Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Why I call myself a Commoner…

In Around the web on March 12, 2012 at 6:18 am

From HARRIET BARLOW
On The Commons

Each day I walk out of my Minneapolis house into an atmosphere protected from pollution by the Clean Air Act. As I step onto a sidewalk that was built with tax dollars for everyone, my spirits are lifted by the beauty of my neighbors’ boulevard gardens. Trees planted by people who would never sit under them shade my walk. I listen to public radio, a nonprofit service broadcast over airwaves belonging to us all, as I stroll around a lake in the park, which was protected from shoreline development by civic-minded citizens in the nineteenth century.

The park, like everything else I have mentioned so far, is a commons for which each of us is responsible.

Frequently I visit the public library, where the intellectual, cultural, scientific, and informational storehouse of the world is opened to me for free—and to anyone who walks through the door. My work requires me to constantly keep up with new knowledge. My best tool is the Internet. The library and Internet, too, are commons.

Returning home I stop at the farmer’s market, a public institution created by local producers who want to share their fare. The same spirit prevails at our local food co-op, of which I am the owner (along with thousands of others), and at community-run theaters and civic events. These commons-based institutions provide us with essential services, the most important of which is fun. Living in the commons isn’t only about cultural and economic wealth; it’s also about joy.

Candido Grzybowski, the Brazilian sociologist who co-founded the World Social Forum, advises, “If we want to work for justice, we should work for the commons.” Protecting and restoring precious gifts from nature and from our foreparents for future generations is one the greatest privileges of a being a commoner.
~~

Back to the land?…

In Around the web on March 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

From CLUB ORLOV

Talking about it is easy. Doing it is something altogether different.

You hear a lot of talk about relocalization and deindustrialization. The pastoral life, the good old days. How romantic! Reality pays you a visit when your pick-axe hits a rock, a chunk hits your face, and you taste your own blood.

Unaware of it at the time, I was a child of privilege, one of five born to a Chairman of Earth and Space Sciences at a State University in New York. We were all expected to be high achievers. I fulfilled the expectation and put in 32 years as an engineer helping the über-wealthy zip around the skies in personal rocket ships from one golf game to another while chalking it off as business expenses, when all I ever really wanted to do was sit out in the woods and cook some food on a stick over a fire.

In 1994 I acquired a 160 acre tract of land in southeast Kansas, for a price only slightly above chicken feed, as a weekender place to go sit by that fire and decompress from the rat-race. 18 years ago the future didn’t look quite so ominous. Reel forward to the present and this full-time back-to-the-land experiment is starting to look like a pretty good idea. Some stark realities become self evident however when you are actually ‘living the life’. Talking about it is easy. Doing it is something altogether different. Here is where I wish to convey a few ‘notes from the field’:

1. You realize after a while it is mostly hard, dirty, repetitive and boring. Mud, blood, shit, sweat, discomfort, disappointment, death. There are rewards, but you have to have a passion for it to endure. People who have grown up ranching already know these things of course More…

Tiresome Times Ten…

In Around Mendo Island, Dave Smith on March 10, 2012 at 5:35 am

From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

Those of you who do not read the Ukiah Daily Journal didn’t see a response to my recent Letter to the Editors, Pursuing Happiness. My original letter is reposted, and then the response. I didn’t want you to miss it… ;-)

To The Editors:

Are you happy? Chances are, if you live here in the United States, you are not. Despite the enshrinement in our Declaration of Independence of the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness” as one of the sovereign rights of mankind, we are way down on the list of the happiest countries in the world. In fact, we are not even in the Top 10.

According to a study by “24-7 Wall Street” that looked into the OECD’s Better Life Index to determine what the happiest nations on the planet are, it turns out that the happy nations spend far more of their GDP on social programs than we do here in America. The study examined quality of life things such as health, education, housing, the environment, jobs, community, work life, and income to figure out what truly makes a nation happy.

Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on the list. These include the “socialist” Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, all way happier than we are down the list at number 19.

Does it surprise you that the happiest nation, Denmark, also has the highest taxes of all?

As we are continually warned and berated by the tiresome scolds in our local opinion columns and letters to the editor to fear those who hold firm on providing a basic social safety net for the least among us, we must ask ourselves what motivates such a steadfast and determined assault on our personal and community happiness.

Dave Smith
Ukiah More…

Occupy: America’s Authoritarian Turn…

In Around the web on March 10, 2012 at 5:15 am

From ADBUSTERS

Ever since the rise of Occupy, corporatist authorities have been trying to figure how to squash our emerging social movement. First they tried a media blackout, but when over 700 nonviolent meme warriors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge our Gandhian ferocity catalyzed a thousand encampments and the 1% could ignore us no more. Next elites tried the Bloomberg model of midnight paramilitary raids backed up by excessive force and sometimes-lethal munitions. That worked well to evict encampments in New York City, Oakland and nationwide … but it backfired when occupiers became diffuse, appearing at scripted events and interrupting the spectacle of corporate-funded politics with mic checks of truth. Now they are trying the new tactic of “lawfare” – using draconian laws to squash free speech in a last ditch effort to put an end to people power.

