Banking on Credit Unions


By Ralph Nader

While the reckless giant banks are shattering like an over-heated glacier day by day, the nation’s credit unions are a relative island of calm largely apart from the vortex of casino capitalism.

Eighty five million Americans belong to credit unions which are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by their members who are depositors and borrowers. Your neighborhood or workplace credit union did not invest in these notorious speculative derivatives nor did they offer people “teaser rates” to sign on for a home mortgage they could not afford.

Ninety one percent of the 8,000 credit unions are reporting greater overall growth in mortgage lending than any other kinds of consumer loans they are extending. They are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for up to $250,000 per account, such as the FDIC does for depositors in commercial banks.

They are well-capitalized because of regulation and because they do not have an incentive to go for high-risk, highly leveraged speculation to increase stock values and the value of the bosses’ stock options as do the commercial banks.

Credit Unions have no shareholders nor stock nor stock options; they are responsible to their owner-members who are their customers.

There are even some special low-income credit unions-thought not nearly enough-to stimulate economic activities in these communities and to provide “banking” services in areas where poor people can’t afford or are not provided services by commercial banks.

According to Mike Schenk, an economist with the Credit Union National Association, there is another reason why credit unions avoided the mortgage debacle that is consuming the big banks.

Credit Unions, he says, are “portfolio lenders. That means they hold in their portfolios most of the loans they originate instead of selling them to investors….so they care about the financial performance of those loans.”

Keep reading Banking on Credit Unions at Common Dreams
Hat tip to Janie Sheppard and Dan Hamburg

See also Mendo-Lake Credit Union
~~

What shall we eat?


From Don Sanderson

2/20/09 Ukiah, California At the beginning of the week of Feb. 14, George Wills loosed a column entitled “Dark Doom Sayers” informing us that global warming is a myth, disdaining Energy Secretary Stephan Chu’s comments on the effects resulting desertification would have on our food supplies, and mocking Science Advisor John Holdren who has similar concerns. Wills asserted he had scientific foundations for his conclusions, so who can dispute with him? We want to believe. Indeed, it doesn’t require much effort to find Wills is preaching nonsense.

Wills began by referring to a report from the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC), global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979 and that Arctic sea ice had been rapidly increasing. The ACRC staff quickly replied on their web site: “We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.” Arctic sea ice expanded at near-record rates of October and November, which Wills’ claimed supported his points. In fact, the rate than slowed and present coverage is somewhat less than last year at this time, roughly 13 million sq. km.

He then quoted the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to the effect that global temperatures had not increased in the last twenty years. In fact, the WMO reported “The global mean surface temperature for 2007 was estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F.” “In January and April 2007 it is likely that global land surface temperatures ranked warmest since records began in 1880, 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April.”

Next week could be really big – 2/21/09


From Don Sanderson

2/21/09 Ukiah, Northern California Next week, some economically/financially important events are unfolding that well may portend a rapid economic dive off the cliff for the United States, much more quickly than anyone is predicting that I’ve seen reported in the usual media. But, the tracks are there. It concerns the U.S. Treasury bond market where Obama must go to get his stimulus funds and, increasingly, much of the rest of the money he needs to operate the government and fight his wars. Some background:

A good way to track the economy, given the amounts of money the U.S. government is spreading around, is to follow the yields of U.S. Treasury bonds. Whenever the U.S. spends money it hasn’t collected from taxes and fees, it must first get from the sales of bonds.

Some background: When one invests a certain amount of money in a bond, say $1,000, at an annual return of 15 percent, it is said that the bond has yielded 15 percent or $150. If the bond is then sold for, say, $800, the buyer still gets an annual return of $150, but that is a rate of return of 18.75 percent, the bond now yields 18.75 percent. So, if you read that U.S. Treasury bond yield has increased, this should tell you that the market for bonds has fallen, much as the stock market falls. Bond yields have been steadily growing.

The U.S. Treasury sells both short term, say 5 year, and long term, say 20 year, bonds. Those who invest in short term bonds may be uncertain with the future and don’t want to bet long term. So, the relative yields of the two types of bonds should give one an idea of how much faith investors have in America’s financial future. In fact, short term bond yields are low in historical terms relative to long term ones, indicating bond holders feel insecure.

