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Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Myth Three – Industrial Food is Cheap

In Books, Dave Smith, Industrial Agriculture on March 31, 2009 at 6:42 am

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/31/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth If you added the real cost of industrial food—its health, environmental, and social costs—to the current supermarket price, not even our wealthiest citizens could afford to buy it.

In America, politicians, business leaders, and the media continue to reassure us that our food is the cheapest in the world. They repeat their mantra that the more we apply chemicals and technology to agriculture, the more food will be produced and the lower the price will be to the consumer. This myth of cheap food is routinely used by agribusiness as a kind of economic blackmail against any who point out the devastating impacts of modern food production. Get rid of the industrial system, we are told, and you won’t be able to afford food. Using this “big lie,” the industry has even succeeded in portraying supporters of organic food production as wealthy elitists who don’t care about how much the poor will have to pay for food.

Under closer analysis, our supposedly cheap food supply becomes monumentally expensive. The myth of cheapness completely ignores the staggering externalized costs of our food, costs that do not appear on our grocery checkout receipts. Conventional analyses of the cost of food completely ignore the exponentially increasing social and environmental costs customers are currently paying and will have to pay in the future. We expend tens of billions of dollars in taxes, medical expenses, toxic clean-ups, insurance premiums, and other pass-along costs to subsidize industrial food producers. Given the ever-increasing health, environmental, and social destruction involved in industrial agriculture, the real price of this food production for future generations is incalculable.

Environmental Costs
Industrial agriculture’s most significant external cost is its widespread destruction of the environment. Intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers seriously pollutes our water, soil, and air. This pollution problem grows worse over time, as pests become immune to the chemicals and more and more poisons are required. Meanwhile, our animal factories produce 1.3 billion tons of manure each year. Laden with chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones, the manure leaches into rivers and water tables, polluting drinking supplies and causing fish kills in the tens of millions.

Keep Reading→

The Quiet Coup

In Around the web on March 31, 2009 at 6:00 am

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

Keep reading The Quiet Coup at The Atlantic Magazine→

Once the five problem banks have been put into isolation by the FDIC and the Treasury, the Administration must introduce legislation to immediately repeal the Larry Summers bank deregulation including restore Glass-Steagall and repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that allowed the present criminal abuse of the banking trust. Then serious financial reform can begin to be discussed, starting with steps to ‘federalize’ the Federal Reserve and take the power of money out of the hands of private bankers such as JP Morgan Chase, Citibank or Goldman Sachs.

See also Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ at Global Research→

I suspect a trick…

In Around the web on March 30, 2009 at 4:52 pm

From Michael Laybourn

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

With a tip of the fedora for Janie Sheppard
The big question is why would DDR want to change the zoning to build a mall these days? The economy tells us quite clearly that malls and shopping centers are not the way to go. Mall developers including DDR are all in serious financial trouble, as we can see here:

Friday March 27, 2009, 10:58 am EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — Fitch Ratings downgraded several ratings on Developers Diversified Realty Corp. on Friday, citing the shopping center developer’s liquidity position.

Fitch downgraded Developers Diversified’s issuer default rating, $1.3 billion in unsecured revolving credit facilities, $1.4 billion in unsecured medium-term notes and $833 million in unsecured convertible notes one notch to “BBB-” from “BBB.” The new rating is Fitch’s lowest investment-grade rating.

Fitch also downgraded $555 million in preferred stock to “BB+” from “BBB-,” sending it into non-investment grade, or “junk,” status. It assigned a negative outlook to the new ratings, implying another downgrade could be forthcoming. Fitch also said the company would have a liquidity shortfall of $300 million through the end of 2010 due to limited availability under the company’s revolving credit facilities and debts coming due in 2010. Last week, the company was removed from the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index due to a low market capitalization.

Holy smokes! Here is a company spiraling down to worthlessness that wants to spend a huge amount of money to convince voters to change the zoning for the Masonite property they bought to build a mall. This doesn’t seem to make any sense, just considering their own financial problems. In the past year DDR’s stock has plummeted from a high in 2007 of around $70 per share to a low of under $2 a share as of March, 2009. Nosing around a little bit more, we find that In December, 2008, another article noted that:

Keep reading→

Mendocino County Voters Beware!

In Around the web on March 30, 2009 at 6:37 am

From Janie Sheppard

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

In April, a group calling itself Mendocino County Tomorrow will launch an effort to get enough signatures on a petition to allow placing an initiative on the ballot.

The initiative, if passed by a majority of Mendocino County voters, would allow building an 800,000 square foot mega mall on the old Masonite site, just north of the Ukiah city boundary.

Diversified Development Realty, better known by its initials “DDR,” realizing that the Board of Supervisors would vote 4-1 to defeat the attempt to change the zoning from industrial to retail, will now go to the voters.

The initiative, a 310-page document, would become the law on the Masonite site without environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.  Once passed, the developer could do anything it pleased, provided what it wanted to do fit within the very loose parameters of the initiative.  The county would have no leverage to get changes.  Now, when the county finds a builder’s plans would damage the environment, the county planners can get the plans changed.  Not so on the Masonite site if the initiative passes.

DDR, if it remains the developer, has very little capital.  It would skimp on the fancy stuff that you likely saw in the appealing mailers.  We know this because on Friday, March 27th, Fitch Ratings, the same rating agency that downgraded the county’s debt, downgraded DDR’s debt.  DDR debt was downgraded to the lowest investment grade.  Its preferred stock now has “junk” status.  And, it has a “liquidity shortfall” of 300 Million Dollars.  DDR’s broke.

Alternatively, what DDR may be trying to do is put the Masonite site up for sale, recouping its 6 Million Dollar investment and then some.   In which case, the county would not be dealing with DDR, but with some other developer that would be so leveraged after buying the site, it too would have no money for niceties.

Don’t sign DDR’s petition.  Just say NO.

Let’s save the Masonite site for industry and real jobs.

We can do it.  Si se puede.

See also Is the American mall dying? at MSN Money→

Mendocino Coastline Threats

In Dave Smith on March 30, 2009 at 6:35 am

From Annie Esposito

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

The Mendocino Coastline is facing three threats right now.  (Well, at least three.)  Offshore oil and gas development are back on the table, along with experiments in wave energy generation.  And the Navy wants to extend military training on the coast.

The Navy does a kind of high tech target practice out of Puget Sound, which extends down to the Humboldt-Mendocino line.  Supervisor John McCowan notes that fish and sea mammals don’t know about the line; and high tech target practice will affect Mendocino’s coast as well.  Officials from the Navy will be at the Board of Supervisors Tuesday March 31st, at 4 pm. They will be answering questions from the Supervisors and the public.  Community members are encouraged to be there to let the Navy know that there are grave concerns about militarization of the coast and the threat it poses both to peace and marine habitat.

Meanwhile Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, will be in San Francisco April 16th. It is the nearest of several regional meetings on energy development on the outer continental shelf.  Judith Vidaver of the Mendocino County chapter of the Sierra Club is encouraging people to attend that meeting as well.  People will get a chance to inform the Secretary about regional opposition to offshore drilling and experimental wave energy devices.  And people can also give their input on the militarization of the coast while they’re at it.  For information on car pooling, people can contact Vidaver at 964-2742.  If there are 50 people interested in going, they may rent a bus.  It would leave from Willits early in the morning, to get to San Francisco by 8:30 a.m. – again, on Thursday, April 16th.

Living from our local landscape and countryside – Wendell Berry

In Dave Smith on March 30, 2009 at 6:30 am

From Wendell Berry
Interview mashup

3/20/09 Ukiah, North California

People need to live from their local landscape and their local countryside as much as they possibly can, as much as they reasonably can… The idea that a city surrounded by fertile farmland that’s well-watered should be importing food 2,500 miles away is preposterous. It drives the cost up and it removes from the consumers all the powers of choice, of knowledge and of judgment. The consumers who import foods from long distances eat what they’re given to eat, what they’re sold. Many things would improve if they ate closer to home, including the local farm economy.

It would be wonderful because the quality of our food would go up. As the distance that it’s transported decreased, the quality would go up, and it would also go up as it came more and more under the influence of the consumers. Consumers don’t eat hard, tasteless, characterless tomatoes because they choose to. They eat those tomatoes because those are the only tomatoes they’re offered…

If you’re talking about a local food economy or any other kind of local economy, you’re talking about an economy that’s going to have to run a considerable extent on cooperation, not on competition between consumers and producers. You’re talking about an atmosphere of good feeling in which people try to find out what they can do well for one another. The local consumer is going to have to be concerned that the local producer have a livable income. The local consumers want the best products possible and the local producers are going to have to be interested in supplying the most desirable products possible to the local consumers. So if you’re going to succeed, it can’t be a situation in which everybody is in an economic war against everybody. That’s a description of the global economy.

The advantage of the local economy is you can secede from the global economy, which permits the exploitation of everybody and everything for the benefit of relatively few.

There’s  a lot of scorn now toward people who say, “Not in my backyard,” but the “not-in-my-backyard” sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, “Not in my backyard,” these bad innovations [big box malls] wouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard. It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is an altogether healthy and salutary.

However, a community has to understand that if it refuses the proposal, then it has to come up with something better. And if a corporation comes in and says, “We want you to have this obnoxious installation because it will employ your people; it will bring jobs,” then the community has to have an answer to the question: “Where are we going to find jobs?” Sometimes it won’t be an easy question. Sometimes it will be a devastating question, but the community nevertheless has to begin to look to itself for the answers, not to the government—and not to these corporations that come in posing as saviors of the local community, because they don’t come in to save the local community.

So the community has to begin to ask what they need that can be produced locally, by local people and from the local landscape, and how it can be produced in a way that doesn’t damage the local landscape or the local community. You have to realize that people are working very hard to remove the choice between an economy of grace, based on generosity, and in an economy of scarcity based on acquisition. They can remove that choice simply by making it impossible for small economic enterprises to survive.

A community, for one thing, is an economy. And if you have a community but no local economy your community is seriously impaired. It becomes a thing of feeling only. And you can’t exclude any members from the community. If a community becomes false, it becomes artificial, and is in danger the way all false things are. A community can’t exclude the nonhuman creatures, for instance, if it hopes to last. It can’t exclude its climate. It can’t exclude the air. All these, in a real community, are members. So if you are careful enough in defining a community, you see that it’s a pattern of practical relationships. It’s also, of course, a pattern of loyalties and it’s an emotional pattern.

Trust Your Guts

In Around the web on March 29, 2009 at 8:24 am

[We do not have a democracy if our economics is not democratically controlled. The Federal Reserve runs our economy and it is not answerable to our elected representatives, only to the private bankers. Here's a solution. -DS]

by William Greider

A reassuring new story line is emanating from our leaders. I heard Representative Barney Frank, chair of the House Banking Committee, explain it. Then I read the same line in a Washington Post news story. That tells me people in high places are selling it. Dynamic capitalism, they explain, invents ways to create greater wealth, but sometimes it goes a little too far. Then government has to step in to correct things. This need typically occurs every generation or so, all in a day’s work. The Obama administration is proposing “sweeping” new regulatory laws so that capitalism can continue its good works.

The story makes disturbing current events sound practically normal. But what are the storytellers leaving out? They aren’t saying that this financial catastrophe was not merely an inevitable development of history but a man-made disaster. Greedheads on Wall Street did their part, but so did Washington. The reason we need new rules is that a generation of Democrats and Republicans systematically repealed or gutted the old ones–the regulatory controls enacted eighty years ago to remedy the last breakdown of capitalism (better known as the Great Depression).

The White House executed a nifty two-step this week to re-educate the public and deflect anger. On Tuesday Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner relaunched the massive bailout of banking and finance. Knowing how unpopular this is with the people at large, Geithner followed on Thursday with his “sweeping” plans to re-regulate the bankers and financiers. Whenever official plans are called “sweeping,” it indicates that they really, really mean it this time.

Most Americans are not financial experts. It’s very difficult, nearly impossible, for normal mortals to sort through the dense policy talk and conflicting opinions to figure out if the rhetoric of reform is real. Confusion is widespread in the land. Most Americans want to believe this president is leading us out of the swamp, but how can they know? I say, trust your gut feelings. They are as reliable as the learned experts.

Keep reading Trust Your Guts at Common Ground via The Nation

Where are our young, local, small business entrepreneurs now that we need them?