A week before the G8 Backdown, the US House of Representatives voted in near unanimous consensus in favor of an authoritarian law, H.R. 347, that makes it a federal crime to disrupt “Government business or official functions” or to enter any building where a “person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” In other words, to mic check Obama is now a federal crime punishable by a year in prison. And so too is the banner drop if it takes place in any building that a “protected” person might be visiting in the future, even if jammers don’t know it. And so is the anti-globalization tactic of blocking road access to a meeting of world elites, there is a special clause about that too. Obama signed the bill into law on March 9.

History shows that using authoritarian laws to silence the authentic, legitimate concerns of the people always boomerangs into a fatal loss of legitimacy. Governments derive their authority and right to exist from the people and when the people are ignored and beaten back regimes fall.

Read more about H.R. 347 at the dailyagenda.org and the lawfareblog.com.
~~

Hey Occupy Psycho, you can be cured! See your Doctor…

In Around the web on March 10, 2012 at 5:00 am

From BRUCE E. LEVINE
AlterNet

[Are you an occupier? You may have "oppositional defiant disorder" and, yes, they can make you well again... -DS]

In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by 1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians; and 2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.

Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the United States. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities.

Why Mental Health Professionals Diagnose Anti-Authoritarians with Mental Illness

Gaining acceptance into graduate school or medical school and achieving a PhD or MD and becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist means jumping through many hoops More…

Wendell Berry: The Agrarian Standard

In Around the web on March 9, 2012 at 6:02 am

From Wendell Berry
Orion Magazine
[Repost]

The Unsettling of America was published twenty-five years ago; it is still in print and is still being read. As its author, I am tempted to be glad of this, and yet, if I believe what I said in that book, and I still do, then I should be anything but glad. The book would have had a far happier fate if it could have been disproved or made obsolete years ago.

It remains true because the conditions it describes and opposes, the abuses of farmland and farming people, have persisted and become worse over the last twenty-five years. In 2002 we have less than half the number of farmers in the United States that we had in 1977. Our farm communities are far worse off now than they were then. Our soil erosion rates continue to be unsustainably high. We continue to pollute our soils and streams with agricultural poisons. We continue to lose farmland to urban development of the most wasteful sort. The large agribusiness corporations that were mainly national in 1977 are now global, and are replacing the world’s agricultural diversity, which was useful primarily to farmers and local consumers, with bioengineered and patented monocultures that are merely profitable to corporations. The purpose of this now global economy, as Vandana Shiva has rightly said, is to replace “food democracy” with a worldwide “food dictatorship.”

To be an agrarian writer in such a time is an odd experience. One keeps writing essays and speeches that one would prefer not to write, that one wishes would prove unnecessary, that one hopes nobody will have any need for in twenty-five years. My life as an agrarian writer has certainly involved me in such confusions, but I have never doubted for a minute the importance of the hope I have tried to serve: the hope that we might become a healthy people in a healthy land. More…

Lucy Neely and Will Parrish: Local Food Movement — Mendo & Beyond, Part II

In Around Mendo Island on March 9, 2012 at 5:54 am

From LUCY NEELY and WILL PARRISHUkiah

In the first installment of this two-part series, the participants discussed the factors in their individual lives that influenced them to dedicate themselves to their present work, the barriers to a local food economy that the regulatory system imposes, and the growing popularity of the local food movement in Mendocino County and elsewhere, among other subjects.

All four participants are involved in ongoing educational work. For example, Tamara Wilder will conduct a weekend workshop on pig slaughtering and processing on March 24-25 at Ro Sham Bo Farms in Healdsburg, titled “Using the Whole Animal.” For more information, contact naomi@sonic.net  or subscribe to Tamara’s Facebook page. She regularly teaches classes in Mendocino County and other regions of California.

Ellen Bartholomew works closely with the group Ecology Action, which was founded by pioneering biointensive farmer John Jeavons. The group regularly conducts events, including five-day workshops called “Grow Biointensives.” at its demonstration site in Willits. For more information, see www.growbiointensive.org .

Whereas most permaculture classes cost several hundred dollars, Rain Tenaqiya is offering a completely free course entitled “Practical Permaculture,” which is a part of a new project called Mendo Free Skool. His weekly sessions start in early-April and cover a wide range of topics. For more information, contact mendofreeskool@gmail.com. Rain is also the author of the book West Coast Food Forestry, available online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2029243/West-Coast-Food-Forestry.”

