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The Cville 5th Street Walmart Story

It was the Spring of 2006 and we had just started pro-local economy group called Trade Local in the Charlottesville area.  The group was supposed to support a healthy local economy through public information and positive actions.  The initial group of organizers felt there was plenty of oppositional politics already happening and we wanted to do something which was more upbeat and had positive  model value, rather than just endlessly trying to stop bad things from happening.

And then we got word that there was a proposed new Super Walmart within easy walking distance from the downtown mall.  This threw our careful plans from propositional actions out the window and we went into a crash course about how to stop a Walmart.

walmart protest poster

Efforts to get local business on the Cville downtown mall were largely ineffective.  They either thought Walmart would have little effect on their businesses or they thought there was nothing they could do about the giant arriving next door.  The local planning council was largely unresponsive to our letters and concerns about the project, perhaps also assuming the project was inevitable.  We were disheartened, but not discouraged.  We continued to call people, leaflet on the downtown mall and send out email alerts.

To build the super store Walmart needed a zoning variance on the land they were purchasing.  Zoning variances require public hearings, which generally speaking are not well attended.  But where local business and government failed, local citizens showed up in droves.  On the night of the hearing, the largest city meeting room was reserved and it had overflowed by ten minutes before the meeting was to start.  Over 300 locals showed up.

But this is a game Walmart has played many times.

The public speakers got up and many locals spoke in favor of the development.  They cited jobs, and tax revenue, and low prices and all the good Walmart would do. Their speak was couched, respectful and clear.   There were critics of the project as well, and they slightly outnumbered the proponents for the store, but if you were just listening to the speeches, you would guess the community was fairly evenly divided on the topic.

The High Cost of Low Prices

The High Cost of Low Prices

Taking a risk that he was right, one of our organizers who had secured a spot speaking to the planning council in this hearing threw away his careful prepared speech moments before ascending the stage.

“I have just one thing to say to Albemarle county planning board” He said, and then he turned his back to the officials and spoke to the over 200 people in the crowded room.

“If you are opposed to this Walmart please stand up” Over 90% of the audience rose.

“That is all i have to say to the elected planning board of Albemarle county”  It took some minutes to settle down the crowd.

Over the following months, the planning board put more and more requirements on the Walmart development: paying for changes to the traffic pattern, improvements to their proposed parking lot, ultimately requirements for the retail giant to help with low cost housing.

Walmart soon abandoned their plans for a store at this site.  The giant walked away.

 

 

Just don’t put them all in the same room

I re-remembered, as she got out of the hot tub at absurd o’clock last night, why i have such a wild crush both personally and politically on Teagan.  It is in part because she is fiercely pro-active.  Disguised as a suburban housewife, she is actually a full partner and founder of the Catalyst Community project, which is raging forward at stunning speed.  “We already have 10 of the 20 units spoken for.”  The project has been going on in earnest for less than 3 months.

Teagan is just a mom, like Emma Goldman was just a Lithuanian immigrant

Teagan is just a mom, like Emma Goldman was just a Lithuanian immigrant.

Teagan and i met nearly a decade ago when she came to do a visitor period at Twin Oaks.  She understood the importance of community, from her earlier experience living in one.  She was also charismatic, clever and quick to jump in and make things happen. I really wanted her to become a member, but quickly realized the chances of this were quite small.

Burner, Activist, Organizer - the action is never far from her.

Burner, Activist, Organizer – the action is never far from her.

Teagan is perhaps the only person to ever fail the Twin Oaks membership process during the interview.  When asked by Shal what she thought of compromise, she replied shortly, “compromise is not part of my vocabulary” and with this sentence her path to our commune vanished.

And it was for the best, the rural communes never could have contained her.  Teagan is one of those high impact personalities that needs all the space of a really big metropolis like NYC to cast her networking and social agenda upon. During the wee hours of the morning as we were sitting in her hot tub in the shadow of Manhattan, she shared several philanthropic leads she had discovered in her work building her own eco-village, which look like they might be excellent sources for Point A.

Tieagan and Arrows place is always full of interesting characters - here with my allies Karin and Sienna

Teagan and Arrow’s place is always full of interesting characters – here with my allies Karin and Sienna.

As the night wore on she shared her story about doing local organizing that successfully stopped a new Walmart.  She also shared a story of how friends approached her only hours before the application deadline to get Hurricane Sandy relief money. How her crafting of the grant application netted her colleagues’ school $35K.  They were thankful and appreciative, but for Teagan there was no question – this is what she does: Help friends out of their last minute jam and make good things happen for good people.