In Books, Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on March 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

From Dave Smith
My Foreword to Finding The Sweet Spot by Dave Pollard

[To counter the efforts of those who would foist The Masonite Monster Mall on our community, we need young entrepreneurs to galvanize new local businesses at the potential Masonite Transition Park. The intended gathering of Big Box Dinosaurs and other chain and franchise stores to force their way in, feed at our community trough, and leak their ill-gained revenues and profits to parts unknown, rather than allow small locally-owned businesses to thrive and re-circulate our money locally, will leave our community with lasting scars. If they overrule local citizens and government through their big bucks purchase of the initiative process, and the zoning of the Masonite site is changed adding $30 million to its value, then you can kiss local small business opportunities here goodbye for a generation at least. It's highly doubtful, for many reasons, that a mall will ever be built. But by keeping the zoning industrial, we will keep the property price within reach of local appropriate technology startups, with good paying jobs, rather than having some retail monstrosity imposed on us from outsiders. Recessions, with great changes upon us, are opportune times to help create the next world of business. Because credit and investment capital is tight or non-existent, businesses will have to be started on shoestrings. This is good. It focuses attention and requires great tenacity. The choice is ours. This book is a key business how-to manual from Dave Pollard for budding entrepreneurs. And here is my Foreword. -DS]

3/27/09 Ukiah, North California

A couple of stories, one a “business failure”, the other a “business success.”

During the seventies, with high unemployment and energy shortages a fact of daily life, some friends and I started and ran a very successful natural food cooperative in Menlo Park, California called Briarpatch Natural Foods. It was created to fill a real community need, following the age-old business adage of “find a need and fill it.” People had time on their hands, and natural foods were expensive, so by working 8 hours every three months, members were able to purchase healthy foods for at least 30% less. Three of us co-managed the store, and the work of unloading trucks, stocking shelves, buying fresh produce at the produce terminal, running the cash registers, and everything else needed to operate a small grocery store was done by members. At one point, there were over 350 families on the waiting list.

Because labor is, by far, the largest expense of doing business, taking most of that cost out of the expense statement created not only cheaper food but an enormous forgiveness for the obvious inefficiencies of volunteer, untrained labor and the lack of basic business skills by its enthusiastic and smart, but woefully unskilled management. What fun we had playing store!

It eventually proved to be unsustainable long-term for the simple fact that business is cyclical and when Silicon Valley exploded into runaway growth and success, no-one had time to play store, and the store didn’t adapt quickly enough to the rapidly changing times that did it in. All vendors were fully paid, all member investments were fully returned, and the graceful ending of a beautiful success left us only fond memories. By our current business standards, it was a failure because it didn’t grow and make its “investors” a ton of money. By those of us most intimately involved in the daily business of running a community cooperative, it was one of our most beautiful, successful business experiences.

On the other hand, Smith & Hawken, the $100 million garden company I co-founded is considered an enduring entrepreneurial success. I disagree, and here’s why.

Keep reading→

Myth Two – Industrial Food is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious

In Books, Dave Smith, Industrial Agriculture on March 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/27/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth

Industrial agriculture contaminates our vegetables and fruits with pesticides, slips dangerous bacteria into our lettuce, and puts genetically engineered growth hormones into our milk. It is not surprising that cancer, food-borne illnesses, and obesity are at an all-time high.

A modern supermarket produce aisle presents a perfect illusion of food safety. Consistency is a hallmark. Dozens of apples are on display, waxed and polished to a uniform luster, few if any bearing a bruise or dent or other distinguishing characteristics. Nearby sit stacked pyramids of oranges dyed an exact hue to connote ripeness. Perhaps we find a shopper comparing two perfectly similar cellophane-wrapped heads of lettuce, as if trying to distinguish between a set of identical twins. Elsewhere, throughout the store, processed foods sit front and center on perfectly spaced shelves, their bright, attractive cans, jars, and boxes bearing colorful photographs of exquisitely prepared and presented foods. They all look unthreatening, perfectly safe, even good for you. And for decades, agribusiness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have proclaimed boldly that the United States has the safest food supply in the world.

As with all the myths of industrial agriculture, things are not exactly as they appear. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that between 1970 and 1999, food-borne illnesses increased more than tenfold. And according to the FDA, at least 53 pesticides classified as carcinogenic are presently applied in massive amounts to our major food crops. While the industrialization of the food supply progresses, we are witnessing an explosion in human health risks and a significant decrease in the nutritional value of our meals.

Increased Cancer Risk
A central component of the industrialized food system is the large-scale introduction of toxic chemicals.
This toxic contamination of our food shows no signs of decreasing. Since 1989, overall pesticide use has risen by about 8 percent, or 60 million pounds. The use of pesticides that leave residues on food has increased even more. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that more than 1 million Americans drink water laced with pesticide runoff from industrial farms. Our increasing use of these chemicals has been paralleled by an exponential growth in health risks, to both farmers and consumers.

The primary concern associated with this toxic dependency is cancer. The EPA has already identified more than 165 pesticides as potentially carcinogenic, with numerous chemical mixtures remaining untested. Residues from potentially carcinogenic pesticides are left behind on some of our favorite fruits and vegetables. In 1998, the FDA found pesticide residues in over 35 percent of the food tested. Many U.S. products have tested as being more toxic than those from other countries. What’s worse, current standards for pesticides in food do not yet include specific protections for fetuses, infants, or young children, despite major changes to federal pesticide laws in 1996 requiring such reforms. Many scientists believe that pesticides play a major role in the current cancer “epidemic” among children. And the cancer risk does not just affect consumers; it also imperils tens of thousands of farmers, field hands, and migrant laborers. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers who used industrial herbicides were six times more likely than non-farmers to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Along with their cancer risk, pesticides can cause myriad other health problems, especially for young people. For example, exposure to neurotoxic compounds like PCBs and organophosphate insecticides during critical periods of development can cause permanent, long-term damage to the brain, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Keep reading→

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site (Part 1)

In Mendo Island Transition on March 25, 2009 at 9:59 pm

["Where there is no vision, the people perish." This could not be more true for what our community is facing. Without a clearly thought-out viable plan that is well along in community acceptance, and documented evidence of funding potential (including property purchase), our community risks losing the battle to save the Masonite site for the future economic health of our community. Ukiah Blog posts regarding a community  plan for the Masonite site will be categorized under "Masonite Transition Park". What's your vision? Your own comments and posts are crucial and most welcome. -DS]

From Earl Brown

3/26/09 Ukiah, North California

This post represents a synthesis of viewpoints, conversations and ideas I have had over thirty years of working in Lake and Mendocino Counties regarding self-reliant communities, job creation and healthy ecosystems. Many discussions concerning the environment, living wage jobs, sustainable communities, endangered species protection, watershed management, production agriculture, cottage industry, tourism, and education have contributed, directly, or indirectly, to the ideas contained within this post. Some people who read through this will see their thoughts and ideas reflected here. I appreciate their contributions, although I have not tried to duplicate their ideas in any exact way, but blended them into my visioning. My purpose is to present these ideas in a way that helps the reader to see our potential; to open their imagination and begin to envision their own possibilities for Mendocino County; not just the Masonite property, but for our bio-region and beyond.

We are living during a time of great crisis and great potential. I believe that, even with the corruption and abuse of funds that will undoubtedly come with President Obama’s stimulus package, it still represents an opportunity for us to take a little control of our future. It is an opportunity for us, the grassroots people, to express our creativity, our willingness to cooperate, and our desire to create a sustainable Mendocino County. My concept is based upon an “eco-village” approach where businesses, manufacturing and other village elements work cooperatively and with mutual benefit for themselves and the larger community. As a “living systems” thinker it is natural for me to think in patterns and connections; in complexes of relationships that are always in flux, inter-relating and self-organizing. I see human environments the same way and the eco-village concept attempts to establish relationships between our natural environment, local self reliance, mental and spiritual health, and sustainability (responsibility to future generations).

This post is a boiler-plate and not intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of potentials for the Masonite property. Here, I have identified sixteen aspects of a potential community development that I believe would enhance our self-reliance, help stabilize our economy and build a stronger network of community. The aspects are not listed in any order of importance or priority and have a brief explanation for each. I have also prepared further posts to expand on several of the themes that I have particular interest and experience in. I invite comments, more ideas, expansion of these ideas, questions, discussion, meetings and I want to hear whatever moves you, including honest, meaningful, insightful criticism. This is not about agreement, but about the discussion.

Once again I want to acknowledge all of the people who have contributed to these ideas and claim no ownership of this material. Step one may be allowing that something greater than ourselves is trying to move through us, that it is not about us, specifically, but about our collective potential; this is certainly larger than me.

The sixteen aspects are: (in no order of importance or priority)

Solar farm with solar charging station
The solar farm would consist of an array of panels linked directly to the charging and distribution system. Roof surfaces of many structures can be fitted with solar collectors and be networked into the main system grid to also feed the charging and distribution center. The charging station would be a service center for locals and travelers with hybrid and/or electric vehicles, including electric vehicles used in the village, and supply the power for the village with the excess sold to the grid to help offset other expenses.

Food Processing Facility
This facility is to stimulate a diverse cottage agriculture community by housing the necessary equipment and space necessary to process local fruit and vegetables into value added food items such as jellies, jams, chutneys, sauces, fermented vegetables, soups, juices and more. There would be a crushing capability; hammer mill, stemmer crusher, bladder press; pumps, hoses, filters, heat exchanger, small processing equipment and storage capability. Washers and scrubbers for vegetables will be available for tubers and other tough skinned veggies. Solar fruit dehydrators could be developed at this site or in another location depending upon space, type and size of dehydrator. The building would consist of at lease three separate, rentable, commercial kitchen units, open production space (fillers, bottle-line), cold storage with freezer, warehouse space, shipping and receiving dock, office and public retail space. This facility could be expanded to produce fruit wines, specialty brandies, fruit liqueurs and other specialty products. Local people could use the facility to produce products of their own, or sell fruit to other producers. The facility could be a source of job training, seasonal employment as well as provide some permanent employment for skilled people.

Amusement Center (miniature golf – solar go cart track – skate/bmx park)
This would be the entertainment center for the youth of our area and fun center for visitors. There is room for innovation and creativity here and this could be a real fun addition to our area. The golf course could be constructed from locally harvested alternative building materials, be landscaped with native plants, and watered with reclaimed water from the waste treatment system.

Small Diameter Pole Mill
Fire fuels reduction in our forests is an imperative and there are a large number of small diameter trees that could be milled into alternative building materials for post and pole frame construction. Removing the excess small diameter trees in a thin and release venture could help offset the expense of the work and by mulching the slash back into the ecosystem nutrients will be recycled mimicking a natural fire. Measures need to be taken to assure that this does not trigger more clear-cutting of timber, but is a part of a concerted watershed and forest restoration project aimed at retaining the forest health of Mendocino County. (County building codes will need to be changed to accommodate alternative building materials such as these small diameter poles)

Natural Materials Furniture Construction and Fabrication
A furniture construction facility that uses locally grown willow species, alder and other suitable trees to produce quality, durable, furniture. Planting sections of willows and other usable species on the Masonite property would create green and open space while supplying raw material for the furniture construction facility. Wood chips, bark and other organic waste will be used to generate fuel, or be composted to use on the agricultural land.

Fiber Mill
A fiber manufacturing facility would utilize local wool, hemp fiber, bamboo, willow, and fungi to produce a variety of fabrics for local markets and manufacture.

Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center
This is a public resource center focused on our region’s watersheds, streams and rivers. The Center would be a library of multimedia resources, including written word, video, DVD, photo documentary, maps, and other information regarding our watersheds and their health. This Center could network with schools, adult education programs, employment development projects, and other community service groups to provide job skills training, work experience, social skills and personal life skills as well as a source for outdoor curriculum for schools. A crew, or crews, could be trained and available for contract work through the center which if operated as a not-for-profit could be used to work on both public and private lands for environmental protection and restoration.

Green Zone (community forest park)
There needs to be a good amount of public open/green space in the development. A small mixed forest could grow into a location for summer fairs, outdoor music, picnic and relaxing space. This green space could also include plantings of various willow varieties for furniture manufacture and other usable woody species as needed.

Agriculture land
Land set aside, beyond green space, for the cultivation of specialty willows for furniture, fiber crops, row crops, flowers, and other crops as identified. Solar green houses, mushroom sheds, solar fruit dehydrators and similar production houses may also be considered. Water for irrigation can come from the reclaimed water from the waste treatment systems, as well as any other no-potable water uses.

Housing for the area would reflect the eco-village approach and be suitable housing for people to live, work and thrive within the village. It is natural for people to live at, or within walking distance, of their work, although modern commuter society has altered this through rapid modes of transportation. In simpler times a person knew and was known by the people in their neighborhood. They knew the land and they knew what else lived there, they were a part of it and interacted with it daily. The eco-village approach encourages people to live and work in the village, to know and support each other and help to collectively keep the security and safety of the village intact.

