Posts By ds

Faith and fears in Wendell Berry’s Kentucky…


From Grist

Wendell Berry’s mind is preoccupied with four dead sheep. I join the 80-year-old food movement sage for a drink and a visit in the kitchen of his neat white house on the top of the hill in Henry County. The talk meanders, picks up steam, and tapers off until the hum of the refrigerator fills the air, but the conversation always circles back to those missing animals.

Berry has four fewer sheep, but there were only two carcasses. The others disappeared without a trace. It’s coyotes, according to a trapper who knows the beasts and how to get rid of them. Berry has never heard of coyotes doing such a thing — not the stealing of sheep, for which they have an established reputation, but for doing such a clean job of it. No telltale chunks of hide or dried blood. I can tell that the mystery rattles around in his thoughts even as we trade stories of hunters being hunted, my home state of Montana, and women who tell dirty jokes.

New Interview posted at Mendocino Talking…


Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino

(Christie is the owner of the Gallery Book Shop in Mendocino ( She grew up in Woodenville, outside Seattle, Washington, and lived in that area until she moved here with her family to Mendocino County in 1998. Her family includes her husband, Ryan, a teacher, and their two kids, Collin and Susannah. When I asked her what she was reading, she said “Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brian. I finally picked up this series, which seems to capture every bookseller sooner or later.” Then I asked why they decided to come and live here…)

Go to Mendocino Talking

Bottle Your Own Water…






Why We Built ‘Ebola Deeply’…



Every time I pick up the phone and call home I am filled with dread. Will this be the day I hear someone I love has contracted the disease? To date, thankfully, no one in my family has. But that provides little comfort.

When my husband first said it, I was shocked and indignant. “What do you mean I feel guilty about my family being in Sierra Leone during this Ebola crisis, while I sit here in the United States?” I replied. His remark made me wince. But days later I mulled it over again and, in a moment of quiet reflection, I realized he was onto something.

My family – mother, brother, grandmother and countless loved ones – are in Sierra Leone right now. My immediate family is in the capital, Freetown, while many others are scattered about the countryside. No matter where they live, their day-to-day lives, their routines, their normalcy, has been ripped to shreds by Ebola. At the time of writing, Sierra Leone has seen 2,950 cases of Ebola, of which 2,593 are confirmed, along with 930 deaths according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. My heart goes out to the families of each and every victim and survivor of this terrible virus.

Every time I pick up the phone and call home I am filled with dread. Will this be the day I hear someone I love has contracted the disease? To date, thankfully, no one in my family has. But that provides little comfort. New cases continue to be reported in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The reality is, the longer this outbreak goes on, the deeper this disease will be entrenched, and the higher the chances someone in my family will become infected. It’s as simple as that. Whether they do or not, we can say with certainty more people will fall ill and some will die. My country, which has fought so hard to rebuild after a decade-long civil war, has been left teetering on the edge of collapse.

The truth is I do feel somewhat guilty that my physical life is able to go on without major disruption while my relatives wonder what the next day will bring. We always think of guilt as a bad thing, but sometimes it can motivate you to do the right thing. In my case, that has been to join a group of incredibly passionate and talented individuals to build Ebola Deeply. Our mission is simple: to humanize this public health emergency and to drive the dialogue in search of new ideas and solutions to the crisis.

This epicenter of this outbreak is Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, but if this situation is allowed to worsen, greater numbers of Ebola cases will make their way to Western shores. That is the legacy of this globalized, interconnected world we live in. More needs to be done, and there is a role for each and every one of us to play. In some cases, it is as simple as learning more about this disease and what is really happening in these seemingly far away countries. Guilt is my motivator to do more….

The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing…

From Brain Pickings

“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65… and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?”

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short essay on her Facebook page, spurred by a surge in negative comments and vicious troll attacks.

Lamott’s words, once again, shine with warm and luminous wisdom. Alluding to the chapter on perfectionism, she writes:

Grimly Letting Go of the Old Story…



I have noticed a subtle change over the last year or two in what (and how) both mainstream and alternative media are reporting (worse news, more indifferently, more dishonestly and more under-reporting). I’ve also noticed a gradual increase in the general level of non-specific anxiety, pessimism, guilt, shame, premonition and overwhelm of my friends and acquaintances (it’s even worse now, I think, than it was right after 9/11). And I’ve noticed a similar disturbing increase in the general level of malaise, meanness, insensitivity, and demonization of others in general public discourse.

