Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

25 Documentaries Everybody Should Watch…

In Around the web on September 28, 2012 at 6:02 am

From SANS SOLEIL
HighExistence

This is not your average documentary. It is a fleeting memory, a sudden remembrance of times long past, a meditation on time and culture, a touch of an emotional diary. We follow the eyes of a world traveller who makes sharp observations and tries to convey them to his friend. We never learn who they are and where they came from, and this is perhaps a subtle point the documentary wants to make. The narrator’s voice switches from Japanese to German to English to French, thereby embodying the language of the places visited. By observing the cultural kaleidoscope of our planet, the eye we follow seems to shape shift its way around and conveys to us, the viewer, that ‘what life is’ depends on where and when you are. Sit down, cover yourself in a blanket and sip on a hot cup of coca and join the collaborative dream called Sans Soleil.

Watch Sans Soleil on Google Video.

The Corporation

Corporate personhood is probably the elephant in the room when it comes politics. More than a century ago corporations could apply for personhood, giving them constitutional rights as if they were persons. Yet. if they truly were persons, they would be power-hungry one-dimensional sociopaths. Directing everything from what we see, drink, think, eat and everything else what we bring into our lives, corporations have an ever-growing grip on the world. We learn how they own the media, influence governments, silence critics and bend everything to their will, all in the name of profit. This documentary does not have a happy ending, and is probably preaching to the choir, but it is still a must watch if you want to understand the global workings of capitalism.

Watch The Corporation on Google Video.

More…

Todd Walton: Connections

In Todd Walton on September 28, 2012 at 5:22 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen

The stock market was way up yesterday on news that Bank of America announced that he (being a gigantic person according to the Supreme Court) plans to cut sixteen thousand jobs by Christmas. How nice. What a fine and humane time to fire sixteen thousand people in order to increase quarterly profits for a quarter or two.

“Everything in life matters and ultimately has a place, an impact and a meaning.” Laurens Van Der Post

So I was in the hardware store buying screws and varnish and masking tape and grout and glue, and having a laugh with the fellow helping me find things (about the trials and tribulations and triumphs and compromises of fixing things), when a couple entered the store and my Super Wealthy People alarm went off. That is to say, having grown up in Atherton, a town that is not really a town but an enclave for super wealthy people and those who serve them, a shiver passes through me when one or more of these folks comes near, and then I try to get away as fast as I can.

The woman was elegant and beautiful and perfectly coiffed and wearing a gray silk dress and a strand of fat white pearls and these amazingly svelte red leather boots, an ensemble that probably cost as much as most people’s cars, and the man was wearing a shirt and trousers I would more likely frame and put on the wall than wear. As is the habit of many super wealthy people, the woman walked up to the fellow helping me find things More…

Hey, Fellow Lefties: Pay Attention!

In Around the web on September 27, 2012 at 7:38 am

From REBECCA SOLNIT
TomDispatch

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. More…

Transition: A write-up of the 2012 Transition Network Conference. The best yet…

In Mendo Island Transition on September 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

Transition folks from around the world gathered last weekend at Battersea Arts Centre for the 6th annual Transition Network conference.  In a week when the Arctic ice reached its smallest ever extent, scientists warned that the world’s weather could be on the verge of running amok and it was suggested that Saudi Arabia, always meant to be the ‘swing producer’ on whom the rest of the world could depend for reliable oil supplies, may become a net importer of oil by 2030, the theme of the conference was, appropriately, ‘Building resilience in extraordinary times’.  Unlike previous conferences which had spanned two, perhaps three days, this was, in effect, a 6 day ‘Festival of Transition’, and it turned out to be an extraordinary event which deeply affected those attending.

Friday

Thursday began with the first day of a Transition Thrive training, and Friday featured the second day of that training, attended by 35 people from around the world, as well as a Youth Symposium and the REconomy Day.  I arrived on Friday lunchtime, gave a short talk for the Youth event, and dipped into the REconomy day, so I can’t say much about either.  Fortunately, thanks to the various people who documented the event, you can see some great photos of the REconomy day here and read Jay Tompt’s reflections on it here, and here Caroline Jackson reflects on the Youth day.

More…

Transition: At Its Heart, The Localist Movement is About Love…

In Mendo Island Transition, Small Business Skills on September 27, 2012 at 5:00 am

From BALLE
Thanks to Mari Rodin

First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech this week has been described by many as unique in the world of politics. Political affiliations aside, what moved so many of us was her use of a particular word, used repeatedly, throughout her speech: Love.  Politicians don’t often talk about love, but it is a word we use at BALLE. And this week something happened that could be described as an outpouring of love in Bellingham, Washington, the community where I live.

A 15-year old natural foods store, Terra Organica/Public Market, put out a call for help on facebook last week. This is a BALLE business and a member of local business network Sustainable Connections. The owner, Stephen Trinkhaus admitted he’d taken some expansion risks the past year that had over-extended their business. He said that they were now on the brink of closing.

He said he had decided to ask for help because if they closed, 60 people would lose their jobs — and because he really believes in what he offers our community. If they closed, we would have fewer healthy, thoughtfully selected products and services. So he asked if we’d consider shopping there…a lot…in the next few weeks.

Within hours the Bellingham Herald had posted his letter on their website and by closing their sales had already increased by $2,000 for the day. The next day was their busiest day in all of 2012, and the following day was their busiest in fifteen years of doing business here.

A customer came in and offered a $1,000 check as a gift! Others contributed money as well. One person had the idea of buying extra food to give to the food bank, and through facebook, many others decided to do the same. Far away friends of friends on facebook sent in donations! A local citizen organized a “cash mob” to be held five days after the plea for help More…

Transition: Madness of the Mainstream…

In Mendo Island Transition on September 27, 2012 at 4:45 am

From TRANSITION VOICE

The following dialogue continues an on-going cyber-discussion between two cultural philosophers, Dr. Sherry Ackerman and Dr. Guy McPherson.

ACKERMAN: Wow! I don’t leave the homestead all that often. And, when I do, I don’t go that far. But, today I had occasion to venture out into mainstream culture for the afternoon and I was flabbergasted.

The mainstream has never been my thing, but, Guy, I’m telling you that it’s plunged even further into madness. Sheer madness. There’s nothing out there that has anything to do with real life. It’s an entirely constructed false culture.

I live here on the homestead and there’s life all around me.

There are living plants in the gardens, animals in the paddocks and active people working with the soil, trees, water and solar patterns. Everything’s connected in a very practical, necessary way. Kitchen garbage goes to the chickens who then give us eggs. Livestock manure is composted for the gardens that give us our food. Solar energy fuels our living quarters, heats our water, and cooks our food. If any part of the chain of life breaks down, we’re all impacted.

Conversely, mainstream culture is dead.

It’s packaged, sterile, predictable, isolated (perhaps alienated is closer to the truth), and lifeless.

People lack enthusiasm (which, by the way, in Greek, means “filled with the gods”), are unanimated (anima, in Latin, means “soul”), disconnected and stressed. Time, which is a manmade construct, governs mainstream culture’s machinations. Products are old, boasting incredible shelf-lives. Prices are high, and the proceeds go directly to The Man, instead of to any real person(s). Conversation is superficial; factory food proliferates; gas belching machines, with single occupancy, are everywhere; dumps are brimming More…

‘Drones all over my brain’…

In Around the web on September 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

From FIRE DOG LAKE

A recently released report from the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law explores what it is like to live under drones and features firsthand testimony from civilians in Pakistan. The report, called “Living Under Drones,” is the product of two investigation missions to Pakistan and features firsthand accounts from those who have been impacted by drones employed regularly by the United States.

Part 1 on what the report details on strikes against rescuers and funerals was already published here at Firedoglake. Now, here’s Part 2, which examines drone surveillance, the effect that the presence of drones in the sky has on the mental health of Pakistanis and how drones breed distrust in Pakistani communities.

The constant presence of drones in the sky brings terror to the lives of the people of Pakistan. It is “harrowing” for children, grown-ups, women, and anyone who hears the sound of a drone and thinks they will be next. And in some respects, surveillance by drones is even worse than drone strikes because Pakistanis do not ever know for certain that a drone in the sky is just overhead to spy.

A humanitarian worker explained:

Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember what it felt like right after? I was in New York on 9/11. I remember people crying in the streets. People were afraid about what might happen next. People didn’t know if there would be another attack. There was tension in the air. This is what it is like. It is a continuous tension, a feeling of continuous uneasiness. We are scared. You wake up with a start to every noise.

