley Jones was the first to die. He was 18, thrilled to get his first job, in love.

‘We’ll Be Marryin’ Soon’

“Think of it, honey,” he told his girl happily. “A job! Twenty-five cents an hour, 12 hours a day. That’s—why, that’s $3 a day! We’ll be marryin’ soon, honey.”

Three dollars a day for 12 hours of hell in an airless tunnel filled with fine dust that kept you from breathing, that you might wash off your hands but would never wash out of your lungs.

That’s what Shirley Jones found.

Within three months, he was fighting for breath, fainting, going back to work and fainting again, shaken by agonizing pain in his chest. He was losing weight so rapidly his big bones were hardly covered.

“Don’t know what’s wrong, honey,” he gasped now to his sweetheart.

Finally he had to go to bed.

The First Death

One day he called his mother, Emma Jones, mother at 47 of so many children she had to count them to tell a stranger the number.

“Mom,” Shirley gasped. “I don’t know what’s wrong but I’m a-goin’ to die. I think it’s from my work. I want you to have me cut open. If you can get anything from the company, go ahead.

“And mom, get pappy and Uncle Raymond and the boys out of that hole.”

A few days later Shirley was dead.

But pappy and the boys stayed in the tunnel. Three dollars, maybe $3.60, a day’s a lot around Gauley Bridge, and if you didn’t work for the company what could you do?

They stayed in.

The boys are dead—Owen, 21, Cecil, 23, the adopted boy, Oley Jeffrey. Owen died second; Cecil, who had a wife and two children, last. Silicosis kills the young first. Mrs. Jones’ brother Raymond Johnson is dead. Her husband still lives!

What Was Andrew Mellon Doing in Gauley Bridge in 1926?

Watch the People’s Press for answers to these questions.

An Appeal for the Dying

In the name of greed, 476 men—at least—are dead. Another 1,500 are doomed of whom 200 probably are dead in other places.

The dying are unable to get state or federal relief.

The doomed who can still work cannot get jobs. Employers know they are doomed.

The wives and children of the dead, the families of the dying and the doomed live at the edge of the starvation line.

Greed put them there.

In the name of humanity, the People’s Press asks you to help them.

Any sum, large or small, $100 or 1¢ will make life a little easier for this Town of the Living Dead.

They will not get help from the millionaires who kill 2,000 men for a few dollars. That we know.

So we urge you to help them. Everything given will go directly to these people in desperate need.

Send what you can to:

The Gauley Bridge Fund,

Care of the People’s Press, Eastern Branch,

245 Seventh Avenue, New York City.

Source: People’s Press, 7 December 1935. NARA, Record Group 174, Department of Labor, Sec. Frances Perkins, Labor Standards — Jan.-April 1936, Box 59.

New Issue of Rethinking Schools: On Wisconsin!

Rethinking Schools Spring 2011 issue features the uprising in Wisconsin, teaching about the most dangerous rock in the world, and a special address by Chicago poet Patricia Smith:

Keepers of the Second Throat: Illustration by Melanie Cervantes

Click here for “Keepers of the Second Throat.”

As a special introduction to our website, the text of the entire spring issue of Rethinking Schools is accessible here, free of charge. If you aren’t already a member of Rethinking Schools, we hope a look at the exciting and thought-provoking articles in this issue will inspire you to join.

Educators need to begin to treat the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves as arguably the most significant threat to life on earth. In this issue of Rethinking Schools, we explore why there is so little teaching or discussion of climate change in classrooms and suggest paths forward.

Automation and Robotics News – Jan 30, 2011

[Along with the usual excitement about drone technology and war making, this issue of Automation and Robotics News brings insightful articles about robot job displacement including replacement of entire occupations.  There should be no wonder why Egyptian workers with diplomas cannot find jobs . .

By Larry McCormack, The (Nashville) Tennessean James Scott says the printing industry "is flooded with people looking for jobs."

.and what does that say about the future in the US?  Check out the worker replacement guide below to find out  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Automation and Robotics News–Jan 30, 2011
Tony Zaragoza

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm


Stats Back Al-Qaida Claim of Drone Pain
Spencer Ackerman, January 27, 2011

Is the U.S. drone war in Pakistan putting the squeeze on al-Qaida’s safe havens? It’s not a question that lends itself to easy answers, given the difficulties of reporting from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where al-Qaida’s top leaders are believed to be. But a new statistical analysis by researchers at Harvard finds that the deadly robots overhead are reaping modest “counterterrorism dividends” — something that al-Qaida itself is complaining about.

Even DHS Is Freaked Out by Spy Drones Over America

Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2011

Police departments around the country are warming up to unmanned spy planes. But don’t expect the Department of Homeland Security to catch drone fever anytime soon. It’s too controversial for an agency already getting hammered for naked scanners and junk-touching.

Return of The ‘Beast of Kandahar’ Stealth Drone
Spencer Ackerman, January 25, 2011

It returns from the skies! Back in 2009, the Air Force confirmed that it had a mysterious stealth drone, the Lockheed RQ-170, flying over Kandahar in Afghanistan — the subject of much online speculation and grainy photography. Now, after something of a lull,  the Secret Projects forum has new pics of the drone that Ares aviation ace Bill Sweetman dubbed “The Beast of Kandahar.”

Will Israel Sell Russia Its Prized Monster Drone?

Spencer Ackerman, January 18, 2011

Israel and Russia: once Cold War enemies, now partners-in-drone. Only the Russians want Israel to let the Kremlin in on its most powerful unmanned spy plane.


Fanuc Bets Future on ‘Cranes With Brains,’ Inaba Says

BusinessWeek – Jason Clenfield – Jan 17, 2011

Inaba built Fanuc into an automation empire over three decades, focusing on making the controls that run more than half of the world’s computerized tools. …

Robots Dominate Manufacturing – Take a Look Inside the Making of a Memory Card …

Singularity Hub – Aaron Saenz – Jan 20, 2011

Watching these slick industrial robots do their thing is something else. You have to check out the video below and see what I mean. …

Little Helper Robot Wants to Be Big Help on Factory Floor

POSTED BY: Samuel Bouchard  /  Wed, January 05, 2011

The manufacturing industry in many countries, facing labor shortages and pressed to become ever more efficient, can certainly use a little help. Or how about a Little Helper?