Exclusive! DDR Signs First Tenant Contract For The Masonite Site (Parody)


[Retail leakage occurs when members of a community spend money outside that community or when money spent inside that community is transferred outside the community. Chain stores and franchises have high leakage rates due to the transferring of sales revenue and profits to a corporate headquarters. Start enforcing anti-trust laws and get these leakage piggies out of our community. Our local entrepreneurs are eager to serve our community and keep our dollars circulating locally. -DS]

What is Community? – Part 2 of 2


From Earl Brown
Part One | Part Two

02/20/09 Ukiah, California
In Part 1 of my discussion of community I stated pretty clearly that I do not believe we live in one. I suggested that a community may not be something that can be defined any more than any other principle, or ideal, and could be viewed as a process, or self-organizing system. We all have our own definition of what community is and I recognize I am no different; my definition is just that, my definition. This is also the point; if we each have a different definition of what a community is then do we really know what a “community” is? If community appears differently to each of us, how do we recognize when we are in one? Do we carry it around with us as a personal viewpoint, or, is it the average of all our viewpoints? In this offering I will attempt to bring additional information and insight into the discussion of community.

To me, a community is more than a given area on a map, or political boundary, such as a supervisorial district, neighborhood, or county, and the people who live within it. I believe this is the general way people think about community, an area and its people, but when they use it in their speech I think they are referring to those who agree with their views and opinions; what I would call cliques and special interest groups. For me, community is relationships. The health of relationships is dependent upon the health of the people having them. Living in a society where depression is the most common condition among its population, where one-in-four citizens have a significant mental disorder, where teenage suicide is at an unprecedented high and political ethics are at an all time low, where business is ruthless on the people, where the poor, homeless and disadvantaged youth are the first to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and excess, I see little of healthy relationships.

Oil Is Dumb


February, 2009 No-Brainer:  Use a Little Less Water at the Faucet

About 15% of your total home water use is at the faucet.  And about 73% of that is hot water.  Did you know that just a little thoughtfulness while using your faucet can save half of that water?  And much of this isn’t even painful.  All you have to do is remember to turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving.  So here’s the challenge.  Agree to try out the 5-second rule at your kitchen and bathroom faucets this month.  This means you’ll remember to let the water run for only 5 seconds at a time, and you’ll win $10 in the time it takes you to type an email.  If you take a picture of your faucet with a reminder sign next to it, we’ll put you into a drawing for $50.

See link below for official rules and instructions.  Challenge ends February 28, 2009.

Link:  February, 2009 No-Brainer

See also Felton, California Overthrows Corporate Giant For Control Of Their Water

and Water for People and Nature: The Story of Corporate Water Privatization

Image: Hat tip to Evan Johnson


Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 2/21/09


From Scott Cratty

2/19/09 Ukiah, California
Friends of the Market,

Greetings.  Looks like another rainy Saturday … remember, when it is a bit chilly and damp for us, it is perfect for our vegetables.  Just think of the farmers’ market on a rainy Saturday morning as a more realistic version of what they try to simulate in grocery produce cases when the misting nozzles come on and the fake rain/thunder sounds.

Our local farmers need support rain or shine.  Please note that Ford Ranch Natural Beef  will be absent for two weeks, and back in March.  Fish may be low as well due to the rough seas … then again, last week was one of the few times we did not sell out of at least a few of the available varieties before the market closed. Because farming and fishing are not entirely predictable, neither is the market. Consider it part of the fun to come see what is there. Perhaps before too many months pass we may have a local shopping resource on-line that allows us to post what is available at the market in near real time so that you can check before heading out … but there is much work to do before that will be a reality. Let me know if you have time/resources to contribute.

Speaking of the connection between food and weather, tomorrow morning at 9 am on the KZYX&Z radio program Wildoak Living, “Chef Laura Stec and climate researcher Eugene Cordero will explore the connection between what we eat and our climate.  They encourage us to rediscover our relationship to the land, to the people who provide our food and to the art of cooking.”  I am not familiar with these speakers but the topic sounds as if it might be of interest to farmers’ market enthusiasts.

At the market this Saturday make sure your pause to enjoy Jerry Krantman’s eclectic acoustic music. Those of you who cannot get enough of local food issues may want to consider attending the March 1-3, 22nd Annual California Small Farm Conference. It is the state’s premier gathering of small farmers and those who support them. The three day educational conference includes on-farm tours, focused workshops, general educational sessions and opportunities for peer networking.  See California Small Farm Conference for specifics.  I will not be attending so would appreciate getting a report from anyone who does.

See you at the market.

Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

“Grazing” The Trees On Your Garden Farm


By Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills
OrganicToBe.org

To reach its full potential, a garden farm should embrace four areas: garden, pasture, tree grove, and the watery domain of pool, pond or creek. Only then will the full compliment of the food chain and the full orchestration of natural beauty be achieved. Of the four parts, the tree grove usually receives the least attention from garden farmers, which is why I have been writing about it so much, plus the fact that in winter that’s where most of the action is. We graze our pastures and gardens in summer; we should be “grazing” our woodlots in winter. And of you don’t have one, start one. Your children will honor you in the latter days. Any timber that needs to be cut and moved out of the woods should be completed now, before mud time. The maple syrup season has begun now. And as the days get above freezing and no ice lingers in the bark to dull chain saw blades, it is now comfortable to cut firewood, fence posts and furniture wood.

Two weeks ago in this space, I mentioned an unusual way to graze trees, using juniper berries to flavor a meat sauce. We finally got around to making that sauce, using a recipe from Bon Appetit in the October, 2008 issue, and substituting juniper berries from our red cedar trees (Junipera virginiana) for the larger and more succulent berries of other juniper trees that the recipe called for. We had to improvise other ways too— we did not have fresh rosemary, so used dried. But we did have fresh thyme from the garden, surprisingly green where the February snow had just melted away. The meat sauce was recommended for venison, but we put it on barbecued steaks. Since our juniper berries from red cedar were smaller than other junipers, I handpicked sixteen of the plumpest ones I could find to substitute for the eight the recipe called for. The sauce turned out to have a subtle, piquant taste different from anything I had experienced before. The flavor of the red wine dominated the more delicate juniper berry flavor a little too much, I thought, but the combination was very tasty. I’m fairly sure that the juniper berry flavor would have been more pronounced if we could have used the bigger berries of other junipers.

Keep Reading→

California’s Deadbeat Republicans


From Crooks and Liars

[The 2/3rds rule is simply dictatorship by the minority. -DS]

The Republicans in the California legislature are trying to close down the entire state. As everyone across America watches with awe how f*&ked up these idiot Republican politicians are acting, finally we hear someone step up to the plate and get at the root of the problem.

Lt. Gov Garamendi: I’ve been listening to what you had to say about Republicans in the Senate and Congress, we have an infection here and it’s a Republican infection that’s really spreading across this nation. Just what do they propose to do? Shut everything down? They did that with Newt Gingrich. They seem to want to do that in California and we’re saying no way, no how. We’re gonna build, we’re going to go with Obama.

He linked these deadbeat Republicans to the Newt Gingrich led Congress that got embarrassed by shutting down the federal government.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a free pass from the California and national media time and time again. He was Enron’s chosen boy to oust Gray Davis and he’s almost single handedly led us down a path to ruin. The CA media needs to start looking in the mirror on this one.

And as the Garamendi explained, California has this super majority requirement on any vote that entails raising taxes in place that stalls all legislation.

We do have a two thirds vote….And then when you have Republicans that have taken a no new tax pledge and seem to just want to throw this state and really the nation into chaos and further decline in the economy, then we have the gridlock that we see. We need to change our constitution.

We need to hold these Republicans accountable…

It’s a joke. California residents need to start taking action. We can’t just sit around and watch these morons sleeping in their chairs because of obstructionist Republicans.

As Julia points out:

The 2/3rds rule is the reason why we can’t pass a budget. We are one of three states that requires a 2/3rds vote. If we don’t change that rule we will be right back here in 2010.

Cox and Moldanado are the ones to call. Here is our Moldanado action: http://couragecampaign.org/action/229/save-california-tell-senator-abel-maldonado-to-vote-yes-on-the-budget

They’ve received over a thousand calls. We can do better than that. Flood their lines.

UPDATE:

Sign the pledge to repeal the 2/3rds rule to pass a budget

Garamendi’s plan of a 55% vote is way off base too.
..
d-day has an excellent post up about California’s situation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is irrelevant and a failure. State Democrats are spineless jellyfish. The death-cult Republican Party is a collection of flat-earthers bent on destruction. All well and good. Yet all of these discrete groups are enabled by a political system that does violent disservice to the people of the state and the concept of democracy. We must have a return to majority rule as soon as possible. For the sake of accountability…read on


The future is Amish, not Mad Max


by Bart Anderson
Energy Bulletin
Interview Excerpts

A change in worldviews may be more possible than it seems at first. When conditions are ripe, people’s ideas can change very quickly.

During the last century, China went from a backward feudal society, to an epic struggle with a military invader (Japan), to an ultra-left Communist society under Mao, to a spectacularly successful neo-capitalist power.

For us to change to a more sustainable way of life actually is a less extreme transition than what the Chinese went through. Many of the ideas and technologies for sustainability are already developed. Traditional forms of sustainability are still present and can be revived.

