Joe Bageant 1946-2011: Lost in the American Undertow


From JOE BAGEANT

The following is the introduction to Joe Bageant’s newly released book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir

Did you ever stand and shiver, because you was lookin’ in a river …? ~ Folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

The United States has always maintained a white underclass — citizens whose role in the greater scheme of things has been to cushion national economic shocks through the disposability of their labor, with occasional time off to serve as bullet magnets in defense of the Empire. Until the post-World War II era, the existence of such an underclass was widely acknowledged. During the Civil War, for instance, many northern abolitionists also called for the liberation of “four million miserable white southerners held in bondage by the wealthy planter class”. Planter elites, who often held several large plantations which, together, constituted much or most of a county’s economy, saw to it that poor whites got no schooling, money, or political power. Poll taxes and

Transition Declaration of Independence and The 200 Artisan Skills Required to Make a Town Functional



From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

[By removing Corporate Personhood from Ukiah and Mendocino County, we will exercise more democratic control over our forests from which future value-added jobs can be generated and sustainable harvesting implemented. -DS]

Here is something rather wonderful that emerged in late 2008 from New Zealand, thanks for Dr. Susan Krundieck. It is an update of the US Declaration of Independence, brought up to date for a generation facing peak oil, climate change and economic contraction, and is attributed to the Representatives of the Transition Committee of Oamaru (a town in New Zealand).  I love the list of ‘the Growth Economy has for its own sake…’ accusations statements… there is a deep, forceful power to this, a clearly spoken and resonant declaration of intent.  Prepare yourself for a goosebumps moment.

10,000 Toothpicks and 37 Years Later Man Completes Incredible Model of San Francisco


From SINGULARITY HUB
Video and story here

For all you ping pong balls out there, get ready to take a tour of San Francisco that will blow your fictional minds. Since 1974 Scott Weaver has been working on his masterpiece, Rolling Through the Bay: an artistic recreation of his hometown that features four rolling tracks for ping pong balls, each taking you down a different path through the city. The Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Haight-Ashbury, Coit Tower, etc. – all the major landmarks of San Francisco are represented. The most amazing part of this ping pong roller coaster isn’t the more than 3000 hours Weaver spent in its creation, nor the intense details shown in the 9 foot by 7 foot by 30 inch model. No, what is truly eye-popping is that Weaver built this moving sculpture entirely out of toothpicks, more than 100,000 in all, collected from nations all over the world. Don’t miss the amazing video demonstration of Rolling Through the Bay below,

The Problem with Rototillers


From KIM CHASE
Chase Farm, Helena, Montana

We do have a roto-tiller attachment for our lawn tractor, which we used to use and will continue to use when preparing brand new ground for garden. But it turns out that roto-tilling every year is not optimal in several ways.

  • It ruins soil structure. It pulverizes the soils, breaks up soil aggregates, breaks up macropores (large spaces) in the soil and destroys all the tunnels your worms have worked so hard to build.  All this space in your soil improves drainage, facilitates movement of nutrients and water.
  • It causes compaction. Once those soils aggregates are broken up and the soil is reduced to its particles, the soil is nice and fluffy. But since there is no real structure, the soil will settle into a more compacted state.
  • And then there is the problem of tiller-pan. The weight and action of the tiller causes a compacted layer just below where the tines reach, further decreasing soil drainage and the ability of roots to penetrate the soil.
  • It inverts your soil. Tilling turns your soil right upside down. The delicate ecology of soil develops as it does for a reason. Certain helpful bacteria, fungi, and earthworms were at a certain depth in the soil because it had the right moisture and aeration conditions. Turn the soil upside down and you will disrupt this ecology for at least a while.
  • It plants weed seeds for you. Ugh.

Broadfork to the Rescue article here
Available locally – Ubar: Bountiful Gardens
~~

Mendo Transition: How can we grow more food locally?