Robots: Harvest Automation

Robotspodcast.com, January 14th, 2011

In today’s episode we look at a new market in robotics with huge potential, agriculture. With us, <http://www.harvestautomation.com/About.html>Joe Jones, co-founder of Harvest Automation and father of the Roomba.


Digging through a high-tech recycling center

January 24, 2011, Martin LaMonica

A waste recycling center uses a series of machines to automatically sort material to enable single-stream recycling for consumers.

Teasdale Quality Foods Achieves Significant Savings by Automating Invoice…

Business Wire (press release) – Jan 25, 2011

Teasdale’s implementation of the EZCM accounts payable automation solution was so successful that, within months, order entries and accounts receivable were …

‘Go to’ clouds of the future, part 1

January 03, 2011, James Urquhart

Two companies will play major roles in the cloud computing transformation in the next decade, and who they are might surprise you–as well as how they will do it.

Robot puts ill teen back in classroom

Chicago Sun-Times – Jan 21, 2011

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A Texas school district here has teamed up with a communications company to allow a homebound student to attend class via robot.

Restaurant robot delivers the future of food service

DVICE -Adario Strange – Jan 25, 2011

The MK Robot Project produced the robot to assist waiters with an eye towards total autonomy in the future. Although slow and still in need of human …

Robot glider to investigate Australia floodwaters

msnbc.com – Jan 24, 2011

A gliding robot is set to cruise over a stretch of Australian coast that has been devastated by the recent flooding. The glider will be on a reconnaissance …

12 Advances In Medical Robotics

Looking to make an informed robot-buying decision? Here are some options for assisting (or replacing) your employees.

InformationWeek – Jan 29, 2011

Japan, which has a large elderly population, has developed a number of robot-based technologies that appear to help slow down the advent of dementia, …

Robots to fix parking problems in Abu Dhabi

The National – Jan 23, 2011

The “valet” is a mechanical robot, it promises to park or retrieve your car inside 50 seconds – and best of all, parking will be free.

With Home Carpeting Conquered, Robots Eye the Office

Jack Loftus, 1/16/11

The Roomba has conquered the home. No more vacuuming! Now robots must tackle mail delivery and coffee-making tasks in the office. Enter the coldly-named humanoid bot HRP-4. It doesn’t surf the net. It doesn’t gossip. It simply serves.

Sushi Restaurant Uses Sushi Robots and Control Centers to Cut Costs

Casey Chan

Kura, a sushi chain, focuses on efficiency and turning a profit. So much so that they’ve eschewed traditional sushi chefs for sushi robots, a large staff of waiters for conveyor belts and restaurant managers for a control center with video link.


Adept introduces packaging robot platform

Vision Systems Design – Jan 6, 2011

Built on the USDA-accepted Adept Quattro s650HS robot, the Adept PAC is the first robotic packaging platform designed from the ground up to address the …


Move Over, WALL-E: Puttering Along Power Lines

New York Times (blog) – Matthew L. Wald – Jan 12, 2011

Electric Power Research Institute A prototype of the robot that would monitor transmission lines for problems.


Tense time for workers, as career paths fade away

USA Today – Rick Hampson – Jan 12, 2011

•Globalization and automation may export or eliminate not only jobs, but entire occupations — ways of life, really. The Labor Department predicts that …

The Robot Economy is Here by Derek Thompson

The Atlantic (blog) – Derek Thompson – Jan 18, 2011

Entrepreneur Marshall Brain–that’s his real name–says robots will become widely available by 2030 and could eventually take nearly half of all jobs in the …


Automation Touted As Way To Help Fix Immigration System

National Journal – Aliya Sternstein – Jan 13, 2011

Nextgov.com reports that the government can fix the immigration system without legislation, by automating visa processing and by …

Barcelona Seeks Technologies for Automation of Urban Services

TMC Net -Calvin Azuri – Jan 24, 2011

The city of Barcelona invites international solutions providers and research centers who can materialize its automation goals through sensors and other …

The Killer Robot Caucus

01/25/11 WSJ Washington Wire

Members of Congress love their drones, but they want to give all robots their due. So the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus…


Robotics Industry Is Optimistic in 2011

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 As the global economy emerges from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, business activity is slowly picking up….


Japanese Robot Cargo Ship En Route to Space Station

Space.com – Jan 24, 2011

An unmanned Japanese cargo spaceship is closing in on the International Space Station, on track to link up with the orbiting lab Thursday (Jan. 27).

Seoul To Spend US$89.5 Million On Robot Pilot Projects

Bernama – Jan 26, 2011

SEOUL, Jan 27 (Bernama) — The government will spend 100 billion won (US$89.5 million) on robot-related pilot projects to bolster growth of the cutting edge …

After 50 Years Robots Have New Horizons

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 Advancements in safety systems, end-effectors and sensors are rapidly bringing robotics into new applications…

Building a Super Robust Robot Hand

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 25, 2011

German researchers have built an anthropomorphic robot hand that can endure collisions with hard objects and even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces. In designing the new hand system, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), focused on robustness. They may have just built the toughest robot hand yet. The DLR hand has the shape and size of a human hand, with five articulated fingers powered by a web of 38 tendons, each connected to an individual motor on the forearm.

Cloud Robotics: Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, January 24, 2011

Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

In the first “Matrix” movie, there’s a scene where Neo points to a helicopter on a rooftop and asks Trinity, “Can you fly that thing?” Her answer: “Not yet.” Then she gets a “pilot program” uploaded to her brain and they fly away. For us humans, with our non-upgradeable, offline meat brains, the possibility of acquiring new skills by connecting our heads to a computer network is still science fiction. Not so for robots. Several research groups are exploring the idea of robots that rely on cloud-computing infrastructure to access vast amounts of processing power and data. This approach, which some are calling “cloud robotics,” would allow robots to offload compute-intensive tasks like image processing and voice recognition and even download new skills instantly, Matrix-style. Imagine a robot that finds an object that it’s never seen or used before—say, a plastic cup. The robot could simply send an image of the cup to the cloud and receive back the object’s name, a 3-D model, and instructions on how to use it, says James Kuffner, a professor at Carnegie Mellon currently working at Google.

Top 20 Robot Videos of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Last year was an incredible time for robotics, and to recap the best robot moments of 2010 we decided to compile a list of our favorite videos. Check out below our selection — going from No. 20 to the No. 1 — and let us know what you think.