Doug Mosel can be heard on KZYX’s “Ecology Hour” on some Tuesday evenings at 7pm. His grains are available at Westside Renaissance Market at More…

Todd Walton: Signs Of Spring

In Todd Walton on March 9, 2012 at 5:00 am

Starry Starry Mona painting by Ben Davis Jr.

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.” Claes Oldenburg

Harbor seals have returned to the mouth of Big River, sleek silver gray cuties with childlike faces and spindly white mustaches, as curious about me as I am about them. When the wind is right and the sun is out, I will sometimes toss my Frisbee up into the offshore breeze and the disk will boomerang back to me, and the seals will cease their fishing to follow the flight of the disk to and from the sky, just as humans might watch the ball going back and forth in a tennis match.

The harbor seals of Big River are curious about singing, too. I recently had a wonderful experience singing to the seals, an experience witnessed by two people visiting Mendocino from Los Angeles. The tide was way out and the sun was shining when I stopped on the edge of the river to commune with a seal who had popped his head out of the water to take a look at me. Thinking he might enjoy a tune, I started to sing, knowing from past experience that high notes held for a long time are more intriguing to seals than low notes held briefly; and shortly after I commenced my singing, the aforementioned couple from Los Angeles, a middle-aged woman and man, stopped to watch the seal watching me.

After a minute or two of listening to my impromptu song, the seal sunk below the surface and swam away, but I kept on singing. The middle-aged woman opined, “Guess he didn’t like your song, huh?” And then she and her mate laughed. No. They cackled. At which moment, the seal returned with a friend, and the two seals listened to me for quite a long time. More…

Where’s Woody Guthrie When We Need Him?…

In Around the web on March 8, 2012 at 5:13 am

From JIM HIGHTOWER
Creators Syndicate

Where’s Woody when we need him?

In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie.

This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.

As we know, the elites are back, strutting around cockier than ever with their knocking-down ways — but now comes the good news out of Tulsa, Okla., that Woody, too, is being revived, spiritually speaking. In a national collaboration between the Guthrie family and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a center is being built in Tulsa to archive, present to the world and celebrate the marvelous songs, books, letters and other materials generated from Guthrie’s deeply fertile mind.

To give the center a proper kick-start, four great universities, the Grammy Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the Kaiser Foundation are teaming up to host a combination of symposiums and concerts (think of them as Woody-Paloozas) throughout this centennial year. They begin this Saturday, March 10 at the University of Tulsa, then they move on down the road to Brooklyn College and on to the University of Southern California and Penn State University.

If Woody himself were to reappear among us, rambling from town to town, he wouldn’t need to write any new material. He’d see that the Wall Street banksters who crashed our economy are getting fat bonus checks, while the victims of their greed are still getting pink slips and eviction notices, and he could just pull out this verse from his old song, “Pretty Boy Floyd”: More…

Creative Action Heroes: Rattlesnake Island. Democracy School. Mendo Free Skool.

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island on March 8, 2012 at 5:00 am

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

Ukiah Stands With Rattlesnake Island 

A benefit dinner to support Protection and Preservation of Rattlesnake Island’s Cultural and Historical Resources…

Tomorrow, Friday, March 9, 5-7:30 pm
Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
107 South Oak, Ukiah

Sliding scale entrance fee: $10-$25. Pay at least $20 and you receive a dinner featuring Indian tacos. All funds will go to help support Friends of Rattlesnake Island.

This special evening of performances and presentations features: Jim Browneagle, Elem Pomo Spiritual Leader and historian; John Parker, leading archeological authority on Rattlesnake Island and local prehistory; Morning Star Gali, international sacred sites defender; an Elem Pomo youth dance troupe performance; and a raffle featuring beautiful traditional Elem items.

As you read these words, one of the Northern California East Bay Area’s wealthiest men is getting away with an act of cultural genocide in neighboring Lake County. Construction crews employed by wireless technology magnate John Nady of Emeryville recently began trenching grading, excavating, and building atop Rattlesnake Island in Clear Lake. For more than 6,000 years, this lush 56-acre island on the lake’s eastern arm has been the cultural and spiritual center of the Elem Pomo.

Lake County’s message to the Elem: the one percent are exempt from our normal regulations. The construction proceeds on this sacred site because Nady received a special extension of Lake County’s normal grading season. In September, the Lake County Supervisors voted (3-2) against requiring that Nady file an Environmental Impact Review More…

Rooftop revolution: How to get solar onto 100 million U.S. homes…

In Around the web on March 8, 2012 at 4:55 am

From DAVID ROBERTS
Grist

Get a load of this:

Nearly 100 million Americans could install over 60,000 megawatts of solar at less than grid prices – without subsidies – by 2021.