A couple of years ago, I sat down with Julian Darley, co-founder of the Post Carbon Institute, and wrote our ideas down on a napkin. Our program, so to speak:

  1. Energy decline is inevitable.
  2. Big energy is not the way out.
  3. Reduce consumption and population.
  4. Start from where you are.
  5. Produce locally.
  6. Relish the power of symbolic seeds.
  7. Honor public service.
  8. Anyone is welcome. (non-sectarian, not promoting any political party)
  9. Hope and reason. (no rants, not fear-based).

If there were one suggestion I could make, it would be: “Take your time and go deeply into the subjects of depletion and sustainability.” In the light of peak oil, our common ideas about progress, economics, science and politics are in drastic need of revising,

Sometimes it feels like the words of the song: “Everything you know is wrong.”…

The old-fashioned virtues should be making a comeback in a low-energy world. For example:

  • Being able to be happy with few material possessions.
  • Self-reliance and do-it-yourself skills.
  • Loyalty to family, community and place.
  • Relationships rather than The Market.
  • Prudence and thrift.
  • Honesty, hard work and sobriety.
  • Some belief system, whether it be religious or political.

It does sound like a traditionalist’s wish list, doesn’t it? A strange thing happens when people begin imagining a world after cheap oil. One realizes that these characteristics have a survival value.

Keep reading The Future Is Amish at Energy Bulletin→

See also Transition United States


Patrick Ford Talks – Chapter 1: The first longhair in town



From Dave Smith

2/18/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

If you’re an old timer around these parts, you know the Ford family, and the four Ford boys, Steve, Patrick, Robben, and Mark. The brothers are locals and have played music around here and elsewhere since high school under the names of The Charles Ford Band, and The Ford Blues Band, among others, and travel the world playing music together and separately. They most recently played here in Ukiah at Sundays In The Park this past summer, 2008.

When he’s not on the road, touring America and Europe with his band, Patrick runs his record company Blue Rock’It Records in Redwood Valley where you can buy their own albums on-line along with his other recording artists. Robben’s website is here ; and, hopefully, Mark will be the subject of a future feature.

(See links to rest of the story below)
~

During World War II, Mom was working at the phone company, in the evenings when she got out of school, one of those girls plugging in the cords just to help with the cause… and there was this move to “write letters to the soldiers overseas.” … and they were given names of soldiers to write. She wrote a letter to my Dad who was stationed in Alaska, and he wrote her back, and they started writing back and forth until he wrote that he was going to get some leave and was going to come down to see her… and they were soon married.

My dad came from a really tough childhood growing up in Indiana during the depression. His mom and dad split up when he was 7 or 8. He had an older brother and younger sister, and they were dropped off by his mom at an orphanage. It was supposed to be only temporary until she got settled and back on her feet, and she did, in fact, come back and see them on a couple of occasions. She came once, picked Dad up, bought him a new suit, went to a movie, brought him back, told him she would be back, and he never saw her again. He was taken to live on an uncle’s farm where he was physically (not sexually) abused, kind of a work slave. A tough life.

My mom came from a strong, tight, religious family in the San Joaquin Valley, Church of Christ attendance three times a week… my dad just loved her family. I, too, idolized my mom’s parents growing up. They were the best of people. Eventually our family moved up here to Ukiah when my dad found work in the lumber mills. I was three years old at the time.

We grew up in a house in Empire Gardens on Elm street just as that neighborhood was being built. The only homes built when we moved in were on one side of Arlington and Elm streets. All the other blocks were just empty fields. We would gradually lose the fields we could walk across and fly our kites in as houses were built and more families arrived. I remember gathering wild flowers in those fields for my “May Basket” and hanging it on the front door, knocking on it, running to hide, and my mom opening the door and exclaiming “Oh, who brought me these beautiful flowers?” The butterflies were just thick back in those days. Millions of them. Dragonflies, frogs, praying mantis’, salamanders… all those critters you just don’t see anymore.

We were always referred to as “those four Ford boys”… I heard that all my life. My oldest brother, Steve, was always proper, held himself very erect. He got a job at Roscoe’s Five and Ten here in town. He always had a job. There was a show on TV then called Bat Masterson. Bat wore a three-piece suit, round hat and cane, and my brother Steve saved and saved and bought this jacket and pants and this white vest with all this golden stuff all over it, and the round hat and cane with a silver knob on it. He was a freshman in high school and everyone was looking at him and saying “what in the world?” and he was stylin’! He was always like that.

I was actually the first long-hair in town… first it was combed to the side like the surfers. Then in the early sixties when the Beatles got popular I went into the barber shop and said “I want a Beatle cut” and the barber said “What the heck is a Beatle cut?” I said it was kind of like that guy in the Three Stooges and I went to school the next day and was just ridiculed, and the track coach kicked me in my rear end and said “Get your hair cut.” I took all kinds of abuse for that.

