The Worst That Could Happen


[Has Humanity reached its “level of incompetence?” The Peter Principle is stated in chapter 1 of the book with the same title: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence“. -DS]

In mainstream news reports everywhere, you can feel the urge not to tumble into the irradiated zone of the nuclear imagination.  And so one of the strangest aspects of the massive coverage of the Fukushima catastrophe — wrapped as it is inside an earthquake/tsunami double-disaster — has been the lack of reporting on or exploration of what the worst human and environmental consequences might be.  It’s as if those who report on and assess reality for us had been shoved to the edge of some cliff and none of them could bear to look down or try to describe what might be below.

Missing in the Japan Catastrophe — Thinking the Unthinkable
From TOM ENGELHARDT
TomDispatch.com

Seldom more than thrice annually did any layman or stranger travel the old road that passed the abbey, in spite of the oasis which permitted that abbey’s existence and which would have made the monastery a natural inn for wayfarers if the road were not a road from nowhere, leading nowhere, in terms of the modes of travel in those times.  Perhaps, in earlier ages, the road had been a portion of the shortest route from the Great Salt Lake to Old El Paso; south of the abbey it intersected a similar strip

Wendell Berry and the New Urbanism: Agrarian Remedies, Urban Prospects


From MARK T. MITCHELL
Front Porch Republic

…we would do well to turn our attention to the revitalization of our cities and towns. If we hope to create a context within which human lives can be lived with dignity and joy, then we must turn our attention to preserving local culture, local customs, local beauty, local economies, families, and memories.

The decline of community is a theme taken up by many today both on the right and the left. The solitary bowler, a memorable image from Robert Putman’s book Bowling Alone, represents the loss that many feel and confirms the intuition that, despite the many advantages the modern world provides, something has indeed been lost. But what exactly is a community? Does any group of individuals living in close proximity to each other constitute a community? Does a healthy community exist more easily in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? Although he does not argue that a good life is only possible on the farm, Wendell Berry writes out of the agrarian tradition, and his vision of community is articulated in a rural context centered around a small town. Berry’s work is useful in developing a sense of the various ingredients necessary for a viable community. However, it is necessary to ask if and how this vision of community, if indeed it is compelling, can be translated into urban and sub-urban contexts. Ultimately,

Barry Vogel Interviews Richard Johnson — Part 1


From BARRY VOGEL
Radio Curious
Transcribed by Dave Smith
Parts 1|2|3|4
[Full Interview on MP3 available for download here]

A Revolutionary’s Memorial In His Own Words

Welcome to Radio Curious. I’m Barry Vogel.

Few people in Mendocino County who are not elected officials have created as much enmity and as many disruptive relationships as has Richard W. Johnson, Jr., who since 1984 has been the owner, editor, and publisher of four local newspapers under the banner of Mendocino Country.

Richard Johnson died March 16, 2011, at age 66.

This interview, intended as a tribute to his life, was originally broadcast February 19th, 2008, and he claims, among many other things, to be the original organizer of California’s Certified Organic Farmers; the recipient of The Walking Stick Award from the Mendocino Environmental Center in 1992 for promoting ocean sanctuary off the Mendocino Coast; and was the original proponent of Measure G on the 2000 ballot.

When I invited Richard Johnson to visit Radio Curious, he said he would like to discuss the amazing but little understood and seldom appreciated Richard Johnson… his life and times.

We touched on those and a few other topics in this conversation, recorded in the studios of Radio Curious,

Gene Logsdon: Oaken Resilience



From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

The one thing that I’ve learned living in the woods is that trees can take care of themselves. All we puny humans need to do to help them is to stop the bulldozers from removing them in favor of more asphalt and corn. But since my inclination is to worry too much about almost everything, learning that trees know what they are doing has not been easy.

I like oak trees, especially white oaks. They may not be the very best wood for any particular purpose, but they rank up close to the top in just about everything wood is good for. One big old beauty stands right outside our bedroom window. We run the clothesline on pulleys over to it from the deck, the way the Amish run a clothesline from a porch to the side of a barn. Easy to reel the day’s laundry out for drying and back in again. I also take great pleasure in sitting on the deck for unseemly long periods of time staring up into its branches.