That’s from a new report by John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called “Rooftop Revolution: Changing Everything with Cost-Effective Local Solar.”

It’s about the spread of “solar grid parity” over the next 10 years, where grid parity is defined as “when the cost of solar electricity — without subsidies — is equal to or lower than the residential retail electricity rate.” People often talk about grid parity as if it’s some magic moment, but in fact it will happen in different places at different times, depending on local conditions and electricity prices. And it’s a moving target: It depends on how fast the cost of solar falls and how fast electricity rates rise.

Farrell says that the “installed cost of solar has fallen 10% per year since 2006 and grid electricity prices have averaged a 2% annual increase in the last decade.” In his projections, he uses 7 percent annual decline for solar costs and 2 percent for electricity increases, which seems conservative but reasonable. Obviously either of those rates could change, but almost everything I’ve read and heard predicts rising electricity rates; the rate of solar cost decline is somewhat harder to predict. As a technophile, my money is on the cost of solar falling faster than expected.

Anyway, given those assumptions, here’s a map that shows how and when solar grid parity will spread.

By 2021, some 100 million people in the top 40 U.S. metropolitan areas will be at grid parity for residential rooftop solar. The number is larger if you take into account people living outside those areas. It expands again if you assume widespread time-of-use pricing. And of course More…

James Houle: To the Ukiah City Council regarding Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal

In Around Mendo Island, James Houle on March 7, 2012 at 5:30 am

From JAMES HOULE
Redwood Valley

To the Ukiah City Council

March 7, 2012

Re: Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal for New Water Meters and Conference Center Renovation

Dear Council Members:

A review of the Honeywell proposal dated March 7, 2012 shows that they expect an increase of 6.12% in revenues after the installation of more accurate water meters and that this will net the City $276,845 per year. The total cost of the water meter replacement and leak detection project ($2.5 million) would be paid by we the consumers through higher water service charges. Should the smart water users, mostly small homeowners and renters, elect to reduce water consumption through modest conservation measures in the home, then the extra revenue Honeywell predicts would disappear and the City would be faced with paying off these municipal bonds out of general funds.

The companion proposal would cost $592,000 to upgrade the Conference Center with cleaner carpets, more comfortable chairs, and a commercial kitchen that would allow hosting banquets cooked right there on the premises! This taxpayer debt would supposedly be paid back by avoiding the rental of commercial kitchen equipment that costs $62,400 per year. (I have never heard of “rent-a-kitchen” but that’s what Honeywell says and they’re a major Pentagon contractor after all!) What would happen if the kitchen was upgraded and no high rollers elected to have banquets there? What would happen if these happy conventioneers More…

Buying this thing will make me happy…

In Around the web on March 7, 2012 at 5:02 am

From RIVER CLEGG
McSweeneys

I know what you’re thinking, so don’t even say it. Buying that thing won’t make you happy, is what you’re thinking. Buying things never makes you happy, so why would you buy this thing? It won’t make you happy.

But you haven’t seen this thing.

It’s really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it’s made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.

(Not that I wouldn’t consider buying this thing even if it weren’t made by a familiar company—that’s how cool this thing is—but the fact that I know and trust the company makes it even better.)

It comes in both black and white, but I can also buy an affordable cover for it in a different color if I want. For example, if I buy it in black but decide I want it to be red today, I just buy the red cover and slide it on. Now it’s red—until I want it to be black again, that is. (I can do that for any other color too, not just red.)

This thing will make me happier during my commute. Whether I take the train or ride my bike, it will be there for me, and since it’s waterproof, I don’t even need to worry if it’s raining out. Making my commute stress-free will go a long way towards making me happy.

Other people will look up to me because I own this thing and use it frequently, which will make me very happy. When I’m at a party, for instance, I can wait for a moment when people start talking about how cool it looks from the latest advertisement. Then I can stroll over and take it out and start using it, pretending that I hadn’t heard their conversation More..

John Cleese carefully considers your futile comments…

In Around the web on March 7, 2012 at 5:00 am

If you’re very, very stupid, how would you know you’re very, very stupid?…
~~

No Public Education, No Democracy

From SIMONE HARRIS
Counterpunch
Thanks to Bob Banner

This is why we reject this authoritarian education mandated by an illegitimate corporate power.

I teach English at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California.  I love my school, my amazing colleagues, and the kids who enter my classroom each year.  But I hate what is happening to public education.

From the national to the local level, our public schools are under attack, and that means our students are under attack.  This attack takes more than one form.  The cuts to vital education services are horrifying enough, but they’re only half the picture.  The other half is the violation of our public trust by private interests.