One person told researchers, “God knows whether they’ll strike us again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” More…

Drone authorization lists in US…

In Around the web on September 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

From ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its first round of records in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for information on the agency’s drone authorization program. The agency says the two lists it released include the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly drones domestically. These lists—which include the Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, and the Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private drone manufacturers—show for the first time who is authorized to fly drones in the United States.

Some of the entities on the COA list are unsurprising. For example, journalists have reported that Customs and Border Protection uses Predator drones to patrol the borders. It is also well known that DARPA and other branches of the military are authorized to fly drones in the US. However, this is the first time we have seen the broad and varied list of other authorized organizations, including universities, police departments, and small towns and counties across the United States. The COA list includes universities and colleges like Cornell, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College, as well as police departments in North Little Rock, Arkansas; Arlington, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Gadsden, Alabama; and Ogden, Utah, to name just a few. The COA list also includes small cities and counties like Otter Tail, Minnesota and Herington, Kansas. The Google map linked above plots out the locations we were able to determine from the lists, and is color coded by whether the authorizations are active, expired or disapproved.

The second list we received includes all the manufacturers that have applied for authorizations to test-fly their drones. This list is less surprising and includes manufacturers like Honeywell, the maker of Miami-Dade’s T-Hawk drone; the huge defense More…

Rosalind Peterson: Worldwide and Domestic Drone Programs…

In Around the web on September 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

From ROSALIND PETERSON
Agriculture Defense Coalition
Redwood Valley

The United States has embarked on Worldwide and Domestic Drone Programs.  Unmanned Drones are being used in foreign countries and in the United States.  They carry surveillance cameras, recording equipment, bombs, and other weapon systems.

In recent years the U.S. government has decided to allow the use drones within the borders of the United States.  The following government reports, newspaper articles, and other information is provided for your information regarding the expansion and use of unmanned drones worldwide and in the United States.

Many unmanned aerial vehicles now under production vary in size from those as small as your fingertip to as large as full-scale airplanes capable of carrying missiles and bombs.  And model radio control small airplanes, cars, and helicopters can be purchased at your local toy stores or hobby shops.  The elementary technology has been in existence for more than fifty years.  It has only been in more recent times that more sophisticated technology, computers, cameras, listening devices, fuels, lighter and stronger contstruction materials, and other inventions have contributed to new uses for unmanned vehicles (drones).

Unmanned Drones are plagued by crashes, malfunctions, use of defective parts from foreign countries like China, accidents (including hitting other aircraft), loss of control, lost drones, and other problems.  Military drones are being tested over land areas in the United States while carrying weapons systems, missiles, bombs, and while using experimental and dangerous fuels, like hydrogen, or powered by nuclear power as is proposed by the U.S. government. The potential for accidents has already been clearly demonstrated in news and government reports More…

The Myth of the Self-Made Man Justifies Economic Parasites…

In Around the web, Aw, ya selfish greedy bastards ya on September 25, 2012 at 6:19 am

From GEORGE MONBIOT
The Guardian

We could call it Romnesia: the ability of the very rich to forget the context in which they made their money. To forget their education, inheritance, family networks, contacts and introductions. To forget the workers whose labour enriched them. To forget the infrastructure and security, the educated workforce, the contracts, subsidies and bail-outs the government provided.

Every political system requires a justifying myth. The Soviet Union had Alexey Stakhanov, the miner reputed to have extracted 100 tonnes of coal in six hours. The United States had Richard Hunter, the hero of Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches tales(1).

Both stories contained a germ of truth. Stakhanov worked hard for a cause in which he believed, but his remarkable output was probably faked(2). When Alger wrote his novels, some poor people had become very rich in the United States. But the further from its ideals (productivity in the Soviet Union’s case, opportunity in the US) a system strays, the more fervently its justifying myths are propounded.

As the developed nations succumb to extreme inequality and social immobility, the myth of the self-made man becomes ever more potent. It is used to justify its polar opposite: an unassailable rent-seeking class, deploying its inherited money to finance the seizure of other people’s wealth.

The crudest exponent of Romnesia is the Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart. “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she insists. “If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourselves More…

Planting Rebellion: Seed-saving as a subversive act…

In Books, Seeds on September 25, 2012 at 6:00 am

From TWILIGHT GREENAWAY
Grist

“In the course of getting a plate of food to our table, we’re paying a lot of attention to the farmer, the chef, the farmers market — all of that is as it should be, but we pay very little attention to the thing that starts it all, the seed.” That sentiment comes from Janisse Ray, farmer and author of the new book The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food.

And it’s true; for many of us, seeds are a mysterious, invisible piece of the food puzzle. While we’re busy thinking about how to fix our food economies, seeds often slip through the cracks. And we’ve lost an almost unfathomable amount of genetic diversity as a result; depending on whom you ask, anywhere between 75 to 95 percent of our fruit and vegetable varieties have been lost for good. Highly functional, often bland, hybridized and genetically engineered varieties have taken over the commercial market — as opposed to the more delicate, complex heirloom varieties with stories and names attached, such as Dragon Tongue beans, Country Gentleman sweet corn, and May Queen lettuce — and Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta now own over half of the world’s seeds.

So, you might say Ray’s book has appeared just in time. In it, she makes a compelling argument for seed-saving as a subversive act that has the potential to undermine industrial agribusiness and takes readers to the farms and gardens of people around the country who are growing, collecting, and swapping seeds.

“Our grandparents and great-grandparents were caretakers of seeds. Now we rent them,” she told me in a recent interview. Eighty-eight percent of corn is genetically engineered, for instance, says Ray, and it has been engineered so that it’s impossible to save. More…

Transition: Manifesto for a post-growth economy…

In Books, Mendo Island Transition on September 25, 2012 at 5:45 am

America the Possible

From YES!
Transition Voice

Editor’s introduction: Gus Speth has been a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advisor to presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the head of the United Nations’ largest international assistance program, and Dean at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

“Right at the time I should be settling into a rosy retirement,” Speth says, “I find I am instead quite alarmed about the appalling future we’re on track to leave our grandchildren.” His new book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, is about how transformative change can come to America, what life would be like in the attractive future that is still within our power to build, and what we need to do to realize it.

In this excerpt adapted from America the Possible, Speth takes on the tricky issue of post-growth prosperity. For more specific details about the policies under discussion here, check out the book.

We tend to see growth as an unalloyed good, but an expanding body of evidence is now telling us to think again. Economic growth may be the world’s secular religion, but for most it is a god that is failing—underperforming for most of the world’s people, and creating more problems than it solves for those in affluent societies.

Americans are substituting growth and ever more consumption for doing the things that would truly make us and our country better off. Psychologists have pointed out, for example, that while economic output per person in the United States rose sharply in recent decades, there has been no increase in life satisfaction. More…

Revolution: TV tells the Inconvenient Truth…

In Around the web on September 24, 2012 at 6:37 am

From TOD BRILLIANT
Post Carbon Institute

From the NBC website: Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why? Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down, the lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it?

And so, no matter how implausible or improbable the storytelling, Revolution offers an entry point for millions into a deeper understanding of energy scarcity issues.

I just watched my first prime time television show in years, NBC’s Revolution.

It’s fifteen years after the Great Blackout. The United States, at the very least, is entirely free of electricity for reasons as yet unknown (but it sure smells like, get this, a conspiracy!)  Humans have left the cities for the countryside to live in communal villages or prey on one another. The good guys sport henleys and hoes. More…

Gina Covina: Fall Equinox…

In Around Mendo Island, Gina Covina on September 24, 2012 at 5:55 am

From GINA COVINA
Laughing Frog Farm
Laytonville

Here we are at the equinox, that small moment of balance between summer and fall when day and night divide the hours equally and half the summer garden is finished. I’m feeling the expansive generosity of summer’s abundance and the anxious urge to hoard for winter in equal measure, spiked by sudden washes of sadness at all the endings.

The weather has been combining summer and fall in equal portions for the past week – lows in the upper 30s, making early morning chores something to wrap up for (or postpone), while afternoons still reach at least the upper 80s. In the cool evening I make the rounds of the gardens retrieving layers of clothing shed during the day.

While some of our summer crops are through for the year – melons, winter squash, corn, soybeans – others gamely continue to produce, albeit at a slower pace. Now is the time to assess the cold tolerance of tomato varieties – Japanese Black Trifele, Greek Asimina, and Black Cherry have barely slowed their pace, while others balk. Asian cucumbers keep on (with hoop house protection). The bulky Feherozon paprika peppers are finally moving through orange to red, after months standing pale yellow on the plants (the yellow stage is delicious, but we’re growing them for seed this year so all summer we’ve just looked).

