Todd Walton: Giants and Greece


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“We don’t have to look far to see how pervasive suffering is in the world.” Joseph Goldstein

Matt Cain recently pitched a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants while Greece is in the midst of a massive economic collapse. Gregor Blanco made one of the great catches in Giants history to preserve Cain’s perfecto while Spain is in economic freefall with over 25% unemployment and Spanish real estate prices falling falling falling. Cain gave his catcher Buster Posey much of the credit for the no-no while Syria is in the midst of a horribly bloody civil war with thousands of casualties, many of them women and children.

Cain’s perfect game is only the twenty-second perfect game in the 130-year history of baseball while the Japanese government has ordered the restarting of several of their dangerously unsafe nuclear power plants despite a vast majority of the Japanese people opposed to nuclear power in the wake of the ongoing catastrophic meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

And how about Melky Cabrera, the Melkman, leading the National League in hitting while the American economy is collapsing around our ears. True, Tim Lincecum is having an awful year so far

Time to start your Fall/Winter garden…


From TERRITORIAL SEED CO

Sow in July: Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Kale, Parsnips, Chard

Sow in August: Arrugula, Cabbage, Endive, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Spinach, Turnips

Sow in September: Fava Beans, Carrots, Peas, Radishes, Garlic
~


~~

Doomsday Seed Banking…


20120628-215305.jpg

From JANISSE RAY
The Seed Underground:
A Growing Revolution to Save Food (2012)
Excerpt

When they want you to buy something, they will call you. When they want you to die for profit, they will let you know. So, friends, every day, do something that won’t compute. ~Wendell Berry

In 2008, Norway finished construction of a strange structure that reporters began to call the Doomsday Vault. Norwegians bored a tunnel into a solid-stone mountain in the permafrost on an island some seven hundred miles south of the North Pole and lined it with a meter’s width of reinforced concrete. They, essentially, built a structure to last forever. They built it to withstand just about anything.

Why would Norway and its global partners build such a thing? To answer this question, we have to imagine scenarios that might precipitate the need to replenish foodstuffs globally. Suppose genetic engineering goes wild. Suppose a comet hits the earth. Suppose climate change rearranges agriculture as we currently practice it. Suppose seas rise?

The global seed bank was built to withstand even climate change. The tunnel was positioned high on a mountainside, 430 feet above sea level—130 feet higher than seawater is expected to rise in global warming’s worst-case scenario, even if the polar icecaps melt. Tsunami waters won’t reach it.

Democrats go AWOL in class war…


From JONATHAN MARTIN
Politico

Labor unions hoped to turn the Wisconsin recall election into a rallying cause for their ailing movement. But a Democratic president couldn’t be dragged off the sidelines for the fight.

Anti-Wall Street activists were itching to see JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon bashed like a piñata at a congressional hearing just two weeks after his firm blew $2 billion in risky speculation. But Democratic senators greeted him with flowers, not fury.

And, as President Barack Obama attempts to make Mitt Romney’s history as a wealthy buyout artist a centerpiece of his 2012 message, he is second-guessed and hushed by some of the leading voices in his own party.

What the hell ever happened to populism in the Democratic Party?

The recent convergence of setbacks on the left has activists and historians alike pondering anew how the modern Democratic Party has severed its connection to its own history — a tradition that many liberals wrongly imagined was about to spring back to life in the Obama years.

Populism — with its rowdy zeal to brawl against economic elites on behalf of the working classes — was for decades the party’s defining cause.

In language that highlights the tameness of contemporary class warfare, President Franklin D. Roosevelt railed against “economic royalists” and the “forces of organized greed,” and, of his business opponents, he gloated, “I welcome their hatred.”

Can We Get Along Without Authorities?


From DAVID SWANSON
New. Clear. Vision.

Some years ago, I watched a screening of a film about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers.  The film was shown in the U.S. Capitol, and Ellsberg was present, along with others, to discuss the movie and take questions afterwards.

I’ve just read Chris Hayes’ new book Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (Crown, 2012), and am reminded of the question that progressive blogger and then-Congressman Alan Grayson staffer Matt Stoller asked Ellsberg.

What, Stoller wanted to know, should one do when (following the 2003 invasion of Iraq) one has come to the realization that the New York Times cannot be trusted?

The first thing I thought to myself upon hearing this was, of course, “Holy f—, why would anyone have ever trusted the New York Times“?  In fact I had already asked a question about the distance we’d traveled from 1971, when the New York Times had worried about the potential shame of having failed to publish a story, to 2005 when the New York Times publicly explained that it had sat on a major story (about warrantless spying) out of fear of the shame of publishing it.

But the reality is that millions of people have trusted and do trust, in various ways and to various degrees, the New York Times and worse.  Ellsberg’s response to Stoller was that his was an extremely important question and one that he, Ellsberg, had never been asked before.