The wild color is not localized to her hair, it runs thru her entire identity

The wild color is not localized to her hair, it runs through her entire identity.

Generally upbeat, fiery, and committed to helping craft a better world, i am always pleased to be in her company.  She only comes in her special intense flavor.  The communities movement desperately needs a dozen more Teagans; just don’t put them all in the same room.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

 

Pathetic Conspiracies and Obscure Motivations

It is not surprising that people are worried about the radiation from Fukushima coming to the US across the Pacific.  There have been several stories about this in the alternative news.  One gave a long list of movie stars and personalities who were fleeing Hollywood because of the health effects of Fukushima.

Apparently ex-Governor Swartznegger is one of many leaving the Hollywood Hills in fear.

Apparently ex-Governor Swartznegger is one of many leaving the Hollywood Hills in fear.

So i asked my toxicologist friend Will to weigh in on this one, and i want to publicize his reply.

Oy.  It’s a load of crap, and it hardly takes any thought at all to show that.

I haven’t looked at the Pediatrics article, but I looked at the link you sent.  Here are the first three things I considered:

1) Article claims that I-131 levels were 211 times normal on the West Coast within a few days. Consider:  Distance Tokyo-Seattle = 4777 miles. 20 mph  x  24 hr/day  =  480 miles/day. So it takes maybe 10 days for any radiation to arrive if it blows here in a straight line at a steady 20 mph.

2) Article says hypothyroidism among newborns increased 16% from March 17 to December, and was 28% above normal during March 17 to June 30.

Consider:  Quake was on April 11.  Why are they looking at the period starting March 17?  Even if they could only get data for a chunky period, like monthly or quarterly, there’s no way the starting date should be 3/17.  The only reason I can imagine is that they cherry-picked the lowest point they could find in the period preceding the quake, and dishonestly compared to that.  In any case, it would take pretty high exposure to produce a substantial increase in newborn hypothyroidism among babies born right after the quake.  It would take a period of exposure to produce the hypothyroidism; it’s not as if radiation produces a sudden dramatic hypothyroid effect.  This is the same crap that I debunked for you a year or two ago, and it won’t go away.

3) I clicked the “measurements” link and quickly found that the article misrepresents the information at the link.  It was not UCB scientists who found “alarmingly” high levels; all of their data showed detectably increased, but still extremely low levels.  It’s this guy Kaltofen who supposedly found high levels.  The article says he found higher levels in “only two” “isolated US soil samples,” as compared to “control samples.”  It doesn’t say how many samples were taken, what it means to take “control samples” when deposition occurs nationwide, or anything like that.  And I don’t think it says where the higher-level samples were from, but that hardly matters; how would high levels accumulate in just specific spots in the US, after dispersion over 5-8000 miles? Fukushima couldn’t have contaminated specific points in the U.S. substantially more than other points, aside from presumably somewhat higher contamination in the West. I didn’t pursue this to the original data, because all three of the first things I looked at turned out to be false claims or wild misrepresentations, so it’s not worth looking into this any further.

Just to show how ridiculous the article is, think about this:  how would “movie industry” people know any more about this than the rest of us do?  This isn’t some kind of secret that movie industry people would be let in on, and the rest of us wouldn’t.  This is obviously wacko conspiracy thinking.

Chernobyl was a health disaster.  Fukushima very likely will turn out to be a health disaster as well, in Japan.  But this article is total nonsense, and I’m not concerned about health issues in the US resulting from Fukushima.  There are plenty of good arguments to make against nuclear power; don’t waste your time on this one.

This is one of those times when i am happy to rest on science as a truth model.  I have to wonder about the motivation of the authors of this article.  Did “Buttercup” who is credited with writing this article (always a bad sign when a news story is signed with an alias) think no one was going to fact check? Is this just a story to draw excited but gullible readers to the site?

blum

blum

It is quite frustrating that people are really suffering in Japan around the Fukushima disaster and we are instead focusing on where it is not happening and pretending it is a huge problem.

[Mostly Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Keenan’s Paper on Denying a Personal Affairs Leave

The good news is that Keenan has started blogging.  If the reason that you come to this blog is that you are interested in the inside story about what is happening at Twin Oaks, then you are quite likely to be more satisfied with Keenan’s blog which is mostly about those types of issues.  If you are looking for news about nuclear power, thoughts on polyamory, Funological analysis of trasnformative festivals or grading of our events, practical critiques of contemporary anarchism or what the front line is of growing the communities movement in eastern US cities, then you probably want to keep coming back to this blog.