From TRANSITION CULTURE

Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible Todmorden speaks in Bath, England

Transition Bath recently posted this film of an excellent talk they hosted from an event called ‘How Can We Grow More Food Locally?’. The talk was part of a wider series of ‘Transition Talks’, the next one being called ‘Does money make the world go round?’ which features Mark Boyle (‘the Moneyless Man’)  and Molly Scott Cato.

Parts two through five here

Comment left by Robert Hopkins on website:

If every available small piece of land is filled with garden, instead of grassy lawns and asphalt parking spaces, it would be feasible to grow vastly larger quantities of food locally than in the current city context. It is true that I live in a small university city in Florida,

Todd Walton: Old Pot Folks


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“How’s your back?” asks Marvin, handing me cash for pruning his fruit trees.

“Pretty good,” I say, lifting my ladder into the back of my pickup.

“Mine’s all fucked up,” he murmurs, looking away. “Can’t lift a damn thing.”

“You need something lifted? I’m good up to fifty pounds.”

“Well,” he says, fidgeting. “I…the thing is…” He frowns. “You want to earn a quick hundred?”

“How quick?” I say, looking at my watch. “I have a couple big apples to get done before dark.”

“Half an hour,” he says, nodding. “Hour at the most.”

“I charge forty an hour for pruning, so…”

“This isn’t pruning,” he says, taking a deep breath. “This is pot.”

“You have a prescription?”

“Two,” he says, beckoning me to follow him. “One for me and one for Candy. Need to empty the old mix and fill the pots with new stuff, but the bags…”

So I follow him to the house where Candy appears on the front porch and shields her eyes from what I don’t know since the sun is hidden behind dark clouds. Candy is seventy-two, petite, with shoulder-length gray hair

Most of us ought to be preparing for a life without electricity



From SHARON ASTYK

A lot of us worry about extended power outages, and for good reason – they are incredibly disruptive to large areas. The more one knows about our extant outdated electric grid with its weak infrastructure, the more this sort of thing is worrisome. I certainly do think that there are some compelling reasons to worry about the ability of the existing grid to satisfy the needs of a society that, because of oil and gas depletion and carbon reduction, is moving more and more of its energy burden to electricity.

Many of the proposals to clean up carbon involve changing the source of energy away from oil to either nuclear energy or coal plants with scrubbers and sequestration (I will have more to say about the problems of carbon sequestration from coal plants in another post – I am less sanguine than many people that we can actually do this). In many proposals we would begin powering our transportation with electric cars, buses and trains, replacing oil with electricity, etc…

While I have my doubts about whether we will ever do all of these things, if we did, it would certainly place enormous pressure on the grid, and require enormous investments in infrastructure. It is no big deal to recharge a few thousand electric cars – if everyone had one, this would be something of an issue. But regardless, I think it is also possible that we could accomplish this, or that we could fail to convert our infrastructure quickly enough (this is an enormous economic undertaking) thus overburdening the grid and leading to widespread power disruptions. I officially take no strong position here.

But what I do have a strong opinion on (you knew there had to be something ) is this:

Mutual Aid: The Poorest Place In America, and None Richer


From NYT

The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.

And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County.

About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.

About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs.

Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically.

Women marry young, remain in the village to raise their families and, according to religious strictures, do not use birth control. As a result, the median age (under 12) is the lowest in the country and the household size (nearly six) is the highest. Mothers rarely work outside the home while their children are young.

Become your own expert; you can’t trust those who claim they are


From STEVE KNOX
Transition Voice

As I listened to videos of the “experts” speaking at what was billed as the Second Bretton Woods Conference held near my home in New Hampshire earlier this month, one thought crossed my mind.

Economists appear to be more interested in impressing their peers than in discussing issues with lay people. Thus, if you’re an average person attending a conference where economists are speaking, you’ll need a dictionary handy when they’re talking, and maybe a translator.