Bio-fuel generation facility and filling station
This facility would focus on developing local means of power generation. Rendering vegetable oils into bio-diesel, developing a methane extractor for wood and other organic waste, making wood pellets for fireplaces, and potentially extracting combustible oils from forest products, would be included in the design of this element.  A cottage industry could rise by taking small plots of land and growing a bio-fuel crop such as Jerusalem artichokes, corn or other high starch plants for ethanol. Emphasis should be on electric (wind and solar) for most local transportation with bio-fuels augmenting the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable power. Caution needs to be taken so land needed for food production is not lost for bio-fuel crops. Empty, or unused, urban space to small for commercial agriculture could be planted into bio-fuel crops which would give landowners a source of extra income and keep rural agriculture space open for food production.

Small retail
There is room for small retail space such as a deli, restaurant, local products (soaps, herbal essence oils), local crafts (clothes, wood working, and art), wine tasting and other suitable, non-polluting, business. The concept is not to take business, or employees, from existing businesses, but to create new businesses that reflect the nature of our valley and its people; no box stores.

13. Light Manufacture/Business
A recycle-reuse mill that would take what recyclables we can and develop methods of re-manufacturing them into usable products. This would help minimize our waste output to the transfer station, employ a wide range of skilled employees, provide job training opportunities and help raise awareness of needless or careless waste. A solar panel construction business would be a benefit; data storage, alternative building material manufacture and a laboratory for culturing the bacteria and other micro-organisms for waste digestion and soil remediation, are other business possibilities.

This is an eco-tourism business involved in rafting, biking, kayaking, wine/beer tours and other activities for visitors. Two studies, one from the 1960’s and the other in 2008, indicate that with the richness of Mendocino County and the California North Coast tourism is the prime economic resource to be developed. This industry and its economic potential have been completely overlooked by business and civil leaders alike. Eco-tourism has many faces; river rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, sightseeing, rock hounding, bird watching, photography, photo journalism, botany, self-reflection and spiritual experience, to name a few.

Train Depot, or spur to main track
The success of this mixed light industry, agriculture and eco-village is largely dependent upon the re-opening of the rail to Willits. There are efforts within Sonoma County to open and maintain the track to Cloverdale where they have invested in rebuilding their rail station; we should do the same. U.S. Highway 101 connects us, north to south, yet soon, fuel prices and the awareness of the hidden costs of oil (war, oppression, racism) will soon cut into people’s ability and desire to burn fossil fuels for personal pleasure. Affordable mass transit will be a necessity in the future. The existing rail system, to Willits, stands ready to be utilized, with minor investment, for commuter transit, transport of local produce and products south, to bring needed supplies north, and to give tourists, specifically ecologically minded tourists, access to Mendocino County.

Autonomous, Waste Water Treatment System
A stand alone (autonomous) wastewater digestion system will be designed to eliminate liquid waste. Using bacteria, fungi and other naturally occurring micro-organisms (no genetic engineering) to digest the waste material reclaims the water and breaks the waste down into its natural organic compounds. The bacteria blend and the system can be designed to take all of the liquid waste, grey and black water, as well as chemicals, soaps, petroleum hydrocarbons, medicines, hormones, and many harmful bacteria, that may find its way into the waste treatment system. The end result of the digestion process is a clear, nutrient rich, liquid …. water…. that with minimal effort can be brought up to potable standards. This water can be used to irrigate landscaping, agricultural land, stored in wildlife/ornamental ponds, or used in any other way non-potable water can be utilized. In drought conditions, when water is scarce, this system reclaims the usable water and makes it available for uses that would otherwise use potable water that would be better used for human and animal consumption.

These are my sixteen suggestions for potential uses of the Masonite property. It is a small list and needs to be fleshed out, reconsidered, discussed, added to, and made real. Right now these are just words, yet, with some effort, a grassroots development, not too different than the ideas contained within this post and future posts could come into existence. I will add the other posts as they are developed for your reading and comment, if you choose to do so.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/28/09

In Dave Smith on March 25, 2009 at 9:37 pm

From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

Friends of the Farmers Market,

Greetings.  As of this moment the Weather Channel is predicting a sunny 75 degree day for this Saturday’s farmers’ market.  If you have been sitting out the off-season market so far, this is a great chance to start getting back into shape for the summer.

The fish selection started to broaden last week.  Given the mild weather this week, I would expect a good range of options again this week.

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, Mendocino Organics has started vending in the back Southern corner of the pavilion.

Saturday will be your last chance in the off-season market to catch Jerry Krantman’s eclectic acoustic originals and cover tunes at the Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Hopefully we can find a date that works for Jerry in the summer season as well.

My column in the UDJ this coming Friday delves into the complexities of determining if and when to let distant farms sell at our market.  To take the issue a bit further, I thought I would invite you to share your thoughts about whether we should invite Neufeld Farm, the vendor who has been bringing dried fruits to the winter market, to keep coming during the regular season. Neufeld’s production in is Kingsberg CA, a bit south of Fresno.  So, the fruit is coming a fairly long way. Their production in the summer would include fresh fruits, some of which (like peaches) would overlap with local sources and some of which would not.  If you care to, please share your opinion.

Now for this week’s educational installment, here is a bit from the TimesOnline/UK forwarded by Friends of the Market member Terry Nieves.

10 Things We Didn’t Know About Food

How the authors of the new Rough Guide to Food lost their appetites for the

food industry.

by George Miller and Katharine Reeve

A surprise consequence of writing a book about food was that we lost our appetite. A month in, we realised we had underestimated just how devastating the effects of our industrial food systems are on our health, animal welfare, climate change and the earth’s resources.

Thankfully, a few trips to some farmers markets with their good news story of artisan baking, handmade cheeses and fresh-from-the-ground veg offered the escapism we needed and helped provide a sense of perspective.

Food, lies and red tape

Overwhelmingly we found that most of us simply don’t know much about food, having grown up knowing only supermarkets. In our confusion we are at the mercy of food manufacturers’ aggressive marketing campaigns, especially for highly profitable “healthy” foods.

Keep reading 10 Things… at Times OnLine→

The Fierce Urgency of Now

In Climate Change Series, Dave Smith on March 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm

[The car-centric dinosaur Masonite Monster Mall feeds the Climate Change disaster rather than alleviating it. We need transitions to inviting, walkable, bikable, sustainable, small towns run with renewable energy systems... with jobs based on organic farming and localized, appropriate technology. -DS]

Yes, windmills and dams deface the landscape but the climate crisis demands immediate action

From Bill McKibben

Don’t be too “Canadian” about the backlash – this is no time for Mr. Nice Guy

Watching the backlash against clean energy projects build in Canada has moved me to think about what Americans have learned from facing this same problem. I have been thinking and writing for several years about overcoming conflict-avoidance and the importance of standing up for “Big Truths” even at the price of criticizing fellow environmentalists.

It’s not that I’ve developed a mean streak. It’s that the environmental movement has reached an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don’t.

By get, I don’t mean understanding the chemistry of carbon dioxide, or the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, or those kinds of things – pretty much everyone who thinks of themselves as an environmentalist has reached that point. By get, I mean understanding that the question is of transcending urgency, that it represents the one overarching global civilizational challenge that humans have ever faced.

In the U.S., there are all manner of fights to stop or delay every imaginable low-carbon technology. Wind, solar, run-of-river hydro – these are precisely the kinds of renewable energy that every Earth Day speech since 1970 has trumpeted. But now they are finally here – now that we’re talking about particular projects in particular places – people aren’t so keen.

Opponents of renewable energy projects point out (correctly) that they have impacts – there are (overstated) risks to birds from wind turbines, to fish from run-of-river hydro, that the projects mean “development” somewhere there was none and transmission lines where there were none before.

They point out (again correctly) that the developers are private interests, rushing to develop a resource that, in fact, they do not own, and without waiting for the government to come up with a set of rules and processes for siting such installations.

The critics also insist that there’s a “better” site somewhere – and again they’re probably right. There’s almost always a better site for anything. The whole business is messy, imperfect.

If we had decades to burn, then perhaps the opponents would be right that there’s a better site, and a nicer developer. There’s always a better site and a nicer developer. But in the real world, we have at most 10 years to reverse the fossil fuel economy. Which means we have to do everything quickly – conservation and plug-in cars and solar panels and compact fluorescents and 100-mile food and tree planting. And windmills, windmills everywhere there is wind, just like off the shores of Europe.

Keep reading The Fierce Urgency of Now at The Toronto Star via Common Dreams→

A Call for an Equitable and Sustainable Economy

In Around the web on March 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Dear fellow business leaders and social entrepreneurs,
To review and sign this letter, please click on this link and sign by Tuesday, March 31st.

To: White House Offices: The Office of Public Liaison/Dept. of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Engagement; and The Council on Environmental Quality
From: American Sustainable Business Council
Subject: A Call for an Equitable and Sustainable Economy
Date: March 31, 2009

This document was written by business executives and social entrepreneurs who are working to create a more equitable and sustainable economy. The undersigned individuals are the chief executives of mission-driven businesses, social enterprises, and sustainable business networks representing hundreds of thousands of employees, members and leaders, and hundreds of billions in economic activity.

We have been very pleased with the leadership and transparency of the Obama Administration to revitalize the U.S. economy. Our council and partners are working to build on this momentum with new thinking on a critical but often overlooked segment of the economy: mission-driven enterprises.

We believe it is time to create the foundation and framework for a transition to a new, 21st century American economy grounded in principles of sustainability and equity. We need to move beyond the politics and business of the past to create the innovative solutions—enterprises, collaborations, and ideas—necessary for accelerating such a transformation.

While our recommendations come from a variety of sources, this community is unified in the conviction that the current economic, social and environmental crises we are facing are rooted in inequitable and unsustainable practices and structures that must be transformed if there is to be a renewal of hope and prosperity. As Einstein famously stated, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

An overarching strategy behind our recommendations is for government to empower the engines of our economy—businesses and social enterprises—to be the agents of recovery and revitalization. By removing obstacles, creating incentives, providing support, and partnering, government can help create an enabling environment in which restorative, equitable and sustainable economic models can thrive. These recommendations will unleash the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation across all sectors and disciplines to confront and solve the economic, social and environmental problems we are now facing.

In this document, we share high level perspectives and recommendations in major policy categories and offer examples of changes we consider to be effective and feasible in the current political climate. As a companion to this proposal, this council will be working in collaboration with others to launch an ongoing, comprehensive multi-stakeholder initiative to aggregate, synthesize and prioritize the most effective policy recommendations that promote equitable and sustainable economic reform.

Keep reading→

Stark Choice: Masonite Monster Mall…

In Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition on March 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm


Transition Town Ukiah


Masonite Transition Park
(Appropriate Technology Center)

:: Stay tuned in to Ukiah Blog ::

Art, Independence and Spirit – Van Gogh, Brenda Ueland

In Books, Dave Smith on March 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

From Brenda Ueland
Excerpted from If You Want To Write (1939)
Still in print

If you read the letters of the painter Van Gogh you will see what his creative impulse was. It was just this: he loved something—the sky, say. He loved human beings. He wanted to show human beings how beautiful the sky was. So he painted it for them. And that was all there was to it.

When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. He sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lampost, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: “It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.” And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

When I read this letter of Van Gogh’s it comforted me very much and seemed to throw clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I had thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about design and balance and getting interesting planes into your painting, and avoided, with the most stringent severity, showing the faintest academical tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and on.

But the moment I read Van Gogh’s letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it.

Keep reading→

You’re not here to become an entertainer…

In Around the web on March 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm

From Karl Paulnack, welcoming address to freshman students at Boston Conservatory of Music [thanks to Dave Pollard, who thanks Beth P for the link -DS]

If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at 2:00 AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8:00 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

Marching Orders – Masonite Monster Mall

In Around the web on March 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm

5/23/09 Ukiah, North California

Dear Mr. Smith,

There are reasons most of us members of “Mendocino County Tomorrow” cannot identify ourselves as we march to assemble signatures for “Mendocino Crossings”, or Developers Diversified Realty, or whatever you want to call us. Yes, DDR/”Mendocino Crossings” is our sponsor with their $1,000 gift, and are helping us in many other ways*.

And it’s true we’re not actually a legally registered non-profit organization. But this is all about profit. In fact, most of us were hoping to profit directly on DDR’s coattails, before their stock prices fell from $70 to $2 a share. You can understand why we wouldn’t want our names associated with that, either.

And some of us were silenced at our very first meeting of “Mendocino County Tomorrow”, when that micro-economist “expert” from Sonoma State, Rob Eyler, told us that DDR’s mall there would create the worst possible outcome for economic development in Mendocino County. The room sure was quiet then, and we’ve been silent since. Silence really is golden!