The Best Robots of CES 2011

One of the best robots of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Robots made a big appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There were home robots, robotic pets, humanoids, telepresence systems, and even a little robot to massage people’s backs. Check out the highlights

Myth Of American Primacy: How Does The US Compare With Other Countries?


Just How Exceptional is the US?

The Myth of American Primacy


The New Year season is a good time to reflect on the U.S.’s true standing in the world.

Politicians of every stripe ceaselessly repeat the well-worn clichés about America’s uniqueness and prowess at 4th of July, Memorial Day, election campaign and other patriotic celebrations.

But how exceptional are we?

The following list of some 35 categories compares our standing to other nations.

Sadly, the five categories in which America ranks #1 are Military Expenditure, Incarceration, Marriage, Cosmetic Procedures and Obesity.

Read on …

U.S. Ranked #1

Military Expenditures (2008)

#1 — U.S. = $663.2 billion (4% of GDP)
#2 — China = $98.8 billion (2% of GDP)

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database (2009)

Military Expenditure per GDP (2005)

#1 — Omar = 11.4%
#25 — U.S. = 4.2%

Source: CIA Factbook

Incarceration Rate

#1 — U.S. = 756 per 100,000 (1,613,740 in 2009)
#2 — Russia = 629 per 100,000 (86,9814 in 2006)

Source: King’s College London International Centre for Prison Studies: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Marriage Rate (“crude,” 2007)

#1 — U.S. = 7.4 per 1,000
#7 — Denmark = 6.7 per 1,000

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Cosmetic Surgical Procedures (2009)

#1 — U.S. = 1.5 mil
#2 — Brazil = 1.0 million

Source: ISAPS

Obesity Rate

#1 — U.S. = 34% (2008)
#2 — Mexico = 30% (2006)

Source: OECD


#1 — Costa Rica = 76.1
#114 — U.S. = 30.7

Source: Happy Planet Index 2.0

Satisfaction with Life Index (2006)

#1 — Denmark = 273.4
#23 — U.S. = 246.7

Source: Adrian White, “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology?”

Subjective Well-Being (2007)

#1 — Denmark = 4.24
#16 — U.S. = 3.55

Source: World Values Surveys

National Economy

Gross Domestic Product (2009)

#1 — European Union = $14.4 trillion
#2 — U.S. = $14.1 trillion

Source: CIA Factbook

Per Capita GDP

#1 — Lichtenstein = $122,100 (2007)
#11 — U.S. = $46,000 (2009)

Source: CIA Factbook

Human Poverty Index (2007-2008, lowest)

#1 — Sweden = 6.3
#17 — U.S. = 15.4

Source: Human Development Index

Current Account Balance (2009)

#1 — China = $297.1 billion
#190 — U.S. = ($378.4 billion)

Source: CIA Factbook

Competitive Economy

#1 — Switzerland
#4 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Digital Economy

#1 — Sweden
#3 — U.S.

Source: Economist Intelligence Group’s “e-readiness”

Information Technology

#1 — Sweden
#4 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Environmental Impact

Renewable Electricity Production (2009)

#1 — China = 682.1
#3 — U.S. = 413.2

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2009

Environmental Impact (worst to best)

#1 — Brazil
#2 — U.S.

Source: University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia

CO-2 Emissions (Climate Change Performance Index, of 56 countries, 2008, best to worst)

#2 — Germany = 3.0% share
#55 — U.S. = 21.4% share

Source: Germanwatch


Life Expectancy

#1 — Japan = 82.6 years
#38 — U.S. = 78.2 years

Source: United Nations (2005-2010)

Infant mortality (to 1,000 live births, 2009)

#1 — Iceland = 2.9
#33 — U.S. = 6.3

Source: UN Population Division

National Health Systems

#1 — France
#37 — U.S.

Source: World Health Organization

Health Care Expenditures (% of GDP, 2006)

#1 — France = 11.0%
#37 — U.S. = 15.8%

Source: OECD

Overweight Rate

#1 — Mexico = 70% (2006)
#2 — U.S. = 68% (2008)

Source: OECD

Domestic Life

Divorce Rate (of marriages, 2002)

#1 — Sweden = 54.9%
#7 — U.S. = 45.7%

Source: Americans for Divorce Reform

Cohabitation Rate (20 year-old plus, 2007)

#1 — France = 14.4%
#6 — U.S. = 5.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Non-Married Childbirths (2007, US and Europe)

#1 — Sweden = 54.7%
#6 — U.S. Denmark = 38.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Motherhood Ranking (best to worst)

#1 — Norway
#28 — U.S.

Source: Save the Children “Mothers Index”

Gender Gap (narrowest to widest)

#1 — Iceland
#19 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum


Secondary School Graduates (2008)

#1 — S. Korea = 93%
#18 — U.S.= 73%

Source: OECD

College Graduates (25-34) (2007)

#1 — Canada = 55.8%
#12 — U.S. = 40.3%

Source: the College Board


#1 — Korea = 539
#15 — U.S. = 500

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and Shanghai and Hong Kong out-performed the U.S).


Science Education

#1 — Finland = 554
#20 — U.S. = 502

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.


Math Education

#1 — Singapore = 562
#28— U.S. = 487

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.


Telecommunications Services

Internet Users (2008)

#1 — China = 298 million
#2 — U.S. = 231 million

Source: CIA Factbook

Wired Broadband (2010)

#1 — Netherlands = 37.8 per 100 (6.2 mil subscribers)
#14 — U.S. = 27.1 per 100 (183.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Wireless Broadband (2010)

#1 — Korea = 95.0 per 100 (146.3 mil subscribers)
#9 — U.S. = 44.4 per 100 (136.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Broadband Data Rate (downsteam)

#1 — Korea = 36.9 Mb/s
#31 — U.S. = 9.9 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Broadband Data Rate (upsteam)

#1 — Korea = 20.3 Mb/s
#33 — U.S. = 2.5 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Please add you own categories and circulate.

David Rosen is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009). He can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.


Will The Wolf Survive? An Essay on Identity by Lew Rosenbaum

A map of the earthen walls on the bluff overlooking the Little Miami River at Fort Ancient.

