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ABC Nightline Coverage of Twin Oaks

It was with quite some anticipation and fear that today approached.  Almost a month ago ABC Nightline came and filmed at Twin Oaks and several members were unhappy about the high impact of their visit.  For me, even more worrying was the prospect of them doing a slash piece on us, as the NY Times did some years back (after the NY Times photographer had spent a bunch of time telling us how wonderful and important we were – but it is editors, not photographers who determine what is news).

Link to ABC Nightline Video Coverage of Twin Oaks

Gryphon and i making a hammock - Credit ABC Nightline News

Gryphon and i making a hammock – Credit ABC Nightline News

In the end, I was mostly relieved by the piece.  I don’t need them to depict Twin Oaks as paradise. I certainly don’t see it that way and almost always tell people about the down sides of the commune (including minimal access to resources including money and thus general inability to travel personally, labyrinth decision making process and reduced privacy).  And it is still a better place than almost any other i have visited.

And it seems this time, the mainstream media mostly agreed with me.

no privacy street sign

Well, there is some privacy

I hate it when that happens – Volcano erupts near restarted Sendai reactor

Despite Japanese polling 2:1 against restarting the reactor fleet which has been completely shuttered for the last two years, the Abe government forced through the first restart of a reactor at Sendai complex.  Sendai was chosen for a number of reasons.   Comically, one of the reasons was that it was far from possible natural disaster.  Perhaps the most important (not listed in the excellent BAS article) is that it is the farthest from Tokyo (over 1000 km), where anti-nuclear protests continue.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at protest of Sendai reactor restart

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at protest of Sendai reactor restart

Former PM Kan spoke at the protest.  He was in office when Fukushima melted down and it destroyed his political career.   Now he is reminding fellow citizens that 1) Many new safety standards (like separate control rooms) have been skipped in restarting this reactor. 2) Tens of thousands of people remain unable to return to their homes because of radioactive fall out in the Fukushima area. 3) Japan does not need nuclear power to have a vibrant economy.

And as if  Mother Nature had a sense of humor, five days after the restart the nearest Volcano to the Sendai complex started erupting.    In all fairness, the active volcano at Sakurajima erupts quite regularly.  This time however it has reached level 4, which is the second highest warning level meaning that the 4,000 local residents should be prepared to immediately evacuate.  Level 5 is immediate evacuation.  The last major eruption of Sakurajima was in August 2013 (see above video), when ash and debris flew 5 km from the volcano.  Sendai is 50 km from the volcano.

sendai reactors

The first reactors to start in over 2 years in Japan.

Giant Whale Puppets – Ballenarca

ballenarca jellyfish (1)

Many people don’t know that there is a secret document used to instruct organizers who work with the Point A project.  I can’t say much about it, but a small piece has leaked to the internet, so i can reveal it here.

Remembering that frivolous fun and preposterous propositions may be the most crucial tools for Point A organizers, we will strive to attend all nearby giant whale puppet events, gravity altering cooperative games, and jello slam dances.

From the “Secret Cabal Handbook of More Clever Revolutions,” Article 23, Section c.


With this mandate in mind, GPaul, Alanna (the new Point A media intern), a handful of Baltimore Free Farm activists and myself hiked up to the park near the skate park to see Ballenarca.  This is surreal, salvaged art, cross cultural puppetry at its best.


Did i understand every moment of the performance?  No way.  And it is still totally worth going out of your way to see.  Their next performance is on Monday Aug 17th at Pyramid Atlantic in Washington DC.

ballenarca all dancers

These still pics don’t really do the performance justice.  There are videos on their website.

Ballenarca whale guts

This is the beating heart of a giant whale.

Ballenarca jellyfish at night

The jellyfish own the night.

And if you find a jello slam dance event, let me know.

We are not selling a product

Written by GPaul some links by Paxus originally posted on the Point A Blog.