Since I was a little kid, my visual hero was Wild Bill Hickok. I had a picture of him hanging on my bedroom wall. He had the big long curls, and the buckskin coat, and this mustache and little goatee… that was the coolest looking guy there ever was. I always wanted to look like that. Even in elementary school they said my hair was getting too long and I would whine “I want to look like….” and they’d say no, no, no… and my Dad would just clip it, but even then I wanted it longer. Then in high school this whole hippie movement started and I just let my hair grow and started getting in trouble all the time… this ongoing saga. My mom would visit the Superintendent who would say “He’s a good boy, but…” and I really was a good boy, got good grades, didn’t cause my teachers much trouble. When I had a surfer look, they’d just say “get your hair cut” but when the hippie movement got going, people had a name they could call me. I just kept letting it grow, and the school kept giving me a fight about it, and the football coach would grab it coming out of my helmet and pull me down… it was just awful, the abuse I got from those people. And that was when drugs started coming noticeably into town, and many adults were sure it was I who was bringing it into town… because I was the first long-hair.

I would give my band mate Mike Osborn a ride home, and I would have to drop him off a block away so his parents wouldn’t see him riding with me. No matter how many times he told them “Pat doesn’t do drugs!” they would not believe him. I was, after all, “that long haired boy.” The funny thing is, I never did do any drugs, and I’ve never been a drinker either.  When I was young, I had several friends whose parents would get into verbal fights and there was always drinking involved. I saw the fathers slap their kids and cuss like it was the only language. I knew then I never wanted to be like that. I never wanted to be out of control. But then I was also lucky to have two wonderful parents who were always in our corner.

I met my wife Sharon in Junior High, and when she came into high school as a Freshman, and I was a Sophomore, we started dating and have been together ever since. We went together 6 years and have been married 38. I don’t know how she’s managed to put up with me this long, but I’m sure glad she has: she’s my partner.

I thought growing up in this valley was pretty spectacular. We could get to the ocean, get to the city, go to the mountains, and we took advantage of it on many different levels.
~~

Chapter 1 – The first longhair in town
Chapter 2 – Playing the blues
Chapter 3 – Fighting fire with fire
Chapter 4 – Preaching the truth


Attack on the Front Lawn


From Evan Johnson

2/15/09 Ukiah, California
Canada geese feed as water trickles across lake bed into Lake Mendocino.

Re-thinking water use? Worried about brown lawns?

Don’t mourn. Eat your lawn!

Found this delicious little book, Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. Includes digestible essays on law’n’ order, but then a happy, photo-filled hands-on demonstration project revisioning America’s largest agricultural industry, with an eye on conserving resources, feeding body ‘n’ soul while growing community.

See also TreeHuggerTV: Edible Estates video


A new way of life is waiting…


by Jim Kunstler
author of The Long Emergency

The reality we can’t face is that one way of life is over and a new one is waiting to be born. It’s been waiting, really, since the early 1970s, when God whacked the USA upside its head to announce that we’d outgrown our once-stupendous domestic supply of oil. I remember those fervid months following the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 (I covered the story as a young newspaper reporter.) The basic message was this: from now on we’ll be running this show on other people’s oil so we better start doing things differently. Back then, the not-yet-lost-in-a-fog-of-greed Baby Boom generation rolled up its tie-dyed sleeves and got to work doing a lot of forward-looking things: micro hydro-electric, passive solar houses, rural homesteading, the next generation of public transit (BART, the D.C. Metro), the first wave of urban gentrification….

Then, in 1979, the Ayatollah tossed out the Shah of Iran, we got another dose of oil problems, and a year later, President Jimmy Carter’s clear-eyed view of the oil situation as “the moral equivalent of war” got overturned in favor of Ronald Reagan’s dreadful Hollywood nostalgia projector. As usual in times of severe social stress, the public got delusional. Mr. Reagan was very lucky. During his tenure, two of the last great non-OPEC oil discoveries came into full production — Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and the North Sea — and took the leverage away from the Islamic oil nations who had been making us miserable with their threats, embargos, price-jackings, and hostage-takings.