This moment of balance at the equinox is spacious but brief – already it’s time to resume the harvest, make apple sauce and raisins and pie, water the fall garden starts – to fall headlong into the new season. It’s not called fall for nothing.
~~

Vandana Shiva: Organic farming is the only way to produce food without harming the planet and people’s health…

In Around the web on September 24, 2012 at 5:32 am

From VANDANA SHIVA
Common Dreams

Myths About Industrial Agriculture

 “The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and the industry is panicking,” says Vandana Shiva

Reports trying to create doubts about organic agriculture are suddenly flooding the media. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, people are fed up of the corporate assault of toxics and GMOs. Secondly, people are turning to organic agriculture and organic food as a way to end the toxic war against the earth and our bodies.

At a time when industry has set its eyes on the super profits to be harvested from seed monopolies through patented seeds and seeds engineered with toxic genes and genes for making crops resistant to herbicides, people are seeking food freedom through organic, non-industrial food.

The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and the industry is panicking. So it spins propaganda, hoping that in the footsteps of Goebbels, a lie told a hundred times will become the truth. But food is different.

We are what we eat. We are our own barometers. Our farms and our bodies are our labs, and every farmer and every citizen is a scientist who knows best how bad farming and bad food hurts the land and our health, and how good farming and good food heals the planet and people.

One example of an industrial agriculture myth is found in “The Great Organic Myths” by Rob Johnston, published in the August 8 issue of The Tribune. More…

William Edelen: Dogs of Valor… Dogs of Eminence…

In William Edelen Blog - The Contrary Minister on September 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

From WILLIAM EDELEN
Toward the Mystery

In my 50 years of writing newspaper columns and essays, no other column has been such a “labor of love” as this one on the War Dogs of combat who brought many members of our fighting military home safely. My journey for this emotional and educational experience started with my personal friendship with world-renown sculptor, A. Thomas Schomberg and his wife Cynthia, who often attend my Sunday Symposium in Palm Springs. Thomas was the artist who did the War Dog Memorial in front of the Museum at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California.

It was built by the support of veterans and the public without one cent of government money, in an effort to honor each and every valiant war dog and their efforts to save lives and prevent countless casualties. In Tom’s own words: “It is to illustrate the sacrifice that these two figures have made under combat circumstances, and to illustrate the bond between humans and their canine friends.”

A veterinarian serving in Vietnam wrote: “Without these dogs there would be a lot more than 50,000 names on the Vietnam wall.” Dogs in warfare have a long history starting in ancient times. War dogs have been trained for combat and to be used as scouts, sentries and trackers. War dogs were used by Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Slavs, Britons and Romans. Frederick the Great used dogs during the “seven years war” with Russia, and, of course, in  all American wars to the present day of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. Captured Vietcong told of the fear and respect that they had for the dogs. The Vietcong even placed a bounty More…

Will Parrish: Coastal Trail Or Trail Of Tears?

In Around Mendo Island, Will Parrish on September 21, 2012 at 6:34 am

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The physical geography that First Nations people have historically inhabited conveniently remains a mystery to most people in the dominant society. Seemingly, those willfully ignorant of such knowledge would include everyone in decision-making positions at the City of Fort Bragg and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) who, for the better part of a decade, have been devising an infrastructure project along 4.5 miles of coastline outside of the city without bothering to consult the people who have inhabited the land since time immemorial.

Those people, the Northern Pomo, lived along the coastal bluffs and contiguous redwood forests in and around what is now called “Fort Bragg” for at least 10,000 years prior to the arrival of Gold Rush-era California intruders. Many Northern Pomo people are currently part of the Sherwood Valley Rancheria in Willits, which is comprised of various coastal Pomo people. But some still live right in the vicinity of the historical Pomo village of Kaidu, near the mouth of the Noyo River.

The infrastructure project, known as the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail and Restoration Project, encompasses virtually all of the beachfront land west of the city, north of the Noyo River, and south of the Georgia Pacific Mill site.

On the surface, most people would view the project as entirely benign. It dovetails nicely with the cultural sensibilities and economic interests of most people in the area, outdoors enthusiasts and those linked to the coast’s tourist economy being chief among them. The project would develop a network of trails and walking paths More…

Todd Walton: Moving Experiences

In Todd Walton on September 21, 2012 at 6:13 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

Marcia and I are moving from the house we’ve rented for the past seven years into a house (five miles away) we just bought. Miracle of miracles, the little gem came to us as if in a dream, and in the dream we could afford to buy her, so we did. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new (old) house has required a great deal of work (eight weeks every day from morning until night) to be habitable when we make the great leap to living there this coming week, and the worse news is that we have to leave this house we have become so deeply attached to, and in so moving deal with ALL OUR STUFF!

Moving Experience #1: I confront a heavy cardboard box I dragged from Santa Cruz to Sacramento in 1979, Sacramento to Berkeley in 1995, Berkeley to Mendocino in 2006, and now Mendocino to another place in Mendocino in 2012. In faint felt pen on the outside of the box are the words Todd stories, go through. And I realize that I have never followed the dictates of that bygone felt pen but have continued to schlep this fifty-pound archive around with me for thirty-some years because…

Maybe I had better things to do. Maybe I had more room, more time, more tolerance for mysterious stuff taking up space. In any case, now I open the box and spend a couple hours skimming through dozens of short stories, two plays, and two novels I have only the vaguest memories of writing, though each novel consumed a year or more of my life. I end up saving a few of the stories and the two plays because a few of the lines grab me and hint they might lead to something good and new. The rest I dump into the recycling can to be picked up tomorrow, and as I dump those thousands of pages I feel a brief twinge of sorrow followed immediately by stupendous relief. More…

The Inevitable Decline of Retail…

In Around the web on September 20, 2012 at 5:27 am

From CHARLES HUGH SMITH
of two minds

Online shopping is rippling through the economy, affecting not just retail but energy consumption and the job market.

Correspondent Marc A. responded to my recent entry Is Anybody Else Tired of Buying and Owning Stuff? (September 7, 2012) with an informed commentary on how online shopping is affecting the retail sector.
Here is Marc’s commentary:

“Yes, online shopping has much room for growth. Given three days the “Brown Truck Store” has an infinite breadth and depth of inventory. A good example are the $39.95 Asic Gel running shoes I’m ordering from an eBay vendor. “Free shipping”. They have my size and are much cheaper than local shoe stores which are also often ‘out’ of my preferred size and style. I can wait four days.

And it’s infinitely cheaper in terms of fuel and energy for one Brown Truck Store to deliver to 600 consumers a day than it is for these 600 consumers to sally forth in 600 vehicles to local stores that are more expensive and aren’t nearly as well-stocked. Once delivery densities in neighborhoods grow large enough UPS and FedEx will add additional men to trot the packages up to doors while the truck rolls slowly down the street. They do this at Christmas time already. Soon it will be standard. But this is only an interim solution.

Once delivery density is high enough UPS & FedEx ground will do what Waste Management has already done. Waste Management compelled the use of standard green wheeled bins that can be picked up by a mechanical arm. And they fired the 50% of the labor force that was riding the back end of the truck and emptying garbage cans manually. UPS/FedEx/DHL/USPS will organize the compulsory installation More…

Taxes Over The Life Cycle…

In Around the web on September 20, 2012 at 5:00 am

From PAUL KRUGMAN
NYT

Mark Thoma has the best data post so far on the execrable Romney speech, linking to the Hamilton Project work on taxes. This work makes a crucial point: even aside from the fact that there are other taxes besides the income tax, even aside from the larger point that lower-income working Americans are hardly grifters, the fact is that the vast majority of Americans do pay income taxes at some point in their life:

Thanks to the child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, a fair number of working families with young children pay no income tax; thanks to the exemption on Social Security, many older Americans pay no income tax. But in middle age, close to 80 percent of the population pays income taxes, and even more, of course, pay federal taxes of some kind.

So the notion that almost half of our citizens are grifters isn’t just vile; it’s also based on a complete misunderstanding of tax realities.
~~

Michael Hudson: How Finance Capital Leads to Debt Servitude…

In Around the web on September 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

From NAKED CAPITALISM

This edited transcript is expanded from a live phone interview with Michael Hudson by Dimitris Yannopoulos for Athens News. It summarizes some of the major themes from Hudson’s new book, The Bubble and Beyond: Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and Global Crisis….

Q: How has the financial system evolved into the form of economic servitude that you call “debt peonage” in your book, implying a negation of democracy as well as free-market capitalism as classically understood?

