Todd Walton: What’s Going On?


From TODD WALTON
Underthetablebooks.com
Mendocino

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X

One of my guilty pleasures is watching sports highlights on my computer, many of which are prefaced by thirty-second ads for shoes, cars, beer, and the Army. I have become adept at turning off the volume and relaxing for those thirty seconds before each highlight, but occasionally a new ad grabs me and I’ll watch and marvel at the senseless inventiveness of capitalism. The last Army recruitment ad I watched began with a video-game-animation of Caucasian American soldiers morphing into actual Caucasian American soldiers interdicting and arresting impoverished American black men, brutally and at gunpoint.

I haven’t the slightest doubt that twenty years ago such an ad would have caused a huge public outcry for its racist violence and for the implication that American armed forces are servants of a racist police state. But this ad, I have since been informed, has been running for several weeks through several mainstream media outlets, and no outcries are being reported (which, of course, doesn’t mean outcrying isn’t going on.)

“I think I’m an actor because I have a very strong imagination and empathy. I never studied acting, but those two qualities are exactly the qualities that make for an activist.” Susan Sarandon

As I was pondering this latest indication of the thorough conquest of our media by the corporate state, my brother sent me a link to an article about a large new study by the American Red Cross that reveals nearly sixty percent of American teenagers (both male and female) think brutal torture

How Small, Mostly Conservative Towns Have Found the Trick to Defeating Corporations


From Alternet
Thanks to Dan Hamburg

[The next logical step after we defeat the USPS' plan to gut our town by moving our Post Office to the freeway, is to ban corporate personhood at a local level. By hiding behind the privatized part of the USPS charter and refusing our requests to see the numbers they say force their decision, it is incumbent upon our citizenry to deny this subterfuge in the future by others intent upon killing our local democratic process and buying up everything in sight. Disaster Capitalism is in full sway and needs to be stopped NOW. -DS]

As the Right pushes privatization as a solution to the economic collapse, one organization is teaching communities how to defeat corporations. California’s treasurer just announced that the state may need to begin issuing IOUs if the governor and legislature can’t close the budget gap. And California’s not the only place that’s hurting. The Great Recession, hit not only businesses and individuals, but governments as well. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that 31 states are facing a combined shortfall for fiscal year 2011 of nearly $60 billion.

So, what’s being done? “Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything

Reinventing the Medieval Home for the Post-Carbon Era



From SHARON ASTYK

Lucy Worsley has a Guardian piece about the merits of medieval architecture as a model for a lower-resource use future:

Domestic life in the past was smelly, cold, dirty and uncomfortable, but we have much to learn from it. I spend much of my time working as a curator in Britain’s historic royal palaces. But recently, for a television series, I’ve visited a lot of normal homes dating from the Norman period to the present day, and I’ve concluded that the houses of the past have a huge amount to teach us about the future. When the oil runs out, I think our houses will become much more like those of our low-tech, pre-industrial ancestors.

The first point is that the age of specialised rooms is over. Now, legislation governing the design of new houses contains echoes of the past: it insists that once again rooms should multi-task. The living room, for instance, must have space for a bed in case the occupant becomes incapacitated; medieval people, for instance, lived, ate and slept in one room – as I do, in my open-plan flat.

Next, architectural features from the past will start to reappear. The chimney disappeared in the 20th century, but it’s coming back, as solid fuel-burning stoves make a return. In terms of fuel conservation the sun is becoming important again too: once upon a time people selected sites with good “air”; now well thought-out houses are situated to minimise solar gain in summer and maximise it in winter. Most future houses will need to face south, a challenge to conventional street layout.

Speaking as someone who saves a lot of her energy by living sort of like a medieval person

What Jesus Would Want



From MARK MORFORD
SFGate

Please step away from the fear

Recently did my fine and ever-loving and yet slightly overworried parents, still married and flirty and sort of amazing after something like 147 years together — and no, I have no idea how the hell they did it, so don’t even ask — forward on a terrifying hunk of email to me, full of sound and fury and unchecked socioeconomic gloom, signifying nothing.

It was an email, I quickly surmised, that had bounced around their group of retired, largely Republican friends and then commented on and fretted over a bit too much, all about what the hell is happening to the world, how dramatically things have changed, what can or cannot be done about it and, more than anything else, how they feel fearful for their kids — which, for the purposes of this column, we’ll call, me.

It was an email, simply put, about the end of the world. More specifically, the end of the American empire, of the United States as global economic superpower, primarily due to various and sundry “horrific” factors having to do with the threadbare American workforce, the staggering loss of manufacturing and factory jobs in this country, the spiraling debt, the shocking erosion of our industrial base, and so on.