But many of us are Realtors® and other business men and women in Ukiah, and would not like to be singled out for a boycott. If people in town knew we were collaborating with DDR’s hoax, selling our neighbors out, we’re afraid we’d be tarred and feathered! So we’re forced to operate by stealth, hoping that we can dupe enough people into signing a petition – you know, in the interests of democracy.

Not all of us are proud of our roles in this end run around the County planning processes, the elected officials and the will of the citizens. It’s hard for some of us to swallow this line about “taking it to the people”, especially after that last election. It’s really all about leapfrogging over the public. But with this petition, there won’t be any environmental review of the Masonite site. We’ll be saving the public a lot of time looking at that old dump. No “Love Canal” here!

I know that some have characterized this petition thing as some kind of “corporate hostile takeover”. That is so not us! We are not hostile, not at all. We are your neighbors, your associates and business partners. We just prefer to remain nameless. Think of us as your special “Secret Friends”. Others have already called us “collaborators”, as if we’re some kind of “fifth column”. Where do people get those ideas? And as for that sarcastic guy calling us “Mendocino County Yesterday”? Well, I think you can understand why we don’t want our names in the paper!

I wish I could say more, but I have to rush off to a “Board” meeting, if I can find it. Perhaps I can come out later, contact you, and we can discuss this more. Please don’t print my name, or put this in any stupid “blog”.

Very best,


Mendocino County Tomorrow

*PS:   See enclosure above. DDR/ “Mendocino Crossings” really helped us on the “Mendocino County Tomorrow” website!

[A letter we have yet to see from "Mendocino County Tomorrow" -EJ]

Give Obama more time…

In Around the web on March 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Give Obama more time. Then give him hell.

The president has had only two months -  harsh judgments are premature

From Andrew Sullivan

The former New York City mayor Ed Koch was renowned for strolling about Manhattan when he was in office, grabbing strangers by the lapel and asking, “How am I doing?” This is not exactly Barack Obama’s style – he shimmers around, with a dry but beguiling smile that seems to say, “Don’t touch me” – but others are doing it for him. In an age of 24-hour news channels, millions of blogs and columnists vying to stay above the bloggerrhoeic tide, there is a real urge to make a clear and instant judgment.

I’m not going to do it, because, two months after a president has taken office in the middle of a global financial and economic crisis, as he grapples with two unending wars and a battered constitution, the whole idea of a definitive judgment is loopy. It’s also likely to be wrong. If you had judged the last Bush administration at this point, you would have said it was much better than expected. If you’d judged Bill Clinton in March 1993, you’d have said he was the most incompetent, clueless, chaotic manager the White House had survived. Now look at history’s judgment.

However, there’s a case for feeling that Obama is floundering. He has yet to solve the banking crisis, his Treasury is horrifyingly understaffed and he somehow allowed a bunch of incompetents and thieves at AIG to walk off with massive bonuses under his nose. His stimulus package was too controlled by the Democrats in Congress and is too spread out into 2010 to have a big impact now, when it’s most needed. He is trying to take on too many things at once – from climate change and healthcare reform to engaging Iran and reforming Pakistan. The aura of his campaign has waned as the poetry of insurgency has segued into the deadly and often ungrammatical prose of government. He seemingly still can’t speak without a teleprompter.

Keep reading Give Obama more time at TimesOnline

Myth One – Industrial Agriculture Will Feed The World

In Books, Dave Smith, Industrial Agriculture on March 23, 2009 at 6:17 am

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/23/09 Ukiah, North California

The Truth
World hunger is not created by lack of food but by poverty and landlessness, which deny people access to food. Industrial agriculture actually increases hunger by raising the cost of farming, by forcing tens of millions of farmers off the land, and by growing primarily high-profit export and luxury crops.

There is no myth about the existence of hunger. It is estimated that nearly 800 million people go hungry each day. And millions live on the brink of disaster, as malnutrition and related illnesses kill as many as 12 million children per year. Famine continues in the 21st century, though few of us are aware of the truly global nature of the problem. In Brazil, 70 million people cannot afford enough to eat, and in India, 200 million go hungry every day. Even in the United States, the world’s number one exporter of food, 33 million men, women, and children are considered among the world’s hungry.

There is, however, a myth about what is causing this tragic hunger epidemic and what it will take to alleviate it. Industrial agriculture proponents spend millions on advertising campaigns each year claiming that people are starving because there is not enough food to feed the current population, much less a continually growing one. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? 10 billion by 2030″ proclaimed an old headline on Monsanto’s Web page. The company warns of the “growing pressures on the Earth’s natural resources to feed more people” and claims that low-technology agriculture “will not produce sufficient crop yield increases to feed the world’s burgeoning population.” Their answer is pesticide- and technology-intensive agriculture that will produce the maximum output from the land in the shortest amount of time. Global food corporations, they say, will have to serve as “saviors” of the world’s hungry.

Keep Reading→

First day of Spring

In Around the web on March 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

From Janie Sheppard

Urban Organic Food Growing in Havana

A delightful 8-minute video of organic gardening in Cuba. Great music, old cars, a handsome narrator with a great British accent. Happy farmers and reformed bureaucrats.

Click on Title (First Day of Spring) above to get full screen


This is going to piss you off…

In Around the web on March 21, 2009 at 7:07 am

From Dave Smith

“Short selling hedge funds lit the spark that led to the global economic meltdown. Now they want to help craft the laws Congress will pass to fix our broken regulatory system. That’s insane.”

Go to: Hedge funds and the Global Economic Meltdown (Video)

Hat tip The Automatic Earth

From Michael Moore


I am in the middle of shooting my next movie and I am looking for a few brave people who work on Wall Street or in the financial industry to come forward and share with me what they know. Based on those who have already contacted me, I believe there are a number of you who know “the real deal” about the abuses that have been happening. You have information that the American people need to hear. I am humbly asking you for a moment of courage, to be a hero and help me expose the biggest swindle in American history.

Keep reading Will you help me with my next film?

The hype is spilling over from south of the border

In James Houle on March 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

From Jim Houle

3/20/09 Ukiah, North California

Since Sunday March 15th we have been hit with one of those Talk Show Tsunamis that always leave us trying to sniff out the Washington hype from the real goods. What are they saying?

- Mexico is losing control of its cities to drug gangs and could collapse.
- Mexico is close to becoming a failed state.
- 2000 weapons each day are shipped into Mexico from the wide-open gun dealers in the US.
- Drug syndicate criminals are infiltrating the US.
- This situation is our top priority: Homeland Security Czar Napolitano.
- Its a serious problem: Secretary of Defense Gates.
- US Embassy in Mexico City tries to dampen it down: “The US had no intention of sending troops into Mexico”.
- DEA’s top intelligence official Antony Placido believes: “Calderon is making important strides against the cartels. The violence we see is actually a signpost of success.”
- Obama says he’s considering putting troops on the border.
- Chief of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen says he is willing to supply unmanned drones and helicopters to chase down the Mexican drug mafia.
- Bay Buchanon (Pat’s lethal sister) says Calderon and his government are down for the count. Without a US rescue operation Mexico will soon become a narco-state.
- Sen Joe Lieberman says he’s: “looking into potential implications of increased terrorist activity”. (Does he mean the increased activity is potential or that the implications he foresees are still potential? In other words that they don’t even exist at this point in time.)

The current hype leaves one to ask “Qui Bono” – who benefits from this sudden tsunmai? The parroting of this story in almost identical language in all of our remaining newspapers coast to coast and on the major TV news broadcasts suggests the dead hand of the Pentagon’s War Justification Unit. We know them only too well from the buildup to Iraq. The stationing of a sizable US military force on the Mexican border has not happened since 1914 when we dispatched 11,000 troops across the border and occupied Veracruz. The Mexicans rose up in revolt against this and the entire power structure was toppled in the 1920′s . It took another half century for the wealthy land-owners to regain the full hegemony they and their northern partners now enjoy over the Mexican economy. Keep reading→

Selling Out America

In Around the web on March 19, 2009 at 10:32 pm

From Ron Epstein

Blame Wall Street for the current financial crisis. Investment banks, hedge funds and commercial banks made reckless bets using borrowed money. They created and trafficked in exotic investment vehicles that even top Wall Street executives — not to mention firm directors — did not understand. They hid risky investments in off balance-sheet vehicles or capitalized on their legal status to cloak investments altogether.

They engaged in unconscionable predatory lending that offered huge profits for a time, but led to dire consequences when the loans proved unpayable. And they created, maintained and justified a housing bubble, the bursting of which has thrown the United States and the world into a deep recession, resulted in a foreclosure epidemic ripping apart communities across the country.

But while Wall Street is culpable for the financial crisis and global recession, others do share responsibility. For the last three decades, financial regulators, Congress and the executive branch have steadily eroded the regulatory system that restrained the financial sector from acting on its own worst tendencies. The post-Depression regulatory system aimed to force disclosure of publicly relevant financial information; established limits on the use of leverage; drew bright lines between different kinds of financial activity and protected regulated commercial banking from investment bank-style risk taking; enforced meaningful limits on economic concentration, especially in the banking sector; provided meaningful consumer protections (including restrictions on usurious interest rates); and contained the financial sector so that it remained subordinate to the real economy. This hodge-podge regulatory system was, of course, highly imperfect, including because it too often failed to deliver on its promises.

But it was not its imperfections that led to the erosion and collapse of that regulatory system. It was a concerted effort by Wall Street, steadily gaining momentum until it reached fever pitch in the late 1990s and continued right through the first half of 2008. Even now, Wall Street continues to defend many of its worst practices. Though it bows to the political reality that new regulation is coming, it aims to reduce the scope and importance of that regulation and, if possible, use the guise of regulation to further remove public controls over its operations.

Keep reading Sold Out (pdf file)

Local Food from the South Lawn of the White House (Updated)

In Around the web on March 19, 2009 at 8:58 pm

[It doesn't get much better than this! -DS]

By Marian Burros

New York Times

Published: March 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

Keep reading  Obamas To Plant Vegetable Garden at White House at NYT→


First lady breaks ground on Kitchen Garden


The coming great cook-out? Part 1 of 4

In Climate Change Series on March 19, 2009 at 8:18 am

From Don Sanderson

3/19/09 Ukiah, North California

That global warming is occurring has become obvious here in Northern California. As I am writing this paragraph, it is now the second week in December, we still have tomatoes and peppers ripening in our garden. Last year, some made it until Thanksgiving, a November first here in the experience of a 90 year old friend and native.

We are now entering a citrus climate, so what’s not to love? Avocados next? Mangos? Beginning last winter and continuing though this fall, except for a brief rainy spell, we have had a high pressure system above more typical of summer. When we have had frosts, the cold hasn’t come from the north, but from loss of ground heat to the empty sky typical of a desert. We now have had rainfall amounts characteristic of areas several hundred miles south and water shortages are becoming critical. The creek in front of our home, which typically still has had pools into July, emptied in May last year and early April this – fifteen years ago it was nearly perennial and hosted successfully spawning steelhead. Fires that burned all over the area early in the summer are forcing winemakers to filter the smoke chemicals out of their wine.

Funny, though I point out to others that these are likely effects of global warming and may be expected to get worse, it doesn’t appear to be changing anyone’s behavior. From discussions, many seem to feel that ‘they’ will fix it, whoever ‘they’ are. Besides, some of my friends are reading that some ‘authorities’ are saying that this will only increase land for agriculture in the north – if climate change is indeed happening, which these persons doubt.

A mid-January, 2009, addendum: we finally had a frost in mid-December followed by a couple inches of rain; the creek remains dry and warm sunny days are predicted for a week or more into the future. In late January, 2009, still no more rain, local lakes are at record lows, and we are reading the news of terrible droughts in Argentina and Australia. Perth is in danger of becoming uninhabitable.

Early March, 2009, addendum: we’ve had maybe 7 or 8 inches of light rain since the middle of February and the creek is running, though I can now step across at some places without getting wet; will that get us through the summer? It was just reported that Lake Mendocino’s water level is now at 55 percent, whereas it was at 96 percent at this time last year, so let’s not hold our breaths. I learned a week ago or so that the Colorado Plateau drought, which is now more than 11 years old, is threatening the water supplies of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Diego, and so on. It appears we should be expecting this situation of confront us soon. Meanwhile, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the forecast is more of the same – well, maybe a sprinkle. Keep reading→

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/21/09

In Dave Smith on March 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm

From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

3/18/09 Ukiah, North California


Did you know that the makers of Terra Savia olive oils, a treat that you can pick up regularly at the Saturday Ukiah Farmers’ market also make some great wines from organic grapes?  Two of their releases from last Fall recently

won medals at this year’s Grand Harvest Competition in Sonoma County.  The 05 Reserve Petit Verdot won Silver and the 05 Reserve Cabernet won Bronze. They were competing with over 1600 entries from North America, Europe, thePacific Rim and South America.  Here’s more information on the Grand Harvest Competition.  Wines bottled by the grape grower using their own grapes can actually be sold at our farmers’ market. Why don’t you stop by and encourage them to bring some to the market this season?