Taking special notice of this tree every day, I have become aware of just how many dangers the oaken world faces while it goes about its business.  I am beginning to understand the resilience of nature. The trees will outlast us even if they don’t know

Unequal Protection — Chapter 2: The Corporate Conquest of America


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

The legal rights of the…defendant, Loan Company, although it be a corporation, soulless and speechless, rise as high in the scales of law and justice as those of the most obscure and poverty-stricken subject of the state. ~ Excerpt from the judge’s ruling in Brannan v. Schartzer, 25 Ohio Dec. 491 (1915)

While corporations can live forever, exist in several different places at the same time, change their identities at will, and even chop off parts of themselves or sprout new parts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to its reporter, had said that they are “persons” under the Constitution, with constitutional rights and protections as accorded to human beings. Once given this key, corporations began to assert the powers that came with their newfound rights.

  • First Amendment. Claiming the First Amendment right of all “persons” to free speech, corporate lawsuits against the government successfully struck down laws that prevented corporations from lobbying or giving money to politicians and political candidates.1
  • Fourth Amendment. Earlier laws had said that a corporation had to open all its records and facilities to our governments as a condition

Book Review: ‘The Windup Girl’


From AMANDA KOVATTANA
Thanks to Energy Bulletin

Fabulous feast of apocalypse storytelling set in Thailand. Peak oil, climate change, genetically modified seeds gone bad, new plant diseases, new plagues. Add to that, interesting mutant technology that produces giant elephant hybrids for factory work and the highly erotic android of the title. Plus assortment of low tech energy sources filling the gap where fossil fuel power once lubricated commerce.

I have to hand it to Mr. Bacigalupi for his skillful use of Thai culture. He preserved my favorite parts of my home country, except of course the sex trade. But then it has become obligatory to feature the sex trade in books set in Bangkok, so I’m not holding it against him. (Where you have farangs [Westerners] in Bangkok you must have the sex trade. It is as much a reflection on white men as it is a global fascination with this infamy of Thailand.) In fact he is a moralist about it, using the degrading forces of the industry to drive the plot.

He also juggled the complexity of Thai politics, our obsession with ghosts and the famous Thai smile to good effect, plus I greatly appreciated his native-like respect for the Thai royal family by allowing royal smarts to play a crucial part in the survival game. Combined with the subplots of the various characters each vying to further their agenda, I felt this to be an entirely accurate description of how the world of trade

Thom Hartmann: No such thing as a safe level of radiation



~
Nuclear Meltdowns 101

Cluborlov

I am no nuclear expert, and that is probably a good thing. I did do a lot of reading about Chernobyl back when it happened. And now I am, as I was then, and as I am sure many of you are, getting really fed up with incomplete, inaccurate, misleading and generally unsatisfactory explanations that are being offered for what is going on at Fukushima. Either information is not available, or it is a flood of largely irrelevant technical minutia designed to thrill nuclear nerds but bound to bamboozle rather than inform the general reader. And so, for the sake of all the other people who aren’t nuclear experts and have no ambition of ever becoming one, here’s what I have been able to piece together.

What do they mean when they say “hydrogen explosions”? The hydrogen gas is being vented from inside the reactors and from spent fuel pools that are directly above them. Since it is very hot, it explodes as soon as it mixes with the outside air. It is formed from the rapid oxidation of the zirconium pipes that hold in the pellets of nuclear fuel. At Fukushima, some of the fuel pellets are made with uranium, while others are made with plutonium from reprocessed nuclear weapons. Zirconium is a metal which, like aluminum, instantly forms a thin, protective layer of oxide on contact

Cut The Unions, Hire The Girlfriends



From KEITH OLBERMANN
FOK News

The ham-handed self-serving greediness playing out in the background of Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to make Wisconsin into the central battle zone in the Koch Brothers’ attempt to end collective bargaining in this country, roared to the forefront Sunday night when the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the supposedly financially imperiled state had enough money to hire State Senator Randy Hopper’s mistress.

Valerie Cass, a former Republican legislative staffer, was hired Feb. 7 as a communications specialist with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. She is being paid $20.35 per hour. The job is considered a temporary post.