“Facts About The De-industrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind” screamed the email’s headline, instantly indicating its mad desire to be not the slightest bit tactful or reasonable. The piece then went on to list all manner of “horrifying” data about America’s post-industrial implosion, from the mundane (a single Ford factory closing due to “globalization”) to spurious forecasts about China,

Mendo Island Transition: Reskilling Initiative


From GREEN HANDS

[Maybe combine this with our Mendo Time Bank, Together We Can Mendocino, and Gardens Project?... -DS]

Philosophy

Peak Oil

Many people now believe that the world’s petroleum supply is at or near its peak production capacity. As it gets increasingly  difficult to maintain or expand the supply of this vital resource (aka “Peak Oil”), the economies that rely on cheap, abundant fuel  in increasing amounts will falter. As they do, we will need to devise alternatives to the industrial model we currently rely upon for basic necessities.

It’s not the purpose of this site to convince anybody of the reality and practical ramifications of Peak Oil. I encourage readers to do a search on it… there’s plenty of information available online…

Reskilling

Reskilling – the development of skills more directly connected with basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and recreation – is one practical response to the manifold problems that society may well face in the wake of peak oil and economic displacement and collapse.

Looking for a way to make it easy and practical for people to connect and share skills, I came up with the idea of the Green Helping Hands Reskilling Initiative.  Whether you’re a skilled composter/gardener or an artist with a pair of knitting needles, or if  you are seeking these or other skills, just post a sign with a green hand on it – or look for one near you.

Why a physical sign, one might ask, and not a website? After all, I’m promoting the concept through a website. The answer is, signs are cheap, fast and local, and don’t rely on high-tech anything to get started.

Take Action Ukiah: Saving Our Post Office Meeting Tonight 4/21/11 6:30pm


From BARRY VOGEL
Radio Curious
Ukiah

The United States Postal Service has plans to close post offices in cities, small towns and rural areas across America. This edition of Radio Curious is a case study of how the federal government plans to close the main Post Office in Ukiah.  The Postal Service says it operates under a “corporate model” and is not subject to public information requests, even from local government. It is unwilling to share the bases of it cost analyses or even let the City of Ukiah conduct its own evaluations. We visit with three members of the Save the Ukiah Post Office Committee: Ukiah Mayor, Mari Rodin, Alan Nicholson and Mike Sweeney. They discuss the community efforts to save Ukiah’s downtown post office and why.

Radio Curious Interview here
~

Letters to the Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal, from Joe Wildman, Richard Shoemaker, Janie Sheppard and Mike Sweeney…

From JOE LOUIS WILDMAN

A bureaucratic bungle

All of the folks I talk with are up in arms about the Postal Service proposal to close the Downtown Post Office, but several letter writers seem to think it’s a good idea.

These contrarians want to believe the line Postal Service management is dishing out about “financial necessity.” The Postal Service claims it can save $186,921 per year by cutting a hole in the heart of Ukiah’s downtown and remodeling the out of the way annex as a replacement.

Rosalind Peterson: Red Alert! Press Conference on Fukushima with Helen Caldicott


From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley
~

[Karma happens... killing ourselves slowly... -DS]

Fukushima Forecast: Series of radiation clouds to hit US West Coast beginning April 24 

Video here

AREAS WHOSE FOOD PRODUCTS MAY NOW CARRY RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT

The Entirety of the Northern Hemisphere around the world is affected by fallout, as well as the Pacific Ocean.

Most Serious: Japan, Pacific Ocean, and Pacific Rim States

Most Contaminated food areas of North America (based on fallout wind spread patterns charted by European scientific research agencies) in order of likely intensity of contamination, starting with the most contaminated:

Entire Pacific Coast (note that much of the produce in North America comes from this region, especially California)

Northern U.S. States close to Canada, and Canadian areas close to the U.S. (including Toronto etc.)
Eastern States

Central States of the U.S., and Far Northern areas of Canada

SAFEST AREAS OF ORIGIN FOR FOOD PRODUCTS

Ayn Rand Was A Lunatic, Her Economics Nuts, Her Philosophy Cruel: Republicans, Of Course, Love Her


From JOHANN HARIJ
Slate

[Want to know what the Republicans are really trying to do to our democracy? Read on... -DS]

The perverse allure of a damaged woman

Ayn Rand is one of America’s great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that “the masses”—her readers—were “lice” and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them. Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is “evil” and selfishness is “the only virtue,” she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters. So how did this little Russian bomb of pure immorality in a black wig become an American icon?