Keenan, Marta and i at the Flying Lounge, Twin Oaks NYE party circa 2010?

Keenan, Marta and i at the Flying Lounge, Twin Oaks NYE party circa 2011?

If you are looking for proper spelling and good grammar, well thought out and argued positions on community policy, a rational long look at what make the community tick.  Then Keenan’s blog might be a great choice for you.  And of course you don’t need to choose, you can check out or subscribe to both.

Below are the first few paragraphs of a recent post he wrote which is nominally about not granting a leave to a member who left the community under a cloud of upset.  But really what it is is an explanation of how planners make exceptions to policy (or not) and how we are not a democracy, but something more interesting and hopefully more fair.

“No, you can’t come back.”

This is a paper I drafted as a community Planner.  The decision to deny a member a year-long leave was controversial, so I had to explain it very carefully and with a great deal of thought. It should be self-explanatory.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
The Planners stand by the decision to deny Bert a Personal Affairs Leave (PAL)



Some background to this decision: Bert left Twin Oaks in October of 2007, moved all of his stuff out, bought a house, bought a car, got a job, gave up his room and stopped turning in labor sheets.
 
Before we get to the policy details of why the Planners are denying Bert’s  request, we wish to frame this issue within a larger context. One purpose of the Plannership is to serve as a backstop for Twin Oaks policies. Frequently, the Planners are asked to make an exception to some policy and we occasionally grant it because the situation before the Planners is not adequately covered by the policy. Planners don’t like making exceptions to, or overriding written policies. But sometimes policies are poorly worded, sometimes they are incomplete, sometimes they are meant to cover one extreme situation that is unlikely ever to occur again. So it is up to the Planners to bring their judgment to bear on any application of policy to insure that it is not at odds with the well-being of the community as a whole, or the well-being of any individual member.
 
Planners make sure that the application of policies passes the muster of common sense. If a policy fails to cover the situation at hand, then the Planners have more than the right, but the duty to interpret, create, and make exceptions to policy. Most often exceptions are granted in the form of being more lenient. But exceptions can also be made in making the application of policy stricter.
 
            In the case before us, Bert is asking for a PAL. Bert has been gone from Twin Oaks for six months already and his PAL request means that he could be gone from Twin Oaks for up to another year and return as a full member with no further process. This request seems inconsistent with our policies, but it also seems inconsistent with the wishes of the majority of the community.
 
But the desire of the majority will not always carry the day. Twin Oaks is not meant to be a democracy. Our culture and policies strive to provide more protection for an individual than is the case in a mere democracy. Twin Oaks is in opposition to the tyranny of the majority. As a community, we also have chosen to protect the rights of minorities—even a minority of one. The Planners must always keep in mind in making a decision how this decision will affect the life or well-being of the “losing side” the minority. Even a minority or one must be protected if the loss of rights would be significant enough.

To see the rest of this article click the link below.

“No, you can’t come back.”

 

 

 

 

Cryptrographic Cat

I like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft.  It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.

"You don't talk about Fight Club"

“What cat?”

For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence. Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10.  Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be).  Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc.   In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for.   And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.

One downside is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces with them difficult.  I am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.

One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs.  The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit.  So we just did not talk about it.

Fight-Club-movies-quotes-rules

The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me.  I watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded.  The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when its owner moved on from community.  And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.

Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling.  At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus.  But we knew it was quite likely to become its own community, since that is what most of the Spalingers wanted.  We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out.  One of these rules was “no pets”.  Sapling is now its own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it).  But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me.  When i asked what the dog’s name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

 

Who will build the roads?

Errico Malatesta was something of an anarchist super star, if such a thing is not self contradictory.  Toward the end of his life, he was so popular he could draw crowds in the tens of thousands to hear him speak.

His political career started early, as a boy he was arrested for writing an “insolent and threatening” letter to Italian King Victor Emmanuel II.  Many nations would look unfavorably at Malatesta, he was forced to leave Italy, he was blocked from entering Syria and Turkey, he was expelled from Switzerland.  He also opposed syndicalism because he believed it created an elite class of trades people.  He would spend ten years of his life in prison.