Aside from impressing their peers, the economists may also be trying to show that this stuff is too complicated for the average citizen. That implies we should leave it all to them. But the track record of economists over the past 30 years doesn’t justify that confidence.

Life is complicated, but you don’t need a PhD in economics to figure it out, nor do you need computer models or charts.

Instead, understanding a few basic facts will go a long way to explaining much of our economic life. Here are a few that I find most useful:

Fact #1 — You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. Only fools and economists think otherwise. As demand exceeds supply, resource shortages, especially oil shortages, start to appear. It’s time that the word “limits” becomes part of our vocabulary.

Fact #2 — Energy is the ability to do work. Thus, the more energy you have, the more work you can do. Growing economies need more energy, and when that energy becomes scarce or expensive, then economies stop growing.

Fact #3Future growth is the collateral for all today’s public and private debt. Yet, if fact #2 applies, there may not be

So that we can live our safe and self-important lives, many meaningless others must die cruel deaths


From BRIAN BECKER
Answer Coalition
Thanks to Don Sanderson

U.S. surge in Afghanistan launches reign of terror

“You can’t just convince them through projects and goodwill,” another Marine officer said. “You have to show up at their door with two companies of Marines and start killing people. That’s how you start convincing them.”

This was the comment made by a Marine officer to the Washington Post for its April 16 story about “signs of progress” for President Obama’s surge strategy in southern Afghanistan.

The officer was discussing how the U.S. strategy succeeded in the signing of a security pact between elders of the Alikozai area in southern Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed Karzai government.

Many hundreds of young men from the Alikozai area were killed in an onslaught by U.S./NATO troops in months leading up the agreement, according to the Washington Post account.

“We started stacking bodies like cordwood,” said an officer in Sangin, who like other Marines asked for anonymity to speak frankly. “And they came to a point where they said, ‘Holy [expletive], there aren’t that many of us left.’”

The Washington Post is an enthusiastic supporter of the expanding war in Afghanistan. The newspaper editorial policy insists that the war is necessary for an improvement

Unequal Protection — Chapter 6: The Early Role of Corporations in America


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

An effort is being made to build a railroad from Springfield to Alton. A [corporate] charter has been granted by the legislature, and books are now open for subscriptions to the stock. The chief reliance for taking the stock must be on the eastern capitalists; yet, as an inducement to them, we, here must do something. We must stake something of our own in the enterprise, to convince them that we believe it will succeed, and to place ourselves between them and subsequent unfavorable legislation, which, it is supposed, they very much dread. ~ Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln, addressing the leaders of Sangamon County, Illinois, June 30, 1847

Jane Anne Morris is a corporate anthropologist and writer in Madison, Wisconsin, and she is affiliated with the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), one of the leading organizations doing research and work in illuminating the story of corporate personhood.

Morris discovered that on the eve of his becoming chief justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, Edward G. Ryan said ominously in his 1873 address to the graduating class of the University of Wisconsin Law School,

[There] is looming up a new and dark power…the enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power….The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine, which shall rule—wealth or man [sic]; which shall lead—money or intellect; who shall fill public stations—educated and patriotic freemen, or the feudal serfs

Gene Logsdon: Archeology Not Agriculture Teaches Good Farming


From GENE LOGSDON
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

I’m thinking lately that a farmer can learn more about sustainable farming from history rather than from current science. Agriculture has been taking giant leaps “forward” and archeology giant leaps “backward,” both with intriguing and absorbing results. Both work under a handicap. Archeology studies a silent past and has to worry that it’s getting the story right. Agriculture assumes a future that may not turn out to be true either. The two sciences have markedly different philosophies. Agriculture is interested in making farming a money-profitable business. Archeology is interested in finding out why profitable farming invariably leads to wrecked civilizations.