A: The original hope of banking and finance capitalism in the 19th century was that banks would make productive loans to finance industry. The aim was for banks to do something new, that no economy had done in the past: make loans not merely to ship and market goods once they were produced, but to finance new capital investment by manufacturers and producers, as well as by the public sector to build infrastructure. The idea was for these investments to create profits out of which to pay the interest and the principal back to the lenders.

This was defined as productive lending. Nothing like it occurred in antiquity or in the post-feudal period. Investment always had been self-financed out of savings. Banks only entered the picture when it came to shipping and trading what had been produced.

As matters have turned out, banking has allied itself with real estate, mineral extraction, oil, gas and monopolies instead of with industry. So instead of getting a share of the profits, it has focused on lending against economic rent. More…

Gene Logsdon: Using The Old Farm To Sell The New

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on September 19, 2012 at 7:16 am

From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Historians like to say that we can’t “go back” to the past and that certainly is true in a general sort of way. But as a matter of fact, in farming circles, we are always “going back” one way or another. In every generation there are people who decide that “going back” is a way to escape what they dislike in the present and there are a whole lot of people, now and historically, who dislike what is going on in agriculture.

Today, we so-called “back to the landers” would rather say that we are going forward to the land and a new attitude toward farming. But the way we make our forward-looking local farm products appeal to consumers often harks back to the old agrarianism. For example, an appealing way to sell locally-grown whole grain products is to call your store or web site a “granary.” It has a sort of romantic ring to it that was hardly a part of the real thing back when every farm had one. Ours lasted until 1958 and the word was common in our everyday conversation. The “grain-ree,” as we pronounced it, was about 30 by 30 feet in size, built up off the ground so that it would be easier to keep rat-proof. Inside it was divided into bins in which we stored whole oats, wheat, and milled grains for the chickens and livestock. I would never have dreamed then that the word as well as the building would almost pass out of existence. Now, with the return of small scale grain raising, lots of homesteads would find one of those granaries very handy. More…

Occupy: Greece — Where occupations speak and governments fall…

In Around the web on September 19, 2012 at 7:15 am

greece squares

From ERIC RIBELLARSI
The Occupied Wall Street Journal

I recently traveled with a team of young radical reporters to Greece. There, longstanding illusions of Europe as a “progressive and democratic” force in the world are being dashed as the neo-liberal and imperialist projects that are European Union and the International Monetary Fund bare their fangs.

Thousands upon thousands of public sector jobs have disappeared. Half of Greece’s hospitals are slated to close. We met doctors who had not received their pay in over 6 months. Free access to healthcare is being replaced by free market chaos in which people must rely on bribes and brokers in order to even secure basic services.  The old social contract of the European welfare state has come to an end.

Factories are closing shop and moving to other countries where production is more profitable. Uncounted numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe, South Asia, and North Africa who came to Greece seeking papers to enter the European Union now find themselves stuck in a society where the jobs have disappeared – and where swaggering neo-Nazis are mobilized to attack them on the street.

Public agricultural lands that once provided for the people are being privatized. With those privatizations, agriculture is being replaced with whatever industries are profitable to foreign imperialist powers. Greece is entering a process of neo-liberal specialization, in which its economy is to be warped and disfigured to produce whatever is profitable for global capitalism.

These measures have been met with wave after wave of rebellion. More…

Non-GMO Shopping Guide…

In Around the web on September 18, 2012 at 5:56 am

http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/

WHY SHOULD I AVOID GMOs?

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recently released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “… GM foods pose a serious health risk”. The AAEM called for a moratorium on GM food, with implementation of immediate long-term safety testing and labeling of GM food. The AAEM is just one of many organizations worldwide calling for these steps to be taken. Read their position paper on GMOs

Hasn’t research shown GM foods to be safe?
No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food. No follow-up studies were done.Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

But aren’t the plants chemically the same, whether or not they are GM?
Most tests can’t determine the differences at the level of the DNA. And, even if they appear to be the same, eyewitness reports from all over North American describe how several types of animals, including cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, squirrels, and rats, when given a choice, avoid eating GM foods.

Haven’t people been eating GM foods without any ill effect?The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading. No one monitors human health impacts of GM foods. If the foods were creating health problems in the US population, it might take years or decades before we identified the cause. More…

Romney’s theory of the “taker class,” and why it matters…

In Around the web on September 18, 2012 at 5:33 am

From EZRA KLEIN
Wonkblog

“My job is not to worry about those people,” Mitt Romney said of the 47 percent of Americans who are likely to vote for Barack Obama. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

There will be plenty said about the politics of Romney’s remarks. But I want to take a moment and talk about the larger argument behind them, because this vision of a society divided between “makers” and “takers” is core to the Republican nominee’s policy agenda.

In his comments, Romney says that “these are people who pay no income tax,” but they are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

In other words, Romney is arguing that about 47 percent of the country is a “taker class” that pays little or nothing into the federal government but wants to tax the productive classes for free health care, food, housing, etc.

Romney is not alone in this concern. “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said when he began his presidential campaign. “We’re coming close to a tipping point in America where we might have a net majority of takers versus makers in society,” Rep. Paul Ryan said at the Heritage Foundation. “People who pay nothing can easily forget the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch,” warned Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

More…

Transition: GrowthBusters Showing Tonight Tuesday 9/18/12 in Ukiah…

In Mendo Island Transition on September 17, 2012 at 6:30 am

TRANSITION UKIAH VALLEY

PRESENTS

The Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse

107 S. Oak Street

Tuesday, September 18th

6:30 PM

$5-10 Donation requested

6 PM: Transition Town Presentation

Come early to find out about Transition Ukiah Valley and the Transition Town Movement.
~

“This is like a splash of cold water to the face. It’s a wake-up call. It’s to say, ‘Hey, you know, we are in that car speeding toward that cliff. Is that really what you want to do?’ But it’s also good news. It’s good news that if we can turn the wheel and put our foot on the brake that it opens up a great world of possibilities for us to actually have more enjoyable, more fulfilling lives.”– Dave Gardner, Producer/Director of GrowthBusters

Join us and learn how you can help prepare our own community for a more enjoyable, fulfilling future.

Transition Ukiah Valley is part of an international localization movement to build community resilience in the face of peak oil, climate change and economic instability.

Contact: 707-376-8846

www.transitionukiahvalley.org

A Fiscally Sponsored Program of the Cloud Forest Institute.TUV Film/Speaker Series Sponsored & Supported by S.A.C.


Genetic Roulette Movie Trailer

In Around the web on September 17, 2012 at 6:10 am

Watch Free until Sept.22 here

Are you and your family on the wrong side of a bet?

When the US government ignored repeated warnings by its own scientists and allowed untested genetically modified (GM) crops into our environment and food supply, it was a gamble of unprecedented proportions. The health of all living things and all future generations were put at risk by an infant technology.

After two decades, physicians and scientists have uncovered a grave trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock, and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stop eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improves.

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially among children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future.
~~

Todd Walton: Going (a short story)

In Todd Walton on September 17, 2012 at 6:08 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“We were all on this ship in the sixties, our generation, a ship going to discover the New World.” John Lennon

“Things have changed,” says Caroline, thirty-three, tall, slender, beautiful. “Love would be nice, but my window of opportunity is closing fast, so…”

Marjorie, Caroline’s mother, sixty-five and six inches shorter than her lovely daughter, waves for the waiter to bring more coffee. A few pounds heavier than she likes to be, Marjorie is vibrantly healthy, her long brown hair streaked with silver and gray, her green eyes sparkling with life. She wants to say to Caroline, You think I don’t know things have changed? We’re going backwards! The 50’s are here again, the 30’s close behind, then 1900, the Dark Ages, witch-hunts, slavery! But instead she says, “Of course things have changed. Things are always changing. But love is still the reason we’re alive. To love and be loved.”

“Oh, please,” says Caroline, rolling her eyes. “The sixties are over, Mother. Forty years over. Look where love got you”

Marjorie thinks back to a sunny day in 1967 when for the first time in her adult life she wore no bra, her nipples caressed by the thin cotton of her tie-dyed blouse. She was twenty-two, a graduate student at Berkeley, tripping down Telegraph Avenue looking for love—and finding it in the person of Hal, Caroline’s father, playing Frisbee in People’s Park.