A few days ago several people sent me this article about co-living in New York City. Co-living came to national attention a year and a half ago when co-living groups in the San Francisco bay area, like the Embassy and Campus networks and Open Door Development, got a flurry of press attention (here, there, and elsewhere).
co-living dinner looks fun and multi cultural

co-living dinner looks fun and multi cultural

I spent some time trying to reach out to the folks mentioned in the story and am still unclear about whether the stories described a genuinely new thing (communal living updated for the networked age) or simply an old thing (group houses) with good branding and fancy websites made by people whose success in life depends on their ability to cast what they’re doing as innovative and disruptive. The label encompassed diverse assortment of houses, networks, and projects that sometimes shared little in common aside from a demographic and not all of whom were aware that they were being labeled as “co-living” spaces.
It was an interesting development of ambiguous meaning that I’ve continued to keep an eye on and occasionally try to research further. At best they could harbor some innovative ideas on how to adapt collective cooperative living to the modern networked age, its technology, its economy, and its culture. At worst, it was group houses for the techie crowd and its aspiring capitalists. Harmless enough.

The recent story in the New York Times highlights a different model, though, and raises different worries.

The article describes several attempts, mostly in New York, to commodify the group living experience, in one case by a single landlord but in others by corporations. The whole thing strikes me as a quixotic recuperative attempt by capitalism.

Much has been written about the ways that capitalism and consumerism, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally, leads to isolation, alienation, the destruction of community, and the impoverishment of meaning. Because of this we have been, for some time but especially recently, in the midst of a realization of the value of what has been lost and a mass attempt to recapture it. The longing for community, authenticity, and meaning has spawned, in whole or in part, the back to the land movement, the local food movement, intentional communities of all stripes, foodies generally, the tiny house movement. Sometimes this quest for meaning and connection has led to radical departures from and alternatives to capitalism. Sometimes it has led down a path of quick recuperation with capital once again creating spectacles and commodities that promise community, connection, and meaning.
co_living cartoon
The problem, of course, is that capitalism is structurally incapable of fulfilling these very human needs. Community is the result of a web of relationships and arises where people have some common context or experience choose to enter into relationship with each other as equals. Hierarchies and inequalities make free and authentic relating nearly impossible. It is a deeply and essentially democratic process and simply cannot be enforced from above or outside and thus cannot be packaged and sold. Meaning, similarly, is something that can only be generated by a person through experiences that are important to them. Objects themselves have no inherent meaning or authenticity. Those qualities are imparted by the relationships that they take part in. You can no more buy meaning than you can buy love.

The New York City Co-Living projects profiled in the article are trying to take something essentially internal and induce it from outside. They promise that through them you can buy satisfying friendships and meaningful experiences. But they can only awkwardly ape the results that cooperative communities achieve spontaneously. Their communities are doomed to be hollow simulacra with all the appearance of a cooperative community of peers but none of the guts that actually make it work. Should a genuine community arise it will be a happy accident and would exist in an awkward tension with the profit driven owners who were not responsible for it but will try always to charge for it (a commonplace strategy of the networked age).
A critical destination

A critical destination

Although in a way I am happy for him, the story of the chef who moved into a Pure House property and describes how satisfying it is that people ask him how his day was when he gets home makes me sad. He has to pay $2400 or more per month to get friends to live with. And even those friends, so dearly bought, do not stay.

The whole idea presented in this article reminds me of a management handbook I once read. It began by explaining how study after study and anecdote after anecdote showed that morale was better, productivity was higher, absenteeism was rarer, and creativity and effort flowed in abundance when workers on a project felt like equal partners, felt like they had real agency and freedom, basically when they felt empowered. It then went on to suggest ways to trick your employees into thinking they were equal empowered partners without actually changing any of the fundamental power dynamics in the corporation.

The idea of a cooperative community of equals is an incomprehensible absurdity to capitalism because it exists outside of the profit-seeking and individualist paradigm. There is no way to understand it within those paradigms. To attempt to privatize, systematize, and commodify such a thing is to destroy it.

They are doomed.