Two new biographies of Rand—Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller—try to puzzle out this question, showing how her arguments found an echo in the darkest corners of American political life. But the books work best, for me, on a level I didn’t expect. They are thrilling psychological portraits of a horribly damaged woman

Gene Logsdon: Tired of Tires


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Do you know how many pneumatic rubber tires you own? I bet when you count them up, you’ll be surprised. Even on my little one horse farm, there are 40 tires in use, not counting the ones on the car. And ten percent of them are flat at any given time. This is partly because most of my tires were vulcanized in the late Middle Ages or thereabouts. But it is also because there is something unsustainable and unnatural about riding around on air wrapped in a substance that comes from trees that grow half a million miles away.

This is the time of year when I fare forth to another season of mowing and planting. I know without looking, that my first chore, after getting all the motors (6) running, will be fixing flats. I thought maybe this year would be an exception. The green tractor started right up and the hydraulic system on it worked fine. I backed up to the disk to hitch up and the hole on the disk tongue lined up with the drawbar hole perfectly on the first try. Oh perfect joy.

One pass across the field and behold, the left tire on the disk was as flat as a pancake. I pumped it up (by hand) and proceeded on to the gardens which were actually dry enough to disk (the corn ground wasn’t) and worked up two of the plots before the tire went flat again. Pumped it up again and it lasted until I had finished the other two plots. I would not have been so stubborn about it except rain was threatening and it might be another two weeks before the soil was dry enough to work again.

Have you ever stopped to think just how dumb it is to have pneumatic tires on a disk? They are only in use when the disk is not disking and that would mean, in my “operation”, about three hundred feet a year at a speed of not more than two miles per hour.

Unequal Protection — Chapter 5: Jefferson Versus the Corporate Aristocracy


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

Let monopolies and all kinds and degrees of oppression be carefully guarded against. ~ Samuel Webster, 1777

Although the first shots were fired in 1775 and the Declaration was signed in 1776, the war against a transnational corporation and the nation that used it to extract wealth from its colonies had just begun. These colonists, facing the biggest empire and military force in the world, fought for five more years—the war didn’t end until General Charles Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781. Even then some resistance remained; the last loyalists and the British left New York starting in April 1782, and the treaty that formally ended the war was signed in Paris in September 1783.

The first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, was written in 1777 and endorsed by the states in 1781. It was subsequently replaced by our current Constitution, as has been documented in many books. In this chapter we take a look at the visions that motivated what Alexis de Tocqueville would later call America’s experiment with democracy in a republic. One of its most conspicuous features was the lack of vast wealth or any sort of corporation that resembled the East India Company—until the early 1800s.

The First Glimpses of a Powerful American Company

Very few people are aware that Thomas Jefferson considered freedom from monopolies to be one of the fundamental human rights. But it was very much a part of his thinking during the time when the Bill of Rights was born.

In fact,

Obama Returns to His Moral Vision: What is America at Heart and What is America to be



From GEORGE LAKOFF

Last week, on April 13, 2011, President Obama gave all Democrats and all progressives a remarkable gift. Most of them barely noticed. They looked at the president’s speech as if it were only about budgetary details. But the speech went well beyond the budget. It went to the heart of progressive thought and the nature of American democracy, and it gave all progressives a model of how to think and talk about every issue.

It was a landmark speech. It should be watched and read carefully and repeatedly by every progressive who cares about our country — whether Democratic office-holder, staffer, writer, or campaign worker — and every progressive blogger, activist and concerned citizen. The speech is a work of art.

The policy topic happened to be the budget, but he called it “The Country We Believe In” for a reason. The real topic was how the progressive moral system defines the democratic ideals America was founded on, and how those ideals apply to specific issues. Obama’s moral vision, which he applied to the budget, is more general: it applies to every issue. And it can be applied everywhere by everyone who shares that moral vision of American democracy.