It’s not a pretty sight, but we must look squarely at the vultures of privatization that prey on the damage to our schools, from New York to New Orleans to Wisconsin to California.  Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the first Bush administration, refers to the three big education funders, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family, as the Billionaire Boys Club in her excellent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Ravitch has come a long way since her days of working under Bush Sr.  I’ve even heard people refer to her as the Noam Chomsky of education, a sure sign of how far to the right our political culture has drifted.

But we were talking about vultures.  These corporations are poised to supply the artificial heart of learning to a wounded public school system they fully intend to finish off.  But they won’t succeed. No they won’t because our communities are going to fight for our beloved schools, we teachers are going to fight for our students, and our students are going to demand More..

A Manifesto for Psychopaths…

In Around the web on March 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

From GEORGE MONBIOT
monbiot.com

Ayn Rand’s ideas have become the Marxism of the new right… I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and Social Security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill-health…

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the post-war world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her non-fiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention, in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. More..

Rosalind Peterson: Urgent! Take Action! Protect Our Marine Mammals, National Marine Sanctuaries, Recreation & Fishing Industries…

In !ACTION CENTER!, Around Mendo Island on March 6, 2012 at 5:45 am

From ROSALIND PETERSON
Redwood Valley

I have sent the attached and/or same letter to our Senators and U.S. Congressman Thompson today. We need to send out as many letters as possible to all of our elected officials at every level of government. Please feel free to use this one or make any changes you deem necessary to make your wishes known. Toll Free Number for all elected officials in Washington, D.C. (1866) 220-0044

The closest event is in Fort Bragg, CA for us….see the links below for more information.

Right now we need a lot of pressure placed on our elected officials and others today.

March 6, 2012

RE:

  • U.S. Navy Open House Information Sessions under NEPA
  • U.S. Navy NEPA Violations
  • Formal Request for a U.S. Navy Formal Presentation & Q&A Period With Proper NEPA Notice
  • Protect Our Marine Mammals, National Marine Sanctuaries, Recreation & Fishing Industries

Dear                                                    :

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, I received a postcard from the U.S. Navy inviting the public to participate in the National Environmental Policy Act Process.  However, the U.S. Navy is only holding Open House Information Sessions in easily accessible places in California, Oregon, Washington (State), and Alaska.

We believe, for the following reasons, that the U.S. Navy is not following NEPA requirements: More…

Triumph of the Generalists…

In Around the web, Books on March 6, 2012 at 5:00 am

From SHARON ASTYK
Casaubon’s Book

[As Peak Oil takes hold and energy prices rise, the many years of centralization, consolidation, and specialization will begin to reverse course and erode. The unfortunate "dumb farmer" phrase, blaspheming generalists, that I wrote about the other day, will be replaced with "just a specialist". The generalists' smarts and many skills required to garden, farm, survive and prosper in the future will once again take their rightful place of honor in our communities. Oh, yeah... and good luck referencing these books on your Kindle, punk... -DS]

I admit it, I’m a generalist in a world of specialists, and I always have been. Looking back on my career history, for example, I see the way I attempted to make the academic model of specialization adapt to my own taste for generalism – my doctoral project was a little bit insane, integrating demography, history, textual analysis and half a dozen other disciplines across a 250 year timeline – just the sort of thing advisers hate to see. The polite word was “ambitious” but “nuts” is probably more accurate. As you can probably guess from the title of this blog (for those who haven’t read George Eliiot, Casaubon is trying to write the ultimate unified theory of everything – and failing miserably), both the joys and dangers of generalism are something I try and keep in mind.

Having left academia behind, it is perhaps natural that I would find myself a career as a generalist- as a writer covering a wide range of subjects and as a farmer, the ultimate generalist. Agriculture requires a wide-ranging set of skills vaster than almost any field I can imagine, and while one becomes deeply expert in some parts of the work, it is still necessary, even imperative, to constantly be gaining some superficial understanding of a host of new things.

The generalist is jack of many trades, but master of few. That’s not a criticism. Being good enough at things is often sufficient for most of a life – particularly an agricultural life. I don’t need to be able to handle the most complex medical crises More…

Steinbeck: ‘God damn it. This is my book. I’ll make the children talk any way I want…’

In Around the web on March 5, 2012 at 5:24 am

From Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters
Via Letters of Note

During the nine months of 1951 that saw him working on his novel, East of Eden, author John Steinbeck began each day of writing by penning, in his notebook, a brief letter to his editor and good friend, Pascal “Pat” Covici. Early-1952, with the book finished, Steinbeck wrote him a final letter — a dedication to Covici in which he spoke of the frustrations and insecurities faced by an author during such a process. It can be read below.

New York
1952

Dear Pat:

I have decided for this, my book, East of Eden, to write dedication, prologue, argument, apology, epilogue and perhaps epitaph all in one.

The dedication is to you with all the admiration and affection that have been distilled from our singularly blessed association of many years. This book is inscribed to you because you have been part of its birth and growth.