“I admire Jeremy,” says Caroline, gazing up at the ceiling as she always does when stretching the truth. “He’s really quite nice and very bright, and he absolutely mints money. He just sold his third start up company for sixty million dollars. He dresses impeccably, knows everything about wine, owns a fabulous house in Hillsborough, a condo in Maui, a vineyard in…” More…

William Edelen: A Mantis Experience…

In William Edelen Blog - The Contrary Minister on September 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

From WILLIAM EDELEN
Toward the Mystery

I recently spent two wonderful days at Ojai, California soaking up the spiritual center of the Krishnamurti home, library, and grounds, including the “pink moment” of the Ojai valley are sunset. For those of you who are regular readers of my columns or Symposium news letters known as “E Blasts From Bill,” you are well aware of the details of that remarkable visit. And you may remember what I described as a moment of mystery and magic. When I stepped out of my quarters to return  home, there waiting for me was a Praying Mantis. I have seen very few in my lifetime. My mind immediately went to all that I knew, and had read about this “manifestation of God come to Earth” in the thought and belief system of the African Bushman: A divine messenger.

When I returned home I went to my book shelves and pulled out A Mantis Carol by Sir Laurens van der Post. On the cover of this beautiful book are these words: “If you read no other book this month, this year, this decade, read this one. -The Christian Science Monitor (a paper many times voted one of the most outstanding newspapers in the U.S.) “Mantis” is the Greek word for “prophet” or “seer,” a being with spiritual or mystical powers. The praying Mantis shows the way.

In the Arabic and Turkish cultures a mantis points pilgrims to Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic world. In Africa it helps find lost sheep and goats. In France, it’s believed that if you are lost the Mantis points the way home. “Follow Mantis” means putting that core aspect of yourself, your foundation of Spirit, at the helm and let it direct your intellect and ultimately your life.

“Meet the eye of a mantis and feel the presence of God. God looking at me through the eye of the Mantis.” The Mantis points the way and the path to relieving the “great hunger” in our lives. “The name of this great hunger was the hunger for love and for a way of life lived in love out of love for the love of it alone.” “This love, this calling for wholeness in life. The gratitude to life which comes flooding in over one as one experiences  again how pervasive and always  near is the mystery of love as though it were in the blood and bone of ourselves.” More…

From Romney’s dog to Ryan’s run, one thing is clear: this election is bullshit…

In BS Buzzer on September 14, 2012 at 7:27 am

From OLIVER BURKEMAN
TheGuardian

There’s truth and there are lies – but we need a third category entirely to understand this malodorous presidential campaign…

How did Mitt Romney first find out about the 9/11 attacks? As Buzzfeed notes, he’s told two versions of this tale: in one, he’s giving a radio interview when a host interrupts to tell him the news; in the other, someone rushes into his office to inform him. Just to be explicit: this really doesn’t matter very much. As with so much about Willard, it’s a little weird, since most people can remember exactly where they were. (I was at my desk in London, researching an article about Bob the Builder, since you asked.) But as an example of his complicated relationship with the truth, it was minor, and quickly dwarfed by his campaign’s attempt to argue that a statement issued by the US embassy in Cairo, prior to yesterday’s violence, was actually a response to it.

Still, the 9/11 discrepancy helped clarify something I’d been finding especially aggravating about this election campaign so far. We’ve heard much talk about truth and lies and the “post-truth campaign”, fuelled by the controversial role of fact-checking operations like Politifact and FactCheck.org. (Here on CiF, last week, Bob Garfield argued that the Republicans are increasingly taking refuge in the “medium lie”, too inconsequential to cause a fuss.) But something’s missing from this conversation. What this campaign has been especially full of, so far, is bullshit.

In his 2005 bestseller, On Bullshit, the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt made a crucial distinction between lies and bullshit. To lie is to intentionally deceive, by saying what you know (or believe) isn’t the truth. Romney does this all the time. To bullshit, though, is to talk without regard for the truth, one way or the other. The liar and the truth-teller, writes Frankfurt, “are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game”; the bullshitter, by contrast, refuses to play. “He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all.”

Frankfurt has much more to say More…

David Byrne on How Music and Creativity Work…

In Books on September 14, 2012 at 7:06 am

From MARIA POPOVA
Brainpickings

[How Music Works by David Byrne available at Mulligan Books. -DS]

“Presuming that there is such a thing as ‘progress’ when it comes to music is typical of the high self-regard of those who live in the present. It is a myth. Creativity doesn’t ‘improve.’”

Great times and tall deeds for David Byrne this week: First his fantastic collaborative album with St. Vincent (which made a cameo on Literary Jukebox), and now the release of How Music Works (public library) — a fascinating record of his lifetime of curiosity about and active immersion in music. But rather than an autobiographical work, a prescriptive guide to how to listen, or another neuropsychological account of music, what unfolds is a blend of social science, history, anthropology, and media theory, exploring how context shapes the experience and even the nature of music. Or, as Byrne puts it, “how music might be molded before it gets to us, what determines if it gets to us at all, and what factors external to the music itself can make it resonate for us. Is there a bar near the stage? Can you put it in your pocket? Do girls like it? Is it affordable?”

Among the book’s most fascinating insights is a counterintuitive model for how creativity works, from a chapter titled “Creation in Reverse” — a kind of reformulation of McLuhan’s famous aphorism “the medium is the message” into a somewhat less pedantic but no less purposeful “the medium shapes the message”:

I had an extremely slow-dawning insight about creation. That insight is that context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung, or performed. That doesn’t sound like much of an insight, but it’s actually the opposite of conventional wisdom More…

What You Need to Know About a Worldwide Corporate Power Grab…

In !ACTION CENTER! on September 14, 2012 at 7:00 am

From LAUREL SUTHERLIN
Rainforest Action Network

The corporate cabal behind a new trade agreement including Cargill, Pfizer, Nike and WalMart, has done an exceptional job of maintaining an almost total lack of transparency as they literally design the future we will all inhabit.

As international trade negotiators gathered this week at a posh golf resort in rural Virginia to hammer out details of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), they sought to project an image of inclusion and receptivity to public input. In reality, this high-stakes global corporate pact, now in its 14thround of discussions, is heavily guarded by paramilitary teams with machine guns and helicopters as it is developed behind closed doors under a dangerous and unprecedented veil of secrecy.

What the hell is the TPP, you may ask? While it is among the largest and potentially most important ‘free trade’ agreements the world has ever seen, one can hardly be blamed for not being familiar with it yet. The corporate cabal behind it, including names like Cargill, Pfizer, Nike and WalMart, has done an exceptional job of maintaining an almost total lack of transparency as they literally design the future we will all inhabit.

While 600 corporate lobbyists have been granted access and input on the draft texts from the beginning, even high-ranking members of Congress have been denied access to the most basic content of what US negotiators are proposing in our names.

Demand transparency now! Write to US trade representative Ron Kirk and lead Cargil trade lobbyist Devry Boughner to demand they make the text public.

Thankfully, draft texts of the proposal have appeared on Wikileaks and the website of Citizen’s Trade Campaign. It is difficult to overstate the potential implications on the lives of people around the world if anything like the agreement in these leaked documents were to be implemented with the force of law.

The TPP is called a ‘trade agreement,’ but in actuality it is a long-dreamed-of template for implementing a binding system More…

How Paul Ryan Would Kill the New Deal…

In Around the web on September 13, 2012 at 6:45 am

From THE NATION

Republican vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan is widely considered a leading conservative policy intellectual on welfare and entitlement spending. His budget—loosely adopted by the Republican Party platform—calls for a massive reduction in programs that benefit Americans broadly, and the poor specifically, in order to pay for big tax cuts. But his vision goes further, fundamentally altering the way the United States provides for the poor and elderly. Ryan’s plan takes the social insurance promises of the New Deal and the Great Society and turns them into something far riskier and less dependable.

Ryan’s vision for reforming the social safety net can be explained in three verbs: he wants to block grant Medicaid, voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security. Yes, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would likely still exist, but those changes would mean a profound difference for the average person who receives government benefits over his or her lifetime. Let’s look at what happens to Jessie, a low-income woman living in Pennsylvania who is eligible for all three programs at different periods of her life.

Medicaid

When Jessie is a child, her parents make a combined $30,000 a year. Because their income is under 133 percent of the federal poverty line, Jessie and her brother get health insurance through Medicaid. After Jessie gets older and becomes pregnant, she again enrolls in Medicaid. She and her partner only make $20,000, under the threshold of 133 percent of the federal poverty line for a couple, qualifying her under the federal requirement that pregnant women living at that income be covered. (Medicaid eligibility will expand significantly if the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented—a bill that Ryan, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party vow to repeal.)

Medicaid is a program designed to provide healthcare for people in poverty, an agreement between the federal government and states to jointly finance healthcare benefits. Since it involves cost sharing between federal and state governments, the federal government requires states to adhere to a defined level of benefits and eligibility baselines, which includes pregnant women and children. More…

Transition: A new way to save the Net from Big Brother…

In Mendo Island Transition on September 13, 2012 at 6:30 am


Want to protect yourself from government spies tracking your activities online?
Download some software and join the movement.