Discussion in the media has centered on economics — on the president’s budget policy compared with the Republican budget put forth by Paul Ryan. But, as Robert Reich immediately pointed out, “Ten or twelve-year budgets are baloney. It’s hard enough to forecast budgets a year or two into the future.” The real economic issues are economic recovery and the distribution of wealth. As I have observed, the Republican focus on the deficit is really a strategy for weakening government and turning the country conservative

Fukushima Radiation Fallout Tracking Tool


Tool here

Thanks to Robert Ross
~~

Mendo Island Transition: Remember the Boycott…



From RAN PRIEUR

[Yes, it is important to focus more on what we can do in positive ways to assist in transitioning our communities as the culture collapses around us, but there are also negative tools that can assist us in bringing about needed change on a local basis. For example, Branches Chop House Restaurant in Ukiah has been advertising “locally raised products” and as “specializing in locally grown products" which is not true (see our article here). A sustained local boycott could be organized to help change their ways just as some of us have participated in national boycotts. Stay tuned. -DS]

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of a war. There are bullets flying and explosions all around, and I’m trying to organize people on my side to fight effectively, and instead they’re just standing around saying, “Look, they’re shooting at us! I can’t believe they’re actually shooting at us! Look at those bad, bad people doing that bad, bad thing! Shame on th- (takes bullet in head)”

There’s only one place for morality in this world, and that is that your actions must serve the greatest, widest good that you can perceive. Beyond that, it’s all strategy and tactics. Applying morality to the actions of other people is a strategic error. I think this error goes back to our tribal ancestors. If one person does something to harm the tribe, the others will use shaming to bring this person into line. If this feels to us like a moral action, it’s because it was easier for our ancestors to mindlessly throw righteous indignation at the wrongdoer, than to carefully discern why a behavior is harmful and how shaming will correct it.

The New Republican Landscape of Destruction


From NYT Editorial

Six months after voters sent Republicans in large numbers to Congress and many statehouses, it is possible to see the full landscape of destruction that their policies would cause — much of which has already begun. If it was not clear before, it is obvious now that the party is fully engaged in a project to dismantle the foundations of the New Deal and the Great Society, and to liberate business and the rich from the inconveniences of oversight and taxes.

At first it seemed that only a few freshmen and noisy followers of the Tea Party would support the new extremism. But on Friday, nearly unanimous House Republicans showed just how far their mainstream has been dragged to the right. They approved on strict party lines the most regressive social legislation in many decades, embodied in a blueprint by the budget chairman, Paul Ryan. The vote, from which only four Republicans (and all Democrats) dissented, would have been unimaginable just eight years ago to a Republican Party that added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Mr. Ryan called the vote “our generation’s defining moment,” and indeed, nothing could more clearly define the choice that will face voters next year.

His bill would end the guarantee provided by Medicare and Medicaid to the elderly and the poor, which has been provided by the federal government with society’s clear assent since 1965. The elderly, in particular, would be cut adrift by Mr. Ryan. People now under 55 would be required to pay at least $6,400 more for health care when they qualified for Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Fully two-thirds of his $4.3 trillion in budget cuts would come from low-income programs.

Why Bicycles are Faster than Cars


From IVAN ILLICH
Via No Tech Magazine

“The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.”

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well. The bicycle lifted man’s auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible.”

“Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems.” ~ Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich, 1978.
~
See also Mendo 2 Mile Challenge
~~

You are not alive



From DAVID ROTHSCUM
The Netherlands

[Thanks to Ran Prieur blog: "And I just discovered David Rothscum Reports, an anti-civilization and fringe politics blog out of the Netherlands. Remember what I said yesterday, that you should focus on the path and not the obstacles? Rothscum focuses almost completely on the obstacles, but I appreciate his enthusiasm."]

There are many subjects I can address, but few if any as important as this one. Take a look around you. Nobody around you is truly alive. And most likely, neither are you. Since being alive requires one to actually live, and what you do is not living at all. You’re involved in some bland alternative to living.

Every man, woman and child’s life now consists of the same repetitive pattern that starts at about 4 years of age and will end when they die. You go through school, not to learn any particular skills at all. You’re taught how to conform, how not to be a nuisance to society, and how to hold on to a job.

The first lesson taught is being quiet. The second is to sit still behind a disk, for multiple hours at a time. The act of sitting still is a process that injures the body. It leads to various illnesses, regardless of the amount of exercise you engage in.[Link] After spending most of it’s youth sitting still however, the child can see no other way than to sit still. This step of domestication is permanent in most people.

Some children fail to sit still for long periods at a time. We tell their parents they have ADHD, and proceed to medicate them against their will…. More here
~~

Scale of the Universe


Go Here

Thanks to Todd Walton
~~

Three Cups of Tea a Hoax? [Update]


Mortenson
From LA TIMES
Thanks to Ron Epstein

[Mortenson responds here]

An investigation by “60 Minutes” to be broadcast this weekend will cite multiple sources that contend some of the most inspiring stories in Greg Mortenson’s books “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones into Schools” are not true.

Significantly, Mortenson’s origin story — of being saved by a remote village in Afghanistan and promising to build a school for them — appears to be a fabrication.

In a news release, the television program explains:

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