I think these are all symptoms of the early stages of collapse.

Here are the shifts I am seeing more tangibly that would seem to epitomize early collapse:

Ebola and the five stages of collapse…


From Club Orlov

At the moment, the Ebola virus is ravaging three countries—Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone—where it is doubling every few weeks, but singular cases and clusters of them are cropping up in dense population centers across the world. An entirely separate Ebola outbreak in the Congo appears to be contained, but illustrates an important point: even if the current outbreak (to which some are already referring as a pandemic) is brought under control, continuing deforestation and natural habitat destruction in the areas where the fruit bats that carry the virus live make future outbreaks quite likely.

Ebola’s mortality rate can be as high as 70%, but seems closer to 50% for the current major outbreak. This is significantly worse than the Bubonic plague, which killed off a third of Europe’s population. Previous Ebola outbreaks occurred in rural, isolated locales, where they quickly burned themselves out by infecting everyone within a certain radius, then running out of new victims. But the current outbreak has spread to large population centers with highly mobile populations, and the chances of such a spontaneous end to this outbreak seem to be pretty much nil.

William Edelen: 2000 Years of Disbelief


The Contrary Minister

I ask this question raised by Carl Jung: “Why are so many millions of people willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?” Why are so many today willing to turn their mind/brain… soul/spirit over to outside individuals, institutions and ideologies, whether it be Jewish, Muslim or Christian “authorities” of dogma? Or whatever the outside authority might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life.

I ask then, how do we withdraw from such a childish dependency if we want to reclaim our mind/brain and our very own life? I answer this by saying that first you must begin by taking a long, hard critical look at all so called religious authorities wanting to control your life, and be willing to accept the risk that goes with such courage and independence.

Our first six presidents had the courage to do that. American history scholars, writing for the Encyclopedia Britannica, have stated that our first six presidents were Deists and not Christian. I quote: “One of the most embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that not one of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists.” (1968, vol 2 p. 420, Mortimer J. Adler, editor in chief. The Annals of America: Great issues in American Life: A Conspectus).

Thomas Jefferson used these words to express his view: “On the dogmas of religion, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” (Jefferson to Carey in 1816, ms 1V).

Politicizing Ebola, ISIS, Ferguson, Celebrity Nudes, and Global Warming…


From Slate Star Codex

[Trigger warning: Some discussion of rape in Part III. This will make much more sense if you've previously read I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup]


One day I woke up and they had politicized Ebola.

I don’t just mean the usual crop of articles like Republicans Are Responsible For The Ebola Crisis and Democrats Try To Deflect Blame For Ebola Outbreak and Incredibly Awful Democrats Try To Blame Ebola On GOP and NPR Reporter Exposes Right Wing Ebola Hype and Republicans Flip-Flop On Ebola Czars. That level of politicization was pretty much what I expected.

(I can’t say I totally expected to see an article called Fat Lesbians Got All The Ebola Dollars, But Blame The GOP, but in retrospect nothing I know about modern society suggested I wouldn’t)

I’m talking about something weirder. Over the past few days, my friends on Facebook have been making impassioned posts about how it’s obvious there should/shouldn’t be a quarantine, but deluded people on the other side are muddying the issue. The issue has risen to an alarmingly high level of 0.05 #Gamergates, which is my current unit of how much people on social media are concerned about a topic. What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the right, and everyone opposing on the left. Weird that so many people suddenly develop strong feelings about a complicated epidemiological issue, which can be exactly predicted by their feelings about everything else.