As you know, a prologue is written last but placed first to explain the book’s shortcomings and to ask the reader to be kind. But a prologue is also a note of farewell from the writer to his book. For years the writer and his book have been together—friends or bitter enemies but very close as only love and fighting can accomplish.

Then suddenly the book is done. It is a kind of death. This is the requiem.

Miguel Cervantes invented the modem novel and with his Don Quixote set a mark high and bright. In his prologue, he said best what writers feel More…

Dave Smith: Transition — Clothes and Cars That Last Forever…

In Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition on March 5, 2012 at 5:00 am

From DAVE SMITH
Ukiah

Old Levi didn’t last forever but his old blue jeans do. I still have a pair of Levi’s 501 denims I wore in high school 50 years ago… and they still fit! The style then was to roll up the leg hems once. The blue suede shoes from Junior High are long gone but those Levi’s still sit in storage in a foot locker and if we ever have a Sock Hop in Ukiah I’m gonna to put them on…

Pity old Levi. Walmart screws up his pants along with everything else they touch

Used to be there were cars that would last forever. In the 60s it was the Plymouth Valiant getting 500,000+ miles before collapsing… and only then because they had hung around so long people started pointing and hooting at the silly fin design and they slunk off to the junkyard on their own and died there of embarrassment …

In the 70s it was the Datsun 510. I know, I had one just like this… More…

Stockman: ‘When the real margin call in the great beyond arrives, the carnage will be unimaginable’…

In Around the web, Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya on March 5, 2012 at 4:55 am

From BERNARD CONDON
Associated Press

He was an architect of one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history. He spent much of his career after politics using borrowed money to take over companies. He targeted the riskiest ones that most investors shunned — car-parts makers, textile mills.

That is one image of David Stockman, the former White House budget director who, after resigning in protest over deficit spending, made a fortune in corporate buyouts.

But spend time with him and you discover this former wunderkind of the Reagan revolution is many other things now — an advocate for higher taxes, a critic of the work that made him rich and a scared investor who doesn’t own a single stock for fear of another financial crisis.

Stockman suggests you’d be a fool to hold anything but cash now, and maybe a few bars of gold. He thinks the Federal Reserve’s efforts to ease the pain from the collapse of our “national leveraged buyout” — his term for decades of reckless, debt-fueled spending by government, families and companies — is pumping stock and bond markets to dangerous heights…

Complete article here
~
See also Kuntzler: Reality Check

…Our reality-based assignment is the intelligent management of contraction. We don’t want this assignment. We’d prefer to think that things are still going in the other direction, the direction of more, more, more. But they’re not. Whether we like it or not, they’re going in the direction of less, less, less. Granted, this is not an easy thing to contend with, but it is the hand that circumstance has dealt us. Nobody else is to blame for it…
~~

Transition: 55 Real Things to Worry About If You Must…

In Around the web, Mendo Island Transition on March 4, 2012 at 7:02 am


We have other things to worry about right now…

From KATHY McMAHON
Peak Oil Blues

Peak Oil, Climate change and the Greater Depression will pose many challenges to our way of life but let’s get real, for a moment: Golden Hordes aren’t one of them. At least not now. Economic depression brings with it a host of serious problems, and I think you can say quite confidently, without being a chicken little, that most of the world is in a Greater Depression. But still, we’ve got a few years to go before we can say that the USA is no longer a viable culture, when no one wants to live in Paris or London, when potatoes no longer grow in Poland, and before donkey’s begin pulling our rusted-out cars. Bikers with shotguns; weaving socks from milk thistle; crashing waves drowning our cities; evacuating your house on a moments notice to house troops; the government coming to confiscate your precious metals; a mass exodus of cities as the violence and mayhem escalates to untolerable levelsall of these things should not be on the top of the list of what to prepared for.

So what should be?

1. Job loss is up there.

2. We’ve already seen retirement accounts deteriorate, leaving us less money to live on in our aging years.

3. Our elderly today, like that 93 year-old who froze to death in his kitchen, will face real challenges in keeping themselves medicated, warm and fed. It may be time to get concerned about the old folks who live on your street, and start having tea with them on alternating days.

4. The rising price of everything from food to fuel is likely to be a serious problem for a lot of us.

5. Food pantries won’t be able to feed all of the people who need resources from them, and people who used to give generously to those same pantries, might now be lining up for help.