Speaking of wine, if you visit Tierra Art, Garden, Wine on — just up the street from the market at 312 North School St — and show off what you purchased at the farmers’ market, I understand they will give you a discount.

For those of you who missed them, Mad Scientist Game will play their acoustic jug rock at this Saturday’s market.  Come experience music made with a plastic water bottle.

Check the Market Message column in Friday’s paper for my thoughts in response to DDRs suggestion that they may include a farmers’ market in their proposed shopping mall at the old Masonite site.

Hope to see you at the market Saturday.

In case you want to learn how to grow your own fruit to market in future seasons, here is a worthy event:

The Butler Cherry Ranch Project is sponsoring a free grafting workshop with master orchardist Patrick Schaffer on Saturday March 28. He will demonstrate techniques and participants will get to graft cherries and peaches.

The event, at the Butler Community Orchard at Ridgewood Ranch, will begin at 10 a.m. with a tour led by orchard manager and biodynamic expert Charles Martin. The demonstration and practice session will follow. Bring a bag lunch and water.

The back up date in case of rain is April 4 but if the weather looks rainy the day before, please call 463-2736 for an update.

Go 5 miles north on 101 beyond Reeves Canyon. Turn left at Ridgewood Ranch and follow the road downhill, making a right at the sign for the ranch and La Vida School. Continue west/southwest past Seabiscuit’s barn and the Golden Rule parking lot. Turn right on Maple Ln. and head west past outbuildings and across the creek. The orchard is on the left. Parking is available at the orchard site. The Cherry Ranch Project is sponsored by Cloud Forest Institute.

Fatal Harvest – The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture

In Books, Dave Smith, Industrial Agriculture on March 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

3/17/09 Ukiah, North California

Industrial agriculture is devastating our land, water, and air, and is now threatening the sustainability of the biosphere. Its massive chemical and biological inputs cause widespread environmental havoc as well as human disease and death. Its monoculturing reduces the diversity of our plants and animals. Its habitat destruction endangers wildlife. Its factory farming practices cause untold animal suffering. Its centralized corporate ownership destroys farm communities around the world, leading to mass poverty and hunger. The industrial agriculture system is clearly unsustainable. It has truly become a fatal harvest.

However, despite these devastating impacts, the industrial paradigm in agriculture still gets a free ride from our media and policy makers. It is rare to hear questioning, much less a call for the overthrow, of this increasingly catastrophic food production system. This troubling quiescence can be attributed, in part, to the enormous success that agribusiness has had in utilizing the ”big lie,” a technique familiar to all purveyors of propaganda. Corporate agriculture has flooded, and continues to inundate the public with self-serving myths about modern food production. For decades, the industry has effectively countered virtually every critique of industrial agriculture with the ”big lie” strategy.

These agribusiness myths have become all too familiar. Most farmers, activists, and policy makers who question the industrial food paradigm know the litany of lies by heart: industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world, to provide us with safe, nutritious, cheap food, to produce food more efficiently, to offer us more choices, and, of all things, to save the environment. Additionally, when confronted with the indisputable environmental and health impacts of industrial agriculture, the industry immediately points to technological advances, especially recent achievements in biotechnology, as the panacea that will solve all problems. These claims are broadcast far and wide by way of industry lobbying efforts, product promotions, and multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns, including television, newspaper, magazine, farm journal, and radio ads. Moreover, as the industry becomes more consolidated-with biotech companies owning the seed and chemical businesses and a handful of companies controlling a majority of seeds and food brands — the strategies for promulgating these myths become ever more concerted and the messages ever more honed. Archer Daniels Midland is now known to us all as the ”supermarket to the world,” while Monsanto offers us ”Food, Health, Hope.”

These myths about industrial agriculture have been, and are being, repeated so often that they are taken as virtually unassailable. A central goal of [these essays] is to conceptually debunk the myths that have for too long been used to promote and defend industrial agriculture. This myth busting is an essential step in exposing the impacts of current agriculture practices and educating the public about the realities of the food they are consuming.

We identify the seven central myths of industrial agriculture, note their assumptions and dangers, and provide direct and clear refutations. This is specifically designed to provide consumers, activists, and policy makers with clear, compact, and concise answers to counter the industry’s well-funded misinformation campaigns about the benefits of industrial agriculture. We encourage you to utilize these seven short essays whenever you are faced with the ”big lies” being used by corporate agribusiness to hide the true effects of their fatal harvest.

Myth One – Industrial Agriculture Will Feed The World

Myth Two – Industrial Food Is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious
Myth Three – Industrial Food Is Cheap
Myth Four -  Industrial Agriculture Is Efficient

Myth Five -  Industrial Food Offers More Choices

Myth Six – Industrial Agriculture Benefits the Environment and Wildlife
Myth Seven – Biotechnology Will Solve the Problems of Industrial Agriculture

Excerpted with permission
Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture

Edited by Andrew Kimbrell
Published by Island Press


See also Ingredients of Kraft Guacamole

…and We Will Need Fifty Million Farmers

Digging their way out of recession

In Around the web on March 17, 2009 at 8:37 pm

From The Economist

IN 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged a return to the “victory gardens” that had become popular during the first world war, when the country faced food shortages. Mrs Roosevelt planted a garden at the White House; some 20m Americans followed her lead, and by the end of the war grew 40% of the nation’s vegetables.

Now a grassroots movement wants Barack Obama to plant another White House victory garden. The new secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that his department would create “The People’s Garden” out of a paved area outside their building. And he won’t stop there. Mr Vilsack wants there to be a community garden at each of the department’s offices around the world.

Margaret Lloyd, a researcher on victory gardens at the University of California at Davis, finds many reasons for this new national trend. The recession is one; but people are also worried about food safety, want to eat more healthily, and are bothered about climate change. This may be a way to make a difference.

If Washington needs further inspiration it might examine the movement in Bill Clinton’s former stamping-ground. Although Arkansas is an agricultural state, urban gardening has not always been popular. But now victory gardens are springing up in backyards, school grounds and even on front lawns in posh neighbourhoods. Many gardeners are focusing on “heirloom” plants—rare varieties from earlier times that do not appeal to agribusiness.

Keep reading Digging… at The Economist→

A recent survey conducted by the National Gardening Association confirms that vegetable gardening in the United States is on the rise… Go to Recession spurs millions of new gardeners

The petrocollapse and the economic crisis have a bright side; they will be the catalyst for the rebirth of the local small farm. These will be the kinds of farms that we need: diverse, educational , and organic… Go to Small Farm Renaissance

The idea of investing in new home construction and high-end restaurant businesses would send most entrepreneurs running these days, but developers in a small community in rural Georgia say they’re still growing… Go to Contemporary commune bucks housing crash

Hat tip Energy Bulletin
Image: Victory Garden Poster, WWII, Wikipedia Commons

Chore Time

In Dave Smith, Garden Farm Skills on March 17, 2009 at 9:27 am

From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

As far back into childhood as I can remember, every morning and every evening I went to the barn to “do chores.”  “Chores” on the farm then (and now) meant feeding the chickens and livestock, gathering the eggs, and milking the cows. This work must be done every day come hell or high water—- especially come hell or high water. I did chores even in seminary college— I  much preferred being in the barn than in chapel. That’s how it finally dawned on me that the priestly life was not for me, so I can say with all honesty that doing chores guided me to my true place in life.  I am still doing chores although I have bowed to age and given up everything except sheep and chickens.

In childhood, I didn’t always go to the barn happily, but now, except in the coldest weather, I still prefer my barn to any church or any public meetinghouse. Farm animals are so appreciative of getting fed and watered and when you get to know them well, they make good company. They are always glad to see me and do not try to tell me how to vote or pray. If you have only a few of each, they become your friends or at least your close acquaintances, each with his or her own personality. When I shell a little corn off the cob by hand to feed to the hens, one of them, always the same one, parks herself right between my feet to get the first kernels that fall. More than once I have stumbled on her. Our golden-feathered rooster is so utterly vainglorious that when I watch him strut about the barnyard, I can’t help but think of Donald Trump.

Keep reading Chore Time at→

FDR Welcoming Hatred of the Fat Cats

In Dave Smith on March 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

““We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. … Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me. And I welcome their hatred!”

Pink Friday

In Dave Smith on March 16, 2009 at 4:23 pm

From Annie Esposito

3/16/09 Ukiah, North California

Friday the 13th was Pink Friday all over the state – including Mendocino County.  Teachers and supporters wore pink to protest the pink slips being given to teachers.  About 60 teachers here could be affected.  A crossing guard wearing a pink muffler, a teacher on traffic duty with a pink necktie – made a rosy picture.

But of course the big picture is not.  And teachers face the brunt of the steady decline in enrollment and the budget crisis.  Superintendent Lois Nash promised to take the same cuts as everyone else.  But one teacher noted that it’s different when you get in the negotiating room:  A lawyer represents the superintendent in negotiations.  And teachers are on their own.  Cutbacks could include school closings – and Hopland could lose its local school.

A spirited group of teachers “pinked” in front of the County Court House; they got loud support from cars traveling past the scene.  The teachers marched to Grace Hudson museum for a party and to hear announcements.  They will be waiting for the May Budget Revise to learn more about their fate.  Teachers are asking for creative ways to save money – other than the quick and easy axe.

Lipsticking The Pig – Masonite Monster Mall

In Dave Smith on March 16, 2009 at 8:37 am

From Dave Smith

3/15/09 Ukiah, North California

Letter To The Editors

Our community is gearing up once again to keep the Masonite site available for living-wage jobs as a light industrial site, rather than permitting DDR to change its zoning so they can impose a Monster Mall on our citizens, colonizing our county, sucking revenue and profits out to distant absentee owners from our small towns and communities, devastating our locally-owned, independent businesses, crushing our small business entrepreneurial  spirit, and reducing our job seekers to non-living wages with no benefits. Two County Supervisors have lost their jobs, and several City Council candidates were defeated, for supporting this travesty. What part of our resounding NO don’t DDR, and its local enabler Ruff and Associates, understand?

Corporate retailers have so eroded our sense of community that they think they can sell it back to us in the form of superficial design concepts. To overcome opposition on the part of city planners and elected officials, DDR has made a big show of redesigning their original Monster Mall plans “to better fit the community” by adding amenities, like pockets of “green space” and pedestrian walkways that snake alongside parking lots to add a suggestion of walkability to their project built entirely for cars, and solar powered parking lots. This is standard operating procedure that mall builders have used to hoodwink communities for many years.

These revisions are presented to us as major concessions and meant to make county planners feel as though they are doing their jobs by holding a tough line with the developer and even forging a legitimate compromise with citizens who oppose their project. But they are obscuring the real issues by putting lipstick on the pig. You can’t put cosmetics on a bad concept and expect it to work. It won’t work, and we’re not going to allow the project.

Another common ruse is to depict themselves as responsible and involved members of the community by donating to various local causes and charities, then manipulate the publicity to further the corporation’s goals. One community charity  in another town celebrated with one of those blown-up checks from Wal-Mart for $500. That Wal-Mart store was doing upwards of $100 million in sales, a big chunk of it stolen from downtown merchants.

The most critical question about corporate retailers charitable giving, rarely asked, is whether their donations actually make up for the contributions lost when locally owned businesses close in their wake. WalMart donated $170 million in 2004, which actually works out to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of revenue, the equivalent of someone who earns $35,000 a year giving $21 to charity. Why did Target, with no local presence, recently donate to a local charity?

We will vote NO on any initiatives DDR puts on the ballot to change the zoning on the Masonite property. History has moved on, malls are dinosaurs, and our community will defend itself and create its own unique future.

[Thanks to Big Box Swindle for some of the above info. -DS]

See also The Mall Man’s Dreams For Ukiah at The AVA→

…and More Big Box Marts Coming To Ukiah?→

…and The Wal-Mart Dilemma

…and Muy Mall Meltdown


…and what about the malls here soon to be abandoned?
The Parable of the Shopping Mall
(Alexander Cockburn) at→
Hat tip Jim Houle

Images Credit: Evan Johnson

The Mall To Nowhere – Mendocino Crossings (Masonite Monster Mall)

In Guest Posts on March 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

From Cliff Paulin

3/16/09 Ukiah, North California

”Mendocino Crossings”:
A Metaphor for Our Time in the Ukiah Valley & Mendocino County

Much has been made of the proposed regional retail shopping center, Mendocino Crossings, being proposed by Developers Diversified Reality (DDR) at the former Masonite site just north of Ukiah.  While the name Mendocino Crossings was likely chosen by DDR to represent the Ukiah Valley as the county’s center of trade, the name also reflects the fact that our community faces a major decision concerning the direction we want to see our valley move in.