A year ago, when I first decided to go to my 50th high school reunion, I recognized that there was an element of nostalgia involved.  I’m 67 now, almost 68 in fact, and I wonder what happened to those 50 years that intervened, when no one else in my high school annual has changed one iota.  According to their pictures, that is, which remain frozen, unlike the change visible in my mirror daily.  Who was I then, I wondered, and how did I become who I am today?

With both Diana and me free to take a longer trip, I made some extensive plans to visit places we knew, as well as to explore places new to us. In retrospect, what happened was a quest for identity, but not, as might be gathered from the first paragraph, simply a personal identity.  Here is what happened.

*              *              *             *

In Southern Ohio, the Ohio River valley, native peoples built the epicenter of an extensive cultural network, beginning more than 2,000 years ago.  From 200 BCE to about 600 CE, culturally related peoples we call “mound builders” ranged from as far north as what is now the Canadian border and upstate New York to Florida, west to Oklahoma and Minnesota.  They appear to have lived in family groups of perhaps 50, often in semi-permanent, year-round locations for perhaps several years until resources such as fire-wood were exhausted.  They did not depend on agriculture;  instead they found abundant animal and vegetable food in the prairies and woodlands where they lived, only supplementing this primary food source with gardening. Diet seems to have been very good.  Corn or maize was not a major source of calories for the Hopewell cultures of Southern Ohio, as they have been named (after the settler, Mordecai Hopewell, on whose property the first mound excavations were undertaken). Although many people lived into their 60’s, the average age appears to have been about 35 (many seem to have died in childhood or infancy).

At Fort Ancient, people began building these earthen walls 2,000 years ago.

Evidence seems to indicate that people spent relatively little time reproducing their means of survival.  Leisure was a significant characteristic of their lifestyle.  With their leisure, the Hopewell peoples learned much about their environment and built massive earthen architectural wonders that demonstrate this knowledge.  In other words, they lived in small groups and had a relatively short life-span, still they surmounted these obstacles to build multi-generational, multi-family walls through which the people could read and celebrate the solstices and a complex 18.6 year lunar cycle.  Within these walls, burial and ceremonial mounds were built, some as high as the mounds we have come to associate with Egyptians’ pyramids and Inca temples.

The first archeologists called these earthen walls “forts.”  Drawing on the experience of their own century, they believed the early peoples built these walls to protect them against their enemies.  But they could not explain on this basis the many gaps in the walls surrounding “Fort Ancient.” This highest point in Southern Ohio lies on a plateau overlooking river valleys. Here Hopewell peoples built walls along the perimeter of this bluff, several miles of earthen works 3 to 6 feet in height. Near the structure that now houses the Fort Ancient Museum are four small mounds.  What distinguishes these otherwise nondescript mounds is that they are at the corners of a perfect square, 512 feet apart.  From one of these mounds one can sight, through gaps, significant astronomical events, e.g. the setting solstice sun.  This kind of formation is found elsewhere in Southern Ohio as well, hundreds of miles away, showing that the knowledge had been communicated throughout the area.  Further, the amount of earth that was moved to create these mounds means a huge amount of surplus labor was available, more than any one group of 50 could muster, perhaps more than any multiple of groups of one generation could bring together.

Around Chillicothe is the Hopewell National Historical Area, with at least four different mound groups having similar geometrical alignments, oriented in the same directions and perhaps

Map showing the geometrical formations aligned to astronomical events typical of a number of Hopewell sites.

connected to the same astronomical observations. East of Columbus, at Newark, the “great circle” gives another example of the massive scale of the Hopewell ceremonial spaces, again a geometrically complex place only limited by the fact that a golf course now occupies the sacred ground of the square and smaller circles. This pooling of social labor and accumulation of empirical information required a highly complex social organization.

And yet there is no indication that this complexity resulted in (or from) a need to defend themselves.  There is no indication of enemies, no indication of warfare or weaponry (aside from the weaponry required for hunting food).  The Hopewell legacy began to die out and was gone by about 600 CE.  It disappeared.  Only to be replaced around 500 years later by a culture that did have enemies, conducted some form of warfare, built stockades to protect themselves, and, perhaps most significantly, now subsisted on agriculture, primarily corn.

Who were these new people? Were they really “new,” or did their life style gradually change to one which was more labor intensive, allowed for less leisure?  Why did they abandon their ceremonial structures (the Great Serpent — the longest effigy mound, more than a quarter of a mile in length — lies near Peebles, Ohio)?  There are no texts, no oral tradition to tell us.  What we do know is that an economic revolution took place that was independent of anyone’s will, and that between 500 CE and 1200 CE native peoples crossed a chasm.  It was the same leap that took place throughout the world, starting as early as 10,000 years ago, cultivating rice in Southeast Asia.  This leap, this nodal point, describes the change between a cooperative society within which some hierarchy is evident without economic classes to a new, class driven hierarchy. While some societies survive today in this earlier stage, there is no evidence that societies that have made this leap have crossed the chasm back to an earlier stage.

The Seip Mound, located near Chillicothe, Ohio, rises at least 30 feet in height and is part of a geometrical formation aligned to astronomical observation.

There is a philosophical outlook — dialectics — that helps to explain this leap. Change takes place through uneven, back and forth motion that accumulates quantitatively until a point is reached, an eruption takes place, and the change that emerges is qualitative.  Something new emerges, something that can not be stuffed back into the skin from where it came.

When we talk about the dialectics of human societal development, the usual argument proceeds from metaphor or analogy. The butterfly cannot re-enter the cocoon,  You cannot stuff the baby back in the womb, return to pregnancy and pre-pregnancy.  The evolutionary process proceeds, not in a circle to return to the same place from which it started, but in a spiral.  Perhaps we reason thus because that is the only way we can understand these complex processes.  To my mind, it is not much different from attributing these changes to the gods. True, we have much more empirical data.  But we are not dealing with babies, only new processes to which we attribute the human characteristics of babies.  We are not dealing with orbits of planets or DNA

The wall around the Great Circle at Newark, Ohio, was built by digging a trench on both sides of the wall and massing the dirt thus excavated.

structures, but motion to which we attribute characteristics similar to planetary relations, similar to nucleic acid structure.

How then can dialectics go beyond metaphor to help explain the leap?