Archeologists are discovering new information all the time, especially in Central America and in North Africa because in both cases the past is not so silent after all. Written records and datable non-written records are coming to light especially for the Mayan empire on this continent and the Carthaginian Empire and its aftermath in North Africa. For example, researchers are reporting new evidence indicating that the Mayan Empire was maybe a thousand years older than it had been thought to be. The Yucatan Peninsula supported a population of millions more people than historians previously had concluded. Supporting those millions was an extremely advanced maize or corn agriculture, the profit-farming of that time. But whenever the Mayans figured out yet more clever ways to increase corn yields, the population increased and that required yet more yield increases. One example: the people literally built upland fields for corn by carrying rich mud up from swamp land that they could not otherwise drain. Sadly, the Mayans used the wealth from their profit-farming

Visiting Our Future: The Original Transition Town


From TRANSITION CULTURE
Photo Essay

Totnes, Devon, England. Just over 23 thousand inhabitants, is the most ecologically developed city in the world. According to the good authority of “Observer”. Exactly, Totnes is the first of Transition Towns. This project was devised years ago by Rob Hopkins, perfect applied in the green Devon, and repeated all over the world in 35 communities. In Italy something similar is in Prato allo Stelvio. Solar panels on the roofs, chimneys and wood stoves, vegetable gardens in the house gardens, fruit trees on the sidewalks, advanced (and respected) waste recycling’s schedule, electric public transports, electric cars, electric bicycles. These are the strong points of Transition Towns, that, besides environmental sustainability, let save a lot of money. Today Totnes is a technological artistic and unique laboratory in the world as well a model that should be assumed in all.

Portrait (above) of Holly Tiffen. This farm is part of Transition Town Totnes Food link initiative. This is a project that aims to increase the availability of local food, by linking local farmers and producers with retailers and restaurants in Totnes. In the Southwest there are many small-scale farmers producing bountiful quality food that has helped the area to build up it’s reputation as a place rich in fantastic food and foodie outlets. Despite this most of the food produced is sold outside of our region, travelling across the country to distant consumers. At the same time, much of their food purchased locally is brought in from far and wide. The Food Links project aims to build a more resilient local food economy by building confidence and loyalty between producers and retailers within the locality.

The Tyranny of Entitlement


From DERRICK JENSEN
Orion

A lesson in limits

I’m continually stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned. Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.

Some of those who believe in perpetual growth are out-and-out nut jobs, like the economist and former White House advisor Julian Simon, who said, “We have in our hands now—actually in our libraries-—the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years.” And showing that, when it comes to U.S. economic policies, insanity is never out of season, are yet more nut jobs, like Lawrence Summers, who has served as chief economist at the World Bank, U.S. secretary of the treasury, president of Harvard, and as President Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, and who said, “There are no… limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind at any time in the foreseeable future… The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.”

Others are a bit more nuanced in their nut-jobbery. They may acknowledge that, yes, physical limits might possibly exist, but they also believe that if you just slap the word sustainable in front of the phrase “economic growth,” then you can still somehow have continued growth on a finite planet, perhaps through so-called “soft” or “service” or “high-tech” economies, or through nifty “green” innovations like a really neat

Ukiah: Taking Control of Our Common Destiny


From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

In this time of Peak Oil [link], Climate Change, and Disaster Capitalism, we Ukiahans will take democratic control of our own food, our money, and our energy resources, or others from elsewhere will surely succeed in taking that control away from us. Disaster Capitalism takes advantage of short-term social and financial bedlam and turns it into long-term privatizing schemes that convert our democratic control of crucial resources and services — such as schools, libraries, water and waste systems, prisons — into top-down, corporate-controlled, long-term cash cows for the very few. These schemes have utterly failed to become more efficient and save tax payers money. How could they? Profit-seeking constant-growth corporations privatize the profits and socialize the costs to our public detriment. And we citizens, instead of lower-cost, democratically-controlled resources and services, transfer our public money to the wealthy, and pay and pay and pay.

We also find ourselves continuously playing whack-a-mole… fighting off those who wish to impose their private will on our public community, leaving little time to think and act and build a positive inviting future worth fighting for.