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

Malatesta was first arrested at 14

But it is his ideas and not his personal history which i find especially compelling.  One of the many compelling points in his short book “Anarchy” was:

Anarchy literally means “without government”. It has taken on the common secondary meaning of “disorder and confusion” only because people have been conditioned to believe that the abolition of government is impossible. In the days when people believed that the abolition of monarchy was impossible, the word “republic” carried a similar meaning to “anarchy” today.

I find it fascinating  that the people who control language choose a second meaning for the name of the style of government/self rule that they were afraid of with chaos and disorder, both for Republic a hundred years ago and for Anarchy today.

anarchy is not chaos

 

30 years ago i went to the Arcosanti community in the dessert of Arizona.  When i was younger i was fascinated by the dense building ideas of Paolo Solari who was the original designer of this extraordinary community.  When i was on the tour, someone kept explaining to our guide how this type of venture was impossible and would not work, they described all the businesses that they personally needed and how they could not see them there.  A blindness i would consider a failure of imagination.  

 

where we are going we dont need roads

 

 

Most people can not imagine work environments without bosses and hierarchy.  This failure of imagination leads them to think that these things are not possible.  And everyday i am at Acorn i am amazed, pleased and impressed by the business which we run that has no managers or bosses, dynamically determines much of the work which needs to be done and still comfortably succeeds in supporting the community.

There are dozens of answers to the question “Who will build the roads?” The fact that some people can’t visualize how this would be done, does not mean it can not be done, it often just means that people have poor imaginations or are wedded to the status quo.

 

Step outside the box

Step outside the box

 

 

Would you wear it?

I breezed into commie clothes and got a funny t-shirt which i barely read.  After walking around in it for half an hour and a couple of people saying, “are you wearing that to the wedding?” i decided i should go back to commie and upgrade my attire.  On my return trip i found a nice embroidered lightweight shirt, which was praised by several people after i emerged with it on.

The next day i walked into the Acorn smoke shack and guest Johnny said, “Oh i like that shirt,” to which i replied, “Would you wear it?” to which he unhesitatingly shot back, “yes!”.  I immediately pulled the shirt over my head and handed it to him.  He stripped his shirt off before a slightly shocked new visitor and put the embroidered one right on. The total length of our exchange was less than 2 minutes.  I walked off wearing his simple green t-shirt.

Johnny and his new shirt

Johnny and his new shirt

The pitch i made to the PBS reporter who was just here is we basically have two choices: we can learn to share things, be generous and cooperate, OR we can continue to be selfish, possessive, and untrusting.  In the latter case, the world dies.  Let’s practice giving stuff away in a big way.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

About paxus calta

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found on Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

The easiest virtue

When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous.   i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here).  Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience.  My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.

Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success.  Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older.  Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13.  Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.

My Tupelo Surf Helper and Mop

My Tupelo Serf Helper and Mop

For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community.  Over the last few months he has been doing more of both.  Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do.  Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.

And good things come to those who wait.  And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something.  And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.

My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”

[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]

 

 

OK Cupid Blues and Greens

[It turn out, as a novice user, i significantly over-simplified both the status and the politics of the polyamory identity/recognition struggle within OK Cupid in this post.  Fortunately, my new friend Tara has added a long comment to this this post which gives the background and history.  In this case you might want to read the comments to this post before the post itself.]

Some months back i joined a secret polyamory group on Facebook (which means it can only be seen by its members).  One of the interesting aspects of this group was that there was an internal list of links to people’s OK Cupid (OCK) profiles and a few other links.  Many dating sites and sex positive social network sites use pseudonyms to hide people’s identity, so this key inside the secret poly group was quite valuable in seeing who was in the group and how they present themselves.   Almost everyone had an OKC profile, so i thought i should get one as well. Once i put it up, Cassandra heavily edited it for me.

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

What should your partner be doing of a Friday Night?

One of the problems with OKC is that it was not designed to match poly people very well.  Under relationship status you could be single or married or dating, but there was no “Open Relationship” option, which is quite important to dating sites.  OKC fixed that this week.  We will see if this leads to a different experience for me with the system.

okcupid triad

i must confess an odd relationship with the OKC system.  i want to be validated by having people who it seems i am good matches with, but i am not super interested in finding romantic partners this way, at least i don’t think i am.  It has been slightly frustrating to find people who are 95% matches who have no interest in polyamory, since i have answered a number of questions about this, it seems like there is something wrong with the OKC weighting algorithm (or perhaps everyone else is just dodging all the questions on poly).