Christopher Hitchens Says Goodbye…


I’m not as I was.
Some of you I’d urgently felt I ought to do while saying,
and one mustn’t repine or relate to self pity about that,
but at this present moment I have to say.
I feel very envious of someone who’s young and active
and starting out in the argument.
Just think of the extraordinary things that are happening to us,
Go for example to the Smithsonian museum,
To the new hall of human origins,
magnificently curated and new in exhibition.
Which Shows among other things the branch,
or branches along which perhaps three,
certainly three,
maybe four if you count Indonesia,
humanoid shall we say anthropoid species,
died out,
not very long ago
within measurable distance of 75, 000 years or so
possibly destroyed by us possibly not, we don’t know
We know they decorated their graves,
we think they probably had language ability,
we don’t know if they had souls,
I’m sorry I cant help you there
But I so envy those who could glimpse…
I’ve only mentioned three or four of the things that have
magnetized and charmed and Gratified me to think about in the recent past,
and how much I hope that each of you form some such ambition this evening
and carries it forward,
In the meantime,
we had the same job we always had,
to say as thinking people and as humans that
there are no final solutions,
there is no absolute truth,
there is no supreme leader,
there is no totalitarian solution,
that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry,
if you would just give up,
if you would just abandon your critical faculties
the world of idiotic bliss can be yours
but we have to begin by repudiating all such claims
grand rabbi’s,
chief ayatollahs,
infallible popes,
the peddlers or surrogate
and mutant quasi political religion and worship.
The dear leader,
the great leader,
we have no need for any of this,
and looking at them and their record
and the pathos of their supporters
I realize that it is they who are the grand imposters
and my own imposture this evening
was mild by comparison,
Thank you very much.

The Tao of the Apocalypse…


From Autonomy Acres

A few nights ago I had a dream that would fall under the category of post apocalyptic.  It took place in the present day, at my house, on what appeared to be a bright sunny summer day.  My son and I were out back by the garage getting trailers hooked up to our bikes, collecting baseball bats and machetes, cans of food, and other supplies that have now left my memory.  What the cause of our hasty retreat was I also can’t recall, but I knew we had to get going fast.

Throughout the dream I was also worried as to where my wife and daughter were.  Maybe we were off to meet them, or worse yet to rescue them from some unseen and unknown antagonist.  Either way, I missed the rest of my family very much, and I knew it was my job to keep my son safe.

Before awakening, the last thing I remember doing in the dream was getting the two dogs into the trailers, tying down the rest of our supplies, and then having to say goodbye to our two cats Charlie and Brown.  It broke my heart to have to leave these two little guys behind.  But even in the dreamtime, I realized that they would be fine without us and could fend for themselves living the rest of their days happily eating songbirds and mice.

Will Parrish: California’s North Coast Water Relics


In roughly three weeks, the relatively slim percentage of Californians who vote in the Nov. 2014 election will decide on a politically contentious (is there any other kind of water politics in California?) $7.5 billion state general obligation bond, Proposition 1, entitled “THE State Water Bond” [emphasis added]. A creature of the dominant political response to California’s panic-strickening drought, the bond issue would provide a greater level of financing for new water projects than any in the state’s recent history.

Although the bond includes funding for everything from bike trails to water recycling to wetlands restoration, its most pivotal line item is $2.7 billion that would be allocated to expanded water storageThat likely means dams, and it especially likely means help with construction of the Sites Reservoir, a vast new facility just east of the Mendocino National Forest, about 10 miles west of the town of Maxwell. The bond singles it out for special mention.

Sites Reservoir would involve two large dams on the mainstem Sacramento River, each around 310 feet high. The water would be ferried through the Tehama-Colusa and Glen-Colusa canals, as well as a third canal that would be built specifically for the project and originate north of Colusa. All of this liquid gold would thereby be plumbed into the Antelope Valley, drowning an estimated 14,000 acres of grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, riparian habitat, vernal pools, and wetlands (including 19 acres of rare alkali wetlands). The water bond, it should be noted, would only cover part of the cost of constructing these enormous new installations. Sites would be California’s first massive water infrastructure project since the 1982 completion of Lake Sonoma, a huge reservoir that is nevertheless less than one-fifth as large, which dams the headwaters of Dry Creek: a tributary of the Russian River that runs off the opposite slope of the Navarro River’s headwaters southeast of Anderson Valley. As of this writing, the state water bond enjoys strong support, especially from the state’s political leaders: Only one state legislator voted against placing the bond on the ballot.