From ERIK CURREN
Transition Voice

If you’re into “re-skilling” and urban homesteading activities like canning or raising backyard chickens, then you probably think that working outside in the fresh air is better than sitting at a computer and spending time online.

Since you’re reading this, you’re obviously not a total Luddite. But if you spend more than a couple hours online at a time, you may feel a bit guilty about it.

When it seems like the Net is just a time waster at best and a huge, self-deceiving ego-trip at worst (“hey, I got seven new likes on Facebook today!”), it’s easy to forget that the Web is also a powerful tool for truth-telling and political activism.

Whatever the traditional media claim, everybody knows that social media was crucial for the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Ever since, tyrants and paid liars alike have quaked at the power of the Net to expose well crafted deceptions and to quickly mobilize citizens into action.

Just think of the Internet petition that forced Bank of America to withdraw its hated $5 monthly fee on ATM cards.

The Internet is the best place to learn the real extent of the economic crisis and find other news free of the self-censorship practiced by the corporate-controlled media. And the Net allows ordinary citizens to connect across the boundaries of race, class and nationality that governments and rich people use to keep us apart.

Why Net freedom matters

Any threat to a free and open Internet is about more than your ability to rack up points on Farmville. A challenge to Net freedom is a challenge to your ability to connect with people of your choosing, to seek the information you want and to exercise your rights as a free citizen.

So when Orwellian legislation like SOPA and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allow governments to send their spy agencies online to monitor the activity of ordinary people to protect the copyright of big media companies or catch “terrorists,” we should all sit up and take notice. More…

Gene Logsdon: Veiled Prejudice Against Farmers

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on September 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

American society seems to have lost its old prejudices against farmers since the hick and hayseed days and in fact the small, local variety is probably being canonized more than we deserve. But the class conflict between city and country is still around. The whole simplistic political division between so-called red and blue states has its roots in that ancient mistrust and misunderstanding between farm culture and city culture, or what I prefer to call it now, old culture and new culture. The fact that both town and country people live about the same today doesn’t deter the prejudices. Educated people, especially with advanced degrees, still view those who don’t go to college with veiled disdain while the uneducated still strike back and ridicule college graduates for their presumed lack of practical knowledge.

Sometimes however the intellectual snobbery towards farmers gets even more absurd than the blue collar contempt for “egghead” PhDs.  I got a letter recently from a newly-graduated art student who is also a farm girl. She sent along a passage from a book that I am not going to quote directly because what the author says is ridiculous and he may not have meant what it sounds like he meant, or would like to qualify it. The book is about landscape art, and the author says in passing that “agricultural workers” tend not to like art depicting natural settings because they associate the fields with hard work and the seacoasts with the danger of storms. More disturbing, one of the art graduate’s professors said he agreed with the author.

I try to think of an instance where he might be correct. The best I can come up with are migrant workers harvesting tomatoes in the sweltering sun while being referred to as “greasers” by the natives. But no, not even that works very well because I have picked tomatoes in the hot sun, once right along side migrant laborers, and I still love landscape paintings more than any other kind. I am sure that the migrants, being like most other humans, enjoy landscape paintings too if they have any interest in art at all. (One of them I worked with was putting his children through college on money earned picking tomatoes.) In my experience, the people who don’t like landscape paintings are very urban in their backgrounds and prefer abstract art in all its many forms.

More…

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity…

In Around the web on September 12, 2012 at 7:00 am

From CARLO M. CIPOLLA
Cantrip.org

The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:

Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate. Thus in the following pages I will denote the fraction of stupid people within a population by the symbol σ.

THE SECOND BASIC LAW

Cultural trends now fashionable in the West favour an egalitarian approach to life. People like to think of human beings as the output of a perfectly engineered mass production machine. Geneticists and sociologists especially go out of their way to prove, with an impressive apparatus of scientific data and formulations that all men are naturally equal and if some are more equal than others, this is attributable to nurture and not to nature. I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence… Complete article here
~~

The Chicago teachers’ strike is the next chapter in the fight against plutocracy…

In Around the web on September 11, 2012 at 7:31 am

From RICK PERLSTEIN
Salon

I was awoken by honking car horns yesterday morning, and couldn’t have been happier for the fact. Chicago’s public schoolteachers are on strike against the city government and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And while no one likes the budget crisis that forms the strike’s fiscal context, nor the fact that 350,000 students aren’t at school, much of Chicago is finding joy in the municipal impasse — which is why, anywhere within earshot of the schools where the Chicago Teachers Union’s 25,500 members are picketing in front of their workplaces, solidarity car horns are blasting away.

Since Rahm Emanuel’s election in the spring of 2011, Chicago’s teachers have been asked to eat shit by a mayor obsessed with displaying to the universe his “toughness” — toughness with the working-class people that make the city tick; toughness with the protesters standing up to say “no”; but never, ever toughness with the vested interests, including anti-union charter school advocates, who poured $12 million into his coffers to elect him mayor (his closet competitor raised $2.5 million). The roots of the strike began when Emanuel announced his signature education initiative: extending Chicago’s school day. Overwhelmingly, Chicago’s teachers support lengthening the day, which is the shortest of any major district in the country. Just not the way Rahm wanted to ram it down their throats: 20 percent more work; 2 percent more pay.

He had already canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent cost-of-living raise, and accused teachers who balked of not caring about their students. The teachers’ response to this abuse is something all of us should be paying attention to. If Chapter 1 of the American people’s modern grass-roots fight against the plutocracy was the demonstrations at the Wisconsin State Capitol in the spring of 2011, and Chapter 2 was the Occupy encampments of that summer, the Chicago Teachers Union’s stand against Emanuel More…

Young couple eschew tractor for draft horses as they cultivate sustainable practices……

In Around the web on September 11, 2012 at 7:07 am

From ANDREA DAMEWOOD
The Columbian

[See also: Visiting Stephen and Gloria Decater, Live Power Community Farm, Covelo, Northern California]

Yacolt, Washington

To see Dan Swansey perched atop a plow working the land, making soft clicking sounds to encourage his two Belgian draft horses, is to immediately be transported to farming’s past.

There’s no tractor, there’s no exhaust. Instead, there’s Bud and Charlie, plodding through the late May fields at Yacolt Mountain Farm and Nursery, preparing for the season’s planting.

The plow is vintage 1930s, and the horses are from Amish country in Iowa.

“It’s bumpy, but it’s fun — we absolutely love it,” Dan Swansey said.

It may seem that an upstart farmer would want to rely on the quick work of John Deere, rather than 16-year-old Bud and 15-year-old Charlie, to get crops planted as soon as possible.

Yet Dan Swansey and his wife, Caroline, at 32 and 29, are also part of a new movement by young growers to embrace what they see as a more natural way of farming — hitching to draft horses to further their organic ideals.

The passion of young farmers in sustainable agriculture for using draft horses is also reviving a largely oral tradition, just in time to hear the wisdom from older generations before it’s lost.

It’s a slower way of life, and one that means the Swanseys may not churn out as much chard right away. It also means that Yacolt Mountain Farm, which is also organic, has to charge more.

Still, Caroline said, there’s more demand from Clark County buyers than they can supply.

They have a Community Supported Agriculture program, sell at the Battle Ground and Camas farmers markets, and at the Vancouver Food Cooperative and Neighbors Market. More…

Spencer Brewer: Pat Ford and The Ford Blues Band this Saturday 9/15/12 6:00pm…

In Around Mendo Island on September 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

From SPENCER BREWER
Ukiah

[See my still-unfinished interviews with Ukiah local legend Pat Ford here:
Chapter 1 – The first longhair in town
Chapter 2 – Playing the blues
Chapter 3 – Fighting fire with fire
... and see you at the concert. -Dave Smith]

This Saturday, September 15th Parducci Winery’s Acoustic Café series presents the final concert of the season with the high octane blues heros, The Ford Blues Band. Festivities start around 7:00 with gates opening at 6:00.

General Admission is $12 and tickets are available at Parducci Wine Cellars tasting room, calling 463-5357 or go online at parducci.com/Wine-Store/Event-Tickets. Food will be available with part of the drink proceeds benefiting the Alex Rorabaugh Center (The ARC). Seating fills quickly so be sure to show up early enough to get a seat at 6:00.

For more information, please contact Parducci at 463-5357.

Patrick Ford established himself on the blues scene in the early seventies. Ford had just left a band where he played with his brother Robben to join Charlie Musselwhite. Only a year later the Charles Ford Band was established by all three Ford brothers, Patrick, Robben, and Mark.