The peoples who lived in the Americas 5,000 years ago were humans, of that there is no doubt, according to any scientific definition of our species. In that sense, I am identical with them, though my direct ancestry lies elsewhere. They are nevertheless my people; I claim them as my ancestors. What angers me is that I never learned about these remarkable peoples in school.  I am outraged that my schooling took away my history from me.  MY history is what I’ve lost. My journey to Southern Ohio was a quest to identify what makes me human, what is the essence of my humanity, what is not as immediate as my Eastern European ancestors who fled the Czar, but more fundamental to my presence on earth?

*                  *                   *

In Pittsburgh a few days later, visiting my niece, Robin Alexander, we went to the Children’s Museum to see the art work installed by Mayumi

Art work created by children under the direction of Mayumi Matsuo “floats” in the hall

Matsuo, Artist in Residence from Hiroshima.  Matsuo worked with young children to produce floating panels, hung in a hallway, on the theme Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace. We were fortunate to be accompanied by the artist, who completed the installation by inscribing, using traditional Japanese brush calligraphy, the character that represented her title for the exhibit:  Harmony.

Robin was one of the coordinators of a series of events remembering Hiroshima in Pittsburgh.  One small exhibit at Carlow University included photographs of the devastation within a month following the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Also represented were puppets, sculpture, drawings by Pittsburgh artists responding to the devastation, condemning this chapter in our history.

This devastation was barely 1400 years since Hopewell.  Yet we who dropped the bombs are the same human species.  How did we get this far from the cooperative society of that time?  Who are we that we are capable of such contradictory activity?  What is the dialectic that unites us?

The easy way out is to blame this on Europeans, or the European influence, or racism.  The reality is the Europeans crossed this same chasm only a few thousand years earlier; and their ancestors only a few thousand years before that in other parts of the world.  The blink of an eye in the totality of our anthropological existence.

The tools of destruction Hopewellians employed were limited to chipped flint, mined at a ridge not far from Newark, Ohio, and used widely throughout the Hopewell distribution.  How did we get to tools of destruction not at all related to finding food?  What leap got us to atomic weapons, where the photographic evidence confronting us showed humans evaporated from the intensity of  heat? There were children destroyed in Hiroshima 55 years ago;  today children in Pittsburgh “remembered” them with bright colors and pastels, a hope for a new harmony  belied every day by American drones bombing Afghanistan, by Israeli bombs in Palestine, by the bombs of the powerful pounding the powerless. What do I identify with here?  What is my identity in this mass of contradiction?

*             *             *

Along the Finger Lakes, on the way up to the Adirondacks.

Leaving Pittsburgh, we drove north, in the rain, through Erie to Bath, along the finger lakes to Cranberry Lake, finally to Lake Placid.  The home of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980 is today a town filled with tourists and shops for them.  Just south of the town is the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, some 240 acres purchased from Garret Smith, a wealthy New York merchant who was also an abolitionist.  In 1849 John Brown moved his family to the vicinity, then called the Lake Elba area, on land provided by Smith to settle free blacks.   Smith was fundamentally a Jeffersonian Democrat, who took the idea of the yeoman farmer seriously.  He used his wealth to give free blacks an opportunity to own land. Smith called his project Timbuktu.

Brown surveyed the land, helped teach the new farmers fresh from the city how to grow crops, and then bought the land on which to situate his family. But “Old Brown” was committed to the abolition of institution of slavery more than to the establishment of a few independent farmers;  he left his wife and

John Brown’s farm house, with the barn in the background.

daughters on the farm, taking his sons with him to Kansas to insure that the territory entered the union as a free state.  Once he left Kansas, he traveled the country raising money for the cause of abolition, a task which culminated for him when he and a group of followers seized the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859.  Surrounded by federal troops led by General Robert E. Lee, Brown himself was badly wounded and many of his followers killed, including two of his sons.  Brown survived long enough to be executed.

From the time he left Lake Elba to the attack on Harper’s Ferry, John Brown visited his farm only seven times.  Mary Brown and her daughters had help from the neighbors (certainly the families settled in Timbuktu — the name of one of these settlers, Lyman Epps is engraved in one of the ceiling beams in the original Brown house, which remains on the site).  Life was exceedingly difficult in winters where the temperature reaches 30 below zero. the effects of which were mitigated by the assistance of neighbors. Running water was not available, the snow piles up in huge drifts, the wind sweeps off of White Face Mountain almost through the timbers of the houses themselves.  It is difficult today to imagine the effort that it took to have enough wood around to boil the water needed to bake one or two loaves of bread daily and to provide the heat for the winter.  One can see some evidence of it with stockpiles of wood next to Adirondack houses all along the way, none as much as would have been necessary to get through a winter then.

Old Brown’s “thinking rock”

With the growing season so short, the main crop was potatoes in 1849 to 1859, sold to the starch mill in town.   Potatoes are still the main agricultural crop for any who choose to farm such an unyielding land.  Of the original Timbuktu settlers, only one family lasted into the twentieth century.  The Epps family survived because Lyman Epps did not depend solely on farming for his income: he taught voice lessons as well.  The others left Lake Elba, driven away by their lack of experience (they were all city dwellers, unaccustomed to farming) and the difficult challenge the soil and climate presented any who dared to take it up.

Imagine “Old Brown” — the road to the farm is “Old John Brown Road” — taking respite here after his war in Kansas; after strenuous journeys arguing here and there about the need to abolish slavery; coming back to Lake Elba, sitting at the large rock a hundred yards or so from his house (he called it his thinking rock), wondering where he could go next for support for his project;  plotting his next steps toward the seizure of Harper’s Ferry; writing letters to those he hoped would support him in his endeavors; talking with his sons about what would follow Harper’s Ferry.

Brown is buried here, as are his two sons killed at Harper’s Ferry and 10 other comrades killed there as well.  Brown was hanged at Charleston.  His execution initiated a firestorm of protest throughout the North.  A year and a half later the country was engulfed in a bloody civil war that ended chattel slavery.  Ten years after the civil war was over, the first national strike of workers erupted, evidence of the transformation that had taken place in the country.  Marx, writing about the American Civil War, said that the abolition of slavery would allow the organization of labor to proceed with “seven-league boots” across the land.  The last quarter of the nineteenth century proved him

Two of John Brown’s sons were killed at Harpers Ferry. They are buried here with John Brown and the other martyrs of that battle.

prophetic. This is not to say that the American Civil War ended racism or exploitation of ex-slaves. It did not initiate a paradise for workers. One cannot ignore, however, the historical consequence of the federal expropriation of the largest investment in private property in North America at the time:  4 million human chattel slaves.