Todd Walton: Waiting For Disaster

water tank

Under The Table Books

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” Henry Kissinger

As the drought continues and a weakening El Niño lessens the chance of a good wet winter in California, we are having a second water tank installed to give us five thousand gallons of storage capacity. So far, knock on redwood, our well continues to provide us with sufficient water for our basic needs. Sadly, more and more of our neighbors are experiencing water shortages, and if we have another dry winter or two or three, even the most draconian conservation measures won’t keep our well from running dry for at least part of the year.

Thus we want that greater storage capacity for several reasons.

Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers…

Apprentices at work in Europe’s largest steel factory in Duisburg, Germany (Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

America rarely uses an apprenticeship model to teach young people a trade. Could such a system help the unemployed?

At last, unemployment is easing. But the latest low rate—hovering below 6 percent–obscures a deeper, longer-term problem: “skills mismatches” in the labor force, which will only worsen in years to come. According to the most recent figures, 9.3 million Americans are unemployed, but 4.8 million jobs stand empty because employers can’t find people to fill them. With new technology transforming work across a range of sectors, more and more businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills to man new machines and manage new processes.

One solution has enchanted employers, educators, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle: European-style apprenticeship. The Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants—and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, lawmakers as different as Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have expressed interest in the idea.

Americans should proceed with caution.

Democracy Now: Socialism is the Only Answer…


A Privatization Horror Story…

Governor Rick Scott speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida.

From Thom Hartmann

Conservatives and libertarians have been saying for a long time that if we just get rid of government and replace it with the private sector, everything will run a whole lot better.

The idea is that since the main goal of all private corporations is to make money, they’ll be much more willing than the government is to cut costs and eliminate waste.

The result, conservatives and libertarians say, will be more efficient, responsible and responsive services.

That’s the theory, at least.

Dark Age America: The Hour of the Knife…

From John Michael Greer

It was definitely the sort of week that could benefit from a little comic relief. The Ebola epidemic marked another week of rising death tolls and inadequate international response . Bombs rained down ineffectually on various corners of Iraq and Syria as the United States and an assortment of putative allies launched air strikes at the Islamic State insurgents; since air strikes by themselves don’t win wars, and none of the combatants except Islamic State and the people they’re attacking have shown any inclination to put boots on the ground, that high-tech tantrum also counts in every practical sense as an admission of defeat, a point which is doubtless not lost on Islamic State. Meanwhile stock markets worldwide plunged on an assortment of ghastly economic news, with most indexes giving up their 2014 gains and then some, and oil prices dropped on weakening demand, reaching levels that put a good many fracking firms in imminent danger of bankruptcy.

In the teeth of all this bad news, I’m pleased to say, Paul Krugman rose to the occasion and gave all of us in the peak oil scene something to laugh about.  My regular readers will recall that Krugman assailed Post Carbon Institute a couple of weeks ago for having the temerity to point out that transitioning away from fossil fuels was, ahem, actually going to cost money. His piece was rebutted at once by Post Carbon’s Richard Heinberg and others, who challenged Krugman’s crackpot optimism and pointed out that the laws of physics and geology really do trump those of economics. 

Gene Logsdon: The  Absence of Noise


The Contrary Farmer

Ask me what I like best about our homestead and my first answer will be the absence of noise. Of course it’s not always quiet but there are blessedly silent hours, like now as I sit on the deck on a  warm October evening, gazing at the changing leaves, sipping bourbon and not wishing to be anywhere else or doing anything else in all the world. A neighbor has just finished combining the cornfield next to us and the harvester’s mighty engine is silent. There are no grain trucks thundering down the road. No airplanes cross the skies above, no trains rumble on the tracks just east of us, no one is mowing lawn in the neighborhood, no chainsaws at work in the woods. Peace.

An absence of noise does not mean there are no sounds in the air. Quite the opposite. Without the cacophony of technology numbing my ears, I can hear a bit of wind rustle in the trees, catch the peevish peep of a nuthatch questioning ownership of an acorn with another nuthatch, discern the whisper of hummingbird wings fluttering above my head, note a chicken up at the barn bragging about a just-laid egg, spot the squirrel that is scolding me from the nearby oak, listen to a gang of crows on the other side of the woods giving a hawk or an owl a hard time, wonder what two tree frogs croaking back and forth to each other from the trees are saying about possible rain tomorrow.

