It has been more than 10 months since I declared The Bloomington Alternative on hiatus. I write today to say it will remain there a while longer as I develop a new project called Natural Bloomington: Ecotours and More. The Alternative archive, which still attracts more than 3,000 pageviews a month, will remain online. Someday, I may revive it.
But after 10 months working overtime to pay off the money changers who run our wealth-care system – I am now a cancer survivor – I have decided to commit what creative energies I have to nature for awhile. Frankly, Natural Bloomington is a way to spend as much time in the wilds as I can, with as many people as I can.
It's also about sharing the journey with anyone who cares to accompany me, virtually or in person.
An Aug. 23 segment on NPR's Morning Edition about the 2012 drought touched my sentimental side when a Kentucky farmer's voice quivered while he spoke to correspondent David Schaper. "My wife and I just look at each other every night, and we look at our children's faces before they go to sleep, and we wonder, will this be one of the last days?" he said. The piece was titled "Drought Extends Reach, Some Farmers Ready to Quit." I've spent a lot of time in Kentucky and writing about the place. I've met guys like this one.
Sadly but predictably, nowhere in the story did Schaper mention the drought's relation to climate change. Neither did the one that preceded it – "How Smokey the Bear Effect Led to Raging Wildfires" – nor any other segment on that morning's story list. Indeed, a search for "climate change" on the NPR website shows no Morning Edition stories the entire month of August. Talk of the Nation, yes. All things Considered, yes. But Morning Edition, no.
While I do sympathize with this family, especially the children, I'd have to advise the Logan County cattle farmer featured in the piece to look in the mirror. He's a victim of manmade climate change. And as a Kentuckian, he bears as much or more responsibility for his fate as anyone in the world. He and his bluegrass neighors, along with all the rest of us, brought the climate-induced 2012 tragedies of drought and wildfires upon ourselves. Payback is indeed a bitch. And we've only begun to pay.
The federal panel charged with allocating funds for autism research has squandered hundreds of millions in taxpayer money on ideological, nonscientific priorities. Its decisions have been financially irresponsible and practically ineffective. Its chairman should be fired and many board members replaced.
So says the Brooklyn-based Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) in a stinging critique of autism policy under the Bush and Obama administrations titled "A Critical Review of the Performance of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee" (IACC).
"From the controversial appointment or retention of committee representatives, to the troublesome history of committee members themselves, to the lack of accountability for the few advances made in autism research, to the questionable direction of the Strategic Plan, it is fair to state that the IACC is not living up to Congress’ and the public’s expectations," the July 10, 2012, report says.
While Mitt Romney trips over his tongue with hysterical predictability and Barack Obama persists in calling America's economic criminal class folks, the two leading progressive candidates for president are putting it on the line, in Dr. Jill Stein's case boldly crossing it.
Less than a month after securing the Green Party nomination, Stein emerged from a Philadelphia jail on Aug. 2 declaring that a night behind bars should be "a required experience for anyone in public office." Both she and running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested the day before for protesting foreclosure policies at a Fannie Mae office on the city's Banker's Row.
And in a lengthy Q&A with The Nation's Sasha Abramsky, Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson called the Democratic Party "irredeemable" and Obama a "phony" on the issue of gay marriage.
"His position on equality was evolving?" the former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City asked incredulously.
Downtown Bloomington, with its upscale restaurants, bustling bars and East Coast-style boutiques and nail salons – all brimming with the rich and their progeny – has always advanced a false image of the Southern Indiana town so many describe with utopian superlatives. The elite do indeed do well here. The state's richest man lived and died here. Indiana University professors, on average, knock down $128,400 a year, according to the American Association of University Professors. A handful of wealthy speculators, developers and their professional support networks have enriched themselves turning the city into a playground for the rich.
But for the rest, the latest 2012 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation presents a more accurate image of IU's allegedly idyllic hometown. Nearly three in 10 Monroe County children in 2011 were poor enough to receive free lunches in the county's two school systems, according to the annual report. Another 7 percent qualified for reduced-price lunches.
News of Alexander Cockburn's death pierced my life force as if it were the passing of a friend, which he wasn't. For as long as I can recall, I've read his work in The Nation and CounterPunch. For the past decade, I have had the honor of my byline frequently appearing alongside his on CounterPunch, the radical, online journal he and Jeffrey St. Clair co-edited. Jeffrey, who has been a friend of mine since the mid-1980s, was one of his best friends. Through Jeff, I feel I knew Alex like a friend.
Given the events surrounding his final days, however, I will always feel a spiritual bond with Alex, the man I never knew. Early last week, I began reading what turned out to be his final piece – "Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?" – in which his thoughts on the Occupy movement mirrored and focused my own, as usual. But I couldn't concentrate or finish it because I was fasting in preparation for cancer surgery in Indianapolis scheduled for July 18. The first thing I read when I got home on the 21st was Jeff's announcement that his friend Alex had died the day before at 71, of cancer.
NBC News, if that's what it is or can still be called, devotes a substantial amount of resources to stories on opinion polls. Its website boasts five such reports between July 11 and 13, 2012. Their subjects range from American confidence in organized religion and "wealthy friendly" attitudes to a growing anti-bailout mood in Finland.
Not surprisingly, the former home of John Chancellor, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley reported nary a word about a July 11 Gallup Poll that showed American confidence in television news, like that in religion, has plummeted to unprecedented depths.
"Americans' confidence in television news is at a new low by 1 percentage point, with 21 percent of adults expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it," the Gallup report begins. The figure has hovered in the 21- to 23-percent range since 2007.
A recent late-night walk with my border collie Zoe has transported me back to one of the darkest, dreariest days of my 30-year journalistic career. Following her gaze down a utility easement east of Bryan Park a half mile south of downtown, I saw a young whitetail deer, frozen by our presence, hauntingly backlit by a streetlight half a block to the south. Since then, I have read documents from, and stories about, the Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force, which is poised to recommend that city deer be shot.
"Many an urban deer’s days may be numbered if Bloomington adopts the expected recommendations for 'lethal solutions' from its deer task force," a May 15, 2012, Bloomington Herald-Times story began. The group's report includes several such deadly solutions, among them sharpshooters baiting and plugging deer in city parks and on private property, an image that took me back to the Dec. 5, 1993, story I wrote for the H-T titled "Park hunt kills 370 deer."
By any measure, from the observational to the documented, corporate governance and the global economy have spawned an epidemic of poverty, from Bloomington to Bakersfield to Baltimore and beyond.
The streets and alleys of downtown Bloomington are homes and hangouts to growing numbers of the economically displaced. The latest U.S. Census Bureau data suggest the number of Hoosiers living below the poverty line grew by 65,000-plus between 2009 and 2010. A November 2011 analysis of that census data by the Brookings Institution said the first decade of the 21st century drove the number of impoverished Americans to a record high 46.2 million.
Preliminary echoes from the 2012 presidential campaign don't bode well for social, environmental and economic justice in America, yet again. President Barack Obama is, with cynical predictability, adopting populist rhetoric on justice issues like student debt, gay marriage and immigration. But after four years of his pursuing moderate Republican policies, progressive voters find it impossible to take him seriously. Mitt Romney is the quintessential 1 percent candidate who instinctively parrots plutocratic doctrine, no matter how contradictory on its face.
On the alternative party front, Dr. Jill Stein, who once opposed Romney in a race for Massachusetts governor, garnered enough delegates in California's June 5 Green Party Primary to clinch its nomination at the Green's July convention in Baltimore. But what little media coverage there was of Stein's achievement focused on Roseanne Barr, who lost to Stein in California and then announced she will continue her candidacy and form a new party called the Green Tea Party.