There are several things we Ukiah citizens could be doing now instead of waiting for events that force us into decisions not in our common best interests:

1. Corporate Personhood: The state legalizes an activity – such as commercial water withdrawals, or factory farming, or big-box colonizers that take our jobs overseas – and communities are legally prohibited from saying “no” to it. Or, as may happen in our case, we reject by a huge majority vote a zoning change that protects a prime industrial parcel, and also reject by popular demand the closing of our downtown

Will Parrish: What BoxCo Does Best


DB

From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

For most of the past 150 years, the California North Coast has had a clearly defined role in the state’s political economy.  The region was blessed with vast, nearly impenetrable forests of huge redwood trees and accompanying great stands of douglas fir.  As Ray Raphael noted in his 1974 book on regional history, An Everyday History of Somewhere, an early historian of the Redwood Empire wrote with regard to timber’s economic importance, all the way back in the 1870s, that “at every available point for shipment stands a saw mill turning trees to lumber, furnishing employment for labor and investment for capital.”

For close to eight decades, one of the regional lynchpins of the pervasive timber trade was a spur of the Southern Pacific rail line called the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.  Beginning in 1914, freights ran up and down the line with remarkable consistency – remarkable because they had to  traverse the choppy mountains collectively known as the Coast Range.  The line originated at a point just outside Eureka and bustled along on stops down to the San Francisco Bay Area.  Though the railroad provided commuter service for most of these years, its greatest function was as a ready route to San Francisco’s markets, which have ACTED for upwards of a century as commercial hubs on behalf of much of the United States and many nations across the Pacific.  At any given point, timber made up roughly 80 percent of the cargo on the Northwestern Pacific line; in many years, greater than 90 percent.

The present economic period – call it “neo-liberal globalization,” or simply “the offshoring of the US economy,” if you prefer a more parochial framing – brought about wrenching changes on the North Coast. During the 1980s and ’90s, the process of converting

What Government Dare Verify This Photographic Proof Reactor Core Exploded At Unit 3 Spewing Deadly Plutonium World-Wide? (Updated)


From ROSALIND PETERSON
CaliforniaSkyWatch
Redwood Valley

Hi-Res Photographic Proof Reactor Core Exploded At Unit 3 [Many Images]

…and here: http://tinyurl.com/627o5n7

[Update] Maybe not… http://www.fairewinds.com/content/gundersen-postulates-unit-3-explosion-may-have-been-prompt-criticality-fuel-pool
~~

Social Security: Their numbers are bullshit, they’ll steal us blind, please pass this on!


From MANNY GOLDSTEIN
Democratic Underground

OK, by now we all know that the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in 26 years, and only a portion of benefits will be paid after that. Actually, that “known fact” is pure BS, a product of cooked numbers. What they aren’t telling you is that this projection assumes that over the next 75 years, the US economy will grow at a far lower rate than it has in the past. (They weren’t expecting us to check the calculations, were they?)

Since 1960, US GDP growth has averaged 3.2%. Even in the decade before the 2007 crash, which included a recession and jobless recovery, GDP growth averaged about 3.0%. However, in creating its publicized projection, the Obama administration assumes that the future US economy will grow at a rate of about 2.1%, much lower even than the 2.9% rate in 2010, which most of us would agree was a tough year for our economy. Even in this very pessimistic projection, Social Security is still able to pay more than 75% of promised benefits after 27 years. (Note that we need about 2.5% growth just to break even with our increasing population.)

And what if the economy stays the same as in 2010, and we continue to lurch forward at 2010’s 2.9% growth rate? The same projection showed that at a 2.9% rate, the Trust fund would remain flush with cash as far as they projected (75 years).

So, unless the US economy is about to get even worse than today and stay that way, Social Security should pay full benefits for our lifetimes and beyond.

If you believe otherwise, then the bad guys have already won: they now have a pretext for stealing you blind

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