A lot of things in Wisconsin – especially those pertaining to one of Governor Walker’s State Senate henchmen – appear to be temporary:

His estranged wife, Alysia, issued a statement to WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) accusing Hopper, 45, of beginning an affair with Cass, 26, last year. He filed for divorce in August.

Oh but this gets better and better. How did Ms. Cass wind up being hired by the state with no money, away from a Madison firm called “Persuasion Partners.”

Review and Refute: ‘The Vegetarian Myth’



From GINNY MESSINA
TheVeganRD

[Thanks to Ron Epstein: Response to book by author interviewed here]

Lierre Keith suffers from numerous chronic health problems. Unable to secure a diagnosis for most of them, she decided that the vegan diet she had followed for twenty years was to blame. But she wasn’t content to add a few animal products back to her diet. Instead, she set out to prove that healthy diets require copious amounts of animal foods and that small-scale animal farming is the answer to sustainability. To prove it, she has cobbled together information from websites (yes, she actually cites Wikipedia!) and a few popular pseudoscientific books.

It’s next to impossible to review this book; it is so packed with misinformation and confusion that refuting the claims could be another book itself. This is a long post, and it doesn’t begin to address all of the problems in The Vegetarian Myth.

I read the section on nutrition first. Since it’s my area of expertise, I figured it would give me some idea of the quality of her research and analysis. But quality isn’t at issue here because there is no research or analysis. Keith doesn’t bother with primary sources; she depends almost exclusively

George Carlin Knew Why They Call it ‘The American Dream’



From BILL BERRY
The Capital Times (Wisconsin)
Via Energy Bulletin

Ah, the week of St. Patty’s Day, and maybe the luck of the Irish will lead us to the pot o’ gold coins.

But don’t count on it. Not in Wisconsin, not in these times. Nonetheless, in honor of this hopeful holiday, when a saint evicted the snakes from the green island, we can go to that great American philosopher of Irish descent. Surely he can put the events of recent weeks in context.

We speak here of George Carlin, who left the earth too soon in 2008, but saw the future quite clearly, which may have hastened his departure. Thanks to the Internet, he will be forever with us, or at least until Big Brother yanks him away for being too subversive.

For now, you can find Carlin’s 2005 skit (NSFW), “The American Dream,” quite easily. I can’t, however, recommend it in this column, because it is indelicately laced with some of the “seven dirty words” that got him arrested at, appropriately, Milwaukee’s Summerfest in 1972. So promise you won’t go and find it, and if you do, I didn’t send you there. My parish priest would frown upon that.

I’ll clean things up here a bit, so you get the gist of the genius. It must be said that Carlin actually agreed with Gov. Scott Walker on education. As Carlin said, “Education sucks.” But their views diverge from that point. To wit:

The Vegetarian Myth



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Steve Martin: The Great Flydini



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Cooking the Perfect Steak



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Todd Walton: Cliff’s Bowl


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Cliff Glover recently gave us one of his bowls. Cliff is an excellent potter and a superb cook. Tall, and possessed of a magnificent froth of silver gray hair, Cliff and his partner Marion Miller share a house and ceramic studio a couple miles inland from the hamlet of Albion. Marcia and I met Cliff and Marion for the first time at one of Juliette White’s spontaneous dinners, Juliette being Cliff and Marion’s neighbor for many years. The mugs we drank from that night were Cliff’s mugs; and for my birthday two years ago, Juliette gave me a Cliff Glover teapot, an exquisite two-cupper. Juliette was a big fan of Cliff’s pottery.

The bowl Cliff gave us on Marcia’s birthday in February is now my favorite bowl, and possibly my favorite thing, after my piano and not counting myriad mammals—Marcia, friends, cats; although the trouble with cats…but that’s another story. Cliff made it clear when he gave us the bowl that even though he was giving it to us on Marcia’s birthday, the bowl was for both of us. I asked him to repeat that when I was sure Marcia was listening so there wouldn’t be any confusion…that the bowl was for both of us, or in legal terms: the bowl is our joint property.