6.Managing depression–emotional depression, that is, should be up there. More…

Don Sanderson: Transition Redux…

In Around Mendo Island on March 3, 2012 at 8:06 am

From DON SANDERSON
Hopland

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  – Aldo Leopold

I was born and raised on make-do Depression and WWII farms, the tail end of a long family tradition extending far back, in one case to sixteenth century Yorkshire peasantry. I’d always expected to continue the tradition, but by the time I was ready the industrial age had surged over Midwestern agriculture and equipment and land were far beyond my reach. I have ever since sought return to the land, but modern day lords of the land always demanded more blood than I had to give. By the mid-sixties, I was reading Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, singing old union and Woody Guthrie songs, subscribing to and collecting Mother Earth News, gardening in every spare corner I could find, and escaping into the wilds at every opportunity. It was clear to me that civilization was sick to death, I ever sought a way out, but found every avenue had been bought by “them”, or so I thought – in retrospect, I realize I could have taken more risks, but I stupidly acquired a family while too young to know better. Transition early had become a constant drumbeat in the background. As a result, I’ve long explored options in considerable depth. More…

Transition: Taming the Zoning Monster…

In Around the web, Mendo Island Transition on March 3, 2012 at 8:00 am

From SHARON ASTYK
Casaubonsbook

For the last several years I’ve been working on the invention of “Urban and Suburban Right-to-Farm Laws” and have had some notable successes including a legal conference on the idea and a few municipalities that have implemented them. This is one of the reasons I think this is so incredibly important – zoning presumptions simply can’t be allowed to prevent people from using less and meeting their own needs.

Over the last 50 years, food and zoning laws have worked to minimize subsistence activities in populated areas. Not only have we lost the culture of subsistence, but we’ve instituted legal requirements that make it almost impossible for many people to engage in simple subsistence activities that cut their energy use, reduce their ecological impact, improve their food security and improve their communities. In some cases, these laws were instituted for fairly good reasons, in many cases, for bad ones that associate such activities with poverty.

Scratch most of the reasons for these things both for zoning laws and HOA policies, and you’ll find class issues under their surface in the name of “property values.” There are ostensible reasons for these things, but generally speaking, they derive from old senses of what constituted wealth They stem from the notion that what constituted wealth was essentially having things that don’t do anything More…

Occupy: The rich like taking candy from babies…

In Around the web on March 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

From THOM HARTMANN
Democratic Undergound

The Banksters like stealing candy from little children. No, I’m not exaggerating…they really do. At least according to a new study out of the University of California Berkeley and the University of Toronto. Two teams of researchers discovered that wealthy upper-class Americans are more likely than middle-class or poorer Americans to break traffic laws – lie for financial gain – and yes – steal candy from children.

First – when it comes to traffic laws – people driving higher-end cars like BMWs and Mercedes were seen breaking traffic laws and cutting off pedestrians more often than people driving cars like Camrys and Corrollas. In another observation – wealthier people were three times more likely to lie in a game of dice when a $50 prize was at stake for whoever rolled the highest number. As the lead researcher Paul Piff noted, “Even in people for whom $50 is a relatively small amount of money, cheating was three times as high.”

More…

Bruce’s Daily Dish…

In Around Mendo Island on March 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

From BRUCE ANDERSON
TheAVA
Anderson Valley

[Many local readers of The Anderson Valley Advertiser go directly to Publisher Bruce Anderson's column "Off The Record" before venturing into the rest of the popular Mendo weekly. Bruce now writes a daily blog post "of daily bulletins on breaking stories specific to or affecting Mendocino County" in the on-line version of the AVA, complete with a summary limerick... -DS]

Mendocino County Today: March 2, 2012

MENDOCINO COUNTY’S NEW PROSECUTOR, Paul Sequeira, 53, has sued a former Contra Costa County colleague. Sequeira alleges that Harold Jewett, 55, assaulted him during a hallway argument in March of 2010. Jewett says he was merely defending himself against Sequeira. Much of the dispute between the two men seems to have been fueled by office politics as each backed opposing candidates for DA in the 2010 Contra Costa County elections.

FLIP OUT OF THE WEEK (so far). Deputies were first called to the North State Street trailer park Wednesday morning about 8:30 where a young woman was said to be “running through the area and displaying bizarre behavior.” Bizarre behavior being a rather elastic phrase any more, deputies soon concluded that Lacey Lynn Mononi, 26, was merely drunk and animated beyond the normal parameters of alcohol intoxication. More…

Lucy Neely and Will Parrish: Food Localization, Mendo & Beyond — A Dialogue

In Around Mendo Island, Will Parrish on March 2, 2012 at 5:05 am

Adam Gaska – Mendocino Organics CSA

From LUCY NEELY and WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

On February 10th, on a misty morning at Rain Tenaqiya’s permaculture demonstration site in the hills far above Ukiah, we gathered with four pillars of the local food movement for an in-depth discussion of their respective philosophies and goals.

Mendocino County is home to a diversity of food production and/or cultivation, and one of the reasons that makes this area an exciting place to live for people who value ecological balance and social justice. We sought to reflect this diversity in our choices of conversation participants.