Have sledgehammer, will farm…


From HEATHER SMITH
Grist

Not too long ago, we turned some of the most productive agricultural land in the world into suburbs. The business of building homes has slowed since the 2008 recession, but it continues to be true that no matter how well-suited a spot was to growing food, if a developer wants to make money, they’ll cover farmland with houses.

In the aftermath of the housing bubble, interesting signs have begun to suggest that the economics of dirt may be shifting. In fact it might one day be more valuable to grow food on a plot of land than to plop a house down on top of it. A few farmers recently made a killing buying back the farms they’d cashed out on. Meanwhile, the value of farmland in Iowa has increased by 33 percent, setting off speculation that farmland could be the next bubble. (It’s a bubble fueled by corn for ethanol and therefore food for cars instead of people, but still, it holds promise.) And then there is the matter of the failed shopping mall in Cleveland that began doing double-duty as a greenhouse.

All of this raises the question: What about those farms that have already been converted into subdivisions? Once someone has thoughtfully poured concrete over most of your neighborhood, should you try to un-concrete it and make it a farm again? Could the McMansions of Brentwood become fertile fields again?

Science says yes, absolutely. You wouldn’t want to tear up asphalt (it’s regrettably full of carcinogenic hydrocarbons), but concrete is a different story

The Twilight of David Brooks…


From DAVID ATKINS
Hullabaloo

Via Crooked Timber, this deeply ironic column last week from David Brooks displays the singular lack of self-awareness for which Brooks has become legendary:

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.

In his memoir, “At Ease,” Eisenhower delivered the following advice: “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” Ike slowly mastered the art of leadership by becoming a superb apprentice.

To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those skills are required for good monument building, too.

Chris Hayes might have something to say about why we have lost faith in those institutional elites.

The fact that Brooks has been horribly, astonishingly, unequivocally and ludicrously wrong about

Bob Dylan Animated Video for New Kids Book – Forever Young



~

Tangled Up in Dylan: The twisted tale of AJ Weberman

From DANGEROUS MINDS

If you appreciate whimsical documentaries about eccentric or marginal types—much of Louis Theroux’s work, the Wild Man Fischer doc dErailRoaDed and Keith Allen’s deliriously insane Little Lady Fauntleroy would fall into this category—or if you are a Bob Dylan completest, then you might be interested in Tangled Up in Dylan: The Ballad of AJ Weberman directed by James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfe.

AJ Weberman is infamous, if he is known at all, among Dylan aficionados for being the obsessed stalker who Bob Dylan physically assaulted in 1971 because he had been harassing his family. Weberman picked through their trash (he calls his stinky style of sleuthing the science of “Garbology”) and staged demonstrations (with the “Dylan Liberation Front,” the students of his “Dylanology” classes) outside of Dylan’s MacDougal Street brownstone, apparently with the aim of convincing Dylan to, uh, join the revolution, man… but having the result of really pissing him off.

Gene Logsdon: A Farmer Who Actually Farms…


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Life is so much a matter of contrasts. Last week I wrote about a large scale farmer of several thousand acres who drives his computer 9 hours a day while his brother and hired help to the actual farming. In stark contrast, shortly after I talked to him, an old friend stopped by to tell me that, after nearly forty years, he was retiring from small scale dairying. He tried to be upbeat about it but I could tell that he was sad too. He will keep on farming his 200 acres and maybe raise a few steers. Old dairymen never die, they just quit milking cows.

I’ve bragged in my writing over the years about Steve and Pat Gamby way more than they wish I would. Against all economic expertise, they have made a success of small-scale commercial farming and of life. They are very devoted to each other. They’ve raised three children anyone would be proud of. One of them, Rebecca, just finishing up college, happens to be an outstanding athlete also. She was playing last week with the USA national women’s softball team that would be our USA Olympic team if women’s softball was still in the Olympics. She played with and against the best softball players in the U.S. (actually in the world) and did all right for herself.

Her father did all right for himself in sports too, having played professional baseball in the minor leagues before he decided he’d rather stay home and milk cows. That’s how I got to know him. When I found out there was a former minor league ballplayer in our neighborhood, I courted him shamelessly for our softball team. He decided to play, against his better judgment, I think

So now what do we do to defend life on Earth?


From GEORGE MONBIOT
The Guardian

It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses.

The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.

The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.