EPA took nuclear out of the Clean Power Plan


This is some good news which i am compelled to repost. Obama appears more concerned with legacy than his corporate cronies and has done the right thing with the EPA clean power policy.

Originally posted on GreenWorld:

Thousands joined the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent at last September's People's Climate March in New York City. The unexpectedly large turnout--followed by tens of thousands of comments and petitions to the EPA, helped open the agency's eyes to first understand our position and then realize it made a lot of sense. Thousands joined the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent at last September’s People’s Climate March in New York City. The unexpectedly large turnout–followed by tens of thousands of comments and petitions to the EPA–helped open the agency’s eyes to first understand our position and then realize it made a lot of sense.

Yesterday, an amazing thing happened. Yes, President Obama released the first real climate action policy in the U.S. ever. But that’s not all. The incredible thing—the one that will be most important in the years to come—is … they got it basically right.

Including on nuclear power. President Obama just made it the policy of the United States that nuclear power is not a viable climate solution. And not just that, but renewable energy can replace nuclear power just like it can replace fossil fuels.

This is a game-changer, both for reducing carbon emissions in the US, and for discrediting the…

View original 1,269 more words

The First Policy – Expulsion

One of the most exciting about working on the Point A project is that we get to work with lots of different communities.  Several of these communities are young, so unlike the places i live (Twin Oaks and Acorn), they don’t have a long history and well established culture of how to handle tricky situations.  Also, a number of these places are anarchist identified, so they often think that they don’t need policies or pre-existing agreements.  They think they will just figure out what they need to do when it comes up. This is naive. Trick_or_Treaty There are a handful of completely predictable community crises in which a relatively small amount of work in advance can save you tremendous heartache and damage.  And, in the case of how to manage the expulsion of a member, if you don’t design the policy/agreements before you need it, your entire community can fail the first time you have to decide if you are going to throw someone out.

Why?  Communities are not like jobs where you can relatively easily fire someone or lay them off (and even this is often not easy). Communities generally start with friends who have come together because they want to live together.  It is hard enough to create community so that these friends have to be fairly heavily invested in each other to be able to get the community off the ground in the first place.  Strong friendships and trust are the thing good communities are made of.  And when these break they don’t break evenly.

It never said

It never said, “Don’t eat the apples.”

Almost always, if something goes terribly wrong in a community and there is a need for some type of expulsion process, there are some people in the community who don’t want to lose their friend by throwing them out.  If the person that could be expelled has no friends or has done something so bad that no one wants them to stay, then that person generally recognizes that they have poisoned their relationship with the collective and no process is needed because often they just up and leave, before a process could start.

Even Acorn, which tries to avoid fixed policies as much as possible, takes on this problem with the ironically named “Peace and Love Accords“.  If you look at this anarchist policy (yes, this is not an oxymoron), you will find a lot of it has to do with protecting the rights of the focus person and making transitions smooth, even if there have been serious problems.  And as with all good anarchist policy, it gives the group the right to bail on the policy and do something different, if everyone agrees. The advantage of having this type of policy is that in the trickiest expulsion cases often not everyone agrees and then, rather than fight about what you should do, the policy creates an agreed upon fall back position which can keep the group from descending into chaos. When you are designing an expulsion process often you will want to figure out what appropriate grounds are for expulsion.

Can't we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Can’t we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Here is what Twin Oaks has decided are valid ground to consider expulsion: [Twin Oaks uses “co” as a gender neutral pronoun to replace “she or he”.]

Expulsion of a full member may, but need not, take place for any of the following reasons:

1. Co openly repudiates the principles of the Community and works against their implementation.

2. Co is found guilty by local, state, or federal authorities of some crime or misdemeanor and the Community therefore feels it is no longer appropriate for co to remain a member.

3. Co consistently does less than cos share of the Community work.

4. Co absents coself from the Community for more than three weeks beyond the point of legitimate vacation according to current Community policy or without having made satisfactory arrangements with the Community with regard to cos absence.