Standing at the grave site;  standing next to John Brown’s thinking rock; standing in the farm house where Mary Brown and her daughters toiled those many years; I could only feel I was standing on sacred ground, sacred as any ground in the United States of America, sacred as the ground trod by the Stono rebels in South Carolina, 1739, more than a century before Brown was executed.  Sacred, in its way, as the Hopewell ceremonial grounds.

Here, after all, were buried martyrs who had struggled against an institution embedded in our history since 1619, codified in our own Constitution of 1789, and defended by our political leaders almost universally until the emancipation proclamation.  This is, after all, the great cause, without the understanding of which the Mexican War, the Trail of Tears, and the Spanish American War are incomprehensible. If we hope to grasp our identity as Americans, we had better grapple with the contradictions that emerged as the American Civil War of 1861- 1877.

The dialectics of the Civil War involve much more than the battle against slavery as such.  For the end of the Civil War found Americans enslaved again — this time in a form of peonage called sharecropping in the South, now along with what workers in the North had come to call “wage slavery.”  By the end of the century, with Wall Street clearly in control of the South, American finance capital had broken the back of Southern agriculture’s hold.  To paraphrase the words of W.E.B. DuBois,  Wall Street controlled the South and the South controlled the nation (on behalf of Wall Street).  An economic revolution independent of the will of the American worker, slave, industrial capitalist, or slave-owner had swept across the country, driving all before it. The American landscape was fundamentally different afterwards.

But not as fundamentally different as when the Hopewell “disappeared,” only to be replaced by an agricultural people.  That was a world historic change from property in common to private property. The U.S. Civil War marked a change from one form of private property to another, a nodal point of a different kind, from one form of capitalist property in agriculture to another form under the heel of capitalist industry.

How does this help me in my quest for identity?  I stand on the hallowed ground of Lake Elba and sob for my ancestors who fought against slavery, ancestors from whom I am perhaps only slightly more directly descended than from my Hopwellian kin. I know my identity does not lie with “Old Brown’s” antagonists.  Perhaps now, however, I can begin to parse the human identity that puzzles me about the chasm between people  — whether between the Hopewell and their descendants or between the slaves and the slave-holders.  What then is the meaning of identity?

*             *             *

There is, of course, the question of who I am now versus who I was 50 years ago.  Humans go through different stages of development in our lifetime.  The riddle of the sphinx is one (physical) way of approaching this question:  What animal walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs ant noon, and as night approaches walks on 3 legs?  Of course this riddle has its mental or cultural equivalent (and can be related to our changes as a species as well).  Seeing so many of my classmates from 50 years ago helped me again to appreciate the physical and cultural aspect of this riddle.  We are not the same people we were 50 years ago.  That is why I looked forward to this opportunity to apologize to one of my classmates for being such a beastly child. I was also eager to see how people had changed, who was doing what.  I was not prepared for how few of my classmates I remembered at all.  Which speaks to how isolated, how much of a recluse I was as a child.

Much of what I knew as a child is now gone.  Gone in the scheme of urban renewal foisted on New Haven by the Yale Corporation.  Housing projects and “drug free zones” occupy the  Shelton-Dixwell neighborhood in which I grew up. Newhall Street, which ran along the train tracks a couple of blocks from where I lived, demarcated black from white in those days.  That boundary has been obliterated;  last I saw it, the Stetson Library on the corner of Dixwell and Thompson had been abandoned.  The house where I lived while in high school, on Chapel St. one house west of The (now Ella Grasso) Boulevard, is in disrepair along with the rest of the neighborhood.

Further west on Chapel Street is Edgewood Ave. Park  on one side, a forbidding marsh on the other, and then Yale Bowl, the citadel of Yale football. When I was 13 or 14 I walked to the Bowl one Saturday, sat  freezing in the end zone, and took pictures with my new Ansco camera during the all-important game with Harvard. But for the next four years that I lived there, I never walked even a few blocks further west, to what we called “Westville.”  That was a different boundary, a boundary that still holds, though my eyes see it a bit differently today.  That was where the “rich folks” lived.  It was where I did not belong. I knew this without going there. Somehow I absorbed through my integument that I would not be welcome there.   Even further west than that were the country clubs, (like Grassy Hills, where the reunion banquet was held in Orange).  I would listen to the dismissive voices of my mother and father talking about the opulence of these places.  This was where the wealthy Jews, who were not welcome in the goyishe clubs, would gather and lord it over their poorer relatives.

Today the dilapidated housing of West Chapel Street ends with the marsh, a few houses from where I lived.  Where houses take up again, on the other side of the Bowl, they are what might be termed “middle class” today — the disappearing section of the working class that each candidate appeals to when he or she decries raising taxes on “the middle class.”  The wealth of corporate America has penetrated downtown, around the village green, and surrounding the historic 3 churches on the green, butting up against the Yale buildings that dominate the center of town, making New Haven appear a vibrant community. A Barnes & Noble has taken over/displaced the venerable Yale Co-op.

These are not the streets I walked with my mother, to visit the communist-sympathizer dentist who fixed her dentures at a price she could afford to pay.  These are not the streets to which my family escaped to have a rare night out at the Chinese restaurant — the first floor joint called the Chungking, where my father always ordered “subgum chow mein” and my mother chicken chow mein for 95 cents each; or, if we were feeling ritzy, the Far East across the street, on the second floor,  a large room with fancier waiters, where sitting at a window table commanded a view of the bustling street below.

This is now, that was 50 years ago.  The city is not the same, nor am I.  Identity.  You can’t make an antagonism into an identity, even when that antagonism emerged from an “identity.”

*                *               *

I began this exploration with a hidden premise:  that I (we) have become what I (we) have because of the leap taken by humanity all across the globe, but typified by the Hopewell peoples of Southern Ohio somewhere around one thousand years ago.  The leap from a cooperative society came about to correspond to an economic revolution happening independently of the will of the individuals transformed by it.  That revolution is the fundamental turning point that led to Hiroshima and the Hubble telescope, with all the ambiguity and potentiality that implies.  The ambiguity and potentiality convinces me to obsess over antagonism and identity.  I’m trying to find out who I am. There is an old turn of phrase that answers the question “Where do you come from”? by answering  “My people are from Vilna.”  But a Lakota saying has it that “We are all related.”  In part this search for identity transcends the narrow meaning of that word, embraces the universal, claims a heritage in the species wherever it is.  In part the search also recognizes divisions and walls that arose (in the mound building areas of North America) only about 1000 years ago, hence recognizes an identity in a common group of propertyless in all social formations, rejects the formulation that all men are my brothers.