Naming the band after their father Charles, was the brothers way of honoring him. The Charles Ford Band were ground breakers in blues, simply one of the most influential West Coast blues bands of that era. This band has also enjoyed significant record sales to date and a loyal cult following. Following the breakup of the CFB Patrick spent years on the road with the likes of Charlie Musselwhite, Fenton Robinson, Luther Tucker, Brownie McGhee, and Lowell Fulson.

After years working as a sideman to many blues greats Patrick decided in 1988 to form a band to record many of his own ideas. More…

I always drive in the leftmost lane at exactly 9.5 mph over the speed limit…

In Around the web on September 10, 2012 at 5:58 am

From DMITRY ORLOV
Club Orlov

Recently circumstances have conspired to make it necessary for me to drive hundreds of miles all over New England. I don’t often drive. The last time I owned a car was over a decade ago, and I haven’t missed it. I bicycle a lot, plus Boston’s public transportation is not too awful. When I do need a car, I either use a Zipcar, or I rent one.

Driving is by far the most dangerous activity I engage in. Both government statistics and ample anecdotal evidence show that bicycling through Boston rush-hour traffic, or sailing off into the stormy North Atlantic on a small sailboat, or flying halfway around the world on a semi-regular basis, or riding buses and trains wherever I go—all of these modes of transportation are much safer than climbing behind the wheel of a car, strapping yourself down, and driving it on the highway. My engineer’s mind rebels against such dangerously inferior technology. It appears that cars are mankind’s second worst invention, after nuclear fission. To drive a car is to acquiesce in the suicidal stupidity of our species.

Never mind all that, I just don’t like to drive. Being trapped for hours on end in a padded sheet metal box rolling through a desolate landscape of tarmac, highway signs and mowed margins is like being trapped inside a sensory deprivation experiment. Operating a car is a menial chore that reduces the mind to that of an insect crawling along single-file with other insects. Why is it that, after some 20 years of formal schooling, perhaps another 10 of self-education, and half a lifetime of valuable experience, I am suddenly being forced to accept the job of a chauffeur—a job comparable to that of a janitor, a landscaper or a security guard, which are all jobs that should not require even a high school diploma?

Before we get too far, I would like to say something to those who drive every day: You are welcome. Yes, I know that I am forced to pay taxes to subsidize your driving even if I don’t drive. I still have to pay for your highways and your fossil fuel subsidies and your military expenditure to secure the oil supplies and your traffic law enforcement. More…

Growth Is the Problem…

In !ACTION CENTER!, Mendo Island Transition on September 10, 2012 at 5:30 am

From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

["Growth" is over and it's not coming back, and that goes also for so-called "smart growth." (See The Myth of Smart Growth.) Dumb growth can be felt locally with:  the Ukiah City Council approval of an outside corporation "creatively destroying" (as one council member described it) a locally-owned downtown business, Incognito, that has been a downtown anchor store here for over 19 years; the foregone conclusion that many more locally-owned small businesses will be destroyed when Costco is also approved to open here; and the rumors of developers pushing to expand our town into the western hills.

The cult of endless growth has kept us from seeing clearly the choices in front of us. Freeing ourselves from this unsustainable path opens up a great world of possibilities for us to actually have more enjoyable, more fulfilling lives.

Transition Ukiah Valley will be showing Growthbusters on Tuesday, September 18th at The Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse 6:30 pm. Come early, 6pm, to find out about Transition Ukiah Valley and the Transition Town Movement. -DS]

The ceaseless expansion of economic exploitation, the engine of global capitalism, has come to an end. The futile and myopic effort to resurrect this expansion—a fallacy embraced by most economists—means that we respond to illusion rather than reality. We invest our efforts into bringing back what is gone forever. This strange twilight moment, in which our experts and systems managers squander resources in attempting to re-create an expanding economic system that is moribund, will inevitably lead to systems collapse. The steady depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, along with the accelerated pace of climate change, will combine with crippling levels of personal and national debt to thrust us into a global depression that will dwarf any in the history of capitalism. And very few of us are prepared.

“Our solution is our problem,” Richard Heinberg, the author of “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality,” told me when I reached him by phone in California. “Its name is growth. But growth has become uneconomic. More…

William Edelen: Proud to be a Humanist…

In William Edelen Blog - The Contrary Minister on September 9, 2012 at 8:04 am

From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

H. L Mencken, the renowned syndicated columnist for the Baltimore Sun, once wrote that he had no need ever to attend a circus. Why? Because he lived in a society that was a circus, with clowns everywhere. Mark Twain made similar observations. I always remember Mencken’s words when I read the rantings and ravings of those aiming their tirades at some mirage they call “secular humanism.”

I saw a wonderful cartoon recently. The picture is of a man and his wife dressed in puritan “do good” clothing. She is holding a book called The Book Hit List. He reading a newspaper. The man says “Holy Guacamole! Here’s a story about a school system that doesn’t pervert children’s minds with philosophy, literature, social studies, the arts, history and the rest of that secular humanism bunk.” The woman responds, “Hallelujua! Where is it?” The man answers: “Syria.”

How individual members of the fanatical right define “secular humanism” depends on where they are on a scale of 1 to 10 of brain constipation. An example. In a pamphlet entitled Is Humanism Molesting Your Child? a Texas parents group described “secular humanism” in these words: “a belief in the distribution of wealth, control of the environment, control of energy and its limitations, the removal of the free enterprise system, working for disarmament, the creation of world government.”

For some, attacking “secular humanism” means taking great literature out of our schools. It is called “book burning”… which they did in Nazi Germany. It means not exposing our young people to what a small group of parents have described as “obscene.” By their own standards and definitions, they will have to ban the bible from home and school libraries, for the bible is full of every obscenity known to the human race… rape, gang rape, sodomy, adultery, genocide, incest… and all in lurid detail. More…

Putting Food By: Time to Take Inventory…

In Around the web on September 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

From SHARON ASTYK
Casaubon’s Book

End of summer is a really good time to sit down and look at your preparations and your food storage and take inventory. What have you put by? What do you still need more of? What did you use over the last year? What did you have too much of? Whither from here? September is National Emergency Preparedness month, so now is the time to think – am I ready for the next crisis (do you even have to ask whether there will be one?)

If you’ve been working on this, but you don’t feel you are ready, here are some questions to ask yourself, and some possible remedies if things aren’t where you want them to be yet.

1. Do I have staple foods that I can rely on as the basis of my meals? A staple is a nutritious starch that contains some protein as well, and that can meet most of your needs. It could be a grain – many Americans rely on bread for our staple starch. But it can also be oatmeal, corn (if you are primarily relying on corn, it must be corn that is nixtamalized, so that you won’t get a major nutritional deficiency – you only have to worry about this if you are mostly eating corn, not if you eat an occasional meal of tortillas – so if you are storing whole corn, know how to process it, and if you are buying cornmeal, buy masa, not plain corn meal), barley, quinoa – or root crops. You can also rely primarily on potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and other roots, or a combination of those.

You can order bulk grains online or through a coop or whole foods. This time of year, you can often get a 50lb sack of potatoes or sweet potatoes quite cheaply. Ethnic markets often have good deals on grains as well. Don’t forget popcorn and pasta.

Here are a couple of posts about staple foods:
http://sharonastyk.com/2008/07/17/the-storage-life-of-grains-major-and-minor/

http://sharonastyk.com/2008/03/11/living-the-staple-diet/

More…

Todd Walton: Cheating Heart

In Todd Walton on September 7, 2012 at 6:48 am

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“It’s like deja-vu all over again.” Yogi Berra

My recent essay Cheating elicited several responses from readers wishing to share more examples of cheaters in high places, cheating as an integral part of our economic and political and interweb reality, and tales of people who don’t cheat being routinely victimized by individuals and corporations who do cheat. So the word cheating was on my mind when I remembered…

Long ago in Santa Cruz, circa 1973, I fronted a jazzy folk rock group called Kokomo, and for the better part of a year we were the Friday and Saturday night band at the popular tavern Positively Front Street, a stone’s throw from the municipal pier. One of my favorite things about that gig was emerging from the smoky confines of the pub in the wee hours of morning and filling my beleaguered lungs with cool briny air as sea lions arfed to each other in the near distance and the somnolent fog horn lowed with reassuring regularity—little waves lapping the white sands of the Boardwalk beach.