5. Co physically, sexually and/or mentally abuses another member or guest of the Community, or any child, by any aggressive action and/or words which the Community interprets as sufficiently serious and/or likely to be repeated to warrant expulsion. The application of the foregoing provision to abusive words is not intended to inhibit the free expression of information, opinion, belief or emotion. It is intended to apply when oral or written language is presented in a threatening, harassing, or violent manner such that it would be reasonably expected to cause physical, sexual or mental harm. Guidelines for Applying the Mental Abuse Provision of the Bylaws

6. Co repeatedly and/or flagrantly violates the equality principle by appropriating to cos use items (including but not limited to cash) intended for the use of the Community as a whole or property designated for other use; or co repeatedly or flagrantly steals property belonging to someone else;

7. Co is discovered to have made bad faith declarations of the extent or disposition of cos property when entering the Community or subsequently, or co grossly violates the Community Property Code (Article IV below) with regard to the disposition of said property or the disposition of any income co received while a member.

8. Co deliberately and overtly attempts to destroy or disband the Community by any legal, extralegal, or financial means or in any other manner, provided that this shall not be broadly interpreted to refer to the holding of disapproved opinions or to behavior which from time to time might be considered dangerous. It is intended to refer specifically to deliberately making trouble between the Community and civil authorities, involving the Community in a lawsuit, involving the Community in unauthorized financial obligations, and such similar hostile acts or attempted hostile acts. The above provisions shall not be taken as requiring the Community to expel a member, even for these reasons. The Community may, but need not, expel a member for any of the above reasons. The Community also has the option of substituting other remedies or sanctions.

Expulsion Mechanism. The procedure for expulsion shall be as follows: Expulsion may be proposed by any voting member. The Planners and/or such other body of members as the Planner may authorize either ad hoc or as a matter of policy, shall hold a public meeting or meetings on the proposed expulsion — provided, however, that at one meeting or another the member in question shall be given full opportunity to answer any accusations or to explain cos conduct or view and express cos desires concerning cos membership, if possible. If, after the member in question has been heard, the Community desires cos expulsion, if possible co shall be so informed, at which time co will normally be allowed at least three days before co is required to leave the Community premises. Extensions of this period may be made at the discretion of the Community.

So, if you have a new community, and you don’t have time to design your own expulsion policy, you could look at these, hack them up to make them fit your circumstances, and then make them yours until you have time to do it right.

The ass you save may be your own.

Shuffling Titanic Deck Chairs – EdF plus Areva = Trouble

The big announcement in the nuclear world means almost nothing.  Electricity de France (EdF) is taking over Areva.   EdF runs Frances fleet of nuclear reactors.  Areva builds them.  But since there is only one reactor under construction in all of France and no solid plans for more (in fact the country is moving rapidly away from nuclear, cutting it national nuclear fraction by 33% in the next 10 years).  Areva instead tries to export them and builds them mostly in other countries.

The French state owns 85% of each

The French state owns 85% of each

But it does not try very successfully to complete them.  The flagship Areva nuclear power plant worldwide is the troubled Gen 3 European Pressurized Reactor.  There are 4 of them under construction globally.  2 in China, 1 in Finland and 1 in France.  They are all late, they are all over budget, hugely so in France and Finland.  Areva posting a US$5.3 billion dollar loss last year (which also resulted in S&P down grading it’s long term debt to junk bond status).  The reactor vessel head failed its structural test by the highly independent French nuclear regulator, further delaying and perhaps even jeopardizing the native project.

EdF is the largest nuclear operator in the world.  Areva is the largest nuclear construction company in the world.  And they are both in trouble (tho Areva more than EdF).  The reason it does not matter is both companies are 85% owned by the French government.  Think Titanic deck chairs.


Could you move a little to the right?

EDF said the acquisition of a 51 to 75 percent stake in the reactor business would have a neutral impact on its 2018 cash flow and it would be completely protected from any risks related to Areva’s long-delayed Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland, where Areva’s customer TVO is claiming billions of euros in damages.

Oh, i don’t think this is going to be that easy.


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