How we are “all” related is not the same quest as trying to understand the gulf that separates me from early humans, where class divisions do not yet exist.  Yet it is connected.  Now I want to find out how to leap the chasm that is opening again, but not to go back to what once was. I want to understand the emergence from the chrysalis of classless society into agriculture, in order to understand the development of the cocoon called capitalism.  That cocoon is disintegrating.

Here’s the problem.  The objective destruction of capitalist relations means the destruction of the value of the worker.  Not that what the worker has produced is worthless, can’t be used. Instead, what the worker has produced contains less and less labor-power embedded within it.  The use of the worker in production is eliminated, therefore his or her value (in terms of wages) is eliminated, and therefore she/he is unable to buy what is produced.  This schism separating buyer from seller forces the question of distribution of the socially produced wealth — whether automobiles, health care or education — back to the forefront.  It makes the distribution what is produced by the intricate web we call society something that should be organized on the basis of need rather than ability to pay. This transition converts the social product owned by capitalists to property owned by society.  That means the revolution also forces what is now capital to figure out how to cross the same chasm that will end capitalism while maintaining private property.  These are antagonistic interests.  In the face of an objective movement to distribute goods and resources according to need, the only way to maintain the extortion of payment is by violence. In my book that is the new form of fascism.

Who says, “We can’t go back”?  Those who refuse to embrace a culture in which childhood death is frequent (and hence life span is short), in which the store of food, while normally abundant, is still insecure;  in which peoples who strive to communicate with each other are severely limited.  In a million different ways, the collective survival of our species as we exist today renounces, both consciously and unconsciously, going back to that kind of existence even with its advantages.  Working more became a trade-off for the survival of increasing numbers in a way that facilitates the communicative (evolutionary) strengths of human socialization.

But what about if we are at another nodal point, another chasm, and another revolutionary change that is objective is propelling the motion forward, independently of human will.  A nodal point that offers choices about working  for what we want and love.  A vision of what is possible:  a new kind of abundance, so different from early society,  where childhood death is minimized,  resources are conserved for all, and where the biological imperative of collective survival uses the gifts developed by cooperative human evolution. What is different at this juncture is that the experience of the last 10,000 years can be summed up consciously. While the corporate capitalist class does not do this, we can and must make decisions that will assist our surviving the leap.  Or we can abrogate our historic responsibility.  If we have learned anything from the motion of the last 10,000 years, it should reflect how classes emerge, take control, and preserve their interests in a changing world.  This was true in the leap from Hopewell to Fort Ancient, from hunter to cultivator.  It was true at the time of the leap from agriculture to industry in the Civil War. 

What class is emerging now that is the special product of the revolution we are undergoing? What is required to maintain the infrastructures we have built?  Libraries have been destroyed in the past, accumulated knowledge torched.  Yet humans have rebounded again and again.  What is to say that the conversion to digital libraries will not again lead to the destruction of those examples of accumulated knowledge?  Are ethereal libraries more fragile than those “brick and mortar” libraries that preceded the digital?

Who has the most interest in seeing this accumulated knowledge generalized, preserved, augmented so that all can benefit? Without a doubt, the class in power today has demonstrated that it can destroy the capacity of humans to survive.  While it strives to maintain its control of private property, the corporate class has embarked on a suicidal course for our species.  As the corporations continue to play havoc with the ecological and political environment, the special product of the new economic revolution is a class that is moving in the direction of permanent separation from employment under capitalism.  This vast majority of human beings is the only group who can be educated for and trusted with the stewardship of — rather partnership with — the earth.

Wiki-Leaks, Climate Change and Cash from The Guardian

[Pundits and paying close attention to whether wiki-leaks is damaging the US ability to conduct private negotiations.  When they are not doing that, pundits worry about the danger into which wikileaks places US troops.  Not to worry.  The US is already doing its best to put “our” troops in harms way by engaging in the longest war in our history.  About negotiations on the other hand: here are some Cancun revelations that show what real negotiations are all about. — Lew Rosenbaum]

WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord

Embassy dispatches show America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord

WikiLeaks cables: Cancún climate talks doomed to fail, says EU president
Cancún climate change summit: Week one in pictures

Embassy dispatches show America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord

    A Greenpeace activist in a hot air ballon ahead of the UN climate summit in Cancún A Greenpeace activist in a hot air ballon ahead of the current UN climate summit in Cancún. WikiLeaks cables expose US use of espionage before the 2009 Copenhagen summit. Photograph: Luis Perez/AFP/Getty Images 

    Hidden behind the save-the-world rhetoric of the global climate change negotiations lies the mucky realpolitik: money and threats buy political support; spying and cyberwarfare are used to seek out leverage.

    The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial “Copenhagen accord“, the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.

    Negotiating a climate treaty is a high-stakes game, not just because of the danger warming poses to civilisation but also because re-engineering the global economy to a low-carbon model will see the flow of billions of dollars redirected.

    Seeking negotiating chips, the US state department sent a secret cable on 31 July 2009 seeking human intelligence from UN diplomats across a range of issues, including climate change. The request originated with the CIA. As well as countries’ negotiating positions for Copenhagen, diplomats were asked to provide evidence of UN environmental “treaty circumvention” and deals between nations.

    But intelligence gathering was not just one way. On 19 June 2009, the state department sent a cable detailing a “spear phishing” attack on the office of the US climate change envoy, Todd Stern, while talks with China on emissions took place in Beijing. Five people received emails, personalised to look as though they came from the National Journal. An attached file contained malicious code that would give complete control of the recipient’s computer to a hacker. While the attack was unsuccessful, the department’s cyber threat analysis division noted: “It is probable intrusion attempts such as this will persist.”

    • Read more about how the US cajolled other countries into supporting the Copenhagen Accord.

    The Beijing talks failed to lead to a global deal at Copenhagen. But the US, the world’s biggest historical polluter and long isolated as a climate pariah, had something to cling to. The Copenhagen accord, hammered out in the dying hours but not adopted into the UN process, offered to solve many of the US’s problems.