In the direction proposed by DDR, we have a model that promotes suburban sprawl: a development outside the city limits and urban core of Ukiah that requires conversion of valuable industrial land into an island of retail in a sea of parking lots.  This is a model that undermines local business, brings low wage service sector jobs, puts strain on city and county resources, brings increased traffic, and causes further homogenization of the unique character of our county.

In the other direction is community self determination that builds on local assets by constructing an infrastructure that will provide sustainable economic growth for the future via the reactivation of light industry, value creation for local products, the creation of living wage jobs, and the relocalization of our economy which is so vital in these uncertain times. Keep reading→

Living in the wasteland of the free – Iris Dement

In Dave Smith on March 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ’s disciples
but they don’t look like Jesus to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don’t tell me they don’t turn around and kiss them peoples’ ass
You may call me old-fashioned
but that don’t fit my picture of a true democracy
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got CEO’s making two hundred times the workers’ pay
but they’ll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
and If you don’t like it, mister, they’ll ship your job
to some third-world country ‘cross the sea
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
and we call ourselves the advanced civilization
that sounds like crap to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We got high-school kids running ’round in Calvin Klein and Guess
who cannot pass a sixth-grade written test
but if you ask them, they can tell you
the name of every crotch on MTV
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
but he’s standing up for what he believes in
and that seems pretty damned American to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free

Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free

While we sit gloating in our greatness
justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free

Our Town

And ya know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts
Go on now and kiss it goodbye
But hold on to your lover ’cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town

Our Town – Iris Dement on YouTube→

The Wal-Mart Dilemma

In Guest Posts on March 12, 2009 at 11:29 pm

From Dave Pollard (2003)

Please read this thorough and extraordinary article from Fast Company entitled The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know. If its length discourages you, read the following excerpt (emphasis mine), and you’ll want to go back and read the rest:

If Levi [Strauss] clothing is a runaway hit at Wal-Mart, that may indeed rescue Levi as a business. But what will have been rescued? The Signature line–it includes clothing for girls, boys, men, and women–is an odd departure for a company whose brand has long been an American icon. Some of the jeans have the look, the fingertip feel, of pricier Levis. But much of the clothing has the look and feel it must have, given its price (around $23 for adult pants): cheap. Cheap and disappointing to find labeled with Levi Strauss’s name. And just five days before the cheery profit news, Levi had another announcement: It is closing its last two U.S. factories, both in San Antonio, and laying off more than 2,500 workers, or 21% of its workforce. A company that 22 years ago had 60 clothing plants in the United States–and that was known as one of the most socially reponsible corporations on the planet–will, by 2004, not make any clothes at all. It will just import them.

The article brilliantly describes what I call the ‘Wal-Mart Dilemma’, which is represented by the cycle diagrammed at above in red.

The intervention in blue that can stop this ‘race to the bottom’ is anathema to ‘free’ traders. It says simply that if a product can reasonably be produced domestically, then duties and other regulations should be imposed to protect domestic producers. In other words, the alternative to ‘free’ trade is not no trade, but rather regulated trade, regulated to protect the economy and social fabric of the regulating country. That switches the cycle shown in red to the cycle shown in green.

Of course, it’s not all black and white, or we would have resisted the globalization extremists and wouldn’t be facing this dilemma today at all. In the red vicious cycle, the seduction is:

  • lower prices ‘every day’
  • low inflation

and the downside is:

  • low wages
  • low product quality
  • high unemployment
  • high poverty levels

The green cycle also is not perfect. Its seduction is:

  • high wages
  • high product quality
  • lower unemployment
  • lower poverty levels

and its downside is:

  • higher prices
  • higher inflation

You pays your money and you takes your choice. In my biased opinion, the vast majority of people are ahead with the green cycle, and the very rich few are ahead with the red cycle. Guess who’s lobbying and bribing governments for untrammeled globalization and ‘free’ trade? Contrary to what most of us are taught in school, modest inflation is the single most effective way to painlessly redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, because it allows debts to be repaid in ‘cheaper’ future dollars. There are environmental and social advantages to the green cycle as well. The use of slave labour is discouraged. Lax environmental laws in third world countries are not exploited as much. And if the red cycle gets out of control (some would argue it already has), a possible consequence is deflation, a terrible threat to the whole economy that we need to avoid like the plague.

Keep reading The Wal-Mart Dilemma at How To Save The World→

See also The Mall To Nowhere

and Wal-Mart chased out of Santa Rosa
Hat tip Steve Scalmanini

The Soil Is Our Liberator – Vandana Shiva

In Dave Smith on March 12, 2009 at 9:02 pm

From Vandana Shiva

Excerpted from a lecture
to the Soil Association conference,
One Planet Agriculture, England

There is increasingly reference to the Carbon Economy and I kind of shudder when carbon is addressed because carbon is what we eat also. I’d rather talk and differentiate between the fossil fuel existence of carbon and the renewable existence of carbon in embodied sunshine transformed into all the edible matter we have.

I differentiate between the fossil fuel economy of agriculture and the biodiversity economy of agriculture. One is a killing economy and one is a living economy. Interestingly the word ‘carbon’ is increasingly used as an equivalence term across the board and then everyone is being made afraid of every form of carbon, including living carbon.

If we add up the amount of fossil fuels that are going into food; take production, Pimentel has done all the calculations. We are using 10 times more calories in production of food than we get out as food. And there was a Danish study done some years ago. I remember I was at the conference where the environment minister laid out these figures. For a kilogram of food traveling around the world, it’s omitting 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide. So you are wasting a 10-fold amount in the production and then generating a 10-fold amount of carbon dioxide, all of it totally avoidable because better food is produced when you throw the chemicals out…

The part of GATT that really troubled me was something called TRIPS within it – the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement – basically an agreement forcing every country to patent life. To me it was a scandal so I went back and started to save seeds and have ended up doing a lot of the work as a result of just, in a way, keeping seed free and in farmers’ hands and not transformed into the property of giant corporations like Monsanto. But even I could not have imagined what we would go through in the decade to come.

One of the things that has taken us totally by surprise is a new epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Indian peasants have been so resilient. I’ve been in villages after disasters of floods and droughts and hurricanes, you have one season of a loss of agriculture, one season of having to struggle, and you are right back again. You rebuild your hut and you’re back on the field and you borrowed some seeds from somewhere and you’re farming again.

But the new industrialised globalised agriculture is doing something different, because it’s not like a natural disaster which you know will not be there in a permanent way. The first step in the globalised agriculture is dependency on what I call non-renewable seed. We’ve even made seed the very embodiment of life and its renewability behave like non-renewable fossil fuel – once and no more. When non-renewable seeds have to be bought each year, that’s a higher cost. Then they are sold as a monopoly with intellectual property royalties linked to it. The genetically engineered BT cotton, for example, costs about 2-300 rupees for a kilogram to produce. But when Monsanto sells it for 4,000 rupees a kilogram the rest is all royalty payment.

The seeds aren’t tested, they aren’t adapted, the same seeds are sold across different climate zones, they obviously don’t perform well. Instead of 1,500 kilograms per acre, farmers get 200, 300, sometimes total failure; add to this the fact that even if they have 300 kilograms of a bad cotton variety because its fiber is of a very inferior quality. And new studies that we have done are showing that there are huge allergies linked to it because what is BT cotton but toxic? 1,800 sheep died last year feeding on the plants. Anyone working in a mill where this Bt cotton is being used is getting allergies. Farmers who are collecting the cotton ball are getting allergies.

Linked to the fact that this is inferior cotton is the fact that in the United States there are $4 billion of subsidies linked to cotton, and now with these so-called ‘open markets’ the price has started to come down. In India, they’ve dropped to half. So your costs of production have gone up two, three, four times, sometimes 10 times, sometimes 100 times depending on what you were farming, and meantime what you are earning at the end of it has fallen to a third.

It’s a negative economy. Farmers get into debt, it’s unpayable debt. The people giving them the credit are the same as the salesmen and the agents at the local level. I don’t know how many of you read the Economist – it has a special article on the farmers’ suicides in India. We have been doing reports since the first farm suicide happened in ‘97. The first report was a 10 pager because only one farmer has killed himself, now there’s 150,000 farmers.

Keep reading→

Every idea considered except for Single Payer Health Care

In James Houle on March 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

From Jim Houle

3/12/09 Ukiah, North California

At last Thursday’s Health Care Forum, President Obama promised that “every voice will be heard, every idea considered and every option must be on the table”. But before the forum could even begin, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained, in reference to Single Payer Universal Health Care, that: “The President doesn’t believe that’s the best way to achieve the goal of cutting costs and increasing access”. No supporters of single payer were invited but at the last moment, Congressman John Conyers, single-payer’s leading advocate in Congress, was allowed to attend. Amy Goodman on Democracy Now 3/06/09 reported that single payer advocates had been largely silenced in the media. As media attention focused on the health care issue in early March, no advocates of a single payer health care plan were heard on any mainstream TV network and very few in the print media.

What is ‘Single Payer Universal Health Care’? It provides that all citizens will have their medical expenses paid for by the Federal Government (the single payer). There will be no insurance company involvement whatsoever. It will function much as the Medicare system, which pays all hospital costs for those over 65, has operated for the past 43 years.

What is Obama’s Alternative ‘Universal Heath Program’?: This program, still being fabricated in the White House, requires all who can afford it to purchase private health insurance and has the Federal Government pay for the insurance policies of those who cannot afford to pay themselves. The health care industry would continue to operate under the management of the private insurance industry, much as it does now, as a for-profit business.

How did this happen? Luke Mitchell in the Feb. 2009 issue of Harpers Magazine reports that “A single payer system would take a lot of money out of the private insurance system”. It’s also something that a lot of people in Washington understand as ideologically threatening, that is to say, they equate a single-payer system with what they call socialized medicine.” “There’s clearly a massive resistance to single-payer on the Hill.” Mitchell continues: “Obama himself said he favored a single-payer health plan in 2003 and has repeatedly said this was the best approach but there are a lot of built-in players to be dealt with. The ‘Universal Health Programs’ we are seeing an offer that basically acts to bribe those middlemen, the private health care insurers, into not complaining too much. It requires you to buy private insurance and if you can’t afford it, the government will fund you. So it’s not a market system exactly; its essentially government-funded private insurance. And the reason normal people might find it preferable is that they have a preference for what they think of as ‘market solutions’. They think these market solutions are just more efficient.”

Yet, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending under our privatized health care, double the proportion of Canada national health care plan (16.7 %). Average overhead among private U.S. insurers was 11.7 %, compared with 1.3 % for Canada’s single-payer system and 3.6 % for the US Medicare system run by the federal government and which pays hospital costs for all over age 65.

Keep Reading→

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/14/09

In Dave Smith on March 11, 2009 at 8:33 pm

From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

3/12/09 Ukiah, North California

Greetings. Before I advertise this more widely, one more chance for list members to respond… anyone have a family member who might be interested in becoming the Ukiah Saturday Farmers’ Market’s very own sign dancer?  Well, actually a sandwich board walker… but, it is a very spiffy sign.  And we can at least spring for one of those big foam hands to waive around.  Drop me a line if you know someone who might be interested in employment strolling around town for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.

FYI – our raffle basket for 4/4  – full of great vendor donations – still only has a few tickets sold.  It is a great opportunity to be a winner.  Stop by the Friends of MCFARM table soon to get your ticket.

This week at the market we will feature acoustic music by Josh Madsen.

See this very nice profile of new local farmer Paula Manalo of Mendocino Organics. Paula and Adam have been selling a bit more of their excellent organic/biodynamic produce at the market the last two weeks. Look for them in the South-West corner of the pavilion.

As you may have noticed, I strive to avoid political content in these messages. However, the following quote explaining a benefit of local food is too practical and spot on to let pass despite its White House source.  It is from a March 10 article in the New York Times.

“It’s like: How do we keep the calories down but keep the flavors up?” said Mrs. Obama, who also praised a healthy broccoli soup prepared by White House chefs.

“That’s one of the things that we’re talking a lot about,” she said. “When you grow something yourself and it’s close and it’s local, oftentimes it tastes really good.

“And when you’re dealing with kids, for example, you want to get them to try that carrot. Well, if it tastes like a real carrot and it’s really sweet, they’re going to think that it’s a piece of candy. So my kids are more inclined to try different vegetables if they’re fresh and local and delicious.”