In the beginning of our entrenchment at Positively Front Street we— sometimes a duo, sometimes a trio, rarely a quartet—played only my original songs, and to this day I am amazed that the owner of that commodious tavern allowed us such artistic freedom, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the place was packed. On the other hand, he only paid us twenty dollars for four long artistically free sets (us being the entire band), plus complimentary fish and chips and burgers and beer and whatever tips we could entice from the tipsy crowd. Thus if we wanted to make more than five bucks a set it behooved us to play requests, and to that end we learned to play a handful of standards, two of which were Hank Williams songs, far and away the most requested tunes in that blessed watering hole patronized by many men and a much smaller number of brave women. More…

Transition: ‘Something in your heart knows that this is what life is supposed to be about’…

In Mendo Island Transition on September 6, 2012 at 6:03 am

From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

[Follow up of previous Ukiah Blog posts on Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics here and here... -DS]

About 4 weeks ago, I had the honour of interviewing Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘Sacred Economics’ while he was in the UK visiting Schumacher College to teach a course there for a week.  I had to admit before we began the interview that I have yet to read his book, in spite of the number of people I know who have insisted that I really ought to.  I decided to see this as an opportunity though, given that most people who will be reading this won’t have read it either, thereby sharing my starting point of near-complete ignorance.  I think it kind of works.  He was charming and thoughtful, and you can either hear the podcast of the interview [embedded in original post], or read the transcript…

For people who are unfamiliar with your work on sacred economics, what is it? How would you describe it to people? What’s the main thrust of it?

The book is about how to make money as sacred as everything else in the universe. Some people think, well, everything’s sacred, and it should be, but if there’s one thing that isn’t today it’s money, and we experience that in our daily lives just making personal decisions. Like for me at least, my impulse is for generosity or to follow my passion, or to do something right even though it takes much longer.  Money seems to block these impulses and to reward the things I really don’t want to do, the things that are really hurting the planet, that might be convenient, or the things that my rational mind calculates will be better for my self-interest.

Money is on the side of those things and not on the side of the beautiful things that I want to do. On a social level, too, I look into almost any problem, any terrible thing, like the prison industrial complex or the war on drugs or deforestation and climate change and I say ‘why is that happening?’ More…

New Junk Science Study Dismisses Nutritional Value of Organic Foods…

In Around the web on September 6, 2012 at 5:43 am

From ALLIANCE FOR NATURAL HEALTH

 You’d think Stanford would be above such sloppy research. You’d be wrong.

Stanford University researchers conducted a meta-analysis (a selection and summary) of seventeen studies in humans and 230 field studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, and meat).

The study [1], published yesterday in The Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

The media, of course, pounced on the first part of the conclusion and reported it with their usual ferocity, but in many instances completely ignored the second part. In fact, their headlines would lead you to believe there is no benefit to organic foods at all: “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubts on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce” (New York Times [2]); “Organic Food is Not Healthier than Conventional Produce” (Huffington Post [3]); “Study Questions How Much Better Organic Food Is” (Houston Chronicle [4]); “Organic, Conventional Foods Similar in Nutrition, Safety, Study Finds” (Washington Post [5]). Even Stanford’s own press release [6] says, “Little Evidence of Health Benefits of Organic Food, Stanford Study Finds.”

What the study actually said was that they didn’t find “significant” or “robust” differences in nutritional content between organic and conventional foods, though they found that organic food had 30% less pesticide residue. Even though the pesticide levels fall within More…

Farming without water…

In Around the web on September 5, 2012 at 5:09 am

From BRIE MAZUREK
The New Farm

This week, as the nation grapples with the worst drought in decades, the USDA added more than 218 counties to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the total to 1,584—more than half of all US counties. Farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains have been the hardest hit, but the drought is a growing reality for farmers across the country, including California. While the Secretary of Agriculture won’t comment on the drought’s link to climate change, it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and as global warming unfolds, knowledge of dryland agriculture will become increasingly valuable.


David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers More…

Weeds That Like A Sip of Roundup Now and Then

In Gene Logsdon Blog - The Contrary Farmer on September 5, 2012 at 4:48 am

From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

First the glorious days of advanced farming brought us corn stalks that eat tractor tires. Now there’s a weed that likes to drink weed killers, especially Roundup. Recently Palmer amaranth “completely overran” most of the soybean test plots at Bayer CropScience’s test plots in Illinois, in the words of DTN/Progressive Farmer editor, Pam Smith, despite having an arsenal of herbicides thrown at it. She describes some of the plots as “forests of pigweed.” I shouldn’t joke about this because it really is a serious problem, but I just can’t help it. At least 20 years ago, in New Farm magazine, a Rodale publication I was working for at the time, we reported weeds becoming immune to herbicides and the herbicide industry hee-hawed us for being organic nitwits. So pardon me while I hee-haw right back.

Palmer amaranth is one of about 60 recognized kinds of pigweed or amaranth (we call it redroot in my neck of the woods). The Palmer type is native to the arid southwest but finds other climates just fine, especially in drought years. First it marched across the southern states and now is invading the Midwest. I have a great hunch that other pigweeds like the kind that plagues my garden will also become glyphosate-resistant if they haven’t already. Ironically, the weedkiller industry is now advocating crop rotation along with their herbicides as the way to control weeds, which of course is what wise farming understood long before Roundup came around.

What makes this situation almost amusing is that Palmer amaranth is at least 8000 years old and makes nutritious food for humans. Amaranth was a staple in the Aztec diet as well as Mississippian Indian cultures of the mound-building era. To this day, the seeds or grains of this “weed” are popped and mixed with honey to make a popular snack in Mexico called alegria. Grain amaranth is still found in seed catalogs (Seeds of Change, for one). Back in the 1970s and 80s, the Rodale Institute, under the aegis of Bob Rodale, began seriously to experiment with pigweed More…

What the Economic Crisis really means and what we can do about it…

In Around the web on September 5, 2012 at 4:35 am

From THE AUTOMATIC EARTH

We were told that the global financial crisis of 2008 happened because irresponsible borrowers couldn’t afford to pay back their loans. This is true, but it was also part of a much deeper problem. The issue is that our economic system is based on the need for continuous, perpetual growth. It’s highly likely that we’re already in the beginnings of something much worse than a depression, even if bankers and governments won’t admit it yet.

Fortunately, we don’t need to hear it from them. We can tell that something is going on, we have the internet and we can share information amongst ourselves. And thankfully, if we try hard enough, we could just end up with something much much better than what we have now. I’m no expert, however I am someone who’s done several years of reading on these topics and I really want everyone else to know what’s going on, and understand the risks and the opportunities. It’s only fair.

So let’s look at how our banking system really works. It’s commonly believed that banks lend out money that they already have from invested savings. That would’ve encouraged a fairly stable system of banking. Instead, we have what’s called a fractional reserve banking system. This means that banks can loan out almost all the money that gets deposited with them. For example, when you put $100 in one bank, they lend $90 of it to someone else, who then puts that $90 in their bank.

Now there’s $190 where there used to be $100. That $90 lent out will also be deposited and $81 lent again. In this way, money ends up being multiplied between ten and a hundred times. Sounds crazy right? Less than 1% of the money in the economy is actual notes and coins, the rest are just numbers on computers, created as debt. This system rapidly increases the amount of money in the economy, which fuels economic growth, allowing most of us the ability to pay back our debts with interest. But only so long as the economy keeps on growing. More…

In the digital era, you own nothing…

In Around the web on September 4, 2012 at 6:21 am

From DAN GILMORE
TheGuardian UK

Whether or not the Bruce Willis story is true, it evokes one of the main dilemmas of the digital age: ownership is disappearing…

Bruce Willis, the movie star, may or may not be amazed that he’s not allowed to bequeath his Apple iTunes music collection to his children. A Daily Mail story alleging this has apparently been disowned by the actor’s wife.

Whether the story is true or not, it nonetheless highlights one of the largely unspoken – and outrageous – realities of the digital age: ownership is disappearing.

Publishers of books, music and movies have always wanted a world in which consumers of these media must pay again and again for the privilege. And as content moves into digital formats, the entertainment is moving within legal if not technical reach of that goal.

The Mail’s story quotes a lawyer making a key point:

Lots of people will be surprised on learning all those tracks and books they have bought over the years don’t actually belong to them. It’s only natural you would want to pass them on to a loved one.

Natural, maybe, but a violation of the onerous terms and conditions that Apple, Amazon and the other “sellers” of digital content impose on their customers. Despite promotional language – in giant letters – with the words “buy” and “purchase”, you are only buying a license to use the material yourself, and legally that’s all. So, who inherits your library, under today’s system? Nobody, and that’s just wrong.

Now, Willis can easily ensure that his MP3s will be usable by his children. All he has to do is move the files onto More…

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