We first approached our mutual friend Mr. Tenaqiya, in whose hand-crafted earthen home on Parducci Road the conversation took place. He has been a permaculturalist and food forester of twenty years. He is zealously committed to reducing his carbon footprint and easing the suffering of all beings. He’s growing out dreadlocks. When we presented the idea of our discussion to him, he enthusiastically agreed to participate.

From there, we invited Doug Mosel of the Mendocino Grain Project, a sage observer of the local food movement, as anyone who listens to his twice-monthly More…

Todd Walton: Better Be Good

In Todd Walton on March 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“In Hollywood they place you under contract instead of under observation.” Walter Winchell

I recently read a brief rave review of a new movie, not a remake, but the umpteenth “psychological thriller” about a psychopath keeping someone trapped in a closet for years on end. And this review, which sounded suspiciously like a press release, reminded me of one of the more bizarre and disturbing passages in my long ago Hollywood sojourn when I tried to succeed as a screenwriter. But first a little of the back-story, as they like to call the past in the movie business.

In 1981, following the success of my first novel, I was hired by Warner Brothers to write a screenplay based on my second novel Forgotten Impulses, with Laura Ziskin the producer. Laura would eventually produce the Spiderman movies and several other blockbusters, including the incredibly popular prostitute-to-riches movie Pretty Woman, but at the time of our collaboration she had yet to make it big. Laura was passionate about my book, had wonderful ideas about translating the story More…

Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Dead Wrong…

In Around the web on March 1, 2012 at 5:42 am


Olaf Otto Becker
Icebergs in Iceland’s Jökulsárlón lagoon, which is constantly growing as the Vatnajökull glacier—Europe’s largest—melts; photograph by Olaf Otto Becker from his book Under the Nordic Light: A Journey Through Time, Iceland, 1999–2011, which has just been published by Hatje Cantz

From WILLIAM D. NORDHAUS
New York Review of Books

The threat of climate change is an increasingly important environmental issue for the globe. Because the economic questions involved have received relatively little attention, I have been writing a nontechnical book for people who would like to see how market-based approaches could be used to formulate policy on climate change. When I showed an early draft to colleagues, their response was that I had left out the arguments of skeptics about climate change, and I accordingly addressed this at length.

But one of the difficulties I found in examining the views of climate skeptics is that they are scattered widely in blogs, talks, and pamphlets. Then, I saw an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal of January 27, 2012, by a group of sixteen scientists, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” This is useful because it contains many of the standard criticisms in a succinct statement. The basic message of the article is that the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences. More…

The truly despicable personal war against our climate change science heroes…

In Around the web on March 1, 2012 at 5:00 am

[Human-Caused Climate Change is not complicated and is beyond challenge, yet the scientists who have proved it scientifically are subject to a fierce, dishonest, anti-science disinformation campaign and daily attacks threatening their lives and their families... funded by the fossil fuel industries... See also: I Heart Climate Scientists -DS]

A Climate Warrior Puts It All on the Line — Including His Life

From BRYAN WALSH
Time Science

The climate war — the public opinion battle between skeptics of man-made global warming and those who believe in the scientific consensus — escalated to a new level of ferocity this past month. First a series of memos allegedly from the Heartland Institute — a libertarian think tank that has long supported climate skepticism — surfaced on the Internet, detailing the group’s previously anonymous corporate funding and outlining its plan to fight action on global warming. Then came the news last week that the Heartland memos had been fraudulently acquired by the environmental advocate and scientist Peter Gleick, who — after allegedly being sent an initial memo by a person he identified as a Heartland insider — impersonated as a Heartland board member via email in order to obtain several additional internal documents. Worse, Heartland now claims More…

Keep Climate Denial Out of Our Schools…

In Around the web on March 1, 2012 at 4:55 am

From The Climate Reality Project

Sign our petition and stand up for reality. Say NO to climate denial in our schools:

http://forms.climaterealityproject.org/page/s/heartland

The Heartland Institute’s President and CEO just admitted that Heartland is writing a “global warming curriculum” that would say climate science isn’t settled. Heartland would like to create the appearance of a scientific debate where there is none by having our teachers claim we just don’t know if humans are changing our climate.

Corey Husic, a student and trained Climate Presenter, is sending the message below to Joseph Bast, President and CEO, Heartland Institute. Sign our petition and join Corey in standing up for reality. Say NO to climate denial in our schools.

Dear Mr. Bast,

I’m Corey Husic, and I’m a high school student in Pennsylvania. It’s come to my attention that you are prepared to spend a significant amount of money on a “global warming curriculum” to teach kids that climate change isn’t real.

That’s right. According to your own budget documents, you want to hand teachers a curriculum that says global warming is “a major scientific controversy” and that carbon dioxide might not even be a pollutant. More…

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