We have used our unprecedented freedoms, secured at such cost by our forebears, not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all

Why Taxes Have To Be Raised On The Rich…


~

From TARIQ ALI

“I try to avoid giving advice to younger generations, because generations are so different from each other. Given the world has changed so much, the only universal advice to be given is, don’t give up. You’ll live through bad times, and you’ll feel that everything is lost. Many people become passive. But passivity usually leads to despair. I think it’s extremely important for young people growing up today to be active. Activity is something that leads to hope. Unless they’re active themselves, no one is going to hand them anything on a plate. That’s the lesson of the last few years with this new radicalization. Don’t give up. Have hope. Remain skeptical. Be critical of the system that dominates us all and sooner or later — if not in this generation, then in generations to come — things will change.”
~~

Here’s the Future of America…


From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

“The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” William Gibson. Fortunately, we have the capacity to prevent this outcome in our communities.

Writing from: Aspen, CO. I’m speaking/attending the National Geographic Environmental Conference (focus of the conference: adapting to climate change).

I had the good fortune of sitting on a conference panel with Mayor Fetterman of Braddock, PA.

He’s a great bear of a guy (he makes me, at 6′ 1″ and well built, look small in comparison), but despite his size, he looked like he was slowly being crushed by the weight of the world when he showed up at the panel.

His story explained why. He’s spent the last decade trying to save a storied American town, crushed by global economic and financial forces. Forces that gutted a prosperous steel town of 18,000 with some historical treasures (e.g. the first Carnegie Library) and a thriving retail sector.

When Fetterman arrived in Braddock, the town was already in shambles. The population had fallen to below 3,000 and gang crime was rampant. In fact, the landscape of the town was so bleak, the town was used as a setting for the darkest apocalypse movie I’ve ever seen, “The Road“

Undeterred, he set to work. He cleaned up the crime. Built a local organic farm inside a no-go zone, to produce food for a town without a supermarket. He also established a craftwork that produces high quality and inexpensive ($15) ceramic water filters.

Mendacious Mitt: Romney’s bid to become liar-in-chief…


From MICHAEL COHEN
The Guardian

Spin is normal in politics, but Romney is pioneering a cynical strategy of reducing fact and truth to pure partisanship. When challenged about an untruthful statement, Romney’s tactic is to deny he said it – lie trumping lie…

Four years ago, when I was writing about the 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote with dismay and surprise at the spate of falsehoods coming out of John McCain’s campaign for president. McCain had falsely accused his opponent Barack Obama of supporting “comprehensive sex education” for children, and of wanting to raise taxes on the middle class, while his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, took credit for opposing the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere”, which she had actually supported.

At the time, such false and misleading claims from a presidential candidate seemed shocking: they crossed an unstated line in American politics – going from the usual garden-variety campaign exaggeration to wilful lying.

Ah, those were the days … after watching Mitt Romney run for president the past few months, he makes John McCain look like George Washington (of “I Can’t Tell A Lie” fame).

Granted, presidential candidates are no strangers to disingenuous or overstated claims; it’s pretty much endemic to the business. But Romney is doing something very different and far more pernicious. Quite simply, the United States has never been witness to a presidential candidate, in modern American history, who lies as frequently, as flagrantly and as brazenly as Mitt Romney.

Is The City of Ukiah About To Be Outsourced and Privatized? Do you care?


[During City of Ukiah budget hearings words like "Matrix" and "Strategic Planning" are dominant themes in the budget vocabulary discussion. What's missing is the City's Personnel Laws for Civil Service employees. Workforce reduction or layoffs require bargaining. The first volley for privatization of city business is ON. You're needed in City Hall on Tuesday at 1 pm. Read the article below about one town's mastery of privatization. Not a town I would want to call home. ~Linda Sanders]

A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private

From DAVID SEGAL
NYT

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.

Outsourcing City Hall

If your image of a city hall involves a venerable building, some Roman pillars and lots of public employees, the version offered by this Atlanta suburb of 94,000 residents is a bit of a shocker.

The entire operation is housed in a generic, one-story industrial park, along with a restaurant and a gym. And though the place has a large staff, none are on the public payroll. O.K., seven are, including the city manager. But unless you chance into one of them, the people you meet here work for private companies through a variety of contracts.

Applying for a business license? Speak to a woman with Severn Trent, a multinational company based in Coventry, England. Want to build a new deck on your house? Chat with an employee of Collaborative Consulting, based in Burlington, Mass. Need a word with people who oversee trash collection? That would be the URS Corporation, based in San Francisco.

More Ugly Privitizing…


From PAUL KRUGMAN
NYT

Prisons, Privatization, Patronage

Over the past few days, The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The series is a model of investigative reporting, which everyone should read. But it should also be seen in context. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded.

First of all, about those halfway houses: In 2010, Chris Christie, the state’s governor — who has close personal ties to Community Education Centers, the largest operator of these facilities, and who once worked as a lobbyist for the firm — described the company’s operations as “representing the very best of the human spirit.” But The Times’s reports instead portray something closer to hell on earth — an understaffed, poorly run system, with a demoralized work force, from which the most dangerous individuals often escape to wreak havoc, while relatively mild offenders face terror and abuse at the hands of other inmates.