Americans drew the false conclusion that Ronald Reagan was an economic genius (a similar thing happened in Great Britain with Margaret Thatcherism). The price of oil went down steeply while they were in office. Britain could kick back and enjoy it’s last remaining industry, banking, on a majestic cushion of energy resources. The USA resumed its major post-war industry: suburban sprawl building. Reaganism got elevated to the status of a religion, though it was little more than a twisted version of Eisenhower-on-steroids. Under Reagan, WalMart embarked on its campaign to destroy every main street economy in the nation. The Baby Boomers came back from the land, clipped their pony tails, discovered venture capital, real estate investment trusts, securitization of “consumer” debt, and the Hamptons. Greed was good. (No, really….)…

Now we’ve arrived at the moment of wreckage. Meanwhile, Barack Obama sailed into the White House on a tide of “hope” for “change.” The change was unspecified, by both Mr. Obama and the general public (and the news media that audits its thinking). What is dogging many of us who supported Mr. Obama is the delayed entrance of much-vaunted change. At this moment of “stimulus” and TARP-II, it seems to have been about a desperate attempt to preserve the hypertrophic debt economy of “miracle” mortgages, blue-light-special shopping on credit cards, and endless happy motoring at all costs. And by “all costs” I mean literally bankrupting our society at every level to keep on living as if it were still 1999. This naturally alarms those of us who perceive a need for more drastic reprogramming in American life…

Keep reading President’s Day
~
See also A Commodity Called Misery by Joe Bageant
Hat tip Dave Pollard


Prepare for the best


From Philadelphia Citypaper

As usual, the future will be different. Philadelphia’s responses to global warming and market cooling, high fuel and food prices, health unsurance, mortgages, student debt and war will decide whether our future here becomes vastly better or vastly worse. Whether we’re the Next Great City or Next Great Medieval Village. Imagine Philadelphia with one-tenth the oil and natural gas.

But to hell with tragedy. Let’s quit dreading news. Take the Rocky road. There are Philadelphia solutions for every Philadelphia problem.

Imagine instead that, 20 years from now, Philadelphia’s green economy enables everyone to work a few hours creatively daily, then relax with family and friends to enjoy top-quality local, healthy food. To enjoy clean low-cost warm housing, clean and safe transport, high-quality handcrafted clothes and household goods. To enjoy creating and playing together, growing up and growing old in supportive neighborhoods where everyone is valuable. And to do this while replenishing rather than depleting the planet. Pretty wild, right?

Entirely realistic. Not a pipe dream. And more practical than cynical. The tools, skills and wealth exist.

Mayor Michael Nutter foresees we’ll become the “Greenest City in the United States.” So it’s common-sensible to ask, “What are the tools of such a future?” “What jobs will be created?” “Who has the money?” “Where are the leaders?” “How will Philadelphia look?” “What can we learn from other cities?”…

As President Barack Obama says, “Change comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up.” Philadelphia’s chronic miseries suggest that primary dependence on legislators, regulators, police, prisons, bankers and industry won’t save us. They’re essential partners, but the people who will best help us are us. As stocks and dollars decay, most new jobs will be created by neither Wall Street nor government. We and our friends and neighbors will start community enterprises; co-operatives for food, fuel, housing and health; build and install simple green technologies to dramatically cut household costs. Then we can have fun…

Some of the proposals sketched here can be easily ridiculed, because they disturb comfortable work habits, ancient traditions and sacred hierarchies. Yet they open more doors than are closing. They help us get ready for the green economy, and get there first. Big changes are coming so we might as well enjoy the ride. You have good ideas, too — bring ‘em on…

Keep reading Prepare for the Best
Hat tip Energy Bulletin

See also Mendo Time Bank

and Mendo’s Garden Project

and Mendocino County’s Farmers Markets

and Willit’s Economic Localization


The obligation


By Seth Godin
Business Guru
from his book Tribes

Not too far from us, a few blocks away, there are kids without enough to eat and without parents who care. A little farther away, hours by plane, are people unable to reach their goals because they live in a community that just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support them. A bit farther away are people being brutally persecuted by their governments. And the world is filled with people who can’t go to high school, never mind college, and who certainly can’t spend their time focused on whether or not they get a good parking space at work.

And so, obligation: don’t settle.

To have all these advantages all this momentum, all these opportunities and then settle for mediocre and then defend the status quo and then worry about corporate politics–what a waste.

Flynn Berry wrote that you should never use the word “opportunity.” It’s not an opportunity, it’s an obligation.

I don’t think we have any choice. I think we have an obligation to change the rules, to raise the bar, to play a different game, and to play it better than anyone has any right to believe is possible.


From Dave Smith

On July 5th 1932, in the middle of the Great Depression, the Austrian town of Wörgl made economic history by introducing a remarkable complimentary currency. Wörgl was in trouble, and was prepared to try anything. Of its population of 4,500, a total of 1,500 people were without a job, and 200 families were penniless.

The mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, had a long list of projects he wanted to accomplish, but there was hardly any money with which to carry them out. These included repaving the roads, streetlighting, extending water distribution across the whole town, and planting trees along the streets.

Rather than spending the 40,000 Austrian schillings in the town’s coffers to start these projects off, he deposited them in a local savings bank as a guarantee to back the issue of a type of complimentary currency known as ’stamp scrip’. This requires a monthly stamp to be stuck on all the circulating notes for them to remain valid, and in Wörgl, the stamp amounted 1% of the each note’s value. The money raised was used to run a soup kitchen that fed 220 families.

Because nobody wanted to pay what was effectively a hoarding fee [technically known as 'demurrage' and often referred to as "negative interest"], everyone receiving the notes would spend them as fast as possible. The 40,000 schilling deposit allowed anyone to exchange scrip for 98 per cent of its value in schillings. This offer was rarely taken up though.

Of all the business in town, only the railway station and the post office refused to accept the local money. When people ran out of spending ideas, they would pay their taxes early using scrip, resulting in a huge increase in town revenues. Over the 13-month period the project ran, the council not only carried out all the intended works projects, but also built new houses, a reservoir, a ski jump, and a bridge. The people also used scrip to replant forests, in anticipation of the future cashflow they would receive from the trees.

The key to its success was the fast circulation of scrip within the local economy, 14 times higher than the schilling. This in turn increased trade, creating extra employment. At the time of the project, Wörgl was the only Austrian town to achieve full employment.

Six neighbouring villages copied the system successfully. The French Prime Minister, Eduoard Dalladier, made a special visit to see the ‘miracle of Wörgl’. In January 1933, the project was replicated in the neighbouring city of Kirchbuhl, and in June 1933, Unterguggenburger addressed a meeting with representatives from 170 different towns and villages. Two hundred Austrian townships were interested in adopting the idea.

Unterguggenberger was opposed to both communism and fascism, championing instead what he referred to as ‘economic freedom’. Therefore, it was deeply ironic that the Wörgl experiment was first branded ‘craziness’ by the monetary authorities, then a Communist idea, and some years later as a fascist one.

Read more local currrency success stories from the US and abroad at Mendo Moola


Is this a change (of) team we can believe in? (Updated)


From Jim Houle
Obama-Watch.us

Ukiah, California 02/13/09
Dave Lindorff, reporter for Salon, the Nation and Businessweek,/ writes: ”Just two weeks after his historic inauguration ceremony, Obama’s presidency is lurching towards failure, and not because three of his administration picks have been found to be tax cheats, but because nearly all of his administration picks are corporate whores and shills”. Lets look at the list:

William Lynn: A former Raytheon Co. lobbyist, confirmed today as deputy secretary of defense, (the department’s chief operating officer – which includes overseeing acquisitions). He has agreed to sell his stock in the military contractor but will not be forced to step back from decisions related to Ratheon, the Defense Department said Friday. Instead, Obama wrote Lynn a special permission slip to exempt him the new revolving door ban. Allowing Lynn to do business with his former employer makes a mockery of Obama’s new ethics rules.

Tom Daschle: Nominated as Secretary of H&HS – dropped out after acknowledging that he had belatedly paid more than $128,000 in taxes owed to the federal government.

Nancy Killefer: Intended to become the government’s first “chief performance officer”, bowed out, after admitting she never paid payroll taxes for her household employee.

Timothy Geithner: a key official of the Bush years, has now been confirmed at Secretary of the Treasury, although he admits not having paid the Social Security and Health Care taxes he owed to the US Treasury., while working at the IMF. He had avoided paying them, despite his signed acknowledgement that he owed these taxes and hid behind the 3 year statue of limitations, thus had saved himself $41,000. He only paid up after his nomination was confirmed. And this guy will supervise the IRS?

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) dropped out after having accepted the job of Commerce Secretary. A deeply conservative man, he is opposed to the very existence of the Commerce Department he will head. To top it off, Obama had worked out a deal to have the Democratic governor of New Hampshire fill Gregg’s vacated Senate seat with a Republican appointee, thereby forfeiting the right to add a Democrat to the Senate and eliminate any chance of Republican filibusters. Gregg explained that he didn’t like Obama’s economic stimulus program. It sounds like his ego got ahead of his ability to keep current on the news.

Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture: A Strong supporter of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered crops and of unsustainable ethanol manufacture from corn and soy beans.

Senator (D-Co) Ken Salazar, Obama’s choice for Secretary of Interior: a loyal servant of the big ranching, and mining interests. Energy stocks climbed over 10% on expectations that his taking charge of Interior would assure continued opening up of federal lands for minerals exploitation”. WSW.org 12/18/08. However, on February 10th, he surprised us by extending the review period for oil and gas leases in western states by 6 months. Should we wait and see if this leopard changes his spots?

