Selling Out America


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


[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→

Update

First lady breaks ground on Kitchen Garden

~~

The coming great cook-out? Part 1 of 4


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.

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/21/09


From Scott Cratty
Ph: 707-462-7377

3/18/09 Ukiah, North California

Greetings.

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


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.

Intro
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


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


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 OrganicToBe.org→

FDR Welcoming Hatred of the Fat Cats


““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


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


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 DeadMalls.com

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

Images Credit: Evan Johnson
~~

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


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.

Living in the wasteland of the free – Iris Dement


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
Goodnight.

Our Town – Iris Dement on YouTube→
~~

The Wal-Mart Dilemma


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


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.

Every idea considered except for Single Payer Health Care


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.

Ukiah Farmers’ Market Saturday 3/14/09


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


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.

The aim is joy


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


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


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


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’


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…

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