The Cowboy and the Trapper

In Guest Posts on March 11, 2009 at 7:45 am

From Bruce Patterson
Anderson Valley

3/11/09 Ukiah, North California

Old enough to be my grandpa, Ole Claude was one of those rarest of breeds: a cowboy with ambition and an education. Ole Claude also had a serious sense of humor and he loved telling riddles. Like, he’d ask, it’s Friday night, the saloon has shut down and three cowboys are making their way back home to the ranch. They are sitting three across in the cab of a pickup truck that’s rolling dust down a long dirt road. Now, which one of them fellahs is the real cowboy?

And after you’d scratched your head and gazed at him in slack-jawed befuddlement, he’d answer that it’s obviously the fellah riding in the middle. That one ain’t gotta drive the pickup truck and he ain’t gotta get out and open the gate.

Claude having himself a college education meant he knew there was more to life than just cows, horses and dogs. There were sheep, for example. Contrary to what folks thought, Claude didn’t mind explaining, sheep weren’t all that much stupider than cattle. Like with any other sort of social critters , the degree of an individual sheep’s intelligence relied upon the size of the herd he was running with. The larger the herd, the rule was, the stupider the individual critter.

For instance, Claude would point out, if you get up one horse and one dog and you take after one wooly maverick buck that has gotten himself used to running free in these hills, you’d best be ready to expend some effort. For if the buck’s half-wily you can count on him heading for ground too steep for a horse and too brushy for a dog.

“You take after a lone old wooly up here in these hills,” Ole Claude would volunteer, “you’d best remember to pack a lunch.”

Whereas if it was one hundred head of sheep you were after, why sometimes just the sight of your ambling horse was enough to get the whole bunch of them all turned and heading the right way.

I suppose if I’d have asked Ole Claude if the same rule applied to us humans, we being social critters and all, he’d have frowned as if he’d never thought of it that way. He might pretend to ponder the question long and hard before answering in a gentlemanly tone something like, come to think of it, he reckoned he’d have to allow how that just could be some kind of possibility if you looked at it in the right way. Then he’d grin at you with a crooked little glint in his eye.

I used to love listening to Ole Claude telling stories. During the nineteen seventies and early eighties up in Yorkville, just after quitting time most days, Ole Claude would shuffle into the Oaks Cafe. Back then Yorkville was still mostly working ranches and when the day was done lots of us ranchers and hired hands, both newcomers like myself and old-timers like Claude, would polish our elbows on the bar. Some, like Marvin, would keep his black Stetson cocked low over his eyes and silently nurse cups of coffee. Others would sip beers and still others, mostly us young bucks, would knock them back.

Keep reading→

The aim is joy

In Garden Farm Skills, Guest Posts on March 10, 2009 at 11:21 am

From Gene Logsdon

I’ve taken lovely vacations over the years, but the latest one, at an exclusive hideaway we were lucky enough to know about, had to be the best ever. My idea of a good vacation is one that combines natural wonders with good food (the greatest natural wonder of all), hopefully convenient to exhibitions or programs of art or history not yet widely publicized, and so removed from the possibility of crowds and traffic jams. Places that offer such a rare combination are few and far between, and simply discovering this magical retreat was a keen pleasure.

I don’t know where to begin in telling you the delights of this vacation. We awoke on Saturday morning to a pervasive silence, broken only by the song of a wood thrush outside our window. We dined on an upper deck, where a flaming orange and black Baltimore oriole scolded us from a huge oak tree whose limbs reached out almost to our table. At one point, the blue flash of an indigo bunting streaked across the orange flame of oriole, and I jumped in delight. That so startled the lovely lady vacationing with me that she lost the strawberry she was spooning from her saucer, and the fruit bounced into the cream pitcher. Giggle, giggle. The strawberries came directly from the establishment’s own garden. Yeasty homemade bread also originated in the kitchen, and the eggs were fresh from a nearby barn—we could actually hear the hens cackling. The thick strips of drug- and hormone-free, hickory-smoked bacon came from hogs raised in that barn, too.

We decided to go bird-watching that morning, encouraged by the variety of birds we saw just from the breakfast table. We did not see the bobolinks rumored to have returned to the fields behind the hideaway, but I did spot a stocky lestes (Lestes dryas), a species of damselfly, resting in the meadow grass. Though lestes is not exactly an uncommon species in these parts, I had never seen this striking insect before. Its clear lacy wings spread out about an inch and a half; its body was nearly as long. Its abdomen, a little thicker than a darning needle, glinted metallic green in segments marked off by tiny black and whitish bands. Its thorax was shiny green on top, yellowish on the sides shading into rusty brown underneath. Its bulbous eyes were blue, and between them on the back of the prothorax, a yellow and black design, resembling somehow a monkey face, seemed to stare menacingly up at me. In front of the eyes, precise yellow and green lines marked the real mouth parts. What a fearsome sight the damselfly must appear to a mosquito.

Keep reading The aim is joy at Organic To Be

Healing The Mind – Thom Hartmann

In Books, Dave Smith on March 10, 2009 at 11:17 am

From Dave Smith

Don’t let the lightweight title, cover, and page-count fool you. This is a breakthrough book, and not just another self-help, happy-talk rip-off. This book can stand proudly next to the most academic 500-page Psychology tome, and replace much of the pop Psychology pap moldering on our bookshelves.

To be open to something so important, one first has to know who the author is, what he stands for, and why he can be trusted. I’ve read several of Thom Hartmann‘s books, and listened to his daily progressive radio program numerous times. I can only state emphatically: This is a gifted man we can trust. No woo-woo here. He’s the real deal.

The basics of the book are these:

1. Our bodies are self-healing if we feed it the right food and exercise it properly under the right conditions. Shouldn’t our minds and emotions also be self-healing?

2. Rhythmic, bilateral movement is the way we’ve healed ourselves from traumatic, psychological wounds for hundreds of thousands of years. But until now, we didn’t know how it worked.

3. Quote: “Bilaterality is the ability to have the right and left hemispheres of the brain fully functional and communicating with each other.”

4. Freud’s early, very successful work was based on Bilaterality techniques, but after some unfortunate, sensationalistic historical events, as detailed here, he was forced to abandon it for mostly unsuccessful “talk-therapy” methods. Freud tried, but failed, for years to find an equally-successful technique. This history is crucial to our understanding of why psychotherapy evolved the way it did.

5. Devastating events can haunt a person’s every waking moment for years. Some suffer war-caused “post traumatic stress disorders,” or allow a loved-one’s untimely death to ruin their lives… while others are able to move on. Just as we’ve learned to transform our physical health by eating organic food, exercising, and drinking pure water, now we know how to consciously bring ourselves back to a healthy mental state.

6. This discovery comes from Hartmann’s own training, observations and experiments, with dramatic results illustrated by case studies and testimonials.

7. Hartmann details a simple, five step self-therapy technique to use while walking.

8. Bilateral therapy has also been used by humans for less-traumatic problem solving, creativity, and motivation. Now we can train ourselves to use it consciously.

This book deserves a wide readership and word-of-mouth advocacy… especially to those whose lives have been darkened by tragedy.

Earth is dying, and so are you

In Dave Smith on March 10, 2009 at 11:15 am

from Richard B. Anderson

At the heart of the modern age is a core of grief.

At some level, we’re aware that something terrible is happening, that we humans are laying waste to our natural inheritance. A great sorrow arises as we witness the changes in the atmosphere, the waste of resources and the consequent pollution, the ongoing deforestation and destruction of fisheries, the rapidly spreading deserts and the mass extinction of species.

All these changes signal a turning point in human history, and the outlook is not particularly bright. The anger, irritability, frustration and intolerance that increasingly pervade our common life are symptoms associated with grief. The pervasive sense of helplessness and numbness that surrounds us, and the frantic search for meaning and questioning of religion and philosophy of life, are likewise often seen among those who must deal with overwhelming sorrow.

Grief is a natural reaction to calamity, and the stages of grief are visible in our reaction to the rapid decline of the natural world. There are a number of steps that people go through in the grief process. The first stage is often denial: “This can’t really be happening,” a feeling common among millions of Americans. Eighty percent of American adults say they are concerned about the environment, and there is some awareness of the gravity of our situation, yet a widespread awareness has yet to be felt in practical terms. We know the facts, but we’re ignoring in the interests of emotional survival.

The second stage of grief is often anger. We go into the “I’ll fight it” mode. Many environmental thinkers and activists put a lot of grief energy into constructive work. That energy is a factor in the undeniable successes of environmentalism, yet it is a sign of suffering and is probably a constraint on the intellectual vitality of the movement.

The third stage in the grief process is often despair. We feel that “no matter what I do, it’s still happening.” Because the planetary future seems so grim, it’s likely that many Americans have despaired, turning away from the quest for a meaningful solution.

The final stage of the grieving process, for those who can achieve it, often brings a more hopeful state of acceptance, even serenity. When we emerge from the bottom of despair, we may find the inner strength for a peaceful accommodation to reality. We can continue to take positive actions, but we are no longer in denial, rage or despair.

Even if we face the consequences of our assault on the natural environment, we may still find that the problems are too big, that there’s not much we can do. Yet those of us who feel this sorrow cannot forever deny it without suffering inexplicable disturbances in our own lives. It’s necessary to face our fear and our pain and to go through the process of grieving because the alternative is a sorrow deeper still: the loss of meaning. To live authentically in this time, we must allow ourselves to feel the magnitude of our human predicament.
Image: Bleeding Heart Dove (endangered)

Muy Mall Meltdown

In Dave Smith on March 9, 2009 at 7:12 am

From Grist

Mall-operating behemoth General Growth Properties plunges in value

Here’s a name that deserves a bit more attention in this financial meltdown: General Growth Properties, which owns, manages, or has interests in more than 200 shopping malls in 45 states. Staggering under a massive debt load and battered by the bad economy, General Growth looks headed for bankruptcy or a fire sale. As recently as last June, its shares fetched $40. Today, you can snap one up for less than 40 cents.

Does General Growth’s plight augur the un-malling of America? Maybe. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that:

Last year, [mall-based] retail sales on a per-square-foot basis in the top 54 U.S. markets declined by their greatest extent since the 1990-91 recession…. Vacancy rates at U.S. malls climbed to 7.1% in the fourth quarter, the highest rate since real estate research firm Reis Inc. started tracking the figure in 2000. And average rents have started to decline.

The mall industry, like so many industries in the modern global economy, thrives on rapid growth fueled by easy credit. Now credit has dried up, debt needs to be repaid, and sales growth has gone into reverse.

Time to start thinking about other economic models?

See also The Mall To Nowhere

The Zero-Value-Added ‘Broker Society’

In Dave Smith on March 9, 2009 at 6:11 am

From Dave Pollard

  • a better solution for health insurance is Universal Single Payer health coverage
  • a better solution for home and car insurance is Universal Single Payer no-fault loss coverage
  • a better solution for unemployment insurance is a negative income tax
  • a better solution for life insurance is a negative income tax and a 100% estate and excess wealth tax
  • a better solution for mortgage insurance is to transfer all risks of default for reasons beyond the mortgagee’s control, to the mortgagor

Keep reading Why Insurance Makes No Sense…

Mendocino County’s Debt Management

In Guest Posts on March 9, 2009 at 5:35 am


The eight things that should be done about Mendocino County’s debt

Patrick Ford Talks – Chapter 2: Playing the blues

In Dave Smith, Patrick Ford Talks on March 9, 2009 at 1:37 am

From Dave Smith

3/6/09 Ukiah, 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)
When I was four, my parents gave me a toy drum kit, and then later in second grade I took piano lessons for awhile, then along about 6th grade I started really getting interested in drums. I played in the school band in Junior High School, but I didn’t dig it.

Then the surfing thing hit, big time, and I loved that. My friends and I decided we had to start a band, and my parents bought me a real Ludwig 4-piece drum starter kit, and in 8th grade we had a band called The High Fives, and we just started going from there. Our parents were always supportive, but never forced music on us.

When we were freshmen in High School, my brother Robben, who was in 6th grade, came to see us play at the fair grounds, and thought that was just the coolest thing, and he wanted to start a band with his friends. So Robben started his own band in 7th grade. By the time I was a senior and Robben was a freshman, he had developed into a really good guitar player… and he was possessed by music… listening, playing and practicing all the time. He has said that he can’t keep music out of his head. He was great really quick, so I told the guys that we needed Robben in our band.

My band in high school was always able to play most weekends, sometimes both nights, around Mendocino and Lake counties. Sock Hops had been the norm up until then, so to be able to have a live band for dances was a big deal. As we were one of the few bands around, we got lots of work. We did so well I was able to quit picking pears in the summer. I had done it for three summers and that was hard work. I needed the money to get “cool” school clothes. You know kids don’t do that kind of work anymore. It’s too bad. It was not only a good physical work out, but also it gave you real respect for the Mexican workers who did that kind of work for a living. They were so good at it, fast, they were real pros at their gig.