OKCupid key words

OK Cupid does have a number of revealing and curious statistics about it’s own users.  For example if your desire is to get a lot of messages from OKC as a straight female user, then you are much better off with some people thinking you attractive and others thinking you are ugly, then you are with the same number of people finding you beautiful but many men finding you cute.

OKC paradox questions

OKC paradoxical answers

The service is free.  You can add your own questions and answer the ones you like.  It is in pretty wide use (which is important for network effects).  It does not discriminate against non-heterosexual users (as a surprising number of dating sites do).  And while it is not the only game in town, it is a good game.  If you want to be in this world at all.

Other Polyamory Blog Posts:

And the latest news from Scientific American:  Polyamory may be Good for You

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temelin 3 and 4 are Dead

It’s late, i should be in bed, but i just read some very good news and there are some people i need to thank.

In 1991, i moved to Brno in what was then Czechoslovakia.  I started working with an amazing group of young Czech radicals who worked for a “dark green” group called Hnuti Duha (the Rainbow Movement).  “How green were there?” you might be asking.  I walked up the 4 floors worth of stairs for 5 years with my Czech comrades before i even knew the building had an elevator.  American friends came to visit at once and tried to give out oranges they had bought.  Thirty people in this office, and they could not give away one orange.  Why?  Because oranges don’t grow in Czechoslovakia, which means they are not bioregional, so they were not part of our diet.  When we started working on the nuclear power plants Temelin 1 & 2, which had been started by the Soviets and were being taken over by the Westinghouse and the US Export Import Bank, public opinion was 80% in favor of building reactors in that country.

Honza and Jakub

Honza and Jakub

Honza Beranek was my boss.  He was 21, i was 34.  He was the best boss i ever had.  Soft spoken, hard thinking, deeply dedicated.  One of the people who could have made a fortune in the private sector, but it was never really an option.  After a stint as president of the Czech Green Party, he would move to Amsterdam with his family and work for Greenpeace, ultimately taking the job i always wanted, the head of the international anti-nuclear campaign.  He would be promoted again to running the entire Greenpeace Energy Campaign.

Jakub Patocka was only 19 when i came to work for Duha.  Charismatic, deeply political, sharply literary and also hella bright he was the hand on the rudder of this exotic environmental campaigning organization, which would ultimately become the Czech chapter of Friend of the Earth.  While Honza went off to do international work, Jakub stayed in the Czech Republic and was the editor for a couple of political magazines and ran political campaigns. There were dozens of environmental campaigns in the Czech Republic that these two extraordinary young activists could have chosen.  They selected one that they were almost certain to lose, because it was the right fight to be in.

JanH and Adela

JanH and Adela

Jan Haverkamp and i started working together in 1990 at Ecotopia in Hungary.  He pretended to be a Westinghouse representative presenting the benefits of nuclear power to the environmental activists at the camp.  He was fantastically compelling and crazy frustrating to the young activists who knew he was manipulating them, but did not know their material well enough to counter his arguments.  Jan had the other job i coveted, he traveled across Europe helping small local groups defeat reactors.  He was at every Temelin action i was at for years.  He was instrumental in stopping the Belene Reactor complex in Bulgaria.  The last time i was in Prague, i expressed concern to my Czech wife Adela about the proposed new Temelin reactor blocks 3 & 4.  Adela, who is the mother of Jan’s daughter Bara, said “Jan will stop them.”

Crashing the gates at Temelin in 1996

Crashing the gates at Temelin in 1996

And indeed he has (with the help of many others).  News just arrived today that construction of Temelin 3 & 4 will not be started.  Unable to get the huge government subsidies and guarantees that the UK recently agreed to at Hinckley C, the Czech electric utility had to fold this completely uneconomical proposal.  In late 2013, Jakub joined the Czech Social Democratic Party, in early 2014 this party would cancel the government subsidies for Temelin 3 & 4, and the project would die.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Europe rests easier tonight knowing this ill-conceived reactor project will never be completed (and CEZ’s stock went up 3.1% on the announcement).  And to these heroes and teachers of mine, thank you for your tireless work and this tremendous success.

PS: Jakub tells me that the new minister of Industry and Trade Minister Jan Mladek refused to provide state subsidies for the reactor, which was central to the deal collapsing.  And while there is talk of a new tender, perhaps using the new wholly government controlled energy entity (unlike the utility CEZ which is 30% traded on the open market and the rest government owned), without state funding there is no future for new nuclear construction in the Czech Republic.  

 

 

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