My previous favorite bowl, which I still love, (though not as much as I loved her before I met Cliff’s bowl) was given to me by my dear friend Katje Weingarten, an extraordinary poet who lives in Vermont, which is crazy.

Expert Who Predicted Previous California Earthquake Says Another Imminent


Jim Berkland Website

Thanks to The Automatic Earth

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TEPCO Director Weeps After Disclosing Truth About Fukushima Disaster
Thanks to Anna Taylor

The Daily Mail has released a dramatic picture showing the emotional exhaustion of TEPCO managing director Akio Komori who is openly weeping as he leaves a conference to brief journalists on the true situation at Fukushima, following his acknowledgment that the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens. “A senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis. He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: ‘The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans.” This is precisely as Zero Hedge had expected would happen all along, following our recurring allegations of a massive cover up by the Japanese government. And furthermore as we predicted a week ago when we said that continued government lies and subversions

I want you to do your best to put an end to this crazy system that is based on greed and anger and ignorance


From DEMOCRACY NOW

JUAN GONZALEZ: Last night, Democracy Now! reached a prominent Japanese cultural anthropologist and environmentalist, Keibo Oiwa. He is the founder of the Sloth Club, Japan’s leading “Slow Life” environmental group.

KEIBO OIWA: My name is Keibo Oiwa. I’m speaking from Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan. And I’m a professor at the university. And as a professor, I am wondering what I can do from here. And I’m very afraid that already radiation is out flowing, and that would affect especially pregnant women and younger children, small children. So, I’m trying to organize a kind of a network where people in the western Japan who can accept pregnant women and people with children from the eastern part of Japan. And so far, many people already have raised their hand, saying that, you know, they are welcoming people coming from the eastern part of Japan.

And what I want to say at this point to the people outside of Japan is that they should try to stop all the nuclear power, you know, eliminate or stop right now. Especially I’m very concerned about California, you know, like the West Coast of the United States, where there are lots of earthquakes.

Small Actions Amid Chaos


From PEAK OIL HAUSFRAU
What I do in lieu of watching television

[Update: See TRIBES below]

Riots and toppling governments in the Middle East, states taking drastic measures to balance their budgets, oil and food prices rising. The implications of all this turmoil are enough to make me start breathing into a paper sack. I can’t affect what happens in Libya or Wisconsin, but I can take action where I am, not only on my (semi-) urban homestead but also in my neighborhood and city.

Our neighborhood is beginning to organize, starting with small, simple actions like setting up a Facebook page, organizing a LitterBlitz, having regular meetings and newsletters with helpful information (weatherizing programs, useful resources, encouraging community action), and applying for trees for a tree-planting. We also hope to set up a neighborhood patrol. Eventually I hope that these baby steps with will result in greater community cohesion and trust that can be leveraged to build resilience.

Transition OKC continues to work toward supporting and expanding our local food capacity – the ability to feed ourselves. We have been facilitating meetings of a group of local food advocates for the past six months to help strengthen the existing network of local farmers and food entrepreneurs. Our TOKC team is also planning to host a Permaculture Design Course in the fall. I have wanted to take a full permaculture course for many years

Will Parrish: On The Roosting of Nuclear Chickens


From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

Less than a decade after the United States visited a nuclear iki-jigoku (“hell on earth”) upon the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantaneously killing at least 150,000 and delivering countless more Japanese people to the grim reaper of gruesome radiation sickness, three of America’s leading nuclear technology boosters embarked on a promotional tour across Japan. Their purpose was to help swing Japanese public opinion in favor of the country’s infant civilian nuclear power industry, which was poised for a windfall of technological and financial assistance from the United States.

The international liaison was part of then-US President Dwight Eisenhower’ “Atoms for Peace” program, a Cold War diplomatic offensive aimed at providing nuclear technology loans and exports to so-called “developing” nations, so as to render them reliant on western capitalism for development of their energy infrastructures, rather than on the Soviet Union. A 1955 National Security Council directive framed the matter thusly: “[Atoms for Peace will] strengthen American world leadership and disprove the Communists’ propaganda charges that the [US] is concerned solely with the destructive uses of the atom.”

The American promotional contingent in Japan, which arrived in May 1955, was comprised, respectively, of the man perhaps

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