We came into music when it was blossoming on a major level. Everyone was experimenting, trying different things. Robben and I would comb through the record bins and listen to the radio, always trying to find music that nobody else was doing, always trying to make music be something special that would work in our band, which was great fun.

It was a great time to be into music. We had moved from surfing music, to being a Top 40 band, then followed the music into being a bluesy Rhythm and Blues band, then the English thing hit… you could be listening to the Beach Boys, who I loved, and the Beatles, and the Kinks’ hard-edged rock, and The Who… taking the music to all these different levels… to something pretty, like Maryanne Faithful, and the Trio acts came on big… Hendrix, Cream… so we became a hard rock trio with guitar, bass and drums. At the same time we would also have these jazz trios or quartets playing standards… the jazz thing started with me getting Dave Brubeck’s album, Take Five, which to this day is one of the greatest albums ever made. I got it from a friend of mine.

We would go to shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco, and you would see Richie Havens doing his solo act, which was always great, then you would see Ravi Shankar doing a totally off the wall thing, then followed by the Byrds. It was this unbelievable mixture of people: James Cotton, Cream, and Blood, Sweat and Tears… what an incredible bill!… and a free apple and poster, for 3 bucks! And they all were just great! When we saw Hendrix do his first show at Winterland… I will never forget.. .at one point he walked up to the mic, started tuning his guitar, and said “I’m a little out of tune, but I’m coming to get you anyway.” Then the stage exploded! To this day, those of us who were there, talk about it with reverence, like seeing some spiritual guru guy. It was all good. It was all fun.

Then, one day Robben and I were looking through the records at Hayes Music, which was at the corner of State Street and Church, and came across this blues record by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band that changed everything. We had been doing some Stones stuff, and Animals stuff, not because we wanted to do blues, but because we liked the tunes. But here was a band that was doing blues music because they liked it. They were called a “blues band” because they loved that genre. We took that record home and overnight our whole musical world turned upside down.

In 1969, Robben and I were sleeping on a friends floor in San Francisco trying to find gigs. Rolling Stone magazine was new, and there was an ad: “Help. Stuck in Sunnyvale. Harp player who digs Little Walter, Applejack, Charlie Musslewhite. Get me out of here.” We called, not having any luck in the city, drummer and guitar player looking for a band, and went down there to a jam they were having. Gary Smith was the real deal Chicago kind of harp player, and the bass player was adequate, and we brought another Ukiah boy, Mike Osborn down to play rhythm guitar, and we started a band we named The Charles Ford Band after my dad.

We started playing around the South Bay for a few months, then we opened for Charlie Musslewhite at the Lion’s Share in San Rafael. Charlie’s drummer sucked and he asked me to join his band. I didn’t want to leave my brother, but this was the real deal. Charlie had albums out and was one of our idols, and he was getting ready to do a tour. So I spent the next couple of months playing with Charlie in a four-piece band – drums, piano, bass, and harp – and bugging him saying he really needed Robben, who could play sax and lead guitar, but Charlie said he “played way too much.” Finally he said Robben could play sax half the night, and guitar half the night on one of our gigs, he passed the audition, and then came into the band. We spent the next year on the road with Charlie. It was a great experience, but hellacious. Charlie was drinking, we weren’t getting paid much, sleeping in funky hotel rooms in Chicago, just awful. We met some great guys, like Luther Tucker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, but we decided we needed to start our own band. By that time Mark was almost 16 in high school but not liking it at all.

Mark was getting into a bit of trouble, cutting school and stuff, so I convinced Mom and Dad he would be better off with Robben and I, and he was rapidly becoming a great harp player. So they let him move down to the Bay Area, and along with Stan Poplin on bass, also from Ukiah, we reformed The Charles Ford Band. That was one great little band, and though it only lasted about a year, it still has a cult following and the recording we did for Arhoolie a few months after breaking up is still a classic piece of modern blues and still sells. Then Mark quit, and Robben decided to go to L.A. and play with Jimmie Whitherspoon. I didn’t want to go to L.A., so I joined back up with Charlie.

And through all my adventures, I’ve had Sharon with me. She’s put up with an incredible amount. She did two long tours with us, three months each, back and forth across the U.S. and Canada. Pretty brutal.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good run for us. When Sharon and I decided to have kids, we moved back here to Ukiah. We were lucky to have such a supportive unit. Lots of family. We could always find work around when we needed it, but it was a different time.

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


In Around the web on March 6, 2009 at 10:27 pm

From The Automatic Earth

There is a point where, when you need to grow faster and faster just to meet your payments and other needs, you can’t grow enough anymore. That’s not just the problem for banks and carmakers, it’s the underlying issue for our entire economic system. A constant growth rate will never be sufficient down the line, you need your growth rate itself to grow. Our society depends on exponential growth. And that process stops somewhere. It’s the same as the reason why your body stops growing around age 20. If you would grow to be 10 feet tall, your bones would break under your own weight.

There are limits inherent in any and all systems, and ignoring laws of physics doesn’t mean they go away. When Glass-Steagall was repealed, and when Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Phil Gramm and Robert Rubin managed to stop regulation of securities, Wall Street banks in effect obtained permission to grow as in the physical world only malignant tumors do and can. And we all know from observing that physical world that these tumors, if left untreated, will grow until they kill their host. America is the host to General Motors and Citigroup, to Chrysler and Bank of America. Instead of seeking treatment, the country seeks to deny the harmful and lethal effects, or even the very existence, of the cancerous growths in its body politic. And economic.

If we stick to this metaphor, it’s not that hard to see where it goes. At some point, you, or we if you will, need to make a choice. You either choose to lose your life, as when you don’t seek treatment, or you choose to risk losing your hair and feeling real sick for a time, as when you go in for radiation and chemo-therapy. Our societies as a whole are stuck in denial mode so far. Looking at the Obama, Geithner, Gordon Brown et al responses, all I see is an attitude that says: we don’t need treatment, we can beat this by ourselves, on our own.

And while miracles may have happened at times while humans have roamed this earth, it’s an insane and irresponsible gamble to take when you are a President or Prime Minister or Treasury Secretary and you hold the welfare and potentially the very lives of millions of people in your hands. That’s simply inexcusable. Still, looking at what happens to our economies and the actions, worth trillions of dollars, that are being taken, all I see is continued denial. It’s impossible to let GM and Citi go, we can’t live without them, that’s the prevailing drive.

Well, they’re going no matter how fiercely you try to deny it, like so many organs being amputated from your disease-riddled body. Toxic assets cause diseases. It’s up to us to decide whether they will finish us off as nations and societies. So far, we have made all the wrong decisions. We couldn’t have been more wrong if we had tried. It’s time to get a true diagnosis, and stop listening to faith based quacks and tea-leaf healers, to rid ourselves of Geithner and Rubin and Summers and Bernanke. Unless we have a death wish. Do we? Do you? It’s time to face that question for real…

see also Dmitry Orlov’s Social Collapse Best Practices
Hat tip Janie Sheppard

and Bill Maher’s Ode To Government (video)

and Dave Pollard’s Why Insurance Makes No Sense In A Natural Society

What we must do

In Around the web on March 6, 2009 at 10:21 pm

From Ron Epstein

Rachel’s Democracy & Health News #1000, February 26, 2009

By Peter Montague

In this final issue of Rachel’s News, I offer the last installment of on our 17-part series, “What We Must Do.”[1]

This series was named after the prescient article, “What We Must Do” by John Platt in Science magazine Nov. 28, 1969, pg. 1115. It is worth (re-)reading Platt’s urgent description of “a storm of crisis problems” 39 years ago, comparing it to our world today, and then asking ourselves if what we are doing with our time seems likely to produce the outcomes we intend and hope for. Are we asking questions that are radical enough, which is to say, questions that get to the roots of our problems?

In that spirit, here are 17 suggestions, all aimed at avoiding the worst as our human population climbs from 6.7 billion to 9 or 10 billion or more by 2050. They are not ranked in order of importance because I think we have to try to do all of them.

1. Learn to live within limits

The toughest problem we humans face is learning to live within limits. I know it’s popular to pretend limits don’t exist, but they do. We live on a small stone hurtling through space, a stone “partly bare, partly dusted with grains of disintegrated rock, upon which rests a thin film of air and water no thicker, relative to the size of the Earth, than the fuzz on a peach.”[2] Furthermore, so far as anyone has been able to discover, ours is the only stone in the universe hospitable to our species. Earth is our only home, so we had better take care of it.

To puny humans, the Earth has always looked immense but just recently we discovered the truth: sometime during the 1970s, the human economy grew so large that it outgrew planet Earth. We humans have exceeded some invisible ecological limits and we are now degrading the planet’s natural capacity to renew itself. We are living in a condition called “overshoot” — like the cartoon Roadrunner who speeds off a cliff, hangs stationary in midair, still running ever faster, until the inevitable crash. To avoid the crash we humans must reduce our footprint by reducing our numbers or by reducing our individual demands upon the ecosystem, or both. Running ever faster won’t help.

In 2005, the authoritative Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) was published — a five-year study of the condition of the Earth’s ecosystems, involving 1360 scientists from all across the globe. When they announced the first volume, the MEA Board of Directors said, “At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning. Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”

In 2007, the Global Environment Outlook report (known as GEO-4) was published. GEO-4 concluded (among other things) that human activities now require 54 acres (22 hectares) per person globally, but Earth can provide only 39 acres (16 hectares) per person without suffering permanent degradation. We are living well beyond Earth’s means.

Keep reading→

Ukiah’s Annual Women’s History Celebration Sunday 3/8/09

In Dave Smith on March 5, 2009 at 11:38 pm

From Annie Esposito

3/6/09 Ukiah, North California

This year the Annual Women’s History Celebration takes place on International Women’s Day, March 8th. The theme is “Women Taking the Lead to Save the Planet” and will be dedicated to Judi Bari. Alicia Littletree will open the gathering with a little talk about Bari and a song by or about her.

The featured speaker will be Rachel Binah, who initiated an environmental caucus for the Democratic Party and worked against offshore oil drilling when she ran a bed and breakfast on the coast.

Honorees include Ellen Drell, co-founder of the Willits Environmental Center and Jenny Burnstad, a mainstay of the Mendocino Environmental Center in Ukiah. Burnstad will share the stage with daughter Alida – the two of them oversee the Cloudforest Institute. Another mother-daughter pair will be Karen Bates and Sally Schmidt of the organic Philo Apple Farm, pioneering ecological agri-tourism. Phyllis Curtis will be honored for her work on the Mendocino County Land Trust. Poet Mary Norbert Korte and musician Kitty Rose will add cultural touches to the environmental theme.

This year the Women’s History Gala will be at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse, 107 North Oak Street, Sunday, March 8, from 12:30 to 3:30. The event is sponsored by The American Association of University Women, Soroptimist International of Yokayo Sunrise, the Saturday afternoon Club and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Local radio KMEC will live-cast the celebration at 105.1 fm.

Image credit: Judi Bari by Xiang Xing Zhou, San Francisco 1995

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/7/09

In Dave Smith on March 4, 2009 at 11:07 pm

From Scott Cratty

3/5/09 Ukiah, North California

Friends of the Farmers’ Market,

Greetings. It looks like we will have a mostly clear and somewhat warmer farmers’ market this weekend. Don Willis will be playing classics on the accordion for us. The Fords will be back with their natural beef. Mendocino Organics should be selling some of their produce to non members as well. So those of you who have seen the members picking up the bountiful baskets of beautiful looking (and tasting) produce every week — this is your chance to check it out for yourself. Seems like a good week to get to the market.

New farms keep promising to arrive soon …

I will begin taking orders for bulk organic rice, beans and grains, to be delivered once per month. The available items are 11 pounds of pinto beans, brown rice or white rice to 17 pounds of triticale for $10 The rice is from Polit Family Farm and the beans & triticale are from Pleasant Grove Farm, which are as close as we could find a good supply. Anyone sense another farming opportunity?

Got legs? The farmers market has a very spiffy new sandwich board and is looking for someone to walk around various parts of town with it for an hour or two on Saturday mornings. If you are interested or have a family member who might be please drop me a line with contact information.

Check out KMAX and KWNE on Friday and on Saturday morning for the latest farmers’ market advertisements sponsored by John Johns Sign Co. John is offering a 20% discount to market patrons. Call John, he is looking forward to working with you on your image and signage needs. 462-5084 or visit Stop by the market to see the many great signs, signers and other items he has created for us .. like that sandwich board.


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