Christian Crock of the Week: Why their bizarre films are backfiring on them…


From Salon

I once was a fundamentalist Christian and right-winger. Now I watch their films and see their vile, heavy-handed PR tactics…

“Millions of believers will suddenly vanish into thin air,” Willie Robertson, best known for his work on Duck Dynasty, exclaimed recently. He was promoting the new Christian movie ”Left Behind,” where he has an executive producer credit. “It’s a warning to those, if it happened today, would be left behind. And I believe that people are going to make the life-changing decision to follow Christ on the way home from the theater … opening the door to unbelievers has never been this fun.”

I’m sorry to inform Mr. Robertson, but I watched “Left Behind” and spent my entire ride home only contemplating the two hours of my life back that I will never get back. The film proves that conservative American Christians have not learned an important childhood lesson: You can’t threaten, vilify or bully someone into liking you. In simpler times, stories of persecution and Christian supremacy were delivered in sermons and badly written books, but a recent batch of films has hit theaters with the net effect of corralling American fundamentalists into an ever-shrinking intellectual ghetto. I watched not only “Left Behind,” but also a sampling of some other recent Christian films in an attempt to understand what messages they convey to this ever-more-insular community.

ISIS Crock: Magazine Promotes Slavery, Rape, and Murder of Civilians in God’s Name…


From Mother Jones

ISIS, the self-proclaimed Islamic state that’s attempting to establish a caliphate across large areas of Iraq and Syria, publishes a glossy English-language propaganda magazine called Dabiq, complete with slick graphics and high-quality photos. Dabiq is one of the group’s recruitment tools, coupled with its strong social media presence. The magazine, whose name references the location of Islam’s mythical Armageddon (a town in northern Syria), bills itself as an “informative” source for the activities of ISIS fighters, while preaching on holy topics and issuing decrees. Its producers claim that Allah approves the message: ISIS has “not a mustard seed of doubt regarding this.”

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European…or an Australian or a Canadian…then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner.”

In any case, the fourth issue of Dabiq just came out, and it justifies all sorts of terrible things ISIS and its fighters may do in the name of Allah. Here are 10 of the worst examples, with quotations:

World War III: It’s here and energy is largely behind it…

From Kurt Cobb
Resource Insights

I’ve been advancing a thesis for several months with friends that World War III is now underway. It’s just that it’s not the war we thought it would be, that is, a confrontation between major powers with the possibility of a nuclear exchange. Instead, we are getting a set of low-intensity, on-again, off-again conflicts involving non-state actors (ISIS, Ukrainian rebels, Libyan insurgents) with confusing and in some cases nonexistent battle lines and rapidly shifting alliances such as the shift from fighting the Syrian regime to helping it indirectly by fighting ISIS, the regime’s new foe.

There is at least one prominent person who seems to agree with me, the Pope. During a visit to a World War I memorial in Italy last month Pope Francis said: “Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.”

In citing many well-known causes for war, he failed to specify the one that seems obvious in this case: the fight over energy resources. It can be no accident that the raging fights in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and the Ukraine all coincide with areas rich in energy resources or for which imported energy resources are at risk. There are other conflicts. But these are the ones that are transfixing the eyes of the world, and these are the ones in which major powers are taking sides and mounting major responses.

Water is the new oil: How corporations took over a basic human right…


From Salon

Water has become a commodity, Karen Piper tells Salon, and the world’s poor are paying the price 

When you talk about human rights, not to mention human necessities, there’s not much more fundamental than water. The United Nations has even put it in writing: it formally “recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

That’s the theory, at least. In practice? Well, on Monday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes arrived at a different conclusion from that of the U.N., in a ruling on Detroit’s hotly contested practice of cutting off water access to tens of thousands of residents who can’t pay their bills. “It cannot be doubted that water is a necessary ingredient to sustaining life,” Rhodes conceded. Yet there is not, he continued, “an enforceable right to free and affordable water.” Water, in the eyes of the court, is apparently a luxury.


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