It’s a terrible story. But, as I said, you really need to see it in the broader context of a nationwide drive on the part of America’s right to privatize government functions, very much including the operation of prisons. What’s behind this drive?

You might be tempted to say that it reflects conservative belief in the magic of the marketplace, in the superiority of free-market competition over government planning. And that’s certainly the way right-wing politicians like to frame the issue.

Todd Walton: Bird In Hand


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.” D.H. Lawrence

Three days ago I was settling down on the living room sofa for a much-anticipated afternoon nap, when a bird smacked into one of the seven big windows that make our living room feel so light and airy. Alas, this sickening thud usually presages a dead bird or one so stunned that our cat, if he can get outside in time, makes short work of. And so it was with some trepidation that I got up to look out the various windows to see what I could see.

To my surprise and chagrin, the bird in question had not smacked the outside of a window, but had flown through our open sliding glass door and struck the inside of a pane; and there she was, a little gray sparrow with pretty white markings, standing stock still on a window sill.

“Hello beautiful,” I said to the bird, hoping to catch and release her without hurting her and without causing so much commotion that our cat would come running to capture this high protein snack.

But how could I catch the bird without scaring her into frantic flight? I picked up the big straw basket I use for shopping and thought I’d somehow put the basket over the bird and then… then what? Wouldn’t the bird just fly out from under the basket and zoom around the room and smack into another window and break her neck or bring our cat running or…

Yet even as I was entertaining such unpleasant scenarios, I got closer and closer to the bird until I was right beside her and she remained standing absolutely still. So I slowly reached out and gently encircled her body with my fingers, carefully gripped her just tightly enough

Transition: We’re optimistic in the face of tough times, but we are also real about the challenges…


From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture
England

Not many of us have lived at a time where we have seen the creation of a new newspaper.  I remember the launch of the Independent, and also of the rather rubbish and not-that-much-of-a-shame-it-went-out-of-business Today newspaper, and I guess I have, now I think about it, also witnessed the emergence of the Sun on Sunday.  Hmmm… this is already making me a bit depressed now I think about it, so on to the good news.  We have the great honour, ladies and gentlemen, of being alive at this time and being able to witness the emergence of Transition Free Press, a new national newspaper dedicated to the emergent marvel that is Transition.  How exciting is that?!

Transition Free Press will be a quarterly, 16 page, full colour, tabloid size newspaper, and is the creation of its core team, some of whom may be familiar to regular Transition Culture readers.  It is edited by Charlotte Du Cann, designed by Trucie Mitchell and Mihnea Damian, the news editor is Alexis Rowell, food and wellbeing editor is Tamzin Pinkerton, the subeditor is Mark Watson, Production Manager is Mike Grenville (who began the enterprise) and Jay Tompt is Business Manager who will take it forward.  What a team.

Here’s how they introduce the paper:

“You could say this is the worst and the best of times to be publishing in print. Worst because we are in a recession, at the tail end of an industrialised civilisation, where “growth at all costs” has begun to play out its consequences. Best because there is a whole new narrative out there, the happening story of Transition you might not see covered by mainstream media. That’s the story we’re aiming to tell.

The Macroeconomics of Chinese Kleptocracy…


From BRONTE CAPITAL

China is a kleptocracy of a scale never seen before in human history. This post aims to explain how  this wave of theft is financed, what makes it sustainable and what will make it fail. There are several China experts I have chatted with – and many of the ideas are not original. The synthesis however is mine. Some sources do not want to be quoted.

The macroeconomic effects of the Chinese kleptocracy and the massive fixed-currency crisis in Europe are the dominant macroeconomic drivers of the global economy. As I am trying a comprehensive explanation for much of the world’s economy in less that two thousand words I expect some kick-back.

China is a kleptocracy. Get used to it.

I start this analysis with China being a kleptocracy – a country ruled by thieves. That is a bold assertion – but I am going to have to assert it. People I know deep in the weeds (that is people who have to deal with the PRC and the children of the PRC elite) accept it. My personal experience is more limited but includes the following:

(a). The children and relatives of CPC Central Committee members are amongst the beneficiaries of the wave of stock fraud in the US,

(b). The response to the wave of stock fraud in the US and Hong Kong has not been to crack down on the perpetrators of the stock fraud (so to make markets work better). It has been to make Chinese statutory accounts less available to make it harder to detect stock fraud.

(c). When given direct evidence of fraudulent accounts in the US filed by a large company with CPC family members as beneficiaries or management a big 4 audit firm will (possibly at the risk to their global franchise)

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