Arne Duncan (currently CEO for the Chicago Public School System) will become Education Secretary. He is seen as a strong supporter of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative of the Bush administration.

Dr. Steven Chu has headed the Lawrence Berkeley Labs these past 4 years and is a scientist, not a businessman. His lifelong support for the nuclear power industry is why he’ll be DOE Secretary.
~

Keep reading Obama-Watch.us Eighth Edition


[Update -DS]

See also Obama and Liberals: A counter-productive relationship by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

and An Open Letter To President Obama About Republicans (From a Former Republican)

and The obstructionists dilemma at Daily Kos→

and They Sure Showed That Obama by Frank Rich, NYT→


Mendocino Cooking from the Farmers’ Market


From Pinky Kushner
Ukiah

Last week was no exception to the rule that great treats can be gotten at the Ukiah Saturday Market.

Here’s what I was just delighted to find: Small, plump white turnips, complete with their little green tops freshly pulled from the ground by our friends the Ortiz family. Now some of you might say, “What? Turnips? Give me a break.” Let me tell you about turnips. These little treats are not the big muddy balls that you may have seen in an old Dutch painting, although even the big ones can be very special. Here in California, baby turnips ‘turn up’ as a spring specialty at high-end restaurants like Chez Panisse. Grab them now while they are young and being thinned from the field to make room for the later, larger summer crop.

What to do with these little ones? First wash them thoroughly—plunge them into a large bowl of cold water (which you recycle in the yard onto a thirsty plant, right?) and agitate for a few minutes. Then, drain and from the bulb, cut off the skinny little root and all but an inch of the greens.

Steam the turnips in a vegetable basket. After 3 minutes add the greens that have been chopped into 1-inch pieces. After 3-5 more minutes, pull the steaming basket out and pour the water from pot, reserving for later use. Dump the cooked turnips and greens back into the pot with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of the reserved liquid. Heat over low flame a few more minutes and serve. The cooking time is a total of 8 to 10 minutes.

Freshly steamed baby turnips go with almost anything, from rice to pasta pomodoro to grilled chicken or fish. The reserved liquid can be added to water for rice or almost anything else that might use a stock. The joy of turnips is their mild sweet/bitter taste and their reputation as excellent nutrition. They are thought to have originated as cultivated food about 2000 BC in northern Europe and spread south and east over the next 3500 years. The Romans prized them highly. I will share my favorite recipe for the big guys in the summer.


Top 10 Reasons To Support Universal Single-Payer Health Care


  1. Everybody In, Nobody Out. Universal means access to health care for everyone, period.
  2. Portability. If you are unemployed, or lose or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you.
  3. Uniform Benefits. No Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Pinto plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. One level of comprehensive care for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet.
  4. Prevention. By removing financial roadblocks, a universal health system encourages preventive care that lowers an individual’s ultimate cost and pain and suffering when problems are neglected and societal cost in the over-utilization of emergency rooms or the spread of communicable diseases.
  5. Choice. Most private insurance restricts your choice of providers and hospitals. Under the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair payment.
  6. No Interference with Care. Caregivers and patients regain their autonomy to decide what’s best for a patient’s health, not what’s dictated by the billing department. No denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions or cancellation of policies for “unreported” minor health problems.
  7. Reducing Waste. One third of every private health insurance dollar goes for paperwork and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare, the federal government’s universal system for senior citizen healthcare.
  8. Cost Savings. A guaranteed health care system can produce the cost savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. private health care model, adopted a similar system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little increase in overall health care spending.
  9. Common Sense Budgeting. The public system sets fair reimbursements applied equally to all providers, private and public, while assuring that appropriate health care is delivered, and uses its
    clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment.
  10. Public Oversight. The public sets the policies and administers the system, not high priced CEOs meeting in private and making decisions based on their company’s stock performance needs.

Call Congress, and the President
Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121
(ask for your representative’s office)

If your member is a current co-sponsor, thank your rep. and ask him or her to stand firm for HR 676 and actively seek additional co-sponsors.

If your member was a co-sponsor in the last Congress, ask him or her to sign on immediately as a co-sponsor in this Congress.

If your member has yet to co-sponsor HR 676, ask him or her to please become a co-sponsor, select one or two talking points here.

Urge your member to accept testimony from panelists to explore the serious flaws in the Massachusetts health plan and examine why it cannot serve as a national model for providing universal and comprehensive care.


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