    The accord turns the UN’s top-down, unanimous approach upside down, with each nation choosing palatable targets for greenhouse gas cuts. It presents a far easier way to bind in China and other rapidly growing countries than the UN process. But the accord cannot guarantee the global greenhouse gas cuts needed to avoid dangerous warming. Furthermore, it threatens to circumvent the UN’s negotiations on extending the Kyoto protocol, in which rich nations have binding obligations. Those objections have led many countries – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – to vehemently oppose the accord.

    Getting as many countries as possible to associate themselves with the accord strongly served US interests, by boosting the likelihood it would be officially adopted. A diplomatic offensive was launched. Diplomatic cables flew thick and fast between the end of Copenhagen in December 2009 and late February 2010, when the leaked cables end.

    Some countries needed little persuading. The accord promised $30bn (£19bn) in aid for the poorest nations hit by global warming they had not caused. Within two weeks of Copenhagen, the Maldives foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back it.

    By 23 February 2010, the Maldives’ ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted “tangible assistance”, saying other nations would then realise “the advantages to be gained by compliance” with the accord.

    A diplomatic dance ensued. “Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50m (£30m). Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance.”

    The Maldives were unusual among developing countries in embracing the accord so wholeheartedly, but other small island nations were secretly seen as vulnerable to financial pressure. Any linking of the billions of dollars of aid to political support is extremely controversial – nations most threatened by climate change see the aid as a right, not a reward, and such a link as heretical. But on 11 February, Pershing met the EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, in Brussels, where she told him, according to a cable, “the Aosis [Alliance of Small Island States] countries ‘could be our best allies’ given their need for financing“.

    The pair were concerned at how the $30bn was to be raised and Hedegaard raised another toxic subject – whether the US aid would be all cash. She asked if the US would need to do any “creative accounting”, noting some countries such as Japan and the UK wanted loan guarantees, not grants alone, included, a tactic she opposed. Pershing said “donors have to balance the political need to provide real financing with the practical constraints of tight budgets”, reported the cable.

    Along with finance, another treacherous issue in the global climate negotiations, currently continuing in Cancún, Mexico, is trust that countries will keep their word. Hedegaard asks why the US did not agree with China and India on what she saw as acceptable measures to police future emissions cuts. “The question is whether they will honour that language,” the cable quotes Pershing as saying.

    Trust is in short supply on both sides of the developed-developing nation divide. On 2 February 2009, a cable from Addis Ababa reports a meeting between the US undersecretary of state Maria Otero and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, who leads the African Union’s climate change negotiations.

    The confidential cable records a blunt US threat to Zenawi: sign the accord or discussion ends now. Zenawi responds that Ethiopia will support the accord, but has a concern of his own: that a personal assurance from Barack Obama on delivering the promised aid finance is not being honoured.

    US determination to seek allies against its most powerful adversaries – the rising economic giants of Brazil, South Africa, India, China (Basic) – is set out in another cable from Brussels on 17 February reporting a meeting between the deputy national security adviser, Michael Froman, Hedegaard and other EU officials.

    Froman said the EU needed to learn from Basic’s skill at impeding US and EU initiatives and playing them off against each in order “to better handle third country obstructionism and avoid future train wrecks on climate”.

    Hedegaard is keen to reassure Froman of EU support, revealing a difference between public and private statements. “She hoped the US noted the EU was muting its criticism of the US, to be constructive,” the cable said. Hedegaard and Froman discuss the need to “neutralise, co-opt or marginalise unhelpful countries including Venezuela and Bolivia”, before Hedegaard again links financial aid to support for the accord, noting “the irony that the EU is a big donor to these countries”. Later, in April, the US cut aid to Bolivia and Ecuador, citing opposition to the accord.

    Any irony is clearly lost on the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, according to a 9 February cable from La Paz. The Danish ambassador to Bolivia, Morten Elkjaer, tells a US diplomat that, at the Copenhagen summit, “Danish prime minister Rasmussen spent an unpleasant 30 minutes with Morales, during which Morales thanked him for [$30m a year in] bilateral aid, but refused to engage on climate change issues.”

    After the Copenhagen summit, further linking of finance and aid with political support appears. Dutch officials, initially rejecting US overtures to back the accord, make a startling statement on 25 January. According to a cable, the Dutch climate negotiator Sanne Kaasjager “has drafted messages for embassies in capitals receiving Dutch development assistance to solicit support [for the accord]. This is an unprecedented move for the Dutch government, which traditionally recoils at any suggestion to use aid money as political leverage.” Later, however, Kaasjager rows back a little, saying: “The Netherlands would find it difficult to make association with the accord a condition to receive climate financing.”

    Perhaps the most audacious appeal for funds revealed in the cables is from Saudi Arabia, the world’s second biggest oil producer and one of the 25 richest countries in the world. A secret cable sent on 12 February records a meeting between US embassy officials and lead climate change negotiator Mohammad al-Sabban. “The kingdom will need time to diversify its economy away from petroleum, [Sabban] said, noting a US commitment to help Saudi Arabia with its economic diversification efforts would ‘take the pressure off climate change negotiations‘.”

    The Saudis did not like the accord, but were worried they had missed a trick. The assistant petroleum minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told US officials that he had told his minister Ali al-Naimi that Saudi Arabia had “missed a real opportunity to submit ‘something clever’, like India or China, that was not legally binding but indicated some goodwill towards the process without compromising key economic interests”.

    The cables obtained by WikiLeaks finish at the end of February 2010. Today, 116 countries have associated themselves with the accord. Another 26 say they intend to associate. That total, of 140, is at the upper end of a 100-150 country target revealed by Pershing in his meeting with Hedegaard on 11 February.

    The 140 nations represent almost 75% of the 193 countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention and, accord supporters like to point out, are responsible for well over 80% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

    At the mid-point of the major UN climate change negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, there have already been flare-ups over how funding for climate adaptation is delivered. The biggest shock has been Japan’s announcement that it will not support an extension of the existing Kyoto climate treaty. That gives a huge boost to the accord. US diplomatic wheeling and dealing may, it seems, be bearing fruit.

    Latest news and comment from the Cancún climate change conference

Buffy St. Marie

“Good mother nature on a luncheon plate/ They carve her up and call it real estate.”

As the person who sent this to us said: “this kicks some butt! Disco/tribal/protest.”

Watch and listen here.